Elementary! Races & Ability Scores

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Ability Scores

Strength – If you’re planning on running up and hitting things with a sword, then Strength matters for you. Strength will also matter for carrying capacity in early levels until you get extradimensional spaces. Otherwise, you don’t really need a ton of Strength.

Dexterity – Dexterity affects a lot of the traditional Rogue skills that other players will expect you to have. Also, you’re expected to be in melee with monsters, but you don’t have great armor proficiency. While you have extracts that will help you out defensively, Dexterity is going to be your main defense. Helpful Combatants and Combat Maneuver Specialists want a higher Dexterity due their usual use of Weapon Finesse.

Constitution – You are a d8 HD class with terrible armor proficiency who is expected to be up in melee to contribute. You’re going to need hit points if you want to live. I recommend a 14 post-racial.

Intelligence – This is perhaps the most important ability that you’re going to have. The more Intelligence you have, the more skill points you have, the more inspiration you have, the higher your Int-based skills are, the longer your studied combat lasts for, and the more extracts you get a day. You’ll eventually need at least a 16 in order to eventually make all your extracts, but I would recommend that 16 be your starting  point post-racial, with an 18 for those investigators who don’t need as much for their other stats.

Wisdom – The major two skills you want that are Wisdom based are Perception and Survival. You can easily make up for those with a good race, good items and extracts. This will be one of your lowest stats. Sure you’ll have a low will save, but who’s going to dominate you? There’s a fighter right next to you who’s much better to dominate.

Charisma – Here’s the problem with Charisma – you have nothing in your class based on it, but you have way more Charisma skills that you care about. While you can make up for a low Wisdom easily, you can’t make up as well for a low Charisma. Don’t put a ton of points into it, but don’t skimp out on it either. If you’re not being a face and can get UMD based off another skill, then the value of this goes lower.


Unless otherwise said, assume everything in this section comes from the Advanced Race Guide.

Core Races

Dwarf – The real draws to playing a dwarf are darkvision and hardy. The stats aren’t amazing – I’d rather have a Charisma bump and a Wisdom penalty – but they’re not terrible either. Stonecunning is a highly situational trait, but really useful when it triggers.  You can get spell resistance, but you’re trading away hardy to do it, which isn’t the best idea. A dwarven investigator is has its advantages, but nothing really synergizes between the two. (Orange)

Elf – The +2 Dex, +2 Int is great, the -2 Con isn’t. Keen senses and weapon familiarity are good racial traits and half of elven magic is useful to you. You can trade out your low-light vision to get darkvision. You don’t care about the dazzle effect as much, so there’s not much downside. Envoy gives you detect magic once a day and woodcraft gives you minor bonuses to Knowledge (nature) and Survival, but both of them require you to trade out elven magic. The Con penalty stops this from being top tier, but it’s not a bad decision either. (See my note about blend in the extract section.) (Green)

Gnome – The Strength penalty is slightly annoying, but you weren’t planning on playing a gnome investigator and hitting things with a weapon, so it all works out. The only real racial traits that you care about from a base gnome are keen senses and gnome magic – and you only really care about that one if you need a caster level to qualify for something or if you want to talk to animals.  Fortunately gnomes have good trade-offs for their race. Academician lets you trade out the mostly useless Craft/Profession bonus for a more useful Knowledge bonus, you can gain darkvision at the price of keen senses, eternal hope is a nice reroll ability at the cost of hatred and obsessive, gift of tongues is a great trade-off of hatred and obsessive, and master tinker can be a great ability, although not really worth it in PFS. Overall, some good abilities, but no Int bonus, so they’re no greater than green. (Green)

Half-Elf – Floating ability scores are always amazing – you’re going to want it in Intelligence every time. Half-elves are yet another race that gets keen senses, which is a point in their favor. Multitalented isn’t great, but there’s nothing really good to switch it out with. The free Skill Focus is nice, especially when you’re trying to go for Eldritch Heritage, but if you’re looking to hit things with a weapon, Ancestral Arms can be a good swap. Drow-Blooded is a nice swap for darkvision, but unfortunately not legal in PFS. (See my note about paragon surge in the extract section.) (Blue)

Half-Orc – Half-orcs have that magical floating ability score, which means that half-orc investigators are surprisingly Intelligent. That plus darkvision and proficiency with great axes means that I expect to see a lot of half-orc investigators. Lots of players like trading away half-orc ferocity for sacred tattoo, but that may not be a good trade in this case since you have the ability to heal yourself as a standard action thanks to your extracts. The intimidating trait is okay, but if you have something funny you want to do with Endurance, then shaman’s apprentice is good for you. Skilled is intriguing, but not worth trading away darkvision for. (Blue)

