This is just an idea I had for skills in B/X, 0e, or AD&D.
Of course, the GM has to agree to let you try. If you want to try playing a song on a lute with zero experience, the GM can just say you fail.
- Ability -1 or worse, roll 2d6 and take the lowest
- Ability +0, roll 1d6
- Ability +1, roll 2d6 and take the best
- Ability +2 or more, roll 3d6 and take the best
The odds work out like this:
Why is this better than simply trying to roll under you raw ability with a d20? For one thing it's roll high = good, which seems to be more intuitive. It also lets you set a difficulty level, where you would have to use modifiers to do that with the d20.