What Is Bardic Inspiration?
Bardic inspiration is the key feature of the bard class, allowing them to support their allies in a wide variety of ways. The bard inspires someone, giving them a die that they can roll later on to add to an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw.
You can inspire others through stirring words or music. To do so, you use a bonus action on your turn to choose one creature other than yourself within 60 feet of you who can hear you. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6.
Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes.
The creature can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use the Bardic Inspiration die but must decide before the DM says whether the roll succeeds or fails.
Once the Bardic Inspiration die is rolled, it is lost. A creature can have only one Bardic Inspiration die at a time.
You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Your Bardic Inspiration die changes when you reach certain levels in this class. The die becomes a d8 at 5th level, a d10 at 10th level, and a d12 at 15th level.
Much like regular inspiration, this ability is incredibly useful because it can be used to improve just about every roll you could make in 5e.
Bards can dish out inspiration before combat, before tough skill checks, or whenever they deem it necessary. There really aren’t many limits to what this can do.
But let’s back up a bit and go through the text from the PHB step by step to make sure we’re on the same page.
You inspire others as a bonus action on your turn. Since you can only take one bonus action on a turn, this could compete with other bonus actions you might want to make.
Realistically though, you can only use your inspiration so many times, and you will likely be using it before you get into combat, leaving any bonus action spells or attacks a free space.
Your inspiration has to be given to a creature within 60 feet that can hear you.
The range is fine, but “hearing” can lead to some difficult situations. Spells like Silence or Blindness/Deafness might put a damper on your ability to inspire your allies.
This small mechanic is based on the fact that most bards use words or music to liven up their party members. Realistically, there are many other mediums a bard can use, such as dancing, that could get around this audio barrier.
It wouldn’t be gamebreaking to have inspiration be based on sight since there are realistically many more ways to inhibit a character’s sight.
If you’re DMing a bard, I would at least explore the option of changing the language to “a creature… who can see or hear you.” More options are almost always better.
If all of the requirements are met, the creature gains a bardic inspiration die, which is a d6.
At least, it starts out as a d6. At higher levels, you move up through types of dice until eventually the inspiration dice you hand out are d12s.
Difficulty Classes don’t change too dramatically as we go through tiers of play, so doubling the potential bonus from one of your dice is incredible.
Obviously, you can’t rush to 15th-level play, but you can definitely be excited for the day it arrives.
How Good Are Inspiration Dice?
It’s pretty clear that at higher levels we get better dice, but how beneficial are these dice in general? Well, they’re actually pretty great – if we look at averages at least.
The average roll for a d6 is a 4 (or 3.5). This means that we’re likely going to let our allies add more than their proficiency bonus when we inspire them. The same concept carries through as your die gets better.
Your inspiration die is always statistically likely to give a bonus higher than a player’s proficiency bonus. That is huge, but it gets better.
When we run the numbers for how advantage works, it’s statistically similar to getting a +5 to your roll. I won’t get into the math so much – we’re dealing with bards not artificers here – but just trust me for a bit.
What does this mean to us?
Well, once you get to 10th level and have a d10 at your disposal, your inspiration dice are statistically better than advantage with the d10’s average being 6, and most of us know that 6 is higher than 5.
Inspiration dice aren’t just good, they can be a huge advantage to the players to whom we choose to dish them out. They might not feel that way at first, but numbers don’t lie.
Once a creature has one of our dice, they have the next 10 minutes to use it on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. Ten minutes is a lot of time in D&D.
Essentially, you can dish out your bardic inspiration while you’re prepping for combat, in combat, or just before someone would need it for an important ability check.
Of course, time does matter, so you can’t just use it when you walk into a dungeon and expect it to last forever. Once you’ve given it out, it’s gone, so do be careful.
In a game that might as well be called Dice and Dragons, rolls are very important. So, when can inspiration dice be used? Almost all the time.
Attack rolls are obviously integral to combat, and saving throws can come up quite often, from concentration saves to protecting yourself from a dragon’s breath.
Then, ability checks count for so much more than just the skills we use. In fact, whenever you make a check that doesn’t explicitly fit into one of the other categories, you’re probably making an ability check.
A couple of common things you might not know are that ability checks are initiative rolls and grapple checks.
Basically, attack rolls are the only checks you might have to make as a player that aren’t covered by bardic inspiration.
Even then, your subclass has some extra uses for inspiration dice, so keep an eye on the College of Valor bard, which we’ll touch on later.