Halfling – Like gnomes, you’re not going into halfling for weapon damage dice or Strength bonuses, so the Strength penalty and small size aren’t terrible losses for you. +Dex and +Cha are okay, but keen senses and halfling luck are where it’s at. Halflings get a lot of good alternate racial traits though. You can trade your +2 to Climb and Acrobatics for a 30ft movement speed. Both of those skills are class skills for you, so this may not be a terrible idea. Remember that your 20ft. move speed is giving you a -4 to jump with Acrobatics anyway, so you’re not losing as much as you think. Really the only reason not to do this is if you want outrider, shiftless, or warslinger instead, all of which are decent and all of which also replace sure-footed. Adaptable luck is also a good racial trait which has a lot of support in the ARG.  The lack of stats and darkvision hurt it, but the racial abilities make it a decent choice. (Green)

Human – Humans are the king of everything and investigators are no exception. You’ve got good class features, good stats, all we’re really missing is the darkvision and we would be perfect. In general, we want to keep skilled since we’re going to want all the skill points we can get, although heart of the wilderness is strong enough to make me consider it, especially since you will be dropping below 0 at least once in your career. If you’re planning on taking a Skill Focus for any reason, consider focused study since that gives you 3 Skill Focuses over time for the price of 1. (Blue)


Featured Races

Aasimars (without Blood of Angels) – Aasimars are a really good race thanks to Blood of Angels. The ability to freely swap out your stat bonuses and have no negatives is really powerful. The best heritage for you to take would be peri-blooded since that gives you +Int, bonuses to two skills you care about, and a decent spell-like ability. (Although really any of the heritages besides angel-blooded are going to be good for you. Agathion-blooded are surprisingly good with their summon nature’s ally II spell-like ability – small earth elementals are really useful and hit hard in early levels.) Without Blood of Angels, aasimars are an decent race. They get darkvision, the outside subtype, good energy resistances and bonuses to decent skills, but bad stat bumps. The heritages are what really pushes this race over the top. (Blue, green without BoA)

Catfolk - Catfolk are really built for rogues, not investigators. That being said, there is still some useful stuff here. Natural hunter is a solid racial feature, and sprinter can be traded out for a racial climb speed with climber. Also cat’s luck is nice considering you don’t have evasion. Overall an okay race, but apart from flavor reasons, you’re picking this for the climb speed. (Orange)

Dhampir (without Blood of the Night) – Dhampir are catfolk without the ability to gain a climb speed, a worse stat penalty, a situational spell-like ability, and without the ability to heal themselves since inflict light wounds isn’t on the alchemist/investigator spell list. The dhampir does gain darkvision to make up for this, but it isn’t enough. However, with Blood of the Night into play, you gain access to the jiang-shi born, which gains a bonus to Int instead of Cha and puts the penalty into Wis instead of Con, which makes the dhampir much more playable. (Green, red without BotN)

Drow – Drow have bad stats for what we’re trying to do, but their darkvision is amazing – it’s hard to beat 120ft. darkvision. Keen senses is always nice, faerie fire once per day is useful even beyond giving us a caster level, and the ability to use poisons can help you contribute at early levels. Darklands stalker isn’t a bad trade-off since Nimble Moves is a generally good feat, although not one that people want to spend a feat slot on most of the time. When we’re just trading minor spell-like abilities for it, then go for it. Spell resistance is good, but be careful since it means that your allies will have trouble casting on you. Always carry a potion of cure serious wounds so that other people can heal you when you go down. (Green)

A note about Drow Nobles... Show

Fetchlings – Fetchlings are catfolk with darkvision and shadow blending instead of a climb speed, and that makes all the difference. Shadow blending is an amazing ability that you should take advantage of as much as possible since it makes you so much harder to hit. Add that along with good resistances and good skills, the fetchling is as solid as a race can get without having an Int bonus. (Green)

Goblin – If you want a Dex focused investigator, goblin is the way to go. A +4 Dex is really unprecedented, and if you’re playing a goblin, you’re not really going to care about the -2 Strength or -2 Charisma. The +4 to Ride and Stealth can be traded out for +4 Perception, which is a really tempting option, although goblins make good stealth builds. For anyone else besides a Dex-focused investigator, all the goblin offers you is 60ft. darkvision. You can get that with other races. (Orange)

