Pathfinder 2e - The Investigator Handbook
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
The investigator is a curious oddity in a dungeon fantasy game. Where typical characters are built for delving dungeons, slaying dragons, and facing the worsts horrors of the multiverse, the Investigator is a much more methodical class, built around finding clues, following leads, and investigating subjects.
Mechanically, the Investigator shares some concepts with the Rogue, sharing their unusually high number of skills and skill feats, as well as their light armor and 8+ hit points. In combat, the Investigator relies on Formulate a Stratagem, encouraging players to make a single high-damage Strike rather than flailing against their targets with numerous Strikes in the same turn. Like the Rogue, the Investigator fits into a party as a Scout and Striker, but thanks to high Intelligence and abundant skills and access to Advanced Alchemy, they can also serve as a Face, a Librarian, and potentially a Healer.
While the Investigator shares a lot in common with the Rogue, they work differently in some key ways. Managing your "subjects" is a crucial part of succeeding as an investigator, and where the Rogue needs to rely on makes foes flat-footed to be effective in combat, the Investigator just needs enough Actions to make Forumate a Stratagem work. As a player, expect to spend a lot of time asking the GM questions and scutinizing every word of what the GM says in order to find clues. In many ways, you need to be an investigator as much as your character is.
Investigator Class Features
Key Ability: Intelligence. With high Intelligence, you'll have abundant skills and you'll be well-equipped to succeed with skills like Arcana and Crafting. You can also use Formulate a Strategem in order to use Intelligence for your attack rolls.
: 8+ hit points. Much like the Rogue, you're frail. However, you don't have the Rogue's Dexterity to pad your AC, so the problem is even worse.
: The Investigator's proficiencies are excellent everywhere except their armor..
- : The best Perception progression in the game, matching the Rogue.
- : Terrible Fortitude saves, but otherwise fine. Reflex saves are common and between high Dexterity and roughly average Dexterity save progression you should do fine. The Investigator's Will saves are also good, but you should still put some resources into Wisdom if you can.
- : A total of 6+Int skills, and with Intelligence as your Key Ability Score you'll likely exceed the total starting skills of every other character, including most rogues. The Investigator notably also gets the same number of Skill Feats that the Rogue does, though the Investigator gets half of them via the Skillful Lessons feature, which is limited to skills which rely on mental ability scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) so they're not quite as flexible as the Rogue's.
- : The same progression as most martial classes like the Barbarian and the Champion, and you get up to martial weapons.
- : Only light armor, but your proficiency progression is good.
- Class DC: None of the Investigator's Class Feats or features depend on your Class DC. The Investigator doesn't even get access to Critical Specialization Effects on its own (you may be able to get them from your Ancestry or from multiclassing).
- : Managing your two subjects is central to how you play the Investigator. If you can keep your subjects relevant, you can benefit from a frequent Circumstance bonus, and Devise a Stratagem becomes less costly to use. You can't reasonably expect every creature you face to be a subject, but try to make as many enemies as possible a subject before you encounter them. As a general guideline, if the GM knows the creature's name you should usually be able to make it a subject before you fight it.
- : A nice way to include party members in your investigations. The bonus isn't huge, but it will occur frequently and it costs you nothing except your Reaction to share it with your allies.
: Half of the Investigator's primary combat tactic. While the text of the Action isn't especially long, there is a lot of buried nuance here, and understanding the complexities of Devise a Stratagem will make you more effective in combat.
When you use Devise a Stratagem, the first thing that you do is to roll a d20. This will take the place of the d20 rolled for your first Strike against the target of your stratagem. The text specifies that you can use it "later in the round", which is unhelpful since the Investigator doesn't get Attack of Opportunity or a similar mechanism. Still, this allows you to roughly know the results of your potential Strike before you make it. If you roll terribly, don't waste the Action to make your Strike.
