Grisly Eye Games

Player-Driven Inspiration

The Star tarot card from the Rider-Waite deck. Public domain image.

I really love the inspiration rules but they suffer from a number of issues during play. Dungeon masters must remember personality characteristics for an entire party. Most simply forget to award it. Player's forget they have inspiration, or hold it in reserve and never spend it. And, personally, the subjective criteria often makes me feel uncomfortable awarding it to just one character at a time.

Rather than rely on the dungeon master to award inspiration, this variant relies on the players asking for inspiration:

You gain inspiration after a short rest. You cannot no longer spend inspiration at will. Instead, you can only spend inspiration on rolls appropriate to your personality characteristics. You may also regain inspiration by taking disadvantage on certain rolls.

Spending Inspiration

Before you make an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check you may declare your character is inspired. To be inspired, the roll must involve one of your personality characteristics in some way. You spend your inspiration and make your inspired roll with advantage.

For example, Adam is playing Bruenor the dwarven fighter. He picks “I aspire to reclaim my homeland, Mithral Hall” as his bond at character creation. Later, he encounters an evil enchanter who casts modify memory on Bruenor to make him magically forget he ever lost his homeland. Adam declares Bruenor is inspired to resist based on his bond. The DM agrees and Adam rolls his saving throw against the spell with advantage.

Regaining Inspiration

Similarly, you can regain spent inspiration by declaring a roll as uninspired. An uninspired roll can be any attack roll, saving throw, or ability check that involves your flaw(s) or frustrates an ideal, bond or trait. You make an uninspired roll with disadvantage. Regardless of whether you succeed or not, you regain inspiration after you make the roll. You cannot declare a roll is uninspired if you already have disadvantage.

For example, Adam has chosen Gruff demeanour for one of Bruenor’s personality traits. While trying to gain entry to the inner keep, Bruenor attempts to talk his way in. The DM asks Adam to make a Charisma (Persuasion) check. Adam declares Bruenor is unnecessarily rude and brusque to the guard, and the roll is uninspired. Adam rolls with disadvantage. Miraculously, he makes the roll but still regains inspiration.

Design Notes

Foremost, the rules place the responsibility of claiming inspiration firmly in the hands of the players. A player knows his character better than anyone, making it more likely inspiration will be used.

Inspiration is now regained after a short rest to discourage players from hoarding it and encourage them to engage with their personality characteristics.

Finally, I've deliberately left the rules for whether rolls are inspired or uninspired vague and lightweight to prevent getting bogged down in lengthy conversations. A player declares they're inspired or uninspired and, with a nod from the DM, off they go.

The Enchanted Preview

This article presents a preview of one of the unique backgrounds from our forthcoming monograph, The Enchanted. Unique backgrounds are special backgrounds that allow you to play magical characters in low-magic campaigns. The Enchanted introduces two new, unique backgrounds: The Fey Exile and The Fey-touched.

Illustration from the Matem için matem, by Robert Desnos.

The Fey Exile

The fey are as capricious and as they are unforgiving. You were the victim of such a change of heart. Perhaps you were a favoured courtier. A guardian of the Old Ways. Or maybe you were a pet, kept against your will.

Now you are exiled from the fair woods and halls of the fey. You find yourself lost in unfamiliar lands. Yet not all is lost. A little fey magic still lingers with you.

Languages: Elven and Sylvan

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, Persuasion.

Equipment: A set of fine clothes, an item of clothing with a strange flourish, like a hat with a feather, a fairy trinket and a purse containing 25 gp.

You may now choose from the following options at character creation:

Races: Changeling, Elf, Fey, Gnome, or Half-elf.

Classes: Arcane Trickster, Bard, Druid, Eldritch Knight, Fey Pact Warlock, Ranger, Wild Magic Origin Sorcerer, or Wizard.

Feats: Lucky, or Magic Initiate

Reason for Exile

Why were you exiled? Maybe you fell in love with the wrong person? Maybe you were tricked? Or maybe you were merely the victim of random, faery caprice? You can work with your DM to come up with the exact reason for your exile, or you can choose or roll on the table below.

d6 Reason for Exile
1 A jealous lover tricked me.
2 I broke an ancient oath to the Old Gods.
3 My love for a mortal infuriated my lord.
4 I stole a cursed item and exiled myself by accident.
5 The memory of my exile has been stolen from my mind by fairy enchantment.
6 I escaped fairy imprisonment.

Unique Flaw: Curse

The fey are nothing if not vengeful when wronged. Not only were you exiled but, out of pure spite, a curse was placed on you. You can roll on the following table to determine your curse, or choose one that best fits your character.

d6 Curse
1 I've been cursed never to speak above a whisper.
2 As punishment I was enchanted to forget the face of my true love.
3 I've been cursed never to sleep more than one moon in the same place.
4 I've been cursed to speak the truth at random moments.
5 Animals are frightened in my presence.
6 I've been cursed to forget my time with the fey.

