skip to main content
RPGBOT Logo Official logo for RPGBOT.net. A pixelized, roughly square, gray robot face.

Pathfinder - Investigator Handbook

Last Updated: October 15, 2018

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

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.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

Introduction

The Investigator is a clever fusion of the Alchemist and the Rogue, combining the Alchemist's Extracts and Poison Use with the Rogue's stealth and guile. Extracts provide excellent utility options, the Investigator's skill list allows the Investigator to serve as a Face, Trapfinding allows him to serve as a Scout, and Studied Combat and Studied Strike make the Investigator a passable Striker. However, Studied Combat and Studied Strike both require melee attacks, which forces the Investigator to fight in melee combat with light armor and d8 hit points, and you won't be able to match the damage output of a single-class Rogue.

Investigator Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is always hard for a melee character.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB, the same as both Alchemists and Rogues. Fortunately, Investigators depend heavily on Studied Combat in combat, so you would never be able to use iterative attacks anyway, and the Studied Combat attack bonus will exceed the gap between 2/3 and full BAB at every level at which it;s available.

Saves: Good Reflex and Will saves.

Proficiencies: Light armor and simple weapons, plus a short list of martial weapons similar to a Rogue. Your best bet is likely a Rapier.

Skills: 6+ skill points is great, but the real appeal is the incredible breadth of the Investigator's skill list. Investigators get all of the skills available to Rogues, plus all knowledge skills.

Alchemy (Su): Just like the Alchemist ability of the same name. You get just as many extracts per day as an alchemist, which provides you a lot of really great options.

Inspiration (Ex): Inspiration opens up a lot of really exciting options. Adding 1d6 to skill/ability checks is pretty dull, but can help when the stakes are high. You can use two Inspiration points to boost an attack or saving throw, but be careful not to burn through your Inspiration too quickly.

Trapfinding: This allows the Investigator to completely replace the Rogue as the party's Scout.

Poison Lore: Ridiculously situational. If you need to neutralize poison, there are several spells which do it, or you can just dump it on the ground.

Poison Resistance: Poison becomes very common at high levels. The scaling resistance is plenty at low levels, but immunity at high levels is even better.

Investigator Talents (Ex or Su): Investigator Talents open up a lot of really great options, including some Alchemist Discoveries and Rogue Talents. For help with Investigator Talents, see my Investigator Talent Breakdown.

Keen Recollection (Ex): You have all Knowledge skills as class skills and 6+ skill ranks. Throw a rank in each knowledge skill for the +3 class skill bonus, and pretend no one ever wrote this ability.

Trap Sense (Ex): Situational, and not very good in the rare situations where it applies.

Studied Combat (Ex): The insight bonus to attacks will easily make up the difference between 2/3 and full BAB, and the bonus to damage is nice. This will only last a few rounds, so be sure to maintain your Intelligence to keep this up for as long as possible, or you will spend a lot of inspiration re-studying your enemies in combat. The bonus is good enough that you might consider sacrificing attack bonus for things like Power Attack or Combat Expertise. Be sure to take the Quick Study talent to drop the action from a Move to a Swift so that you can make a full attack or use poison in the same round.

Studied Strike (Ex): Not quite as powerful as Sneak Attack, and it ends your Studied Combat, so use this sparingly, especially at low levels when the dame will barely exceed the bonus from Studied Combat. Re-studying a target consumes Inspiration, so only use this if you plan to change targets, or you think that you can kill the target, or if you can spare the Inspiration points.

Swift Alchemy (Ex): Crafting alchemical items faster is nice, but crafting typically happens off-screen in most campaigns. Poisoning an item as a move action is nice so that you can apply poison and attack in the same turn, but it will conflict with Studied Combat, which is usually a better option.

True Inspiration (Ex): Add 1d6 to all of your ability and skill checks forever, and you can spend inspiration for another d6.

Abilities

The Investigator's abilities look a lot like those of a melee Rogue.

Str: Only gives you damage, but don't dump it if you can avoid it. Without the Rogue's big pile of Sneak Attack, you want every bit of damage you can get. 13 opens up Power Attack, which may be worthwhile.

Dex: With light armor, you want to depend on Dexterity for Weapon Finesse and AC.

Con: Essential to compensate for the Investigator's poor hit points and bad Fortitude saves.

Int: Important for that awesome skill list and many of the Investigator's abilities, including Alchemy and Inspiration. However, since Investigators are only 2/3 spellcasters and are not dependent on DCs of any kind, you don't strictly need more than 16 Intelligence.

Wis: You need a bit for Will saves, but that's all that the Investigator gets.

Cha: Only required if you plan to be a Face, and your skill ranks and Inspiration can offset a poor Charisma score.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Arrray
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 16
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 16
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 8

Races

Bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence are nice, and other racial abilities can contribute to specific builds. Several excellent alternate racial bonuses exist, but there's not shame in taking extra skill ranks to help fill out your massive skill list.

Dwarf: Though certainly durable, the Dwarf offers nothing specifically useful to the Investigator.