If you then choose to make a Strike against the target of your Strategem, you make the Strike normally, except that instead of rolling a d20 you must use the roll from when you used Devise a Stratagem, and you may use your Intelligence in place of Strength or Dexterity for the attack roll (though you would be a fool not to do so, since Strategic Strike only applies if you use Intelligence for the attack).
Devise a Stratagem only works once per round (usually), which is an important limitation. It effectively limits you to a single effective Strike per turn, as your Strength or Dexterity will almost certainly lag behind your Intelligence. Rather than making numerous Strikes, the Investigator is expected to make singular, powerful strikes each turn.
The exception to the "once per round" practical limitation is when "you're aware the creature you choose is the subject of a lead you’re pursuing". Since you can only have two subjects at a time, expect that most creatures you fight will not be one of your subjects. When you do finally face a subject in combat, use the extra Actions for things like Recall Knowledge, Demoralize, and other single-Action options that tilt comabt in your favor.
Devise a Stratagem also supports the Strategic Strike feature (see below). As far as I can tell, they're only separate features so that characters using the Investigator multiclass dedication feats can't get Strategic Strike.
Methodology: See "Subclasses - Methodologies", below.
: A consistent and easy damage boost, and it automatically scales with level, adding dice at a similar rate to Runes of Striking. This additional damage boost makes up for the Investigator's preference for single Strikes over making multiple Strikes per turn.
Investigator Feats: See Investigator feats, below.
Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.
Skill Increases: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.
General Feats: Standard.
: There are only four knowledge skills (not counting Lore), and with the Investigator's high Intelligence it's not only easy to be Trained in all of them, it's expected. You should expect to use this with Lore, but otherwise it won't see much use.
: Between this and the normal Skill Feat progression, you get a skill feat at every level. Skillful Lessons is limited to Int/Wis/Cha skills, but there are abundant useful options to choose from, and you can reserve your regular Skill Feats for skills which use physical ability scores.
Ability Boosts: Standard.
Ancestry Feats: Standard.
: Your proficiency with weapons advances at the same rate as other martial classes like the Barbarian and the Rogue.
: The best Perception progression in the game.
: Since your Proficiency with weapons improves at the same rate as martial class like the Barbarian and the Champion, you'll start at the +3 bonus in most cases.
: Better saving throws is always great.
: Increasing the bonus from Pursue a Lead is really nice. The Class DC improvement is totally useless, though.
: You are very good at Will saves.
: Legendary in Perception feels really good, and you'll use it almost constantly.
: More AC is always great, but you get this very late.
: More attack bonus.
: Reflex saves are the most common type of "Basic Save", and often Basic Saves are the ones where the difference between a Success and a Critical Success is the most significant. This will protect from a lot of damage from area effects like fireballs and breath weapons.
: More damage.
: Very powerful. Preventing Critical Failures on Will saves can protect from numerous very harmful effects.
: More AC is always great.
Subclasses - Methodologies
This isn't quite so versatile and powerful as the Alchemist's capabilities with alchemy, but it has some similar benefits. Proficiency in Crafting and the Alchemical Crafting feat get you set up to craft alchemical items early in your career, and Quick Tincture helps mitigate the cost of crafting high-level alchemical items while also allowing you to capitalize on alchemical items which aren't useful enough to justify spending gold to craft them.
Because alchemical items can do so much (even if you only consider elixirs and tools), Alchemical Sciences is inherently a very capable and flexible subclass, far outpacing other investigator subclasses. Access to healing items like Elixirs of Life and buffs like Eagle Eye Elixir make the Forensic Sciences and Interrogation subclasses mostly obsolete. With a few skill feats (remember that the Investigator gets one at every level) you can completely replicate both subclasses, with the exception of the unique Pointed Question Action.
While you can still craft bombs normally, Quick Tincture notably doesn't allow you to craft bombs, so you'll need to spend time and gold to do so just like most other characters. If you're really enthusiastic about alchemy, consider some Alchemist multiclass dedication feats.
