Whichever you choose, you know you'll regret it later.note
Ah, the RPG. The game genre that offers the player a mighty wealth of character choices
. When you think about it, however, most RPGs offer three major choices of character specialization:
- Fighter: The Mighty Glacier. A physical powerhouse of prodigious strength, the fighter solves problems by dicing or smashing them to bits with weapons. These include swords, axes, bludgeons, flails, and the occasional spear or halberd, but not much in the way of ranged weapons. He usually has the best armor as well, making him an effective tank.
- Mage: The Glass Cannon. A mighty wielder of arcane magic, the mage has a tendency to die if enemies look at him funny. His method of solving problems therefore tends to consist of blowing them up before they can get to him. He has the ability to take advantage of elemental powers to exploit the enemy's weaknesses, and may also get a number of utility spells to bypass the stickiest situations. It's also possible for them to use their power to heal, making them The Medicnote . Mages tend to favor the Magic Wand or Simple Staff as weapons, not that they want to be in a situation where they have to actually use them.
- Thief: The Fragile Speedster. Being quite a bit squishier than the fighter, but not as much as the wizard, the thief relies on stealth and guile. His methods of solving problems typically involve sneaking by them, stabbing them In the Back, sniping them from a distance, or even talking to them. His weapons of choice are usually light weapons like daggers or ranged weapons like bows, crossbows, and throwing knives. His survival usually depends on stealth abilities, evasion/speed, weapon range, or a combination of these factors, rather than armor.
Likely, there will be builds that allow the player to mix and match elements of the three paths, but usually, it boils down to strength, stealth, and sorcery.
These may include:
- Fighter + Thief = Glass Cannon: A quick and powerful individual who does not wanna get hit. May also be a Bare-Fisted Monk if he relies on unarmed martial arts rather than weapons and armor. However, if he has all the strengths of both and another weakness (such as a lack of magical mojo) to off-set the balance, may be a Lightning Bruiser.
- Fighter + Mage = Magic Knight: Combines the power of might and magic to deadly effect.
- Can also be The Paladin, if his magic is focused more on healing or on fighting diabolical or undead foes.
- Sword and Sorcerer: Combines the two as different characters.
- Thief + Mage = Trickster: Takes advantage of the mage's utility spells such as shapeshifting, healing, illusion-casting, and invisibility to always come out on top. Nature-based spellcasters are usually this, equipping leather armor and having some degree of melee ability, be it weaponry or Animorphism. Ninja are another popular interpretation, typically favouring magical note traps and teleportation.
- Fighter + Thief + Mage = Jack of All Stats: which risks being a Master of None if his skills don't have synergy. On the other hand, if they do overlap, you'll find yourself having a magic-slinging Master of All with a stats total up the wazoo; in short, a Game Breaker.
This trend stretches back to the grandpappy of all RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons
. First edition offered players three main character classes: Fighter (called the Fighting Man
at first), Magic User, and Cleric (who healed the party
, but modern games prefer to use abundant healing items); the first supplement added Thief. As a result, a lot of RPGs have typically followed in their footsteps.
See also An Adventurer Is You
for a breakdown of the party-based RPG (especially the MMORPG). See also Action Hero
, Science Hero
, and Guile Hero
. Compare Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth
open/close all folders
- The Overlord games have minions that correspond to fighter, mage, thief, and cleric while mixing in Elemental Powers. The Overlord himself is always a Magic Knight.
- Crimson Alliance has Gnox the mercenary as the party's tank and physical fighter, Direwolf the spell-slinging wizard, and Moonshadow the assassin and ranged-attack specialist.
- The wielders of the three parts of the Triforce in The Legend of Zelda games fit this dynamic. Ganon, who has the Triforce of Power, generally fights using brute force and sheer, well, power. Zelda, who wields the Triforce of Wisdom, generally uses magic. Link, who holds the Triforce of Courage, tends to fight with a variety of weapons including a bow and arrow, and usually uses quick reflexes and clever strategies to win. These styles carry over into the Super Smash Bros. games as well.
- The three Eldritch Abominations in Eternal Darkness fit this mold in a villainous fashion. The Brute Chattur'gha is the Fighter, who can be taken down by the Evil Genius Ulyaoth (Mage), who is in turn easy prey for The Trickster Xel'lotath (Thief) who herself would be ripped to shreds by Chattur'gha. Mantorok is the Game Breaker.
Beat 'em Up
- The Quest for Glory series has Fighter, Magic User (renamed Wizard in later games) and Thief. Unlocking cross-class abilities is possible at the expense of same-class starting abilities, though some quests are class-specific and criticized for it. It's possible to earn the class of Paladin, which amounts to a Fighter who does good things rather than just kill stuff, and has a Flaming Sword to kill stuff with. Appropriately but oddly, there's at least one Paladin quest which is done for the sake of right, with no reward.
- QfG loves to hammer home the Paladin's need to be selfless: each game, starting with the second one, has a least one quest where you're either offered a reward that you should turn down, or you're not offered a reward at all. QfG4 even has a quest where the quest isn't given to you; you just hear the basics and you're expected to run with it.
- It is possible to become a paladin if you're playing as a thief, but do any actual thieving (except to steal an item needed to defeat an elemental) and you've lost your chance.
- Also, Wizard isn't a class, it's an title for academically certified Magic Users, earned in the second game upon graduation from the Wizard's Institute of Technocery. (As, if you haven't graduated from the school, you shouldn't be able to complete the second or subsequent games as a Magic User. This becomes part of a "new" character's assumed backstory.)
- Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok offers the female version of Warrior, Sorceress, Rogue.
Collectible Card Game
- Castle Crashers has three ways to fight, each with its own stat: melee weapons, ranged weapons like bows, and magic spells.
