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Weapon & Armor Proficiencies – To no one’s surprise, you don’t get great weapon proficiencies. Rapier and shortbow are the highlights here, but this is going to be outshone by any racial weapon proficiencies you happen to get. You only get light armor, but you wanted to have a low armor check penalty anyway. (Orange)
Level 1 – Alchemy – If there’s one thing that will make you powerful in Pathfinder, it’s spells. Spells give both power in combat as well as narrative power, each of which is useful in their own hemispheres of the game. Rogue players will sometimes lament the fact that spells seem to be answering all the same things that skills do. Certainly having access to comprehend languages and tongues makes the Linguistics skill less important. Certainly there’s been arguments over whether this invalidates the rogue as a skill monkey, but the Investigator has a better answer. Why not both?
Now, these are technically alchemist extracts, not actually spells. Due to the limits places on alchemist extracts, these are not nearly as powerful as the full wizard complement, and some are going to affect a class feature you don’t have – bombs. That being said, your spell list is still pretty good, and you have the ability to prepare an extract in one minute, which is really important when you realize that you’re going to need to talk to the town’s leader and he only speaks Hallit. (Blue)
Level 1 – Inspiration – This ability is what makes you the best skill monkey in the game. The free d6 on all Knowledge skills, Linguistics and Spellcraft is really good and makes those skills worth at least one rank each. Also, the ability to add the d6 to your other skills after you’ve already rolled them is really huge. While you are limited to how many times per day you can use Inspiration, the fact that you can choose the times when its most likely to be useful means those uses go a long way. Even though 1/2 level + Int modifier is not a lot, a smart Investigator will make those go a long way. (Blue)
Level 1 – Trapfinding – Adding 1/2 level to Perception to find traps and all Disable Device checks is nice, but the real benefit here is the ability to use Disable Device on magical traps. Sure, you could dispel magic them if you want (and by you I mean someone in your party who has access to dispel magic), but you’re better off saving castings of dispel magic for actual effects that are currently hurting the party if you can just take care of that black tentacles trap now. Of course, if you’re not choosing to specialize in Disable Device, then this isn’t needed. (Blue)
Level 2 – Poison Lore – Woo? If you want to focus on poisons, then this is necessary since it means you can’t accidentally poison yourself. But honestly, poisons are such a terrible thing to focus on. ID’ing a poison is nice, but most GMs gave that ability with Craft(alchemy), which you should already be decent at. If you happen to find poison as treasure, then sure, but I wouldn’t go spending money on it. (Red)
Level 2+ – Poison Resistance – I’m not going to complain about free bonuses to saves vs. certain effects, but there are a lot of things that I would rather have save bonuses for besides poison. If your GM really likes poisons, then great. Otherwise, this isn’t really that helpful, but it’ll be nice when it shows up. (Orange)
Level 3+ – Investigator Talent – There’s a lot of these, and the good ones tend to be on the level of a feat. A more detailed look at the Talents follows after the class features. (Blue)
Level 3 – Keen Recollection (in PFS) – On paper this seems cool, but it doesn’t pan out in practice. Thanks to the free inspiration on trained Knowledge checks, you want to make sure you spare a rank in each Knowledge skill anyway, so you’ll never have to make an untrained Knowledge check. I guess if you didn’t want to put a rank into Knowledge (engineering) or Knowledge (nobility) you can use this to attempt those skills anyway, but it’s worth it way more to put that 1 rank in. Smart players will find this worthless. (Red)
…except in PFS. Season 6 will have a not-insignificant amount of tech material in it, and in order to identify it you need to have the Technologist feat. If you don’t have it, the check is considered untrained, which means you can’t make it. Unless you’re an Investigator with Keen Recollection of course! (Or a bard with bardic knowledge, but who cares about them?) Given that this has only appeared in a few scenarios so far, this is not a huge deal, but it’s nice when it comes up. This is enough to bump it up to Orange for PFS.
