When he wants to, Kent can really write. I mean really write. I read this with a great deal of interest, because it chimed with something I've been thinking about recently: removing ability scores. Scott, in the comments, talks about the same thing.
What are ability scores for? I use them for two things: sometimes, a rough and ready saving-throw equivalent where necessary ("roll under your DEX to see if you fall off the tight rope or not") and a way to envision my character in my own mind, physically and mentally (this also, I suppose, includes selecting a class).
Are either of these things necessary? Not in the slightest. Whether a character achieves a task can just as easily be determined by the DM telling him to roll a d6 and achieve a certain result based on what the DM knows about the character and the situation. And envisioning a character should surely be possible with or without stats.
However, it must be said that there is something in the random generation of stats which makes the character creation process really shine. I love having a blank character sheet and rolling dice and seeing what comes up. It sets the mind racing with creativity and promise. There is something almost primevally powerful about the way an actual living being seems to come fully formed from the ether thanks to a few d6s.
Replicating this process without stats is difficult: randomly generating a class seems the obvious choice, but it is not as satisfying in anything like the same way. Nonetheless, I think I am faced with the proposition that stats may in fact be of primary use as a process rather than as a mechanic or rule. There is, in fact, a huge amount of discourse in my field on the value of law as a process rather than a series of rules; to my eye, it seems that much could be said of RPGs, although that may require elaboration in a future post when I am not full of cold, exhaustion and red wine.