The Inspiration Bowl

Recently, I’ve been casually reading the rules for Pugmire, a fantasy role-playing game about anthropomorphic canines exploring a world where humanity has long been extinct. This game’s kooky premise is a perfect example of why I love this hobby so much.

While reading through the pages of the Early Access PDF, I found myself intrigued by one particular rule called the “Fortune Bowl”. The mechanic gives the party a pool of points which they can use to hopefully alter the odds in their favor while in dire situations. Think Luck Points, but tracked for the entire group instead of individually.

The more I read this rule, the more I found myself really liking it. I like it so much that I’ve decided to adapt it as a house rule for my future 5th Edition campaigns, replacing the rules for Inspiration found on pg. 125 of the Player’s Handbook.

Here’s what I have so far. This house rule requires you to have a small to moderately-sized bowl upon the table, ideally within the players’ reach, along with some kind of tokens (glass beads or poker chips work fine) to keep track of the amount of Inspiration within said bowl.

THE INSPIRATION BOWL

At the start of each session, the DM will place a number of Inspiration into the bowl equal to one less than the current number of players. During the session, the DM will place additional Inspiration into the bowl when players have their characters act in accordance to their Personality Traits (Ideals, Bonds, Flaws), making the story of the session more complicated and compelling. The DM may also place additional Inspiration for other reasons as well, like the party working particularly well as a team or attempting a rather heroic act. This is up to the DM’s discretion. 

Players may also force the DM to place Inspiration into the bowl by electing to fail an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. The player can only do this if they have a Personality Trait that would realistically cause them to fail the particular roll. Doing so forces the DM to place one Inspiration into the bowl. 

During the session, a player can ask the group if they can spend an Inspiration from the bowl. If there are no disagreements, the player pulls a token from the bowl and hands it to the DM. They then re-rolls an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check that she has just made, keeping the higher result. This isn’t the same as having Advantage – the player can choose to re-roll either d20 on a roll with Advantage or Disadvantage, and pick whichever result works best for her. Even if the player still fails after she re-rolls, the Inspiration is still spent. 

I decided to alter the amount of Inspiration the bowl starts with at the beginning of a session, basing it upon the number of players (excluding the DM) at the table instead of a set number like in Pugmire. I also decided to restrict it to re-rolls, mostly to keep the rule simple.

The main reason why I want to use this instead of the default Inspiration rules is that I like how it is a resource shared by the entire group, and I would definitely incentive that group dynamic by rewarding additional Inspiration if they work particularly well as a team. I also like the tactile aspect of having a physical bowl to toss these tokens inside, making it a lot easier to track for everyone.

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