Gaming Tonic

The Inevitable Character Change

woodelfprincessI talked about deciding on a system for my new fantasy campaign I wanted to run in my home brew world a few weeks back.  How my group and I arrived at Pathfinder as the system to use and why we chose it is explained hereI had one caveat to my players, pick a character and stick with that character.

Some of my players had given me feedback that when other players changed their characters like socks, it broke the immersion and continuity for them.  They also said that it was really unrealistic (I understand that rpgs are fantasy).  Why would their characters trust this character that was not the same character that was there when they made camp for the night?  Should they have to just accept that since it is a PC the new character was okay? 

Well we have had a couple of really good sessions and then one of my players sent me a message and said that he wanted to change his character.  I decided to let this player change his character.  I want to take a look at how I think the game will be better for the character switch and why I allowed this player to switch their character.

When a player decides to switch his character especially in a long-term campaign, communication with the Gamemaster is essential.  This player contacted me, gave me their reasons for wanting to make the character switch and then sought my input on the situation and if I decided to allow it what I needed from them.  This shows a lot of respect for the game, the GM, and the other players.  Showing up with a new character the night of the game is probably the worst thing to do and doesn't show much respect for anybody.  It also doesn't allow for the GM to handle the character switch in a way that feels natural and believable all the time.  I realize it is a hobby where dragons fly with little wings but there are places where some realism can help the game out and we should all try and take some advantage of those opportunities.

The player informed me of what character that they wanted to switch to playing and asked if that build was fine with me and would fit in the game.  I know my players, and I had a feeling that this player might not like their character build in the long run already.  I also knew that the new character that they were proposing was much more typical of what this player usually enjoys.  This player usually enjoys characters that are martial oriented and simple to play.  The switch would be from an elf druid who rode a giant wasp to a human gunslinger.  The player being happy with what they are playing is important to the overall success of the campaign and this would more than likely be a positive change.

The player who wants to change his character usually plays a character until they die or the game ends.  They never switch characters so I thought that if they were asking for the switch than they must be really serious about it.  I could put it out of my mind that the player didn't see some new material and have to play it immediately.  The player also played the new character type in a one shot Pathfinder game that another player in our group ran and enjoyed it immensely.  I found that to be a responsible way to go about seeing if you like something enough to play it in the long-term campaign that I am running.

Having a player change from a complicated character like a spell slinging, shape shifting, giant wasp riding druid to a gunslinger was going to be a benefit to the game because I hate sifting through rule books in the middle of the game.  With my years of wisdom I earned from being behind the screen, I could see that a gunslinger would probably require a lot less of rules lawyering and investigation.  This would be a good thing in my game and I always want to do what is best for the game.

Taking all this under consideration I had decided to go back on what I had originally said and decided to allow this player to change his character, with a few conditions.  At first I told him to keep his desire to change his character and my decision to allow it from the other players.  I would kill his character in the game.  There were a couple of problems with this approach.  The first problem was I felt dirty about not telling the other players.  It wasn't like this was some in game secret that would possibly be revealed in the game as the story progressed.  The second problem was that sometimes it was difficult to kill a PC without looking like you meant to kill that character or you would just fail outright.

So I changed my decision about keeping it hush hush, but I would make the player finish the adventure which should take about one more session with their druid character.  We could switch the characters after the adventure in a way that made good sense.  The druid character would return to the part of the massive forest bordering the campaign town and their new character would enter as an old acquaintance of another PC.  This also left me the opportunity of having the departing druid character become a potential adventure hook somewhere down the road.

I learned a lot from the little event.  The first is that I shouldn't ever make a hard fast rule because I might have to change it if I feel that the game might be better for it.  Telling all my players about the character switch kept things open and allowed me to explain my reasons for allowing it.  This sort of communication and transparency would benefit the game and the group in the long run.  I am about building a better game.  Do you think I did the right thing by changing my mind on what I had originally said about switching characters?  Is character switching a problem in your games or a welcome change?  Use the comments section to let me know.  Until next time, Roll Hard!

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  1. I can relate to this, we’re always having characters change in campaigns especially when we start a new game system. I defiantly understand not wanting to break the immersion of the game. We have a joke in our gaming circle whenever we meet a “new PC adventurer” some comment like “You there, that smell of PC means I can trust thee.” is usually stated by someone. Then the line “You there, I enjoy that fine crimson colored shirt you are sporting” is used when recruiting NPCs.

    If a player’s not having fun let them switch, and I think this is great insight on how to do it without breaking the immersion of the game.

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