- Dragon's Crown has three melee characters and three ranged characters: Fighter, the Mighty Glacier Fighter; Amazon, the Glass Cannon Fighter; Dwarf, The Scrapper Fighter; Wizard, the Magical DPS; Sorceress, the Magical Support; and Elf, the Fragile Speedster Thief.
- Demon Stone has three playable characters you can switch between at any time: Rhannek, an armored warrior who fights with a two-handed sword. Zhai, a quick, stealthy half-drow rogue. And Illius, a sorcerer.
- Shadow Era uses these as three of the possible kinds of Heroes in the game.
- System Shock 2 opens with the main character, a soldier, deciding whether to join the Marines (which specializes in combat), the Navy (which specializes in technical skills), or the OSA (which specializes in psychic powers). While it is possible to get a smattering of cross-training in other class abilities, attempting to be an across-the-board Jack-of-all-trades really will leave you Master of None.
- Although most people like to forget, the First-Person Shooter genre also utilize that concept of Fighter, Mage, Thief via its own weapons and equipment. The assault-rifle, shotgun, and RPG-launcher are to the fighter, in that they rely on raw-power more than accuracy and lightness. The submachine-gun, handgun, and sniper-rifle are to the thief, in that they rely on either precision or lightweight to make-up for their lack of any raw-power. And the ordnance, tech, and medkits are to the mage, in that they rely on high intelligence to be used properly. This trope would otherwise be called "Soldier Scientist Sniper" if fantasy hadn't gotten there first.
- Team Fortress 2 does this as well with its nine classes. Loosely speaking, the Heavy, Soldier, and Demoman are fighters—possessing decent HP and lots of power, but lower speeds. The Scout, Sniper, and Spy are thieves, being weaker, but use speed and stealth to make up for it. The Pyro, Engineer, and Medic are mages, being more supporting classes with a medley of abilities that aren't wholly focused on direct combat. Interestingly, Theif-type classes tend to be lower hp than Mage types.
- Hexen allows you to choose one of three characters to play the game with. While the Fighter and the Mage play the trope straight, the Cleric does not act like a typical thief - his abilities are more of a combination of the Fighter and Mage.
- The three main monsters of Evolve. Goliath is the close-range bruiser with lots of health, Kraken is the Squishy Wizard (compared to the former) with devastating long-range electrical attacks, and the Wraith is fast with dual-blade like claws and decoy-based abilities but has the lowest health/armor of the three.
- Borderlands does this to a degree with its main characters:
- Roland is a Fighter/Mage with specializations in both gun DPS and team support abilities, such as healing and ammo regeneration.
- Lilith is a Mage/Thief who can teleport in and out of sticky situations as well as augment her already supernatural abilities with elemental damage.
- Mordecai is a Thief/Fighter with spectacular gun and melee damage but poor survivability compared to the others, requiring him to be more tactical with his movement.
- Brick is a straight-up Fighter with enormous impact damage and tanking capabilities.
- Borderlands 2 has similar archetypes but slightly different in some places.
- Axton is a Fighter who has no real specializations but can lay down deployable cover.
- Maya is a Mage who can spec into elemental damage, crowd control and healing.
- Zer0 is a thief/fighter Glass Cannon similar to Mordecai, but focuses more on stealthy attacks.
- Salvador is a pure Fighter with a focus on using guns.
- Gaige is a Mage/Fighter who summons a robot to do damage for her though she can also specialize in electric attacks and raw power at the cost of accuracy.
- Krieg is a Fighter/Mage who focuses on melee damage and tanking while also capable of dealing significant fire damage via self-damage.
- RuneScape technically does not have classes, but the time it takes to be proficient in fighting, archery, and magic guarantees that most players fall into one of the three categories. Note that while the figther and mage are played straight, the "thief" does not use close range weapons like daggers and throwing knives, (s)he uses a bow and arrow coupled with lightweight leather armor.
- In Star Trek Online the ship types boil down to: Cruisers (Mighty Glacier), Escorts (Glass Cannon), and science ship trickster, while officers are less specialized in terms of combat, but just as specialized in terms of abilities, complete with some missions having optional objectives that require being a particular class of having someone of that class in your party.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, there are three main stats: Muscle, Mysticality, and Moxie (in that order), and two classes "attuned" to each stat. The fact that the whole game is basically a parody of the RPG genre makes this a no-brainer.
- Phantasy Star Online has three classes: Hunter, Ranger, and Force. Hunters use melee weapons, Rangers use ranged weapons, and Forces use Techniques.
- Phantasy Star Online 2 returns the original Hunter, Ranger, and Force classes, as well as introducing three specialization classes for the original classes: Fighter (better suited at using smaller, quicker melee weapons), Gunner (a ranged class focusing on quick attacks and evasion), and Techer (a magic class with more emphasis on offense than support). Episode 2 introduced Bravers, a hybrid melee/range class, while Episode 3 introduces Bouncers, a hybrid melee/magic class.
- Latale originally had four character classes, those being the warrior and knight, fighters who specialized in offense and defense respectively, and then wizards and explorers, who fit the stereotypical mage and thief mold. They later added engineers which are something of a Jack-of-All-Trades.
- Dragonica has 4 base classes: Warrior, Magician, Thief, and Archer. Later in the game, you can branch off to a different class.
- Age of Conan directly divides its classes into 4 archetypes, "warriors", 'rogues", "priests", and "mages". Classes within these roles get the same set of tortage quests and a talent tree in common.
- World of Warcraft's classes easily fall into these archetypes. Mages, Priests, and Warlocks are the three pure spellcasters, only equipping cloth armor and having no melee ability. Rogues and Hunters appropriately fall under Thief, while Warriors are obviously Fighter. Paladins and Death Knights are Fighter/Mage; Shamans and Druids are Thief/Mage (Shamans' melee style is more similar to Rogues than Warriors); and Monks are Fighter/Thief.
