When did you bait & switch and how did it go? (Spoilers)

werecorpse

Explorer
By bait and switch what I mean when you allowed the players to think that the plot or theme or basis of the campaign or adventure was one thing and then partway through it turned out to be another.

A common method is where they might think they’re playing normal people but they turn out to be super heroes or where they think it’s a spy game and it turns out to be horror or the like.

I’ve read a bit to suggest this is a bad idea but it can also work well. I’m interested in hearing both sides of the story - how it worked as well as cautionary tales.

My most successful one recently was when I ran the Evernight savage worlds campaign (spoilers) as an intro to the savage worlds system to my group. We are mostly D&D players and I told them I wanted to give the system a try but it would be a standard d&d type fantasy world. We played for a few sessions and then the aliens with their lasers and space ships invaded and things got wacky. The players absolutely loved the change, playing the fish out of water etc. I think it worked because the characters were still mystical heroes and so kept player agency. I didn’t change what they were just what the world was.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
It’s never went well when I did it. You need player buy in in any game and throwing that away is to lose a valuable thing.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I had a quite good shot at bait and switch.

I was using White Wolf rules, with the PCs stated as normal humans. I kept a portion of their build points aside, and added supernatural powers (mostly from Sorcerer, but a couple other places) as they discovered the weirdness of the world. The result was a nicely X-FIles-esque, coming-into-power story.

It working hinged on my telling them before character generation - "You will start playing normal people... but that's not all there is to it." They knew something was coming, but didn't know what. That small point was key.
 

werecorpse

Explorer
Yeah I played in one game set up as modern world csi type murder investigators and switched to a supers style game. It worked brilliantly. The players brought in to the cops and conspiracy stuff, then when supers started to show up we just bought into that as well.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I had a quite good shot at bait and switch.

I was using White Wolf rules, with the PCs stated as normal humans. I kept a portion of their build points aside, and added supernatural powers (mostly from Sorcerer, but a couple other places) as they discovered the weirdness of the world. The result was a nicely X-FIles-esque, coming-into-power story.

It working hinged on my telling them before character generation - "You will start playing normal people... but that's not all there is to it." They knew something was coming, but didn't know what. That small point was key.
And thus you avoided bait and switch. You used the similar technique of "this plus something more that you'll have to trust me on". This tends to work substantially better than bait and switch.

Bait and switch gets the players interested in playing a game that you aren't intending to run only to run a game they aren't currently interested in.

This plus something more gets the players interested in their starting position and open to potential growth/alteration.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
And thus you avoided bait and switch. You used the similar technique of "this plus something more that you'll have to trust me on". This tends to work substantially better than bait and switch.
I guess I can call that a fair distinction.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
By bait and switch what I mean when you allowed the players to think that the plot or theme or basis of the campaign or adventure was one thing and then partway through it turned out to be another.
Never, because it's one of the worst behaviors a DM can do. It's a bunch of people getting together to have fun. Enticing real people in with one type of game and then intentionally decieving them is just messed up beyond imagining.

"But I wanted to surprise them" - can you guarentee they will all like your surprise? If not, then don't try to surprise them with it. Talk it over with them.

This isn't saying don't have plot twists. Bait and switch is completely different thing than that.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I had a quite good shot at bait and switch.

I was using White Wolf rules, with the PCs stated as normal humans. I kept a portion of their build points aside, and added supernatural powers (mostly from Sorcerer, but a couple other places) as they discovered the weirdness of the world. The result was a nicely X-FIles-esque, coming-into-power story.

It working hinged on my telling them before character generation - "You will start playing normal people... but that's not all there is to it." They knew something was coming, but didn't know what. That small point was key.
That's not bait and switch. You had player buy-in-before that their characters were more than just the normal people they built. You asked them to trust you, and they did.

Should have read more before replying. @Nagol said it better than I could already.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That's not bait and switch. You had player buy-in-before that their characters were more than just the normal people they built.
To be clear, I didn't tell them their characters would be more than normal. I told them the game would be more than normal, but not in what way. I even left open the possibility that we would switch rules systems sometime after start, and that characters would be translated at some point.

So, yes, I didn't fake them out, but they didn't know what they were getting into, either. It had the switch, with no bait, so to speak.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
I've never explicitly pulled a bait and switch on my players. The closest I ever came was when I had them make ancient Greek characters from the Peloponnesian war (any side) and that weird stuff would ensue. My sword and sandal game ended up being a sword & science fiction game as the PCs where whisked off to another planet by aliens.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
One of my specialties that I run very rarely is a farcical parody one-shot I call the G.G. Scenario (because Gary Gygax traditionally appears as an NPC). I bring pre-generated characters that go into trials that sort of call out (in a humorous way) issues that we have at the table. So the bossy, "always calling the shots" player became the party's pack mule. The guy who always wants to try a new system five sessions into a campaign has to convert his character on the fly to a different game engine each turn to adapt to fight the monster. The guy always complaining about inappropriately balanced encounters had to solve a puzzle using encounter design math from the DMG.
It's not for everyone, but we've had good laughs over the years with it.
 
