That reminds me of a feature of my old MUD. We added the ranger class to the standard warrior/mage/cleric/thief mix, and since it was all new, we tried to make it fit nicely with woodland/outdoors/hunter type lore. So, the trainers (you had to visit your trainers to gain levels and skills) were themselves rangers, and rather than standing around town like all the other trainers, we had them wander in areas appropriate to their level and theme. This also introduced the newbie ranger to the "track" skill, since without it, it was a bit difficult to find the single wandering ranger in the sea of wolf-infested grasslands.
I read that and thought "hah, brilliant! I'm going to use that… what an awesome idea!"
The players loved it when they were newbies, and utterly loathed it after about the third time they needed to go train. :)
Hah, yes, I suppose that's right. It is the nature of the novelty not to last. I suppose that you have the rangers tell you where to find their guildhouse/treefort/master trainer after you've trained a couple times, or make some sort of skill that helps you find it directly.
After stats are assigned by said builder the system gives them a target ilevel. Their instructions to build the item must then add up to the target ilevel or more. They can tweak the stats on the item to actually lower the ilevel requirement. But until the stats are in compliance the item is a no-go. Requires no administration oversight. The builder may feel some of it is not balanced correctly, but that's probably not his job anyways. (Which I feel is a big mistake giving your content designers access to in the first place.)
That's along the same sort of lines as my propo.... I think it could work pretty well, although it would be difficult to balance the bonuses in advance. Arguably that's a separate problem, but it's still related to this issue.
It might be interesting to try a popularity-based equipment restriction system though. The more people who use a particular item, the larger the percentage of their magical item quota it uses up. If you've got a really big range of items (or the items are non-static) you could do a similar thing except with bonuses instead of items. That way, the items would tend to balance themselves (unless people start creating a lot of alts).
Some years ago I had some code installed so that some items were unique by count on a limit function. Which isn't really the same thing as you are talking about but it was somewhat interesting. Since it became more rare as the count reached the limit. However, we did make it so that items expired/limit expanded if they met a few conditions.