D&D General Is character class an in-world concept in your campaigns?

At some point during our last game session, I turned to our warlock and said "I expected you to help us with that, sorcerer", and his answer was "I'm not a sorcerer, I'm a warlock". My reply was "warlock, sorcerer, wizard, conjurer, or mage, I don't care, it's all the same", to which he answered, "it's the same for you, who have no understanding of arcane matters".

So, is character class an in-world concept in your campaigns? Could the mightiest sorcerer in your world be in fact a 20th-level wizard? If my oath of vengeance paladin was trained as part of a monastic order, would other people disagree if he referred to himself and other members of his order as warrior monks and tell him that monks are supposed to fight unarmored?

To answer my own question, except for some very specific situations, like druids in AD&D 2e, I never treated character class as an in-world concept. In my own games, a light-armored fighter with a criminal background does not see himself as fundamentally different from someone with levels in the rogue class.

What about your own campaigns?

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Yes. Each has a differences in how they interact with the world. Those have been noticed and categorized by the more curious people. The difference between a DEX Ranger and a Rogue might be subtle, but those who care can tell them apart with observation.


Generally, in may games which have been played in FR for 5e, most people looks at arcane casters as the same and divine casters as basically good or bad, but similar. The players may bring some background in and talk about a school or academy where they trained, but it does not get brought up much. Thinking about it more, not may PCs are arcane casters. There have been a lot of clerics with different playing style to them, but not many mage-types.

Between martial characters, hell no. "FIghter" and "barbarian" and "rogue" are artificial categories we as players make to simplify our job creating characters and to silo features in a plausible way so everybody doesn't just have all the best abilities.

Between spellcasters, somewhat. The distinction between clerics, wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks pretty obviously exists in universe. The boundary between druid and cleric is probably kind of blurry, ditto sorcerer and bard (or perhaps wizard and bard, it's kind of up in the air what a bard is actually doing). And the half-caster classes and third-caster subclasses are probably thought of as dabblers in one or the other of the primary magical arts rather than something discrete.

In-universe awareness of these distinctions, as others have noted already, may vary. It probably doesn't matter all that much to an angry mob of peasants whether the mage who allegedly blighted their crops was a wizard or a sorcerer or even a druid.

Tony Vargas

So, is character class an in-world concept in your campaigns?
"In-world concept" would be a pretty good dividing line between class & background (or PrC). Classes are game-mechanical bundles that approximate some genre archetypes. No fighter says they're a fighter and expects that to convey a lot of meaningful information about their skills & abilities. "He's a fighter" could just convey spirit or determination, for instance - you could say it of a fish! I man, in English, and thus, presumably, in common, you could.
A fighter might be a soldier, warrior, gladiator, guard, watchman, athlete or quite a lot of other things. Background, OTOH, /does/ tie into the world, it comes with those little perks, like a Noble claiming hospitability or the like.
Prestige Classes could have been used for class-like bundles of mechanics with much stronger in-world ties, that go beyond just what you did before you started adventuring.


In some settings they are the social classes.

Fighters are the ruling class, nobles and soldiers.

Clerics the clergy and priest class

Rogues are the criminals

And wizards either hermits or mysterious men from who knows where

But that is only in some settings

There was a saying in feudal society. This is not an exact quote.

There are those that fight
Those that pray
And those that work

You can easily build classes around those
Just add those that are criminals
The mysterious wizard of unknown origin

Those that work can be commoners. Definitely not bards lol.

I often thought of a 4 class game like this. Fighter, thief, mage, and cleric.

And of course zero level commoners.


Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I came into this thread prepared to write a definite "yes," but the more I think about it, the less sure I am.

I feel like class was an in-world concept by default in AD&D, but not so much in later editions. So I'd probably be inclined to make it an in-world concept if I were DMing 1E/2E, but not if I were DMing 5E.


In most campaigns I've run, there was no specific concept of class - the closest thing would be a concept of profession. But still, most professions weren't strictly tied to class.

The one exception was the cyberpunk adaptation I ran. In that one, most adventurers were essentially freelance troubleshooters, and they commonly used a matching app on their phones that would match up clients with appropriately-skilled adventurers. The app was called Lancer, and it had been developed by a D&D nerd, who set up the app's profile system to use D&D-style stats. The upshot was that the character sheet the player had at the table was, in-game, the personal profile for that character on the Lancer app.

In general, no. To someone versed in arcana, the distinction between someone who learned magic and someone who was granted it through a pact with another being is known, although full details of the class mechanics aren't.
To most people however, the distinction is unimportant.

This is made fuzzier by me generally allowing a certain amount of thematic leeway in classes.
I have had a Paladin, Cleric, Warlock, and Divine Soul sorceror all have been given their powers through the Silver Flame for example.


To an extent. A wizard would consider himself distinct from a sorcerer who would consider herself quite different from a warlock or cleric. They would each probably refer to themselves in specific terms to distinguish themselves as such. A wizard might refer to himself as a Conjurer (though not of cheap tricks) but would identify as a practitioner of wizardry, which is distinct from sorcery.

The same cannot be said of the average person living in the world, who would probably use the terms almost interchangeably. In the common vernacular, they're effectively the same thing.

That said, a fighter almost certainly would not identify as a fighter. They'd probably call themselves a swordsman, mercenary, knight, or somesuch. Others would do the same.

Class is not a known quantity in my campaign settings per se, but the abilities and trappings thereof can be, and oftentimes those are identified using a similar nomenclature.


In the last campaign I played in, one of the elements of the setting was that "adventurer" was a recognized profession, the same as soldier or mercenary. As a body adventurers had certain conventions and a basic set of knowledge passed around between them. And part of that was a rough categorization of adventurers into different types and specialties based on their skill set. Some were more clear cut (Druids, Paladins) while others were more imprecise and open to self-identification (Fighter vs Ranger vs Rogue), but they acted a bit like modern military designations. Other adventurers would nod their heads when you described someone as Rogue or a Bard, while civilians would not really have any idea what you were talking about.


Yes, though not necessarily by the same names as those within the PHB (e.g. fighters would not be called fighters). I run 2nd edition, and in that edition, the classes were treated akin to professions, so it makes since that they are recognized by some name appropriate to the setting.


My first 5E campaign was tongue-in-cheek with the player characters being members of the adventurers guild and each one of them having gone to their class school to learn the trade. I had a NPC whose wealthy father couldn't say no to his daughter and sent her to barbarian school. She wore a pink dress (Princess Peach style), wore a tiara, and carried a huge two handed club into battle.

But even in some of my serious campaigns classes are often a thing. A Paladin is a distinct type of warrior from a Fighter or Ranger. A Warlock is not the same as a Wizard. Uneducated peasants might not know the difference, or better yet might have the wrong ideas about how it all works, but they usually know something is up.


A suffusion of yellow
I go more for traditions so the Wind Dancers of Al-Majh might be Bards or Wizards or Warlocks all linked by a Wind theme, then you will have Thieves Guilds, and Ranger Septs and Orders of Knights-Cleric, mercenaries can be either Fighters or Rogues and a few might even be Barbarians

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