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Pathfinder - Investigator Archetypes Breakdown


I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.


I am impressed by how bad Investigator archetypes are. Investigators are highly skilled, and get by in combat by relying on studied strike and alchemy. Investigator archetypes do absolutely nothing to improve the the Investigator, and the new options which they offer are generally terrible. Close this page, play vanilla Investigator, and hope that Paizo drowns these things in errata.


Despite the cool flavor, the Empiricist isn't a meaningful change to the Investigator. The Empiricist has no combat abilities, and barely improved the Investigator's skills. However, it reduces your reliance on Dexterity and Wisdom, which can be helpful. If you take a level dip into fighter so that you can easily use Strength in combat, you could dump Dexterity down to 12 and not notice a difference. The Empiricist does give up poison-related abilities, but poison is difficult and expensive, so it's not a singificant loss.

Ceaseless Observation (Ex): The Investigator still needs Dexterity to be effective in combat, but removing the dependency on Wisdom for Perception and Sense Motive is a nice bonus, and using Intelligence for UMD is nice, but can be replicated by the Pragmatic Activation trait. The ability to use Intelligence when gathering information is nice, but situational.

Unfailing Logic (Ex): Very situational.

Master Intellect (Ex): This saves you a lot of Investigator Talents.

Replaced Features: poison lore, poison resistance, swift alchemy, true inspiration

Compatible Archetypes:


Disguise is very situational, and already very easy. If you for some reason want to spend all of your time in disguise, the Infiltrator can help. Otherwise, forgo the Infiltrator and get a Hat of Disguise.

Master of Disguise (Ex): Situational.

Voice Mimicry (Ex): Situational.

Mimic Mastery (Su): Situational, and most polymorph effects provide a bonus to Disguise checks as part of the Polymorph rules.

Replaced Features: trapfinding, poison lore, poison resistance

Compatible Archetypes:


The Mastermind is an interesting archetype for a Face, but give sup some of the Investigators ability to serve as a Scout.

Mastermind's Inspiration (Ex): Fantastic for a Face, but you can replicate this with a talent or two.

A Quiet Word (Ex): Situational, but excellent if you can find a way to capitalize on it. Note that this only grants the target your skill ranks, so they must use their own ability modifier. The best use may be for your allies to assist you on your own checks.

Mastermind Defense (Ex): This might save your life, but it will eat through your Inspiration if you depend on it too heavily.

Impregnable Mind (Su): Situational, but perfect for the archetype. Learn an obscure language like Druidic to keep your thoughts private.

Replaced Features: Inspiration (Altered list of free skills), Trapfinding, Trap Sense, Swift Alchemy, Investigator Talents (9th)

Compatible Archetypes:


The Sleuth gives up the Investigator's Alchemy abilities and replaces them with a Luck pool similar to the Grit and Panache pools. However, the Sleuth gets nowhere near as many Deeds with which to use these points, and what few options are available to the Sleuth are terrible.

Sleuth's Luck (Ex): The Luck pool works in addition to the Investigator's Inspiration pool. The Luck pool is small, especially if the Investigator is built more for Intelligence than for Charisma, but the Luck pool can be recharged fairly easily. To maximize your chances of recharging Luck, be sure to pick up Amazing Inspiration so that you roll d8's instead of d6's (37.5% chance of recharge vs. 16.7%), and Tenacious Inspiration so that you can roll twice. Be sure not to try to recharge Luck with trivial rolls, or your GM may get frustrated and become less generous about recharging your Luck.

Deeds: All of the deeds are situational and not very useful.

Replaced Features: Alchemy, Swift Alchemy

Compatible Archetypes:


The Spiritualist gives up access to Alchemy in exchange for some mediocre divinations and some excellent defensive abilities. Unfortunately, without Alchemy to improve the Investigator's offensive capacity, the Spiritualist turns into an ineffective tank which most enemies can simply ignore on the battlefield.

Commune with Spirits (Sp): Access to several 1st-level spells several times per day as a Spell-Like Ability. As the Spiritualist gains levels, they gain access to some slightly better divinations, but these won't keep pace with a Cleric of the same level.

Spirit Sense (Su): Situational.

Strong Life (Ex): Sutuational, but nice to have because Death and Negative Energy effects are so terrifying.

Sixth Sense (Su): This turns Commune with Spirits into a very sizable pool of rerolls on saving throws.

Whispering Spirits (Su): Insight bonuses to AC and saves are very rare, so this is a nice buff. The 1 minute duration should get you through most fights, but remember that this is a standard action to use, so you want to use it before you jump into combat.

Touched by the Beyond (Su): Death effects are scary, and immunity to them will make the Spiritualist very difficult to kill at high levels where death and negative energy effects are prevalent.

Replaced Features: Alchemy, Poison Lore, Poison Resistance, Trap Sense, Swift Alchemy, Poison Immunity

Compatible Archetypes:

Steel Hound

The Steel Hound is a mistake. It has Gunslinger Deeds (well... Deed.), but doesn't get a Grit pool. Even if it had a Grit pool comparable to the Gunslinger, this archetype would still be awful. You can't use the Investigator's Studied Combat or Studdied Strike with ranged weapons, which cuts into the Investigator's already mediocre damage output. Nothing about this archetype works.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The only martial weapon which an Investigator really needs is the Rapier, and the Steel Hound gets to keep it. Unfortunately, they only gain proficiency with one type of firearm.

Packing Heat (Ex): A level later than anyone else using firearms, but still essential to have.

Investigator Talents: Pick up Rapid Reload as soon as you can. Extra Grit is nice, but not essential, and you can't take it unless you take Amateur Gunslinger first, which is an oversight so obvious that it's almost insulting.

Shot in the Dark (Ex): One option, and it's situational.

Talented Shot (Ex): You'll finally be able to do something interesting with gun. Unfortunately you spent 10 levels being boring and useless first.

Replaced Features: Weapon and Armor Proficiencies, Poison Use, Swift Alchemy

Compatible Archetypes: