A type of GameSystem where a character's abilities are determined by the class that they choose. Most common in RolePlayingGames, but recently it has begun appearing in other genres, particularly {{First Person Shooter}}s and it's one of the main features of the subgenre HeroShooter. A character class is defined by the abilities that it lends to a character -- as such, two different characters of the same class are theoretically interchangeable, in that they can play the same role in the game because of their similar abilities. However, character class systems have varying levels of CharacterCustomization -- ranging from characters of a given class being literally identical to having so much variety that character class is no longer even a good indicator of that character's abilities. Character class systems frequently include one or more {{Point Build System}}s as part of their rules to increase customizability.

One of the major differences between these systems (besides the classes that they offer) is how they handle "multiclassing". Because classes determine a character's abilities, giving a character ''multiple'' classes is a good way to expand their abilities, but the extent to which this is possible differs greatly. Sometimes classes are completely mutually exclusive, and a character is stuck with whatever class they have until they die. Sometimes they can "upgrade" their class at a certain point, either plot-based or level-based -- this upgrade may be linear (eg, a Squire becomes a Knight) or may allow for a branching path to different {{Prestige Class}}es (eg, a Knight can upgrade to ThePaladin ''or'' a BlackKnight, but not both). Some systems are more lenient about multiclassing, allowing characters to change classes whenever they want; however, these systems build in drawbacks as well. Usually, either you can only be one class at a time (eg, if you change classes from Knight to Mage, you lose all Knight abilities and gain all Mage abilities), or you can only ''advance'' one class at a time (eg, if you're a Knight/Mage, you have to choose whether to increase your combat skills as a Knight or your casting skills as a Mage; you can't do both at once). Both approaches have the advantage of increased versatility (a larger number of abilities) at the price of decreased potency (each individual ability is less powerful).

In {{RPG}}s, the most common type is the ClassAndLevelSystem. See also FighterMageThief for a common set of 3 types of classes seen in RPG class systems. However, many {{FPS}}es that feature classes don't have levels, relying instead on player skill. See CommonCharacterClasses for a list of classes that frequently turn up in games with character class systems, and ModernDaySciFiRPGClassEquivalents for their counterparts outside of the classic HeroicFantasy settings. See PointBuildSystem for the main alternative to this (although, as mentioned, the two can be combined).

If a character can switch between a large number of classes instead of being limited to just one or several, then you most likely have a JobSystem on your hands.

!!Gaming Examples

[[folder:Eastern [=RPGs=]]]

* A staple of ''VideoGame/DragonQuest'' as well, at least after the first game (where there was only one character in your party).
* ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' has used classes, usually called Jobs, from the very beginning. They run the gamut of "no class changes whatsoever" to "can change classes at will" to "can have all classes' abilities at once" to "[[{{Dissimile}} doesn't actually use classes]]".
* ''VideoGame/GoldenSun'': Classes are determined by the type of Djinn attached to a character. However, as using Djinn in battle also reverts those class changes (and stat boosts), many players simply give each character his own type of Djinn and bring down summon after summon on their hapless enemies' heads.
* Completely inverted in ''VideoGame/TheLastRemnant''; the main character can use every ability in the game, and a character's class is based off the abilities they use, rather than the other way around. Using only item arts, for example, will change Rush to a class that does extra damage with items. Different character classes have different bonuses, so it can be worth only using certain skills in order to obtain a desired class.
* The {{MMORPG}} ''VideoGame/TreeOfSavior'' features a class system that combines elements of a PrestigeClass system with a JobSystem. There are four starting classes--Swordsman, Wizard, Archer, and Cleric--which each have their own families of classes. After a certain amount of job levels, a character reaches a new Rank, from which they'll have to make a decision--either stay as the class they are now (which can only be done three times in a row for a given class), or change to a different class (depending on what's available). IMC Games has said there will be 80 or so classes overall, meaning 20 possible classes for each basic class--as well as some hidden classes which will be available only after meeting certain requirements (''and'' with a population cap to boot).
** As a side note, this system is an evolution of what had originally been planned for ''VideoGame/RagnarokOnline'', when IMC Games' developers were still part of the original development team at Gravity Corporation.