- : Versatile, helpful, and Intelligence-based so you're really good at it. In addition to crafting your own alchemical items, this can also make it easy to maintain shields and other equipment.
- CRB: Alchemical items are numerous, versatile, and powerful. Between high Intelligence and Alchemical Crafting for free, crafting alchemical items to complement your other class features offers a powerful and versatile toolset.
- : Assuming that you start with 18 Intelligence (which you probably will), you can use this 4 or more times per day. A functionally free alchemical elixir or alchemical tool will allow you to quickly address a wide variety of challenges. Elixirs include powerful options like Elixir of Life for healing, mutagens to buff yourself and your allies, and utility options like Darkvision Elixir. Tools are generally more situational, but since you don't need to craft them ahead of time your options are as broad as the contents of your formula book.
Perhaps the most iconic version of the Investigator, Empiricism emphasizes knowledge and investigation. Expect to spend feats and skill increases to support and improve Recall Knowledge, and use your knowledge at every opportunity to gain advantages.
While the Investigator does get class feat options to improve Recall Knowledge, consider Ranger multiclass dedication feats to get the Ranger's Monster Hunter feat tree.
- : Arcana, Crafting, Lore, and Occultism are all Intelligence-based and they're all good choices.
- APG: See below, under Investigator Feats.
- Pathfinder 2e - Practical Guide to Post-Combat for examples). : It's only once per ten minutes, and the fact that it's a Free Action only really matters in combat. Seek will help to find hidden/invisible foes, which is situational but still helpful. Recall Knowledge may be the more important option here. If you take other feats which capitalize upon and improve Recall Knowledge, you can easily turn it into a powerful way to buff yourself and your allies, and the 10-minute cooldown means that you can usually use it once per encounter since post-combat activities typically take at least 10 minutes (see my
You can't totally replace a spellcaster since Medicine alone can't solve every ailment, but you can get very close. If your party lacks a cleric or a similar spellcaster, this is a good choice.
However, the Investigator gets 6+Int Trained skills at level 1 and a Skill Feat at every level, allowing you to easily learn both Forensic Acument and Battle Medicine by level 3, allowing you to replicate the entirety of the Forensic Medicine subclass while playing a different subclass. If you want a mechanically simple investigator, this is a fine choice. But if you can handle complexity and want to be more effective, Alchemical Sciences is a better choice.
: The Investigator gets plenty of Skill Increases and Skill Feats, so Medicine is a great choice of skills that will be reliably useful for your whole party.
- : An inexpensive healing option that you can use in combat. It only works once per target per day, but that's enough to save a dying ally.
- APG: Situational, but hopefully if there's an Investigator in the campaign there will be dead bodies for you to investigate that aren't dead because your party killed them.
- CRB: This can be hard to use in combat at low levels because your skill bonus isn't high enough to reliably hit the DC of 15, and it only works once per target per day. Avoid using this until your skill bonus improves unless you're desperate.
If you want to play a Face character, this is the apparently way for the Investigator to do it. Unfortunately, you're saddled with No Cause for Alarm, and Pointed Question is neat but not useful enough to make up the difference. If you want to play a face but Interrogation doesn't look mechanically appealing, consider the Alchemical Sciences subclass instead, and use the Silvertongue Mutagen to improve your Face skills or the Eagle Eye Elixir to improve your Perception checks.
- : The king of Face skills.
- APG: The Action cost is too high, the effect is too small, the range is too short, and the fact that it targets your allies' (hopefully high) Will DC means that the more durable your allies are the less likely you are to succeed. Unless getting your allies' Frightened value down to 0 has some significant effect beyond the penalties of Frightened, this is not worth an entire turn worth of Actions to use. You can't even move to position yourself close to your allies, so you basically have to hope for them to be and stay within range for an entire round or to come running to you looking for reassurance.
- : You can force a creature to answer a question, but they can still lie to you. You get a bonus to detect the lie, but there's still a chance of failure. This helps with interrogations (or just questioning stubborn people), but it's not amazing and you only want to use it sparing because you don't want to risk the Critical Failure effect against someone who you may want to remain friends with.
