On Skill Deconstruction: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
"Just because it's new doesn't mean it's better,"
Upon reflection I'd say that pretty much sums up my lifestyle.
Second edition skills are simple and straightforward. There are three options, in true second edition style.
Using what you know. This option allows your character to know what you know. There is some grade school primer text on what using this option means. ("Some players and DMs enjoy doing this. They think up good answers quickly. This method is perfect for them, and they should use it.") This is all to common in the "Zeb" books.
Secondary skills is another option, providing a suite of abilities - a broad area of expertise. There is about a 15% chance to end up with two sets of secondary skills. After determining the secondary skills the player and the DM are left to work out what to do with this knowledge.
Non-weapon proficiencies are the third option provided. You get a number of slots dependent on class, and select from a list of very specific skill like proficiencies. The base success of the proficiency is dependent on the relevant statistic with a proficiency specific modifier.
I find these following comments particularly insightful given the last 20 years of play.
"Secondly, using this system increases the amount of time needed to create a character. . . Novice players may be overwhelmed by the number of new choices and rules."
Note that they are discussing the time it takes to pick 3 or 4 skills. Once.
What is it we gain by having this skill?
Speaking to the Non-weapon proficiency system, you gain a simply player directed way to give your character a few skills that he will be competent at. Having the target number being equal to the statistic makes your character good at the skill as soon as it is selected. In other respects, since the Dungeon Master can adjust the chance of success, it works similarly to the D20 system with all the positives and negatives that implies.
What do we lose?
Well, at the time, the system was thought almost too complicated for use. There's no way to raise a skill independently of level gain and the skills are somewhat specific and useless at the same time. Also, a critical point is that skill proficiency is tied to your statistics, which leads to slow growth of proficiency at the skill.
Conclusions & Suggestions:
There's a lot to like about this system, not much to track, simple rules, gives some depth to characters - but there are a lot of problems using the system as is. I imagine many Dungeon Masters made quite a few modifications and house rules to the use of these non-weapon proficiencies, not the least of which was a better method for improving proficiency at the skill.