A great article at Tankards & Broadswords last week discussed players keeping "spare" characters in reserve. I've been working on something for my next campaign for a while along these lines, but I'd sort of been sleeping on it as of late. Well, thanks to T&B, I kicked my butt into gear and finished up my idea.
The premise for the next campaign is that the characters are part of a fringe outreach of the High Church, tasked with rooting out evil in the old ruins and haunted places of Northwest Irrin (a place, for the uninitiated, that is full of 1000-year ruins, fledgling settlements, and lots of unpleasant beasties). To reflect the varied, irregular, and occasionally impious forces making up this bastion of Mother Church, each character will roll up 3 characters at level 1. Only one character per player will likely be tasked on any mission (though there may be exceptions).
If a character dies while adventuring, you must use one of your other two characters to either finish the mission or for the next mission (whichever is applicable). You make a new character at level 1, but that character cannot be used until the next mission after that.
Did I mention we'll be tracking player/character accomplishment via this form? Stick with one character too long, and you drop precipitously if he dies. Balance out your mission selections, and face lesser risk.
It's my hope that not only does this lead to some friendly competition, but also leads to ensemble play. I'm working on factions and orders within and without the Church the characters can belong to. Imagine having all 3 of your characters secretly working towards different ends! I'm curious as to whether it would or not, but I'm optimistic. I think I have a winner on my hands, but we'll see.