The CWAL Rubber Room
"Yeah, went to one once. I was like, 'Are you the Dentist?' And she was like, 'Yeah, let's get some drilling done.' Then she ripped her shirt off and... *bow-chika-bow* Later, I delivered a pizza." - Friendly:)
Chrono Cross was a uh... flawed game, but one thing I really liked about it was that it didn't really have levels, it just had "stars"
You automatically gained a star everytime you passed a major plot milestone, and they were roughly equivalent to levels. I think they raised your max stat cap on everything, and automagically bumped you up to a certain level in each stat, depending on character? You could get a handful more stats boosts from winning normal fights as you went through the next "chapter", but the net result was that everyone was basically kept at the same level appropriate for the section you were in, and the characters you took out most got a slight edge until the next milestone bumped everyone's stats up again.
(At least, that's my understanding of it)
That always seemed particularly elegant to me, because it was grind-free, you got the experience of getting more powerful over time, but it was always tuned so it was in-line with the chapter of the game you were on.
I always kinda wanted to see something that worked a lot like this for base progression, and then leaned on equipment to let you settle some playstyle details. Equipment would be more of a "gives you specific (percentage) bonuses/movesets/abilities" rather than raw stats, so it's not just a game of linear upgrades. Almost more Souls-like, where the longsword you start with is just as endgame viable as the giant intimidating scythe of scary doom you find much later - the difference is in HOW they play, not raw numbers.