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Universal-Adaptor Cast

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Sometimes it is easy being green.

"If you're familiar with things like Popeye and some of the old comic characters, you would oftentimes see this cast of characters that takes on different roles depending on the comic or cartoon. They might be businessman in one [cartoon] or a pirate in another. Depending on the story that was being told, they would change roles. So, to a certain degree, I look at our characters in a similar way and feel that they can take on different roles in different games. It's more like they're one big family, or maybe a troupe of actors."

You have a set of characters. They work well as an ensemble; so well, in fact, that they can be slotted into just about any scenario you care to imagine, within the constraints of genre. So you can see them, identical but for different trappings (this character was wielding a sword, now it's a blaster pistol...), in places as diverse as Feudal Japan, the Modern Era, Space Opera, etc., etc., etc.

What you have is a Universal-Adaptor Cast: an ensemble is cast into an odd situation and yet fits in perfectly because their roles and characters are so well-defined. They have the same personalities and the same relationships, but play out the conventions of that genre regardless of how bizarre it would be for them normally.

This is one of the essential justifications for Transplanted Character Fic, including the High School AU. The Magnificent Seven Samurai is a specific subtrope of this. Many Moe and Merchandise-Driven works are created with this trope in mind. Separate Scene Storytelling is often done this way. Commedia dell'Arte, the former Trope Namer, is a whole subgenre of theatre based upon the concept. Such a franchise is likely to have Negative Continuity, as, with a few exceptions, it's rather difficult to explain why the characters keep changing settings, roles, and time periods from story to story.

Do not confuse with "The Star System", a name coined by Osamu Tezuka for Reused Character Design which treats reused designs as if they were actors.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito is a straight anime example; this one a Yuri series set in a bunch of settings with the same basic characters due to reincarnation.
  • Every episode of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi has the characters playing different roles in a parody of a given genre.
  • The various incarnations of Tenchi Muyo!, exemplified by the spinoff of the Pretty Sammy series.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
  • This dates back to the beginnings of anime, with Osamu Tezuka's troupe of characters. They were a little more versatile than the standard commedia troupe (several of them "played" both heroes and villains), but the idea remains that they are "actors" portraying characters.
  • Code Geass spinoff manga Strange Tales of the Bakamatsu places the cast of characters in pre-Meiji Japan, with La Résistance being the nationalist rebels and Lelouch himself leading The Shinsengumi as a cover identity. Oh, and in this universe, "Geass" means the ability to summon Knightmare Frames.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has two Alternate Universe / Alternate Continuity spin offs: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days and Gakuen Datenroku, the former being a fluffy shojo manga and other one being an X Meets Y scenario with Persona. There is also the radio drama Shin Seiki Evangelion, which is where the characters are trying to create a new show so they can continue after, you know, all of humanity is destroyed at the end. As the title sounds, Asuka wants a sentai show.
  • One Piece frequently puts the Straw Hats into alternate universes, such as one in which they are all fantasy monsters and another in which they — even the males — are middle-aged women. The most frequently used setting is one in 19th Century Japan, in which Luffy is in the police force of Japan under the rule of Cobra. The Chopperman setting, in which Chopper acts as a superhero with Nami as his assistant and Luffy as his Humongous Mecha against Usopp, Franky and a Quirky Miniboss Squad composed of the rest of the crew, initially started out as special that was a few minutes long, but got a full-length filler episode after the Ice Hunter Arc and two manga spin-offs with alternative takes on the setting.
  • Pop Team Epic: In each sketch, Popuko and Pipimi often are in different roles and locations, whether an idol singer and manager, detectives, neglectful parents, or world-ending threats. No matter what bizarre situation is going on, the duo are the only constant characters.
  • School Rumble tried this a few times as well. Even more so in its short sequel of sorts, School Rumble Z which was mostly composed of the cast in various different alternate universe or possible future settings.
  • Due to Sanrio having a large number of characters. The company ain't no stranger to making adaptations of beloved fairy tales, Japanese mythology, and other stories with Sanrio characters placed as the stories' characters. Here are just a few examples:
  • Urusei Yatsura has its large cast take on the roles of Japanese historical figures like Miyamoto Musashi, or fight in the Heian Self-Defense Force. Of course Kintaro is a recurring character in the modern age, so yeah... As usual, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Lupin III and his crew (and you can add Zenigata, too) have found themselves facing pretty much anything that TMS Entertainment can come up with for them. From the 15th century to the 22nd century, they've found themselves in all sorts of situations.