The Investigator is built around Intelligence, but the rest of your ability scores are more flexible. Adjust your ability scores to support whichever skills you want to emphasize, but don't ignore Dexterity and Constitution.
: If you want to fight in melee, don't dump Strength becuase it will affect your damage. If you want to fight at range, dump Strength and grab a crossbow.
: With light armor and 8+ hit points, you need good Dexerity to keep your AC high.
: Hit points and Fortitude saves. Important if you want to be in melee, but if you plan to fight at range you can afford a bit less so that you can boost other ability scores instead.
: Intelligence is everything for the Investigator. Your attacks, your skills, and your class DC all depend on it.
: Perception and many skills that will be useful for investigating.
: Investigations often involve a lot of talking, so a bit of Charisma can do a lot to support Face skills.
Intelligence Boosts are crucial, but thanks to flexible boosts it's easy to get one. Beyond that, consider which skills you want to emphasize and look for an ancestry with boosts which support those skills. Look for other ways to expand your capabilities, but generally avoid racial weapon proficiencies becuase they'll have little impact since the Investigator typically only makes one attack per turn.
If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:
- Cook (Alchemical Sciences)
- Cultist (Any)
- Refugee (Any)
- Tax Collector (Any)
Skills and Skill Feats
You get Skill Increases at 3rd and 5th level to raise skills to Expert, increases at 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th level to raise skills to Master, and increases at 15th, 17th, and 19th level to raise skills to Legendary. That means that you can maximize at most three skills, and the rest of your skills might not advance beyond Trained.
You get Skill Feats at even-numbered levels, giving you a total of 10 Skill Feats (and maybe another from your Background) by 20th level. Generally you want to invest these feats in the same skills which you are choosing to maximize, though in some cases you may want to grab feats from skills which don't require that you be more than Trained.
- APG: Investing heavily in Warfare Lore to make this exceed your Perception is expensive since the Investigator gets the best Perception progression, but with the Investigator's high Intelligence you may be able to improve your Initiative checks.
- (Cha): Not particularly useful
- (Wis): Only rarely useful, but you might make it Trained if you don't know what else to take.
- (Dex): Used for both opening locks and disabling traps, no adventuring party is likely to succeed without someone passable at Thievery.
General Skill Feats
- CRB: With 6+ total skills at level 1 and Intelligence as your Key Ability Score, you're going to have a lot of skills. Unfortunately, Ability Boosts are limited, which means that you're inevitably going to be bad at some skills. If you still need a skill, but your ability scores don't support it, consider taking Assurance in that skill to remove your Ability Modifier from the equation.
- APG: If anyone is going to use this to good effect, it's the Investigator.
For the full list of Investigator Class Feats, see the Investigator Feats page on Archives of Nethys.
- APG: You get 6+Int starting skills and a Skill Increase at every level. You really shouldn't need more skills in the vast majority of cases.
- APG: Since there's no Action cost to use this it's very easy to fit into your tactics, and it's easy to combine with other options which capitalize on Recall Knowledge. Unfortunately, the +1 bonus is small and inconsistent since you need to critically succeed on your check.
- APG: Use a sap.
- APG: If you as a player aren't great at investigating things, this is a great way to make the Investigator actually good at finding clues.
As a GM, this feat is a nightmare because your player is going to constantly ask you for something "out of the ordinary" every time they enter a room. As a player, please just accept it when the GM says "there is nothing out of the ordinary here".
- APG: Situational by design. I would never take this at first level unless your campaign features a huge amount of dungeon crawling.
- APG: Situational by design. In the right campaign this could see a lot of use, but you need to know the nature of your campaign before you decide to take this.
- APG: Situational. These are all good maneuvers, but typically you want to follow them up with a Strike and you're probably not well-equipped to do that between low Strength/Dexterity and a Multiple Attack Penalty.
