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Elementary! Feats & Traits

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Pathfinder has a lot of feats. Seriously, there’s a lot of them. Go check out the feats page on either Archives of Nethys or d20pfsrd and bask in the number of feats that are currently out there. For good reason, I’m not rating every single feat in the game. Instead, what I’m going to do is focus on a couple major areas. In general, Investigators need feats early in order to let them do their in combat strategy, but once they have that set, their feats slots become much more open, and you can do a lot of different things with your feats. Also by this point, you should know what’s more important for you to focus on for your campaign and can make more informed decisions about where to focus.

Melee Damage Dealing Show
Ranged Damage Dealing Show
Making Your Class Better Show
Skill Feats Show
General Feats Show



Paizo really likes publishing traits. After all, they don’t need to be that powerful, it’s okay if they’ve duplicated the mechanical effect before as long as the flavor is new, and they only matter for new characters, so they’re not going to drastically upturn a campaign. Much like feats, I’m not going to review every single trait, but I am going to group them by their mechanical benefit and judge them as a group.

Getting New Class Skills – As an Investigator, you are only missing 5 skills from your list: Fly, Handle Animal, Ride, Survival and Swim. It is currently impossible to get Fly from a trait, but you can look to fill up 2 of the other 4 holes from your list. Getting a skill made as a class skill is the equivalent of a +3 bonus, and most of the traits also give you a +1 trait bonus to the skill on top of that, so these are all solid choices. Survival is probably the most important skill for your role as a skill monkey, although Handle Animal becomes more important if you want to train animals for combat and Swim becomes really important if your campaign has heavy uses of ships. (Blue)

Handle Animal Show
Ride Show
Survival Show
Swim Show


Initiative – It never hurts to go faster in combat. While you won’t be optimizing initiative, having a +2 doesn’t hurt. If you’re stuck for what to do with your second trait, this is a decent choice.  (Green)

+2 Initiative Show
+1 Initiative Show


Saving Throw Bonuses – Shoring up defenses is not a terrible idea, especially since once you get out of the first couple levels, you are more likely to have to make a save instead of worrying about your AC (unless of course you want to be in the front lines), so spending resources now to help them isn’t a bad thing. Fortitude is your bad save, so if you’re planning on boosting it with some other resources as well, a +1 isn’t a terrible investment. If your attitude towards Fortitude is “Eh, I’m going to fail it anyway,” then a slight bump to Reflex or Will couldn’t hurt. (Green)

Fortitude Show
Reflex Show
Will Show


Aid Another Bonuses – If you’re doing aid another shenanigans, then you’re going to need the trait to go along with it! Helpful Halfling is the gold standard of Aid Another traits, but there are some other options if you don’t want your character to be raised by the pint-sized. (This is rated blue for Helpful Halfling, although all the others are really at green.)

Aid Another Bonuses Show


Spell-Like Abilities – There are a couple traits out there that give you a spell-like ability a certain number of times per day. While the cantrip they give you is okay, the real benefit here is that they allow you to count as an arcane or divine spellcaster for things that require that (like Arcane Strike). The aid another build wants one of these to qualify for Arcane Strike so they can get gloves of arcane striking, but depending on where you want to go with your character, these can open up some more unusual options. (Green)

Note that the ones that operate at your highest caster level still work for you – you have a caster level as an Investigator, just not the ability to cast arcane or divine spells.

Spell-Like Abilities Show


Other Traits – These traits don’t fit into the other categories mentioned above, but are still worth pointing out for power reasons.

Other Traits Show

Elementary! Archetypes

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Welcome to the Investigator Archetypes – aka the place you go to desperately trade away your poison resistance for something useful. Before reading over this, take a quick look at the ratings of different class abilities from the previous page. Those power levels are what we’re going to be looking for in equivalent abilities when we’re trading them out. I’ll be rating each ability in the archetype as well as the archetype as a whole. Assume that anything not tagged is from the Advanced Class Guide.