Elf: Bonuses to both Dexterity and Intelligence are fantastic for the Investigator, and the Elf favored class bonus grants a bit of extra Inspiration. Unfortunately, all of the Elf's spellcasting abilities are wasted on the Investigator, so consider some alternate class features.

Gnome: The Gnome doesn't really get anything that's specifically good for the Investigator. The Gnome favored class bonus grants additional known formulas, but you can buy them the same way that a Wizard does.

Half-Elf: A flexible ability bonus and several great options for alternate racial traits. The Ancestral Arms alternate racial freature opens up great options like the Elven Curve Blade. The Half-Elf favored class bonus grants a bonus to Inspiration rolls, and after a bit of investment in new options for Inspiration it can be a very powerful and versatile bonus.

Half-Orc: A flexible ability bonus and Darkvision are nice, but the other Half-Orc racial abilities aren't very helpful. The Half-Orc favored class bonus is garbage.

Halfling: Slightly better than the Gnome, the Halfling's Dexterity bonus and other racial abilities contribute greatly to the Investigator's abilities as a Scout. The Halfling favored class bonus is the same as the Gnome.

Human: Always good at everything, Humans are also good as Investigators. Unfortunately, the Human favored class bonus is the same as the Gnome's, and it's not worth taking.

Traits

  • Accelerated Drinker (Combat): It's unclear wether or not this works with extracts. My personal opinion is that it does not, but discuss it with your GM. It's also important to note that the potion must be in your hand at the start of your turn, so you need to retrieve the potion ahead of time. If you're fine walking around with a potion in one hand in case you get attacked, it shouldn't be a problem. Once you get into combat, you'll need to retrieve a potion as move action on one turn and use Accelerated Drinker on the following turn. This leaves your standard action free to throw a bomb, drink an extract, etc. (the Alchemist's Alchemy feature specifically says "An alchemist can draw and drink an extract as a standard action."). Non-alchemists need to use a move action to retrieve a potion and a second move action to drink it, making this trait massively situational for them.
  • Reactionary (Combat): Going first is always nice, but Investigators aren't dependent on surprise so they don't benefit nearly as much as a rogue would.
  • Inspired (Faith): Fits the theme of the class very well, and rerolling a skill once per day is fantastic for such a skill-heavy character.
  • Alchemical Adept (Magic): This could save you a lot of money if you plan to craft a lot of alchemical items.
  • Alchemical Intuition (Magic): Charisma is a dump stat for Alchemists.
  • Cross-Knowledge (Magic): Many Formulae are also on the Wizard spell list, but 1 extra caster level won't make a huge difference.
  • Pragmatic Activator (Magic): UMD is a fantastic skill, and Investigators have the Intelligence to make Pragmatic Activator work.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Situational, but helpful for getting out of bad situations in combat.
  • Appraise (Int): Too situational.
  • Bluff (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Disable Device (Dex): Essential for any scout.
  • Disguise (Cha): Situational.
  • Escape Artist (Dex): Situational.
  • Heal (Wis): A nice supplement to magical healing, but the Investigator doesn't have high Wisdom, and has access to free healing potions every day.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Essential for any Face.
  • Knowledge (all) (Int):
  • Linguistics (Int): Helpful for a Face, but you can always have a friendly spellcaster cast Tongues.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
  • Perform (Cha): You are not a bard.
  • Sense Motive (Wis): Helpful for any Face.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Situational.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Helpful for identifying spells and magic items.
  • Stealth (Dex): Essential for any scout.
  • Use Magic Device (Cha): Perhaps the most versatile and powerful skill in the game. However, I can't think of many options that you would need from wands or scrolls that you couldn't get from the Investigator's spell list. UMD is a way for arcane casters to use divine spells, divine spellcasters to arcane spells, and non-spellcasters to cast spells. You get a mix of arcane spells and spells normally limited to divine spellcasters, so there's little reason to invest in UMD.

Feats

  • Extra Inspiration: More inspiration means that you can do more in a day.
  • Extra Investigator Talents: Investigator Talents are great, and having more of them offers a lot of options.
  • Focused Inspiration: An average of +1 to two skills. Skill Focus or any of the feats which provide bonuses to two skills will give you much better results.
  • Inspired Alchemy: Great if you are more dependent on Extracts than on Inspiration.
  • Inspired Strike: A nice reliable way to use Inspiration, but it's not a great payoff and it will eat through your daily uses too quickly.
  • Power Attack: If you can manage 13 Strength, Power Attack is a great trade. Studied Combat's attack bonus will outpace will outpace full BAB, so you're more accurate than comparably leveled characters, making it easy to trade a bit of attack for some extra damage.
  • Ranged Study: Investigators are frail, so moving to ranged weapons, even with a 30 ft. range limitation, is a big gain. However, this requires Weapon Focus and it's specific to a single weapon, which is a strange and frustrating limitating for a class that does so little to emphasize weapons.
  • Weapon Finesse: Essential.
    • Slashing Grace: Also requires Weapon Focus. While this is normally a fantastic damage boost more Dexterity-based melee characters, it requires that you use a one-handed slashing weapon, and there are none in which the Investigator is proficient. Plus, since you're going to be making only one attack per round, you're not getting a lot of payoff.
  • Vital Strike: It's strange to recommend this feat here, but Investigators do all of their attacking as a single attack, which plays to Vital Strike very well. Your best weapon option is typically a rapier, but if you want to use Vital Strike it may be worthwhile to upgrade to an Elven Curve Blade. However, at only 2/3 BAB you'll get the feats much more slowly than a class with full BAB. See my Practical Guide to Vital Strike for further guidance.

