In my home game, I'm running a campaign I call "Planet of Fear!" where a group of traditional fantasy 0-levels get transported to a hostile world in another dimension. Though the world is generally earth-like, the biology is wild and seemingly random (think your typical planetary romance / science fantasy like Princess of Mars). As the characters started to level up, I realized they are relatively skilled individuals (by occupation), but know nothing about the world.
So, I hit upon a basic skill system -- off the top of my head -- that provides them a kind of "knowledge/craft/survival" skill set that grows as they gain more experience. So, for instance, they arrive in a grassy plain of thick purplish grasses. Immediately, any exposed skin breaks out in painful blisters. The Healer 0-level, having some experience with herbs and things determines that not only is the grass an allergen (doh), it can also be used to create a poultice to relieve the allergen effect. So, for "natural knowledge" the Healer gets one "tick." I figure anyone with general herbal knowledge would need to hit a DC 20 to work out logically how things work in the new environment. The one "tick" reduces that DC by 1 for other related checks. So, later the Healer encounters a strange bug creature the size of a rat and wants to determine if this thing is edible, poisonous or whatever. It's DC 19.
I don't know if I want to roll this out to the other more "traditional" DCC game I'm running -- want to see how it works and whether it gets out of hand. But, I'm also using it for learning languages -- for instance, the characters are traveling with a group of alien creatures (called arachno-men...) that they freed from a slaver. One of the characters is struggling to learn the alien tongue. So, to represent the day of travel and evening of hanging out listening and interacting with the arachno-men, the character gets an Intelligence roll (starting at DC 20). For each success, the "arachno-man" language gets one tick and the DC goes down. When the character gets to about DC 15, she can understand simple concepts -- by DC 10, she can grasp more complex stuff and by DC 5, she's fluent enough to officially take the arachno-man language...
Anyway. Maybe too complex, but it was a spur of the moment lifeline I threw them to get them interested in learning about the world. I figure 1 or 2 skills related to the character's occupation or class per level can be attempted -- and always over a period of several days, if not weeks of continuous "study" to call themselves proficient.
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In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer: 12 Short Adventures for DCC!