Without massive houserules or DM coddling, AND not starting at level 1, yes. Yes you do.
Explain. And I mean you had better clearly define everything or I'll tear it up.
Fine. First, here's the fun part: enemies need to win once. You have to win every time.
Past a certain level, swinging a big stick isn't good enough. This level is generally accepted as sixth, but I find it comes as late as 8th or 9th. After that, you're no longer swinging a 'big stick' - you're Charging, with a Pounce, transferring all of your BAB to Power Attack, shifting the penalty to your Armor Class, possibly making a Jump check to boost PA numbers, and delivering a 'rocket' to your opponent in the form of a +1 special property two-handed weapon.
Why? Because monster AC and HP scales so much faster than your own, as does their to hit bonus. Even with magical back-up, the person doing all that feat stacking to get a respectable number to damage has to take their opponent down in one, perhaps two, rounds, to even be remotely close to what the casters are doing at the same level
. This is because hitpoint damage doesn't fucking matter until the very last one. In fact, you can completely bypass
rocketing the enemy's HP to death with a save-or-die or a save-or-lose. And the enemy can do the exact same thing to you, and most of the time, as CR rises, they don't need spells to do it - they just have to land a hit. And since AC is expensive as hell to raise in 3.5, most people are going to focus on other forms of defense.
If you do buy up your AC, it still doesn't matter, because after a certain point NPC to-hit bonuses are so high that they auto-hit you, and your attempt at becoming hard to hit has failed. Take a stroll through the Monster Manual and do some thinking, you'll see it pretty obviously, unless you are, in fact, a mouth-breathing fuckwit.
Also, the part about not starting at level 1: You have anywhere between 6 (d4, 14 con) and 17 (d12, 20 con) HP. An Orc Warrior (CR 1/2) deals 2d4+4 with a to-hit of +4. That's 6-12 damage, at a level where you have 6-17hp, and not enough gold to purchase decent armor (Chain Shirt, 100gp. Breastplate, 200. Full Plate, 1500.) That means your AC is pretty abysmal, and they have a good chance to hit you.
Is CR 1/2 too high? How about a Goblin? They only have a +2 with a 1d6 weapon, CR 1/3.
Of course, the common response at low levels is "The party Wizard casts sleep
," or color spray
, or grease
. Hey, your party just won its first game of rocket tag!
Yes, your DM needs to coddle you at levels 1 and 2, and you need to build competently at levels past six. There's a small, SMALL space between levels 3 and 5 where you might not be playing rocket tag, but that's about it. Once the damage starts ramping and the spellcasters start becoming more dangerous, it keeps turning into 'kill them before they kill you', which is the very definition of rocket tag.