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We know that a player can choose to give his inspiration to another player (PHB, p. 125, emphasis mine) :

[...] if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration.

Yesterday, the group I'm DMing was in a tough fight and one character had to make a save vs a creature's breath. Another player, who had earned inspiration earlier due to good roleplaying decided to give him his inspiration, in order to grant him advantage on the saving throw.

I ruled that inspiration couldn't be awarded just because a player badly needs it, for that would open the door to abuse.

After a long argument, the players bent to my ruling, but I felt they weren't convinced at all.

Can a player really give his inspiration to another at any moment, even if the second player didn't earn the reward by doing something good, clever or exciting?

After consulting the entry about Inspiration in the DMG (p. 240-241), I still can't make up my mind. The section gives a lot of headroom for approaches and variants, but, in essence, it all comes down to the table following guidelines that have been agreed on collectively. In order to help the table set those guidelines, I need to know how important it is to earn inspiration by actively doing something.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you ask as a player, or as a DM? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor May 2 '17 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a DM. See after the quoted text. \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic May 2 '17 at 22:52
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Yes, The Player Can Give It Anytime.

The DM gives the resource to the player based on the DM's judgment of what is cool/fun/in character roleplay.

INSPIRATION

Inspiration is a rule the Dungeon Master can use to reward you for playing your character in a way that's true to his or her personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw. By using inspiration, you can draw on your personality trait of compassion for the downtrodden to give you an edge in negotiating with the Beggar Prince. Or inspiration can let you call on your bond to the defense of your home village to push past the effect of a spell that has been laid on you.

The player uses their judgment to determine when they think another player is worthy of their inspiration. If it required the DM to think it was also awesome, the DM would have just given the player inspiration on their own; but this is a way for the players to affect the story and build comradery. This choice is the player's choice alone.

Additionally, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration.

The player passing their inspiration to the other player gets to make the ruling if the other player is doing good roleplayer, clever thinking, or simply something exciting in the game. If it is a crucial roll (a roll they need), it is something exciting happening in the game and the player should be able to pass the inspiration. If a DM should rule that whatever they passed it for wasn't clever enough, not good roleplaying, or not exciting enough because that undermines the whole mechanic.

Moreover, DM granted inspiration is a very limited resource in most games. Running roughshod over how your players choose to spend that resource disenfranchises your players and in a moment when the players are doing something you want them to do -- acting as a team.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, my 5e game is cooperative and players helping each other out is always a good thing, especially since inspiration is a limited resource. What is there to be gained by forbidding players from sharing it unless you decree they're worthy? \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec May 1 '17 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is not "anyone's to use". You awarded that choice to the player. How he chooses to use it should be within his own agency. There is no in-game correspondence between good roleplaying at one point and making a saving throw later on. It's a meta-game mechanic that is a reward for good RP. The player who won Inspiration before got to decide how to use it and is therefor still rewarded for the initial act of RP. The mechanic is supported. (This is coming dangerously close to being another answer, but I intended it as a support for the original answer, or perhaps a rebuttal to the comment.) \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis May 1 '17 at 20:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't want to argue. I want to present what I think the RAW and RAI are on inspiration passing. What you do at your table is between you and your players. I edited for tone, I meant not assume or imply any ill will on your end, and have reworded the post for tone so it doesn't sound unintentionally accusatory. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich May 1 '17 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Meta4ic Why is there an absence of action? DM: "The Dragon breathes on Joe" Other Player: "I quickly yell a warning to Joe, using my inspiration to give him a split second advantage on his reflexes" OR DM: "Joe feels the wizard's mind invading his own - make a Wisdom Save" Other Player: "I yell to Joe to focus on the time we were at his sister's wedding and to remember the great speech he gave using my inspiration to give him advantage." \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M May 2 '17 at 0:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Solanacea - I think RAW it's pretty clear that the person who gets to decide what qualifies as "something exciting" is "you", which the rule essentially defines as 'whomever has inspiration'. When the DM is awarding inspiration to a player, the DM decides. When a player has inspiration and wants to give it to another player, the player with inspiration decides. Although there's still room for confusion, as the second sentence in the quoted portion of the rule proposes different (and narrower) conditions than the first sentence. \$\endgroup\$ – aroth May 2 '17 at 1:29
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The rule is pretty straightforward.

When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration.

As written, it requires that the character does "something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way". No way of giving inspiration to another player without this requirement is provided.

What that requirement means is up to your group to determine. Personally, I wouldn't consider "being hit with a breath attack" to fulfill it, unless he jumped in front of an orphanage or something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It isn't up to the group, it is up to the player with the inspiration. It says, "you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking or simply doing something exciting." It does not say, "You can reward another player when the group determines...." \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich May 1 '17 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ By RAW this is entirely valid: but jeez - I wouldn't want to be the DM that disallowed someone using their inspiration to save a team-mate (RAF - 'Rules As Fun' per WotC's FAQ). \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Vincent May 1 '17 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ This illustrates a problem with rules that say "X", but leave no consequences if "not X". Had the rules stated "players can give their inspiration to other players. If they do so because the other player contributed to the story in a fun an interesting way, roll 1d6. On a 56 they both get inspiration; on a 1234 the player who gave it away loses it and the player given to gives it" there would be a mechanical benefit to the "fun and interesting", without the coercive "that wasn't fun" call from the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk May 2 '17 at 11:50
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Probably no by RAW, but do it because it's nice to be nice.

There is a difference between using inspiration and giving inspiration.

A player character with inspiration may spend it any time for an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check FOR THEMSELVES.

Giving your inspiration to another to use follows the same requirements as the DM. Namely "When another player character does something that really contributes to the story..."(PHB pp125).

Inspiration given is something earned. Inspiration used is something spent.

You are NOT using your inspiration for someone else's roll, you are giving your inspiration to someone else. And in order to do so, there must be a reason for it. "They need it" is generally not the reason, but if your DM and table allow it, then it can be.

Another way of looking at this

There is no functional difference in the book requirements for a Player giving out "their" inspiration, and a DM handing "new" inspiration. Would you ask your DM for inspiration on a roll without having earned it? Would your DM give it to you?

But playing D&D should be fun, so...

Encouraging your players to help each other out, and use up a limited resource that then has to be 'earned' back again isn't a bad thing. It may not be entirely within the rules, but a table should be encouraged to work together and this is a way to support that.

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No, rules as written a player cannot give their inspiration at any time

The rules are very clear:

Additionally, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration.

not "you may give your inspiration to another player when you feel like it" but "[w]hen another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way". This cannot be reasonably interpreted as "at any time".

Were the intended rule that you could chuck your inspiration in on these kind of situations the "additionally" would not be required, the initial block of text would simply say that you could use your inspiration on rolls for your character or those of another player. It doesn't, so it's clearly not intended to work that way.

And it is your role as DM to adjudicate on when they can do so

The adjudication of all rules is part of your role as DM; the placement of the action into the players hands implied by the wording of inspiration is no more significant than it is with any other rule that says "you may ... when ...". Whether you wish to allow the blatant disregard of the rules is up to you. Or you and your group may wish to houserule the inspiration rules to allow the use on inspiration on other players.

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