Replace Polymorph with any of a dozen other spells. The Wizard doesn't have to spend 10 spells to get a 10d6 fireball. If he takes Fireball at level 10, it starts at 10d6.
Originally Posted by johnbragg
Well, there's mundanes vs casters, and fighters vs other mundanes. Feat taxes are the only comparative advantage fighters have.
No. That is the sort of thinking that gets us all of the atrocious martial prestige classes out there ("We need to design this for the fighter, so let's make it require 5 feats that nobody in their right mind would ever take!").
If you made every feat worthwhile, the Fighter's competitive advantage is having more level appropriate abilities. Think of it this way, if every feat translated to a spell cast by a Wizard 2 levels lower than you, but at will, a 20th level Fighter would have 18 9th level spells, while everyone else only has 6. The raw power of having those 11 extra very powerful abilities makes it worthwhile.
The problem is when you spend 3-4 of your 11 bonus feats on utter crap to get a single ability that is appropriate for the earliest level you can get it. A fighter has 5 feats by level 4, so a feat chain balanced around taking 5 feats is going to be balanced for the power level of a 4th level character. Now at level 20 your 18 feats translate into 4 tricks that a 4th level character might like to have.
Unless you have scaling feats, following the design you advocate, your options are make various feat chains with different BAB requisites (in which case now your fighter has 1 high level trick, two mid level tricks, and 1 low level trick), or go the route 3.5 did and just make a bunch of feat chains anyone can take and the fighter has around 4 low level tricks. If he's lucky these tricks might synergize into something more useful than the sum of the parts, but most likely not.
Now all of that said, I don't think anything that affects the RNG actually needs to scale. +1 to hit or AC feats are bogus and should be +3 or so at minimum just to be noticeable, but they don't need to scale between first level and 20th to remain useful as long as the rest of the RNG stays somewhat together (it doesn't in 3.5, but that's a whole different issue). But any sort of combat tricks you invest in should remain relevant as you level (ie someone who takes Improved Bullrush should get the non-PA shock trooper benefits for free. Should get Knockback for free. Should probably get something akin to the Brutal Surge magic enhancement and dungeoncrasher. etc); any damage bonuses you get should scale to be a similar return on your investment at all levels, same for damage reduction, fast healing, mobility... basically anything that's not directly affecting the RNG should be scaling.
At least assuming you want feats to do anything along those lines. In D&D 3.5 it's obvious that yes, yes you do want feats to do those things. Mainly because you've been given a class where those feats are the only thing the character gets, and there's precedent for those kinds of abilities, even if the gimped form feats give them in is crap.
Spoiler: off topic tangent
In my spare time, I've been cobbling together my own system on and off, and decided feats in that incarnation just weren't worth it. Characters have access to abilities through their class that let them do cool new stuff that is level appropriate. So you want to spring attack? Your class should have access to an ability to let you do that. There is no universal feat list to pull active abilities off of. Stuff like Wizard metamagic becomes either class features or extra spells (So for example Maximize might be a spell that requires a 3rd level spell slot, letting you burn a slot on it to maximize your next spell cast). So feats in their 3.5 incarnation simply aren't needed.
There's still room for a minor customization subsystem for stuff like lightning reflexes, skill focus, etc (all those things that are considered crap feats because they provide tiny bonuses, but aren't meaningful like Power Attack/Shock Trooper or Dragonfire Inspiration and other such powerful feats), but removing the name "feat" from those (as well as the normal progression) I think is necessary to avoid the baggage that comes with it.
Tell someone they get a feat every 3 levels, they're going to expect awesome stuff even if there's no reason to (see: 4e feats). Give someone a "talent" every 2 levels, and people are going to assume they're feats, and expect the same thing, even if there's no other similarity (see: several other systems. I think one of the star wars d20 ones qualifies). So the trick is sneaking in the minor bonuses in such a way that people are happy to get them and not just upset that they didn't get what they always felt feats should be