First, in hopes of encouraging role-playing and adding a little realism to leveling up, I was thinking of implementing a "slot" system. When characters level up, they don't just pull new spells, feats and skills out of the air, they have to harvest them from somewhere. If a wizard gets a new "spell known", he instead gets an empty slot which he can fill from a variety of sources - either seeing it used in battle (with a skill check), learning it from someone who knows it, purchasing it from a shop, or hybridizing spells he already knows. ("Hmm. I have Flaming Sphere and Magic Missile, what if I made a flaming missile...and let's call it Fireball.")
The same thing would go for feats - learn them in battle, get tutored, or maybe you have a flash of insight in the middle of battle (DM offers). Skills would be similar, if you're increasing a skill by more than the usual 1 point, or learning a new one, you'd have to find a tutor or something. Feel free to pick this apart, I know my players will. I just like the concept a lot.
Second, have you ever simplified magical items in any of your campaigns? If so, how? Intricate magical items always seem to be the insatiable vampire of our session time, as players discuss amongst themselves what requirements and functions this or that magic item has, or trying to find a new place to stick that Quall's Feather Token that they've held on to since the beginning of the game and everyone's forgotten about. I'd love to put some new, simplifying twist on it, such as "spell storing items only" or something like that, but I don't know how much damage would be done by limiting their selection. Any ideas?
Third, I was planning to give the players a general idea of what they were up against near the end, and their job would be to develop into superheroes who are up to the challenge. I've had players before who just toss their feats and skills wherever at each new level, and this would help them with their nearsightedness, so to speak. It'd also help with the "spell slot" idea, since if they're looking for a specific feat/skill/spell, I could either make sure they come across it, or provide them with a way to quest for it. Is giving them a good glance at the future and giving them free rein to design "the perfect character" just asking for trouble, or is it a decent idea to center a plot around?
Oh, and if you happen to be in the Detroit area and you're looking for a casual group to get together with, let me know. I'd be glad to meet you. Just a little plug. :)