Hobgoblin – Default hobgoblin traits are really bland, but the benefits in this race are in the tradeoffs that you can get. You can trade your +4 to stealth for proficiency with the whip and a bonus to trip & disarm, or for proficiency in a single martial weapon and a bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy. Either of those trades are decent and make the hobgoblin a better choice that its less militant cousins. (Green)

Ifrit – Yawn. Another +2 Dex, +2 Cha, -2 Wis race. An ifrit is a catfolk with +4 initiative instead of a climb speed but gets all the advantages of being a native outsider including darkvision.  (Yes, that +4 initiative is always worth more than resist 5 fire.) Fortunately that’s enough to push it up to green. (Green)

Kobold – We didn’t care too much about a -2 Strength penalty on other races, but a -4 Strength penalty is actually starting to hurt us. We’re not going to be able to carry our basic gear now. We get darkvision and crafty, which are both good racial traits, but our race is actively hurting us. Considering how many races we can get darkvision and a bonus to Perception from, this is a pass. (Red)

Orc – Were you really expecting orcs to be good investigators? They don’t have the patience for that. Intelligence penalty really kills this. (Red)

Oreads – The stat bumps don’t help us, but they really don’t hurt us either. Oreads can gain some cool racial abilities, but only ferrous growth really helps us, and it’s not really enough to save this race. (Orange)

Ratfolk – Hello Int bump, darkvision and tinker. Once again, small but only a -2 penalty to Str (as opposed to the kobold’s -4) which means this race is good if you’re not looking to do damage with your weapons. Unnatural and rodent empathy are a wash, so feel free to pick whichever suits you. (See my note about sickening strike in the extract section) (Blue)

Sylph – This is a native outsider elf with darkvision and the ability to get a 35ft. move speed. That’s really good. Could really use a skill bonus somewhere, but otherwise, this is a really solid, if not that interesting racial choice. (Blue)

Tengu – Wis bump and Con penalty is worrisome. The tengu does get some good racial abilities, including gifted linguist and sneaky, but the lack of darkvision, the fact that it’s humanoid, and the terrible stat bumps hurt it. There are better choices out there. (Orange)

Tiefling (without Blood of Fiends) – Tieflings start out really good, and Blood of Fiends makes them even better. You’ll want to trade away the spell-like ability and fiendish sorcery, and you have two good options for doing so. You can either trade them both away for soul seer, which gives you deathwatch at-will, or you can trade them away for a prehensile tail and maw or claw. Prehensile tail is one of the best racial traits in the game, especially if you’re planning on being a Pack Rat and going to be carrying a lot of things. If you have access to Blood of Fiends, then you get access to the daemon-spawn which trades your -2 Cha for -2 Wis.  (Blue for both)

Undine – Undines are okay – the stats are mediocre, but you are a native outsider with darkvision. The real draw to an undine is the ability to get a swim speed. An always-on swim speed is really good, especially since swim speeds can save lives. You can also trade away your spell-like ability for the ability to breathe in water, which may not be a bad idea since hydraulic push is based off your Charisma. However, if you’re not looking for a swim speed, you might as well look somewhere else. (Orange)


Uncommon and Other Races

AndroidISB – Androids are a really funny race, but they tick off all the checkboxes – Int bonus, darkvision and good stat bumps. Also constructed gives you good bonuses/immunities, and nanite surge is a really good ability, although less good for you since you have inspiration. (Blue)

Changeling - Darkvision isn’t able to undo the fact that this race has a Con penalty and terrible stat bumps. (Red)

Duergar – These are pretty much just better dwarves forinvestigators. The only problem is that you’re going to have a tough time being the party face. Still nothing that really synergizes with being an investigator though.  (Orange)

GathlainB4 – Con penalty hurts, but fly speed is amazing. The fey type is not humanoid, so while it’s not as good as native outsider, it’s still a plus. These are good bonuses, but they’re not amazing since there’s no Int bonus or racial abilities that help you do your job. (Green)

GhoranISB -Int penalty and most of the abilities are pretty useless for you. The plane creature type is pretty cool, but it doesn’t make up for the Int penalty. (Red)

Gillman – No darkvision, no native outsider, no good racial abilities and an ability that hurts you. Go play an undine. (Red)

Grippli – I really want to trade out swamp stride for princely, but then I also lose my net proficiency, and nets are a really good weapon to impose conditions on the enemy. It’s really a toss-up as to which you prefer. The darkvision and climb speed help to make this race worth taking, but the all the racial abilities that only apply in swamps and marshes hurt it. (Orange)

