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A class in a roleplaying game is a way of representing a character's profession or training. Out of character, classes also provide a framework for players to create characters which fulfill different roles (the bodyguard who defends the group, the diplomat who negotiates on their behalf) or represent certain archetypes (the wizard, the spy, the speedy superhero, the hunter etc.). In early Dungeons & Dragons, they tended towards the latter, with archetypal fantasy races (elves and dwarves) represented by classes. This has evolved over time and in most modern systems class is used only to represent a character's training and skills.
A character's class will generally define and restrict the abilities a character may learn or possess; for example, training in the use of specific weapon types, or the ability to cast spells. The specific mechanics for each class may therefore be quite different, though in most modern systems they are standardized to some degree. In some systems, a player may only choose one class for a character; in others, it is possible to combine multiple classes together, a mechanic known as multiclassing.
Some systems use similar (though less restrictive) mechanics to represent certain archetypes. The terms used for these vary between games, but they are collectively known as "splats", particularly among those who play White Wolf games.
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