- The game's popularity has also brought about the popular term 'Holy Trinity' for the combination of Tank(s), Damage Dealer(s) and Healer(s) needed to complete almost all of its dungeons.
- Guild Wars 2 divides its eight "professions" (the term they use for character classes) into the "soldier" professionsnote (Fighter), the "scholar" professionsnote (Mage), and the "adventurer" professionsnote (Thief). Characters are relatively flexible in the roles they fill, but the "soldiers" an use the heaviest armor and are more melee focused, "scholars" use almost all magic skills and only use the lightest armor, and "adventurers" are a bit more ranged focus, with generally more movement and trickery options, and have medium strength armor.
- Worth noting that there are also three tiers of base HP value, allowing the warrior to remain the tankiest of the lot when combined with it's heavy armour, and the thief to be as fragile as expected with it being in the lowest tier. This also leads to, perhaps surprisingly, the guardian having a low level of HP compared to its general toughness:
- Warrior and Necromancer - 9,212 base HP
- Engineer, Ranger and Mesmer - 5,922 base HP
- Guardian, Thief and Elementalist - 1,645 base HP
- The Secret World has three types of weapons, melee, ranged physical, and magical, which fit the trope somewhat.
- In Destiny, the three class fit the roles well, Titan (Fighter), Warlock (Mage), and Hunter (Thief).
- Some games in Wizards And Warriors series let you choose between a knight, wizard and a thief.
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has a version of this. After beating the game in "Vampire Hunter" mode (which has no perks) you get a code to change your class to Magician mode in the next playthrough. Beating Magician unlocks a code for another class (and so on).
- 2nd playthrough = Magician Mode (High MP and all abilities from beginning, but low Strength and Defense)
- 3rd Playthrough = Fighter Mode (High Strength and Defense, but no magic)
- 4th Playthrough = Shooter Mode (Increases Hearts, which are used for long range attacks)
- 5th Playthrough = Thief Mode (Low everything, but insane luck)
- Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse has Trevor as the Fighter, Sypha as the Mage, and Grant as the Thief. Alucard is the odd man out, but the game still fits this nonetheless.
- In Trine, the Mage can create boxes to use as platforms and use telekinesis to move objects; the Thief can swing on certain ceilings and use her arrow to shoot targets from afar; and the Fighter is your basic bash-things-with-your-sword character.
- In Alpha Protocol the three main classes you can choose for Mike are analogous to this. Soldier/Commando is the Fighter, specialised in direct combat skills and Toughness. Tech Specialist/Engineer is sort of the Mage, due to its emphasis on gadgets that offer a variety of damage and utility effects, and Field Agent/Spy is the Thief with a focus on stealth and burst damage.
- Warcraft III uses this as the base for the RPG-based Hero units. Heroes with the main attribute of Strength tend to be front-line brawlers with lots of hit points, Agility heroes are either sneaky types or ranged, and those that focus on Intelligence are, without exception, casters with powerful spells but not much in terms of physical damage.
- The Undead heroes subverts this, due to the inherent fragileness of the faction itself. Both of its strength-based heroes, the Death Knight and Dreadlord, are relatively squishy compared to the other factions. One of the better tactics for the Death Knight, for instance, is to stay out of melee fights entirely, taking advantage of their above-average movement speed to keep him out of harms reach and healing friendly units or sniping enemies using Death Coil. Played straight with the Crypt Lord hero added in the expansion, which has a passive that increases his armor and reflects damage, in addition an ultimate that heals him.
- There IS one melee int hero, the Goblin Tinker. No ranged STR heroes, though.
- In a similar vain, it's averted in the case of Defense Of The Ancients Allstars. One of the most common newbie mistakes made is assuming Strength = Tank/Warrior, Agility = Carry/Thief, Intelligence = Support/Mage. The only thing primary attributes determine is which stats gives you 1 damage per point of it. Typically, if a hero has an role contrary to its commonly associated to its stat, it likely means the hero has particularly strong skills, and has a different attribute to balance them out.
- Modern real-time strategy games like Starcraft II has unites that can be classified:
- Fighter = Slow-but-strong units like tanks.
- Mage = Ranged splash-damage units like artillery and naval-ships.
- Thief = Fast-but-weak units like the ATVs and aircraft.
- Planescape: Torment: the Nameless One begins the game as a Fighter, and can remember the skills needed to become a Thief or a Mage by respectively speaking to the thief Ratbone and to the midwife Old Mebbeth (who will first send you on a set of Fetch Quests that help create your spellbook, and which you can realise taught you some secret lessons about magic if your Intelligence or Wisdom is at least better then average), both of whom are in the Ragpicker's Square. The Nameless One can only be one class at a time (though a bug does exist to make multiclassing possible), but once having "remembered" the other classes can switch between gaining experience by talking to party members of the appropriate classes. The other characters consist of Vhailor (Fighter), Morte (Fighter), Nordom ("Archer" - that is, a Fighter who uses twin crossbows, thanks to having four arms), Dak'kon (Fighter/Mage), Annah (Fighter/Thief), Ignus (Pyro Maniac Mage) and Fall-From-Grace ("Cleric" - that is, a Mage who uses healing spells).
- In Pokemon Red And Blue, the "physical" Ground, Rock, Steel, Dark and Fighting types were typically associated with high Attack or Defense, "special" types (Water, Fire, Grass, Ghost, Psychic) with high Special Attack and Special Defense, and Flying and Bug types had generally high Speed stat and attacks that allowed them to act fast or evade attacks. With the appearance of more and more Pokémon, the type combinations multiplied mixing and matching these properties more and more.
- In one particular battle in Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia you face three bosses that fit perfectly in the categories: Rhyperior (slow-moving but resistant and with an array of close-range attacks), Magmortar (Less HP, but capable of using devastating long-range and area attacks) and Gallade (Smaller, faster, and regularly teleporting away from danger)
- In fact, the types that most closely match the trope also have an Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors dynamic between them. Fighting (which uses powerful melee attacks and fits the Fighter role) is strong against Dark (which uses underhanded tactics and fits the Thief role), which is strong against Psychic (which uses mental powers similar to magic, fitting the Mage role), which in turn is strong against Fighting.
