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I am a newbie in playing role-playing games, and after several games, I've come to the conclusion that character personality creation poses a bit of a problem for me.

I mostly tend to create and describe somebody with whom I feel rather comfortable. This makes for the personality, the alignment, the world view, the race, and so on. As a result I always end up with almost the same character, which very much resembles me myself IRL, or at least me the way I'd like to see myself. The point is - it's not some other character, some "mine" character, - it is precisely me put in the game world like in a dream.

I feel that despite some variations that I can bring in, with this approach my characters are pretty repetitive and actually reflect me very well. I don't find it interesting to invent some "artificial" character, with no real connection with me, just for the sake of it. I can understand other possible configurations - why they are who they are, and what are their world views, their biases - but I am not interested in being them. Trying to do so quickly becomes boring as doing something I am not really interested to be doing.

Hence my question - is that normal among roleplayers? Do you create your characters to be like you (with some possible modifications, like, maybe, gender, race, some minor biases), or do you usually create a completely different person and inhabit it? If the latter is the case, then how do I do that, and how do I get into playing that role?

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I think that feeling is perfectly normal and probably pretty common with new players. For some, it may be a comfort issue, where they aren't comfortable acting not like themselves and for others, it may be an interest issue, where they have no desire to roleplay. Now here is the thing, you don't have to roleplay every variation nor do you have to roleplay at all. I have yet to play an evil character myself. It is not something that interests me and that's okay.

Some people really enjoy roleplaying. They love to make interesting characters in their head and try to step out of themselves and really try to be that character and to them, that is what is fun. If you don't have a desire to be someone else then do not feel like you have to. Roleplaying yourself all the time is perfectly acceptable and no one should make you feel like that's not interesting. You don't have to do anything you don't want to.

Now if you genuinely are interested in trying to step outside yourself and put on the roleplaying hat but you can't figure out how to make yourself feel for the character then my advice is to take it slowly. Next time you make a character feel free to make him the same way that you normally do except pick one thing to do differently. Think of some way you may wish you act. Or something you think would be fun to do. To roleplay, you don't have to be an entirely new person from the start. Just picking something small that is different from how you yourself would behave is a great start. Maybe pick a character personality flaw that you would enjoy playing with. Some great examples are listed at https://www.reddit.com/r/DnD/comments/2jipxw/funny_player_character_flaw_ideas/

In the end, do what you want to do. Don't feel pressured to have to even roleplay at all. If you just want to be you then do it. If you want to make a grand character in your head that is nothing like you and try to emulate that person then do it. If you want to just be you but also be that guy that has to have the biggest sword in a group that is okay too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great answer! - If you really do want to try a new personality, a good way to get into it is to imagine yourself, but just growing up under different circumstances. Try to imagine what could have happened to you, so you would become that different person. Characters are not who they are by birth, their traits and flaws are formed by their history - imagine a good history, which would transform your younger self to the character you want to play - and it will be a lot easier. \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Jun 8 '16 at 9:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I find that not a lot of people think about roleplaying as a skill that can be developed and as such they always want to jump off the deep end and create this super different personality to play and then they get paralysis because they don't know how to respond. Changing subtle things from your youth is another great way to end up just slightly different so that you practice and learn the skill of roleplaying within the familliar. \$\endgroup\$ – Kasuko Jun 9 '16 at 12:45
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That's okay. I've played in a lot of games and I don't usually roleplay much either.

The most important advice I have for beginning roleplayers is to roleplay someone who isn't annoying. Too many people decide to roleplay a thief, or a racist, or a bully. If the other characters don't like having you in the group, the players probably won't like having you at the table.

Likewise, if your character has some sort of quirk or weird feature, and telling people about it would be boring or annoying rather than funny -- it's okay to skip it.

Instead, roleplay something that will let you be silly and make jokes. Be the weightlifter who insists on flexing as he talks and wants to pump everyone up. Be the dwarf who talks in a bad Scottish accent and calls everyone "laddie".

