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Cast Speciation

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Malik: What are you doing here?
Other Black guy: What do you mean?
Malik: Well, I was supposed to be the only black guy at the party.
Other Black guy: Oh damn. Shit.
Both together: It's whack!
Other Black guy: My bad, man. Peace out, brother.
Malik: Honest mistake.

Generally speaking, it's bad form to have two major crew members on the show who essentially perform the same job (unless you have a multi-team Heroes Unlimited situation). That would lead to inevitable comparisons between the two, and probably lots of flame wars.

So any character who starts mirroring another too closely will have a different personality which affects the outcome of their work, or will be given a noticeably different job. One way to do this is to make the two rivals, competing to be the best at what they do. In this case, usually one is more friendly and laid-back and the other is more serious and stoic.

Does not apply to Evil Minions who sometimes come in faceless dozens, but does for, say, Battle Butlers or Dragons. Also applies to any Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth-oriented Power Trio that isn't a video-game example.

Occasionally, executive pressure or plain bad writing will force a character to not ever evolve past their original role, or instead force a new character into it. In the latter case, the original's days are numbered.

Can be avoided from the get-go by an Economy Cast or lampshaded by an Evasive Fight-Thread Episode. This trope falls purely within the Rule of Drama. In real life, some degree of redundancy is generally considered a good thing, so that a group isn't crippled if one member with a specialized skill is taken out the picture.

Not So Similar is the super trope. Compare Divergent Character Evolution, which happens gradually and isn't as deliberate, and Superhero Speciation, when it happens to superheroes and their powers. See also Chickification, a common cause of which is this trope when more than one woman is in the cast.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sailor Moon's Minako Aino originally starred in her own manga, Codename: Sailor V, before being absorbed into the series, creating the odd situation where the derived character (Usagi) ended up being the lead. Minako has since undergone Divergent Character Evolution: a more outwardly capable but loopy character for the first anime, a straight serious character for the Live-Action Adaptation, and a mostly similar to the manga girl for Sailor Moon Crystal. Pretty much all her incarnations treat her as a veteran, and occasionally showcase her greater experience at being a Magical Girl than the rest of the Senshi, except for the first anime. The manga, live-action show and later Crystal show her being serious and knowledgeable, though the manga and Crystal also give some silly moments; the first anime suggests that not being alone has loosened her up from the more serious personality she had in earlier seasons, but shows her being able to pull magical girl stunts (like leaping onto second-floor balconies from the street outside the house) while in civilian form.
  • Pokémon: The Series tends to use this within the main characters' groups of Pokémon, despite the preponderance of Poor, Predictable Rock elsewhere in the series. Occasionally, though, Ash will have two different Pokémon with similar powers and movesets; these are usually distinguished by personality.
    • The series also had no other main characters with electric Pokemon until Dawn got a Pachirisu.
      • May and Jessie briefly owned a Wurmple each at the same time, though this was likely intentional, as it provided an opportunity to showcase its multiple evolutions.
      • And May eventually ended up getting both a Bulbasaur and a Squirtle—though unlike Ash's, hers eventually evolved.
    • Dawn captured an annoyingly powerful Buizel, despite already having the water type Piplup and not even being a battler, while Ash didn't have any on his team. Cue rumors that she would eventually trade it to him.
  • Usopp in One Piece was the crew's general inventor and mechanic up until the introduction and joining of Franky, a shipwright who rebuilt himself as a cyborg. This was largely resolved (after Sogeking joined the crew) by emphasizing Usopp's role as a sharpshooter and also by having him focus on personal tools and inventions where Franky is more heavy duty with arming the ship and keeping it in condition. They're also drastically different in personality, Usopp being a Lovable Coward while Franky is more Hot-Blooded.
    • This is also built into the setting. Two people can't have the same Devil Fruit power at the same time - the fruit won't regrow until the last person who ate it dies.
  • Happened a lot in Naruto. Even though for the exception of Elemental Powers and inherited techniques anyone can learn anything each character has between 1-5 special moves that no one outside of their clan or direct Master-Apprentice Chain is ever seen using. The biggest example is how at the Ninja Academy, all graduates are required to learn illusory clones and shapeshifting jutsu, but only a handful of ninjas are ever shown using either jutsu even though they all should know both of them.
    • The Sharingan gives the user the ability to learn any jutsu after seing it oncenote  and Kakashi has a reputation of having learned over a thousand jutsus. However, the Sharingan users who appear on screen including Kakashi almost always just use the unique jutsus available exclusively to the Sharingan and almost never use any copied jutsus.
    • The most notable example is Sakura/Ino. Both had similar personalities (if anything, Ino was a more extreme version of Sakura), but by being each other's rivals, they became characters in their own respective rights. Character development further separated them. And while Ino has her clan's mind control jutsus, Sakura ends up learning Tsunade's strength enhancement and rapid healing techniques.
    • Naruto and Kiba also get this treatment; they have similar personalities (again, Kiba is described as being "even wilder than Naruto" by way of introduction), but have very different power sets in order to differentiate between the two. Later on, they become more separated.
