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Personally, I have never been able to get this to work. What I tend to do is add tempates individually once, and then update the template. If it's not practical due to a large number of topics and time limits etc, then consider what's possible using the stylesheet.
Changing templates for multiple topics in the Topic List pod works fine for us, generally.
I do recall that once we did not achieve the desired result (similar to what you mentioned), but then we changed the template from A to B and back to A (which is what we wanted in the first place), and then it worked.
When you say multiple topics, do you mean 3 or 300?
thiah, from what you have posted, it would seem you possibly have a misunderstanding related to Templates and how they work. You cannot influence changes to a topic after it has been created by updating the template that was used to create it.
Think of it this way. The template works in much the same manner as a Word template document. My example follows visiting an attorney for a divorce. He opens the template document, fills in what makes your document unique (Dates and names), prints it and off you go. But if he later adds a paragraph or removes one, those changes aren't reflected in your document, even though the same template was used to create it initially.
The only exception to this is the Headers and Footers feature. If you use a template to apply Headers and/or Footers to topics, then a live link does exist. Updating the Header or Footer will influence a change across all topics.