Or just be yourself. That's fine too.


Here's a roleplaying moment I was proud of. We were playing some other system -- not D&D -- and they handed me a character whose quirk was that he disdained the use of all technology. So, after we beat a spider-monster on an island:

DM: "You find boats! The monster has been trapping boaters and eating them, and it has all sorts of boats scattered about its nest. You find big boats and little boats, rowboats and sailboats --"
Me (excitedly): "And is there, like, a really fancy one with a fiberglass hull and solar cells?"
DM: "Why yes, there's a really nice one right over there--"
Me: "I disdain it."

Everyone laughed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ahahah :D good joke, and a good point about having fun :) \$\endgroup\$ – noncom Jun 6 '16 at 9:39
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I can't make any claims as to what is normal or not, but I can say I have observed other players who tend to "role-play themselves" or to role-play very similar characters who are not themselves, so it seems not uncommon. I can also say that as the years have gone by, I have found myself creating and playing characters farther and farther away from my own personality, partly out of greater confidence, partly out of boredom.

Here I pause to make a related observation about character-building as context: I have observed some players to develop mostly fully realized characters/characterizations from the start of the game, and these players often focus on character back-history; I have observed other players who really seem to need three (or five, or seven) sessions to figure out what works, and these players often ignore or react adversely to character back-history. These categories are not absolute, and not every player will fall neatly into line, but I have had some success in understanding individual players in my groups. (I am strongly one of the former, by the way.)

With that context, I offer some suggestions:

FIRST, if you are having trouble role-playing someone who is not yourself, I would not try moving too far, too fast. Instead, I would try to pick one trait, or make one significant difference between your character and yourself. I would try to make the difference large, but not exaggerated to a cartoonish level. I would make the difference something that is mostly value-neutral, or something you can live with playing on a regular basis.

Some related ways to achieve this are:

  1. If this is a game with character stats, like D&D, aim for a character with at least one stat very different from your image of yourself-- for instance, a character who is immensely strong-- and then as the game goes by, take every opportunity to think about how someone who has always been that strong might tend to approach things. (Doesn't have to be that-- it could be the opposite, or it could be a social attribute like charisma, or a mental attribute like intelligence, or even something like background wealth, depending on the system.)

  2. If the idea of character histories resonates with you, consider a character whose background deviates from yours in some large important way, even aside from the difference between this world and the game world. It could be something as simple as a change in wealth level (so this overlaps with the previous idea, a bit) or it could be some major, even some traumatizing event in the character's past, then try to think about how this event would shape someone's outlook differently from your own.

  3. If the idea of a detailed starting history does not resonate with you, consider a trait that you just find interesting-- it might be a positive trait you'd like to emulate, it might be a negative trait you'd like to understand-- and go with it as much as possible. Use the opportunities to think about why a person would act that way, either reflexively positive or negative as you've defined it, and what made them that way. This is almost the opposite of the previous idea.

  4. Try to use the differences between the real world and the game world as a focus. Consider a sort of standard generic fantasy world-- magic, gods, orcs dragons, all that. Surely your character must have a different idea about magic fireballs or healing potions or centaurs than you do. Talk to the GM, see what will be a main theme in the game that is different from ours, and use that as a lever to consistently react differently than you would.

Again, you don't have to do all of these things if you are aiming for a One Significant Difference sort of a character. In fact, you should not do all of these things, and the second and third points are unlikely (in my experience) to both be useful for the same player, especially a new player. These are just ideas for how to approach the issue, how to single out and focus on one significant difference, for one game.

SECOND, if for some reason you really do want to make a radical break all at once and throw caution to wind and play someone very different from yourself, you can try doing... more of the above, for lack of a better description. Make a character with two or more major differences in abilities from you; make a character with a very detailed history; focus on many difference between the game world and this one; consider many different traits; or mix and match from that list.

