I never got the hang of the RPG Fate¹, mostly for reasons having to do with manipulating Aspects and Fate Points². But there were a couple of things about it that impressed me a lot. One was that it discarded the convention that characters have separate “attributes” and “skills”, which swept away the chore of assigning values to attributes that one doesn’t care about and the angst of fretting how deep you dare dump your dump stats. The other was the skill pyramid, where you assign values to abilities by slotting them in to places in a hierarchy rather than by shaving and spending points here and there to fit within a total.
What I think made the skill pyramid work was a short and carefully crafted list of character abilities. Spirit of the Century has 28 abilities on its skill list, all pretty much separate from each other, each corresponding well enough to a thing that a character in genre might be good at, each encompassing enough useful stuff to be worth considering for a slot at least halfway up the skill pyramid. I don’t think a pyramid-like system for assigning abilities would be so easy to use in the case of ForeSight³ or GURPS⁴. The array of skills would be large because the skills are numerous, and there would be bazillions of fussy choices to be made.
What good RPGs are there with reasonably short skill lists? Hollow Earth Expedition has about thirty skills and about thirty specialities tucked away in certain skills. James Bond 007 has five attributes and 27 skills, but it is highly specialised and tucks lot of abilities that don’t matter into Fields of Familiarity.
¹ The form in which I met Fate was Spirit of the Century, run by @thelibrarian. Spirit of the Century was the inaugural instance of Fate 3, and I suppose that it had innovation, features that were not present in its earlier versions. Even if I don’t make any errors, likely you will find that F.A.T.E., F.A.T.E. 2, and Fate Core differ from my description of “Fate”.
² But that’s another story.
³ ForeSight has nine attributes, 49 listed skills, and 77 listed fields of knowledge without starting on languages, sports, musical instruments, artistic and dance traditions, or the fantasy abilities in HingSight.
⁴ GURPS has 380-odd listed skills in its skill table, without counting techniques, manœuvres, or spells. Many of those are a consolidated listing for several related skills, such as the combat, sport, and art versions of most mêlée skill, the technically separate versions of many skills distinguished by tech level, specialities making up groups of related skills with a single listing, so that I once estimated that there are at least 2,200 skills in GURPS skill system, not counting techniques, manœuvres, spells, or generic listings such as sporting skill, games skill, or expert skill.