I was watching Doctor Who recently. I’m far behind, as this was from the second series of the new show, but yeah, I just don’t have the time. Anyway, there’s an episode (S2E10), where we get an episode from the point of view of a member of LINDA.
I’m not going to explain LINDA or anything about the plot, but the point is that for this episode, Doctor Who is only in the peripheral. He is important, but he is not the protagonist and he doesn’t even appear very much in the episode.
There are similar episodes in many series. There was the episode of Buffy where Xavier saves the world while the others are away somewhere and there are House episodes centered on whoever from the team. I’m guessing there are practical reasons for these episodes, such as giving some slack to the very tight shooting schecules TV series have, but these episodes have other reasons for existing as well.
They are good change of pace and can therefore explore the world (or the universe) or characters from a different perspective, often going deeper than the usual episodes can. For example, in the aforementioned LINDA episode (actually called Love & Monsters), we get to see some of the waves the good Doctor leaves behind on his excursions, but its also a light episode (not that Doctor Who is very dark in any case), where we just get to see how lonely people meet each other and become friends.
So, could you do something like this in your RPG campaign? Yes.
Actually using this to explore the world would probably be a good idea, especially if understanding the world is important. If your players are fighting a cult, maybe put them into the shoes of the cultists for one session and make them do something their usual characters would despise. If you’re running a superhero campaign, have the players play normal humans who are forced to resist a supercriminal, and maybe bring in their usual characters right in the end just to remind the players of them.
Exploring the characters might be a bit more problematic, but could work. Lets suppose you’re running a fantasy campaign and the players just received a healthy remuneration for their services for a village. Maybe have the next session be about the villagers, who are now starving, since they had to use all of their resources to hire the adventurers. Maybe they are now forced to resort to raiding their neighbors or into banditry.
Or maybe just lie in the beginning of the session and give them “random” people to play. Then tie what happens during that session into the wider story of the campaign somehow.
I have never done this in practice, although I did do something similar back in the day. I began a session by giving my players some characters (which were actually just a line or so of description) and then followed a story of a book. Every time the characters would lose control of the book, I put them into the shoes of the people who acquired it and thus a history of the book was formed, giving players a reason to be interested in it, even though the book’s true nature was never specified. Once I put them back into the shoes of their usual characters, some mysterious man came to them in order to hire them to acquire the book.