Class change in Role-Playing Games and games with RPG Elements are almost as old as the genres themselves. In general, changing classes does not affect your character's level—he just gains new abilities in his new class as he goes.
In some cases, however, the act of changing classes will cause your character's level to be reset to 1. He will still keep all the abilities from his previous class, but he'll have to start over in his new class otherwise. Note that contrary to the obvious implications, this isn't always a disadvantage; in some cases, this allows you to level rapidly in a new class by using your retained abilities to defeat powerful enemies, quickly accumulating a wide variety of powers.
For general events that reset a character's level, see Level Drain.
Compare Skill Point Reset, which resets your character but doesn't change their class and refunds all their skill points.
Compare and contrast Prestige Class, where achieving certain criteria lets you upgrade to a more powerful class. The two occasionally overlap.
- In E.V.O.: Search for Eden, when evolving to a new class of creature (amphibian, reptile, bird, or mammal), you not only start as the weakest possible creature of that class, but you lose all of your EVO points as well. Up until the Age of Reptiles, this class change is forced on you at the beginning of the chapter, preventing you from carrying the benefits of Level Grinding from one chapter to the next. After this point, you are free to choose whether to advance to an avian (which lets you fly) or mammalian (which lets you run on ice and gives you a reverse-kick attack), or to remain a reptile and keep all your levels. However, the green crystal lets you borrow an earlier form to make recollecting some EVO points easier.
- In ClaDun Returns: This Is Sengoku!, characters can change classes once they reach a minimum of level 10. When selecting a new class, you drop back to level 1, but retain most of the skills and Magic Circle formations you've learned.
- Dragon Quest:
- In Dragon Quest III, any characters (other than The Hero) could change classes at the Temple of Dharma as long as they were at least level 20. They would start their new class at level 1, but keep half of their previous stats along with any spells or skills they'd already learned. If you had the time to do some Level Grinding, you could use this to create some rather versatile character builds. Want a Wizard or Cleric who's not so squishy? Start them off as a Warrior or Fighter first.
- Dragon Quest IX had a job retrainer. Every time a character changes professions (barring previous jobs in which they have trained, where they will return to where they left off), they start back at level 1, including hit points. Skills and bonuses from spending skill points are kept, (although the new class may not be able to use the old's classes weapon unless that weapon skill was maxed out), but spells are not. The character could also retrain to their old job and not have lost any progress. Once a character hits level 99 in any job, he can revocate it and go back to level 1 (again, keeping the skills but not the spells). This is necessary if you want a character to have every skill, as even leveling all jobs to 99 only gets you enough points for 12 out of the 14 skill lists. Doing this with the main character is very important, as the number of revocations (up to 10) is a factor in the level of grottoes you find, and thus the treasure they contain.
- Final Fantasy:
- In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil's level returns to 1 after he changes from a Dark Knight to a Paladin, but his HP and some other stats are equal or better than what they were when he was a level 20-ish Dark Knight. (In a variation, however, Dark Knight Cecil and Paladin Cecil are actually two separate characters in the game code, so nothing you do as the former will carry over to the latter)
- In Final Fantasy XI, each class is leveled independently. So if you have a level 40 Warrior and never level any other class, then changing that class later would drop back to one. The same mechanic applies for Final Fantasy XIV as well.
- The lone exception to this are the classes which branch off from Arcanist. Summoner(DPS) and Scholar(healer) share the same experience pool, so someone who has only played as a Summoner can immediately switch to an equally-leveled Scholar, or vice-versa, at any time.
- Touhou Labyrinth: True for all the bosses that you recruit. Thank goodness for Leaked Experience (you still have to spend the points on levels and distribute their level bonuses).
- Golden Sun: The class system is based on the number and element of djinn carried by the character, with stats and classes growing stronger with the number of djinn carried (but characters can only have at most one more djinn than the rest of the party). However, multiple elements tends to send the class all over the place as djinn are removed or summoned (such as going from a high-level Squishy Wizard or Stone Wall to a low-level Magic Knight or vice-versa), and transferring multiple djinn is a time-consuming process. This is why most players simply restrain themselves to base classes for the whole game, keeping non-aligned djinn in a standby state where they don't affect classes but don't affect stats either.
- Rune Classes in Rakenzarn Frontier Story can only level up one at a time, so if you switch classes, it will remain at whatever level you had it last. Shared Classes don't retain their level between characters, so you have to level up the class for each individual character you want to use it for.
- Fly FF does this differently with the Hero job classes. To obtain a Hero job class, one must obtain the corresponding Master class and be at level 120 while in that job class. To obtain the Master class, one must be at level 120 while in its corresponding second job class, and your level will be reset to 60-Master, which requires 3x the normal EXP to get to level 120-Master and become a level 120-Hero. This is the only way a character can break the level 120 and 120-M caps.
