When I was talking with a friend on Facebook about Monaghan, the lovable loser from my previous post, I was thinking about some of the other aspects of OSR character creation. In particular, I was thinking about level caps. Assuming Monaghan doesn't suffer a horrible fate, he has unlimited potential as a thief. If is Wisdom was one point higher, he would have been a fighter with a maximum level of 6.
I know a lot of people think level caps suck. As I understand it, they were put in place to balance out the exceptional abilities non-human characters get at first level. Makes sense, but how many campaigns really get that far, anyway? From my experience, most OSR campaigns died out between levels 5 and 10. Epic campaigns are generally the exceptions, not the rule.
Why not embrace the level cap and the general short life a campaign and plan for both to end around the same time? Upon generating the characters, look at the limits of your non-humans. Write a campaign that will naturally end a bit after that level cap is reached and before the other players outstrip the capped one.
Putting my money where my mouth is, here is what I will present to you. I will, using OSRIC, create five brutal characters. Brutal being how the die rolls treat them, not what they will be able to do to the monsters. With these five characters, I will take the roles and the limits and plop them down in my all time favorite Old School world--Greyhawk.
With that, I will write the beginnings of a campaign. Stay tuned.