There are several different ways that 5e handles abilities that add dice to rolls. Bardic inspiration doesn’t have the best possible version, but it’s certainly decent.
A creature with an inspiration die can choose to use it after they’ve rolled but before the DM says that the roll was successful. Once it’s used, it’s gone.
I don’t personally love this. The Soulknife rogue introduced in TCoE has the best use of added dice, which I would love to see bardic inspiration modified into.
Still, I understand that this could be viewed as overpowered, and completely changing one of the original classes’ main features is a little bit much.
Improved Bardic Inspiration
Changing the key feature of a class is a bold move and will undoubtedly change the balance of the bard. I really don’t care too much though as I think inspiration is nerfed enough with its charisma modifier times per long rest.
I say, either make it incredibly useful, or make it more accessible. So, taking some inspiration from my favorite rogue subclass, let’s change up the wording just a smidge.
Psi-Bolstered Knack – If you fail an ability check using a skill or tool with which you have proficiency, you can roll one Psionic Energy die and add the number rolled to the check, potentially turning failure into success. You expend the die only if the roll succeeds.
This is pretty straightforward. We modify bardic inspiration to match this language and we have a really solid key feature.
With this, we can inspire our allies, and they’ll actually want to use our dice, instead of hoarding it for a last resort situation.
There’s nothing worse than rolling your inspiration die and getting a 1 or getting a 6 just to fail the check anyway.
To the DMs: If you like this in theory, but are afraid of making bards far too overpowered in the early game, just tie it to the 5th-level Font of Inspiration feature, which is already a feature based in improving bardic inspiration.
A creature can have only one bardic inspiration die at a time!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been scrolling through forums and seen the question, “Can bardic inspiration dice stack?” No.
They don’t stack with bardic inspiration dice from other bards, and they certainly don’t stack from a singular bard.
The basic rule that we can come back to, if the feature’s description isn’t enough to convince you, is that multiple instances of the same game feature (class features, spells, etc.) don’t stack.
You can feel free to use bardic inspiration alongside Guidance, help, and any other modifiers you can scrounge up, but not alongside itself.
The big bummer of bardic inspiration is how many times you can use it.
You’re limited to a number of times equal to your charisma modifier, regaining expended uses on a long rest.
As a bard, your charisma modifier should be very high, but that still only means four or five times, which is a bit underwhelming.
All is well though, because you won’t be so limited for long.
Before we get into talking about all the ways your subclass can change your inspiration, let’s go over the other main class features that modify bardic inspiration in some way.
This is an optional 2nd-level feature introduced in TCoE. It allows your inspiration dice to now be added to the damage or healing rolls of spells.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced a bunch of these optional or variant features that were meant to improve and rebalance some problems WotC had seen arise since the Player’s Handbook was released.
This is definitely one of the better ones, feeling like something that could’ve just been the basis of a whole subclass.
It’s up to DMs to decide if an optional feature should be allowed. I will strongly make the case that all of them should be allowed.
As a DM, you can always find ways to rebalance on your side of the scales, and giving players more options to feel powerful is what DMing is all about.
With all that being said, this is an amazing class feature. Now your spellcasters that don’t rely on spell-attack rolls and instead focus on support or AOE attacks can really benefit from your inspiration.
Sure, they could’ve used it on a concentration save, but this is way cooler.
Font of Inspiration
At 5th level, bards get a bit of a saving grace that really turns their inspiration around. This feature allows you to now regain expended uses on short and long rests.
Now, you’re looking at a much more reasonable eight to 15 uses in each day and possibly even more if you can convince your party that naps are good for everyone.
Some DMs may limit your party to a single short rest a day or make it hard to do anything more, but even then, you’re doubling your efficacy.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear, max out your charisma modifier as fast as possible.
Getting to double your inspiration in a day by taking a short rest is great, but it will feel so much more impactful if you’re going from 5 to 10 then if you were to go from 3 to 6.
This is probably one of the most underwhelming capstone features out there. Once you reach 20th level, if you roll initiative and have no uses of bardic inspiration left, you regain a single use.
I’m not going to say that this is a trash feature. If I did that, then I would be contradicting the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” adage.
This feature does virtually nothing for you. Sure, you could get blindsided by an encounter and get to use your core feature once, possibly saving the day. The chances of that are so small though.
By 20th level, if your campaign ever actually makes it there, you know exactly how to preserve your bardic inspiration and use it in the most efficient ways possible. Besides, the odds of that one dice saving the day are extremely low.
