I don’t get it.
Now understand, I am firmly playing AD&D and always did – I was never an OD&Der and I sure as heck never played in a game that didn’t have thieves. But that said, the hatred seems to be rooted in the belief that there should never be any abstracted skill other than fighting skill and magic use. Over and over in the OSR blogs I read about how unrealistic and how much letting people play a character who had an abstracted skill for things like finding and removing traps or opening locks ruins the playing experience prevents players from using their brains.
That is the most craptastic idea I can think of. By that argument there should be no Intelligence or Wisdom statistic because these are the responsibility of the player, not the character – and I don’t see people making that argument very often.
It also ignores what always happened in my games – which was that the thief skills were a “last resort” roll not a primary means of discovering what is going on. Like there is some sort of idea that a character couldn’t role-play out the process of discovering traps or even of opening a simple lock of some sort. We never stopped a player from trying something of that sort and, if need be, make a Dexterity or a Strength roll if it seemed salient to determine success. But it doesn’t take any special skill to use a dagger to lift the bar on the other side of the door if that was the lock – and at the same time none of us wanted to verbally role-play out somebody trying to open a complex mechanical lock (which was certainly a “Pick Locks” roll if there ever was one).
It was also the fail-safe for players – because let’s be serious, characters are rough analogies of people and they know many, many things that players cannot – such as exactly what something smells, feels, sounds, tastes, like. Plus, I’m not exactly trying to toot my own horn, but I’m a pretty smart and creative guy and sometimes I was far smarter and far more creative than (at least some of) my players. No shame there, I had players who knew more about all sorts of things than I did, but I was (*cough* am…) an autodidact on all sorts of obscure topics and I don’t expect my players to know everything that I do.
So some of those abstracted skills compensate for that, as does the odd Intelligence or Wisdom check, or whatever. The sandbox has a whole set information that I will never be able to communicate to players but that their characters have in their full glory. I’ve waver back and forth on the idea that Non-Weapon Proficiencies are needed, I loved them when they were introduced in Oriental Adventures but I found that the rules in the Survival Guides were just too damn fiddly. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with skills in my upcoming AD&D game – giving players the opportunity to learn new skills always seems like a good idea, but I really do prefer class-based games in this genre over skill-based games (as my own experiments with a Home-Brew System over the last 16 years demonstrates)
I’m going to have to ponder this one to get a decent answer.