Empiricist – Yes please. This takes the worst abilities of the Investigator and replaces them with things that are at least as good. The capstone is slightly worse, but we don’t really care as much about that since it is the capstone and most games don’t reach 20th level. There’s talk of the Empiricist being a “mandatory” archetype for the Investigator, but the base Investigator is honestly fine enough without it, plus none of the other archetypes stack with it. However, it is strong, and if you’re playing an Investigator you should consider it. (Blue)

  • Ceaseless Observation – We lose a bunch of poison stuff we don’t care about it, and instead we get to use our Intelligence for Disable Device, Perception, Sense Motive and UMD – 4 skills that we really want. This helps us become Single-Attribute Dependent, promoting the high Int Investigator. This plus some traits to make some Charisma-based skills into Int-based tops out one of the best skill monkeys in existence. (Don’t forget that making Disable Device into a Int-based skill means that your ACP no longer applies to it!) (Blue)
  • Unfailing Logic – We don’t get the bonuses to the illusion saves as fast as we get the bonuses to poison saves, but that’s because illusion saves are more important than poison saves. Your Wisdom is going to be low, so adding your Intelligence to your saves for these really helps, although by that time the illusion has already done its damage. (Green)
  • Master Intellect – This is actually worse than the Investigator’s original capstone. (Red)

Infiltrator – Do you want to be the best character at disguise ever? This is the archetype for you. This is the best archetype, hands down, at disguising yourself. That being said, Disguise is a hard skill to use in the game, and most games never use it. This is situational, but man is that situation good. (Orange)

  • Master of Disguise – You only get penalties to your disguise if you imitate someone more than one age category away from you or is a different size from you. This is really nice for disguising. You lose trapfinding, but this kind of character doesn’t really care about that anyway. (Blue)
  • Voice Mimicry – I guess before you couldn’t use the Disguise skill to change your voice? Good to have guidelines now for this I guess. (Green)
  • Mimic Mastery – Yes! The polymorph spells always had the problem that you couldn’t use them to turn into a specific individual. Therefore, if you wanted magic to help you look like an individual, you needed disguise self, which is an illusion that offers a Will save if you interact with someone. This was an ability that needed to exist somewhere, and this archetype is the best place for it. (Blue)

Mastermind – It seems like the flavor of this archetype was the guy in the shadows in charge of an organization, but the mechanics are a little scattered. While the archetype isn’t as strong flavor wise as the other ones, it still is fairly decent. (Green)

  • Mastermind’s Inspiration – I would personally take the conservative reading of this one and assume that those skills are supposed to replace the ones you would normally get for free at 1st level. Trading Spellcraft and Linguistics for Bluff and Diplomacy isn’t terrible, but it’s minor. (Green)
  • A Quiet Word – This is really cool. Too often you have the party member who’s playing the 2+Int skill point class with 7 Charisma who doesn’t have anything to offer when it comes to social situations, and unfortunately social situations are the exact time where you often want to split up and work on multiple angles. While this won’t make them a master at Diplomacy, they’ll still be good enough to at least aid or perhaps take on one of the easier tasks. For PFS, this gets better as there are a couple of “party” mods where you have a chance to hobnob with many guests and one person can’t finish the whole thing. (Blue)
  • Mastermind Defense – Seeing as Investigators don’t have much use for their swift actions, this isn’t terrible. However, it does mean that you’re going to want to invest in AC so you can get maximum use of this ability. Also, you’re going to want to pick up Combat Inspiration, otherwise this is going to be rough on your inspiration uses per day. (Green)
  • Impregnable Mind – BBEG can’t scry on you? That’s okay, he’ll just scry on the other members of your party. It’s more important that you can’t read anyone in the party. This is a GM ability, not a player ability. (Red)

Sleuth – This is the archetype for people who hate the fact that the Investigator has alchemy as a part of their class and need to trade it out for something. Otherwise, it’s not really worth it. (Orange)

Except possibly... Show
  • Sleuth’s Luck – You’re trading away alchemy, and all you’re getting out of it is a panache pool based off of Charisma? Ugh. To be fair, it will refill at about the same rate since rolling 6 or higher on an inspiration roll is one of the triggers to refill it and Amazing Inspiration is a thing, but we’re trading away amazing versatility for not much. At least this has the coolness factor going for it. (Orange)
  • Deeds
    • Daring - Exploding inspiration die for physical movement skills. At least this stacks with Inspiration.  (Orange)
    • Opportunistic Evasion – Evasion is a really good ability. It’s a shame that you have to spend points to get it in this case, but it’s still really good. (Blue)
    • Sleuth’s Initiative – We’re not really going to say no to a free initiative bonus. (Green)
    • Make it Count – This ability would be so much cooler if it weren’t for the stupid high level restrictions on most of these. (Orange)
    • Run Like HellExpeditious retreat and haste were things we could do before we gave up Alchemy. (Orange)
    • Second Chance – Rerolls aren’t bad, although usually I’d prefer to reroll the d20 instead of the d6/d8. (Green)

