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They're meant to go up, but I have never seen the non-damage skills advance from use.
They should have just left it the way it was from CE, but that had it's weirdness too. At least this differentiates the classes a bit more.
Don't spend any points on skills that level over time. Use them.
You will see which skills advance pretty easily.
This game is from 2005. Forget respecs.
Well crap, it'd be nice if they fixed that, because that feels kind of broken.
What I expect from the system at least is:
Armor skills go up when you get hit.
Lockpick/Disarm skills go up when you pick locks.
Magic Weapon skill goes up when you use magic weapons.
I mean these are skills you are constantly using, there is no reason why they shouldn't be going up.
It would probably also help if you made it clear somehow what the max level for any given skill is, because there are some like Athletics where it seems like 5 levels is all you'd ever need.
Having a good explanation of the skills and how the gain system works would definitely be important, because this seems like a game where building characters can be a lot of fun, but it's currently extremely easy to gimp yourself purely because when and where you spend your points makes such a huge difference.
That's either the most boneheaded design decision in the history of time (changing mechanics inside the same system) or a CYA for something they wanted to do and could never get working.
Either way, it speaks realms to the competence of the devs.
That's perfectly valid, the only reason it seems stupid right now is because it's in the UI like the skills are all the same and because you can spend optional points on core skills and thereby simply waste those points for something you'd have gotten anyways.
Anyways here is a list of skills that improve with usage:
WEAPON: MACE & HAMMER
WEAPON: KUNGFU (FISTS & FEET)
THIEF: DETECT TRAP
THIEF: DISARM TRAP
GENERAL SKILL: BASH
GENERAL SKILL: REPAIR
Also, is Detect Trap the same as Inspect? That is another skill that should have come up in the dozens of boxes I opened that never gained any points.
Repair skill also doesn't seem to make any progress on my character when I use repair kits.
Weapon and Magic skills seem to gain as intended.
I'm currently testing this on a Level 10 Adept who has no extra classes yet.