That would mean choosing the exact right person to give it to, then choosing the exact right moment to use it, and the roll being high enough to make a difference.
At this point, you’ve already been regaining uses on short rests for 15 levels; one use when you roll initiative is trivial.
As a DM, you can always change this feature to feel at least comparatively powerful to other capstone features.
Maybe this is when you choose to implement the soulknife modification I introduced earlier?
Or you can come up with something exciting by talking through with your bard about how they would like to be able to use their inspiration and finding a balanced option.
Bardic College Versions of Inspiration
Like many classes, the subclasses of bard take our key feature and make it unique in some way. Each bardic college presents you with a different way to use your bardic inspiration that fits the theme of the build.
We won’t rate these because the rating of a subclass depends on a lot more than one feature, but we will be going over how effective and/or exciting each subclass’s take on bardic inspiration is.
Some subclasses have several features focused on bardic inspiration, so to save time, I’m just going to focus on the important ones.
Your inspiration dice now have an additional effect based on which roll a creature decides to add it to.
Dice used on ability checks can now be rolled twice with the creature choosing which of the two rolls to take. This is essentially advantage and is a huge bonus that really makes your dice more compelling.
Dice used on attack rolls force the target of the attack roll and creatures within 5 feet of it to make con saves against your spell save DC, taking thunder damage equal to the roll on a failed save.
Making attacks stronger is always a huge bonus, and this gives your ally’s attack a chance to deal damage even if they fail their own roll.
Dice used on saving throws give the creature temporary hit points equal to the die’s roll plus your charisma modifier, which should be a healthy crop of hit points.
Again, this really compliments the roll your ally would’ve been making in a big way.
You can now use your bardic inspiration against your foes, rolling them and subtracting the roll from a target’s next saving throw.
Additionally, at 6th level, the dice that you give to your allies don’t disappear when they are rolled unless the attempted roll is a success.
We all know how I feel about bardic inspiration dice going away too soon, so obviously I love this. The added ability to insult your enemies into failure is a great boost that lets you see some of the benefit of your own dice.
You can expend a use of your bardic inspiration to give any creatures within 60 feet that you can see and who can see you a pool of temporary hit points.
They can then, as a reaction, move up to their speed without provoking opportunity attacks.
This can be an incredible bit of support, especially if your party finds themselves in a tough spot.
Lore bards have some cutting words that are incredibly impressive.
You can now use your dice as reactions when creatures within range make one of the aforementioned rolls, subtracting the dice from their roll and hopefully causing them to fail.
I highly suggest watching reruns of Yo Mama or using a Shakespearean insult generator. Either way, have your insults ready to go.
The way that the college of spirits bard uses bardic inspiration is amazing, if a bit confusing.
Essentially, you can expend a use to roll on a Spirit Tales table with 12 different, very powerful, effects that your bardic inspiration dice can now give.
It’s far too much to go over in an article that isn’t focused on this, but it is very impressive.
The college of swords bard is all about flourishing their blades in magnificent ways.
They can expend their dice in a few different ways, all of which are extremely powerful and can make you into a better martial character than most ranger builds.
The defensive flourish allows you to boost your AC and an attack roll by the roll of your dice. The AC lasts until the start of your next turn, while the damage increase is a one-time deal.
Slashing flourish also deals extra damage, but this time the damage is dealt to your target and another creature you can see within 5 feet of it.
Mobile flourish deals extra damage again and then lets you move quite a bit. First, you push your enemy away 5 plus the roll feet, saving yourself from opportunity attacks. Then, you can just move up to your walking speed.
College of valor bards allow their inspiration dice to now be used in boosting attack rolls or alternatively to boost AC when attacked. Both of these drastically improve how effective inspiration dice are for your allies.
Lastly, the college of whispers lets you expend bardic inspiration dice to deal extra psychic damage with your weapon attacks.
Interestingly, the extra damage isn’t directly tied to your inspiration dice.
Instead, you roll a number of d6 that follows the same level progression. That is, you roll 2d6, then 3d6 at 5th level, 5d6 at 10th level, and a whopping 8d6 at 15th level.
With extra damage this impressive, I won’t blame you if you’re the only one being inspired in combat.
Bardic inspiration is an incredible feature that really adds so much to an already amazing 5e class. How you use it will largely depend on your subclass, build, and so much more, but trust me, you’ll definitely be using it quite a lot.
For more tips, check out our subclass guides, which will give more ways to improve your inspiration through spells and other features that are specific to different builds.
As always, happy adventuring.