Pathfinder - Investigator Archetypes Breakdown
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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.
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
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
The Mastermind is an interesting archetype for a Face, but gives up 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)
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.
- Daring (Ex): You will rarely need an extra d6 on checks with these skills, and the skills will rarely come into play.
- Opportunistic Evasion (Ex): Like a costly version of Evasion.
- Sleuth's Initiative (Ex): +2 to initiative is nice, but the ability to draw a weapon for free is hardly worth taking Quick Draw.
- Make It Count (Ex): This offers some nice versatility.
- Run Like Hell (Ex): Situational, but a great way to get around a fight without getting killed.
- Second Chance (Ex): Rerolling inspiration dice isn't terribly helpful, especially because Tenacious Inspiration allows you to reroll and choose the highest without spending any resources.
Replaced Features: Alchemy, Swift Alchemy
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
The Steel Hound is a mistake. It has Gunslinger Deeds (well... Deed.), but doesn't get a Grit pool beyond what's offered by Amateur Gunslinger. Even if it had a decent Grit pool , this archetype would still be awful. You can't use the Investigator's Studied Combat or Studied Strike with ranged weapons unless you take Weapon Focus and Ranged Study, which is a huge feat tax. To get more grit you can spend one of your precious talents on Extra Grit, which is another tax just to be base-line functional. Nothing about this archetype works without a huge cost, and what you get is only marginally better than using a crossbow.
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. Get Weapon Focus with it at first level so you can get Ranged Study at 3rd.
Packing Heat (Ex): A level later than anyone else using firearms, but still essential to have if you want to use firearms at all.
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.
- Blind Shot (Su): Situational, but helpful when shooting invisible targets.
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