Level 3+ – Trap Sense – This is a nice thing to have, since traps are at the very least annoyances and at their worst killers. The AC bonus isn’t as helpful since traps have ridiculous bonuses to hit and usually attack flat-footed AC, but the bonus to Reflex saves is really nice. This is really for if you screwed up as the trap-finder, but it’s nice to have the protection. (Green)
Level 4 – Studied Combat – This is the combat mechanic that Rogues wish they had. Adding half your level to melee attack rolls is huge, and there’s no restriction to who you target with this ability besides the ability to see the target and action economy behind it. And given that it’s a move action, that’s not terrible action economy. Spend a turn closing in and studying something or study something and drink an extract. All good choices. It’s a shame we don’t get this until 4th level, but we can wait for our sweet, sweet, bonus to hit. Oh yeah, and there’s a damage bonus too. Cool. (Blue)
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Level 4+ – Studied Strike – Studied Strike is nice, but it’s not that important. It’s good when you know that the Studied Combat is going to end anyway, or when you know that the creature is low on hit points and one big strike is going to finish him off. However, the fact that it ends Studied Combat means that this isn’t generally going to be your first plan. That being said, you are going to use this ability and you are going to enjoy it. It’s just a nice and useful addon as opposed to your bread and butter. (Green)
Level 4 – Swift Alchemy (in PFS) – On one hand, this is nice because mundane crafting is terrible. Seriously – go look at the mechanics. If you craft a alchemist fire and get exactly a 20 on the check, it takes 3.5 days to craft a single alchemist fire. This ability lets you craft an alchemist fire inn 1.75 days on a basic 20. On the other hand, more poison stuff? If you plan on using the mundane crafting rules, then this ability is great, otherwise it’s worthless. In PFS, this is worthless because no one cares how fast it takes you to craft something, only that you have the requisite skill check and money needed. (Orange, Red in PFS)
Level 11 – Poison Immunity – Same with poison resistance – there are plenty of other things I’d rather have immunity to, but I’ll take this. (Orange)
Level 20 – True Inspiration – Cool, I guess? This is the natural progression of inspiration – get it for free to everything and add 2d6 instead of 1d6. However, unlike other capstones, I’m not becoming immortal or having huge game-changers. Instead I essentially get infinite inspiration. It’s not really that great mechanically. (Orange)
What are we looking for in an Investigator Talent? Given that they are halfway between an alchemist discovery and a rogue talent, we would expect them to be worth about a feat. Knowing that, we want to be able to use these talents pretty much every day, and we’re going to prefer always on talents as opposed to talents that have a number of uses per day. Talents that improve how our inspiration works or that help us out in combat are going to be nice, while abilities that have little to do with our class features are probably going to be left by the wayside. With that, let’s dive in.
You can assume that anything not tagged is from the Advanced Class Guide.
Alchemist Discovery – This is really multiple talents in one, and therefore I have rated each one individually. I have put them in a spoiler to save space.
Amazing Inspiration – This talent is good, but it’s not as good as getting your inspiration to more things for free. Increasing all of your inspiration rolls by an average of 1 is good, but getting freeinspiration to other skills is better. (Green)
Blinding Strike – The basic rule for abilities that trigger off of a Studied Strike is “Would I want to end my Studied Combat early to trigger this effect?” Blind certainly fits the bill. 50% miss chance on everyone plus no attacks of opportunity and no line of sight is really brutal. The only problem with this ability is that you can’t pick it up until 17th level. (Blue)
Combat Inspiration – If you’re the kind of character that took Quick Study immediately upon getting access to it at level 5, then this seems like a really good level 7 inspiration for you. The 2 inspiration cost to use them on attack rolls is really steep – this talent makes it much more feasible. (Green)
Deafening Strike – Paizo seems to think that blind and deaf are conditions of similar severity. While the roleplaying ramifications are similar, the effect that have on a combatant is drastically different. Blinding may be worth ending your Studied Combat for, but deafening is not. (Red)
Device Talent – If this had any other skills attached to it, it would be auto-blue every Investigator needs this. As is, it competes with Expanded Inspiration and Underworld Inspiration for which one you want to take first. My recommendation would be to go for one of the other 2 first, but it’s very close. Use Magic Device is the most versatile skill in the game. (Blue)
Effortless Aid - This is a really good ability, and it’s something that makes the Investigator different from any other Pathfinder class. The ability to make a “full aid another attack” is really nice, pushing the Investifator up to one of the highest picks for an Aid Another/Bodyguard build. If you’re not investing in Aid Another, stay away, but otherwise this is amazing. (Green)
Eidetic Recollection – The nice thing about taking 10 in combat is that you need less of a bonus to auto-succeed on all Knowledge checks, and the natural 20’s for a point of inspiration are nice. Certainly if you spend your inspiration wisely, this will come up everyday, and you can use it a lot for days where you’re not fighting a lot of things. This gets better the more you’ve invested into Knowledge checks. (Green)
Empathy – When you need Sense Motive, you really need Sense Motive. However, it varies wildly how often you’ll need it. If you have this, you’re going to really enjoy the times you have it, but there will be plenty of times where this is a useless scratch on your character sheet. As to the other half of the ability, detect thoughts is a very player and GM-dependent ability. Creative players and GMs can get a lot out of this, so if this fits into your play-style, then consider this higher for you – it is, after all, a powerful ability. (Orange)
Expanded Inspiration – Diplomacy and Perception are two very important skills. Diplomacy rolls can make or break adventures, while you never really want to spend an inspiration on a Perception check because there may or may not be something there – you don’t know until the result, but then it’s too late to add the inspiration. Sense Motive is just as bad as Perception but also you often don’t even get to see the roll so you never know if you want to add inspiration or not. Heal and Profession are just okay, but the real meat of this talent is in the previous three. (Blue)