[[folder:First Person Shooters]]
* The ''VideoGame/{{Battlefield}}'' series has had a class system since the beginning, though how many classes there are (from seven in ''Battlefield 2'', to four from ''VideoGame/BattlefieldBadCompany 2'' onwards) and how customizable they are varies by game.
* The ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty'' series, starting from ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare'', uses classes for its multiplayer, though unlike the above, each class's weapons, equipment, and whatnot are entirely decided by the player. ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyBlackOps2'' notably also includes customizable classes for the singleplayer campaign mode.
* ''VideoGame/{{Destiny}}'' has three classes each of which has three subclasses.
* ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'', and its predecessor VideoGame/TeamFortressClassic, (and ''its'' predecessor ''Team Fortress'') are based entirely around classes. There are nine total, each balanced for different playstyles, situations, and enemies.
* ''VideoGame/TransformersWarForCybertron'' has [[CommonCharacterClasses Soldiers, Scouts, Scientists, and Leaders]].

[[folder:Racing Games]]
* The ''VideoGame/MarioKart'' series divides character up based on weight (or size in ''Wii''). Each category performs differently, and in ''Double Dash!!'' and ''Wii'', racers have access to different karts depending on their class. There are typically three different categories (Light/Small, Medium, Heavy/Large), but ''7'' adds in the Cruiser (between Medium and Heavy) and Feather (below Light) for a total of five categories.
** ''Wii'' and ''8'' also include different types of vehicles. In ''Wii'', bikes were typically lighter and had better handling than karts, and they had the ability to do a wheelie to get a speed boost, at the cost of only having a single level of mini-turbo strength compared to the two that karts had. ''8'' makes the wheelie aesthetic and gives bikes back the ability to use the stronger mini-turbo, but keeps their proficiency at steering. ATV's were also added, and perform differently from both bikes and karts.

[[folder:Real Time Strategy]]
* ''VideoGame/WorldInConflict'' had four "Roles", albeit only in team multiplayer: Armor (tanks roughly equivalent to [[StoneWall RPG Fighers]]), Support (mainly AA+repair = Clerics, but also artillery = [[SquishyWizard Long-Range Wizards]]), Air (attack helicopters = [[GlassCannon damage dealing]] [[FragileSpeedster rogues]]), and Infantry (...[[QuirkyBard bards]]?). Each player can only assume one of them and has to rely on the rest of their "party" to compensate their role's weaknesses.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* The ''[[TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness Classic]]'' and ''TabletopGame/NewWorldOfDarkness'' primarily use a PointBuildSystem, but a [[TabletopGame/WerewolfTheApocalypse werewolf's Auspice]], [[TabletopGame/VampireTheMasquerade vampire's Clan]], [[TabletopGame/MageTheAwakening mage's Path]], and so on are class-like in that they define particular strengths, weaknesses, and predispositions.
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' is the most famous, and the TropeMaker. The third edition of D&D gave the world the TabletopGame/D20System, allowing other publishers to use the same general mechanics of the tabletop RPG UrExample. Many -- but not all -- d20 [=RPGs=] also use classes.
** ''TabletopGame/{{Pathfinder}}'', a spinoff of d20, is one as well.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Earthdawn}}'' calls them Disciplines. They're somewhat more fleshed out than in many cases, with social context given, as well as how the worldviews of different disciplines work together (or don't). Also, if you act against your discipline (wizards not thinking things through if they have the time, beastmasters hurting animals that aren't attacking them), you may lose some of your powers.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Ironclaw}}'' uses a mix between character classes and a PointBuildSystem. Career is treated like an ability score (like Body, Mind, Speed, Will, and Species) that is applied to certain skills, and in 2nd edition comes with three traits. Players can increase their Career with experience, or buy a secondary one if they have the associated traits, or spend their XP on their other abilities or skills or traits.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Numenera}}'' starts with the FighterMageThief archetype and expands from it. Glaives are the Fighter, equally capable of being built as a heavily armored BadassNormal or a FragileSpeedster. Nanos are the Mage, who uses the power of numenera to work what amount to miracles. Jacks are the Thief, whose name comes from "jack-of-all-trades" and have a lot of tricks to make them the setting's skillmonkeys. The CRPG ''VideoGame/TormentTidesOfNumenera'' uses the ''Numenera'' GameSystem.
* Creator/PalladiumBooks's Megaversal system uses character classes, though the exact system varies slightly by specific game.
** Most Palladium games such as ''TabletopGame/{{Rifts}}'' have O.C.C.s (Occupational Character Class), as well as R.C.C.s (Racial Character Class) for non-human characters. Where it gets confusing is that sometimes a character's R.C.C. doubles as his O.C.C, and sometimes a player has to pick an O.C.C. as well as an R.C.C. Then there's P.C.C.s, for Psychic Character class, but that terminology is barely ever used in the books since functionally they're no different from O.C.C.s.
** ''TabletopGame/PalladiumFantasy'' has players select an O.C.C.s and a race, much like the classic ''Dungeons and Dragons'' class and race system.
* The ''TabletopGame/{{Star Wars D20}}'' RPG uses a CharacterClassSystem for basic roles like Noble, Jedi, Scout, and so on, and adds {{Prestige Class}}es for more customization.
* ''TabletopGame/PoweredByTheApocalypse'' games tend to rely on Playbooks built around common character archetypes in the genre they're emulating. In ''TabletopGame/MonsterOfTheWeek'', for example, the Professional is good at remaining cool under pressure, providing nice things for the team and turning up with lots of guns, while the Monstrous is a FriendlyNeighbourhoodVampire (or werewolf or whatever) and tends to favour weird superpowers. You're limited to one of each to ensure niche protection.
* ''TabletopGame/BladesInTheDark'', which is somewhat related to [=PbtA=] but is very much its own thing, has seven Playbooks for its Scoundrels: Cutters (violent criminals), Hounds (trackers and sharpshooters), Leeches (technically gifted saboteurs and medics), Lurks (stealthy infiltrators), Slides (social manipulators), Spiders ({{Diabolical Mastermind}}s) and Whispers (witch-thieves).

