General skills are fine too, but some people prefer a bit more granularity, to be able to be really good at one thing and to suck at another, to specialise to better describe their characters or to round them out. An alternative to the simplistic, binary yes/no, skill is to provide points to spread between the different skills as the player sees fit.
Another option – given the hugely broad nature of the skills in 5e at present – is to allow for specialisations. These would be narrower ‘sub skills’ that you could take more than once, giving an extra +2 boost to the skill score only in that specialised sub area.
EG: Haluk of the Mountain Tribe doesn’t want to pump a lot of points into general Athletics, but it doesn’t make sense for a mountain tribesman not to be able to climb. So he puts the minimum of one point in, but makes it a specialisation. So he has Athletics (Climb Only) 3.
EG: Frater Dominus doesn’t care about heathen religions other than his own order’s opposite, evil, number. So he has Religion (Order of Light) 6, Religion (Order of Darkness) 6, despite only putting four points into each.
Consider also allowing Intelligence and Wisdom bonuses – and penalties – to affect the skill point pool, for a more skill-oriented game that encourages specialisations.
Barbarian: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Bard: Skill points 10, +5 each proficiency increase (or 1/1/1/2/1/1/1/2 etc).
Cleric: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Druid: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Fighter: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Monk: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Paladin: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Ranger: Skill points 10, +5 each proficiency increase (or 1/1/1/2/1/1/1/2 etc).
Rogue: Skill points 12, +6 each proficiency increase (or 1/2/1/2/1/2 etc).
Sorcerer: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Warlock: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Wizard: Skill points 8, +4 each proficiency increase (or 1 per level).
Standard D&D is not especially brutal, once you get past your first few levels. Hit Points are an abstraction that can drive more ‘simulationist’ players to distraction.
A first level Barbarian in standard rules starts with around 12+ hit points. There is not a single weapon that can possibly kill them in a single blow. This is great for heroics, but again – less good for grim and gritty settings and rules. The answer isn’t, necessarily, to reduce hit-points because this sort of range is about right, the answer may be to increase the potential, possible damage that a weapon might do – outside of the context of criticals.
Attacks would do a multiplier of themselves for damage, so a dagger would do 1 (1), 2 (4), 3 (9), 4 (16) damage with bonuses added onto the total at the end.
Multiple dice would roll individually. So a 2d6 maul rolling 3 & 4 on its two dice would do 9+16 = 25 damage, with armour being applied to each dice and the bonus to damage from strength etc being applied at the end – if any damage at all gets through.
To offset the deadliness and to further make the combat classes more effective, it’s necessary to alter the relationship with armour.
As well as making one harder to hit – deflecting attacks – armour now also reduces damage by the amount it increases AC over 10. Padded armour reduces damage by 1, while platemail reduces it by 8. Shields continue to boost AC as normal.
Inspiration points can also be used to completely evade an attack and take no damage.
Criticals are just automatic hits with no additional damage.
Tiny Creatures increase their AC by +2.
Small Creatures increase their AC by +1
Medium Creatures have no modifier.
Large Creatures reduce damage done to them by 1.
Huge Creatures reduce damage done to them by 2.
Gargantuan Creatures reduce damage done to them by 4.
Creatures with armour (over AC10) reduce damage by the amount it is over 10.
A barbarian stikes a Fomorian with his Battleaxe, he rolls a 5, for 25 damage, +2 for his strength for a total of 27.
A Fomorian is a huge creature, reducing that damage by 2 to 25 and has natural armour 14, reducing it by another 4 to 23, he’s down to 126 hit points.
Our level 8 Barbarian meanwhile has 103 hit points and hide armour, for 2 points of protection.
He gets hit for 3d8+6 (Greatclub)
70 hit points. Leaving him with 33.
He probably shouldn’t mess with giant monsters by himself.