Early in my gaming life I was a big fan of skills. The more extensive and detailed the skill list, the better the game system, I thought. But over the past few years I’ve found I like skill systems less and less. I’ve written extensively about Pathfinder’s Beginner Box, which clocks in at 17 skills (down from Pathfinder core’s 30-ish skills). But honestly, that’s still far more skills than I like. Microlite20 has only 4 or 5 very broad-based skills, which is more to my taste. But I’ve been thinking about the impact of doing away with skills altogether.
Why no skills? In my experience they usually become crutches for players or barriers to creative play. Players and GM come to rely on skill checks as an easy replacement for role-playing or clever solutions to problems. Or they develop mental blocks: I don’t have the skill, therefore I can’t attempt that action (or, I don’t enough points in the skill, and will probably fail, so I shouldn’t even attempt the action). This is particularly acute, imo, with trap finding and diplomacy.
I do see where skills, or something like a skill checks, can be useful in certain circumstances. For example, players probably don’t want to ‘pixel bitch’ every stone block in a dungeon. A simple d6 roll to search for secret doors can save a lot of time at the table. But you can do what OD&D does, make it an ability that every character has, rather than a narrow, specialized skill.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Would be possible to, say, just remove the PFBB’s skill system?