In Numenera, an NPC's description could be e.g.
Malik Harcrow: level 5, level 6 at all subterfuge- related tasks, level 7 at lockpicking
Now, I understand how players would attack or defend against Malik, and even the subterfuge tasks, which more-or-less would map to D&D's perception checks. But I am at a loss to see how players -which are supposed to make all rolls- would actually face a lockpicking by Malik.
Please note, I'm more interested in non-combat or non/antagonistic based answers. Most stuff are interpretable if I think of combat:
Jesra Cris: level 3, level 1 at all tasks involving sight.
Why, that's when she tries to spot the group (and likely fails). Players gain surprise. But say the players are interacting with Ames,
Ames Gylley: level 3, level 5 at numenera knowledge
and try to use his knowledge. What does that "level 5 mean"? That he's harder to persuade about sharing his numenera knowledge than other stuff he knows? Am I supposed to forget the exact number and just think "ok, Malik is a great lockpick" and roleplay the interaction without dice (not that that would be bad, mind)?
I can think of one general interpretation: pair the NPC against the task to be accomplished. Say the players want to understand an artifact of level 7 they found, and none are especially knowledgeable on the matter. They could talk to Ames. He's level 5 for that task. Should the GM roll for him?