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Forgive me for not being good at game terminology, but there is one concept that I simply have been unable to fully grasp.

I have read the core rulebook, but I am not strong with books in general. (I know that some people see it as a must when roleplaying, but my reading skills are simply not always as sharp as the blades I fantasize that my characters have.)

In the book, there are mentions of Character Level, Class Level and Level (just being mentioned as level or "your" level).

Are we talking character level or class level when I'm asked "What's your level?"

Could anyone make a stern, solid explanation that I can remember? The rest of my party are rules- and character-building nuts, and they often get sidetracked with potential combinations when trying to explain even simple things.

Thank you in advance.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Your Level, when in a class description is your Class Level; in almost all other places, it's your Character Level.

Character Level is the sum of all your Class levels, plus any racial adjustment if importing D20 races with Level adjustments. (IIRC, Pathfinder doesn't use level adjustments; all they are is a class that can't be raised.)

Class Level is the number of times you've increased that particular class, including the one level you start the game with. It only affects that particular class, normally

Caster Level is the total class levels of all classes using the same type of magic.

Example: A Wizard 3/Fighter 4 has a Wizard Class Level of 3, a fighter Class Level of 4, and a Character Level of 7, and is an Arcane Caster Level 3.

Example: A Wizard 9/Spellsinger 2/Rogue 2 is Wizard Class Level 9, Spellsinger Class Level 2, and Rogue class level 2. Her Arcane Caster Level is 11, because Spellsinger adds to her arcane caster level... she casts as an 11th level wizard, but only has 9th level class features from wizard; her two levels of Spellsinger class levels giver her the 2nd level class features. Her Character Level is 13

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Erm, parts of this are wrong. While "Level" on its own does often mean "class level," there are situations where it doesn't - such as the entire spell description section, where it means "caster level." CHaracter level didn't include racial adjustment, but it did include racial hit dice. And caster level is per class - A wizard 5/sorcerer 5 has caster levels of 5 in each class, not a caster level of 10. -1. –  GMJoe May 28 '12 at 4:50
@user867 Prestige classes, especially imports, directly add in some cases. Pathfinder doesn't exist in a vacuum, and I've seen at least one prestige class for pathfinder that does so, tho it was beta era. So, no, not wrong; your perception is overly narrow. –  aramis May 30 '12 at 4:46
You are quite right, I should have said that caster levels are <em>usually</em> per class. Still, I stand by my claim that you, too, are wrong, as you should have said the same thing. Wizard and Sorcerer caster levels, for example, do not stack. Oh, and to clarify what I said about character level and racial adjustments, Equivilent Character Level (ECL), unlike character level, does include racial level adjustments as well as racial hit dice. –  GMJoe May 30 '12 at 7:42
I would like to point out that there's a typo in your first example: the Wizard 3/Fighter 4 has a character level of 7, not 4. –  Sektor May 30 '12 at 19:37
I edited the typo ;) –  Zachiel Sep 1 '12 at 10:28

Class level is your level in whatever specific class is being referenced. If you see "[class name] level", that also refers to class level, though that usage isn't very common.

Character level is the sum of all your class levels in each class.

Plain old "level" is, unfortunately, ambiguous. It usually means character level, but if you see it as part of a class ability, there's a good chance it's a typo and should mean class level.

An example: Bob is a Wizard 7 / Cleric 5 / Mystic Theurge 4. His wizard class level is 7, his cleric class level is 5, and his Mystic Theurge class level is 4. His character level is 16, the sum of his class levels.

Caster level is your effective level for casting spells for some class. It's the sum of your class level in every class that adds to the base class in question (some prestige classes will say "+1 level of [class name]" for spells known / per day).

In the example above, Mystic Theurge is a prestige class that gives +1 wizard caster level and +1 cleric caster level for each level of Mystic Theurge (along with spell slots, but that's not relevant to the discussion here). Bob thus has an effective caster level of 11 for wizard spells (7 wizard + 4 Mystic Theurge) and an effective caster level of 9 for cleric spells (5 cleric + 4 Mystic Theurge). (Thanks Gates VP for reminding me about caster level!)

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Is there still the pain of effective character level and effective caster level and effective caster level? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 25 '12 at 23:12
There's also that whole caster level thing, your example PC would cast as an 11th level Wizard and a 9th level Cleric. –  Gates VP May 26 '12 at 6:16

First, I must defer to GITP's Order of the Stick: http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html

Sage covered the bases I wanted to, but I'll throw in my two cents anyway. Often times with these games, it just takes breaking down the sentence just a little bit when they want you to warm up the glossary. Many a time I've had to just kind of sit down and find the words/phrases that were awkwardly used and just kind of hack out what I didn't get on the first take, and make my own notes on the system itself.

Feel free to ask your table (especially your DM) to explain anything that you are having a hard time understanding. As long as they're good folk, they'll be all too willing to help you sort things on the run. Also try talking to someone who knows the game, and maybe have them run a "tutorial" game. Almost every new game I throw at my players, the first session is plotless and I set up a one dimensional situation and walk them through a use of any ability they don't get (especially if I don't quite get it myself and want to see it in action)

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That gets an upvote, just for reminding me of that OOTS episode. Very nice. –  YogoZuno May 29 '12 at 21:47

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