Class and Level System
When Character Class System meets Character Level. The oldest, and arguably the most popular, type of Game System. A player chooses a class at character creation, and as the game is played, the character will earn Experience Points; when they earn enough, they will advance to the next Character Level, which will grant them new abilities and improve old ones (usually). When multiclassing is allowed, it will probably be per level; each time the player levels up, they choose which class gains the level. Think of a description such as "My character is a level 3 warrior, level 1 thief, and level 2 necromancer". Sometimes a character can use the experience they gain from their basic class to advance to a more powerful, specialised version of that class. Other times, changing class forces you to start from zero. The older games also featured monsters and abilities that could take levels away from characters, often forcing them to gain those levels back the hard way. The Job System is a specific version of the Class and Level System, where classes level independently of each other; each class is like a different character, and the character can switch between them at will. See also An Adventurer Is You, Fighter, Mage, Thief, Common Character Classes. Contrast Equipment-Based Progression (where what a character has access to is what matters).
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First Person Shooter
- E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy starts out with the player selecting three gene-mods which influence their stats, and by extension, their class; each gene has a set of bonuses and maluses. A character taking a Binah and two Kether genes, for example, will start out as a Cybermancer, a master of psychic and cybernetic attacks. Classes are merely titles - they change based on stats and level - so if the Cybermancer levels up his hacking and PSI abilities, he'll eventually become a Necrocybermancer, but if he balances out most of his stats while continuing to level up, he'll become a Gray Master. Initially, classes have a large effect on what you can unlock in the Temple stores (weapons and abilities) though all but the most specialized abilities/items will eventually open up to most classes given enough experience.
- Overlord Ascendant features a variety of different classes grouped in "evolution trees", divided into 6 different Tiers, with 1 being lowest and easiest and 6 being highest, and nearly impossible to obtain. Classes must be unlocked by doing or accomplishing certain activities, and to gain a class, you must enter the Resplendant Arch with a free Power Crystal. Once a class is selected, you can only change class by going up a Tier to a class yours can evolve from. Only a select few possess the ability to have more then one class at a time, the protagonist Alex being one of them.
- In Diablo and its sequel, you select one of several different character classes, but how you develop the character is up to you. In the first game, leveling up gives you five stat points you can add to your strength, dexterity, life or magic however you see fit. In Diablo II, you also get one skill point with each level, and can add it to any accessible skill on one of your skill trees.
- Pretty much every major MMORPG that isn't a Wide Open Sandbox tends to favor this system. The Trope Codifier for this is arguably World of Warcraft, which most modern MMORPG's have looked to for inspiration in some fashion. In the "World of Warcraft-Style" Class and Level System, characters select a basic class at level one. At some point (typically level 10, though this varies), characters choose from a small number of "Talent Trees" which they can specialize in. Certain MMOs like ''Star Wars: The Old Republic" and Aion require you to select a Prestige Class as well. As a result of this system, members of the same basic class can function in radically different ways, to the point of being completely distinct in extreme cases.
- City of Heroes has a fairly traditional Class and Level System, in that it has classes and levels, though the classes themselves are more exotic than just the standard warrior, mage and cleric. Unusually for a MMORPG, it also lacks a Point Buy System entirely, instead offering new power (skill) choices on some levels, and slots for enhancements on others. It even avoids the traditional act of taking the same skill multiple time to get better versions of it, relying instead on the enhancement system for skill improvement.
- Wizard101 follows this formula, although it uses a more simplified version, for the benefit of its younger gamers.
- Pirate101 being the sister of the above game follows the same pattern.
- Dungeons & Dragons Online uses a system inspired by the tabletop game, allowing players to select multiple classes simply by speaking to a different trainer when you gain a level. You can only have a maximum of three classes, however.
- Champions Online toys with this. While the game operates primarily on a Point Buy System, the predetermined Archetypes function much like a traditional World of Warcraft-Style character class, complete with multiple skill trees.
- Guild Wars allows players to take two classes at a time, though they only get the signature ability of their primary class.
- Guild Wars 2 toys with the system. Classes and Levels still function as normal, but the meat of the game relies on what skills you have equipped. Skills are unlocked by equipping weapons in combination, or purchasing them with points you find in the wild. You do get one skill point and a rank in a specialization tree per level, however.
Role Playing Game
- The Elder Scrolls games tend to be hard at the onset no matter what you do because of your low (arguably fair) chance to succeed at anything you do, and it is insisted that you train in a combat skill regardless of what your build is. The older games have guides explaining the way stats work and the peculiar hoops you have to jump through to maximize them properly.
- Skyrim does away with traditional classes entirely.
- Similarly to the Diablo example above, in Demon's Souls the class you choose only affects which items you start with and your initial stats, but from that moment onwards, you can increase whatever stats you wish and it is very possible for a mage to end up wielding a Dragon Bone Smasher (a gigantic sword).
- Dragon Age: Origins has the typical classes. Leveling up gives you three points to spend on attributes to increase, can spend one point to learn a talent/spell, etc. And Specializations act like Prestige Classes.
- Mass Effect plays with this. The Class and Level System is in full force, especially in the first game. However, almost every character has their own unique class. Only Commander Shepard has a choice of classes, and only Kaidan and Ashley have classes that come from the same pool (and even then, only in the first game).
- Final Fantasy was one of the first eastern Role Playing Games to use something like this. While the first one just let you build a four man party out of six classes, later games such as III, V, X-2 and Tactics let your characters freely change to any class you want and even mix and match abilities between them for customization.
- Mostly played straight in The Last Remnant; your character's class is based off the skills they use, their level in that class is then based off their stats. For example, mostly using combat arts may give a character the Gladiator class; if they also had 57 strength, they would be an Adept Gladiator.
- Dragon Quest examples:
- Dragon Quest VI: Characters levels are gained via experience and increase stats, but the class ranks (up to 8) increase via number of battles won and gives new spells. However, what is unique is that spells learned this way are kept even after a class change.
- Dragon Quest IX plays it straighter: each class is leveled until 99, with each level giving skill points that can be invested to learn abilities and stat boosts that carry over from class to class. Spells learned by leveling, however, don't transfer with class changes.
- Golden Sun: A character's class is determined by the Djinn kept on it, giving stat boosts much higher than level gain and changing spells.
- The original Dungeons & Dragons is the archetypal example of this kind of system. Third edition added some point-build aspects (feats), as well as a very flexible multi-classing system. Fourth edition gave every class a fairly large palette of abilities for the player to choose from, but those abilities are almost always unique to that class.
- The similarly vintage Traveller science-fiction role playing game had classes (Careers), but not class-levels in the classic style, opting instead for various Skill Levels (Pilot 1-3, Handguns 1-3 etc). Famous too for a character-generation system that forces players to make a tradeoff between being 18 (full stats, no skills) and, say, 54 (many skills, but stats reduced due to aging). Just to keep the pressure on, there is a significant chance that your character will die during generation.
- The Palladium system, used in RIFTS and all other games published by Palladium Press, is a pure Class and Level System.
- Iron Crown Enterprises, famous for an early Middle Earth RPG as well as the Role Master series, did this in most of their offerings.
- Monte Cook's World of Darkness is something of a bridge between the classless Point Build System Old World of Darkness and the Class And Level themed DnD or D20 system. While you can only be one type of supernatural, and you gain levels, you can choose a major and a minor focus, such as fighting, stealth, or intellect, which affect what skill point breaks and bonuses you get. This focus can change with no penalty every time a character levels.
- d20 Modern has six basic classes, each of which is tied to one of the six d20 ability scores. These basic classes provide little more than talents, skills, hit points and bonus feats. At a certain point, players are expected to dip in to an Advanced Class appropriate to the setting. For example, an Urban Fantasy character might go from Smart Hero to Mage. These Advanced Classes eventually lead to Prestige Classes, which function much the same as their D&D counterparts.
