Has anyone changed system/setting/genre but kept the characters during a campaign?

Players can become very attached to their characters, even when the campaign/setting/genre or system is getting tired and old. The players could remake the characters in a new system but that feels clunky and jarring. Is there a more progressive/smooth way of doing it?

Edit: valadil raises a good point. We'll need to assume that the players are keen on the idea, this is really about making the process less painful for all involved.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've been through one of these where I felt really put out by it afterwards, and I'm contemplating doing something similar by going to the latest edition of a game I'm running. Looking forward to the answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Nov 10 '11 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is going to depend on your players more than your method. You need players who are interested in systems enough to make the switch, but not so involved in the system that they're bothered by the change in their character's performance. At the very least I would run it by them before committing to anything. If you leave the PCs feeling like victims of a bait and switch, they won't be happy. \$\endgroup\$ – valadil Nov 10 '11 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ How different are the two systems? \$\endgroup\$ – Ax Kidson Nov 10 '11 at 23:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question is system agnostic, so we can assume that the systems could be very different indeed! \$\endgroup\$ – Dr Rob Lang Nov 11 '11 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's probably worth looking at one-system multiple-setting games for inspiration. Torg leaps to mind here. \$\endgroup\$ – Tynam Mar 23 '12 at 12:28

A real lot depends on the campaign/setting/genre/system… and on the players -- indeed, as @valadil notes in a great comment on the Q. If your setting/campaign allows it, you might want to try an "oscillating" solution.

  • Introduce (carefully and cleverly) a parallel universe or some alternate plane to which your PCs can eventually travel and have a short adventure strongly related to the campaign and the characters. Have them generate their characters for this alternate world's rules, without introducing any real changes to their personality.

  • After their (possibly hugely successful) quest that leaves them excited about the other world and their characters' partly new abilities, let them return to the original world. Have an adventure there. Then take them into the new world again, this time for a longer trip.

  • Repeat this cycle until you have, with your players' approval and support, gradually moved the main plotline over to the new world and system, alongside with their characters.

(I've based this on real experience. One of our most successful and longest running campaigns - ran about 10+ years ago - involved Kult, Vampire: The Masquerade, Ravenloft (AD&D), a tiny bit of Shadowrun, and, finally, SLA Industries as well. :))

PS: Anyone downvoting (it's happened already), please be so kind as to explain your reasons briefly in a comment. Let's keep this educative and dynamic. Thanks! :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds painstaking, but a resounding +1 for experience! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 11 '11 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ This got best answer because of the use of the interstitial plane. That's an excellent way of moving characters. \$\endgroup\$ – Dr Rob Lang Dec 20 '12 at 15:56

One of the chapters in John Wick's Big Book of Little Games is dedicated to a mechanic meant to explore this. Called "The Flux," it offers a system that allows characters to change systems while still having access to earlier or different versions of their PCs. You can purchase "The Flux" here.

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I've only shifted characters over to a new system, not a new genre or setting. We went from Shadowrun to Savage Worlds. Shadowrun's rules were just too convoluted for us. We were still looking up rules six-months into the weekly game. Savage Worlds keeps it simple.

To make the conversion, it was clear there was no suitable one-to-one conversion between the two games. The probability distributions were too different. The characters would have become unbalanced in the new system. We jointly decided on an experience level that reflected how much our characters had achieved to date, and simply recreated our characters from scratch, keeping the feel of the old characters.

When playing any new system, we allow respeccing any unused abilities between the first few sessions. This helps the players get comfortable with their characters. Especially when you're shifting systems, this gives players the opportunity to be confortable they're playing the same character.

There was some loss in the translation, mostly in regards to magic, which is a small heartache. After a few sessions, it's generally forgotten. Ultimately we had a better time using the new ruleset.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume you meant Savage Worlds keeps it simple? \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Gill Dec 15 '12 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did the same thing with Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, for exactly inverse reasons. Savage Worlds is a pretty solid middle ground, complexity-wise. \$\endgroup\$ – cha0sys Dec 18 '12 at 0:59

The Amazing Engine system was designed so that core parts of characters would be transferable between settings/genres. If you switched from a cyberpunk setting to a fantasy setting, you'd have to leave behind your net-hacking skills, but could learn magic instead.

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