  • Completely averted in the Dragon Ball franchise. Every character has the same powers, with only one or two special moves differentiating them. But by the end of the series, everyone has either taught each other their unique moves, or developed something that essentially does the same thing. Whoever has the highest Power Level is the best in speed, power, endurance and Ki attacks. There are some fighters who are particularly fast/strong/durable for a being with their power level (i.e. Burter's exceptional travel speed, Frieza's ungodly endurance) but in spite of this, the rule of thumb is that this can be rendered irrelevant by having sufficiently stronger Ki.
    • In Dragon Ball Z, there are still some deviations, such as Dabura having magical abilities, Guldo having time-stopping powers, Majin Buu's unique body texture, and Ginyu's body switch, but generally these are secondary tools to assist them in their flight and blast-based fighting styles.
    • In short, besides color and hand motions, there's virtually no difference between a Kamehameha, Galick Gun, Final Flash, or Masenko. The damage they inflict has little to do with the technique itself; it's all about how much Ki the user can pour into it. This is averted somewhat with Krillin's signature move, Destructo Disk, which can slice virtually anything in half, even things that Krillin should generally be too weak to destroy, like parts of Frieza's body. However, it's pretty slow and unwieldy and generally misses unless its target is distracted, thus making it a bit of a Mighty Glacier in that world.
    • An exception to this rule was when USSJ Trunks was stated to be more powerful than Perfect Cell but too slow to hit him.
    • Dragon Ball Super plays the trope straight, however, by introducing many characters with unique, more esoteric abilities. For instance, during the Universe 6 VS 7 tournament, only two of the Universe 6 fighters fit the "profile" of a traditional fighter, while the three others have unique impact absorbtion, Time-Skipping, and mecha-fueled powersets. Goku Black and Future Zamasu, despite being the same person, have extremely different strengths. The later Universe Survival tournament also makes a point of showcasing the different fighting styles of the mechanically-similar team Universe 10, while every other Universe plays this completely straight and showcases a lot of unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Weak, but Skilled has its day more than once, while the final enemy of the arc is a One-Man Army the likes of which the series has never shown before. Goku and Vegeta both gain another Super Mode, but for once it's completely different, with Vegeta getting a further upgraded version of Super Saiyan Blue he can call on command, while Goku gains the much more powerful but also much more limited Ultra Instinct. Among the other main players of team Universe 7, Android 17 just makes the full usage of the power he has and infinite energy to remain integral to the team long after every remaining fighter is leagues above him in terms of raw power, while Frieza has ironed out the weaknesses of his own Golden form and become much more of a Combat Pragmatist. Among the less important six-tenths of their team, Gohan is Boring, but Practical, Piccolo continues to embody Weak, but Skilled to effective usage, Master Roshi does so even moreso and makes good usage of his decades of experience and more unconventional techniques, and Krillin makes a point of developing new and interesting techniques for the tourney. Android 18 is admittedly a slightly less effective version of 17, but still pulls her weight, while Tien still has his multi-form technique and tri-beam... but that's all that can really be said about his extremely limited contributions.

    Comic Books 
  • As noted above, there's been a running gag in The DCU over the years about the Justice League's two "stretchy guys," Plastic Man and Ralph "Elongated Man" Dibny, who have the same powers and similarly light-hearted personalities. (The Elongated Man was created as a Captain Ersatz of Plastic Man, whose creator was unaware that DC had acquired the rights to Plas) DC separated the characters by emphasizing that Elongated Man was also a brilliant detective, and exaggerating Plastic Man's fun-loving side to the point of outright lunacy (at one point Plas says about Ralph, "Nice guy, but someone left the door open and his personality just bolted"). DC seemed to be doing away with the confusion by making Ralph darker and moodier, arguably to the character's detriment, before concluding this character arc by having him die in a Heroic Sacrifice. And more recently, Ralph and his wife have returned as crime-fighting ghosts. Which is ... quite different indeed.
    • The JLA used the rule of "no two people can have the same power" to keep Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman out of the League for over a decade. Her husband eventually put his foot down about it. Of course, under that rule (as Scott Tipton once put it), the entire classic League should consist of Superman, Green Lantern, the Atom, Wonder Woman (only for the lasso of truth) and possibly Batman (the Atom's already pretty damn smart, but not in the same way).
    • The whole Plastic Man/Elongated Man thing is lampshaded in both Batman: The Brave and the Bold (where the two are fighting baddies together while arguing which one of them Batman likes more—in the end, Batman shows up and says that he doesn't really like either of them) and Justice League Unlimited (where every member of the League is brought in to deal with a crisis and Elongated Man is put on crowd control with Booster Gold because Plastic Man is already fighting the relevant villain and, as Green Lantern puts it, "We don't need two stretchy guys"). Subverted with the latter where Elongated Man does get properly called in, too, and ends up defeating the villain off-screen.