[[folder:Turn-Based Tactics]]
* ''VideoGame/XCOMEnemyUnknown'' has each rookie soldier (randomly) specialize in one of the four fields upon reaching the Squaddie rank: Assault (close-range frontline combat), Sniper (long-range damage dealing), Heavy (suppressive fire and explosives), and Support (healing and buffing allies). Each class has a separate SkillTree that gives them unique abilities and bonuses as they LevelUp.
** ''Hogs Of War''. Promotion points could be found in each level and as a reward. Similar to the above, your units could be upgraded in 4 different routes; Artillery (Blow stuff up from a distance), Engineering (Blow stuff up close and see minefields), Sniper (Stealth) and Medic (Heal your units). Once maxed out, all routes converged into Commando and Hero (Do everything)

[[folder:Western [=RPGs=]]]
* ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'' games have 5-10 character classes that determine your starting character stats and equipment. From there, you're free to [[PointBuildSystem enhance]] and equip your character however you want.
* Many games based on the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' GameSystem:
** ''VideoGame/{{dnd}}''
** ''VideoGame/{{Dungeon}}''
** VideoGame/GoldBox
** ''VideoGame/EyeOfTheBeholder''
** ''Franchise/BaldursGate''
** ''VideoGame/PlanescapeTorment''
** ''VideoGame/IcewindDale''
** ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights'' and ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights2''
** ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' and ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublicIITheSithLords'', using the ''TabletopGame/StarWarsD20'' variant
* ''{{VideoGame/Diablo}}'' likes to change it up. Each class has a unique SkillTree within the system of its own game, and some equipment can only be equipped by certain classes.
** The first ''Diablo'' had [[FighterMageThief Warrior, Rogue, and Sorcerer]].
** ''VideoGame/DiabloII'' had Barbarian, Amazon, Necromancer, Sorceress, and Paladin, and later [[ExpansionPack added]] Assassin and Druid.
** ''VideoGame/DiabloIII'' brought back the Barbarian alongside Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor and Wizard, [[ExpansionPack later adding]] Crusader and bringing back the Necromancer.
* ''Franchise/DragonAge'' uses the FighterMageThief archetype, calling them Warrior, Mage, and Rogue.
* ''VideoGame/GrimDawn'' has 6 classes, although you can dual-class anytime after level 10, which result in a new class name. The core classes are Soldier, Demolitionist, Shaman, Nightblade, Occultist and Arcanist. The expansion will add the Inquisitor and the Necromancer.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls''
** The first four games in the series play with this trope a bit. Each game has a number of pre-made classes the player can choose from, or create a custom class. Each class has a set of preferred skills, and, if chosen, gives a substantial initial boost to that set of skills. Increases to these skills also go toward leveling up overall. The skills outside of those preferred by the class are still available to the player, they just start lower and increases in those skills do not contribute toward leveling up. (Though they do apply to multipliers for those skills' governing attributes. See EmptyLevels for additional details about that.)
** ''[[TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'' does away with the series' class system in favor of pure skill-leveling. Leveling up any skills contributes toward leveling up overall, and with each level-up, you get the opportunity to select perks within any of your skills that make you even more effective, reminiscent of the ''VideoGame/{{Fallout}}'' sister series. The higher your skill level, the more perks you have access to.
