Saturday, April 30, 2016


So everyone's seen 5e's Inspiration Points.  They're soft, flabby mechanics that seem like a imperfect adapation of other games' mechanics.  And most damning: they don't do what they're supposed to do: make roleplaying more relevant, and make your character's values matter.

I think they're a little good but mostly shitty for various reasons, prime among them the fact that (a) the DM has to keep track of everyone's triggers, and (b) Inspiration is transferable between characters like some dissociated mechanic currency.

Anyway, here's my (attempted) fix.


A Conviction is your character's answer to the question of “What do I care most about?” or “What am I willing to risk my life for?” or “What principles do I use to guide my actions?” Not everyone has Convictions, but adventurers always do, because it's desperate, deadly work and no one engages in it without a good reason.

A Conviction might be “Seek knowledge.” Or “Help the innocent.” Or “Money is power.” Or “Protect the healer.” Or even “I like boobs.” These are morals, instincts, bonds.

There are two blank spots on your character sheet for your Convictions. You can fill these in whenever you want. If you already have a clear image of your character during character creation, fill them in then. Or play your character, get to know them, and then fill them in when their Convictions become apparent.

Each Conviction can be charged or empty.

You charge your Conviction whenever you follow it and get into trouble. Or at least, whenever it is not an optimal strategy and you pursue it anyway. If you “seek knowledge” and read the blasphemous tome even though you know it's dangerous and not really necessary, you can charge that Conviction. Whenever you “help the innocent” by tending to the fallen villager instead of helping your teammates out in combat, you charge that Conviction.

The point is, charging a Conviction always has a cost. It's never free.  It's also very obvious, because your character is doing things that they wouldn't normally do, and that makes it easy for the DM to award Conviction.

You spend your Conviction to get +10 to a d20 roll, but you can only spend your Conviction when it is related to the same Conviction. You can only spend your “Seek knowledge” Conviction when succeeding on that roll will bring you closer to gaining new knowledge. It wouldn't work if you were trying to kill a random alligator in a swamp, because you don't usually learn things by killing random alligators in swamps. Likewise, you can only use your “Protect the innocent” Conviction when you need this roll to be successful in order to protect an innocent.

A lot of this is up to the DM, and players should talk to their DM about this before they write down their Convictions. If your conviction is “Survive at all costs”, does that mean that they can spend it in any combat where they risk dying (and that's probably most combats). I'd say no, you can only use it in combats where it looks like you're losing, but in your game, it's up to your DM.

Bonus XP

At the end of any session in which everyone agrees you did a good job roleplaying at least one of your Convictions, you get +100 XP.

You don't have to gain or spend Conviction, nor do you have to talk in a funny voice. You just have to show that you have that Conviction by word or by deed.


  1. I might try this idea out. I agree that inspiration always felt flat and boring in 5e. It's an improvement over having no roleplaying based mechanics, but it's tacked on with gum and popsicle sticks.

  2. Players should be punished, not rewarded, for playing an ideological lunatic that actively harms the party.

    1. How many times have you played with a paladin who only saved innocents when it was convenient? Or a knowledge-hungry mage who didn't go very far out of their way to uncover a secret?

      If a character's convictions/ideals never change their behavior, then they're just a layer of paint on top of your standard murder-hobo munchkin.

      The point of Conviction is to incentivize that behavior, because the paladin's player *wants* to spend a healing potion on the dying villager (even though the party needs that potion). Getting a point of Conviction means that the party can support/tolerate a player making sub-optimal choices.

    2. It's also a nice mechanical incentive for players to up the stakes and risk things in exchange for a little bonus and some more flavorful games.

  3. I really liked the idea of Inspiration, but the execution is lousy as written.

    Our "fix" to incentivize the personality traits is such:
    During play, if the player feels that he/she has actively roleplayed a personality trait, ideal, bond, or flaw, they checkmark it.

    At the end of the session each player adds up their check marks. Using the " xp thresholds by character level" chart from the dmg, the pc earns experience. one check mark is a level appropriate, easy encounter. Two = medium, three or four= hard, and five = deadly.

    Example: Adam's character Amir has hit his ideal, bond, and flaw this session. Amir is level 3, he earns 225 xp for roleplay this session.


  4. Ever play burning wheel? This systems sounds exactly like BW's belief system.