Changes to starting skill points and rank max
Pathfinder removed the 4× multiplier on 1st-level skill points, limits ranks to a character’s level, and gives a +3 bonus on class skills with at least one rank. The effect of this is that players get slightly fewer choices for skill points (which is largely a good thing since the 3.5 system is far more fiddly than it’s worth). It also eliminates much of the pain in cross-class skills, which is very nice (you just miss the +3 bonus, rather than having to pay double forever).
It also means players have 3 fewer ranks in skills at a given level than they could in 3.5. Reduce skill rank requirements by 3 (to a minimum of 1), and that is solved.
The great upside here is the simplicity, particularly when creating a new, multiclassed character at high level. Because you do not pay more for ranks when a skill is cross-class, you do not have to track when you buy each rank, and that is wonderful. But even for simpler cases, ranks=level is nice and easy, which is good.
Changes to skill list
Pathfinder consolidated the skill list. This was already a common houserule in 3.5, and the list Paizo came up with is actually one of the worst I have seen (Fly is awful, Climb and Swim definitely do not need to remain separate).
My list often looks something like this:
- Acrobatics (Dex) covers Balance, Escape Artist, Jump, and Tumble.
- Athletics (Str) covers Climb, Jump, and Swim.
- Yes, Jump is under both Acrobatics and Athletics. People can use whichever is better for them to jump, and to meet requirements for Jump ranks.
- Disable Device (Dex) covers Disable Device and Open Lock.
- Linguistics (Int) covers Decipher Script, Forgery, and Speak Language (learn a language for each rank in it).
- Perception (Wis) covers Listen and Spot.
- Stealth (Dex) covers Hide and Move Silently.
- Use Esoteric Device (Cha) covers Use Magic Device and Use Psionic Device.
- I also often allow broader skill usage, e.g. Knowledge (arcana) in place of Spellcraft to identify arcane spell effects.
I also make sure that all classes that are not Intelligence-based full spellcasters (e.g. wizard, archivist, psion) get at least 4+Int skills.
The effect of this is that characters can actually be reasonably well-rounded, competent people. The original skill system was horribly bloated and skill points handed out so stingily that most skills never got used and most characters could only do a couple things.