But I think that might be daunting all at once. So here is a last suggestion, to be taken with a grain of salt, and executed with care and some advice from the GM: Consider a fictional character (or perhaps an historical character) that you like reading about and consider playing a modified version of that character. The good thing about this is that you already have a template of the character in your mind, and you like the character.

The bad things about this idea are considerable, though:

First and foremost, the character you choose might just be a terrible fit for the game so talk to the GM about it! (I tried to run a fantasy/mystery/crime-solving game once, and a player had just seen the movie The Punisher circa 1989 and was obsessing over it. No one had fun. No one at all.)

Second, if other players figure out who you're going for, the character might be seen as a little predictable, and other players might decide to have a little fun with it at your expense.

But I have seen players get good mileage by taking inspiration from an established character before, so I mention it here as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, I also tend to make characters less and less like myself over time, but do this with each new system, including video games. First Fallout character is me in that world, subsequent ones have contrived personalities leading to different quest choices. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon Jun 6 '16 at 19:44
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What would Jesus do? Or rather what would a hybrid of Valmont and Arsène Lupin do? Clearly, their reaction to some stimuli should be very different from yours.

This is a trick I use all the time as GM and player: pick two, or more characters from fiction (books either fictional or historical, movies, plays, TV series) and mash them together. Add a dose of flaws -- not silly ones, real life ones. This is key: flaws (and over coming them) is what makes a character interesting. You now have someone that is multi-dimensional and interesting to play. If you are familiar with said characters, it should easy to work out how they react in given situations. You can always find some random event generator to add some more flavour to said character. Finally, sprinkle some tropes1 and you are set to go.

Now that you have a fully fledged character, role play them and not you: What would they do vs What would you do?

Over the several decades I have been role playing, all my characters have evolved from flawless superman to deeply flawed. The more flawed the character, the more I had fun with them and generated interested frictions and role play with them. All my NPCs have flaws as well (I try to avoid the GM pet NPC trope) and that makes them much more interesting. In several games, the players were shocked to discover that they knew much more about the current plot than any of the NPCs around which only had passing knowledge of it. They were the experts there! This happened solely because the NPCs were flawed and had both bias and imperfect information. This does make note keeping for the GM much more involved.


1: Tropes are either terribly done or really clever. Make sure your use is the latter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The RPG characters I enjoyed the most were either borrowed heavily from movie characters or had very carefully chosen flaws. A sorcerer who favors fire damage spells who watched his parents die in a fire, the trauma being both the source of the fascination and a reason to collapse in guilt and self loathing after a battle? Yes, please. \$\endgroup\$ – jamesb Jul 14 at 3:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Edited to back it up. Did I do a good job? \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion Jul 15 at 7:02
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Don't try to be creative on demand

Don't try to conceive of your next character holding dice in front of a blank character sheet. Consider it while (or after) reading a book or watching a show or movie, reading the news, or going about your life.

The Mysterious Elf Generator

Some RPG players play the same character with different names, over and over.

We have a running joke at our table that goes something like this: Deep in the woods, a mysterious elf generator spits out another rogue for George. Once, it malfunctioned and spit out a half-elf rogue.

If you start with the same question : "What character should I play?" Then don't be surprised when you get the same answer every time.

Start with a concept, not a game decisions

Don't start with, "Maybe I should try a different race/class/etc"? Start with, "What would I be like if x were different about my life."

Consider the kind of role-play for conflict-resolution. People role-play various social situations to learn more about people that are in very different situations than they are in. Wouldn't you expect someone in a very different situation than yours to behave differently? RPG's can let you explore similar possibilities.

Not to get too deep, but you can learn a little about what you really are and believe, and what is your just your circumstance.

Yes, but how?

Some quick ideas for how your character could be different than yourself:

  • You have a horrible scar, and the story of how you got it is even worse
  • Your character's childhood was very different than yours.
  • You are the opposite gender.
  • You were wrongfully convicted and punished harshly for the crime of another.
  • Your character is committed to some great purpose (freeing slaves, sharing your faith, protecting/restoring your homeland)
  • You associated with some bad people (or heck, demons) when you were too young to know better

  • You're drop-dead gorgeous and people won't leave you alone (I can't use this one myself, too much like real life. So sad.)

