I received a whole bunch of material for Lamentations of the Flame Princess recently, including the new Rules & Magic hardcover book. And its presentation of the Specialist class makes me think it might be able to solve two separate problems.
Why I like the Specialist is that its abilities clearly extrapolate from systems that have been in D&D all along. The class takes the 1 in 6 or 2 in 6 rolls in dungeon exploration and figures that there is a simple mechanic behind them, and then just expands them so the Specialist gets better at those things. The specialist skills are neat things and don't over-complicate the game. They also allow thieves to be competent at things fairly early on, while in Greyhawk and its derivatives in Classic and Advanced D&D don't. (Halfling thieves with 18 Dexterity in AD&D aren't awful.)
So that's problem number one: making thieves competent at low level while allowing them to grow. I may tweak the skill list a bit, but overall I think I prefer the class to the thief as written.
The second problem is demihuman level limits. Generally demihumans with no limits are too good to pass up. There's no reason to play a vanilla human in a game where elves are just plain better. So that's where Specialist skills come in: they're a way to make demihumans continue to advance without letting them be as good as fighters or magic-users as a high level human. So when an elf caps out in level, they can take some amount of XP (say 100K or so) and use it to get points in Specialist skills. I think this is a compromise that allows demihumans to continue to grow without throwing the whole game out of whack.
Any thoughts on these?