Skills are something very common in various role playing games, 3rd edition DnD, GURPS, White Wolf and so on. Needless to say I am going to touch on the topic.
All the characters are leaders by nature of the game. And eventually most of their common tasks should and will be done by underlings. This makes for some interesting thoughts on how skills should work. I intend to discuss my interpretation of how skills should work in the given system and what kinds I think are useful.
These are about movement, getting places. Climbing, Jumping, Swimming, Riding and Long Distance Travel are considerations for skills under this category. At early adventuring levels, these could be important. They open tactical opportunities more land bound or slower units lack. This is probably the least sensible at higher levels, but would make sense later after I clarify some other information on subordinates.
These are memory skills, awareness and so on. Very good for beginning and end game, very apparent use for players, less so for subordinate grunts, however as with physical it would have some benefits still. Some thoughts... Area Knowledge, Tactics, Awareness, Exploration, Important Persons Knowledge.
These are interpersonal skills. Diplomacy, Investigation, Sense Intent, Deception and more. Very useful to leaders, and perhaps some specialized grunts. Some could even be useful in combat. For instance sense intent and Deception could be used for feints and detecting maneuvers immediate results (tactics being for more long term strategies in addition to short term)
These would be mainly roguish skills. Sabotage, Stealth, Pickpocketing and so on. These abilities are pretty straightforwards. They could be useful for a character as well as an army at a great scale. Sabotaging catapults and walls as well as traps and wagon wheels, ambushes and sneaking into an enemy camp.
Craft Architecture, Craft Weaponry, Craft Armor, Craft Elixirs, Drafting and so on. Pretty straightforwards for the most part. At the low levels these skills could be used to do a job, and having an army of folks with Craft Architecture can allow you to build small fortifications pretty quickly.
Some thoughts on the actual functionality for the different types of characters.
Functionality for characters.
Every Level the character gets an allotment of points for skills (likely static) with a maximum amount that can be put in each time you level. There will likely be a general path of bonuses that will allow you to specialize in a skill sacrificing some combat ability to become an ultimate master of knitting or something. This might even extend to giving supervised NPCs a bonus to their attempts to perform these skills. There would definitely be a bonus for tools and perhaps circumstance (supervision would be one of these)
Functionality for Heroes/Villains
Likely they will be built much as characters, keeping in mind the greatest number of points that could have been put into an ability and with the same ability to perform the skills as a PC. I'm not sure if granting bonuses to underlings will occur, perhaps I will use a diminishing returns the higher in the command chain the bonuses are granted. (Using math we could see this as a curve steadily approaching a certain number, that being the highest possible bonus. Yay Algebra.) They would also definitely benefit from tools.
Functionality for Soldiers
Soldiers have to be trained. And in this system I see soldiers as being simplified to having certain amounts of training. One thing I'm thinking is that soldiers will have skill slots, for skills they are particularly good at, and the reason you would want to keep similar troops in groups. If you mixed all your troops the bonus is negated. If they all have the same skill choice they retain it. Otherwise in larger than party groups, it can be assumed that together they manage to have a certain skill rating based on their 'training' or 'drill' stat and type relevance (archers, melee, casters) Perhaps I'll even establish a tradition for certain factions and natives will be assumed to have certain skills at higher levels. This would be GM set and not player set of coarse. The stats for Heroes and Soldiers would be GM set. And given that the GM introduces the heroes through methods I should go over later. These guys still benefit from supervision and tools, but don't grant any bonuses to underlings.
Functionality for Civilians.
Fairly straightforwards. They should have a skill level as appropriate to their job/station, receive all bonuses and cannot grant bonuses except to other civilians. They are assumed to exist as necessary to fill out cities and match the economy and situation. You need a random mason's exact skill level? I'd look at the economy, figure out how many mineral based production workers there are, roll against the % of refinement level produced, then set a skill level based on which part of the production line they are in. If I roll they're one of the two people producing exotic goods in a 200,000 strong city then they are going to be very high on the spectrum of masonry (the kind that makes the stone part for portal gates and such) If I roll one of the 4000 supporting members in the raw production side... well he can cut a rock out of a mountainside if you need and can do it really well if you have some well built and supplied mines too.
As you can see, less and less detail per type of unit as we go down the line. Scale. A civilian is one line until you pick them out of the crowd and are concerned. The soldier half a page, probably no more than 3 skill slots and the rest is 'assumed'. A Hero/Villain is one page they have a full skill set, but the math doesn't really need to be detailed. Then the players who manage their own information could have 2 sheets or more. I've actually got some good ideas for topics after this, more to come...