I have a plot hook that I want to use where the entire player character team gets gassed and wake up feeling "different". I want to simulate that by swapping characters between the players for one evening session (until the characters next sleep). I think it would be fun for the players to lampoon other player's playing styles and have a go at playing a very different, yet well defined character.

When a player is absent, a character is sometimes played by another player. I think that is different because the 'owner' of the character is not there to see another player use/abuse their character.

Have you done this before?

Are there any pitfalls you can foresee?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not worth a full answer, but my main piece of advice would be: ask them if they are ok with it. If you don't want to spoil the surprise, you can just go "And so we have two options: either you switch character sheets and keep your personalities, or you switch your personalities and keep your character sheets, which do you prefer?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, absolutely. I will ask them first; "Talk to your players" is definitely one of my mantra. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Brilliant idea, I would say. I think It's a very good way of simulating a stunned or confused or hmm, drunk party. Even if they try to play the character as the original player would, there are going to be differences, and probably they aren't going to be as efficient in combat and things. But they are going probably to take more risks anyway. Maybe not letting the original player making suggestions may reinforce the result... \$\endgroup\$
    – Duralumin
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, comments and suggestions should be done "in character" ;) "Not that spell, not that spell! Why are you charging?! Did you seriously got me stabbed?!" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 17:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Instead of describing it as "you're confused", why not just go all out and say "The gas caused everyone to swap bodies?" I think that would solve the problems described below of players taking risks or using magical items with other people's characters- they would be handled in character, and comedically so! ("Xanthor, don't eat so much, it'll go right to my thighs!") \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 22:14

6 Answers 6


The biggest and most obvious problem is players abusing their temporary characters - taking big risks, for example, or using up valuable items. In magic settings they might cast a lot of magic that ages the caster or otherwise can cause long-term problems for characters.

You would need to be prepared for players being slightly less careful with their 'borrowed' characters, and for some possible arguments over what the characters are doing between the main owner and the temporary player. The main risk is that people don't engage as much with their characters if they know that they'll never play them again after that session.

Obviously, players might become upset over what happens to their characters at the hands of another player, so you would need to discuss all the potential long-term ramifications with your players and make sure they all agree to them, or you risk the session becoming a series of recriminations as players feel their characters are being abused.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Brutalising someone else's character is a concern. I wonder if there will be a lot of brutalising if two players swapped character between them: "You hurt mine and I'll hurt yours". For us, I don't think this would be much of a problem because my players are pretty cool but if I were to share this adventure, I'd definitely mention this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you think there even might be real life bad blood between two of your players, make sure that neither of them gets the other's character. That's where you go from big risks and excessive resource expenditure to outright suicidal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobLang It's very important to talk it over beforehand with your players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dakeyras
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 17:00

I've actually been a player in an adventure where this happened. It was really, really fun, and went over very well. However, some things to note:

It was slightly different - we kept our character sheet but played with a random character's personality. This avoided the issues brought up in other answers. The plot was (essentially) the same though - the characters were switched into different bodies.

Everyone knew and liked each other and had played a lot with those characters. Yes, we spent a lot of time lampooning each others playing styles, and, yes, it was quite funny. But I could imagine people not enjoying that at all. And it doesn't really work at all if the characters haven't been in at least several adventures together.

Even though the players knew how to utilize their character's abilities, they were role-playing that they did not. This was still a handicap to the party, and the adventure had to take that into account (which it did).

I've never tried the switch character sheet and keep personality version. I think there is more opportunity to lampoon other player's playing styles the way we did it, though, and that was the most fun part.


I think you could achieve the fun with a slightly different take.

Do a mind swap - so one character takes on the body and abilities of a different character and "encourage" them to pretend to be the character they have been swapped into.

How you do this will be different for different games. Some, like Mutants and Masterminds would be straight-up changes in power-sets and maybe physical attributes. D&D can do this with the standard polymorph rules (although that could get heavy if they have lots of stuff. In something like FATE, you'd have to work out what was body and what was mind/soul.

Once they are swapped, you put them through a situation where they have to pretend that nothing is wrong or . Examples include tense negotiations, the wedding night of one of the PCs, or the start of criminal proceedings against them.

The risks come down to what happens when the characters swap back. If any permanent changes carry over, some players may feel hurt because somebody else mutilated the character. If it is characters who are getting angry about this, there's a good story going on. If the players are getting angry then things have gotten too far.

It all comes down to trust. That's the thing you put on the line with something like this.

There is an out if things do go horribly wrong. Swap the minds of the characters into clones/doppelgangers of their bodies - so even if something permanent does happen, it doesn't have any long-term side effects. Unless the clones aren't all destroyed...


The biggest issue I would be concerned with on switching character sheets is that in almost every game I've been a part of, there are secrets. Therefore, if you want to switch character sheets then it would be wise to make a "public" copy of any characters that have something the players want to keep secret. For example, in a recent game of 7th Sea I had a character with Porte magic, but he completely hid that aspect from anyone if he could help it.

Another aspect is to have the players make the character they're jumping into, the way they think they are made. This is entirely too much work for one session, but there was a WoD game I ran where I had two copies of each sheet - how the characters saw themselves for the players, and how they really were for me. The idea being that the players can't metagame what they're overconfident or doubtful about. For example, Lister thinks he has a Perform\Guitar of 5, but he is actually untrained. Peter thinks he can fly; turns out he can do any super power he has had contact with.


Barring Player abuse/misuse as @Dakeyras describes I would see the biggest pitfall being that players will not know how to play the other player's characters to the fullest. Even if they can simulate the roleplay style of that character picking up a new player sheet that they had no input in creating may lead them to taking very long terms, making simple mistakes, and misunderstanding some of the mechanics that that character utilizes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, that's a very good points. For my current campaign, the characters are quite simple and well defined. For more complex campaigns (especially my Sci Fi ones), this would definitely be a concern. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, doesn't that make sense? If you suddenly wake up in an Olympic gymnast's body, you're not going to automatically be able to do top-tier gymnastics. Muscle memory will help you out, but it won't do the gymnastics for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, they might be able to cope with strategies like "I remember seeing you doing this in that situation... Oh, you have a fire spell I can use, right?", which is actually an interesting thing to roleplay :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 17:56

Simplified, it all comes down to trust. Do you trust the players with their friend's character, and will they trust their friend with their character? I think it would be fun for specific frieds to play my character, however other players would make me very nervous and I might be too distracted by what they are doing/not doing to enjoy my "out of character experience."

Also, are there both male and female characters? Will any be switched to the other gender? That has the potential to get pubescent, might still be fun, but at the same time the original character might end up feeling/being violated. Having had characters get raped and seperately get pregnant there can be long term consequences to a night of fun.


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