EQ3e was interesting for a lot of reasons, but leveling was a big part of it. The level scale was 1-30 from the very beginning, not terribly uncommon as 3e had the epic levels by then and everything was accounting for them, but you also got another resource pool as you leveled up. No, not skill points. Training points!
This is a throwback to the video game. You increased your skills as you used them, but you also got a pool of training points each level you could spend to purchase new skills or on existing skills, up to a certain point. This was, in theory, to help you keep up as you leveled, and to allow you access to skills that weren’t spells or disciplines. This system was held over into the tabletop rpg, but were changed significantly. The Fantasy 3e OGL already had skill points, you see.
Training points worked similarly to hero points in Pathfinder combined with typical skill points from fantasy 3.x, but were still significantly different. You got 5 training points per level, and you could spend those training points on feat, ability points, skill points, and a few other things. These things all had different training point costs attached to them, 12 for ability scores, 7 for feats,5 for training a non-class skill, 3 for a class skill, and 1 for resistance. Feats were further governed by level. You could only purchase one feat for every two levels over first, though some races got a feat at first level. Along with this is the fact that feats are not baked into classes to any real degree. It’s interesting, if nothing else.
However, there is a huge difference between ability scores and feats in Fantasy 5e OGL than in Fantasy 3e OGL. While fighter certainly still gets more feats, there is some very interesting ability/feat balance that goes on in 5e. Feats are either worth one or two ability points, and you get far fewer feats than in previous editions. Most classes get 5 chances to increase scores or obtain feats, with the understanding that feats are entirely optional – something most people seem to forget.
It also doesn’t quite work with the skill system in 5e. Long gone are skill points. We now have proficiency, a scaling bonus based on whether you are proficient in a skill or not. This means putting points into a skill is out, without some major reworking. Everyone being skilled at everything top end might be a tad ridiculous, to put it mildly. It could be doable if you nix background skills and just raise costs. This would compete directly with ability scores and feats, not to mention the additional EQ3e skills, which I will get to one day, so it’s probably not as dire as it seems at first glance, anyway. Honestly, it could potentially work well. Let’s take a look at the existing math, and then go from there.
If you are looking at D&D 5e, you get either approximately 10 ability score increases or 5 feats over 20 levels (again, I know some classes break this rule, I am just generalizing for some napkin math). In EQ3e, 20 levels nets you 95 points, which breaks down into 7 ability score increases, 13 feats, 19 cross-class skill increases, or 31 in-class skills. these are, of course, independent-of-each-other numbers. It also is based entirely on the old, tiered model of feats from 3e. Current fantasy 5e would net you roughly 2 skills (no backgrounds – remember) with proficiency, and a combination of 10 ability scores and 5 feats. Probably 6/2 or 4/3, respectively. Assuming you want to model that directly, 18 for feats, 9 for ability score increases, and 7 for skill points would do that. Modeling that up to 30th level, you could get another 2 skills, 1 feats, and 2 ability score increases. If you wanted to tier it out a bit, you could even have skills costs 4 to gain expertise/jack-of-all-trades bonus (half-proficiency) and then you can pay 3 to raise it from that to proficient. If you wanted to have an option for tools, it could either be the same as skills, the same as the half-proficient skills, 3 training points, or you keep the gold cost.
Of course, you wouldn’t be able to buy anything each level, and that might suck. You would also have less skills at the beginning, and go a longer period of time where you are not skilled in things. However, you would end up with a pretty wide variety of options, at least larger than you get right now. On the other hand, this further stresses the importance of initial ability scores. The better off you are the start, the more flexibility you get. I don’t actually know how bad that would look, as bounded accuracy still does a pretty good job of keeping even lower stats pretty relevant.
A lot of this depends on the feats and additional skills, but it’s an interesting framework, if nothing else.