    Asian Animation 
  • The characters in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf have done quite a lot. Just to name some things, they've played sports, raced cars, gone to the ancient times, solved mysteries, and explored the sea and the sky.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel and DC have had Elseworld stories where the heroes and villains are medieval knights, steampunk adventurers, etc.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police. It helps to be the Freelance Police.
  • Used again and again in Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse comics to provide "fresh" story ideas, because of their overall premise being basically "invent stories about these popular characters" and little else. Sometimes handwaved by invoking Identical Grandson, but more often the whole story just is like this without explanation. Disney comics often feature the characters in various different settings, such as medieval fantasy, science fiction and parodies of famous books or movies. In one Mickey Mouse story, Mickey and pals performed what was supposed to be a play by Molière but was actually a parody of one.
  • The Archie Comics gang. Including for a while, various spinoffs where they were in space, in the past, or superheroes.
  • The Brazilian, more kid-friendlynote  equivalent of Archie, Monica's Gang — helps that there alongside the core group there are tons of characters in various settings, such as Chuck Billy 'n' Folks (hillbillies), Lionel's Kingdom (jungle animals), the Funnies (an astronaut's adventures and encounters during his space travels), and the Cavern Clan (cave people). Also, such stories almost always integrate those settings into one, when in normal circumstances they don't intersect.
  • The Judge Dredd Alternity Special put several characters from the Dreddverse into various alternate historical periods, such as Dredd taking on Al Capone, Shimura facing off against the Angel Gang during the Old West and Mean Machine Angel in a Film Noir Private Detective parody.
  • Even Elfquest has an example. "King's Cross" is a "what-if" variation on elements of the Original Quest plot, the difference being that elves can (and do) breed with humans. In canon that's strictly impossible due to their being completely separate species originating on different planets.

    Fan Works 
  • In the past twenty-plus years, the cast of several older anime/manga series (most triumphant being Sailor Moon and Ranma ½) have been slotted into every possible scenario in Fan Fic, ranging from bizarre fusion fics (The Wheel of Time, Star Trek) to original plots of every possible stripe. See Transplanted Character Fic for specific examples.
  • In general terms, the internet also offers fan artworks of the Disney Princesses line-up in numerous roles — as boys, as zombies, steampunk, etc. Likewise in fanfiction, an AU story (and many canon ones) centred on any of the princess will odds-on have other members of the Disney Princess Repertory Company as secondary or background characters.
  • The premise of Alternate Universe Fics, especially the ubiquitous High School AU, taking established characters from a work of fiction and putting them in wildly different scenarios.
  • The massive and diverse cast of Homestuck is this. Common fan fics and fan adventures involve taking the characters and transplanting them into different settings or genres. Some of the most popular examples include Trollcops (a homage to Buddy Cop Shows and crime thrillers) and Brainbent (where the cast are patients and staff at a mental hospital, rather fittingly).
  • Drakigo re-tells the story of the 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula with the Kim Possible cast. This is pretty much how many Kim Possible fanfics work. Due to Kim's personality and her status as "the girl who can do anything", fans are able to work her into stories of many genres.
  • The My Hero Academia cast gets put into a staggering variety of AlternateUniverses and FusionFics in this manner, most popularly the Heroic Fantasy AU from a certain end credits sequence.
  • Special mention goes to Osomatsu-san because most of the AU's are semi-canon. The gacha-style official mobile game periodically launches new "sets" of characters that are basically the sextuplets as princes, girls, zombies, gods, magical girls, superheroes, hippies, classical name it. Some of those alternate versions come with a bit of lore, like the Religion 'Verse. The fandom just took those and ran with them, expanding on the lore and the characters until the alternate Matsus became a Fandom-Specific Plot. Nowadays any fanfiction or fanart site dedicated to the anime will have specific tags for which AU the story takes place in.
  • The Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons fandom was built on this, bringing together four protagonists - Jack, Merida, Rapunzel and Hiccup - from different films and putting them in every setting or AU available, from Hogwarts students to immortal nature spirits.
  • There's an internet rule similar to Rule 34: "If it exists, there's a pony version of it." The "Mane 6" as Space Marine Primarchs: check. Ponified versions of classic video games: check. Crossovers with Star Wars and LOTR: You bet your ass there is.
  • MF 217 had designed each and every individual originating from his Ultimoria Universe as having the capacity to pull this sort of thing off if he ever intended to have such a fic written with this in mind at any point in time. However, the 13 Ultimorian Deities, no matter where they appear, all have the exact same characterization each individual is known for as opposed to adapting to a given role, making them intentional Outside-Context Problem type characters in comparison to the rest of Ultimoria's natives. The Ultimorian Deities also have the memories of their time in whichever previous story featured them in terms of publication date.
  • A sort of inverted trope with the lengthy Wold-Newton Universe article Immortal Befuddled, which proposes that Laurel and Hardy/Abbot and Costello are not actually portraying very similar characters in wildly disperate settings, but the same two immortals whose life progresses from the Stone Age to the present day in linear order (the disagreement as to whether it's the fat one or the tall one who's the idiot is due to which of them spoke to which duo's writers). There are references in the text to planned articles doing the same things with the Stooges and Hope and Crosby, but the whole site appears to be moribund.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mario Moreno played his iconic character Cantinflas (albeit often with other name) and his signature-style type of comedy in very different situations and professions, for example; Cantinflas as medic, lawyer, UN ambassador, garbage collector, rural teacher, policeman, firefighter, and so on. He also had recurrent actors that appeared in several of his movies in different, but similar, roles.

  • Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius novels do this explicitly. Many of the characters are clearly identified with their original Commedia dell'Arte counterparts, with Jerry as Harlequin until the final stages of the saga where Una Persson becomes Harlequin and Jerry morphs into Pierrot, and swung through a wide variety of settings and situations without clear explanation.
  • Hal Duncan's The Book of All Hours does this extensively with its central cast. This is an interesting case, because each character is the living embodiment of an archetype superimposed upon multiple realities. So by the second book, where reality has degenerated into isolated wells of time and space, and the characters move from one reality well to another, they all become savvy, having absolutely no qualms about screwing all possible realities to their advantage. This results in them routinely sitting around a table and leafing through the "script" for the next reality, deciding who is going to play what.
  • The Years of Rice and Salt is an Alternate History of the 700 years following The Black Death, the "alternative" being thrown in by the idea that all Europeans died, not just 1/3 of them.note  The same group of characters are reincarnated as characters with the same first letters of their names, until 2002 CE.
  • Keith Roberts' Kaeti and Company series. Each story has a prologue in which Roberts literally casts Kaeti in a new story.
  • Established teams of Gamers in the Dream Park Verse, like the Troglodykes from The California Voodoo Game, are implied to face all sorts of themed scenarios with only cosmetic changes to their characters' backstories, as suits the adventure milieu. They still work like a well-oiled team accustomed to relying on each others' skill sets.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Blackadder series, including the final movie, which involves the present-day Blackadder and Baldrick going on a journey through time, finding analogues of themselves at various points.
    Baldrick: I suppose I've learned that human beings have always been the same. Some nice, some nasty; some clever, some stupid; there's always a Blackadder and there's always a Baldrick.
  • Northern Exposure did this a few times, once casting all the series regulars as the turn-of-the-century founders of Cicely, and once all showing up in a dream sequence Joel had about returning to New York.
  • The cast of El Chavo del ocho enacted different roles in other shows (most notably in El Chapulín Colorado) but often looked and acted almost the same as their Chavo characters. Chespirito, when not doing his usual characters, can be from Christopher Columbus to Sancho Panza. The rest of the cast tend to be this outside El Chavo del ocho, where only Chespirito's character is recurring.
  • Both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, with their frequent crossovers and overlapping supporting casts, did this from time to time, setting stories during The French Revolution, 1930s Adventure Archaeologist stories, bizarre mermaids with human husbands soap opera, or having the supporting cast playing the production staff.
  • The Goodies had several episodes in which the usual modern day trio were inexplicably transplanted to some historical era and played characters from that era.
  • Kamen Rider Decade offers an interesting interpretation of this: the title character is meant to wander between the parallel universes, becoming whatever each needs in time: hero or villain, savior or destroyer, policeman, lawyer, door-to-door salesman, etc. When in the Grand Finale he dies, his friends are told that this means he's Killed Off for Real, but they say Screw Destiny and find a way to revive him.
  • An in-universe example in the The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Shadow Play" in which a prisoner on Death Row states that it's all his dream, and the people in his dream are all from his waking life — and they swap roles every night (i.e. The Judge becomes a guard, the priest becomes his lawyer, etc.).
  • Paul Shane (working class Loveable Rogue), Jeffrey Holland (Shane's morally upright Straight Man) and Su Pollard (The Ditz) in Hi-de-Hi! (1950s holiday camp), You Rang, M'Lord? (1920s manor house) and Oh, Doctor Beeching! (1960s railway station).
  • The NewsRadio cast was placed in a sci-fi setting and on the Titanic.
  • The Holodeck on the various Star Trek series was used In-Universe by the crew primarily for role playing adventures, with the inevitable Holodeck Malfunction making things interesting.
    • The original Holodeck Malfunction episode was on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Big Goodbye" where Picard was trying to relax with a Film Noir "holonovel" of Private Detective Dixon Hill. Dr. Crusher and Data also joined in as other characters, but then the malfunction takes off the safety features as The Mafia story heats up.
      • The episode "A Fistful of Datas" has Worf play the sheriff in a Western frontier town, his son Alexander plays his deputy and Troi walks in as the mysterious drifter, with her saying she always wanted to play that role. The malfunction in this episode involves a power surge to the computer while Data was plugged in, and numerous holographic characters are redesigned to look like Data, in an exaggeration of this trope.
    • "Our Man Bashir" from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has Bashir and Garak role playing a James Bond analog, when a transporter accident with much of the remaining cast accidentally transfers their bodies into the holodeck characters. Jadzia and Kira become Bond girls, O'Brien becomes a henchman with an eyepatch and Sisko is the Big Bad. The complication is the engineers need time to reverse the process and believe shutting down the program will be fatal to them, so Bashir has to figure out ways to stall the story and keep it going.
  • Kamen Rider Hibiki takes place around 2005. The Movie takes place in the "samurai era" but features parallel versions of all the main characters. A few of them even have the same names.

