If you have the opportunity to read the Lucky feat in the 5th Edition D&D Player’s Handbook, or watch Critical Role (referring to Vax specifically), everyone notices the impact and significance an extra die roll can make in a pivotal situation. Inspiration is a mechanic devised to incentivize roleplaying and reward players with the opportunity to gain an additional roll (whether it be a d20 or some other dice). The 5th Edition rules inform DMs that the Inspiration mechanic is within their right to reward or not utilize at all. More traditional DMs may often feel that this makes the game easier and those who implement the mechanic often feel that it can be a clutch if rewarded too often.
I thought about reintroducing the concept of some heightened chance of luck, but as a mechanic that rewards but becomes a liability the larger the frequency grows. There some variations of the idea, some using smaller dice denominations like d6s and d8s. I liked the idea of heightening values as opposed to rolling another d20, since that falls under the advantage/disadvantage design philosophy. I do like the idea of gift the inspiration to players, but one of the issues that becomes apparent over time is that players will horde these inspirations for later encounters and situations. So there needs to be a better incentive to use to feature without overusing it or relying on it.
Luck Ability Score – An old design concept returns from the depths of video game RPGs
In some JRPGs (Japanese Roleplaying Games) there has existed a luck attribute score, sometimes called fate, chance, and the ilk. Over time, other video game systems incorporated a similar design philosophy but have generally kept this stat hidden instead of being freely available. The traditional implementation was for the statistic to be a modifier for loot tables, critical hit chance, random encounters, and anything else deemed appropriate by the game designers. In Dungeons & Dragons, there is very little need for a luck attribute since many actions are defined by the random chance through the d20 system. The infamous d20 has a 5% chance of automatic failure, and a proportional 5% chance of automatic success. Though it is still up to the DM’s discretion whether a natural 1 or 20 is still an automatic failure or success respective, but a majority of the interpretation defaults to these sort of results.
Rolls on a d20 that result between 1 and 9 are considered often to be failures, while rolls that are 10 and above are treated as possible successes. Rolls ranging from 16 to 20 are often considered successes in addition to any modifiers. The bell curve for perceived success based on dice rolls generally starts at 11 and peaks at 16 and then trickles down to a natural 20. When rolling for advantage, rolling a natural 20 increases the statistical chance to 9.75%. In other words, the probability increases favorably with more dice rolls.
If we were to treat this Luck Ability Score like other Ability scores, there needs to be some adjustment to normal character creation but additionally its implementation. Like other Ability Scores, a Luck Score can be rolled upon character creation or use a point buy. In a standard Stat Array, there will be an inclusion of an 11 score; reading as 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Why not another 10 or 12? Because we want still some variance in the ability scores and also grant the chance for a Luck Score to start as either 10 or 12. The Luck score can be increased like other ability scores during the Ability Score Improvement feature whenever the option arises.
What about negative modifiers for Luck? It can happen, as for what that means in-game, well that’s where it gets tricky.
The purpose of a Luck Score is to change how we interpret Inspiration really, and therefore we are changing the allotment of Inspiration. Instead of the generic one Inspiration die, the Luck modifier increases the Inspiration die pool. A +2 Luck modifier means that a character can hold 3 Inspiration die, with a minimum of 1. What about -1 and negative modifiers? Well, the character can still have a minimum of 1 Inspiration die at a time, but there is an additional caveat for this negative modifier – the d20 result takes a penalty equal to the modifier. So if the player decides to use their Inspiration die and rolls a 19, it becomes an 18 when determining which die to use for their final check result.
|Luck Score||Inspiration die #|
Also it’s my answer to the Lucky feat, because while I enjoy the idea of the Lucky feat, it can be a nuisance. This mechanic does rely heavily on the DM granting Inspiration out to players, but it also rewards players for staying in line with their characters. Additionally, this larger reserve of Inspiration die can allow fellow players to give their inspiration die to another player especially when they need to make that critical roll. To combat the possibility of Inspiration hording, it’s recommended that upon level up, player characters lose their accumulated Inspiration. While that may disenfranchise players for working hard to earn their Inspiration, it serves as a means to remove deviant usage of the mechanic.
Implications of Luck Score mechanic – A dark road we travel
The first things to consider when implementing a mechanic that expands Inspiration falls into two categories: Escalation and Narrative Exploitation.
Starting with escalation, in a world where players roll more dice often, the sense of danger and mortal peril begins to lessen. Once where a single dice roll becomes the make-it-or-break-it moment, now becomes less of a danger. The traditional method is to raise the stakes by increasing the difficulty of succeeding certain checks. This escalation was heavily implicated in previous editions which ultimately resulted in godly difficulty checks and AC. This of course is limited based on the DM’s discretion on awarding Inspiration. While the mechanic aids and benefits Inspiration, it still falls under the purview of the Dungeon Master in the end.
The next category to consider is the exploitation of the narrative for the sake of rewarding Inspiration. This concern falls primarily on players but also the Dungeon Master. The DM still has the final say on how Inspiration is awarded, but that doesn’t disregard to divergent play style that may arise. Especially when the players know that if they perform or have their character behave in a certain way, they may be rewarded with Inspiration more often. Resulting players hording the Inspiration die in their pool, while removing these die after leveling up, it does not excuse the possibility of hording the die. Granted, hording the die for that crucial boss battle is a reasonable play. But what we want to avoid is carryover of the Inspiration die. Ultimately, the majority of the possible abuse and misinterpretation stems largely to the DM, along with communication with the playgroup.
Another way to remedy the Inspiration mechanic and its potential abuse is to change to die to a different polyhedral die instead of the standard d20. The Dungeon Master has overriding authority on such things, some tables may use something akin to a d8 or d10. Making this mechanic more viable and rewarding without infringing on the sense of mortal peril. What other sort of implementations of Inspiration have you used in your game? Leave comments down below and let’s discuss.
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