What you describe is what I call a "hierarchical conditional value list" where the value in field 1 filters the values in Field 2, that then filters the values in field 3....
I have worked out a more advanced form of this hierarchical set up that does not require that you select values in all the preceding fields of the "chain".
For working examples and a detailed explanation of how they work, see:
This file has examples of 10 different conditional value lists. The first Hierarchical conditional value list has the same limitations that you have discovered. But the latter examples explore ways to produce a more flexible system where selecting a value in field 2 when field 1 is empty produces a list of all possible values since no value was selected in field 1 to serve as a limiting filter.
Excellent excellent file...I think hierarchical conditional value list II is very close but my reservation is that I'll have 30,000 "cites" (in my case UNITS). And I add new ones with ODBC imports every day. Will explore this in the next few days.
30,000 values shouldn't keep this from working, but may make (what I understand to be) your concept of an HC Value list where you can skip entering data in a preceding field in the "chain" impractical when the result becomes 1000's of values popping up in one massive value list.
You may find "Adventures in FileMaking #2 - Enhanced Value Selection" a better source of ideas. It explores and demonstrates ways to search out and select values from a list that go beyond what a mere value list can do. There's a link to this file on the Additional Resources page of Adventures #1 as well as the link that I've added here.