- In Pokémon X and Y, the usual trio of starting Pokémon recalls this motif. Fennekin, Braixen and Delphox are witch-like fox Mages with Psychic Powers, Froakie, Frogadier, and Greninja are Thieves based on Ninjas, and Chespin, Quilladin and Chesnaught are the bulky Fighters that grow chestnut armour as they evolve. Their final forms are Fire/Psychic, Water/Dark and Grass/Fighting respectively.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion generally tacks in these three directions, though some of the builds you're offered at the beginning are a blend of two or three. The leveling system generally means that every character winds up the pinnacle of all 3, especially in games before Morrowind, where a bunch of skills leveled even if you weren't trying to practice them - Stealth, Medical, Backstab, Critical Hit, and Running and Jumping, for some examples.
- TES's skill breakdown demonstrates how this trope can be carried on through a purely skill-based character system. Though there are classes presented, the player can arbitrarily select any skills up to the limit and define the class with any name, and that class will still be predominantly combat, magic or stealth-based. Any class's leaning is subject to change at any time regardless of the name, but because of TES's skillpoint leveling system, it's as a result of what the player does. If you become more fighter-like it's because you're acting more fighter-like.
- Although normally invisible to the player, when you start modding around NPCs, espescially if you are modding in partners/followers, they strictly grow in skill according to their class. Fortunately, you can custom-build classes for them, as well, to cherry-pick the abilities of your companions.
- The Elder Scrolls also has an in-universe example of this trope in the form of the three "guardian constellations" in the in-game zodiac. Each confer benefits suited to their corresponding play styles.
- The classes have already been touched upon, but no less than three sets of organizations in Morrowind are built around this trope: the Imperial Guilds, the three Dunmer Great Houses on Vvardenfell, and the three vampire clans on Vvardenfell. Interestingly, joining the trio that best fits your character is discouraged — the vampires aren't tolerated by ''anyone, and even discounting them the three Great Houses have (to varying degrees) issues with their Guild counterparts.
- The Alliance trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online features three leaders for the three main alliances, along this dynamic. The Ebonheart Pact is represented by a huge and very angry looking Nord with an equally large battleaxe; the Daggerfall Covenant is represented by a black-cloak-and-hood Breton with knife-throwing and acrobatic skills reminiscent of Altair; the Aldmeri Dominion is represented by a High Elf sorceress who calmly vaporizes her enemies with a flick of her wrist.
- Fable I allows you to invest experience into Strength (health, damage resistance, and melee weapons), Skill (archery, bartering, and stealth), and Will (magic powers).
- Fable II streamlines things further, though still into Strength (melee), Skill (ranged) and Will (magic). It also has heroes as NPCs that each personify one of these paths, so the Hero of Strength is big and muscular, the Hero of Will is glowing with magic power, and the Hero of Skill is tall and lanky, just like how the character will look if they specialize in a particular path.
- Not like anyone would specialize in a single path unless they wanted a Self-Imposed Challenge. As Exp is available from numerous sources and upgrade prices scale in such a way as to make purchasing skills from all three branches trivial, there is little disincentive to being a generalist, which eventually makes the character look like a giant (Skill) glowing (Will) barrel (Strength) with arms and legs (same goes if you're playing as a female).
- The series has the stats of strength, dexterity, and intellect, with the three Principles each related to one stat (Strength = Courage, Int = Truth, Dex = Love). The classes associated with the virtues derived from the principles also mostly work out, with the meleeist Fighter for Valor (courage), pure-caster Mage for Honesty (truth), ranged fighter Bard for Compassion (love), Magic Knight Paladin for Honor (truth and courage), more-agile fighter Tinker for Sacrifice (love and courage), more-agile caster Druid for Justice (truth and love), jack-of-all-trades Ranger for Spirituality (all three), and mostly-worthless Shepherd for Humility (none!).
- Ultima IV 's NES port also has the Avatar "class", which the Player Character (and the PC only) upgrades to upon achieving enlightenment in all Virtues. It's basically an Purposely Overpowered version of the Ranger with access to all weapons, armor, and spells (depending on your INT), with the only real downside being that if you ever commit an unvirtuous act again, you're reverted to your base class and have to regain the enlightenment in that virtue again. In the original versions of the game, you were stuck with your normal class restricted weaponry, with the Avatarhood benefit being you got access to the eight sets of Mystic Swords and Mystic Robes, the best melee and armor in the game for all classes.
- Ultima IX gives you starting equipment based on what class you choose. The super-awesome Ranger gets an immediate boost to the three main stats, but crappy equipment. The super-crappy Shepherd, which gets no boost at all to the three main stats, gets equipment that other classes can't get for a least four or five hours. It pays to handicap yourself, apparently.
- While Ultima I and II had the standard roster of fighter, cleric, thief and wizard, Ultima III expanded this to include not only RPG standbys such as the barbarian and druid, but also the illusionist and lark.
- Jade Empire has the stats of Body (health and strength), Mind (raises Focus, which allows you to enact Bullet Time and use
special or non-mastered weapons), and Spirit (raises Chi, which allows you to heal and use magical martial arts). It's not a traditional breakdown, as there's little stealth involved, but it does provide a basic breakdown between strength, speed, and sorcery.
