The Armant setting is my attempt at something new for me: a low-powered setting.
In Faengleis, I ran a "regular" Pathfinder campaign, while, in Zenáthras, we experimented with a version of the E6 concept (as an E12) but offset by our trial of Mythic Powers, though even that was eventually scrapped in favor of a more traditional D&D/Pathfinder level progression. It was generally agreed that truncating a character's potential for growth wasn't too fun on a conceptual level.
So rather than trying to hold down the PCs or limit their ability to advance, what I want to do is find some way of making that growth more meaningful and keep the power levels of a campaign from quickly outstripping the setting, in part because I want to try and challenge myself with my world and campaign design. In the past, barring a TPK relatively early in the story, my "worlds" were one-and-done affairs, changed irrevocably by the events that transpired within them. While generally being left better places than they began as, they were also reduced in potential for future adventures in the traditional vein.
If the players enjoy the setting enough, I'd like there to be something remaining of Armant for future groups to experience.
Part of the reason for this is that I agree with a lot of the examination and philosophy from the famous Calibrating Your Expectations essay about 3rd edition D&D (though I think his examination of Aragorn might be off, based on what I've heard from Jeremy). It's a good read for anyone who plays D&D 3e/3.5 or Pathfinder and can help put the strength of characters into a more grounded frame of reference.
Also, I think it will impact characters' playstyle. We have seen it frequently with the Cerenth campaigns, with PCs acting with more conservatism and calculation. The dangers of the world are real and mistakes can have permanent consequences, but the characters are still able to grow enough to become powers in their own right.
My hope is to accomplish this primarily through three major factors: experience, magic, and environment. While these will be explored in more detail elsewhere in this site, the basics are outlined below.
Character growth will be slowed by using the Normal Experience Chart; the slow experience chart that we have usually used up to this point requires approximately 66% of the total experience when compared to the normal advancement rules.
This means that characters will continue to increase in levels, gaining the full powers of their 20-level progression scheme and possibly even epic levels in time, but the journey to get there will be slightly longer. The idea is that this adds more weight to the choices made at each level, allowing characters several sessions to become familiar with their abilities but requiring long-term possibilities to be weighed against short-term benefits, rather than simply blitzing through levels at a rate of nearly one per session (and sometimes getting two or three levels from a single, major battle).
Of course, this will be at least partially off-set by the Feat Tax modifications, which can increase the value of certain individual feats, incentivize previously-unappealing feat trees, and expand the combat options of all characters.
Due to the nature of magic in the Armant setting, access is severely limited, with many staple spells being either incredibly rare or wholly non-existent.
My goal is to prevent spellcasting characters from completely overshadowing other characters, maintain the world's balance (reducing the number of situations where the presence of a given spell would invalidate large portions of the setting), and expand the utility of other skills or class abilities. This will entail a dramatic reduction in the spell lists that characters can access and complicate spellcasting at the highest levels.
On the other hand, I do not want to make spellcasting pointless or useless. This is not going to be a complete invalidation of the magical component of any given class; I don't want to turn druids into useless fighters whose only skill is pumping out goodberry or anything like that.
Instead, the hope is that limiting the worst excesses of magic will let people approach the game in a new way, without the preconceptions of their previous campaigns.
With Zenáthras (or at least the original 'present' time/cycle), I tried to create an environment that was more hostile to the players...but a lot of that ended up more as window-dressing, and I freely admit that I did not take advantage of the setting I had crafted. Rather than being dangerous (or even particularly inconvenient), I sacrificed the tension in pursuit of the narrative; I was too quick to jump past things such as overworld travel in the frontier areas to get to the next setpiece or social encounter.
Part of what I want to do with Armant is bring the danger of the world more to the forefront, making it a more perilous setting should players decide they want to undertake actions that put them in conflict with the environs.
Of the three factors, this one is the most reliant on my ability as a GM and is a goal I'm setting for myself.