    • Thing is, EM/Plastic Man don't have the same abilities. Elongated Man is a "stretchy guy who happens to be a genius detective-type". Plastic Man basically IS plastic, and can control/reshape every molecule in his body. Plus being nigh-invulnerable and seemingly immortal (3000ish years old and still going strong). Of course, this is deliberate Divergent Character Evolution specifically created in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
    • This also happened a fair bit with Superman and Martian Manhunter. During the early Silver Age Justice League issues, Martian Manhunter was given very similar powers to Superman (a Flying Brick with heat vision), and mostly got used as a stand-in. Later runs and alternate takes tend to make his Flying Brick powers more incidental (though still fairly impressive) in favor of focusing on his shapeshifting, density control, and telepathy.
  • Back during the Silver Age, Superman and The Flash were almost equally fast, with the Flash only winning a race with Superman after two draws. Modern comics have made the Flash much faster than Superman to balance out Superman having lots of other superpowers besides just running fast. Flash makes it clear that he wasn't even close to going all-out at the time.
    Flash: Those races were for charity, Clark.
  • New Super-Man acknowledges this in-universe when Kenan Kong and Avery Ho have a race. Avery notes that while Kenan has a whole range of powers, he's not going to beat her at her one and only thing.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes used to have an explicit rule that every member had to have an unique power; they've loosened up on this, although they still mostly abide by it in practice.
    • It's a particularly artificial limitation in the Legion's case, as many of their members have powers shared by everyone on their planet.
    • And Karate Kid, who doesn't even have any powers of his own. When the Legion was going to veto on him, he showed them that while he doesn't have any super powers, he can literally kick ass in about a thousand different ways. The Legion then decided to change their minds and induct him. Fans have since joked that his power is being able to make Superboy tap out.
    • Ultra Boy is a particularly oddball one, in that his powers are pretty much the same as standard Kryptonian Flying Brick powers but with the limitation of only being able to use one power at a time. His only unique advantage is that his variant of X-ray and heat vision can go through lead, which is why he isn't kicked out for being redundant when Superboy, Supergirl, and Mon-El are all longtime members.
  • In the X-Men verse, it has become formulaic for every team to have a telepath, powerhouse, energy blaster, and/or one member who won the Superpower Lottery. And if not a telepath, then an animalistic mutant... at least before Wolverine Publicity flew out of control.
  • In the Fantastic Four, both Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Ben Grimm (The Thing) are highly intelligent and honored scholars and scientists, but everyone likes to focus on Ben's physical strength rather than his brain and the result is that the Thing very often comes off as Book Dumb. It doesn't hurt that Ben has never been a guy who shows off that intelligence much (and that some adaptations, including the Roger Corman film version, start with Ben as Reed's jock best friend).

  • Done in the X-Men Film Series (the comics... not so much). According to the features, some characters were never used for precisely this reason. At least before the character flood in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Curiously averted in The Avengers: Tony Stark describes said team to Loki as "your brother the demi-god; a super soldier, a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend; a man with breath-taking anger management issues [and] a couple of master assassins" (Black Widow and Hawkeye). In the comics, Hawkeye is slightly more 'wacky' and wisecracking, but with Iron Man having taken over as the movieverse's brash rascal, Hawkeye has lost that quality, putting him in the same category as "dour government hitman" Black Widow. To compensate, Hawkeye is more of a quiet sniper type, although once he's out of Loki's mind control, he's making casual jokes. Avengers: Age of Ultron gives Hawkeye the role of being the everyman the team needs to stay grounded. He's revealed to have a wife and children.
  • According to the writers, this is one of the reasons The Wasp had her role cut from Captain America: Civil War (in addition to other factors like her actress being pregnant and Marvel not wanting her debut to be overshadowed by Black Panther and Spider-Man). It was felt that she'd make Ant-Man seem kind of redundant, since she can do practically everything Ant-Man does and fly and fire Hand Blasts.
  • As related to the other Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, part of the reason the franchise chose to use Scott Lang for the main version of Ant-Man rather than Hank Pym is that Hank and Iron Man were considered too similar characters.
  • Tekken (2010) features both Eddie Gordo and Christie Monteiro. In the games, they are palette-swaps of each other with identical capoeira-based styles. In the film, Eddie remains a capoeira technician while Christie is now trained in Mixed Martial Arts.

  • Downplayed in The Legend of Drizzt. Of the five main characters (six, counting the mascot), four are skilled melee fighters. It's broken up by having one of them being far and away the best technical fighter; one of them being monstrously strong; another being a tough, tactical group-fighter; and the fourth usually doing ranged support. Later, one leaves, and another shows an interest in magic, while a third gets older and starts attending as much to his political duties as his military ones.
  • The Weasley twins of Harry Potter are wisecracking pranksters with Twin Banter, but Fred is a bit crueler and George is a bit more sensitive.
  • In the introduction to Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card discusses how he accomplished this:
    My immediate task was to differentiate clearly between Novinha's children when the reader first encounters them. I sat there in the room I shared with Gregg, assigning some immediate and obvious trait to each of the children that would help the reader keep track of them. Oh, yes, Olhado is the one with the metal eyes; Quara is the one who says outrageous things after long silences; Grego is the violent one; Quim is the religious fanatic; Ela is the weary mother-figure; Miro is the eldest son, the hero in the others' eyes. These "hooks" could only serve to introduce the children—I'd have to develop them far beyond that point—but having found those hooks, I had a plan that would let me proceed with confidence.
