I like 20 as a cap with a smooth progression. That's where attributes and skill levels would reach their maximum in The Dark Eye (and you'd usually not even reach 20 at all). As a result you operate with reasonable values everywhere: Weapon damage is usually somewhere between 1 and 15 before applying skills and armour, health levels of characters are between, say, 21 and 60.
Too high (or nonexistant) level caps cause number bloat and are incentives for grinding. For me, that'd be bad game design. Number bloat is what was really annoying me about DOS2, as it had severe number bloat alongside gear devaluation on every level-up with a particularly drastic jump every 4 levels. That was one of the first things I changed with mods to make the game playable and enjoyable for me. For some reason the developers tried to hide the good parts of the game behind this unnessecary barrier.
The fewer levels you have the larger the jump
has to be to significantly affect much.
I'd also be find instead of 20 levels max you do 200, but each level is 1/10th and you get there 10x faster, you get a more fluid gradual growth instead of from level 4, you go to say level 5, and suddenly you have 3rd level spells and you can cast 4 fireballs when the day before you only had access to 2nd level spells and could only do acid arrow.
Though i'd have to say games that don't have levels (but certainly have XP
) are probably better. Herosystems comes to mind, where you get XP, and you can spend points to improve or make new powers. Though if you have a powerpool you can add substantial powers for 1-2 points (so long as you only use 1 power at a time
) where you choose the growth, not Level up: +5 str, +10 hp +2 chr +2 int +2 luck, etc...
I kinda dislike being railroaded. You can accept a certain amount. But also saying 'You cannot improve anymore because you hit max level' is a poor choice. I don't know. For different games different systems are probably better.
As for grinding, not sure. I remember Zy-El, 10,000 level cap, at 3,000 you'd have enough points to max every skill. I think i never got above 700 (mostly got tired
), though the character didn't change much after level 400. Came down to trying to find better equipment more than anything else.
Though the killing grounds with 127x set on, well, lots of stuff on the ground you can never totally sift through... that's for sure... Even found a combination of an item where it crashed my game (ran out of ram, back in 2008
). That was fun...
But after you get to a certain point, grinding doesn't matter, if you're too strong you just do whatever or finish the story and retire the game/character.