This post has made me stay up past my bedtime ranting.
Just thinking about making a game "fair" gets my blood boiling.
You want to make the game fair and balanced? OK. Fine.
Here's what you do:
1. Get your math right. Develop your system of stats and skills and whatever so that your players can choose how good they want to be at dealing damage at range, dealing damage in melee, using skills, etc, etc, etc. Just make sure that the equations wash so that no one class has an unfair advantage. We can't have anyone crying at the table because their low-level mage has already cast his one spell for the day and now he feels useless because he can't squeeze off an original thought if it's not written down on a page for him.
2. Now that your math is right, do not, repeat do not, put any type of "skin" on the math. Leave it raw and bleeding before your players. It is up to them to slap lipstick on the pig. Did they make a character who is very good at ranged damage? Fine. Does that mean he uses projectile weapons or does he throw fireballs? It's all up the player to decide, because who gives a shit anyway? Right?
We're talking about raw game mechanics, any dressing you throw on it is just that, fucking lace curtains.
If you make your rules in a vacuum without any thought at all to the imagined reality that the players will inhabit the there is zero reason to give a flying rat-fuck about what the numbers mean in the context of the game so long as the equations balance.
My old gaming group decided once that the worst possible attack roll was a 4.
A 4 almost always a miss, but not a critical one.
Nothing good happens, but neither does anything terribly bad.
A 4 is the most boring roll and therefore the worst.
When you roll a one, poop meets fan. The whole party slaps their foreheads, and the DM makes that face that says, "Aw, son. You done fucked up now."
Characters need to be weak, to have weaknesses. Not just less good than others at certain things. When everyone is good at everything, and really good at one or two things, you have the game equivalent of a blurry photograph. No real meaningful difference between characters.
Everyone is a hero. There are no losers. Everyone contributes, in exactly the way their classes were designed to.
'Cause fuck thinking.