  • In the Star Darlings book series, every Star Darling has their own unique power to help with wish-granting, such as Cassie being able to turn invisible or Gemma being able to rewind time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The last season of Angel put a second ensouled vampire champion on the same show; they went the rivals direction with it and gave Angel, who previously thought of himself as unique, a bit of an identity crisis. This one is justified by a pre-existing rivalry between them dating back to Buffy's second season.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The split between Buffy and Faith can fit this trope. Buffy essentially has what Faith envies - a loving family and close friendships, which prompts the latter to seek out those with the season's villain.
    • Same with Kendra and Buffy, with Kendra being a very by-the-books Slayer and using more gymnastics in her fighting style. Also between any two Watchers.
    • While Giles is made fun of because of his British Stuffiness, he's a lot more laid back compared to Wesley (at least before his character development), as well as having a dark past. Gwendolyn Post, a rogue Watcher, is also seen as incredibly stuffy even compared to Giles and Wesley. Lampshaded when Ms. Post first shows up.
      Ms. Post: The council feels you've become a bit too. . . American.
      Giles: Me?
      Buffy: Him?!
    • Willow and Tara, both witches in the Scooby Gang, were set apart by their usage of magic. As Willow grew in power as a witch, she used her powers more often, whereas Tara would only use her magic for support or in dire situations. Willow also had the benefit of being a skilled computer hacker, but she used those skills less as the show went on. Tara was also a natural witch, while Willow had picked it up along the way.
  • Heroes does a lot of this, and follows the trope by making the pair have very different personalities. Peter good, Sylar evil. Claire good, Adam evil. HRG good[ish], Bob evil. Matt good, his father evil. Oddly enough though, Nathan and West are very similar people, the only differences being their ages, Nathan does his domineering sneakily whereas West does it to Claire's face, and West isn't meant to be seen as domineering.
  • Lampshaded in the 4th-season Desperate Housewives episode "In Buddy's Eyes":
    Bree: (to Katherine) Here's the thing you need to understand about me and my friends. We each have our niche. Gabrielle's the glamorous one, Susan's the adorable one, Lynette's smart, Edie's ... Edie, and I'm the domestic one, the organizer, the one who knows that there are three tines on a dessert fork, and the one who gets teased for that. That's who I am. And that's also who you are.
  • Lost: Two characters can contact the dead, but in different ways and with much different personalities. One is a dour Deadpan Snarker who can hear a person's final thoughts if he's near the body. The other is a lovable goof who encounters and talks to ghosts.
  • Doctor Who runs into this problem whenever scientific companions are created:
    • The show gave this as reason for writing out Liz Shaw, a Science Hero companion who was almost as clever as the Doctor and who he treated like an equal. The argument was that she was necessarily not as good at science as the Doctor (seeing as he was an alien Impossible Genius) but also too strong and intelligent to have her catching the Distress Ball without it eroding her personality, meaning her gimmick was that she could do everything the Doctor could but not quite as well. The team replaced her with an ankle-twisting Dumb Blonde who was a more physical heroine than Liz was and tended to get more good scenes of sneaking around, doing 'escapology' and breaking vases over people's heads (and fewer good scenes of her doing chemistry and outwitting enemies, naturally).
    • Later (and earlier) companions who had being scientific geniuses as their hat tended to be contrasted to the Doctor by terms of having a major personality quirk that modifies how they use their knowledge - Susan was fearful and childish unlike the reckless and grandpaternalistic Doctor; Vicki tended to be foolhardy and emotional; Zoe was naive and while she was more knowledgeable than the Doctor she wasn't as good as him at applying the knowledge. K-9 is a Literal-Minded Robot Dog with none of the Doctor's social skills, wit or planning ability; Romana is convinced of her own superiority to everyone else and has no experience of life outside of her privilege; Adric is impulsive, ineffectual and gullible; Nyssa is sheltered; Turlough is devious; Ace was undereducated at everything except explosive chemistry (and in one episode, computer science) and River is a mysterious Action Girl.
    • In the Classic series where companions were subbed in and out spontaneously depending on real life circumstances, you would occasionally run into companions encroaching on each other's plot territory:
      • Ben and Polly are a complimentary young handsome Action Hero/young beautiful insightful heroine pair, and the spontaneous addition of Jamie (another young handsome Action Hero) watered down the dynamic a tad. Most of the scripts while Ben and Jamie share companionship focus on Jamie's Scottishness and relative youth to differentiate them, but the writers clearly were struggling to use them both. "The Macra Terror" goes so far as to use them as rivals, a dynamic that probably would have continued had Ben and Polly stayed longer.
      • Harry Sullivan was added to compliment Sarah Jane by being an Action Hero as they were going to swap out the Doctor from an experienced martial artist to a distant and calculating character played by an elderly actor. When some fool decided instead to cast a 6'4 former brickie younger than any Doctor cast thus far, Harry was (by the admission of the producers) left with nothing to do. The answer was to give the action scenes to the Doctor, capitalise mostly on Harry's medical background and slight stupidity, and give Sarah Jane the Distress Ball.
