Our current plan is to condense skill and feat choices into two choices: background and theme. Background tells you where you came from, who you were, and what you are trained to do. Your background gives you a set of skills, specific tasks, areas of knowledge, or assets a character of that background ought to have. The thief background gives you Pick Pockets, Stealth, Streetwise, and Thieves’ Cant. The soldier background gives you Endurance, Intimidate, Survival, and an extra language. We want your abilities to carry the weight of basic task resolution, so these skills improve your chances when you perform tasks related to them or just let you do something, such as cook a meal, speak Goblin, or run for twice as long as the next person.
Where background speaks to the skills you possess, your theme describes how you do the things you do. All fighters, for example, kick ass in combat because they are fighters. A sharpshooter fighter is awesome with ranged weapons while a slayer fighter dominates in hand-to-hand combat. Your theme helps you realize a certain style, technique, or flavor through the feats it offers. Each theme gives you several feats, starting with the first one right out of the gate. As you gain levels, your theme gives you additional feats that reflect the theme’s overall character.
There's a lot of maybe here for me. Maybe this will work if skills and feats don't have prerequisites. If they do, then I'm still going to have to build out my character to level 10 or whatever to make sure I pick up the right ones. And maybe it'll work if everyone doesn't decide your fighter must have a certain feat and skill package to be "viable" in the game. If that happens, your attempt to tie background to mechanics has backfired, and now everyone is playing the same background over and over again.
It also depends on how skills and feats are used in the game. Are they additive or subtractive? By this I mean, do the skills work as they do in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG, where everyone has a 1-in-6 chance of finding a trap, but the Specialist can improve his odds? Or can nobody swim unless they have the swimming skill (which, as 3e taught us, means that nobody can swim because, seriously, how often does that come up). They've made noises in the past that indicate that it's more the LotFP style, with everyone at least getting a roll based on the appropriate stat, which is promising.