Game decisions follow character concept

When Mike Mearls designs a new class or class option, he starts with a character concept:

The first thing to do when creating a new class option is to figure out what that option’s unique aspect is, both in terms of the class’s underlying story and the option’s place in the campaign world. Figuring out the story behind the class option, and what kinds of characters you want to enable your players to create with it, is the most critical step in the process because it will serve as a guiding example for you.

You can do something similar when coming up with your new character. Just one example, a character with a bad (or good) experience with a justice system may have a different attitude toward alignment.

Once you've got a backstory in your head a bit, you may often find yourself picking different game options (race, class, etc.) than you would have otherwise.

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The key to role-playing a character is in two parts which both come from the theatre: Acting & Writing


ACTING:

You have already mentioned the first part when you say "I don't find it interesting to invent some "artificial" character, with no real connection with me" which is a problem I sometimes call buy-in. If you cannot connect to your character, at least in part, you will not be able to role-play him/her/it very well and indeed you will become frustrated after a while of trying.

Acting is what role-playing really is. Professional actors can become anyone no matter how far fetched but most of us are not professional actors. What is needed is a character that has some connect-ability while at the same time has some imaginative traits that are not you at all. The foundation of your character needs to be definitely somebody you can "become" but add in a few twists to explore your acting ability.

Examples:

  • If you were you but you became homeless/wealthy (opposite of your current you) how would you behave differently?

  • If you were you but you were also a kleptomaniac how would you be different. Also, how would you keep your stash of stolen goods (kleptos are often pack-rats also) while on the road adventuring?

  • If you were you but your height was extremely different. If you are tall in real life how would playing a dwarf be different? If you are short imagine your character as a half-giant 7 feet tall?

In every case ask yourself two questions:

(1) How would your character behave differently than you in real life because of this twist (including consequences)? Example: Would being 7 feet tall also make you clumsy and if so would you be apologetic or angry when you bumped into things? Or would you be a graceful giant (DEX=18) proud of the fact that you never miss? Would that pride be acted out as humble? flippant? arrogant? boastful?

(2) How do you expect others will treat your character differently and how does that make you feel/react? Do you think most people (in the game world) treat tall folk differently because they are tall? Do they call you "Stretch" and ask you about the view? Do they tell you to duck every single time you enter a doorway? How does this make you feel and react? Are you jovial and laugh? Are you annoyed and angry? Are you laughing on the outside but angry on the inside building up to an explosion eventually?

Be sure to discuss these questions with your DM since he/she will be acting as the NPC's who interact with you.


WRITING:

Creating a player character is much the same as creating any character in any story. If you are looking to create believable characters then learn how professional writers do it. I am not saying that you need to be a professional writer, but they have many many many many tools & tricks since this is probably the most important thing they need to do to make their living.

I will not go into depth on this but rather I suggest checking out this link for hundreds of tips and ideas on character developement. Note that to see everything you will need a free Pinterest account if you don't already have one.

Also, in D&D your character is an adventurer and thus ultimately a hero of sorts. What writers call a protagonist. One of the classic writing techniques for working with protagonists is called "The Hero's Journey" aka "The Monomyth" and it is well worth exploring this concept. My favorite book for practical application of this concept is The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James Frey. Your DM may even want to explore this book since being a DM is being a storyteller and his/her skills at creating plots for adventures and campaigns might benefit from this knowledge.

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I think it's normal, at the begining I always made the same characters, usually wizards or if I was feeling lucky some ranger. After a while this gets old, and you get bored of playing always the same characters, so I started playing deeply flawed characters, even if it means my character would die after a few sesions (because my alignment was opposite to the rest or the group, because I betrayed them, because my background story made me unable to play the quest) fortunately for me, the master allows this, and rewards the rolelpaying enought as to give you extra xp for the new character. I remember laughing a lot with a greedy smelly fatty gluttonous bastard with 10 in looks/appearence, every other character was attracted to me so they didn't kick me out of the party...It lasted two sessions...