- Because magic doesn't exist in the Fallout universe, the three basic character builds are Fighter (punches and guns), Thief (stealth and stealing), and Diplomat (talking your enemies to death). The first two games offered 3 pre-built characters fitting each type. Of course, the open-ended character system allows you to mix and match attributes as you like.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura: The game does not have pure character classes, instead having more open-ended character building like in Fallout (see above), but there are still three basic builds: fighter (put the bulk of your points into combat skills), thief (distribute points broadly among stealth and social skills), and wizard (concentrate on willpower, intelligence and magickal skils). Technology is a unique fourth option; it functions as a prototypical Item Crafting system, and technological aptitude interferes with your magickal aptitude. (However, there's no such thing as a "pure" technologist; a tech-user must use his technological skills to enhance his abilities as a fighter or thief.)
- Not entirely true. A technologist is a jack of all trades. His technological devices allow for him to fullfil any role, by crafting powerful melee weapons that can offset a lack of focus on melee skills, extremely powerful firearms that are often much easier to use them associated bows or thrown weapons, or causing wide-spread destruction roughly on par with a wizard with an array of explosives or other items that outright mimic some spells (the Tesla Staff being a big example) while being able to use auto-lockpicks or trap disarms, completely negating the need to focus on those skills. They can also, if they find the plans, create some ridiculously strong automated minions who can effortlessly destroy most threats without the technologist having to lift a finger.
- Knights of the Old Republic uses a modified version of the D&D D20 system. Basically, a character can have 3 kinds of features that the user specifically selects: skills, feats, and Force Powers. Each of the 6 classes in the game focuses on one of these. Soldiers focus on feats, while Scouts and Scoundrels focus on different sets of skills. The Jedi classes work like this too, only adding Force Powers to the mix. Guardians are basically Fighters with a few Force Powers; they get lots of access to feats. Consulars are Wizards with lightsabers. And Sentinels are Thieves that don't steal (skill-focused).
- The sequel's Prestige Classes play it even straighter, essentially boiling down to a combat monster, an arch-wizard and a stealthy assassin each with some Jedi or Sith flavour text.
- Dokapon Kingdom, a hybrid board game and RPG, has these as the three default classes. All weapons can be equipped by any class, but certain ones grant special bonuses.
- The early Geneforge series by Spiderweb Software explicitly follows this trope in its class system, which offers a choice between "Guardian" (Fighter), "Agent" (Thief, albeit with combat magic) and "Shaper" (Mage). Later parts of the series have added new classes, however.
- Kingdom Hearts gives you a similar choice at the beginning, between Fighter, Mage, and Defender. The latter isn't as strong or agile as the Fighter, but learns defense and drop related abilities earlier, and has more item slots. The game also makes you give up one of the three, giving the feel of a bit more depth in the trio set-up. The three main party members also map to the three classes, with Sora being the Fighter, Donald being the Mage and Goofy being the Defender.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is a straighter example. It has three Magic Knight protagonists, each with a different specialty: Terra specializes in strength, Ven specializes in speed, and Aqua specializes in magic.
- Dragon Age goes in this direction with its classes, having the typical Fighter-Rogue-Mage setup. The playable races are also set up in a similar pattern, with the magical elves, hardy dwarves, and average humans.
- The classical lineup is particularly obvious in the Leliana's Song DLC, where your party consists of exactly three characters: warrior (Tug, who is, subversively, not the leader, and Silas), mage (Sketch), and thief (Leliana herself). Other DLCs tend to remove one of the three parts: Golems of Amgarrak gives you no real mage (unless your PC is one), while Witch Hunt features no rogues (ditto).
- The original Diablo provided a breakdown of Warrior, Rogue, and Sorcerer, with later games adding more classes.
- Diablo is also a partial subversion in that any character can potentially learn any magic and use any equipment.
- Played straight in Diablo III with the followers; Kormac the Templar, Lyndon the Scoundrel, and Eirena the Enchantress.
- Torchlight: Destroyer is fighter, Vanquisher is thief (archer/gunslinger), Alchemist is mage. Like Diablo, classes are fairly customizable, e.g. you can easily make a magic knight, a sneaky sorcerer, or Jack-of-All-Trades out of the Alchemist.
- Final Fantasy I has the original forms for several of the classes found (in various mutations) throughout the series. Given its dependence on the original D&D, it's hardly surprising.
- Fighter = Fighter
- Thief = Thief
- (Black) Mage = Mage
- (White) Mage = Cleric
- (Red) Mage = Magic Knight
- Monk = Fighter
- In addition, the Class Change that marked the midpoint of the game would give the magic-users access to more powerful spells and the monk a better attack, but would also grant Magic Knight status to the Fighter (who became the Knight and could use White Magic) and the Thief (who got a major upgrade as the Ninja and could use Black Magic).
- Final Fantasy VII has Tifa (Fighter), Aeris/Aerith (Mage), and Yuffie (Thief).
- Final Fantasy IX, in the Evil Forest, the heroes are Zidane the thief, Vivi the Mage, and Steiner the Fighter-Knight. What's more is with Vivi's magic Steiner can become a Magic Knight.
- Mass Effect does this with a little sci-fi flavor, dividing proficiency into three categories, with respect to this trope's name: Combat, Biotics and Tech. You can be a pure class, or a class hybridized with any two:
- Soldier (pure Combat): Jack-of-All-Trades (a gun for any situation), or Mighty Glacier (most durable of all player classes)
- Engineer (pure Tech): Debuffer, Master of Unlocking
- Adept (pure Biotics): Mind over Matter (though the hybridized biotic classes are too, to a lesser extent)
- Vanguard (Combat/Biotics): Magic Knight
- Infiltrator (Combat/Tech): Glass Cannon Trickster
- Sentinel (Tech/Biotics): Jack of All Stats or Stone Wall, depending on how you play the class.
- Interestingly, the first game divides the classes of the squadmates along gender lines: The three women are the pure classes, while the three men are the hybrids. The one exception dies within the first 10 minutes.
- In the third game, the only three squad-mates you're guaranteed to have the entire game fall into this - James (weapons), Liara (biotics) and EDI (tech).
