To beat the Old School drum, or maybe not
And the Monsters and Manuals swell to the number 78
With the crackling flames of men of straw
Then Tupac shall slay the one whose initials are JFK ... (etc., etc.)
In other words, how should dice rolls, DM rulings, and rules procedures be balanced? This sounds strangely familiar to me. But let me try and tie it all together.
What Monte Cook was proposing is simply a feature that all RPG resolution systems have. Think of three zones. In the red zone, an action fails. In the green zone, an action succeeds. In the yellow zone, more resolution is needed.
The d20 resolution system that Cook co-designed for 3rd edition lays the zones out like this, based on what's known about the action's difficulty class number (DC) and any modifiers that apply:
1 + mods > DC
Any other DC/mods combination (resolution from d20 roll)
20 + mods < DC
Going to the other extreme, a system based on DM's say-so and interaction with players looks like this:
DM says you can
DM asks you for more questions and decisions (resolution from information provided)
DM says you can't
What exactly was Monte proposing in that recent article? Details are hazy, but it looks something like this:
Rules say you can (character skill > challenge level)
If character ability = challenge level, roll dice against an ability check (resolution from dice roll) OR player describes action in such a way as to change from "no" to "maybe" or "maybe" to "yes" (resolution from information provided)
Rules say you can't (character skill < challenge level)
Which is not too far from the Grand Unified Model of all Refereed Gaming:
Rules as interpreted by the DM say you can (character skill > challenge level)
If the DM finds no clear "yes" or "no" in the rules or in the DM's head, roll dice against an ability check determined by the rules, or by the DM if the rules do not cover it (resolution from dice roll). Player can describe action in such a way as to change from "no" to "maybe" or "maybe" to "yes" (resolution from information provided)
Rules as interpreted by the DM say you can't (character skill < challenge level)
From which all else can be derived depending on the exact procedures which are privileged in the yellow box, the amount of stuff in the rules, and the amount of stuff in the DM's head.
But you know, since I started on this post earlier today I think it might have been scooped a little more elegantly.