One of the topics brought up in this thread was that it was impossible to properly balance character creation without eliminating customization. I absolutely refuse to accept. The problem is that customization is one great open pool of skills and stats, some useful others not. You need to make all the skills fun and useful.
When it comes to character creation i would like to see the title of "job" take on the role of character class.
Some classes are meant to support cities, some support armies, and others are meant to hunt both things in the wild and assassin/ sniper type role in armies (there is a distinction here between fighting monsters in the wild and fighting other nations armies)
jobs that support cities
miner - improves production of resources in cities
royalty - supports the role of population in cities and how people impact on their growth
warlord - a fighter than protects the realms
merchant - a mercantile force for purchasing what the kingdom requires
jobs that support armies
warrior - superiority through force at arms
thief - superiority through intelligent actions
monster hunting/ sniping/ other
bard - supports the development of heroes
assassin - single target elimination specialist
The current setup for heroes right now (including the sovereign, after all s/he is just another hero with a special title) is that when they gain a level they get 3 stat point plus an increase in hp. This is the base line which you use to balance all other considerations.
An important consideration is that units stationed in cities do not gain experience. Bad new for the city support type of hero. There are two options to deal with this:
1) units, or maybe just heroes but i suggest all units, gain experience when stationed in cities. This helps make garrisoned units remain competitive versus units that go around killing stuff and getting more hp. Otherwise I have no real incentive to maintain a unit when it is teched out of oblivion through superior weapons and armour discoveries. And units spawned to defend a city SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO LEAVE THAT CITY AND SHOULD CONTINUE TO GET STRONGER AS THE CITY EITHER LEVELS OR INCREASE IN POPULATION (to a maximum bonus from population of course) and for gods sake why do they have maintenance gold cost i'm better off picking the gold bonus and building my own unit.
2) the second option is to attach a hero/sovereign unit to a city as a governor so they can go adventuring for xp and still provide their bonuses as if they were stationed in the city.
You then divide up the talent pool between the various jobs so that a city support hero could get green thumb but a warrior type hero could not. We will come back to that.
2 games that immediately spring to my mind that have different methods of dealing with leveling up heroes are HoMM5 and AoW:SM.
Of course there is MoM as well.
HoMM5 has different factions. Each faction has a special skill tree that colours the effects of the basic skill tree. They divide heroes into one of two categories: Fighter or Wizard. Fighter heroes boost the strength of their armies more Wizard heroes and can cast spells. Wizard type heroes are much more effective with their spells but don't boost the strength of their armies as much. At level up, heroes can pick one out a random selection of three skills. Heroes can learn a maximum of 5 skills, but have access to skill subsets which provide for a lot of variety to their characters. For example offense gives a bonus to the attack value of your army. At later level ups you can choose to make archer units stronger or hand to hand units stronger or an improved ability to move your units in setup before fighting starts- different factions have additional choices such as magic weapons to do more damage in combat or improved initiative in combat so that they attack more often.
In AOW:SM heroes gained (from memory here) a choice from a random selection of three options. Different hero types had different choices. A ranger could have the opportunity to learn archery, or pathfinding or spellcasting or increased health and movement or root strike or grass concealment- things that would make the hero more special in combat than just a +1 bonus to stats. Magic items would be a bigger opportunity to turn theses heroes into walking tanks of destruction.
Now in ELEMENTAL
a merchant class hero would start with baseline stats and the ability to provide 1 gold per turn. At level up you would get a hit point increase and 3 purchase points which could be used to increase stats or buy new abilities such as the merchant providing a 10% bonus (rounding up so you get at least one gold per turn) to gold production in the stationed/ governing city. Another level up could give you the opportunity to gain the ability to purchase production to speed up building times of building and units. This way it is possible for the inferior fighting hero to provide a superior fighting force to potentially beat up that warrior or assassin type hero that would sucker punch him in a fight.
Now a warrior type hero could gain the ability of green thumb to gain a +2 food bonus, but he would not have the opportunity to gain the 10% farming boost that the city support hero such as royalty or miner or merchant or warlord could have access to since that would be a special upgrade to the green thumb skill.
Note that the naturalist ability: to start with mine near the start position should really be a faction skill, not a hero skill. I imagine this would make the game go insane if it were an inheritable trait. (give birth to a child o look a mine popped out of the ground right beside us although i suppose you could give it a quirky explanation of the "channeler is tied to the land" but that is just wrong....)
And there is no reason whatsoever why a hero starting with items should not be able to sell those items when you have discovered new ones with tech improvements, it just ends up cluttering the interface. Is that 11 gold for selling of a padded cap really going to be game breaking ? There is some weird data attaching going on with these items.
Note the lack of Wizard or Healer type job classes. But that can be fixed with a group of generalized skills that any hero can take.
I can follow this up with a more detailed skill tree for the various job character classes that i think this game deserves.