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Took a Level in Badass
Susan Richards, before and after 40 years of Character Development and the Women's Rights Movement.

"If you told me five years ago that Raiden was going to be cooler than Dante, I'd have told you to shut the fuck up."

So you're flipping channels looking for something to watch and you come across a battle scene in a familiar show. One character in particular is making a very good showing, doing at least as much as the main character to save the day. But who is this mysterious person in the Badass Longcoat? Did you miss the episode where he was introduced? Why the nagging feeling of familiarity? And then it hits — you know this kid. It's just that last time you saw this person, he was a nebbishy wisecracker with the constitution of a glass-jawed squirrel. What happened to transform him so completely? Simple: last time he leveled up, he took a level in badass.

Since this is about Character Development, that means it doesn't genuinely apply when comparing a character in different adaptations. See Adaptational Badass.

If the change is a result of a Face-Heel Turn, see Superpowered Evil Side and Redemption Demotion. If it's a result of a Heel-Face Turn, then it's a case of Redemption Promotion. If the change is due to time travel, see Future Badass. If it is the result of finding a powerful object, see Amulet of Concentrated Awesome. This can also happen because Prisons Are Gymnasiums.

There is also the Super Hero Origin, where the first story gives some explanation for why they became the badass hero.

The reference comes from roleplaying, where it's sometimes possible to "take a level" in a completely different class. For instance: a level ten Fighter could take a level in Wizard, therefore being both a level ten Fighter and a level one Wizard. The joke is presumably that if Bad Ass was a class and you could take a level in it, you would thereby become Bad Ass where you weren't before. Actual RPG classes are, of course, supposed to be balanced so that literally taking one level in something doesn't normally make you greatly more powerful. Blending this with modern gaming, however, one can achieve what is known as "badass grinding", where one takes multiple levels in badass.

If they were already Badass to begin with and notched it Up to Eleven by imbuing the previously unpowered character with superpowers, it's Empowered Badass Normal.

Compare Obfuscating Stupidity, Let's Get Dangerous, Cowardly Lion, and Not-So-Harmless Villain, where actually competent characters who have been hiding their powers finally reveal their abilities. Xenafication is when this happens to The Chick. Contrast Badass Decay, when a previously badass character ends up losing this level.

Adrenaline Makeover is when the love interest does this, along with becoming much more attractive. Also see Misfit Mobilization Moment, when a group of losers collectively takes a level in badass. Related to Dumbass No More, when the character gains a level in intelligence.

Not to be confused with the British variant Took an A level in Badarse, although you can bet that if that was a legitimate education option that everyone would do it. Also not to be confused with Took a Level in Jerkass, where a normally nice person becomes a bad seed.


Examples go in subpages:

Warning: Examples may contain unmarked spoilers.


Too Dumb to LiveJustForFun/Tropes of LegendTrue Companions
Time to Unlock More True PotentialSkills and Training TropesTraining from Hell
Safe, Sane and ConsensualEmpowermentCulture Justifies Anything
To Be Lawful or GoodCharacterization TropesTook A Level In Cynic
The So-Called CowardHidden BadassTranquil Fury
Testosterone PoisoningBadassTranquil Fury
Manipulative BastardOverdosed TropesMooks
To Be Lawful or GoodImageSource/Comic BooksWreathed in Flames

alternative title(s): Take A Level In Badass; Badass Level Up; Takes A Level In Bad Ass; Taking A Level In Badass; Taken A Level In Badass
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