** ''Videogame/TheElderScrollsOnline'', an {{MMORPG}} prequel set 500 years prior to the start of the main series, goes for more of a SkillTree approach. Ultimately Subverted, as only three out of many more skill trees available to your character.
* ''VideoGame/MarvelAvengersAlliance'' has six general classes: Blaster, Scrapper, Infiltrator, Bruiser, Tactician, or Generalist. Other than Generalist, each is [[TacticalRockPaperScissors strong against one class and weak against another]]. Heroes have a native character class; Agents may switch between them at will with a change of uniform. Some alternate costumes also provide an alternate class.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'' has three ability types, Combat, Tech, and [[GravityMaster Biotic]], from which the classes pick up to two for six classes altogether. Soldiers are pure combat, Engineers are pure tech, Adepts are pure biotic. Infiltrators are combat/tech, Vanguards are combat/biotic, and Sentinels are tech/biotic.
* ''VideoGame/MightAndMagic'' have gone through several variations of class systems and classes over the games. The first five games had a basic class system (chose one class when you create a character, that is that character's class), ''VI'' and ''VII'' had two-step linear upgrade-able classes (''VII'' split at the final upgrade in design but not in play, as the final class promotion for each class depended on which side you aligned with, and for the most part weren't all that different from the counterpart), ''VIII'' consolidated race and class into one choice and only had a single class upgrade step, ''IX'' split both back and had each class promotion be a genuine choice (starting from basic Might or Magic and then branching out towards the old, more specialised, classes), and ''X'' had each race have one Might and one Magic class that could be upgraded twice.
* ''VideoGame/PillarsOfEternity'' is not directly based on ''D&D'', though the influence is especially obvious when you consider [[Creator/ObsidianEntertainment who the devs are]]. The classes are {{Barbarian|Hero}}, Chanter[[note]]similar to a bard[[/note]], Cipher[[note]]similar to a ''D&D'' sorcerer, but with PsychicPowers[[/note]], {{Druid}}, [[BadassNormal Fighter]], [[BareFistedMonk Monk]], [[ThePaladin Paladin]], [[ReligionIsMagic Priest]], [[NatureHero Ranger]], [[GuileHero Rogue]], and Wizard. [[Videogame/PillarsOfEternityIIDeadfire The sequel]] allows you to multiclass, which grants you a new class name based on what combination you have.
* ''VideoGame/SouthParkTheStickOfTruth'' has four classes available; Warrior, Mage, Thief and Jew. However, unlike a lot of [=RPGs=], the class only determines what the New Kid's special attacks are. They can equip any weapon or armor they wish, though some have effects that are a little more beneficial to one class than the others. [[Videogame/SouthParkTheFracturedButWhole The sequel]] changes to a JobSystem.
* ''VideoGame/TitanQuest'' has 9 masteries, although you can dual-class anytime after level 8, which result in a new class name. The core masteries are Warfare, Defense, Hunting, Rogue, Nature, Spirit, Earth, Storm and Dream.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' has quite an extensive system where the classes are further subdivided by ability selection and {{PVP}}/non-PVP and restricted by race and faction. Many of its classes stem from units in ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}}''.