Bait and Switch works best with plot lines not so mach with system or settings changes. I try and have a few of these in a campaign - they generally only work when it is an 'oh yea' moment by the players. That is they put the clues together which take them from one conclusion to another, if you have to basically point out the 'switch' or when they pull open the curtain it is not the villain they thought it would be - not quite so tolerant of it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I've never bait-and-switched game system or genre (other than a very slow-motion one [over a period of real-world years!] that's ongoing in my current campaign where more and more sci-fi elements are appearing in an otherwise-standard medieval D&D campaign).

But I have pulled off some major in-campaign bait-and-switches, usually by having someone that originally appeared as a mentor or ally turn out to be a villain, much to the PCs' annoyance and, once, impoverishment. I once also did the reverse, someone they originally thought to be a BBEG ultimately turned out to be on their side, and became a long-time mentor.
 

werecorpse

Explorer
Never, because it's one of the worst behaviors a DM can do. It's a bunch of people getting together to have fun. Enticing real people in with one type of game and then intentionally decieving them is just messed up beyond imagining.

"But I wanted to surprise them" - can you guarentee they will all like your surprise? If not, then don't try to surprise them with it. Talk it over with them.

This isn't saying don't have plot twists. Bait and switch is completely different thing than that.
Have you played in a game that had a bait and switch element?
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Have you played in a game that had a bait and switch element?
I have in several over the decades. The more egregious tend to be used as cautionary war-stories I post on the boards from time to time.

There was a Aftermath campaign set in the Mississippi delta that was actually a dome on a Starlost-style space ark -- despite 1 PC being a fighter pilot with an established backstory of coming from California.

There was a Traveller-esque Hero games campaign that had the universe erased and the surviving PCs "rebuilt" in Chivalry and Sorcery.

There was a modern day private detective game (think Magnum PI, Remington Steele, or Simon and Simon) that was actually a War of the Worlds invasion.
 

darjr

I crit!
I haven’t done it. If I did I’d want to run D&D but it turns out to be Metamorphosis Alpha.

One time I was in a shared Traveller campaign and the DM at the time was turning into a Cthulhu campaign. I LOVED the idea, but the traveller folk who came to play traveller were not impressed.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
I've run a Pathfinder game where when the party went into a fey gate into the more primal fey version of reality I had them all convert to first edition AD&D and we used those mechanics for the games while in the fey realms.

There was some apprehension about 1e rules which many did not like and the resulting huge character imbalances, but I let them know it was only for while they were there and they went with it for the few sessions they were adventuring there.

I had not told them about this beforehand, I had not even thought of it when we started the campaign but the idea grew as the otherworldly fey elements of the plots and the players' interactions with the fey grew over time.

It turned out pretty well.
 

Jer

Adventurer
I've never done a bait-and-switch. I've had players tell me horror stories about DMs pulling a few: "it's actually a holodeck simulation on the Enterprise", "everyone has actually been dead all along and the game world is actually hell", and "you wake up and come out of your sleeping pods into a post-apocalyptic world". None of them were appreciated by the players in them (though to be fair they were all from High School games where everyone thinks they're more clever than they really are, so some of the complaints were less about "bait and switch" and more about how dumb they felt the plot twist was).

The closest I've had is something along the lines of what @Umbran described - I was a player in a game where we thought we were playing in a Kolchack the Night Stalker or Forever Knight inspired game using WoD rules and it turned out instead that our GM wanted to run a Wraith game and when the opportunity arose killed off our characters and had us make ghosts to run instead. But we all were warned that the campaign could shift radically when we started - most of us thought he intended to shift it into a Vampire game and he was doing an extended origin story for us as an experiment - so we weren't really upset by it.
 

Variss

Explorer
Not so much a bait-and-switch as a subversion of tropes. The heroes, doing heroic things, are being leveraged by the BBEG to undermine faith in the Gods. He wants them to win against the adversaries he pits them against. There were hints along the way, but it took until Tier III for them to really wrap their heads around it and start working against it. Went well, ran to 20th.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
Not sure if it counts as a bait and switch, but when playing a 1-on-1 game with my girlfriend she went into a thick forest. We rolled for a few random encounters, one of which led her to a portal that went into the Fey Wild. She had no idea what it was, and went in.

This was the beginning of a now infamous session, and she swore if I ever sent her to the feywild again she was gonna kill me. The threat was in good fun, but I might have gone a little bit overboard with the mischievous fey...
 

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