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Character class

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What it is

A character class represents a character's archetype and career in many role-playing games. Usually, players choose their class when they create their character and may not completely part from that class during the life of that character.

Dungeons & Dragons introduced and popularized the usage of classes. They are now found in many popular games. D&D also provided a set of four classes that many players consider prototypical among games with classes: fighter (combat-based abilities), thief or rogue (stealth- and socialization-based abilities), magic user (powerful paranormal abilities, but physically weak), and cleric (healing and supportive paranormal abilities, and minor combat abilities). Non-fantasy role-playing games often replace the magic-user with psychic- or scientist-like classes, and the cleric with a medic or similar supportive role.

Various sorts of classes

There are also be "hybrid" character classes such as 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 a little decreased combat skills but various innate abilities that are used to heal or protect allies and repel and/or smite evil opponents.

Classes provide direction and limitations for characters. For example, a thief will usually be provided abilities such as lock picking, but probably would not be able to wield magic as well as a mage. Game designers use the limitations provided by classes to encourage (or enforce) interdependence among characters. Some RPGs restrict the classes a character can choose based on alignment, race, or other statistics, though this is rare among contemporary RPGs.

A common alternative to class-based systems, skill-based systems are designed to give the player a stronger sense of control over how their character develops. In such systems, players choose the direction of their characters as they play, usually by assigning points to certain skills (such as "fighting with a one-handed weapon" or "forgery"). Advancements in class-based systems have sought to provide players similar control by presenting options as the player progresses in level. These options include prestige classes (a form of sub-class that is only available to characters who meet certain prerequisites), multi-classing (advancing a character in two or more classes), and hybrid class/skill systems.


The Classless Characters

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. For example, in the computer role-playing game Fallout (by some referred to as "the communism of roleplay games", because of that), common character archetypes include the "shooter", "survivalist", "scientist", "smooth talker" and "sneaker", unofficial terms representing various possible means of solving or avoiding conflicts and puzzles in the game. Although Fallout is classless and there is no set limit on how a character's skills can grow or what image they may make the character into, their initial skills are specialized into three selected skills and are based directly on the character's other attributes.

Outside of role-playing games, some other cooperative games, such as multiplayer tactical shooters, use class-based systems to leverage the emphasis they provide on cooperation. Often, these games also include other elements traditionally found in role-playing games, such as experience points.

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