Spiritualist – This is another archetype that trades away Alchemy, but all the other trade-outs are good. If you like the flavor and willing to accept the power loss, then this could be a fun archetype for you. From a power standpoint though, I can’t recommend it. (Orange)

  • Commune with Spirits – This is what you get instead of alchemy. To be fair, all the spells you get are solid. However, the early ones you could already get from alchemy and the uses per day are based off of Wisdom. while you get some cool stuff, Commune with Spirits just doesn’t have the sheer versatility that alchemy does, which makes this a bad trade. (Orange)
  • Spirit Sense – Incorporeal undead generally has nasty effects that you really want to save against. While you don’t always fight incorporeal undead, generally everyone fights them multiple times over the course of their career, so I feel confident in my Green rating of this ability. (Green)
  • Strong Life – Bonuses to saves vs. death effects is a straight up better trade than bonuses to saves vs. poison. (Green)
  • Sixth Sense – Yes please. Rerolls on saving throws are really nice. (Blue)
  • Whispering Spirits – How high is your Wisdom going to be? I mean, I generally don’t complain about getting a 2nd stat to saves, but it’s hard to care about Wisdom on an Investigator. (Green)
  • Touched by the Beyond – Immunity to death effects? Wow. This class knows how to bribe me to give up alchemy. (Blue)

Steel Hound - Here’s the obligatory “…with guns!” archetype. However, Investigators get a little trick with their archetype. While by default you can’t use studied combat with ranged weapons, there is a feat called Ranged Study which lets you uses studied combat with the weapon of your choice. This means that you’ll be able to add 1/2 your level to damage, giving you an actual static damage modifier with your gun. This won’t bring you to gunslinger levels of damage, but it will keep your gun damage respectable, as opposed to the other people shooting for 1d12 damage at level 10. Sorry PFS players, but this isn’t legal. (Green)

  • Weapon and Armor Proficiency – You have proficiency with guns. This was better than before. (Green)
  • Packing Heat – We don’t get our free gun until 2nd level. We would’ve preferred earlier, but this means we get to trade out poison lore instead of things we actually care about so that’s okay. (Green)
  • Investigator Talents – We’re probably not taking these as talents, but good to have in case it makes things easier for people. (Orange)
  • Shot in the Dark – Concealment can be a pain in the neck. Ignoring it can be absolutely wonderful, especially if you’re trying to get off your studied strike. (Blue)
  • Talented Shot – Quick Clear is a good thing to have, although most of the rest of them you could do without. (Orange)

Elementary! Class Abilities

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Class Abilities

Why Rate Class Abilties? Show

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)

For those doubting it's potency Show

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)

Investigator Talents

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.

Alchemist Discoveries Show

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.

Rogue Talents Show

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)

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)

Elementary! A Handbook to the Pathfinder Investigator

Table of Contents Show


Welcome to Elementary! A Handbook to the Pathfinder Investigator.  Investigators are hands down the best skill monkey class that Pathfinder has printed. It appears that Pathfinder has learned from the bard and given a class that wants to be a skill monkey good class abilities involving skills. However, because they’ve built a class that’s so focused on skills and out-of-combat utility, the builds tend to be a little different than characters that you might have seen before.

When building an investigator, there are two things you want to consider before you build: What is my role outside of combat? and What is my role inside of combat?

What is my role outside of combat?

It’s very easy to think of investigator as a skill monkey, but that’s simplifying things a little too much. While you certainly have easy access to skills and ways to boost them, there are many roles that you can fill in the party. These roles are not mutually exclusive – one can be a face as well as be a crafter, but you should consider which of these roles you want to fill yourself and which are better filled by other members of the party.

Bookworm – Knowledge skills can be huge skill point sinks. There are 10 of them, which means that if you want to max out all of them, you need to get 4 extra skill points per level between a high intelligence modifier and other sources. That is a lot of skill points and doesn’t leave you doing much else. On top of this, knowledge-focused bards and oracles of lore will still beat you in this via class features. Fortunately, only 6 of the knowledge skills are used to identify creatures which is where some of the highest Knowledge DCs come from, and there are plenty of feats you can spend to increase your knowledge skills so that they are passable. This is not a specialization you want to double up on, unless you’re in PFS, in which case having doubles at the table won’t hurt you, but you’ll find yourself being outshined some of the time.

