One common complaint about D&D 3.5 is that spell casters completely outshine physically based characters (such as fighters, barbarians, rogues, rangers, etc.) at higher levels. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to the first group as “wizards” and the second group as “fighters.” In my experience, however, this isn’t much of a problem around levels 5-8. Below that level, if anything, wizards are weaker than the fighter type characters. This is one problem I think everyone would like to see fixed in the new version of the game.
The first question that must be answered is “why does this happen?” The idea that I would like to get across in this blog post is that fighters gain power relatively linearly, while wizards tend to gain power exponentially. As the fighter levels up, he gains some new abilities, which he can probably use fairly often, and he gains higher accuracy and damage. The wizard also gains similar advantages when leveling up in the form of new, more powerful spells. On the other hand, a wizard is built so that he or she can only use these abilities, spells, once a day each, though they are significantly more potent to make up for this fact. However, as the wizard levels up, the number of spells he or she gets each day keeps increasing. This eventually leads to wizards being able to use these super abilities almost as often as fighters get to swing their swords. Additionally, eventually the wizard's lower level spell slots are no longer needed for combat spells and can be dedicated to utility spells, allowing the wizard to usurp the roles of other classes. For instance, a wizard can use the knock spell, reducing the need for the rogues pick lock skill, or use divination to usurp the scout role.
However, this analysis of the problem suggests a simple solution: don’t continually increase the number of spells a wizard gets each day. For example, a 7th level wizard receives 10 spells a day, not counting bonus spells and zero level spells. Suppose we cap the number of spells a wizard can get in this manner at 10. Hence, at 8th level, when the wizard gains 3rd and 4th level spell slots, that wizard would also loose two first-level spell slots. Similarly, at 9th level, the wizard gains a 2nd level spell and a 5th level spell and thus would loose the remaining two first level spells slots. The wizard can still prepare 1st level spells with higher level slots as usual, perhaps taking advantage of metamagic feats. After this, the wizard would loose his or her lowest level spells slot each time he or she gains a new higher level spell slot. This, by my logic, should keep the wizard in tune with the fighter. It also allows a wizard to prepare utility spells that infringe on the roles of other classes without a problem, since it requires some sacrifice on the part of the wizard (less damage dealing spells) and there’s a limit on how many times the wizard can do it each day.
If this were to be used as a patch in a 3.5 game, you'd have to figure out what to do about bonus spells. Domain and School spells might only be received from spell levels that you have slots in, which stays true to the principle of capping the number of spells the wizard gets each day. As for the bonus spells gained from having a high ability score, a character might only get the four highest level bonus spells they would otherwise receive.
Finally, there is the problem that it’s no fun being a wizard that’s out of spells. To fix this, it would be good to have something like “zero level spells are at-will.” This would give the wizard something to do when he or she has spent their last spell or when they are trying to conserve spells for later. However, if this scheme is used, the damage dealing zero level spells will need to scale as the wizard levels up, otherwise they’ll become useless and the problem will reappear at higher levels. To be clear though, whatever at-will utility spells are available need to be strictly limited to keep them from letting the wizard do other classes’ jobs better, at-will.
For example, invisibility is a useful buff spell that should never be made at-will because it would usurp the stealth skill. However, a wizard might gain “x rounds of invisibility” where x is at most four, as a high level, at-will spell, since this is not as good as being a real master of stealth, but does make a good escape spell for the wizard.
Feel free to post your opinion. I admit that I’ve only been in a few high level games, so this only addresses the issue as I understand it. It would be good to hear from people with more experience with this problem as to whether or not this is a workable solution for future versions of the game. I'm not 100% sold on it myself, but I think it's an interesting idea.