Over on his blog, Rob Donoghue was saying, tangentially:
When a player buys a power or skill at a high level (like a fighting skill), he is communicating one of two contradictory messages. The first is "I am really interested in this thing, and I want to really get pushed hard within it" and the second is "I want to be good enough at this that I don't have to worry about it." The contradiction means that this is a potential landmine unless the GM takes the time to communicate with the player to figure out which is which.
Which makes me ponder: what if you design a game with two ratings for each stat: the number that determines your effectiveness as we're used to, and the rating that determines some sort of incentive-reward when you use it (similar to octaNe). The idea being, you are displaying both what you're good at and what you want to see in play, avoiding the two-contradictory-messages thing.
So say, for instance, we rate stat effectiveness with a number 1-6 and stat incentive with die size: d4s for stuff you actively don't want to deal with, d6s for neutral stuff, d8s for "that's sort of cool," and d10s for "this is what I want my corner of the game to be about." So I have Willpower 5d4, which is a clear indicator that I would really like to avoid things like mind control, and Kill People With Swords 4d10, which shows that I'm all about killing people with swords. I also have Eloquent 2d8 — flagging that I want to see social interaction and maybe even politics despite the fact that I'm shit at it.
Say you roll a couple different stats for any check, and evens are successes and odds are failures. After everybody has rolled, you not only count up successes, but the GM can also count up big dice to see how he's doing. To put teeth into this, for every d10 rolled, the GM gets an Adversity Point to add to his budget; for every d4 rolled, he loses Adversity. (And every two d8s give him one point, or something — details are sketchy; this is just an illustration!) Play should very quickly move towards highlighting what the players want to jam on. The system also still preserves the ability to resolve the occasional conflict in an arena that a player finds disinteresting.