|by Duy Truong|
by Tobie Abad
Something is wrong with the world.
Everything is the same. But everything changes.
One morning, I wake up and I realize I'm my best friend. I have his eyes. His voice. I have the skills I've always admired of him. The people who know him still recognize him when they talk to me. The people who hate him still stare at me angrily when I walk by.
One morning, I was moving through the mall, still lost and wondering what had happened to me when I saw myself. Or rather, I saw the body I used to own. She was looking at some clothes at the Gap and was probably choosing a color whoever was inside of me preferred. I tend to stick to blacks and whites, you see.
I stepped into the shop nonchalantly, hoping to observe myself. I tried not to look like I was staring. A few times, she caught me looking so I started to smile instead, thinking she would recognize her best friend.
That's when I got even more scared.
Whoever was inside of me knew nothing of my life.
But she was me.
So How Does This Work?
In brief, everyone creates a character for the game they love. This can be any kind of character depending on the game you are playing. This will be called your Primary character.
Then they create a second character to represent someone important to the first one. This second character should be someone the first has a special connection to, but not necessarily a good one. It can be a best friend, a parent, a lover, an ex, a rival, or you can even push the envelope to have it be the murderer of your parents, or the stalker who used to videotape your character while she slept. The idea is, the second character has a certain intimacy in his or her connection to the first.
Finally, the storyteller collects all the sheets and has the players randomly pick one out. (If they randomly draw the Primary character they wrote up, that is fine).
Play the game, exploring the role you've drawn but keep in mind these key points:
1) You are always approaching everything with the mental knowledge, personality, and morals of the Primary character you wrote up. For all intents and purposes, that character is WHO YOU ARE.
2) All rolls, when necessary, are to be done, however, using the current character sheet you have drawn. So yes at times you may "know" the right way to do things (because your Primary Character has that particular skill at a high rating) but somehow you find that you are struggling to enact the skill in your new body. Or at times, you might not necessarily know much about something, and yet in this new body, it seems to come naturally to you.
3) Any in-game attempts to discern that you are in another body can succeed, and you should applaud players who find ways to "communicate" this into the game. Perhaps in games like Pathfinder, a Detect Chaos spell picks up something is not quite right. In a science-fiction game, maybe the brain wavelengths are noticeably messed up. But barring methods to "prove" they are in someone else's body, most NPCs would probably think the character is acting strange or crazy. And would most likely, in the interests of helping out, do something that the players would regret.
4) Have fun with the new stories that you can dig out of this approach! Everything from exploring things from the other side (especially if you switched with someone of a greatly different lifestyle/political viewpoint), gender bending twists, spy missions, or even a chance to do everything you want and get away with it sort of escapism.
Don't forget also the potential to build more ideas by throwing a few flashback sequences where the players get to play their Primary characters again. Albeit to represent events that had already transpired.
Why did this happen?
Every game can have its own plausible explanation. A personal favorite of mine is to just throw a bunch of possibilities but never clarify which one truly was the cause. Whether it be environmentally influenced synchronicity, some kind of magical manifestation gone awry, the crossing of destiny lines, the unintentional swapping caused by some kind of psionic backlash, each and every possible explanation you can throw at your players can become a story in itself to explore.
How do they change back?
That would be a question you need to define based on what your players are interested in. Players who love accomplishing goals and quests can perhaps locate some artifact/device that can help swap back the souls of those affected.
Those who have a more metaphysical/dramatic bent might appreciate a more Heart and Souls approach where those affected need to accomplish *something* for the host body in order to *move back into their own bodies* Maybe they have to bounce between a few bodies before they find the right one.
High Fantasy games can have some deity or God-like entity show up and throw a reason behind having that happen. And yes, for such beings, "I was bored" is reason enough.
And once they do find a way to get back to their own bodies, who knows if it will happen again. That in itself opens even MORE story possibilities. Have fun switching things around!