A class or character class is a character type that is used by some role-playing games to mechanically differentiate the abilities of different player characters.[1] A character class aggregates several traits, which may include statistics like attributes, aptitudes, abilities, and may also detail aspects of background and social standing, or impose behavior restrictions.[2] Classes may be considered to represent archetypes,[3] or specific occupations.[4] RPG systems that employ character classes often subdivide them into levels of accomplishment, to be attained by players during the course of the game.[3] It is common for a character to remain in the same class for its lifetime; although some games allow characters to change class, or attain multiple classes.[3] Some systems eschew the use of classes and levels entirely;[2] others hybridise them with skill-based systems[5] or emulate them with character templates.

History Edit

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), the first formalized roleplaying game, introduced the use of classes, and many subsequent games adopted variations of the same idea. These games are sometimes referred to as 'class-based' systems. As well as tabletop games, character classes are found in many computer role-playing games and live action role-playing games. Many of the most popular role-playing games, such as D20 system and White Wolf games still use character classes in one way or another. Most games offer additional ways to systematically differentiate characters, such as race, skills, or affiliations.

Class archetypesEdit

In fantasy games, it is usual to find one (or more) class that excels in combat, several classes (called spell-casters) that are able to perform magic (often different kinds of magic), and classes that deal with stealth.[2] For example, the original Dungeons & Dragons provided a set of three classes:

  • Fighting Man (renamed "Fighter" in later editions), focused on combat abilities, but almost entirely lacking in magical abilities
  • Magic User (renamed "Mage" and then "Wizard" in later editions), featuring powerful magical abilities, but physically weak
  • Cleric, specializing in healing and supportive magical abilities[6][7]

With later editions was added the Thief (later Rogue) and Ranger classes:

  • Thief (renamed "Rogue" in later editions), nimble combatant focused on stealth and social skills, also capable of high-damage special attacks balanced by sub-par resistance to injury
  • Ranger a ranged weapons specialist[7]

Non-fantasy role-playing games often fill the place of the magic user with scientist classes, the cleric with a medic or similarly supportive role, and the rogue and/or ranger with an explorer.[4] Some also use a psychic powers as a stand in for magic.[8] There are also character classes that combine features of the classes listed above and are frequently called hybrid classes.[3] Some examples include the Bard (a cross between the Thief and Mage with an emphasis on interpersonal skills, mental and visual spells, and supportive magical abilities), or the Paladin (a cross between the Fighter and Cleric with slightly decreased combat skills relative to a fighter but various innate abilities that are used to heal or protect allies and repel and/or smite evil opponents).

Class system variations Edit

Some RPGs feature another variation on the classes mechanic. For example, in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, players choose a career.[5] The career works like a class with abilities (known in WFRP as skills and talents) added to the character based on the chosen career.[9] However, as the player advances and gains more experience he or she may choose a new career according to a predefined career path or change to a completely different career.[9] WFRP is also notable in that characters are encouraged to roll to determine their starting career which is compensated for by free XP which can be spent on more skills.[10]

As an alternative to class-based systems, games such as GURPS use a skill-based systems are designed to give the player a stronger sense of control over how their character develops.[11][12] In such systems, players can often choose the direction of their characters as they play, usually by assigning points to certain skills.[11] Classless games often provide templates for the player to work from, many of which are based on traditional character classes. Many classless games' settings or rules systems lend themselves to the creation of character following certain archetypal trends.


  1. (1 November 2009) "The Character of Difference: Procedurality, Rhetoric, and Roleplaying Games" (1 November 2009). Game Studies 9 (2). ISSN 1604-7982. Retrieved on 12 June 2016
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ernest Adams (2010). Fundamentals of game design: 465 to 466. New Riders. ISBN 9780321643377
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Tresca, Michael J. (2011). The evolution of fantasy role-playing games: 82–85. McFarland & Co. ISBN 9780786460090
  4. 4.0 4.1 Moore, Michael E. (2011). Basics of game design: 133 to 135. A K Peters/CRC Press. ISBN 9781439867761
  5. 5.0 5.1 "10 Great Things About 'Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay'" (in en-US) (2018-09-28).
  6. "Original 'D&D' and 5th Edition, Some Side-by-Side Comparisons Part I" (in en-US) (2015-02-11).
  7. 7.0 7.1 "A Handful of Class-ic Histories | Dungeons & Dragons".
  8. Moore, Michael E. (2011). Basics of game design: 227. A K Peters/CRC Press. ISBN 9781439867761
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Preview – Class and Career".
  10. "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition Review" (in en-US) (2018-10-09).
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The Division has 'classless characters,' second screen detailed" (in en).
  12. "Fallout: The first modern role-playing game" (in en).

External linksEdit

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