Guide of Modos
Here's a video of Actraiser 2, a fantasy game for Super Nintendo in which the PC gains no levels. I won't call it an RPG because the player makes no decisions beyond "destroy or not destroy." Progress isn't determined by a growing number of hit points or other endlessly increasing character attributes. Instead, the player makes progress by developing his own skill. I'm wondering: can a discussion RPG do the same thing?
Obviously, different players have different skills, and players want to play characters who have skills other than their own. So you can't really ask players to perform real-world tasks and tie the results to what their characters do or how well the other players perform. What would an RPG look like that allows a PC to grow in "skill," without granting her more hit points, bigger and badder magic spells, heavier and pointier armor, or a set of swords that eventually reach bus-size?
This reminds me of an ENWorld discussion that referred to Old School gaming, and how it requires skill from the players in addition to skill from the characters. A skilled role-player knows how to describe approaching a trap, knows what gear to pack before a quest, and knows when to run away from a fight. However, Old School gaming usually refers to old editions of D&D, which provided 20 levels of progress that made a character inherently more durable - which Actraiser 2 does not.
Savage Worlds simulates increasing PC skill by assigning the use of higher-rolling dice as the character progresses. Although the changing of dice is less numerical than granting PCs an increasing bonus to die rolls over time, these dice are still tied to higher numbers. And SW also allows a character to grow by gaining experience points, rather than maintaining focus on a starting set of skills.
How do you feel about fixed-Level 1 gameplay? Would you enjoy a game that requires more skill than luck (with die rolls) for progress? Does a game offer more intensity and/or reward when the player accomplishes things without having an ever-growing mattress of hit points underneath to cushion his falls?