I recently started playing a D&D game which is essentially a dungeon crawl. After playing for several levels and several of us have put points into skills we have never used I am starting to inwardly groan at the level-based system.
I would wager that my character has swung his sword at least ten times in every sessiion I've played in, yet he never negotiates with enemies and doesn't try to talk his way out of a fight. He's very sullen and gruff and can be very violent if provoked, he's a barabarian. Every level I earn I get 3 skill points, as a Barbarian I have 3 class skills. I have never used his Survivial skill, yet every level I put a point into it.
Hardline D&D purists will say "You don't have to put a point into Survival. You could put a half-point into another cross-class skill." Yes, stop right there, thank you. I know the rules. But I would still feel like the mechanics are arbitrary and idiotic because I would just be putting that point into a different skill that I never use.
Idea/Solution: In real life we only improve at things after trying and practicing and failing, so why not improve skills based on usage? If a skill is at +1 then it will increase to +2 after you've failed to use it twice, fail to use it three more times and it raises to +3, etc. This could be broadened to include Base Attack scores and saving throws. Rolls that are nearly impossible and would require a 20 just to succeed wouldn't have any effect on the character's growth or education, since you don't really learn by attempting impossible tasks.
The positive: This makes rolling more exciting because if the character fails then they're a little closer to increasing their skill. It also takes the realisitic aspects of learning into account.
The negative: Characters who have progressed very far and have high skill rolls would fail less and thus learn less. Character advancement would definitely slow at a certain point, unless the GM continued to bring more challenging adversaries into the game - and some players might find the slowing down of character advancement less than thrilling.
What are your thoughts?