Weapons

  • Dagger: Carry a few to throw or for utility purposes.
  • Elven Curve Blade: You'll need to get proficiency somehow, but it can be a great option in combat. Combined with Power Attack and Vital Strike, this can be a significant improvement to your damage output.
  • Rapier: Your go-to melee weapon.
  • Shortbow: Your go-to ranged weapon, but remember than Studied Combat only works in melee.

Armor

  • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
    • Leather: Your starting armor.
    • Mithral Shirt: Likely your choice of armor for your whole career.
    • Masterwork Buckler: Because it has no armor check penalty, proficiency with a masterwork buckler doesn't apply any sort of penalty. None of the Investigator's abilities specify that you can't use a shield, so there is no excuse for not picking up a buckler.
    • Darkwood Shield: Even more AC than a buckler, but still no ACP. It will take up your hand, however, which may interfere with your access to extracts.

    Extracts

    This section won't address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options.

    1st-Level Extracts

    • Adhesive Spittle: Tanglefoot bags are fantastic, but their fixed DC means that stop being effective as you gain levels. As long as you keep increasing your Intelligence, you can keep this effective several levels longer. It also saves you th 50gp cost of actually buying a tanglefoot bag.

    2nd-Level Extracts

    • Ablative Barrier: hours/level duration means that this will last all day. The armor bonus won't stack with real armor, but it will still work while polymorphed. The real draw is the damage conversion effect. Nonlethal damage means that you're more likely to be knocked unconcious and ignored than actually killed. In additon, healing restores an equal amount of regular and nonlethal damage so healing you becomes twice as effective. This is an excellent option if you're working in melee.
    • Alchemical Allocation: Despite the obvious hygienic issues, this makes potions and elixers reusable, potentially making 3rd-level potions worth their exorbitant cost. This means that by using thist extract you can spend 900gp to add any potion-compatible spell of 3rd-level or lower to your spell list. The more potions you acquire, the more useful this gets. Consider the huger list of options: fly, greater magic fang, cure critical wounds, Beast Shape I, etc.. The only real limitation is that you need to be the one to consume the potion or elixer, so you're limited to effects which affect you. In the absolute worst usage scenario, this allows you to use Cure Critical Wounds as a 2nd-level extract instead of a 3rd-level extract.
    • Skinsend: A poor man's version of Twin Form. Compression can be occasionally useful, and construct traits are nice becuase of the immunities you get, but this is really risky to use in combat. At only half of your normal hit points, you're much more likely to die in your skin form.

    4th-Level Extracts

    • Mutagenic Touch: It's hard to know when this will work well. If you have another party member who's a combat monster (fighter, etc.) they might really enjoy this. Of course, combat monsters typically have poor mental ability scores, so the penalty from the mutagen might incapacitate them if you have discoveries which improve your mutagen.
    • False Life, Greater: Temporary hit poitns with hours/level duration. Always good on a class with relatively few hit points. It's really weird that Alchemists don't get regular False Life.

    5th-Level Extracts

    • Delayed Consumptiom: Turn any extract into an immediate action. Resist Energy is a great example; activate it when you're about to take energy damage you've solved the biggest problem with Resist Energy: guessing what to resist.
    • Resurgent Transformation: A fantastic way to keep yourself alive, but the 100gp material component cost will add up quickly if you use it every day.

    6th-Level Extracts

    • Twin Form: Unique to Alchemists (and Ingestigators because they share a spell list), twin form lets you get away with some serious shenanigans. Create a twin and send it to scout ahead, set off traps, or distract a monster. Send your twin into a dangerous combat, let it die, then run into the fight after the twin dies at full health and ready to win the day. The rounds/level duration doesn't let you do a lot, but that's probably for the best.

    Magic Items

    Weapons

    • Inspired (+1): If you didn't take the Combat Inspiration talent, this replicates its effect. If you did take Combat Inspiration, you get the normal effect plus you apply double the amount rolled as damage. Be sure to pick up options to improve your Inspiration: Amazing Inspiration, Tenacious Inspiration, and the Half-Elf alternate favored class bonus are all great choices.

    Armor/Shields

    • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.

    Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

    Investigators don't need anything from other classes. They're very functional with few notable holes in functionality. That said, a dip into another class can offer a lot of fun customization options

    • Fighter: One level offers you a lot of benefits. Heavy armor, better weapon options, and a feat go a very long way. With heavy armor you can build around Strength instead of Dexterity, giving you a significant damage boost. If you want to use Vital Strike, a level of fighter is an absolute must. The damage difference between a rapier or an elven curve blade and using an oversized bastard sword is massive, not to mention the additional damage you'll get from Power Attack.