      • K-9 was added to justify the expense in building a robot dog prop for a small role in a one-shot story. This was generally awkward as his main gimmicks (Super-Senses, being Literal-Minded, carrying a weapon) were shared by Leela, and his others (maths and science knowledge, computer literacy, superior resilience, alien perspective) were shared with the Doctor. It is not uncommon, even after Leela's substitution with Romana, for K-9 to be left out of stories due to having nothing to do that the other characters can't do better.
      • Adric was intended to serve as a counterpoint to the Fourth Doctor, who by that point had developed into an imposing, hyper-competent, quasi-mystical force of nature, and so he was made emotionally impulsive and vulnerable to ground the Doctor somewhat. When Nyssa, an alien scientist, was added, his super-genius skills became redundant (especially since Nyssa was good at other things than just maths) and when the Doctor regenerated into the more vulnerable and flawed Fifth Doctor his flawed-hero side became redundant as well. Again, this led to him being left out of plots due to having nothing to do.
    • This was a major problem for the Daleks and the Cybermen - keeping the two Always Chaotic Evil Cyborg monsters clearly delineated has been hard work for most eras. The Cybermen are interested in assimilation and the Daleks in genocide? Fine, except the Daleks assimilate humans in "Revelation of the Daleks" and the new series, and early Cybermen are quite into genocide. The Daleks are emotional beings while the Cybermen are completely emotionless? Except the Daleks' lack of emotion is central to "Destiny of the Daleks" and the new series explicitly says they have every emotion removed except hate, while Cybermen become extremely emotional (bordering on Large Ham) in the 1980s to the point where the explanation was that they have every emotion removed except rage. You can defeat Cybermen with The Power of Love while Daleks laugh in the face of it? Daleks get defeated with love too, in "Evil of the Daleks" and "Victory of the Daleks". Cybermen can masquerade as humans while Daleks pretend to be good? Daleks have made humans into Dalek agents, or humanoid Dalek robots, in both the Moffat era and the Verity Lambert era, and Cybermen have pretended to be good in stories like "Army of Ghosts" and "Dark Water". Ultimately, there have been enough Cybermen stories using Daleks and enough Dalek stories using Cybermen that, taken as a whole, the two races are mostly aesthetically different. Each era has its own idea of how to differentiate them, and each of those eras is contradicted in some other one.
  • Something that became a problem from Season Three of The Flash (2014) onwards as the writers starting introducing the iconic speedsters from the comics besides Barry: Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, and of course Wally West; that's four heroes with the same powers in total. But Jay and Jesse are from parallel Earths so they are often Commuting on a Bus, while Wally isn't. The way they resolved this was to put Wally on a bus in Season 4, so he could transfer over to Legends of Tomorrow and make Ralph Dibney, Barry's sidekick for the new season.
  • In the American version of The Amazing Race, they tend to split the eleven teams between couples (usually a few dating and a few married), family members (usually siblings), and friends. They also try to keep an equal balance between two men teams, two women teams, and man/woman teams. In the tenth season, Peter and Sarah who were called a dating couple weren't even dating, they were friends/colleagues. During the casting process, they were told that there wasn't room for another friends team but they needed another couple. The producers and the two of them cut a deal that they'd say they were originally friends who just started dating to get on the show. Sarah is actually now married to a man named Peter ironically enough. Season 26 was an experiment with all same "types" of teams , dating couples, that ended up not being the disaster many had feared but is seen as boring from a lack of variety in teams. Compared to most reality competition shows TAR is more about being able to work with your partner rather than working against the other teams. Since the teams all didn't know each other as well as, say, spouses or siblings would, there was a lot of that sort of dynamic missing. People were a lot less willing to call their partners out on their BS or telling them that they were being idiots. Season 29, which was all strangers, is considered to be a much better implementation of the concept as there was plenty of different dynamics occurring.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • From the Book Of Revelations, the Four Horsemen were Conquest, War, Famine and Death, in that word. None were explicitly named, however, except Death. In part because Conquest and War overlapped, but also because of the Black Plague, Conquest was replaced with Pestilence.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40k:
    • The gameplay Hat of the Eldar army list, and to a lesser extent the High Elves in Warhammer. Each unit will have a specific situation or a specific foe they are very good at dealing with, winning relies on getting very varied elements of the army working together perfectly to handle any foe.
    • Similarly, the Tau's Greater Good philosophy is based every individual acting for the benefit of all. Thus the Tau (high-tech weaponry but very bad at melee in a galaxy full of giant monters, frothing berserkers and power-armored swordsmen) use the Kroot (Noble Savage-ish bird-men) as melee troops.
  • Monster of the Week, a game about monster hunting in the vein of Buffy or Supernatural using the basic Apocalypse World engine, explicitly enforces this: by the rules, each player has to pick a different Hunter archetype, so there can be at most one e.g. Chosen, Expert, Professional, or Wronged, bringing not only their own specialized moves but also built-in different perspectives to the hunt. (This does have the practical benefit of making it easier to print out a full set of archetype-specific "playbooks" — basically pre-customized character sheets — because one copy of each should be sufficient.)
