Alternate Rules for Inspiration
Inspiration is great! Its a way to reward your players for thinking outside the box, saying something witty, or making a decision that impacts the story in an unexpected way, and encourages them to invest into the story.
To up the ante a little, I’ve altered my rules for inspiration in the form of what I call DCs or Difficulty Coins. DCs are awarded to players through out the story based on their performance during difficult trials whether it be actual planned quest lines or if they go out of their way to make a difference in the world and how they go about it. Scoring your players for what they should earn is simple by asking a few questions; did they accomplish the task the way it should have resolved? If not was it for the better or worse? Did they discover all the plot connections? If not, how bad are the ones they missed or didn’t pursue? Lastly, is this something they sought on their own? If so was it to an end that made a difference in the story to an end that is being sought?
For example a party of evil characters is seeking to gain favor with a local lord to eventually take control of the province, the idea expressed by one of the player characters. The lord has heard bad things about them but is willing to give them a chance because of the sweet taking of one of the player characters. During the task set to them by the lord, one of the player characters says what they’re up to loud enough that a local can hear them. The players kill the local and they hide the body poorly. The body is found but the party is able to pin the murder on another towns person. They finish the task quickly so they don’t draw anymore notice than necessary and just as they’re in the clear one of the party accidentally let it slip that they killed the town person and end up having to threatened the lord for their compliance.
So, did they accomplish the task the way it should have resolved? No, the original intent was to gain trust through subterfuge. If not was it for the better or worse? Worse because they ended up having to reveal their true intentions anyway. Did they discover all the plot connections? No, because the circumstances made them have to rush. How bad are the ones they missed or didn’t pursue? In this case it wasn’t too bad because it was impromptu by the players but they did make it worse by making the lord an enemy due when he possibly would have remained neutral without interference. Is this something they sought on their own? Yes, so points for effort! So in this case they had 4 negatives out of a potential of 5.
DCs are valued at 5, 10, and 15 (you can assign your own values if you wish). To earn a DC15 coin you must have all 5 questions be positive. DC10 coins are awarded for 3 to 4 positives and DC5 coins are awarded for 1 to 2 positives. I make my coins out of card stock with stock images from google but you can also buy coins from Amazon or party supply places for a fun twist. But what can players do with the coins once they earn them?
Since they are a group reward the whole party must agree when to use them but if they do, one coin can be redeemed to reduce the Difficulty Class or DC (I know, sneaky right?) of a roll of their choice. However, DCs can only ever reduce a roll to 1, never 0, so the player still must make the roll. Once they decide to used the coin they surrender the coin to the DM and make their roll. If they are just that unlucky and still roll a critical failure of 1 the coin is still surrendered and the check or save is still failed. This can also be used in reverse where the players can choose to make their own difficulty class higher against an enemy. Again, once the coin is used it must be surrendered to the DM and if the enemy still rolls over the DC they succeed regardless of the coin spent (it’s just reeeaally hard).