I would assert that the inconvenience of having to walk the player through this process is a major contributing factor to it only happening 1-3 times per session.
Interesting hypothesis and one I've considered. If I detached myself more from the character sheet's skills paradigm I'm sure I would see more occasions when I could use checks outside of that paradigm. I don't think I'd really be getting much value out of that though for the complication thinking through each check in detail represents. While I do really enjoy creative use of proficiencies I'm basically satisfied with the existing skill/ability pairings the overwhelming majority of the time.
As is, I only look for an atypical check when the typical ones don't seem satisfying, because that is when I feel that applying the full robustness of the system adds value rather than just complication. When this results in a way to construct a check that I think better models what is being done than the existing ones I apply it. Because it tends to only be rare I find it easier to walk the player through it than to rely on them understanding it. Eventually I think most players do understand the theory once it's all been modeled a few times, but it really doesn't cost much to just be explicit, and I don't want to put anyone on the spot for things that just aren't intuitive for some people.
Sure. And when some visionary creates a version of the character sheet that somehow does that without slowing down game-play and while being equally as intuitive to the average player as the existing character sheet I'll happily adopt it and sing their praises. But I don't think it's really possible.If the character sheet was set up in such a way as to make the ability check plus proficiency bonus process more intuitive, more DMs would call for ability checks with unorthodox proficiencies more often, and players would ask to apply different proficiencies more often.
I find the existing skills with typical abilities paradigm is satisfying to me for somewhere north of 95% of ability checks. I can't think of the way to set up a character sheet that makes atypical checks more intuitive without either forcing people to reinvent the wheel the other 95% of the time or becoming substantially more cluttered. If you find one then kudos; may your praises be sung throughout the ages.
Pretty safe wager. I certainly do think it is unfortunate that there are DMs without a solid theoretical grasp on the ability check system, as they are bound to get tripped up by atypical checks or make unsatisfying rulings on them, not knowing that creative application of the proficiency bonus is the recommended solution from the toolbox the designers tried to provide them. But this is part of the tradeoff we make in encouraging people to not stress over mastering a whole book of rules before they start rolling some dice and playing the game.I’d likewise wager a lot of players and a smaller but non-zero number of DMs don’t even realize they have that option.