According to some there is not point in playing anything that is not a spell caster in classic versions of D&D before 2008.We all know spell casters were borked in 3rd ed with CoDzilla and that was just using the PHB. For some strange unknown reason though in 3rd ed the most popular class in my games was ... the fighter. In concept the 3rd ed fighter was great and if you like 3rd and 4th ed odds are you like feats and the fighter gets lots of them. Pathfinder hands out feats every 2 levels instead of 3 so Mr Fighter now gets 20 feats over 20 levels. I am the eternal DM and as a general rule I am not that worried about balance as long as it is not to extreme or game wrecking. A quick trip to the char op boards can quickly reveal what is good and what is not. However this ignores one very important rule.
1. Not everyone is a power gamer.
That is a very simple rule. My players often joke about my encounters for example. Is it pre published or is it one of my own concoctions? Put simply published adventures of D&D are often on the easy side of things. You do not need a powerful PC to do them and have fun. The old AD&D ones more or less assumed you rolled 3d6 and dropped the lowest, 3rd ed assumed you had a party of 4 and had a 15 or so as your highest score. The other thing is not every group allows splat books or allows everyone to use whatever they like which may have been a thing 4th ed violated with the everything is core mentality which kind of implies you are allowed to use it. I spent 12 years playing 3rd ed and Pathfinder, got a bit burned out on it and at the end of last year ran AD&D for my d20 era players thinking they would hate it and I was surprised they liked it although they struggled with THACO and some of the ass back wards mechanics. Excluding DM stuff here is what I tend to allow in my games for my players.
Compete Fighters Handbook
Tome of Magic
Spells and Magic (parts of it)
Combat and Tactics (parts of it)
Complete Warrior, Arcane, Divine Adventurer,
Magic Item Compendium
And even then I do not allow everything from those books so no persistent spell etc. I like giving my PCs a reasonable amount of options and I have a large pile of extra splats they may be allowed to use things from on a case by case basis. So casters vs caddies myth may be in trouble at this point. I do not allow everything into the game and even then things are different between editions of D&D as an AD&D wizard for example is very dependent on the DM putting in spell scrolls and books for what access to spells he actually has. AD&D magic resistance and classes also function differently than 3rd ed ones.
Not everyone (or very few) people actually play high level D&D and people talk about a sweet spot which is usually around level 5 and 6 hence the E6 variant in Pathfinder where the game is capped at level 6. The highlight of 4th ed for me was around level 3 and 4 and in some ways a 1st level 4th ed PC was similar to a 3rd level 3.5 character. An old TSR survey actually revealed IIRC that most players do not actually play high level D&D. That may have had something to do with the fact that it may take you years to actually reach those levels in AD&D and it may take you 4-7 adventures to gain a level due to the way the xp tables worked. Most of the classic/good adventures in D&D are actually for low level and mid level PCs and those were the ones that sold. Keep on the Borderlands for example sold 1 million copies. Level 10+ adventures were mostly rare and apparently did not ell as well as low level ones. This is mostly due to the difference between how people think the game is played and how it is actually played. A level 18 wizard with level 9 spells probably was broken but odds are most gamers never saw it and AD&D wizards were not as broken as 3rd ed wizards. It is interesting that 13th Age only goes to level 10 by what I have been hearing about the game.
Finally I am the DM 90%+ of the time. If something is actually broken I often ban it so no your 3rd Ed Druid can't use natural spell. The last time I ran a homebrew campaign using Pathfinder it was on a sister world of Golarion. The Red Mantis Assassins were actively hunting and purging primary spellcasters and a house rule I used was you had to find a mentor to even become a wizard/cleric/druid. Think Jedi in Star Wars with the Sith hunting them and Luke becoming a Jedi after he meets Ben. One had to take 2 levels of another class 1st before multiclassing into a spellcaster and you required a mentor. I also dumped magic mart and used AD&D rules for magic items so one could not buy wands of CLW.
So while their may have been a backlash against 3rd ed CoDzilla it may not have been a problem for everyone for various reasons. Not everyone is a power gamer, uses every splatbook they can find or even plays high level D&D/AD&D. In some cases if something is actually broken enough for the DM to care enough he can fix it himself or even allow it if that is what the DM and the players actually like. Balance has never really been a major factor in D&D for these reasons ad people still pick fighters even in 3rd ed and in that system they seemed very popular. Pathfinder is not that balanced either although it is better than 3rd ed and it seems popular enough. Casters and Caddies may be a problem but there are t many variables in D&D mechanics, play styles, house rules and on the actual table to make it relevant for every gamer. Can it exist? I suppose so if you like abusing rules or try and do the most powerful thing all of the time. This is related to the "feel" of D&D and how people actually play the game.
4th ed for example being balanced was not a major selling point of the system for me and it seems everyone who plays Pathfinder and AD&D. I do not want 3rd ed levels of balance all over again but I find it fun one can have a spell casting Druid+pet+wild shape in AD&D and not warp the game around him like a 3rd ed Druid can. Casters and Caddies has never really been a major problem for me except maybe in 3.0 when I did see things like Shadow Adepts and Cleric archers kicking around with DC35-40+ spells and 1d8+25 damage and 6 shots type of abuse. 3.5 fixed the worst excesses and PF nerfed spellcasters again so it is making progress. For some groups for whatever reason Casters and Caddies is exactly that a myth and no amount of math will convince them otherwise or they may even be happy with it. D&DN is focusing on balance more than 3rd ed and it is fine by me as they are making a reasonable effort of making a decent version of D&D.
Fear is the Mind Killer