KasathaB4 – Nothing about this race hurts you, but the multi-armed ability screams for you to be doing something else that takes advantage of those 4 arms. (Orange)

Kitsune – Kitsune have nothing that helps you and nothing that hurts you. If you want to be a kitsune, go for it, but otherwise skip this race. (Orange)

KuruIotS – Int penalty and racial features that want you to put the killing blow on things. This race was not designed for you to use. (Red)

LashuntaISB – Lashunta are basically an Int bonus, knowledgeable, and nothing else.  At will mage hand can be nice, but at-will daze will peter out after 2 or 3 levels.  The sexual dimorphism means that male lashunta are going to be better than female lashunta just because male lashunta aren’t going to get the Con penalty. (Blue)

Merfolk – Merfolk are really sweet as a race, but there’s really nothing in the merfolk racial abilities that really helps you do your job. (Orange)

Monkey GoblinISB – Monkey goblins take the advantages of goblins (the +4 Dex) and give it actually good racial features, including a climb speed, a bonus to Acrobatics and a prehensile tail. While this doesn’t actually help you be an investigator, this does make it more useful than an actual goblin. (Green)

Nagaji – Ugh, Int penalty. Serpent’s sense, resistant and armored scales are nice, but not enough to make up for those terrible stats. (Red)

Samsaran – Another elf-like race, although this gives a bonus to Wis instead of Dex. Shards of the past is a nice racial ability, and all of its other racial abilities are okay. Note that mystic past life won’t help you since you don’t have spell list, you have a formulae list. If this had darkvision, I would say that it makes up enough for the Con penalty that it would be blue, but no darkvision means that this stays at green. (Green)

SkinwalkerBotM – Skinwalkers have really cool special abilities that would be awesome to build around, but the Int penalty kills this race from consideration. (Red)

Strix – Fly speed at 1st level is really powerful. Fly is a 3rd level spell because a lot of low-level adventures assume that the PCs can’t fly and therefore mundane obstacles like a river still challenge PCs. Getting a fly speed early makes the early game much easier, and add in darkvision and the ability to swap out nocturnal for dayguard and this race is blue despite not having an Int bonus. (Blue)

Suli – Int penalty is enough to make me turn away already. Elemental assault and negotiator are good, unique abilities that make the suli great at many classes, but the investigator is not one of them. (Red)

Svirfneblin – This race is really weird. The stat line isn’t great (no Int bump, -4 Cha), but they have really good racials. 120ft. darkvision, fortunate, skilled, good spell resistance, and defensive training are all really solid racial features that make for a good character. The svirfneblin may not excel at being an investigator, but it excels at being awesome, so you’ll get power even if you don’t get synergy. (Blue)

SyrinxISB - Syrinx are basically Strix with less evil connotations and worse stats. The stats aren’t enough to drop it down though. (Blue)

TriaxianP70 – An unlimited bonus feat is really nice – it’s one of the main reasons why humans are such a popular race. The stat bumps are decent and keen senses is always nice. No darkvision or Int bump means that they’re not the best, but they’re still pretty good. (Really, you’re taking this race because the campaign is set on Triaxus though…) (Green)

TroxB4 – Darkvision is nice, and a burrow speed is great, but the Int penalty is painful. None of the racial abilities help you be an investigator, although they are really cool. (Red)

Vanara – Vanaras have okay stats, but they have a climb speed, bump to Acrobatics and Stealth, and the amazing trait of prehensile tail. They don’t have any of the normal things we look for in an investigator, but they still get a lot of good stuff. (Green)

Vishkanya – The stat bumps aren’t great (Paizo really loves giving races bonuses to Dex and Cha), but keen senses and limber are nice bonuses, the poison resistance will save your life once, and toxic will help you contribute in combat. Overall a nice, sleek race. (Green)

Wayang – This is actually a pretty good race for investigators. You get darkvision, an int bump, and lurker, which are three things that I’ve been looking for in every race up to this point. Also light and dark will save your life once, and shadow resistance is an okay ability. (Blue)

WyrwoodB4 – This race is really good. Int bump, darkvision, small but 30ft. speed, and the construct subtype. If you haven’t seen the construct creature type before, go take a look at it. This race is very solid. (Blue)

WyvaranB4 – This is troublesome. One one hand we have a fly speed darkvision, and the dragon type, on the other hand we have an Int penalty. This is pretty much the best race with an Int-penalty out there, but it still has an Int-penalty, so it’s still not great. (Orange)