- Modern gamers don’t like them, so they have to go away if we are to expand the hobby.
- They should go away, because nobody ever uses them anyway.
- They need to go because they are inherently racist.
- The have to stay because they help maintain mechanical balance.
- They have to stay because D&D has always been/is/should be human-centric.
- They have to stay because they balance the traditional D&D world.
- Embrace them, because as a player I get to retire my character at X level and actually accomplish a major goal for my character.
I may have missed one or two. All in all, each has its own merit and one could justify using/not using them all you want with any of these arguments. I believe, however, that they all miss the point.
Level limits are not limitations, they are opportunities. Note that in 1e AD&D that it is not only demi-humans that have level limits — humans do too. No one, no matter what race they are, can become a 16th level assassin. The question isn’t whether or not level limits are good or bad, but rather Why? With the assassin the answer is that there can only be one Grandfather of Assassins and he/she is always 15th level. This has all kinds of implications for the campaign world and for adventures that include assassins — especially PCs as they get into higher levels.
Since such answers are only provided for assassins, druids and monks, we are free to come up with our own answers for demi-human level limits. We are also free to make them different for different campaign worlds. Do these limits exist because of cultural reasons? Physical reasons? Magical reasons? Theological reasons? The options are endless and each one makes the gaming world that much richer and more interesting.
For example, in my version of Averoigne, demi-humans are all fey-touched humans who have rejected their humanity. As such, they have rejected the image and likeness of God within themselves. Since God is infinite, humans have infinite potential when it comes to levels. Since creation is finite, demi-humans have finite potential when it comes to levels.
Here is my greater point: if a campaign world has specific reasons as to why level limits exist, than creative players can come up with campaign specific reasons as to why they can be overcome.
Question: Which would you rather have?
- A 15th level halfling because level limits suck.
- A 15th level halfling because the level limit was overcome by stealing Queen Mab’s eye?
Personally, I’ll take the latter every time.