In the last months I lost quite some weight. People that haven’t seen me for quite awhile look at me in surprise, asking if I’m anorexic or just extremely disciplined. Of course, it’s the latter, but I never imagined that a slight change in appearance could have such an effect on the people around you…
This leads me to the topic of this post: changing characters. In a campaign that has been running for a time, things might turn stale. For example, the players and their characters have seen most of the world and are getting bored with their environment. The right thing to do there is to just make a radical change to their surroundings, like a meteor hitting the planet or an ancient evil rising from its adamantium cave in the molten core of the world. This gives your campaign an interesting twist, but you can do better!
First, re-introduce old faces. Maybe you have an NPC at your hand that disappeared in the early days of the campaign under mysterious circumstances. Bringing him back with a new gimmick (“giving him a level in badass”, so to speak) will certainly draw the attention of your players, and have them wonder how much depth there is to the plot. Of course, the return of the NPC in question should make sense, and actually add something to the whole experience. Also, the gimmick added to the character might feel illogical at first, but should start to make sense after a while. The young magician who now returns as a master of both sword and sorcery should have a clear reason why he became such a badass. If the reason doesn’t seem logical to you, it won’t seem logical for your players as well.
Second, change the current important NPCs for a bit. Maybe the seneschal that the player characters are currently running errands for by doing some espionage is a member of the same global conspiracy that the player characters try to uncover since the start of the campaign. Unveiling this part of his personality at the right moment will give the players an awesome new fact to play with, which adds something fresh and new to the campaign.
Lastly, you might consider giving a player the chance to have his own character changed drastically. If there’s a downtime in between chapters of the campaign, you might turn towards the player who has an interest of giving his character something new and refreshing and work something out with him. His character, who in this case will be some alchemical gadgeteer, might disappear during the downtime, just to return with some new fire power…in the form of a mechanical right arm, packed with steam-punk goodness. Changes to player characters do not just give their players something new to tinker with, but the whole group. Clearly, this is a chance you should not miss out on!
So, in case your group gets bored with the current campaign, try to mix things up by just not changing the environment, but also the characters around them. After all, change is what we believe in, right?