  • The One Ring: Downplayed in that the rules for journeys (which tend to be a major component of an adventure) have four different party roles for player characters to fill: the guide, scouts, hunters, and lookouts. Duplicate and unfilled roles are allowed, but the latter gives the company no chance to avoid related hazards.
  • Promethean: The Created: Encouraged by the game rules. When prometheans of different Lineages travel together, they balance out the humours that animate each other and mitigate the Walking Wasteland and Hate Plague effects of their presence.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse enforces the trope in universe. While it's absolutely possible to play several Garou of the same Auspice (class) together without the roles overlapping and even get some synergy out of it, packs with all five Auspices are regarded as more balanced and only a pack with all five can gain Phoenix' favor and become the legendary Silver Pack.

  • Transformers:
    • The franchise has this in spades in order to sell more toys. No omnidisciplinary scientists here - the original series' Autobots had a theoretician (Skids), a metallurgist (Swerve), an engineer (Wheeljack), and more. Sadly, the fiction often treats this as an Informed Ability.
    • It also flip-flops on body designs, which are often reused to reduce the cost of introducing a large amount of characters. Some characters in one series will share a mold, but later have different designs entirely. One example is with twins Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, whose 2008 Universe figures are the same mold, but with slightly different transformations; the chest of one is the back of the other. Meanwhile, Bumblebee and Cliffjumper were originally entirely different molds but more often than not now are simple recolors, occasionally with different heads.
    • Latter-day Transformers: Generation 1 comics tend to do this a lot with faction leaders that replaced Optimus and Megatron in other continuities, retooling them to find a niche in an environment where those two are basically always going to be in the driver's seat. In IDW, for instance, Galvatron became a Decomposite Character from Megatron and had his servitude to a dark power played up to the point that he wasn't even a Decepticon for years, Ultra Magnus was revealed to be multiple bots assuming the same mantle, Thunderwing was pretty much locked into his "unstoppably mad villain" phase, Scorponok and Jhiaxus developed Mad Scientist inclinations, Dai Atlas and Metalhawk were unaligned (and Dai Atlas a religious leader), Overlord turned traitor and became far more violent, Fortress Maximus lost a lot of his power and became far more violent, Deathsaurus turned traitor and became far less violent, and Star Saber (most infamously) ended up as a psychotic religious zealot. And for those who thought Star Saber was done dirty, then there's the fact that Optimus Primal and (Beast) Megatron are depicted as villanous Maximal savants under the thrall of Liege Maximo, then Onyx Prime/Shockwave, and finally Unicron.

    Video Games 
  • Some players of the superhero MMORPG City of Heroes may avoid having more than one person on the team with the same powers or even the same class to avoid redundancy, especially as a team can only have up to eight members. On the other hand, there are cases when such redundancy may be desired if the superpowers have effects that can easily be stacked on a foe, such as Status Infliction Attacks against highly resistant foes.
  • In other MMOs, this is where hybrid classes truly shine, especially in World of Warcraft where players can now take two specializations. For example, if an offensive-casting or melee Druid joins a party that already has strong DPS, she can be the healer or Tank instead, depending on what's needed more.
  • In Mega Man 9, Mega Man lost his slide and charged shots so that he could play more like he did in the first two games. His lost abilities were instead given to Proto Man, who has the additional ability to block enemy fire while jumping. These differences were retained for the next game, which also included Bass, who can dash and has no Denial of Diagonal Attack. Mega Man, however, does have an advantage over them by being the only character capable of using the Optional Bosses' weapons.
  • Slightly different, but fits here: The original Fire Emblem featured multiple Palette Swap Player Character units, including the identical-portrait Saji and Maji (Bord and Cord in English). Remakes of that game and sequels with the same cast thankfully changed all of that (Bord and Cord have different tunic styles and are looking different directions now).
    • The sixth, seventh and tenth games do this with their Dancer-style party members. They all serve the same gameplay function, to give an ally an extra turn, and for obvious reasons only one can be on the battlefield at a time. In the sixth, you have Elphin the quiet, reserved Bard who turns out to be the prince of Etruria in hiding and Larum the cheerful flirty dancer, who are Mutually Exclusive Party Members. In the seventh, the similarities bewtween Nils and Ninian are justified by them being siblings, but Nils is a bard who uses Magic Music while Ninian is a softspoken Dancer. The tenth game, Radiant Dawn, has three Herons, and this time the differences make their way into the gameplay: Rafiel's chants always refresh 4 allies, the tradeoff being that he moves slowly and can't fly, Leanne can refresh two allies at once (either left and right or up and down), while Reyson can only refresh one ally normally but 4 while transformed.