Crafter – This is an easy role to fill for you – you gain a bonus equal to your level to craft alchemical items, which means at low levels you can craft lots of alchemical items for minimum investment. You can even do this in PFS! You can also craft magical items, although it will be tougher for you since you can’t meet spell requirements ever. However, you do qualify for the crafting feats since according to James Jacobs, you do have a caster level. Crafting can be very feat intensive, and wizards will do it better than you, but wizards are generally spending their feats nowadays on things like metamagic and Spell Perfection, so I’m sure they won’t mind you taking the crafting load off of them.

Dungeoneer – These include the traditional rogue skills – Acrobatics, Disable Device, Disguise, Escape Artist, Perception, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and Use Magic Device. Often times when you tell someone that you are going to be a skill monkey, these are the skills they expect you to have. With the exception of Perception and UMD, these are also the ones that other party members are least likely to have since they don’t fit in with the traditional picture of their characters. Also, you gain Trapfinding, which allows you to disable magical traps, a key part of being a Dungeoneer.

Face – This includes Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate and Sense Motive – the 4 big skills needed for interacting with people. In general you can get away without Intimidate, especially if that’s where the big burly type put his skill points, but Diplomacy is an important skill that opens so many doors for your party. You won’t be as good as a bard or other Charisma-focused class that has focused on this, but you will still be pretty good at it. For PFS players, this focus becomes better because it’s a really important skill to have at the table and there are lots of faction missions that require some kind of face skill that other players can’t do for you.

Item Identifier – Identifying items is tricky – you need to have both ranks in Spellcraft and access to detect magic. Spellcraft is easy – you already needed that to copy down forumlae in your formula book, but detect magic is tricky since you don’t have cantrips. If you can get access to detect magic somehow, this becomes an easy role for you to fill. Even if you don’t get access to Spellcraft, Craft (alchemy) allows you to identify potions thanks to your Alchemy class ability, and Appraise isn’t a bad skill for identifying the value of precious gems and the like. The value of this specialization goes down in PFS because ID’ing items isn’t nearly as important when they all show up on the chronicle sheet afterwards.

Nature – This include skills like Handle Animal, Ride, and Survival. These are generally the responsibility of the local druid, ranger, hunter, or whatever other nature themed class you happen to have. However, if no one else has them, Survival is a good skill to have for tracking creatures and Handle Animal can be really useful if you want it to be. Handle Animal can also represent your contribution to combat. The value of this goes up in PFS as Survival is becoming a more and more important skill in later scenarios.

What is my role inside of combat?

Animal Trainer – Usually non-animal companion animals aren’t good choices for combat because you don’t get good action economy. However as an investigator, trained animals might have more combat utility than you. They’re cheap, they’re replaceable, and they hit like a truck if you can make the necessary rolls. Be careful in PFS – some GMs really dislike this tactic and will look down on you for taking that tactic.

Archer – Archery is usually the easy button for making  a character that wouldn’t otherwise contribute to combat. However for the investigator, it’s pretty terrible. Archery is feat intensive, and the only combat ability that the investigator gets only applies to melee attacks. You can make an archer investigator, but it’s not playing to any of the strengths of the class.

Combat Maneuver Specialist – Combat maneuvers are melee attacks, so they will get the bonus from Studied Combat, and as long as you can continue to find ways to increase your CMB as you level, you can continue to trip, disarm, reposition or do other terrible things to opponents. The value of this goes down the more monstrous opponents you fight, but goes up the more humanoid opponents you fight. This path is feat intensive, but doesn’t have to be MAD if you pick up Agile Maneuvers or Weapon Finesse and use only weapon maneuvers.

Damage Dealer – You will never be as good of a damage dealer as any d10 hit die class, you don’t have proficiency with any good two-handed weapons and this forces you to invest in Strength more than you normally would as an investigator. Despite all of those disadvantages, you can be okay at damage dealing. Studied Combat overall increases your attack bonus to greater than full BAB (except at 5th level), so you can pick up Power Attack and go to town. Half-your level to damage isn’t terrible either. If you had asked me during the playtest, I would’ve told you that this was a terrible idea and that you shouldn’t try it, but now that the ACG is out, it’s not a terrible idea. Not amazing, but not terrible either.