The next character I want to play is a retired veteran in a wheelchair....during a zombie apocalype , I'll consider it a success even if I finish the first session alive, but it will be a good story...

So it's normal at first to only play "yourself" but after a few years playing role games you start to expermint with different characters

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On the simplest level, filter your reactions and decisions through the viewpoint of your class, alignment or race (for a typical FRPG, flavor for other systems). An elf would react to a bar fight very differently than a half orc, or a fighter very differently than a warlock. Don't fall into the "My Guy wouldn't do that" trap, though. Use the viewpoint to inform your reaction, but not to derail the adventure.

Once you get the hang of that, look to elements of your backstory. How would a reformed criminal react to that bar fight? Or a dedicated sage? Or a street urchin?

If your system has aspects, drawbacks, quirks or other mechanics for describing your personality, use them. How would a chivalrous person react to that bar fight? A greedy person? A heavy drinker? A coward?

These are very overt and mechanical examples that get you into the habit of viewing the presented game world through a specific viewpoint. As you get the hang of it, it gets more subtle and automatic.

To answer your first question, there's absolutely nothing wrong or unusual about just playing yourself. It can even be entertaining and enjoyable and actually increase the immersion for the player. Not everyone can or wants to "be an actor".

Well, I do, but I'm a ham and an attention hound. ;)

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It's the same for me. Much like video games, I have issues with playing a game through in particular ways. I have issues playing as a woman (not being sexist - just as a guy, to me it feels weird); and a lot of the time I struggle sticking with an "evil" character.

So in RP, I tend to create characters that fit my personality - Neutral good, always male, and mostly fighter-types, as I have a real issue with glass cannons - mainly just due to the way I play the game.

My advice would be to create a character with a quirk, to mix up the roleplay. Maybe an accent, or pick a race that stands out in a crowd (D&D Dragonborn for example) - to force a different kind of reaction from NPCs and other PCs. Once you become comfortable with these "quirks", you can expand to other, more extreme character classes...

D&D Characters

But of course, do what you're comfortable with!

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I used to keep a small note file of my character's quirks, history, and personality traits on hand while role playing characters much different from myself, and then I would review it regularly as the game moved forward so that I could remind myself often - almost like a set of 'what would [my guy] do?' instructions.

Like others said - there's nothing wrong with playing 'you' over and over, but if you feel the need to shake it up, making yourself a cheat sheet could help.

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Personally, whenever I want to play a character that isn't just 'me, but a ranger' I'll think back to books I've read, pick an interesting, well fleshed out character from a book, and then mold them for the setting. This works best if the character has been well fleshed out, and even better if the book's been written in such a way to reveal their inner monologue. Books have an advantage here - characters from movies, games and comic books will not usually have pages and pages of text written about the character's thoughts and feelings.

Once you've picked an interesting personality, transfer them into the setting and let the character get settled into the world. They shouldn't really be recognizable anymore - but you'll have a strong starting off point of how to roleplay the character in a lot of situations -

"How would Captain Vimes react if he found stow-away aliens in the cargo bay?".

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You've noticed that there's more variety to be had by playing characters who think differently. That's a good start - I've known gamers who never figured that out in years of playing.

A trick I found useful early on was creating characters based on people I knew well. Family members, fellow gamers, people like that. People where you have a fairly good idea of their reactions to situations. Characters like that seemed quite easy to play, but weren't "me".

Also, don't be afraid to develop your characters' backgrounds after you've started playing them. Provided you're reasonably consistent with what's happened in play, and you aren't doing it for obvious and immediate advantage, most GMs will be quite happy to let you retrofit your personal history. I actually prefer this as a GM, because if a PC comes with yards and yards of tragic personal story that I hadn't requested, it's often hard to fit it into the campaign, but the player can get offended if I don't.

