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I know that if a class would make you trained in a skill you're already trained in, you can select another skill to become trained in.

My question is about classes that let you pick between certain skills to be trained in, for example the Fighter lets you pick between Acrobatics and Athletics.

If I'm already trained in Athletics because of my background, can I choose Athletics as my Fighter skill, so that I gain another free skill choice, thus having 4+Int skill choices, instead of the usual 3+Int for a Fighter? Or would I be forced to choose Acrobatics?

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In a way, yes

As cpcodes mentioned in the comments, the Character Creation rules say that you can do the steps of character creation in any order:

The steps of character creation are presented in a suggested order, but you can complete them in whatever order you prefer.

So you could simply take your Fighter class before your background (or ancestry, whichever is giving you the skill), allowing your background to give you free skill of your choice.

The General Rule

Generally speaking, doing the approach as you describe in your question doesn't seem to be allowed (noting the aforementioned RAW workaround of course). If for some reason the workaround wasn't possible (perhaps due to some alternate character creation rules you are using), the following is general guidance for this scenario:

While I didn't find explicit mention for it for classes, the Fighter Multiclass Dedication says this:

You become trained in your choice of Acrobatics or Athletics; if you are already trained in both of these skills, you instead become trained in a skill of your choice. (emphasis mine)

This is likely how all of these scenarios are to be handled. In that case, if you had Athletics but not Acrobatics (as a Fighter, or as someone taking this dedication), you'd have to take Acrobatics. The wording from the Class section on Initial Proficiencies is less clear, but seems to imply this as well:

If your class would make you trained in a skill you're already trained in (typically due to your background), you can select another skill to become trained in. (emphasis mine)

If you can still choose a skill you are untrained in, it doesn't quite seem to qualify as "making" you do that. It is a matter of interpretation, though, and you could probably just work with your GM to change the skill on your background if they're willing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, while the character creation process is presented as ABC (Ancestry, Background, Class), you can take those in any order you choose, and thus you could choose to take your Class skills first, and thus you would already have your class skill when choosing your Background or Ancestry skill (if your ancestry provided one), and thus you could avoid the issue of having to have BOTH skills before getting your choice of class skill. (Continued) \$\endgroup\$ – cpcodes Jan 25 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I.e., in the fighter example, you could simply take fighter, choose athletics, then choose your background that grants athletics and since you already have athletics, you could instead take a skill of your choice. (from Core Rulebook, pg 19 [2e.aonprd.com/Rules.aspx?ID=66]: "The steps of character creation are presented in a suggested order, but you can complete them in whatever order you prefer.") \$\endgroup\$ – cpcodes Jan 25 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good catch @cpcodes - I edited that into my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – ESCE Jan 25 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Honestly I'd swap the Workaround into a "Yes, kind of..." and present it first. Then include the "General guidance would prevent this" reasoning after since it's now clear that, RAW, you can do what the querent wanted, if not in the exact way brought up \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jan 25 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso good thinking, I swapped them around \$\endgroup\$ – ESCE Jan 25 at 19:50

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