  • Vocaloid characters. De-facto, they are tabula rasa (Miku did have a manga series, though) and it's up to the producers just what they are supposed to be— which is largely the point of having virtual songstresses. Expect them to fill whatever role a given music video may call for. Even the official merchandise is in on it: the sheer variation of Miku figmas is staggering, and these are based on the most popular imagining of Miku.
  • Rammstein: most of their videos have some sort of plot with characters in different time periods and/or situation. The different members of the band normally play similar roles in each video, for example; Till would always be the protagonist and Flake the Butt-Monkey.
  • Eminem's Slim Shady character turns up in different roles from time to time (there's "a little Slim Shady in all of us", as "The Real Slim Shady" puts it). In "My Fault", Slim causes a girl to commit suicide, but his personality (showing actual concern for other human beings, even if it's feigned) and life position (he's worried about the length of spring break!) are different to his usual portrayal. Similarly, the character in Relapse is officially Slim Shady, but has a much darker portrayal that contradicts the typical Shady mythology - and he's played with an accent. (And speaking of accents - on "Ass Like That", Shady raps as Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.) "Guilty Conscience" has a conceit where Slim Shady and Dr. Dre are playing the darkness inside, and the conscience, of three young men who are about to commit crimes, making it extra funny in the third verse when Slim starts bringing up the real Dre's past indiscretions.

  • Film Reroll uses the same (rotating) cast but puts them in a different "reroll" of a movie every campaign.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets, who manage to play themselves whether on a vaudeville stage or in Treasure Island. Yet, and this is the unique part, they still capture the roles they're playing. The Muppet Christmas Carol is widely regarded as one of the best adaptations of the book ever made. The trick is that the most iconic characters are played by humans playing it more or less straight, for instance Scrooge in Christmas Carol and Silver in Treasure Island, providing an anchor for all the wacky side characters. It also helps that the "default" setting for the characters is "a bunch of performers who are putting on a show".
    • Similarly, many Sesame Street sketches would use the characters in a variety of settings.

  • The Goon Show has the same troupe of characters in a different setting every episode. Series biographer Roger Wilmut points out that even when the characters are only just meeting each other in-story for the first time, asides made in character betray the fact that they do know each other and are "only acting".