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When I first started playing I had no idea what to expect so I just did what I thought was right at the time. As that progressed I got to know my character and was able to play him more. I didn't get round the writing my back story until I'd levelled up the first time. I write stories myself so when I wrote my characters back story I strung together ideas that I'd had but not used yet.

When I went onto my second character, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with her and had a bit of a block with her story but managed to get that finished before the first session and looking into her story I can work out her personality.

I do think there is an element on myself in all my characters since I've planned to next four all different. What I find is to write detailed back stories. Mine are always by far the longest being 6 - 12 pages apart from one that is 88 pages and one that I'm writing is 6 pages and I've barely begun. I find that helps be find my character and then fit in.

When I used to write stories I used to fall into the trap of making my characters too perfect but it helps in 5th Edition that have to choose 2 personality traits, an idea, a bond and a flaw. I don't worry about how perfect my character are and give them a few traits that I'd rather they didn't have. That can give you a way to progress your character as they work to rectify these traits.

I don't if this will help you but that how I do it.

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I've had this problem quite a while till I started creating "odd" characters. It didn't come about till I started playing Monster of the Week. Here's a few I've made that are a lot of fun. Feel free to rip some off.

-Richard Ruby
His friends call him Dick, and so do his enemies. Former police detective was hit on the head, suffering from incurable amnesia and now he believes himself to be a 1940s private detective with the cliches and pop culture references thereof “you can’t fool me, I know who’s on first!”. Pissed off he can’t find Lucky Strike cigarettes, but Camels will do. Complete with tan trench coat and fedora. He dislikes authority. He wields a sawed off shotgun and a revolver, and a pair of brass knuckles. He has a soft spot for dames in distress and doesn't understand modern technology.

-Joan Gladys Gale
(by far my favorite) Joan is a chain smoking fallen fallen angel with a raspy voice. When Lucifer defected from heaven she went with him for some adventure, then realizing he was a prideful assbutt she left hell’s legion. Now she seeks to prevent and delay the end of days so she won’t have to suffer punishment for falling from grace.

She takes the form of an elderly woman in pastel checked Alfred Dunner shirts and tan slacks. Because nobody suspects or messes with an elderly woman, and anyone that does probably deserves what they get. Her memory isn’t so good since she has been around so long. So her accounts of history are usually mixed up. Her powers aren't quite as strong as other angels since she's twice fallen.

She wields a holy trident that appears when called upon. She has wings that can appear and can glow/show a glimpse of her true form. She can also heal by touch, and tends to meddle in mortal affairs and feels guilty and becomes the typical guardian angel figure.

She hates dragons and snakes since they remind her of her asshole ex boss, she calls everyone "doll" and starts coughing when she laughs.

-Tobias Croikins
Your typical crocodile dundee/hunter caricature. Obliviously and manically optimistic about anything and everything. Keeps teeth trophies of the monsters he hunts and keeps them in the band of his hat. Loves to rush into situations because everything works out in the end, right? He’s part of the Secret Hunters and Adventurers Response Team, also known as SHART. He knows a little magic but not much, He has a sniper rifle, hatchet, and a silver knife (that’s not a knoif, this is a knoif)

One of my friends has a mopey Frankenstein's monster (but with Eeyore the donkey's personality), another a snobby rich woman who is so spoiled she will literally throw money at problems, another is a powerful chosen one type warrior but is totally homeless and a mooch (these ketchup packets are free, right?), another WAS a perfectly sane person until they were locked up in an asylum. Now their interior monologue is exterior, and a different person unknown to the character. They think everyone else is psychic because they know what she's thinking.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, not sure who and why downvoted this answer.. I've upvoted it back then to compensate the downvote. Now I'm re-reading the answers again and still can't imagine the reason. \$\endgroup\$ – noncom Dec 4 '16 at 13:34

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