It's a given. If a game is played long enough and the players keep the same characters throughout the game, those characters are going to grow in power. This power may come in the form of physical abilities, mental abilities, or para-normal increases (magic, psionics, etc.). Most GMs don't have a problem with this and in fact many base their campaigns off the fact that the characters will grow in power.
However, powers that are often gained and often overlooked by both player and GM can be both the most useful (for the players) and the hardest to deal with (for the GM). I speak of social powers; money, political, retainers, allies, and contacts; those that can come simply by play and without the expenditure of hard won experience points. It is the social powers that can truly alter the flavor of a campaign, and the GM and players must learn to adapt or the game could come to a screeching halt. After all, why should a GM send in a dragon to ravage the countryside if the PCs just send their servants to fight it? To make matters worse, the Players will no doubt complain that their characters have nothing to do!
Many GMs deal with this problem by taking the power away. They do this in a variety of ways; dimension travel, economic collapse, natural disaster, or worse. This is both a cheap and unimaginative solution, nor does it keep the PCs from recovering their power and perhaps allowing it to strengthen. Other GMs might simply stop running the game, complaining that there are no more ideas and nothing left for the characters to do, therefore it's time for the game to end. While this could be considered a reasonable solution, there are times where the players like their characters so much that they don't want (or won't allow) the game to end.
There are, however, possibilities within the "rich and powerful" style of gaming. True, they're not a cinematic as stopping as discovering the truth and stopping an alien invasion nor are they as fantastic as defeating a god or two, but it is a new area of role-play and the satisfaction of accomplishment can be just as high.
It's probably my favorite catchphrase, and I know I've stated it in past columns, but I'll say it once again... With power comes responsibility. The characters must not only keep themselves and their employ happy, but they must also insure that their power not only is secured, but also grows. This means dealing with both the "little people" and the "high and mighty". Plus, now that the characters have so much power and wealth, they will most likely be in the limelight in more than one instance, so any shadows in the past or current problems may become a bigger issue. Outside of a few social skill checks, a good game will become sheer role-playing. And that's what we're aiming for, right?
So, yes, a game's flavor will change, but I say for the better! The more powerful the characters become the less skill checks and other rolls will have to be made, leaving more time for actual role-playing and character interaction.
Wealth, power, fame? Bring 'em on! ...Just let me finish getting rid of my character's drug problem before she makes her vie for presidency.
Roll saving throw vs. Bad Gaming!