The gear grind in Realm has always been a thing of contention with me. This server has tried to add some semblance of progression with it, but I feel it does way too little and in a convoluted way.
From my understanding, there is level 0 starter gear, namely in weapons. Armor is the oddball that there really isn't any 0 level aside from store bought stuff. Then the very next "upgrade" is around level 200-250? Seems nutty to me.
I think there's definitely room for improvement in the variations of gear and the level spread of said gear.
We have prestige so people can re-level but there's no prestige only gear let alone not even the level 900 gear that was talked about a year plus ago. Because of the choices made in the live server, I'm not even sure trying to better this on live is reasonable. My ideas probably have a better chance of success on a fresh server balanced from the ground up so maybe this kind of thinking would benefit the future of the test server if that's still a work in progress.
Ideally I think the healthiest option is to have a variety of options in each weapon/armor tier for people to choose from.
For example, say we made a level 100 tier of gear, then you could have 3-4 options in each type of weapon at that tier. Let's take an axe as an example. Axe1 could have natural poison damage, maybe Axe2 has natural electric damage, etc. All the axes at that tier could have the same damage range, but at the same time have some variety to them. Now granted, venom/elec/fire/ice is pretty bland and generic and you could possibly do totally different option akin to the procs some items have and other things.
If you followed the same idea on armors: plate/chain/leather/cloth with variety amongst options, you'd end up with people not all shooting for and using the same exact gear all over the game. Also on armor, I'd restrict class to a certain armor type. They're already there to make sense. Wizards can only use cloth pieces, Thieves can only use leather, Adventurers can only use chainmail, and Warriors can only use plate.
Crafting. So at the moment crafting is basically tied into gear progression in a few ways. You can either find said gear or make it, except for one tier of gear that is only craftable apparently.
Personally I don't find that healthy at all.
I'd propose that you can craft all the different tiers and they'd be different yet equal in power to gear you can find at the same tier if that makes sense? This solution also adds the variety to the gear I earlier addressed.
That's it for now, I have so many more thoughts on all of this stuff but I may just be talking into the ether for all I know.