Suggested Characteristics

Even mortal exiles are touched by the wildness of the fey. Exiles can exhibit fey caprice and whimsy. And trauma from exile or fairy imprisonment can leave mental scars.

d8 Personality Trait
1 I am filled with a child-like curiosity as I experience the mortal world for the first time.
2 I love riddles and I'm constantly challenge people I meet to solve them. I'll do almost anything to learn a new one.
3 I'm extremely bitter and everything disappoints me. What can compare to the wonders of the fey?
4 I can't sit still and must constantly fidget.
5 I love a good prank, and I'm constantly playing tricks on my friends and enemies.
6 I'm a compulsive liar who can't help indulging in a tall tale of my exploits.
7 I love speaking in rhyme.
8 I'm attracted to shiny objects, whether gold or just pretty pebbles.
d6 Ideal
1 Joy. How wonderful is the mortal world that it needs protecting. (Good)
2 Mischief. Free from my lord or lady, I can have some fun with the mortals (Chaotic)
3 Caprice. I am neither one thing nor another, and will not be pinned down. (Chaotic)
4 The Old Ways. I remain true to the ways of the Old Gods. (Lawful)
5 Hate. How I despise the weakness and ugliness of the mortals or How I despise the cruelty of my captors, the fey. (Evil)
6 Sorrow. I'm ever sad an my grief drives me to increasingly desperate acts. (Evil)
d6 Bond
1 I must redeem myself with my fey lord or lady.
2 My love awaits me back in the Feywild and I must rescue them.
3 I must have my revenge on those who caused my exile.
4 I tarried with they fey for what seemed like days, but years passed. I must find out what happened to my family.
5 In truth, I was a wild animal, changed by fey magic. I must find a way to return to my true form.
6 My fey masters hunt me still and I must find a way to escape them once and for all.
d6 Flaw
1 Sometimes I recall a memory from my time with the fey and become inconsolable.
2 My time as a fey thrall has left my claustrophobic.
3 Having no interest in mortal love, I leave a trail of broken hearts in my wake.
4 I'm confused by mortal customs and often break laws by accident.
5 I'm troubled by nightmares and often shout and scream in my sleep.
6 I often break into uncontrollable bouts of laughter at odd moments, often for no reason.

Order of the Magi Faction

A Star Leads the Wise Men from the Het Nieuwe Testament by Henricus van den Leemputte, 1646.

Arcane faction (secret)

The Order of the Magi is an ancient and secret order of wizards dedicated to safeguarding civilisation from the powers of chaos.

The Power Behind the Throne. The magi can be found wherever there are men and women of power. They take roles of learning as viziers, advisers, translators, or scholars in the courts of kings, queens, emperors or tyrants. Seemingly innocuous, the magi subtly influence affairs using their position and magical arts.

Where there are no such rulers, or where rulers are weak and chaos threatens to up-heave civilisation, the magi step in. The order secretly attempts to restore order through any means. Secret histories tells of magi organising coups, raising kings from infants and even assassinating old rulers to make way for new.

The Long Game. The order's history stretches back centuries, since the First Empire. Perhaps before even that. And some of their plans take years, decades and, in the case of the archmagi, even centuries to come to fruition. In this way the destiny of kingdoms, empires, and even entire worlds, are shaped.

Apprentice and Master. It has always been thus: a master takes an apprentice. When the apprentice has mastered the magical arts they in turn take an apprentice. Through this connection the arcane lore of the magi passes down the generations.

Each apprentice is taught to memorise their lineage, from their master, their master's master and so forth right back to the first of the magi, Primus himself. They often attempt to recite it in full when first introducing themselves, much to the dismay of those around them.

Beliefs and Goals

Whilst great believers in the law, the men and women of the order do not believe those rules apply to them. Indeed, they have only a few strictures by which they live:

The Greater Good. The strong, not the good, must lead for civilisation to survive. (Lawful)

Obey Your Master. Obey your master in all things. (Lawful)

Order of the Magi Rewards
Renown Rank Rewards
1 Apprentice Mage Master. You gain a mentor on the path to arcane learning. When back at your home town or village you can speak to your master for advice on scholarly and arcane matters. Your master may or may not have the answers you're looking for, but will always be able to point you in the right direction. On occasion your master will also require you to run errands.
3 Mage Apprentice. You take on an apprentice wizard follower whose training and care you are responsible for. If your apprentice comes to harm you automatically lose 5 renown. In addition, you are accompanied by a retinue of 2 guard followers to protect you.
10 High Mage Staff of the Magi. You are granted one of the legendary staff of the magi.
25 Master Mage Superior Guard Retinue. You are accompanied by a retinue of 1d4 veteran followers to protect you.
50 Archmage Immortality. Every six years you are allowed a potion of longevity.

The Grim Preview

This is our second preview of **The Grim**, a darker take on humanity as presented in the official material. Previously we published our variant human race, the Grim Folk. This week, we're publishing a new background: the Bailiff.

A detail from A Friend's Advice by Thomas Campion, early 17th century. Possibly 1609.

