A few days ago I was preparing to nuke some fake (veggie) bacon for my daughter when the writing on the box caused me to smirk; it promised the smoky taste of real bacon. While this is no issue for my daughter (she likes real bacon), the reason that she got into the fake stuff was because her primarily-vegetarian Mommy eats it. As her Mommy can’t stand the smell of real bacon, I can’t imagine why she’d want to eat something that tasted and smelled like it. (For the record, I’m being a bit hypocritical here, since I’ve never tasted fake bacon and love the real thing).
There’s a lesson here for gaming; if you want to run something that your players don’t particularly enjoy, there’s a chance that they might love a “reskinned” version.
A good example of this is the American Western. For some reason, straight-up Westerns don’t resonate with a lot of gamers, at least in my circles. That said, most “western” plots work well when reskinned as a fantasy border town or post-apocalyptic settlement. Maybe your players don’t want to save a Mexican frontier town from a local bandit gang, but they wouldn’t mind saving a walled village from the raids of the goblin king or mutant marauders.
Another example is the pulp lost world setting. Can’t get your players interested in playing early 20th century explorers? No problem! Dump their fantasy characters into a strange immense underground cavern filled with dinosaurs and lost civilizations. Substitute magic for science and you’re good to go.
A final example is the dungeon crawl. You may love the variety of challenges you can create with dungeon settings, but your players may not. Reskin it! While some players hate the idea of creating a few LOTR knock-off PCs into the latest Dungeon of Doom, they may not mind being deep space explorers that discover an ancient wrecked starship of unknown origin floating through space. Or they may not mind being modern mercenaries in some remote jungle that stumble upon a temple ruin that supposedly contains a treasure guarded by demons, especially if another team is working against them.
Those are a few examples that I’ve actually used. How about you? Have you ever reskinned something that your players were against and discovered that they actually enjoyed it?