!!Non-gaming examples:

* The ''Literature/DreamPark'' series: Warriors, magic users and thieves appear in all four novels, and clerics appear in the first and third. Engineers feature prominently in Dream Park, as do scouts in California Voodoo. Multi-class characters turn up in the original novel (Holly Frost) and the California Voodoo tournament.
* ''Literature/TheGam3'', being about a galaxy-spanning MMORPG, has Character Classes as a central element. All players have one or more classes, which opens paths to further specialized abilities.
** Each player is offered a game-chosen class following the tutorial, or may make their own choice of class (which is very expensive).
** Each class has a selection of Major Abilities, effectively sub-classes that further specialize the player. Only one may be chosen by a player.
** Access to additional classes is possible, and we do not yet know how common it is.
** Advancement in a class occurs not by levels, but by developing class-specific abilities and by completing [[{{Sidequest}} sidequests]] assigned by your class mentor, a stronger player who has chosen to guide your advancement.
* ''Literature/TheTrueGame'' features twelve different inborn magical "talents".[[note]]The full list is [[VoluntaryShapeshifting shapeshifting]], [[{{Seers}} precognition]], [[MindOverMatter telekinesis]], [[PowerFloats self-levitation]], [[TeleportationTropes self-teleportation]], [[HealingHands healing]], [[AnimateDead raising the dead]], {{telepathy}}, [[PlayingWithFire pyrokinesis]], [[EnergyAbsorption storing energy for use by others]], and [[MindManipulation beguiling others to follow you]].[[/note]] These are mixed in myriad combinations to create literally hundreds of character classes like Herald, Bonewalker, and King, used in the chess-like battles of the setting. People without a talent (normal humans) are called "pawns".

* In ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', SBURB assigns each player character to a mythological role with the title [Class] of [Aspect] that determines their powers and shapes their personal quest arc within the session. Aspect determines what objects and forces within the game the player can influence and class determines the ways in which they can influence their aspect. For example, the Time aspect is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin but a Seer of Time will have influence primarily through comprehension of past and future events while a Knight of Time will manipulate time travel for combat purposes. Aspect and class definitions are not always immediately obvious from their names, as Light denotes [[WindsOfDestinyChange luck]] instead of [[LightEmUp literal light]], and Bards are highly destructive. While aspect seems to be largely innate player class is more closely tied to acquired personality traits--Thief characters tend towards pathological narcissism, Knights tend to hide their true personality. There is in-game speculation about a possible underlying active/passive class "thing" and perceived gender bias in class assignment.
** For the interested, the classes are [[EntropyAndChaosMagic Bard]], [[BeneathTheMask Knight]], [[VoluntaryShapeshifting Heir]], [[TheSmartGuy Mage]], [[TheMedic Maid]], [[StatusBuff Page]], [[BlackMage Prince]], [[JustLikeRobinHood Rogue]], [[{{Seers}} Seer]], [[WhiteMagicianGirl Sylph]], [[LovableRogue Thief]], and [[TheRedMage Witch]] (though the powers of each class are strictly YMMV, so please don't get mad at me if the links don't match what you think about them!), and the aspects (which are more firmly defined) are [[BloodBrothers Blood]], [[BlowYouAway Breath]], [[YouCantFightFate Doom]], [[EmotionalPowers Heart]], [[ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve Hope]], [[GreenThumb Life]], [[WindsOfDestinyChange Light]], [[SuperIntelligence Mind]], [[UnstoppableRage Rage]], [[ThePowerOfCreation Space]], [[TimeTravel Time]], and [[PowerOfTheVoid Void]].

[[folder:Real Life]]
* OlderThanFeudalism: Roman gladiators were typically trained in specific fighting styles that were meant to counter each other in interesting ways. The earlier examples divide gladiators into Retiarii (lightly armored, wielding a trident and a net) and Secutores (heavily armored, wielding a short sword). As the gladiatorial games evolved, the "class system" became more and more complex, adding in a wider variety of matchups to keep crowds entertained.