A question came up while I was thinking about Borderlands. In a loot-driven game, must skills and loot be related?
I'd say no, they don't have to be. Yet they usually are, aren't they?
Weapon specialization skills are common. I've never been sure if I like them. On the one hand, specialization can give a character personality. In Diablo 2, I imagined my Barbarian differently depending on whether he fought with swords or with giant two-handed mauls. On the other hand, it deters players from using items they aren't specialized in, thereby reducing the fun value of other loot.
Overall, I think I prefer no specialization skills. That reduces the likelihood that I'll loot something I can't comfortably use. But a few games, like Diablo 2, do offer enough skill options that one can avoid those of specialization entirely.
The regular bond between loot and skills isn't limited to specialization, though. Magic users are often limited to staffs, wands and "focus" items. Incidentally, why must magic classes always be intellectual pansies who lob spells from afar?
Melee characters get skills that involve spinning, slamming, or jabbing. Ranged-style characters get skills for accuracy, long shots, and reload time. Many, if not most, skills in games rely heavily on whether a character is a melee or ranged fighter.
Anyway, I'd like to see some games consciously separate skills and loot... meaning any character can use any weapon or other item, and character types are divided by skills unrelated to what they're using.