Grouped Skills, the next variant rule, seems to gain all the benefits of the Consolidated Skills variant with less conversion work. In this system the existing skills are combined into skill groups of Natural, Perceptive, Physical, Scholarly, Social, and Thieving. A character chooses two or more of these groups, depending on level and Intelligence modifier, and gains bonuses in the entire group. The character also gains skill specializations which allow them to choose a specific skill to get a bonus in. This system does away with the concept of skill ranks and instead uses a character’s level to determine bonuses to skill rolls. This, in my opinion, quite elegantly modifies the existing skill system. Characters become broader, having more bonuses to more skills, but avoids hyper-specialization at low levels.
The next variant is probably the crunchiest of the skill section. Alternate Crafting and Profession Rules aim to make Craft and Profession more useful for the day to day adventurer. Craft, which usually measures progress in weeks of work, gets an overhaul to break down progression into day by day. This is better for the adventurer on the go and allows gear and items to be built slowly over subsequent downtimes as opposed to all at once in a flurry. The new Profession rules give mechanics for running your own shop, supervising labour, and various examples of shops and businesses. This sounds like gold for a campaign run around a business, with the PCs being owners or employees. If anyone ever wants to run that campaign, let me know, I’d make a great Gnomish salesman.
And lastly in this chapter is a variant rule that probably should have been in the last chapter. Variant Multiclassing significantly simplifies the existing multiclass system. Instead of trading level for level between classes you simply choose a secondary class. Upon gaining feats at certain levels you trade that feat for class abilities from your second class. This is a really nice system that adds a lot of options for characters wishing to make some flavourful builds. I find it especially nice for Fighters since they have so many feats that losing every second feat isn’t as big a deal to them. Multiclassing has traditionally been a bad idea in Pathfinder. I haven’t played with this new system yet, but I have a feeling this may make it more viable.
Like the chapter before it, I find Pathfinder Unchained’s second chapter to be a worthwhile addition to Pathfinder. Whether one seeks to simplify or expand the existing skill system, these variant rules give you multiple ways of doing both. They also really open up the possibility of skill-heavy campaigns where combat can take a backseat, and sometimes that’s a nice option. I will now return to dreaming of playing a Gnome salesman.