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Frequently I seem to roll up characters who are the spitting image of someone else's character. Most recently I rolled up a Utility Force Wizard for Star wars: Saga edition, which matched someone else down to our 7 in strength. I'm sure this is to do with not genning my character with the party, but that - for most games I play in - seems inevitable.

What do I do when I end up duplicating someone else's character, and vice versa? It seems to thin down our fun because we could each replace the other and don't bring anything new to the party.

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Communicate with the other players well before the game; just a email to two to the others to see what they're planning so you can avoid cloning. –  Rob Mar 30 '12 at 11:48
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I see optimizing the stats in DnD as not having a large variation. If you want to be a good fighter/wizard/whatever you must use one of a very limited set of optimized stats. However, having equal background story? It is hard for me to believe those match often. –  Vorac Aug 1 '12 at 13:34
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I've never had the same character as another player but I have had characters fill the same niche. The best advice I can give in that case is to play off of that niche. When it's just one character who has a certain skill set, it's really easy for anything that uses that skill set to automatically be your job with no further discussion. But if you have someone to collaborate with you can actually start roleplaying out that niche and sucking the rest of the party into it.

In a GURPS game a few years back another player and I were woodsmen. We had different abilities in combat, but both stocked up on movement and survival skills. The end result was that we were really invested in movement skills and made the party use them. We were also highly competitive about it. Every time we were confronted with a a cliff face we'd have a climb race.

Basically by playing off each other we were able to make more of the game about our niche. It was okay to share the spotlight since together we had more command over that spotlight.

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This is probably not your fault but the game system's fault. If a game system offers only a few stable "optimum" configurations for characters, those are what most players will end up creating, because nobody likes to be less than what they could be.

The d20 system of the Saga Edition is one of those systems with few optimum configurations, and relies on meticulously handcrafted prestige classes to make the game less cliché and boring. (That is also an ugly marketing strategy in my opinion)

If that is your case, the best thing you can do is drop the system and import your favorite setting to a system that doesn't break unless you optimize. Of course this requires that everyone be willing to go through the conversion.

If that's not possible (and it isn't most of the time) then you can work with your GM to try to find or create(with house rules, custom prestige classes etc.) a new optimum configuration for your character that isn't normally accessible with the core rules you are using.

But the easiest thing you can do is to play your character differently. Even though they may turn out to be the same in terms of game mechanics, they probably have different personalities, quirks, motivations, tactics, ideologies etc.

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+1 for 'play your character differently.' Don't let yourself be limited by class, by race, by role, by attributes. Be someone cool even if your numbers duplicate another person's numbers. –  sprenge777 Mar 1 '12 at 17:06
    
Seconding the "play your character differently". Even though 2 characters may start out the same, there will be opportunity to differentiate. –  phasetwenty Mar 6 '12 at 20:39
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More importantly than states, skills, and perks is the "on screen" time and relevance to the story. No one wants to play an irrelevant even if adept character, it's tedious and boring. So, it is up to the referee to work out how your character concept will fit within their story. Like any good story teller, they must provide hooks for your character to fit in, to feel useful, and to become a valued protagonist. The rest of the players could well provide input as to what set of skills they would feel would be a good addition. But all this averts the problem before it arises. What to do when it does arise?

Go with it.

What characters should bring to a game is interaction, background, and well characterisation. Make sure you have those. Look at a movie like Seven Samurai: there are seven samurai as the main protagonists. In any system, they will all "look and feel" the same. But, oh boy, are they all different. It is from those differences that the whole story is build. It is because they are all samurai that the interaction with the peasants is so dual sided ... Until, well, I won't spoil it.

Of course, if you are playing a tactical board game mimicking a MMORG then all that really matters are your states/skills... Meh.

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+1 for What characters should bring to a game is interaction, background, and well characterisation. Also for referencing Seven Samurai. One additional note in that regard is that two identical characters can fit two very different niches depending on personality and affinity. This is what the players should get together and hash out- and then play up these differences. –  wraith808 Mar 1 '12 at 15:42
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This sums it up. You can have two characters of the same basic archetype that are still very different characters. In AD&D (before the explosion of specialized classes) many of our games would have more than one character of the same class. But they were still very different characters. –  TimothyAWiseman Mar 1 '12 at 17:58
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"What they said". I'm a big Kurosawa fan and that is a prime example of the 'same character' deal. To use the AD&D reference, I was in a game where I was one of two thieves. Mine ended up being the dungeon guy (traps, climbing, etc.) and the other became the city girl (pickpocketing, languages, etc.) and the difference in weapon choice as well as race and attitude made things less 2D –  CatLord Mar 30 '12 at 15:26
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Ben Robbins has written a wonderful post on wedge issues. It describes one method of roleplaying characters with similar archetype differently by selecting a wedge issue that separates them.

It will not help with the mechanical aspect, though, but I doubt there are system agnostic answers to that.

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Stats reflect an abstraction of various abilities/skills. A 7 intelligence can be explained because the character has little mental horsepower, or that the person CAN learn things, but is so absentminded that they frequently forget what they learn. Those 2 characters are going to be very different, and that's assuming EVERY OTHER STAT is identical.

In your situation, find out what specifically are different. If you don't want to pull the curtain back too much, have the DM highlight areas where your stats are better and areas where the other character's stats are better.

