But for the game I play (and, sure, I understand not everyone plays as I do), I feel that a character's class IS the bulk of the character's training...that's where the emphasis should be and ability scores a minor consideration as far as representing a character's "skill."That is an approach the could work but what going on here?
It about that players can do more than fight, cast spells, turn undead, etc as their characters. They can sneak past a guard, open a locked chest, or weave a basket.
What important is not which is approach is right. It about what works with one's campaign. Because of my circumstances I opted to come up with an ability system.
Going back to OD&D 3 LBBs we have three character classes, Cleric, Fighting-Man, and Magic User along with mechanics to handle combat, spell casting, and a few other things like turning undead. But suppose a character wants to sneak past a guard, open a locked chest, or weave a basket for that matter?
The 3LBBs imply that the player describe what they are doing and the referee makes a ruling based on the circumstances and what been established about the character. This interpretation is supported by this anecdotes from back in the day. However the various anecdotes and few pieces of documentation (like Judges Guild Ready Ref sheets, Strategic Review) display widely varying methods of adjudicating this things. Some use attributes, some use an arbitrary chance, other account for class and level. Some use %, 3d6, or 1d20 roll low or high.
However there are some common elements among those accounts of using 3 LBBs. The most important is that outside of combat, and spell casting, any character can attempt any action. All three classes can try to stealth past the guard, try to open the locked chest, or try to weave a basket. But it up to the referee to decide on the mechanics of adjudication.
One way is to based it primarily on class and level with some modifiers based on attributes as JB does in his campaigns. His post states the reasons why.
I opted it to handle it a different way. My view is that any character can attempt any action outside of class specifics. That some classes are better than other classes at certain abilities. That attributes are important to determine how good a character is at certain abilities. That like combat, and spell casting not every class or individual character is equally adept in these abilities.
The result is the ability system as outlined in my Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules.
Related to this is my decision to ditch the thief class in favor of a series of Rogue classes. What distinguish the Rogue from the Cleric, Fighter, and Magic User, is that they are better at various abilities than other classes. For example the Burglar class in the basic rules is better at climbing, eavesdrop, legerdemain, perception, and stealth.
Because I had no issues with players trashing my setting as they tried to become kings or magnates I to deal with a player attempting a lot of different things. The climb to power required the players to do more than just fight or cast spells. Adventures and exploration were important in my campaign but often they were just the means to the player's end goal of rising to the top.
Wrapping it up
That why I decided to do things differently from JB. Again what important here isn't that you handle this in a particular way but that you think it through, that the result fits what you want out of the campaign, and that it is fun to play.