A few days ago I decided how I was going to handle character advancement (use levels) and classes (a path model like that of Shadow of the Demon Lord). I didn’t go into detail, and it just became relevant.
In the table below, ‘B’ indicates a level in which a character gains a step along the character’s Basic path. ‘X’ indicates the same for the character’s Expert path, ‘M’ for the Master path, and ‘C’ for the Champion path.
This gives a consistent base to a character (7 Basic path levels), but a character grows into a more specific role fairly early (level 3) and develops that aspect almost as much as the basic path (6 Expert path levels). The Master path doesn’t start until level 10 and there are only 4 levels; they can be pretty specific and chunky. The Champion path becomes available at level 14 and has only 3 levels, so it can consist of very specific elements.
The Basic path is going to be very generic. There might be some choices (“gain a new skill”… or maybe I’ll raid d20 Modern for their talents), but I don’t expect to see a lot of development here. By the end of the Basic path (i.e. level 11) I would expect characters of different paths to be quite different from each other, but not so much within a single path… if we ignore the Expert and Master path levels.
The Expert path is more specific, and may include choices of lesser abilities. Characters with the same Basic and Expert paths will still look fairly similar to each other, but will have differences. For instance, most ‘warrior, knight’ characters will share some common features, but the expression of those features can vary. A ‘warrior, scout’ would be even more different, gaining ‘scout features’ in place of ‘knight features’.
The Master path is specialized, and choices might be very limited. For instance, a ‘paladin’ will have certain features and cannot exchange them for others. A ‘necromancer’ will similarly have certain features and cannot exchange them. It is possible that a Master path will allow selection of the order features become available (i.e. ‘necromancer’ has four features, and a character can choose what order they are gained).
The Champion path is probably entirely specified, with no choices or decisions at all. However, as a Champion, at the top tier of the game, they should all be good features and thus not need ‘decision’. By the time a character reaches this point, the decisions have been made.