Some seem to think that the original D&D rules of 1974 do not include skills. In fact, they do. It’s just that they did not call them skills, just as they did not call it a “role-playing game” in 1974, either.
The original skill rules were disorganized. They have no uniform method of resolution. Some are “have/not have” skills. If you have them, they work, and if you don’t have them, you can’t do that action. Some are resolved by a roll of 1D6, with odds specific to character types.
For example, here are some OD&D 1974 combat skills. Different character classes have these different skills distributed amongst them.
- Universal weapon proficiency
- Proficiency with blunt weapons only
- Proficiency with daggers only
- Deadly accuracy with missiles
- Proficiency with +3 Magic Warhammer
- Universal armor proficiency
The weapon skill levels are not expressed in figures specific to each character, but to each character’s class and level. That’s why they are on a separate chart. But every single OD&D character has a combat skill.
Every OD&D character also has a skill at finding secret doors. These are skills that cannot be improved. You have a chance of 1 in 3, or 2 in 3 for Elves. Likewise, every character has a “hearing through doors” skill at 1 in 6, or 1 in 3 for Elves
Of course, all spell abilities are skills, too. These are more complex.
You get the idea. It is not that OD&D lacks a skill system. It’s just that the skill system is so ad hoc and asymmetrical that it does not look like a system, and it’s a poor one, making provisions mostly only for events in a dungeon full of monsters.
When the earliest players, in the 1970s, cried for more “realism,” one of the things they actually wanted was rules to cover more things that PCs could attempt, to minimize DM fiat and maximize DM impartiality.
My personal tastes are averse to complicated rules and large numbers of stats. In this I’m quite in line with OSR play-styles. But gamers who say they are against skill systems don’t know what they are saying. They certainly use skills in their games, but they restrict them to a minimal and incommensurate set, and simply call them character class abilities or by no name at all.
The first game system to incorporate skills by that name was Empire of the Petal Throne (1975). They were mostly professional abilities, enriching character backgrounds and giving context for Referee rulings all at once.