Increasing Immersion 2: The Inspiration Dice

The dice giveth and the dice taketh away.

The Inspiration Dice & It’s Rules

Now, this tool is one I began using early last year as a way to get the players in the group I DM for more involved in their characters. An extremely simple system that is flexible and easily modifiable. However, I will explain the 3 ground rules before I explain what it ideally does for the players and the game.

  1. This dice can be used on any attack or damage roll, any ability or skill check or even for hitpoints however only 1/2 the roll is added if used for a saving throw.
  2. Only one of these is handed out at one time, and if not used by the end of the session are lost. Multiple can be given out per session, just not more than 1 active one at a time.
  3. The dice are transferable between players if they wish, they work as rule 1 for other players.

Awarding Inspiration Dice

Now, game mastering is like herding cats, you really can try your hardest but sometimes all they want to do is meow at you, kill stuff and sleep on your keyboard. Players can also be like cats sometimes (minus the meowing… usually) going for more a kill stuff, get loot direction with less care about their character’s interaction with the world.

So the real question is how can you herd a cat?  The short answer is you can’t. But for the sake of the Inspiration Dice think of it like a cat treat. When the player does something according to their character’s backstory or just their characters sense of self, reward them! Now, this shouldn’t happen for every in-character action and after a while, you will forget to hand out the dice for actions that definitely warrant them. But it’s a good approach for easing new players into playing in character, it gives them a discernable award which can help them with above and beyond the normal parameters of their character’s abilities.

It’s much like awarding experience for brilliant roleplay, but as a way that sets up team success and because it is a fleeting reward you are not just honoring one players role-playing experience. It also in my opinion, trumps individual roleplaying experience because it does not create a gap between players and their roleplaying abilities or comforts (Also stops this.)  Instead what the group gets is a small bonus that aids making exceptional and memorable moments, things like getting that bonus to confirming a critical, hitting the dragon or once a bonus on a Craft (Cooking) check.

A Few Last Things To Consider

A thing to consider though for this system is people who make their characters to always help them. For example, anyone can dump charisma and be rude, or certain classes can dump intelligence or strength and get away with a lot. I tend to be careful of the engineer type player, who when presented with a system will try to think of ways to get the best possible benefits from it. I generally will award the dice if what they did hasn’t already benefitted them too much, that way if the rogue pickpockets 150gp off some poor sod he isn’t farming both benefits “In character.” However, if the same rogue puts himself at risk and uses his character skills (Pickpocketing) to resolve it for benefit of the group? Of course, I will award Inspiration Dice.

My personal favorite time to award Inspiration Dice though, is when a character does something that would negatively effect them but makes complete sense in character. In my games these things have included.

Bronan the Barbarian walks into a local magic traders shop, a stout little halfling comes out and greets him seeing him perusing the wares. “Ahh yes quite a wonderful item, are you interested?” the halfling asks him.

The Barbarian, very interested can barely respond “Yes, very very interested, how much is the item?” (I can’t recall the item but it was early enough, around lvl 4 or so.)

“Oh how much do you have?” the halfling replies

“Just under 2000 gold” Bronan answers

“Well WHAT a coincedince, this item is actually selling for just under 2 grand friend and it could be yours!”

(After a failed sense motive and appraise) “DEAL!”

So in this above example, he paid a few hundred extra gold for an item but did so in character in a way which was not only memorable but still is a running joke. The party unofficially now goes shopping with him (or at least his buddy the rogue does.) to ensure he doesn’t get ripped off this badly again. If there isn’t inspiration dice, there is less incentive for in character actions. It is not needed in every game, and more experience RPer’s will just act as their character majority of the time, but it is an exceptional tool for newer players and DM’s alike.

Another thing to consider is that in system’s like 5e, Inspiration dice can get quite powerful with a bard and advantage. So carefully consider how you will implement Inspiration Dice in that system.

Comment below if you use a system or implementation to increase RP, or if you’re considering implementing these RP dice.



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