- Interestingly, the Verse's three Citadel races (i.e. the primary decision-makers in intergalactic politics) also play into the class divisions. The reptilian turians are famed for their military prowess and their mighty space fleet, the amphibian salarians are famed for their scientific prowess and their many technological contributions, and the humanoid asari are famed for their naturally powerful biotic abilities and their highly spiritual culture.
- Played straight in The Tomb of the TaskMaker: fighters can use the most weapons, magicians can use the most spells, and thieves can steal items and pick locks.
- Fate/EXTRA Allows the player to choose one of three servants to fight for him/her.
- Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning has three paths that you can choose to pursue: Might, Sorcery, and Finesse. However, by putting enough points into the paths, you can unlock a different path that gives you different bonuses, such as becoming a Mighty Glacier Magic Knight or a Glass Cannon version. You can also switch between paths whenever you want.
- Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology has four basic classes you can choose, and three of them are a Fighter, a Mage and a Thief. The fourth is a Cleric, which is basically a mage with healing magic.
- The first three characters in Lunar Genesis/Dragon Song fit these archetypes. Jian is the fighter, with the highest attack, very good defense and the most broken combat mechanics in the game (can hit three times in one turn for the majority of the game), Lucia (and later Flora) is the mage, with a battery of healing spells and buffs, but very little actual power (although Flora is the only character that can hit airborne enemies with her bows), whereas Gabby is the thief, with more emphasis on dexterity and intelligence, as well as a nasty (and useful) spell right from the start. Rufus is the only character who doesn't fit, having the toughness and power of the fighter but the flexibility of the thief. Mind you, he dies about two areas after he joins you anyway.
- The two Ravenloft video games have differing support for this trope. The first, Strahd's Possession, even has a fighter/mage/thief NPC you can recruit to your cause. The second game, Stone Prophet, has fighters, thiefs and cleric you can recruit, but unless you bring a wizard with you then you will be without arcane magic for the entire game.
- Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos offered four character choices, one balanced character and three specialized characters following this trope.
- In Dragon's Dogma, you start off as either a Fighter, Mage or Strider. Later on, you can either change your class into either a specialized version of the original classes (Warrior which focuses on powerful single-hit attacks at the cost of being unable to block or evade attacks, Sorcerers which focus on damaging spells at the cost of healing and Ranger which focus more on bow-wielding over melee) or a hybrid class (Assassin which focuses on versatility and is able to use any melee weapon except 2-handed swords and hammers, Mystic Knight which focuses on defensive spells and countering attacks and Magic Archer which focuses on elemental shots with special effects). The first 6 classes are also useable by pawns, while the last 3 are exclusive to the Arisen.
- South Park: The Stick of Truth has four classes: Fighter, Mage, Thief and Jew (which focuses on Jew-themed attacks as well as gaining power the lower your health is). The only difference between classes are the abilities and otherwise fight mostly the same.
- In Path of Exile, there are six classes which focus on a mix of three stats: Strength, Magic and Dexterity. The Marauder, Witch and Ranger focus on each stat respectively. The Templar is a Magic Knight who focuses on using magic to augment his combat capabilities. The Duelist is a Figher/Thief hybrid who focuses on being a Lightning Bruiser while the Shadow is a Mage/Thief hybrid who's more of a Glass Cannon. The unlockable Scion class is a Jack of All Stats balanced in all categories and capable of fulfilling any role.
- Played With in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer. One of your companions, the One Of Many can at various points switch from a Barbarian, to a Rogue, to a Warlock, becoming each in turn (but the changes can't be reversed, and it's only one at a time)
- Lords Of Magic: Warrior, Mage, and Thief are the three types of champions (single unit characters that lead armies) in its gameplay, and much of the rest of gameplay is influenced by this division. Unit production buildings are divided along these lines as well, with a "barracks" producing infantry, cavalry, ships, and warrior champions, a "thieves Guild" producing thieves, ranged units, and scouts, and a "mage tower" used to produce mages and magical creatures, as well as having an associated building for spell research. Each champion can be used to "train" at its associated building, improving the experience of units produced there, and each type of unit uses different types of resources to produce and maintain depending on its category.
- In the iOS game Highborn, the three Heroes are Archie, a knight/paladin; Enzo, a wizard; and Trillian, a rogue.
Not Video Games
Anime and Manga
- The three main heroes of A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou, who relies on his Anti-Magic fist and inherent toughness to beat bad guys into submission (Fighter); Accelerator, who is a super genius and relies on his Superpower Lottery (Mage); and Shiage Hamazura, who is a skilled fighter like Touma but relies more on stealth, tactics, and guns (Thief).
- The three main characters of Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z , who are basically the Power Puff Girls in Japan (!): Buttercup (Fighter), Bubbles (Mage), and Blossom (Thief).
- The Three Musketeers from Accel World: Takumu Mayuzumi / Cyan Pile (Fighter), Chiyuri Kurashima / Lime Bell (Mage), and Haruyuki Arita / Silver Crow (Thief).
- Subverted in Lyrical Nanoha where all combatants are mages. We have Nanoha (the Fighter+Thief who uses big and bigger lasers, but they need time to charge; she has also the best defense and she is a Combat Pragmatist), Fate (the Thief+Fighter who is the fastest and she is the only one who is specialized in melee combat, but has a poor armor; her Morph Weapon can also transform into a BFS), and Hayate (the Mage who is a Person of Mass Destruction, but also a Glass Cannon).
- In Naruto: the three main fighting styles are Taijutsu (Fighter), Ninjutsu (Mage), and Genjutsu (Thief).
- Many of the three-man squads can also be divided up this way, although some characters have traits of more than one class. This is possibly intentional, as the squads are designed to either balance out or specialise in certain fields.
- In the penultimate battle of Bleach's arrancar arc, Aizen fights against three people. Isshin Kurosaki mainly attacks with straight sword strikes, Urahara with kido and careful planning, and Yoruichi with sneak attacks.