Background: Bailiff

You were a bailiff, constable or lawman. A proctor for the courts, your temple or the nobles. It was your duty to arrest criminals, collect taxes and execute warrants. You might've been a member of the city watch, religious police, a warden or even a tax collector.

Skill Proficiencies: Investigation, Intimidation

Tool Proficiencies: Torturer's tools, vehicles (land)

Equipment: A badge or warrant denoting your authority, a bag of caltrops, 5 manacles, a signal whistle, torturer's tools, a set of common clothes and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.

Feature: Authority

Your commands carry the power of your lord, lady or temple. You can invoke your authority to exert influence over commoners you encounter within your jurisdiction. You can use this power to make arrests and commandeer simple equipment and horses for temporary use.

Suggested Characteristics

The life of a bailiff is a hard life of violence. Enemies are easily made, and sometimes it is very like war. Use the personality trait and flaw tables for the Soldier from the Player's Handbook, modifying the entries where appropriate to suit your identity as a bailiff. Otherwise, use the following tables for your ideal and bond.

d6 Ideal
1 Power. The word of my lord/lady/god is law. (Lawful)
2 Corruption. Justice is for those who can offer the greatest bribe. (Evil)
3 Order. The law must be followed to the letter. (Lawful)
4 Cynicism. The worst of humanity always wins out. (Neutral)
5 Impunity. The law is for the weak, the strong make their own rules. (Evil)
6 Fairness. The law is there to protect the weak and most vulnerable. (Good)
d6 Bond
1 I'm still looking for the one criminal who got away.
2 I have made a powerful enemy in the criminal underworld through my dedication to the law.
3 I obey my lord/lady in all things.
4 A particular type of crime (player chooses) disgusts me and I prosecute it with greater fervour.
5 I trust my fellow lawman with my life, and I always return that trust.
6 I became a bailiff to take down corruption within the city watch.

Variant Bailiff: Bounty Hunter

You made your living hunting down outlaws, deserters and escaped convicts for gold. Your work often took you across national boundaries, into strange lands and dangerous territories.

If you decide you were a bounty hunter, you may can choose the Fearful Reputation feature (see sidebar) instead of the Authority feature.

Variant Bailiff: Executioner

You were one of the men and women tasked with dealing out the ultimate punishment: death.

If you decide your duties as a bailiff included work as an executioner, you may can choose the Fearful Reputation feature (see sidebar) instead of the Authority feature. You can replace the signal whistle in your equipment package with a black executioner's mask.

Nights Watch Faction

The **Nights Watch** is a new faction I'm playing around with for a future campaign. I like the idea of individuals with shady pasts forced together (as with my current playtest campaign, [Black Griffin](black-griffin-campaign.html)). Nights watchmen have a similar theme, but for more city-based campaigns.

An example of a woodcut Cries of London, collected by Samuel Pepys.

The Nights Watch

*Minor faction (militia)*

Who better to catch a thief... than a thief? The Nights Watch is a collection of misfits, criminals and vagabonds who have been given a second chance. Provided, that is, they undertake the deadliest task in the city: patrolling its streets at night.

***The Gallows Men.*** Nights watchmen are sometimes known as gallows men because they're often recruited from beneath the gallows. Given the grim choice of a certain death from hanging now versus an uncertain death on the streets later, most chose to the later.

There are, of course, no third chances. While nights watchmen still have the freedom of the city, they may never leave the city. Unless, of course, they do so in a casket. And if they are caught breaking the law again, its straight back to the gallows.

***In the Shadows.*** Nights watchmen live very much in the shadows of the Day Watch. In their shining armour, the brave men and women of the Day Watch get all the best equipment, medals, and all the glory. All too often they take claim of victories that, more properly, belong to nights watchmen. Still, a small price to pay to escape death.

***The Collars.*** Nights watchmen are known by their black uniforms and the hooded lanterns they carry. But they're most known by the rope collars they bear: a constant reminder of where they came from, and where they still might go!

Beliefs and Goals

Nights watchmen live (and often die) by one, simple edict:

Keep the Night's Watch. Keep the King's Peace from dusk 'till dawn. (Lawful)

Renown Rank Perks
0 Private **Authority.** Nights watchmen have the power of arrest over the common folk. You gain advantage on all Charisma (Intimidation) checks against commoners within the jurisdiction of the city.
3 Corporal **Command.** You gain advantage on intimidation checks against watchmen of lower rank.
10 Sergeant **Watchmen Retinue.** You gain a retinue of night watchmen followers under your command. Roll once on the Night Watch Followers table below.
25 Lieutenant **Watch Tower.** You gain a stronghold, a night watchtower (similar to a city guildhall) located somewhere in the city.
50 Captain **Superior Watchmen Retinue.** Roll again on the Night Watch Followers table below.

Join our Playtest Campaign

We're looking for imaginative players to join our official, playtest campaign and give us your feedback. This will be a play-by-chat only game using 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons.

As playtesters you'll get access to pre-release material to review. Plus free, digital copies of the final products when they are released. Double plus: we'll immortalise you with a playtest credit! Can't say fairer than that.