If you have identical stats either look for ideas to play the same numbers differently, or ask if you can take your character back to the drawing board. While you are back in the re-statting process, change significant things; or throw out the character and start from scratch (with knowledge of the rest of the party's race/class combos).

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"7 strength can be explained because the character has little mental horsepower, or that the person CAN learn things, but is so absentminded that they frequently forget what they learn." That would be 7 intelligence, probably. –  Thanuir Mar 30 '12 at 10:43
    
Thanuir, thanks for the heads up, Beska, thanks for the fix! –  Pulsehead Mar 30 '12 at 12:46
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I'm going to echo what everyone else said about being mechanically similar: it doesn't matter. The stats aren't going to be what everyone remembers, unless your group is entirely comprised of min/maxers (and if they are, they'd probably be better served by another game style entirely.) Even in systems that support a large number of optimal configurations, it's still a finite number. There's bound to be overlap somewhere, eventually.

If it's a new game, just see where your natural playstyles take you. It's entirely likely that you'll end up evolving totally different characters, just based on what you like to play. Different personalities, different situational preferences... If one of you favors support over nukes, and the other leans more to the blow 'em up school, no one will EVER confuse the two. And neither of you will feel left out or overshadowed. If, after a few play sessions, your characters still feel too similar, sit down with the other player and work out which niches you'll take.

It gets a little more complex if you're trying to work yourself into a game that's been going on for a while. In that case, the existing character likely has precedence, so you'll have to sort of work your way into unoccupied space. Figure out what they're doing, and find a way to complement that. Talk to them about it. It's never a bad idea to discuss things of this nature with the affected parties. It's been my experience that as long as you're not directly aping the existing character, most players are cool with there being similarities.

Something else you might want to try is playing against type. Odds are, the existing character falls into the stereotype for that class to one degree or another. So try something else, that's not in the stereotype. If you can manage to fill a completely different trope than what your class has, no one is likely to even notice the similarities in the mechanical sense.

In the end, a lot of the difference between characters isn't their numbers, it's the characterization. As long as you're both playing different characters, you shouldn't have a problem. It is, after all, entirely possible to create several dozen or so different characters off the same statblock; that's the entire idea behind NPC templates. Even if the matching numbers do make it a little awkward, keep in mind that most systems open up as you level. More options become available the higher you get, so as you both level, the two of you are more than likely going to drift further and further. If your system offers prestige classes or the equivalent, then simply choosing a different prestige class than your party-mate is going to differentiate you two quite a bit. And it'll start working as soon as you decide what prestige class you're working towards, because you're going to develop a different focus.

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What I suggest when my players make characters that duplicate each other is to contemplate party roles, and then decide what role they want their character to fit in; in a game with three combat monsters, we were able to split each into a support role; one was built to be a face in addition to being practically Neo, another was built as a sniper and medic, as well as the team's most larcenous member. The final one built into a very nice tank, being able to soak some pretty impressive damage (i.e. he was standing after a tank shot him).

The first step is figuring out how your playstyles differ, and from there you can move straight on to figuring out clear roles; once you've done that you don't even need that much numerical distinction; you just buy different skills, equipment, and feats, and you're good.

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The original poster specifed that being able to make a character in collaboration with the rest of the party was unlikely, and that answers which assume that's an option are not useful to them. –  GMJoe Mar 3 '12 at 7:54
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Without Changing Games

My normal is to pick one or more of the following:

  • see if they will make 1 change to their character
  • make one change to my character
  • see if they want to play a pair of "Identical Twins"
  • not worry about the overlaps - play and experience will usually differentiate them eventually
  • pick different color schemes (Hair/Fur, eyes, Skin, clothes) and sound effects (Drawl, odd inflections, lisp, etc) to make them different in play

In the long run, however, a lot depends upon the game system. In OD&D, all characters start pretty much the same... 3.X is better, and SW Saga is in between. So, for a few levels, as long as the party has the needed bases covered, don't worry about it. It'll wash out when you pick a different ability option on level-up.


Changing Games

If you have recurrent troubles, a better system is in order....

With SW, you could grab the d6 Space Opera rules, find a buddy with the d6 SW core rules, copy the character sheets and GM table pages, and be just fine. (The GM tables include the races' stat ranges; the character sheets include the racial special rules. And all those pages are marked permission to copy.) The game does feel different from SW Saga; many fans of SW Saga don't like d6, and many fans of d6 SW don't like Saga. Both, however, are straightforward enough for the casual player.

The older d20 Star Wars is another good option, and lots of people are willing to get rid of it, as it was a bit too much 3.0, and took too much time for casual players.

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This is such a classic question. I wont repeat advice you can get everywhere. Here is what i do for my current campaign character creation process: I publish my guidelines and i enlist the help of the group to try and make character creation more a group effort. Heres some references for my own process/guidelines:

  1. http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/dunstrand-rising-gallants-continued/wikis/character-creation-doing-it-yourself

  2. http://incarna.net/pub/incarnations/v3/1/#incent

  3. http://incarna.net/host/kelly/rpgs/partyleader.aspx

Basically try and put a little pressure on players by involving the group. When a player makes a duplicate, other players should point out where thats going to happen and that someone is likely wasting points. Everyone in the group can help carve out a unique vision for and a good fit for a characters role in the party.

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