- APG: I hate that this needs to be a feat, but it's hard to argue with how impactful this is. You can only pursue two leads at once and can't return to a lead once you drop it until you complete daily preparations again, so dropping a lead to focus on something pointless can handicap you quite a bit. It's also nice for the GM because they can just tell you when you're wasting your time and the GM doesn't need to repeatedly pretend that some mundane descriptive detail is somehow a clue.
- APG: Consistently useful in any combat situation.
- APG: Excellent for long-term subjects like your campaigns primary antagonist.
- APG (Alchemical Sciences): A significant improvement to your versatility with alchemy.
- APG: An easy, consistent bonus. The subject of your investigations is typically a foe significant enough to justify commiting one of your two "subject of a lead" slots, so having a consistent bonus to resist the target's abilities is very helpful.
- APG: Situational by design. Helpful in highly social campaigns, but in games that don't involve a lot of interrogations and the like you'll rarely benefit from this.
- APG: Combining Exploration Activities is a huge benefit while moving through dangerous places.
- APG: Persistant damage is really good, but it's hard to score critical hits when you're making very few attacks.
- APG: This seems totally redundant with Known Weaknesses, and Known Weaknesses can reveal considerably more information.
- APG: This makes a lot of sense thematicall for the Investigator, but I don't trust this to have a clear mechanical benefit. You could also just figure this information out on your own without spending a class feat on it.
- APG: Free consumables can include things like potions and scrolls. Sure, they only be common and a level no higher than half your level, but that can still get you some very expensive things like healing potions, elixirs of life, antidotes, poisons, talismans, and all manner of other things which are too expensive to dump money into constantly but might solve an immediate problem. Using scrolls of low-level spells with situational uses can solve a lot of problems, and means that spellcasters in your party don't need to learn or prepare those spells.
- APG: Significantly improves the effectiveness of Recall Knowledge.
- APG: Situational by design, but without spells the Investigator has few other responses to invisibile foes.
- APG: If your party all has skills that can help investigate things (Perception, knowledge skills like Arcana, relevant Lore skills, etc.) they'll likely all help investigate rather than standing around staring at you while you do the work. In those cases, the bonus can be very helpful. In combat this won't see much use unless your allies are all built around Recall Knowledge for some reason.
- APG: Only works once per day, and the list of questions is extremeley limiting.
- APG: In combat it will be hard to fit the Action cost for this into a turn where you're using any of the actions which allow you to use One More Thing, but if you're heavily dependent on those actions it may be worth the effort. Outside of combat this is helpful insurance for social skills where failure might be a major setback for you and your party.
- APG: The damage bonus is small, and since you're not using Device a Stratagem you're not attacking using Intelligence so your attack bonus will be poor. If you have a spare Action and need to cause trouble, consider Demoralize or something along those lines.
- APG: This allows you to make one creature a temporary subject, enabling numerous other Investigator options. With a 1-hour cooldown, you can use this repeatedly throughout an adventuring day, and your party stopping to do things like Refocus and Treat Wounds will quickly eat through the cooldown time so you may be able to use this in back-to-back encounters.
- APG: With the best Perception progression in the game but only middling armor proficiency progression, your Perception DC should be much higher than your AC. However, you only get one Reaction per turn so you'll still need to invest in your armor to keep yourself alive.
- APG: Known Weaknesses should suffice in the vast majority of cases.
- APG: Essentially a divination. There is no usage limit or cooldown, so given enough time you could spend hours plotting various possible future occurances, annoying your GM beyond belief, but gathering tons of useful information.
- APG: A helpful counter to hidden or invisible enemies, but I would take Blind-Fight first.
- APG: Situational by design, but damage resistances are common, and since you rely on weapons offensively it's often very difficult to change damage types to get around resistances.
- APG: This is absolutely fantastic. In many combat encounters you'll use Devise a Stratagem every turn, allowing you to provide this bonus to your allies repeatedly throughout the encounter.
