Skills in Pathfinder are one of the systems that undergo the least amount of change in their new edition. The big exceptions are the additions of Acrobatics, Fly, Linguistics and Perception. (4E combines Climb and Swim into Athletics, which I like)
Pathfinder combines Jump and Tumble into Acrobatics, basically much as 4E does. This is just some good consolidation of similar skills. You can still tumble around, or through, opponents’ squares with an Acrobatics roll, but instead of a set DC, the DC is based on your opponent’s Combat Maneuver Defense – something I’ll explain later when I delve into system changes.
Fly is a new skill which is interesting. It sort of makes sense, given the many ways a character might be flying in D20. Basically, you make skill checks to do things like hover or make turns when flying in tactical combat. Fly checks are modified by a creature’s maneuverability score, as one would expect.
This is the skill that combines Decipher Script as well as speaking multiple languages. For each rank putinto this skill, your character speaks another language. This will result in characters easily speaking a LOT of languages – as I recall, this is similar to 3.0, where I think one skill rank bought you fluency in a language.
Perception is just a combination of Listen, Search and Spot, which is a good way to simplify (which 4E also uses).
Next, we turn to Feats.
When I read the Feats section of the Pathfinder RPG, I was surprised at how many there were. There are four full pages of Feats listed in a table much like you found in 3.5 (though it was half as long). Some are genuinely new, whereas others are taken from supplements. A large number of Feats are expansions of combat Feats you’re probably already familiar with. First I’ll mention a few Feats that are expanded upon (that is, longer chains attached to them), and then I’ll pick out a couple interesting individual Feats.
Combat Expertise has 7 Feats it is a prerequisite for, where Critical Focus (distinct from Improved Critical) has 9 in its chain. Dodge has Wind Stance and Lightening Stance as well Mobility and Spring Attack; Improved Unarmed Strike has a total of 8 Feats attached to it. There are also more missile feats, more rooted in Power Attack, and Weapon Focus has 9 in it’s ‘chain’. (This is good news, considering characters will have a lot more Feats than in 3.5, getting one at every odd-numbered level – giving Fighters a Feat per level, for example).
Arcane Armor Training
There are two Arcane Armor Training Feats, and each reduces your Arcane spell failure chance due to wearing armor. I’ve always liked this idea, not necessarily buying that arcane spellcasters have any logical reason to be “clothies” other than long-standing convention.
This Feat is like Power Attack, but for ranged attacks, which is a cool idea.
This Feat is a house rule of mine – you add Str to Intimidate checks rather than Cha. This has always made sense to me, since being huge is in itself intimidating, regardless of what your social skills look like.
This Feat is kind of exciting if you want to just deal out damage. This Feat lets you double your weapon damage dice on a single attack…every time. If you have multiple attacks, then the one at your highest attack bonus doubles it’s dice. So that longsword now deals 2d8 if you hit with your best attack, and so on. And yes, you can build on the Feat from there, dealing 3x and even 4x dice in damage with your highest attack.
There are a lot of other exciting Feats in the Pathfinder RPG, but I don’t want to go into all of them. Suffice to say, you’ll still have hard decisions to make when choosing Feats as you level, and looking through, there are enough Feats to take away the ‘obvious’ Feat decisions from 3.5’s core PHB. This means more versatility and more interesting specialization. I can see multiple Fighter builds, for example, that would be very different from each other, and that in itself is cool.