- Star Wars: Saga Edition has a system similar to d20 Modern. Characters begin in one of five basic classes; Jedi, Noble, Scoundrel, Scout, and Soldier. Rather than having abilities be tied to each class, each class grants a series of talents and bonus feats that they can draw from. Characters only get full first level benefits from their actual first level class, however. A first level Jedi gains Force Sensitivity and Lightsaver proficiency, but a scoundrel dipping into Jedi can only choose one. Otherwise, Multiclassing is strongly encouraged.
- The Warhammer 40K role-playing games by Fantasy Flight Games all feature the same (more or less) class-and-level system, where characters choose (or randomly roll) an initial class which they then progress in, level by level.
- Legend of the Five Rings uses a system that combines this with point-buy - you use XP to purchase skills, abilities, and special tricks like spells, and the values of skills and abilities in turn increases your level (or "Insight Rank"). As your Insight Rank goes up, you learn new techniques for your school (or from a new school). Partially averted in cases of ronin, heimin, hinin, and some gaijin - the Ronin have techniques, but they aren't taught to just anyone, and many ronin level up without classes. Heimin and hinin don't tend to have schools at all; if they manage to develop, they do so classlessly. Finally, certain gaijin groups - particularly Thrane and Merenae - don't appear to have schools at all.
- Stars Without Number functions much like D&D 3.5 minus feats. You pick a class, which has bonuses and penalties, and get better at it by going up levels. In-class variation is provided by the skills system, which has escalating point costs for each rank - getting 3 or higher in a class skill requires even experts to save up, unless your group has house-ruled in something like doubled skill point gain, and out-of-class skills cost a 1pt surcharge on each rank, which really means something when you only get 2-3 skill points per level.
- Played with in Torchbearer: instead of earning XP you gain levels by spending Rewards which are gained through roleplaying and teamwork.
Turn Based Strategy
- In Disgaea and other Nippon Ichi SRPGs, the prerequisites tend to be more varied, but the classes still dictate the stat growth and equip percentage.
- Though levels are called ranks (as in, military ranks, from rookie to Colonel), XCOM: Enemy Unknown uses a class and level system. Interestingly, soldiers are classless until they gain their first level, then they become Assault, Heavies, Support or Snipers. Soldiers level up through kills or by surviving a successful mission (with a small bonus for ending a mission with no KIA soldier). Later in the game, any soldier who has the Gift also has a separate psionic rank, although the level tree is much smaller (from Psi-Adept to Psi-Operative). Leveling up the psionic rank requires the successful use of Psychic Powers.
- XCOM: Enemy Within adds a new class called the MEC Trooper, specializing in Powered Armor. Any non-psionic soldier (either ungifted or untested) higher than a rookie can be turned into a MEC Trooper. Due to the nature of the procedure (arms and legs being replaced by prosthetics), the soldiers lose their current skills, but the rank's level is preserved, so a new skillset can be selected from the MEC Trooper tree. Promotions work the same way as for the other four classes.
Third Person Shooter
- Transformers: War for Cybertron has a multiplayer character system that's equal parts this and Modern Warfare's "create-a-class". The weapons and abilities are divided among four classes: Soldier (Warrior), Scout (Thief), Scientist (Wizard), and Leader (which has elements of Warrior and, to a small extent, Wizard). Within each class, you can choose any two weapons, two abilities, and three upgrades available to that class (plus aesthetic elements like body style). Each class levels up individually to a maximum of 25 per class, and leveling up unlocks additional abilities and upgrades for that class.
- The Strike Force Heroes games have this; classes dictate your equipment, perks, and "Kill Streak" powers, and levels unlock them.
- Both class and level are explictly present in Noob.
- Much like the MMO examples above, Log Horizon has a class and level system, because the world itself is the Elder Tale video game. Characters can pick from one of 12 classes, which are divided into four types: Warrior (Guardian, Monk, and Samurai), Weapon (Swashbuckler, Assassin, and Bard), Healer (Kannagi, Druid, and Cleric), and Mage (Sorcerer, Summoner, and Enchanter). In addition, the game also has a job system in the form of Sub-classes. Sub-classes are wide and varied, some are for roleplay while others effect the game, but a character can only have one at a time, and sacrifices all their experience in their old one if they switch.