- In Mabinogi, your character can "rebirth" at any time, starting over anywhere between age 10 and 17 and reverting to level 1. As you level, you earn AP, which you can spend to increase skill ranks, which in turn get you stat bonuses. While rebirth loses you all the stat points you gained from experience levels themselves, you keep your skill ranks and the bonuses, as well as your inventory. Then you get to take advantage of the fast level gain for a starting character to earn more AP.
- Ragnarok Online does this with its Rebirth Classes. To obtain the rebirth class, one must get to level 99 and become a High Novice (thus the level reset to 1) and pick the same first and second job classes as the pre-Rebirth one. The second rebirth class has more powerful abilities and skills than the non-rebirth one. Thus, getting 3x the EXP needed than normal to obtain the rebirth classes is recommended to get the best skills for the very powerful third job classes.
- Eden Eternal has two tiers of persistent progression and a third that resets. This allows a character to retain some level of power between class changes and eases the process of obtaining and leveling new classes.
- Character levels (influencing base stats and racial abilities) will never reset.
- 'Main' jobs - First jobs - start from level 1 when they are acquired one but their level will persist between subjobs.
- 'Sub' jobs - Third jobs and Hybrid jobs - always start from level 1.
- Phantasy Star Online 2 allows players to switch between classes at any time outside of quests, but they all level separately and have their own entirely separate stats and skill trees. However, a subclass can also be equipped, which grants a percentage of its stat bonuses and some class traits, so it's possible have a level 1 main class and a max-level subclass, putting you fairly ahead when leveling alternate classes.
- This is a staple of the Disgaea series. The Reincarnation ability allows you to revert any unit to level 1, with a boost to their stat growths, and of course the option to change their class. Plot characters cannot change class however, but they may reap the other benefits of reincarnating.
- In Shining Force, once characters reach a certain level, they can be promoted. Doing so upgrades their class—for example, a Knight becomes a Paladin, and a Warrior becomes a Gladiator—at the cost of sending them back to level 1. However, some of their stats are preserved, and the Level Cap that affects unpromoted characters is removed. Plus, you're not obligated to promote them right then; you can continue leveling their initial class up to further increase their stats, making them much stronger when you finally do promote them and reset their levels.note
- The method of promotion in the Fire Emblem series. After a character reaches a high enough level in their base class and uses a special class changing item (in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, one only needs to gain a level after reaching level 20), that character's level reverts to 1. However, their stats, stat caps, and abilities sharply increase in the process. The exception being Genealogy of the Holy War, where you don't reset to level 1 and have a 30 level cap instead of traditional 20.
- Fire Emblem Awakening adds a more traditional example with the Second Seal: Rather than turning a basic class into an advanced class, they give a character an alternative basic (or, in certain circumstances, alternative advanced) class. You can also choose to demote your character from an advanced class back to a (different if you so choose) basic class so you can start gaining stats anew and learn new skills. As with regular promotion, accumulated stat points and skills are still available, but demoting means you lose the stat bonuses you originally gained from promoting to begin with, but you gain them back when you repromote them to an advanced class. It's also possible to use the Second Seal to "promote" your character to the same class, if you want to keep grinding them but don't want to switch their class.
- Fire Emblem Fates averts this when reclassing (through certain seals like Heart Seal). When changing to a different class, their level remains the same but they will gain or lose stats that the class may receive.
- Arthas goes from level 10 to 1 after his FaceHeel Turn from Paladin to Death Knight in Warcraft III.
- In early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, humans (and only humans) could "dual-class", losing most of the abilities of their first class and leveling up in the second. Once they reached the same level in the second class, they got the abilities of the first class back.
- Strictly speaking, you could use the abilities of your first class before matching it with the second... but then you wouldn't get any Experience Points for the situation where you used your old abilities. The justification was that experience points represent growth and learning, but relying on your old abilities is just backsliding into old habits.
- Apocalypse World: One of the advanced level-up options is to have your character change class, which involves giving up everything that ties them to their current class (up to and including leadership of a settlement).
- In Baldur's Gate, when a human character chooses to dual class they start all the way back at level one for their new class and don't receive any of the abilities of their old class until they achieve one level higher than they were before switching classes.
- Planescape: Torment: The hero could become a warrior, wizard or thief. He starts as a warrior, and when he changes classes, he resets. Progression in the other classes are frozen and he can't use any of the class abilities until he changes back to them, though (for example, if a fighter Nameless One has been using an axe and becomes a thief, he can't use the axe anymore until he goes back to being a fighter because axes are fighter-only weapons).
- Partly true of the Wizardry series, as explained here. When changing classes, your level and stats were reset to zero or the class/race minimum but you kept the skills and spells you had at your old class/level.
- Downplayed in Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, When a character changes class they do not loose any gained experience. However their level and how many spells they can cast will be recalculated based on their current experience which can cause them to lose some levels/spells when, or in a few cases gain some levels.
- A variation occurs in Neverwinter Nights 2: if Khelgar Ironfist becomes a monk, he drops to level 1, but retains all of his Experience Points, allowing you to immediately raise him back to his former level.