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Class and Level System

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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.
  • PAYDAY 2 has five classes you can distribute skill points into, each with exclusive bonuses and specials but you can (and indeed are encouraged to) mix and match skills from different classes:
    • The Mastermind has team bonuses and focuses on leadership and situation manipulation. Doubles as the team's Combat Medic, hands out buffs to the team like an air hostess with a bowl of sweets, can take hostages from civilians and enemies, and gets extra proficiences from assault rifles and sniper rifles.
    • The Enforcer is a Mighty Glacier or a Lightning Bruiser who focuses on massive damage and high armour, and specialises in using shotguns and the circular saw that can cut through locks, safety deposit boxes... or cops.
    • The Technician is all about completing objectives and using nifty gadgets. He can deploy explosive mines, tripwires, sentry guns and C4, and also keep the drill working more smoothly. Their weapon of choice is anything that fires full-auto, be it the lighter sub-machineguns or the heavier machineguns.
    • The Ghost is a stealth specialist. They can use ECM Jammers to mess with cop's equipment, disable cameras and pick locks much quicker than anyone else. When things go loud they rely on high mobility and critical damage, able to sprint in any direction and dodge bullets. They prefer small weapons that can be silenced and easily concealed.
    • The Fugitive is an oddball class that gains bonuses from being revived and being really effective in close combat with pistols (either single or dual-wielded) or melee weapons, so it pays to be super aggressive with this class.

    Forum RPG 
  • 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.

    Hack And Slash 
  • 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.
    • Diablo III alters the formula a little. While you still have a number of different classes to choose from, leveling up your character no longer gives you points to invest in stats or skill trees; instead, your stats get increased automatically, and you unlock some combination of new skills, skill runes, and passives. In other words, the bulk of your customization is going to come from the gear and skills you have equipped. Once a character reaches max level, they start earning Paragon levels, which act a bit more like levels from the previous games; each Paragon level gives you a point to invest in one of sixteen stats split among four categories (Core Stats, Offensive, Defensive, and Utility). However, unlike any other kind of level in the series, Paragon levels are theoretically unlimited and shared between characters of the same type (normal, seasonal, hardcore, or hardcore seasonal).

  • 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 "WoW-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 WoW-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.
  • Nexus Clash allows players to choose a class at an early level, which pivotally locks them into alignment as an Angel, Demon or neither. Subsequent class choices are more powerful versions of these early choices, some of which are more drastic changes from the original change than others.

    Role Playing Game 
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The first four games in the main seriesnote  all have similar variations of this system (with a few quirks varying by game). In general, at the start of the game, you choose a class (or create a custom class) which comes with a set of preferred skills which each get a decent initial bonus. With every 10 (15 in Daggerfall) increases of these skills, you gain a Character Level. The character level allows you to increase some of your Attributes (Strength, Intelligence, etc.), with multipliers based on the amount of times you leveled up the skills which those attributes govern. For example, if you increase Heavy Armor 10 times, you'll get a x5 multiplier to Endurance, which governs the Heavy Armor skill. (Arena and Daggerfall instead give you a randomly generated number of points to distribute to any of your Attributes.) In each game (and especially Oblivion), Empty Levels, or even a Parabolic Power Curve, are possible if you level up non-combat Attributes (like Personality) or get too many x1 multipliers. (This is explained in greater detail on the Empty Levels trope page.)
    • Skyrim overhauls the series' system, doing away with classes and attributes entirely. Borrowing a bit from its Bethesda Fallout sister series, Skyrim brings in elements of Skill Scores and Perks instead.
  • Dawncaster: There are 7 character classes to choose from (Arcanist, Rogue, Warrior, Knight, Hunter, Seeker, and Scion), and each one (minus the Scion, the jack of all stats role) has its own progression that can be leveled up using experience points accrued from previous runs. Leveling up a character to certain thresholds unlocks new weapons, abilities, and character portraits.
  • 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.
    • Final Fantasy VII is an unusual example, in that each character was given a class during development, but it only persists in initial equipment/stats/design and the Limit Break techniques. For instance, Cloud was listed as a Mystic Knight/Berserker and comes equipped with a sword, black magic and Limit Breaks focused around huge physical damage output or inflicting statuses on enemies, but the player can load him up with healing magic and hide him in the back row if they want to.
  • 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 III keeps it simple: you can switch classes at any time, but each class is leveled separately and has its own unique set of spells with no carryover.
    • Dragon Quest VI and Dragon Quest VII: Character 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 (in most cases, anyway; a remake of VII restricted this so that spells from basic classes are kept but those from Prestige Classes aren't).
    • 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.
  • In dnd, you pick a class at the start of the game and the effectiveness of each of these abilities increase as you level up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The original Dungeons & Dragons is possibly the Trope Maker and definitely the Trope Codifier 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. Perhaps every gaming example on this page is directly imitating or responding to D&D's use of this trope. D&D was doing multiclass characters, dual class characters, and Prestige Class as early as first edition.
  • Hack Master uses the 1st/2nd editionDungeons & Dragons system as inspiration.
  • Pugmire is based on a stripped-down version of D&D 5E with "callings" for classes, but instead of a class feature progression table characters choose a "trick" (similar to feats) from a list associated with their calling or breed (race) every time they level up.
  • 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 Witcher: Game of Imagination intentionally - and vocally - averts this. Players are free to pick whatever skills they want, as long as it follows the logic of the setting itself note . There is absolutely nothing stopping mages from taking up few ranks in Armed Combat (hell, they are encouraged to do so) or non-scholars having high Knowledge skills, there are no restrictions on what gear can be used by who and so on and forth, giving extreme flexibility. And instead of levels, the system resolves everything by buying higher ranks (or new skills) directly from experience earned in the end of scenario. So even if the character started as some sort of archetype, it can easily evolve over the course of the game to address all the needs or desires and never ending up with Crippling Overspecialization.
    • Players weren't exactly pleased when it was announced the Witcher game by R. Talsorian Games would be class-based, with heavy restrictions for each class.
  • 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 Lightsaber 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.
  • Lancer has both a generic character level and license levels in the various mechs that can be printed in game, with pilots gaining a license level of their choice whenever they level up. Character levels go up to 10 but each mech has only 3 license levels, encouraging players to mix-and-match equipment from different mechs.