Helpful Combatant – The investigator talent Effortless Aid is a really intriguing ability. It allows you to aid another as a move action, effectively giving you an “aid another full attack” by letting you aid another twice in a round or three times if you spend an inspiration. There are a bunch of ways out there to stack aid another bonuses, and Bodyguard was already a strong feat. The value of this goes up in a campaign like PFS where you have more control over what equipment you buy since a lot of the ways to increase your aid another bonus are items. Be careful in PFS though since you will probably take Bodyguard and due to its poor wording it can fall under GM discretion as to how well it works.

Offensive Extracts – There aren’t a lot of offensive extracts out there, but there are some like fire breath and vomit swarm that can be used offensively. If you focus on Intelligence, the DCs might be high enough that you could do some real damage with them.

Pack Rat – The investigator is one of the best classes at Use Magic Device thanks to inspiration. By picking up lots of cheap silver bullet items including  scrolls, wands and other cheap consumables, you can solve a lot of encounters. This path involves good system mastery, but it is the hardest to focus in. It works best as a subrole while focusing on something else.

Polymorpher – Thanks to having the alchemist list, the investigator gets access to a lot of polymorph spells. While you’re not going to be as good at it as a druid is, you don’t lose studied combat/strike in animal form, meaning that you can still be a decent combatant.

Pseudo-Alchemist – Alchemical items are expensive for characters to be focusing on in general, but since you get bonuses to craft them and can craft them at 1/3 cost, it may be worth it to have a bunch of them on hand. This will help you in early levels, but in general the power level of alchemical items goes down as you start fighting stronger and stronger enemies. This is a good role to start out with, then transition into another role as you continue on your career.

Organizational Notes

I’ll be using the Treantmonk’s coloring scheme for this guide, which looks like this:

  • Red – This is a poor option. You can take it if you want to, but consider the red a warning label.
  • Orange – This is an okay option. This is situational, or weak, or otherwise not that memorable. You might see some use out of it during a campaign, but not much.
  • Green – This is a decent option. This will see regular use and can help in a lot of different situations.
  • Blue – This is the cream of the crop. Every build should at least consider this option and have good reason for not wanting to take it.

(Do you play Pathfinder Society? Great! I play a lot of PFS and built my own investigator for PFS. Whenever something comes up for PFS that would be different than a home campaign, I’ll make a note of it in purple.)

Also, here’s a list of sources I am using for this guide and the abbreviations for each:

  • AA – Adventurer’s Armory
  • ACG – Advanced Class Guide
  • Animal – Animal Archive
  • APG – Advanced Player’s Guide
  • ARG – Advanced Race Guide
  • B4 – Bestiary 4
  • BoA – Blood of Angels
  • BoF – Blood of Fiends
  • BoG – Bastards of Golarion
  • BotM – Blood of the Moon
  • BotN – Blood of the Night
  • CEoD – Cheliax, Empire of Devils
  • Core – Core Rulebook
  • DEP – Dragon Empires Primer
  • DoG – Dwarves of Golarion
  • EoG – Elves of Golarion
  • FaP – Faiths and Philosophies
  • FG – Faction Guide
  • GnoG – Gnomes of Golarion
  • GoG – Goblins of Golarion
  • HalfoG – Halflings of Golarion
  • HoG – Humans of Golarion
  • IotS – Isles of the Shackles
  • ISB – Inner Sea Bestiary
  • ISG – Inner Sea Gods
  • ISP – Inner Sea Primer
  • KoG – Kobolds of Golarion
  • LoFPG – Legacy of Fire Player’s Guide
  • OM – Occult Mysteries
  • OoG – Orcs of Golarion
  • P70 – Pathfinder #70 – The Frozen Stars
  • PoP – Paths of Prestige
  • PotIS – Pirates of the Inner Sea
  • PotN – People of the North
  • PotR – People of the River
  • PSFG – Pathfinder Society Field Guide
  • PSP – Pathfinder Society Primer
  • QaC – Quests and Campaigns
  • RotRAE – Rise of the Runelords, Anniversary Edition
  • TEoG – Taldor, Echoes of Glory
  • TG – Technology Guide
  • UC – Ultimate Combat
  • UCamp – Ultimate Campaign
  • UM – Ultimate Magic
  • USH – Undead Slayer’s Handbook

(Note – while this looks like a lot of sources, most of the random softcovers are for only one or two things. You can build a very good Investigator with only the hardcover line. Really only the Core Rulebook, the APG and the ACG are required to build a good Investigator).