  • The best example is Commedia dell'Arte, an Italian theater tradition that uses a group of characters whose characteristics and attributes are so well-known that the entire play is ad-libbed.
  • The Sera Myu has a sequence where Chibi-Moon and Saturn are transported to the Edo Era of Japan. The other characters show up as apparently past life versions of themselves. Usagi and the Inner senshi (sans mercury) are a group of noble thieves, Setsuna appears as a traditional comedian/announcer complete with a paper fan, Mamoru as a local playboy who is secretly the magistrate, and Ami as a village girl who has a crystal ball similar to the one carryed by the Inner Senshi and is thus destined to be their companion. One of villains shows up as an apparently time-displaced Mexican named "This is a pear".
  • The Musical of Musicals: The Musical! features the same four characters with only slightly different names in all five segments, each of which is a pastiche of a different style.
  • The Tsukipro franchise has created a cast of 50+ idol characters, and introduces a new fantasy setting for them every year. There are drama CDs and anime, but the Alternate Universe scenarios have mostly been explored in the franchise's 30+ stage plays. They have done Space Opera, Yokai, Steampunk, Fantasy Dance Olympics, and more.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is why Costume Fairy Adventures doesn't really have an experience system unless you choose to put it in - it keeps them from developing traits that don't fit in certain milieus. You're supposed to be able to take the same small group of fairies and apply them to an enchanted forest, a steampunk city, a generic space opera ship, a spoof dungeon crawl and the pie contest at a small village, and those are just the ones in official published material. It helps that the game objective is to be a disruptive element to whichever poor setting is hosting the mischief that week, because it means that not quite fitting just means the pranks are funnier.
  • The system Hong Kong Action Theatre is built around this. Your character as built is essentially an actor and will always have the same Martial Arts style and physicality but their skill set will depend on if their role is that of a cop or a scientist or whatever in that particular story.
  • Role-playing groups, if they stick together very long, often become this trope: the players know what roles each member prefers to adopt within the story, and generally play to their individual specialties, regardless of what genre of game they're playing at the moment.
  • An article in Dragon magazine proposed this as a way of playing multiple settings; the "same character" might be a wizard in the Realms, an Adept on Gothic Earth and a scientist in the Verge, but with the same mannerisms and roughly equivalent skills.
  • TORG can play this in two different ways:
    • Because of its multi-genre nature, the same adventuring team can spend one adventure fighting dinosaurs and lizard-men in the jungles of the Living Land, the next fighting dragons and wizards in Aysle, the adventure after fighting cybernetically-enhanced priests in the Cyberpapacy, and a fourth session fighting horrors in Orrorsh. However, the team will in general be the same, unless somebody transforms (see below).
    • A critical failure on a reconnection roll can cause a character to transform to match their current cosm - a skilled hacker from the Cyberpapacy could transform into a wizard in Aysle, or vice versa.

