For a long time now, there has been a lot of discussion about the scalability of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and the Pathfinder rules, and I feel like the argument of Linear Fighters vs. Quadratic Wizards sums the technical side of this discussion up nicely. Moreover, I know that I have always enjoyed both playing and running adventures at lower levels with these systems. I feel like these systems are tightest at lower levels, and that the challenges and scenarios at the relatively early stages of these games are the most well balanced. Besides, I’ve always raised an eyebrow at the awesome damage that mere mortals can sustain by virtue of an ever increasing pool of abstract hit points.
One day, while pondering these issues, I came across this wiki. Could this be the answer to all of my 3.5 related prayers? The premise is simple: Characters do not advance beyond level 6, but continue to gain feats. Certain spells or abilities from beyond this level cap that you may want to include in your game can be added by making them available as feats, or by altering the prerequisites of certain feats. And that’s pretty much it! The goal of this system is to allow your characters to be heroes, but not necessarily superheroes.
While this system isn’t going to work for players and game masters who relish the idea of squaring off against the very deities themselves in a nine round bare knuckle boxing match, it should satisfy those who have more earthly (yet still quite heroic) pursuits in mind. I also like the potential here to allow for a sustained campaign to go on for quite a large number of sessions without ever having to make the cosmic leap, and without having to watch those quadratic wizards leave those linear fighters in the dust.
I plan on implementing these rules in a new 3.5 campaign that I am going to run with a group of virgin players. Hopefully the game lasts long enough for me to implement these rules and write about my experiences here.