  • Touhou Project has always featured Reimu, a shrine maiden, who is tasked with hunting youkai and preventing them from causing trouble. Terminally selfish and lazy, Reimu sees these duties as an annoying chore, and puts little effort into her training, instead relying entirely on her ridiculously powerful talents and family tools (and she originally hadn't even bothered to learn how to use either of those). Further, she's a staunch Nay-Theist; as a shrine maiden, she should be establishing good relations with the gods so that they'll loan her their power, should be encouraging the people's faith in the gods so they have more power to give her... but Reimu simply can't be bothered, no matter how many youkai mock her about it. Reimu outright believes that effort is not rewarded. This trope came into play when a second miko was introduced to the setting, and she was almost completely different. Sanae is dearly devoted to (and very friendly with) the two Physical Gods of her shrine and glad to work for them, whether in personal service, promoting faith among the people, or hunting youkai. Sanae was born with incredible power like Reimu, but instead of random human talent, her talents are divine in origin, as one of her goddesses is also her ancestor (though Sanae was left in the dark about this until a later game); her own diligence in training her powers actually earned her the status of "deified human" from people praying to her as well as her goddesses. Finally, Sanae was born and raised in the normal, modern world outside of Gensokyo, and so brings a very different perspective to the crazy inhabitants and events of that land.
  • Zelos Wilder and Kratos Aurion in Tales of Symphonia have nearly indistinguishable battle skills, but the former is a laid-back and good-humored Classical Anti-Hero while the latter is a prudent and easily frustrated '90s Anti-Hero. They're also mutually exclusive to use at the end of the game.
  • Final Fantasy usually will have well-balanced parties with one character of each Job, and plenty of variation of characters' personalities to keep everything interesting. There are sometimes problems, though.
    • Final Fantasy expects you to play with a mixed party of four different Jobs, so a very common Self-Imposed Challenge is to get through the game with all four Heroes of Light of the same Job. The game's already difficult, but doing this will make it ridiculously hard. (Unless you go for four Fighters, which will merely make the game boring.)
    • Rydia in Final Fantasy IV learns both White and Black magic at the beginning of the game, but when she rejoins your party (which by now contains Rosa, a dedicated White Mage), she states she can't use White Magic any more.
    • In Final Fantasy V, Lenna's special thing is that she loves animals and will do anything to help wind drakes. When Krile, who can talk to animals, joins the party, Lenna comes off as a lot less impressive in comparison. Krile takes point in animal-related scenes after that, and the story focuses more on the reason Lenna is devoted to dragons and her feelings of loss over her parents and reconnection with her long-lost sister Faris.
    • Terra and Celes in Final Fantasy VI are functionally equivalent in gameplay, with the same equipment sets, extremely similar stats (Celes is slightly more physical and Terra slightly more magical, but only by a couple of points), nearly identical Desperation attacks and equal-but-opposite element skill learning trees. Their only significant difference is that Terra's special ability is the power-boosting Morph and Celes' is the magic-draining Runic. Since Terra is the protagonist of the game's first half and Celes the protagonist of its second (with Terra even being an Optional Party Member by that point), their interchangeability means you always have a versatile Jack of All Stats around.
    • Final Fantasy VI Brave New World exists because the developers thought the Esper system of the original game turned the party members into different looking Ultima spam machines, which they then set out to rework by restricting what characters use which Espers, with only 2 characters per Esper (and in some cases 1) being the standard. Terra is the only one who can use Ultima, and even then only at the final dungeon.
    • An attempt to subvert this in Final Fantasy VII was the reason Aerith ended up dead. The scenario team had decided that the big emotional moment should be a Plotline Death that leaves a sense of powerlessness and loss, rather than the more conventional Dying Moment of Awesome approach most games use, and the party was (at that time) a trio with two physically-orientated male characters (Cloud and Barret) and a magic-specialising female character (Aerith). The only candidate who could be killed off without destroying the game was Barret (Cloud, a Hero Protagonist, couldn't be killed), so they decided to kill off Aeris instead, hoping the unbalanced party that resulted would lead players to feel uncomfortable without her. The party size and Job mechanics were changed later in development to minimise this aspect, but it is still a shock to lose the game's only dedicated spellcaster.
    • Final Fantasy IX has two Summoners in the party who are both White Mages. While they're distinct enough in personality (Garnet is a sheltered princess with a love of knowledge, while Eiko is a spirited Bratty Half-Pint) their abilities are similar. But to distinguish them in battle, Garnet favours summon magic and Eiko white magic. Eiko can learn many spells Garnet can't, and vice-versa. This also helps them to distinguish from Vivi, a black mage, who uses more traditional offence magic to deal damage, like fireballs and giant asteroids of death.
    • One of the reasons why Kimahri ends up being a forgettable Master of None in Final Fantasy X is that the game's battle mechanic is based around giving you highly specialised characters, and allowing you to switch between them freely to suit whatever situation has come up. Kimahri has a very short Sphere Grid path, and then must go along someone else's stat tree to continue growing, so his stats end up being the exact same as someone else's but noticeably worse. This makes him superfluous except for the part where you're forced to use him solo for plot reasons.