    Video Games 
  • The beatmania series has background animations that show the same characters in different settings.
  • Each Mecha's Story Mode in Tech Romancer basically features them as if they were the star of their own Mecha Show, with the other fighters as secondary characters.
  • The Like A Dragon series has employed this with a few spin-off video games:
    • Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan! is a Jidaigeki that features Miyamoto Musashi carrying the face and voice of series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, along with a few other characters from the series having roles in the game as period characters.
    • Like a Dragon: Ishin! is another Jidaigeki that includes dozens of main series characters in the roles of several historical figures important to Japan's turbulent Bakumatsu period, with Kiryu playing the role of samurai Ryoma Sakamoto. The Kiwami Updated Re-release shuffles several actors out for ones that have appeared in games since.
    • Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, while using the likenesses of characters as they appeared in the manga, features voice acting by series mainstays, with Kiryu's actor playing the lead role of Kenshiro.
  • Mega Man; particularly the original, Mega Man Battle Network and some parts of Legends. (Let's not get into continuity, please.)
  • The various Super Mario Bros. spin-offs provide best examples for the video game industry, i.e. they don't just adapt to narrative genres, they adapt to video game and gameplay genres too. The ones below are just the popular ones that got sequels; they've also guest starred in DanceDanceRevolution, SSX and NBA Street. Shigeru Miyamoto once said that he considers the characters in the Mario franchise as being essentially being less like characters in a single coherent story, and more like a troupe of actors that can be cast in a wide variety of roles depending on the game, directly comparing it to this trope's pervasiveness in Golden Age-era western animation.
  • The Sonic Storybook Series has Sonic the Hedgehog characters filling fairytale roles (save Sonic himself, who gets pulled into the adventures as himself). For instance, Knuckles is Sinbad the Sailor in Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sir Gawain in Sonic and the Black Knight. On another note, Sonic is almost as successful as Mario when it comes to adapting to other gameplay styles for spinoffs, having appeared in fighting games, racing games, a party game, and a Metroidvania among other things.
  • In The Legend of Zelda there are many different incarnations of Link and Zelda that occur in different time periods. The in-universe explanation is reincarnation, but the original meta-level explanation was Shigeru Miyamoto expanding his Super Mario statement to encompass the Zelda series as well.
  • The enemies in the Ape Escape franchise are always intelligent apes that adapt to wherever they're stationed, no matter the country, time period, or even TV genre they're stuck in. This applies not just to the voiceless Mook monkeys, but the main group of villains, the Freaky Monkey Five. These boss characters will build giant robot dragons or become ninja masters just to fit in with their station.
  • The Final Fantasy characters in Kingdom Hearts are supposed to be the same characters 'playing' different roles. Some are seen younger (Selphie, Wakka, Tidus, Seifer, Zack); some older (Squall); others are totally different (in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud was a former soldier under and then nemesis of Sephiroth and the bodyguard of Aerith and Tifa; in Kingdom Hearts, both Sephiroth and Tifa are part of Cloud's Literal Split Personality, and Aerith is a member of Squall's team).
  • Final Fantasy recycles certain characters even when the universes are entirely different. There's always cuddly giant bird mounts called Chocobos; always a funny, eccentric middle-aged man named Cid, who has some connection to airships; always Those Two Guys who happen to be named Biggs and Wedge; and the same Summoned monsters reappear (Shiva, Ifrit, Ramuh, Titan, Leviathan, Bahamut, and so on). They may have radically different designs and roles in the story, but they're the same character on some higher level.
  • Shantae: Half-Genie Hero has a brief go at this for some of its extra DLC modes, such as completely removing Shantae's powers and turning her into a ninja for a standard action platformer, and the entire gameplay being adapted into the style of Mighty Switch Force! with some of the recurring cast having their looks changed accordingly to reference it.
  • Fire Emblem doesn't necessarily recycle the same characters, but what it does do is recycle character archetypes from one game to another. These characters may not necessarily have the exact same personality from game to game, but a number of important traits carry over.
    • On the heroic side, for example, your Lord characters are your important characters, often they wield a plot-relevant sword and have an unnatural hair color. They are usually guided by an experienced Number One (the Jagen or the Oifey), may share the spotlight with an opposite-sex deuteragonist that they may have romantic tension with (the Heroine), red and green cavaliers (Cain and Abel), a trio of Pegasus Knights who may or may not be related (the Pegasus Sisters), a mysterious being who is Really 700 Years Old with or without the body of a child who is capable of transforming into a dragon (the Tiki), and potentially even a redheaded money-obsessed merchant named Anna who may or may not actually be a member of the party (the Anna).
    • The Villainous Side also plays by these rules. You'll often be eased into the game by dealing with a bandit (the Gazzak) before eventually coming into conflict with the game's villainous faction, often against a group of four elite enforcers, that may feature one Noble Enforcer, one Vile Opportunist, and then a couple of more additional filler generals. The faction may often be led a conqueror taking an active role in taking over the world (the Rudolf) or there may be a villainous advisor pulling all of the strings with full intent to betray at the right time (the Gharnef), and in many games, the true Big Bad is often an evil dragon of some variety that seeks to bring about the end of the world (the Medeus).
  • Stay Tooned!, being a game based on The Golden Age of Animation, applies this trope within different parts of the game itself, though in a complex way. Various segments of the games have themes based on time period, geography, genre of fiction, and so forth, with the characters taking on their corresponding roles—but only some of them, and it isn't always consistent. For instance, leads Pixel and Chisel usually take on fitting roles for each theme, but while the Haunted Castle segment has Dr. Pickles as a Mad Scientist there (where he might be an observatory manager in the future segment or a sheriff in The Wild West segment), Pixel and Chisel are their default selves and happen to stumble across it. Fiddle, being the Butt-Monkey of the game, rarely dresses or acts different regardless of the theme, the implication being that he was uninformed and unprepared stepping in to such segments.
  • miHoYo's Honkai saga, including Zombiegirl Kawaii, Honkai Gakuen 2, Honkai Impact 3rd, and Honkai: Star Rail, ascribes strongly to the concept of Alternate Universes and features a large number of the same characters transplanted into different settings and lore, with their individual personalities and characterizations changing or staying static based on the role needed for them to fill. Honkai Impact 3rd specifically even has its own collection of AUs from event stories with the main cast taking up a whole plethora of different settings and scenarios, collectively known as the "Captainverse" (due to said events being the only times where the game acknowledges the presence of a Player Character).