- The three main characters in the Birds of Prey comic each fit these archetypes: Oracle, who, with her hacking abilities, can gain knowledge and harm enemies from a great distance, but, being a paraplegic, is not as good (thought not completely helpless) in close combat, is the wizard; Black Canary, who, being the best martial artist of the three, and having the canary cry for dealing with more powerful enemies, is the best close combatant, is the fighter (although her ability to soak up damage is not appreciably greater than the others'); Huntress, being the best at and most reliant upon stealth, and using a crossbow as her primary weapon, is the thief.
- Their evil counterparts, the Gotham City Sirens, also fit the mold. Poison Ivy is the mage, having strange plant powers. Catwoman is the thief, duh. Harley is the fighter, somewhat oddly (hey, she hangs around with The Joker and is most the likely the one to use guns and explosives...).
- Rat Queens is explicitly a parody of Role-Playing Game Verse stories, and the four central characters are overtly a D&D Fighter-Mage-Cleric-Thief quartet.
- In Phenomena: Alk (fighter), Ilke (mage) and Millian (thief) when they travel alone.
- Unsurprisingly, a number of Dungeons & Dragons novels contain this trope:
- Vampire of the Mists has Jander Sunstar (fighter, although he has some supernatural abilities, and is quite stealthy, from being a vampire), Sasha (spellcaster, although he's actually a cleric, not a mage), and Leisl (thief).
- War of the Twins has Caramon Majere (fighter), Raistlin Majere (mage), Crysania of Tarinius (cleric, which, again, is a different kind of spellcaster in D&D), and Tasslehoff Burrfoot (thief, but don't you dare call him one).
- The main characters of Dora Wilk Series fall into these categories: Miron's fighter, the strongest and most experienced one, Joshua's mage, with his attitude and skills, and Dora, tricky and cunning, is thief.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, each of the Hallows falls into one of the archetypes here: The Elder Wand (fighter), the Resurrection Stone (mage), and the Invisibility Cloak (thief).
- The main characters of The Fire's Stone by Tanya Huff; Prince Darvish is the Fighter, Chandra is the Mage, and Aaron is the Thief.
- The Lord of the Rings the races of Middle Earth can be categorized into these, Humans and Dwarves are Warriors, Wizards and Elves are Mage, and the Hobbits are Thieves.
- Wheel of Time has the three protagonists: Rand is Mage/Fighter, Perrin is Fighter/Fighter, and Matt is the Thief/Fighter.
- Rand's three love interests fit too: Aviendha is Fighter note , Elayne is Mage note and Min is Thief note
- The Mistborn of Mistborn are the jack-of-all-stats variety, inherently magi, They're mostly used for skulking, spying, stealing (usually information), and the occasional assasination.
- Adventure Hunters: Artorius is a former paladin, Regina is a Squishy Wizard and Lisa is a small and quick thief. However, there is one deviation; Lisa is both super strong and nigh invulnerable.
- The three heroes of The Quest of the Unaligned very loosely fit this trope. Alaric, though he is actually by far the most powerful mage of the three, doesn't know how to use his magic for the bulk of the book, and thus relies on his advanced training in hand-to-hand combat. Laeshana is an aesh, and an exceptionally brilliant one at that, so she provides most of the magic side of things. Nahruahn is small, [[Keet hyperactive]], and as a ruahk has access to flight and teleportation magic.
- The three main Demons from The Elfstones of Shannara fit this categorization. The Dagda Mor is Mage note , the Reaper is Fighter note and the Changeling is Thief note
- Olivia, Walter, and Peter on Fringe respectively embody this trope. Olivia kicks butt and takes names, Walter's weird science qualifies as being nigh-magical, and Peter is the rogue with the checkered past.
- The Minbari on Babylon 5 have the warrior, worker, and religious castes.
- On Leverage, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker largely fulfill these roles, though Hardison is a hacker instead of a mage.
- From Merlin, Arthur, Merlin, and Gwen are a Two Guys and a Girl version of this. Arthur's the Master Swordsman, Merlin's The Archmage, and Gwen's a Guile Hero.
- The three main Alpha quadrant races conform to this in Star Trek. The Romulans have the most advanced cloaking devices, and are entirely taken up with subterfuge, deception and backstabbing in everything they do. So thief. The Klingons are tough, proud warriors, renowned for having 3 spines, two hearts, and enough raw physical power to make melee weapons somewhat functional in a raygun future. So fighter. The Federation solves its problems using diplomacy and technical skill, possessing the most advanced holographic, replication, teleportation and shielding tech out of the three. It isn't for nothing the Dominion Officers are revealed in aStar Trek: Deep Space Nine episode to have already stereotyped the Federation as capable of utterly absurd feats of ingenuity and scientific creativity ("One of those famed Starfleet engineers who can turn rocks into replicators"). So mage.
- Also as characters Star Trek TOS has action man Kirk (Fighter), wise and analitic Spock (Mage) and expert in medical tricks Bones (Thief).
- All of the main characters of Farscape fit very clearly into these roles: Fighter (Aeryn, D'Argo, Crais), Mage (Zhaan, Stark, Jool, Noranti), and Thief (Rygel, Chiana, Sikozu). John and Scorpius are Fighter/Magic-User compromise builds.
- In Infinity Game:
- The main group is made up of Meibo as the thief, Lu Xiao as the black magic mage (Long Wei is a cleric/white magic mage) and Hai An as the paladin - though he's never shown to use magic or that he can.
- The remaining members of the RPG Society has this: Xia Sheng Xue is the cleric, Yue Bo Cheng is the wizard and Xia Yun is the barbarian.
- In Norse Mythology, you have the three gods who get the most screen time. Thor is the fighter, Odin is the mage, and Loki is the Thief.