- APG: The way this feat is worded is easy to misunderstand, but it essentially has two functions. The first function expands upon Prescient Planner, allowing you to use the feat an unlimited number of times to produce non-consumable adventuring gear. This effectively means that any piece of adventuring gear is available to your with a single Action, provided that its weight wouldn't make you encumbered (Consider purchasing a bag of holding).
The second function improves upon Prescient Consumable. Prescient Consumable doesn't get the unlimited uses per day like Prescient Planner does, but you get 5 uses per day and the level cap on items is raised considerably, allowing you to produce numerous high-level consumable items.
- APG: Situations where this is useful are rare in a typical campaign, but reconstructing a scene like this is a powerful investigative tool in fictional crime media, so in a game well-suited to the Investigator it may allow you to gather huge amounts of information very quickly.
- APG: In a typicaly party your allies probably won't have the skills to back up investigating the subject of your lead, and the bonus from Pursue a Lead won't make up the difference.
- APG: Spells cast this way are very powerful, and can save you from a lot of very serious problems. If you can't think of a better option, a 4th-level Heal cast with two Actions when you're seriously injured is a good option that could save your life.
- APG: The vast majority of the creatures that you interact with won't require you to use this, but the possibility of an unlimited number of subjects is certainly tempting. Major NPC villains will often be exposed to the players in some way long before any sort of final confrontration, allowing you to free up your two regular subject slots while still keeping major antagonists as a subject.
- APG: If you're build to capitalize on Recall Knowledge, this is a huge benefit. If you take Dubious Knowledge, you'll still gain information on a failure and since Just the Facts prevents you from critically failing you always get information even if you don't successfully trigger any other benefts from using Recall Knowledge.
- : Investigators are frail, and a shield can go a long way to keep you alive in melee. In melee you'll typically rely on one-handed weapons, so you have a free hand for a shield unless you need that hand free for other items, and since Devise a Stratagem and a single Strike take up two of your Actions, you'll frequently have a third which you could spend to Raise a Shield.
- : Excellent for any character fortunate enough to get Legendary proficiency in Perception, but it feels especially fitting on the Investigator.
The Investigator's effective weapon options are dictated by the Device as Stratagem action. Since Devise a Stratagem works once per rounds, and only with certain weapons, you want to stick to weapons which qualify.
The Investigator gets only light armor, which normally means that you should favor Finesse weapons, but Divise a Stratagem allows you to attack using your Intelligence score instead of Strength or Dexterity, so using a Dexterity-based weapon is less crucial. It's still a good idea for circumstances where you can't use Divise a Stratagem, such as when you can't manage the Action cost to use it before making a Strike.
- : Your best ranged option. Investigators typically only need two Actions to attack in one turn, so the 1-Action Reload time for the Crossbow is less of a problem for the Investigator than it is for other martial classes like the Fighter and the Rogue.
- CRB: Lower damage than your other melee options, but the ability to throw a dagger may make it appealing.
- CRB: Your go-to melee option. Better damage than the shortsword, deadly d8, and Disarm. You don't need Agile because investigators almost never make more than one Strike per turn, and while Versatile would be nice it's not essential.
- CRB: Decent damage, Finesse, and it's Light Bulk so it's likely easier to conceal than a rapier.
- : Decent damage at range with deadly d10.
- CRB: Trade the shortsword's Versatile for Concealable. In most situations that's not a useful improvement over other weapons.
- CRB: There is little reason to raise your Dexterity past 18, so there is little reason to take Explorer's Clothing.
- CRB: Upgrade from Studded Leather to Leather if you ever manage to get to 18 Dexterity, but generally it's fine to stop at 16 since you're not going to use Dexterity for attacks.
- CRB: The Strength Threshold is higher than Leather armor, but 16 Dexterity is a great Dexterity for the Investigator, so if you can handle the minor penalty for having less than 12 Strength you'll be fine.
- CRB: Noisy.