    Web Animation 
  • The characters of Etra chan saw it! all have set names, appearances and base personalities, but each story is self-contained and their roles, relationships and even their ages change from one story to the next.
  • Homestar Runner, as seen by the many many alternative settings (futuristic Japan, medieval times, 1930s US just to name a few) and premises.
  • The Something Awful Peezle Ward series of Flash Tub cartoons are various movies that place the same four characters in various movie "adpatations" of a fake author's stories, ranging from Fire Fighters to Astronauts to Time Travelers.
  • As Garry's Mod and Source Filmmaker both come with models for characters from various Valve games, said characters are frequently used this way in video made with either program, especially the cast of Team Fortress 2.
  • The main characters of Gossip City have the same name, basic appearance and base personalities and have mostly the same families.
  • Happy Tree Friends. Lumpy alone has been a carnie, butcher, teacher, doctor, genie, farmer, fairy tale giant, organ trader, and everything in between.
  • The cast of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device became this by necessity after Games Workshop instituted a blanket zero-tolerance policy on fan animation, with them immigrating to the world of Hunter: The Reckoning under slightly altered names in a new series while their original series was put on indefinite hiatus.
  • Some stories of Manga Room use Shota and Sana, who usually have the same basic appearances but they can be put in different roles and settings. In some stories that involve them, Kanna is also present as a supporting character.

    Web Comics 
  • Arthur, King of Time and Space slots its cast into science-fiction, the contemporary world, super-heroics, and various more specific parodies (i.e. M*A*S*H), and it always works. How much of this is the versatility of the cast, and how much is not stretching settings farther than it works is debatable. Still, just as impressive, either way. In some settings characters are gender-flipped, and still work just as well.
  • The main cast of Housepets! routinely run Imaginates, essentially no-budget plays based on everything from Macbeth to Jurassic Park. They usually slot themselves into the roles with little rhyme or reason, and often include multiple cases of Cross-Cast Role.
  • The "Stick Figures in Space" Filler Strips from Sluggy Freelance take this approach, transplanting the main Sluggy cast into a space opera spoof.
    • Later on, they (at least, Torg and Riff) became comic book superheroes in The Harassers.
    • The main Sluggy Freelance strips contain so many diverse setpieces, from aliens to time travel to alternate dimensions to vampires, that they could be considered this on their own.
  • Lightning Made of Owls may well set the record for range of different settings used. In theory, at least; its small archive size might not give it room to be there in practice, yet.
  • Aaron Williams' Q-4orce: The Mighty Moderately Average Superteam converts the cast of Nodwick from a Dungeons & Dragons adventuring party to a City of Heroes superhero team.
  • David Willis's Walkyverse and Dumbing of Age use the same cast in different settings with different backstories. (Essentially, DoA relocates everyone to the Roomies! university setting and removes all the aliens, Drama Tags and general weirdness.)