- The True20 RPG system, based off of the D20 system for Dungeons & Dragons, provides the three basic classes of warrior, expert, and adept.
- Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game has four classes; Fighter, Thief, Magic-User and Cleric
- Swords and Wizardry uses five classes based on OD&D: the Fighting-Man (or Fighter), the Magic-User, the Cleric, the Dwarven Warrior (who was much like the fighting-man) and the Elven Adventurer (who could choose whether to be a fighter or a magic-user once a day).
- Labyrinth Lord, another old-style D&D retroclone, uses the Cleric, the Fighter, the Magic-User, and the Thief. In addition, the other races are classes in their own: the Dwarf (basically a Fighter, who is limited to level 12), the Elf (a Magic Knight who combines the powers of a Fighter and a Magic-User and is limited to 10th level), and the Halfling (small fighters with a few thief abilities who are limited to level 8).
- Werewolf the Apocalypse somewhat does this with the five Auspices. Ragabashes are the thief-type with gifts related to stealth and deception, Theurges and Galliards could be considered mages as their gifts don't give direct combat ability but can act as buffers/good for working with spirits to make magical effects, and Philodoxes and Ahrouns as the fighters with Philodox gifts more focused on taking it and shrugging it off and Ahroun gifts more focused on dishing out punishment for extended periods.
- Exalted does it, too—White Wolf has a thing for the number 5, and most types of Exalted have 5 subtypes. For example, the 5 castes of Solar Exalted are Dawn (Warriors), Zenith (Leaders), Twilight (Sorcerers/Smart Guys), Nights (Thieves), and Eclipse (Masters of Social Fu).
- It's been noted that White Wolf games that stick to the five-by-five system usually have a familiar breakdown for the social splats: Leader, Warrior, Mystic, Rebel, and Spy. Werewolf: The Forsaken goes Blood Talons (Warrior), Bone Shadows (Mystics), Hunters in Darkness (Spy), Iron Masters (Rebel), and Storm Lords (Leader). Mage: The Awakening goes Adamantine Arrow (Warrior), Free Council (Rebel), Guardians of the Veil (Spy), Mysterium (Mystic), and Silver Ladder (Leader). Vampire: The Requiem divides by the clans of Ventrue (Leader), Gangrel (Mystic/Warrior), Mekhet (Spy), Nosferatu (Rebel), Daeva (Warrior/Leader). Promethean: The Created has Ferrum (Warrior), Mercurius (Mystic), and Stannum (Rebel) with Aurum (embracing humanity and mortals) and Cuprum (remaining isolated from humanity and touching on the inner self) blending elements of Leader and Spy.
- From Exalted you have the Lunar who are the exception to the White Wolf usual trope of the Five-Man Band by sticking more closely to this trope. The Full Moon (Fighter), the No Moon (Mage) and the Changing Moon (Thief).
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting there were three adventurers who quested to overthrow Jergal, the god of discord, death, and the dead. They were a warlord named Bane, an assassin named Bhaal, and a necromancer named Myrkul, making them an evil version of this trope. Each of them ended up being freely given an aspect of the god's power, as he'd become bored with the job.
- In the indie role-playing game Warrior, Rogue, and Mage, the attribute system doesn't rate how strong or fast or intelligent you are — it rates you on how good a warrior you are, how good a rogue you are, and how good a mage you are. Every task in the game is assumed to be "something a warrior does", "something a thief does", or "something a mage does". There are also variants for other settings — e.g. "Resolute, Adventurer, and Genius" for games inspired by 1920s pulp novels.
- A similar rating system is used for On Mighty Thews, with Warrior, Sorcerer, and Explorer standing in for the thief.
- Stars Without Number has Warrior, Psychic and Expert. Warriors have the best attack progression and the ability to negate one hit per fight; Experts have the best skill progression and can reroll a non-combat skill once per hour; Psychics can use psychic powers.
- Problem Sleuth, which was designed to imitate a video game, has its three main characters match up with the archetypes: Ace Dick is the Fighter, Pickle Inspector is the Mage, and Problem Sleuth is the Thief.
- Defined by their high Vim, Imagination and Pulchritude, respectively.
- 8-Bit Theater's main characters are a Fighter, two Mages (a straight example in Black, and a deliberate Jack of All Stats in Red), and a Thief. (There's a White Mage too, but she wouldn't be caught dead hanging around with these people.)
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the ponies are divided into Earth Ponies, who tend to be stronger than average (Fighter), Unicorns, who have the most powerful magic (Mage), and Pegasi, who are Fragile Speedsters in the air (Thief).
- Interestingly, prior to the founding of Equestria, the Pegasus tribe was the Proud Warrior Race.
- The Galaxy Rangers: Zach and Shane are the Fighters (and both the career military types). Niko is the Mage (Psychic Powers and a Fragile Speedster compared to the guys), and Doc is a classic Thief (breaking and entering, espionage, and computer hacking).
- Donald Duck's nephews in Quack Pack have the superhero identities of Captain Muscle (fighter), Brain Boy (mage), and The Really Fast Guy (thief).
- In Mighty Max, the three main characters definitely qualify. Norman, the huge and muscular guardian with the Cool Sword, is the Fighter. Virgil, the short, physically weak fowl who can foresee the future, is the Mage. Max, the Kid Hero who always thinks on his feet, represents the Thief.
- Ed, Edd, and Eddy of Ed, Edd n Eddy fit this trope pretty well. Ed, the strongest, toughest, and most dim witted of the three, is the fighter. Edd, the smart one, capable of building nearly anything from cardboard, and the squishiest of them all is the mage. And Eddy, the sneaky, conniving one that comes with the underhanded scam of the week is the thief.
- When you consider the most military branches (with slight variations depending), they also fall into one of those three categories:
- Fighter = Army and Marines
- Mage = Navy and Coast Guard
- Thief = Air Force and Intelligence Agency