    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.
  • XCOM 2 uses the same system as Enemy Uknown, albeit with some changes made to the classes: Assaults are rebranded as Rangers and are given a Cool Sword along with a shotgun, Heavies are now Grenadiers and have a greater emphasis on explosive ordinance and heavy armor, Snipers are Sharpshooters and have more options for close-quarters fighting with pistols, and Supports are Specialists and are given an Attack Drone for long-ranged healing and anti-robot combat. Psychic soldiers are now treated as a separate class called Psi-Operatives and level up by training in a Psi Lab instead of gaining experience on missions. The DLC "Shen's Last Gift" adds another class in SPARKs, Mecha-Mooks that function in a similar capacity to MEC Troopers from Enemy Within and level up through upgrades the same way that Psi-Operative level up in the Psi Lab (and upgrades to one SPARK are conveyed to all SPARKs). Being wholly artificial, they also benefit from an immunity to psychic status ailments.

    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.
  • The Earth Defense Force series, particularly starting with Earth Defense Force 2025, has four classes with different weapons and capabilities: Rangers, well-rounded and versatile foot soldiers who can wield a wide array of weapons; Wing Divers, female soldiers with superior mobility thanks to their Jet Packs and an array of powerful energy weapons (albeit at the cost of reduced armor); Fencers, heavily armored Dual Wielding soldiers with massive and hard-hitting weapons (which also compromises their mobility); and Air Raiders, who cannot deal damage directly, but can call in air strikes and vehicle deliveries. These classes get stronger by collecting weapon and armor drops from slain aliens, and the higher the difficulty of a mission, the better those drops get.

    Non-Game Media 
  • Both class and level are explicitly 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.
  • SBURB in Homestuck features a level system called an "echeladder" that you can climb by achieving various feats ranging from effortlessly and gracefully killing an Ogre, to saving an entire village of NPCs, to throwing your hat to the ground in anger. Each new "rung" is rewarded with more health, strength etc. as well as an amount of boondollars, the game's own currency. After ascending to God Tier, players leave the echeladder behind, now climbing "God Tiers", and rewarded with badges pinned to their "Kiddie Camper Handysash", which grant them special abilities or privileges... such as having non-awkward social lives. Considering how most characters are, this really is a blessing.
    • Each character has a classpect, comprised of an aspect (their ruling "element" or component of the universe) and a class (the way they relate to their aspect). This determines everything about them: personality, history, interests, role played in SBURB, special abilities, powers, and eventual fate. Some combinations (such as Terezi's Seer of Mind or Tavros' Page of Breath) manifest more passively, seemingly nothing more than just character traits while others (such as Jade's Witch of Space, Vriska's Thief of Light, or Dirk's Prince of Heart) have dangerous, aggressively active powers.
  • In Farscape, Delvian religious leaders work like this. The main character Zhaan levels up from a level 9 to level 10 Pa'u in one story, then uses her new abilities to solve the current crisis.