    Web Original 
  • Mario's numerous roles are evidence of a multiverse in Cracked's #15 Science Lesson As Taught by Famous Video Games.
  • Scratchpad is a wiki on Wikia meant for creating test wikis, is notable for its myriad of parody casts, which consist of taking a work's characters and placing them in roles of characters of another work. Some works have so much parody casts that some of those extend to obscure works, mundane or abstract objects, the work's own sets of characters, and even parodies of other parody casts, which try to fit the most of the work's characters into a role of another work's single character.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Many characters that originated during The Golden Age of Animation are this. Notable examples include:
  • The whole series of French animated TV shows Il était une fois...... is a definite example of such a cast. It started with Il était une fois... l'Homme, which followed a cast of similar characters throughout the ages (though with variable nationalities and ethnicity). The same cast was then used in a Space Opera (Il était une fois... l'Espace), as anthropomorphized cells in the human body (Il était une fois... la Vie), and other edutainment entries.
  • Most of the "Steven Spielberg Presents" series of animated shows during the 1990s, most notably Animaniacs. Pinky and the Brain in particular would appear alongside Samson one episode, then encounter Robin Hood, and then attempt to take over 1946 Los Angeles by shrinking people's hats.
  • Weirdly, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! tries this route in its animated version. It's made even weirder by the fact that Mario and his crew were always unambiguously themselves — while Koopa and his Troop more often than not completely built themselves around the theme of that episode's world. A themed version of Koopa was used far more often than the simple "vanilla" one.
  • The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo has Mr. Magoo (and a few other recurring "actors") play various well-known stories, like The Count of Monte Cristo, Arthurian Legend or Robin Hood.
  • I Am Weasel: In a similar manner to many Golden Age cartoons, many episodes of this series feature Weasel and Baboon transplanted in completely different settings, but still retaining their traditional dynamic.
  • Family Guy: The Star Wars parodies use the cast for Family Guy Presents: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball.
  • The final season of Alvin and the Chipmunks was renamed Chipminks go to the Movies and had the cast act out adaptations of popular movies and television series like Batman, Big, Star Trek and Indiana Jones.
  • Barbie was this in her earlier CGI movies. She has been Rapunzel, Odette, Clara, a genderflipped Ebenezer Scrooge, D'Artagnan and The Prince and the Pauper. Not to mention all the different professional Barbies that have been produced over the decades. Doctor, nurse, dentist, vet, rock musician, scuba diver, geisha (Japan only), RCMP officer (Canada only), infantryman, fighter pilot...
  • Walter Melon, from the Animated Adaptation of Achille Talon. That "hero for hire" does replacements for heroes (like Superman, Casanova, Luke Skywalker, Tarzan, Rambo...) and (in later seasons) historical figures, despite the fact that he's overweight and don't look like a typical hero. His friend Bitterbug is the usual sidekick, his love interest Amelia plays the main female character (Catwoman, Tinkerbell, Lois Lane, Princess Leia, Snow White...) and Walter's nemesis, Sneero, is playing the villains (Lex Luthor, Darth Vader, The Joker, Captain Hook, Doctor Octopus...)
  • In any given episode in the VeggieTales series, most of the characters will be played by one of the stock cast members.
  • This was pretty much the point of Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater, a short-lived cartoon where Kitty and her friends played out various stories like "The Ugly Duckling".
  • Certain episodes of Phineas and Ferb have seen the cast living in ancient China ("Doof Dynasty"), the stone age ("Tri-Stone Area"), a swords-and-sorcery fantasy ("Excaliferb"), an Indiana Jones-like setting ("Phineas and Ferb and the Temple of Juatchadoon"), and a turn-of-the-century Danville ("Steampunx"). They've also been to the Marvel Universe and traveled to a galaxy far far away. Then, of course, there was the Whole-Plot Reference to The Wizard of Oz...
  • This is the premise behind the animated ALF spinoff, Alf Tales.
  • Several SpongeBob SquarePants specials put different versions of the characters in different settings, including "Ugh" (in prehistoric times), "Dunces and Dragons" (in a Medieval European Fantasy) and "Pest of the West" (in The Wild West).
  • Archer, after having the main characters as a spy agency for its first four seasons, begins to alter the setting Once a Season, starting with the main characters becoming a drug cartel in the fifth. Season 6 returns to the spy genre, Season 7 has them as private detectives, Season 8 transports the cast to a 1940s Film Noir setting as part of Sterling Archer's coma dream, Season 9 is another coma dream, this time set on an Island of Mystery and Season 10 is a coma dream set in outer space.
  • In-Universe, Space Ghost claims to have pitched a show like this to The WB, "where Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny were teenagers and I was a teenager too and we were all pirates, but every week we'd have different jobs and identities" in an episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. The network apparently called back to tell him his idea was stupid.
  • Touché Turtle and Dum Dum: Touché and Dum Dum's adventures could — and did — occur in any time or setting. They sometimes were set in The Cavalier Years, but not always. Some took place in The Wild West, the Middle Ages, or the then-current-day 1960s.
  • Several episodes of Futurama place the cast into a variety of bizarre situations and artstyles beyond the show's usual Sci-Fi-based scope, whether it's What If? scenarios (both "Anthology of Interest" episodes), black-and-white cartoons, 8 bit-video games and anime ("Reincarnation"), animals ("Naturama") or parodies of other cartoons ("Saturday Morning Fun Pit").
  • The Simpsons: Whenever they directly parody a specific show or film in either the "Treehouse of Horror" specials or anthology episodes (e.g. "Simpsons Tall Tales"), the cast fits the parts called for.
  • Total Dramarama features most of the main cast from Total Drama's first season (as well as Jude from 6teen) and takes place in a daycare center. As such, the teenagers are preschool children, while Chef is their supervisor instead of a cook.

Alternative Title(s): Commedia Dell Arte Troupe