Greater Combat Inspiration – This talent would be awesome if it wasn’t for the fact that you had to wait to get it until 19th level. Oh no, you have to specialize in a weapon… like everyone else at 19th level. (Blue)
Hidden Agendas – Congrats, you get a bonus on the 2 least common uses of Bluff and Linguistics checks, plus a bonus on saves versus the school of magic who is the 2nd least likely to cause you to make a saving throw (after abjuration). (Red)
Inspirational Expertise – This is a really cool ability. Those Investigators who have highly invested in Knowledge skills should be able to hit the DC no problem, and really the first or second round is the most important round anyways as they set the tone for the combat. Also insight bonuses to hit are not easy to come by. And the best part about all this is – this is a free action. Not for every Investigator, but solid for those that have decent monster ID’ing Knowledges (Green)
Inspired Alertness – An encounter full of rogues with Improved Initiative can just straight up kill people. Preventing yourself from getting flat-footed can save your life. That being said, unless your GM is throwing tons of rogue encounters at you because he’s mad your Investigator is obsoleting his rogues, is it really worth it for a feat that will save you once or twice? Not really. (Orange)
Inspired Intelligence – Most Investigators don’t want this because they already get this for free from the Inspiration class feature. However, if you trade this away in an archetype, then this talent can get it back for you. Then this talent is pretty solid. (Red|Blue)
Inspired Intimidator – Trading inspiration points for extra rounds of demoralization isn’t worth it. You’ve got better things to spend your inspiration on. (Red)
Item Lore – This answers the question of how you identify items as an Investigator. Unfortunately, since this essentially costs a feat and makes you wait until 7th level, it’s not a great answer. If you haven’t found away before 7th level that lets you ID items and your party doesn’t have a way yet, then this is fine. Otherwise, you have better options. (Orange)
Perceptive Tracking – Tracking is the most-used ability of Survival, so the ability to use Perception instead of Survival there is really nice. On the flip side, this ability doesn’t come that often and isn’t so powerful as to be worth a feat. Also, if you’re tracking stuff down that much, it’s probably worth it to you to put ranks in Survival since you will probably need the other parts of Survival as well. (Red)
Quick Study – Yes, yes, there’s bad editing. Ignoring that, this talent is pretty much required if you’re an Investigator focusing on smacking things with an oversized stick and not bad even if that’s not your focus. (Blue)
Repositioning Strike – Repositioning can be surprisingly powerful. It doesn’t look like much at first glance, but the ability to move other people around the battlefield can be really key to winning a fight. The problem is, if you try to make a reposition attempt with this ability, you don’t get the attack bonus from Studied Combat. If you’re doing combat maneuvers, you want every to-hit bonus you can get, especially given the Investigator’s 3/4 BAB. Also you want to reposition someone near the beginning of a fight, but trigger Studied Strike right before they fall unconscious. An awkward, although slightly useful ability. (Orange)
Rogue Talent – This is really multiple talents in one, and therefore I have rated each one individually. I have put them in a spoiler to save space.
Sapping Offensive – Hit them once and everyone can move around them without worry of attacks of opportunity. This is a neat little ability, but unless you have a lot of sneak attackers or other people who care about mobility, it won’t come up often enough to spend a feat on. When it is relevant though, it will be nice. (Orange)
Sickening Offensive – You mean I get to sicken someone for free? No save? All I have to do is spend a move/swift action studying them and then hit them with an attack? This is awesome. Sickened is a pretty sweet debuff that the entire party will benefit from. (Blue)
Studied Defense – On one hand, the Investigator doesn’t get any class features to add to his AC. In fact, the Investigator’s armor proficiencies are pretty terrible, and if you wanted an Investigator whose AC is relevant into high levels, you are going to need to buy medium armor and shields at least. On the other hand, 1/2 your level to AC versus one creature is really good, especially if you’re Aiding Another all the time and only need to hit AC 10. If you’ve been heavily focusing on defense, then the value of this talent goes up, but for most Investigators, this comes online right at the time where monsters are full-attacking you and hitting you on a 1. Not worth it. (Orange)
Tenacious Inspiration – The one problem with inspiration is that it is a die roll – no matter how much you invest into it, there’s still a chance you’ll get a 1. This reduces our chances of rolling a 1 from 1-in-6 to 1-in-36. That’s much better. Shame we have to wait until 13th though. (Blue)
Toppling Strike – The problem with Toppling Strike is that you have to spend Studied Strike to use it. A trip build needs to be able to repeatedly trip its targets during a fight to emphasize to the enemies that its no good standing up. While the well-placed trip can spell death for an enemy, it’s tough to gauge when that is. Also, this suffers from the same problem as Repositioning Strike where you want as high of an attack bonus as possible but you can’t get Studied Combat on this attack. (Orange)
Unconventional Inspiration – I can’t think of a single situation where I care about a skill enough where I’m willing to spend a feat in order to gain the ability to use inspiration with it but not care enough to ever put a rank in it. At least, not an optimal one anyway. Besides, can’t you just wait 3 more levels at this point until you hit your capstone? (Red)
Underworld Inspiration – Are you taking the traditional rogue skills? If so, this is the talent for you! You’ll be doing a decent number of Disable Device checks throughout your career, so getting free inspiration for disabling is really nice, while Bluff and Intimidate come up frequently. Sleight of Hand and Disguise are okay skills, but if you wanted Disable Device, chances are you want the free inspiration on the other two as well. The only question is do you want to take this talent or Expanded Inspiration first? You are the only person who can answer that, since the answer comes from what skills you are doing more often. (Blue)