    • Dissidia Final Fantasy is a Mascot Fighter featuring the main heroes and main villains of Final Fantasy titles, which results in it dealing with a lot of these problems, since those roles tend to fit similar templates (pretty young men with big swords on the hero side, Large Ham mages on the villains'). However, the game does an admirable job keeping the characters' personalities and play styles distinct, with or without some Depending on the Writer Alternate Character Interpretation to reinforce this. For just one example, Kefka, Sephiroth and Kuja all have remarkably similar backstories and a lot in common in personality; Dissidia makes them different by focusing on Sephiroth's Fallen Hero aspect, Kuja's more Noble Demon characteristics, and Kefka's Monster Clown demeanor.

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, your Title is determined by a Class and Aspect. In a SBURBan session, no two players will ever share a Class or an Aspect in order to guarantee variation in what the players are capable of.
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Drizz'l was originally characterized as being The Ditz on par with Fighter. Not long after, he joined the Dark Warriors, who already had a comedy moron character in Bikke. As a result, he became the Only Sane Man.

    Western Animation 
  • Unfortunately averted in the old Superfriends series, as Seanbaby notes. Hawkman and Hawkgirl could fly, but so could most of the other heroes on the show (even Flash when the animators were forgetful).
    "If you're a Super Friend, being able to fly is like being able to break a graham cracker along the line... All the Super Friends who can't fly can just hop in a little supercar or something invisible that flies... Regular people can't fly, but they can kick Hawkman's pigeon ass as soon as he lands."
    • Played straight as well, with Aquaman, and with just as unfortunate results. While Aquaman is strongest around open water, he still has super strength and resilience out of water. Apparently worried that he would make Superman obsolete (yeah, right), the writers downplayed his non-aquatic powers to the point that he became basically helpless. Spending most of his time as a male version of the Damsel In Distress quickly dropped him to Scrappy status. It didn't help that censorship also restricted him from punching, which is the main thing you'd want to do with Super-Strength. Sometimes he did demonstrate actual strength, but most of the time even the writers forgot about this.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has both Plastic Man and Elongated Man, who are rivals and accuse each other of being the other's Poor Man's Substitute who Batman only asks for help when the other is busy. Plastic Man even refers to Elongated Man as his "D-list doppelganger". (Funnily, in an inversion of this, Elongated Man appears to be about on par with Plas in this continuity, and even demonstrates similar shapeshifting abilities.)
  • All Grown Up! had to deal with Phil and Lil of Rugrats growing into teenagers when they had previously both been interchangeable twin babies who loved gross things. In the spin-off, Phil still openly loves the gross and bizarre, while Lil is desperate to fit in and hides that part of her personality.
  • Beast Wars: As CGI was difficult at the time the members of both factions had distinct jobs in both character and function. As new characters came around those with redundant places got written out. As Inferno took over the flight capable as well as sycophantic roles and Tarantulss gained a treacherous streak the now redundant Scorponok and Terrorsaur died in the season two opening. Similarly, Tigatron became less of an outsider with a differing lifestyle than the rest and Airazor's function as the flying scout got supplanted when the chivalrous falcon/wolf fuzor Silverbolt was coming so they got Put on a Bus.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic eventually featured two villains who were Shadow Archetypes to Twilight Sparkle before ultimately make a Heel–Face Turn: Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer. The difference between them is that Sunset Shimmer is a more direct counterpart (also being a previous student to the show's Physical Goddess) and The Atoner who must constantly prove to everyone, including her friends and allies, that she's not slipping back into her old ways. Meanwhile, Starlight Glimmer is a variation of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, hardly knowing anything about friendship and having to be taught how to be a good, pony. Additionally, Sunset Shimmer is relegated to the alternate dimension EQUESTRIA GIRLS spin-off films and specials, where she has the benefit of being the main protagonist from the second movie onwards. In contrast, Starlight Glimmer is one character out of many in the Ensemble Cast of the show's main universe and is under the tutelage of Twilight Sparkle.
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of Penguins of Madagascar, where Private, after over indulges in brined herring, starts turning into what Kowalski calls "a fish-crazy psychopath". Rico protests "Hey! That's my thing!", to which Skipper agrees they don't need two of those.
  • Young Justice started off with a team of three, Aqualad the hydrokinetic, Kid Flash with Super-Speed and Robin the Badass Normal Playful Hacker. This also seems to be the cause of Adaptational Wimp for Superboy and Miss Martian, to keep either from making the other redundant, as his major focus is Super-Strength (lacking in flight, eyebeams, and telekinetic abilities common to the character) while she keeps her flight, shapeshifting, and psychic powers at the cost of her own strength. When Artemis is introduced it's mentioned that after Speedy refused membership in the team that they could use an archer to fill a gap in the teams skillset, though they also mention that they don't have a quota on archers and will happily accept Speedy/Red Arrow back into the group if he ever wants to join them. It's later shown that Aqualad's limited magic leaves another skill gap, which is later filled with Zatanna.
  • The concept is discussed in The Venture Brothers. When forming the Revenge Society, Phantom Limb brings up S.P.A.W.M., "an acronym for the classic panoply of powers every professional villain team needs." It stands for Speed, Power, Air, Water, (or Wind or Weather—the point is there needs to be an elemental) and Magic.