So this was my first go around at one of the playtest classes, that I threw together on a whim since my friend was going to try out one as well (Swashbuckler in his case). We were going to be playing the new PFS introductory scenario, The Confirmation.
Warning: Much rambling thought processes follow on the Investigator (with some 2nd hand Swashbuckler commentary)
This seemed relatively straight forward. It became relatively apparent that Int was going to be my stat du jour... but after that, I was not sure where I should be going... it seemed to me pretty much every investigator is being shoe-horned into melee only for damage potential... and none of that shows up until level 4. My initial reaction was ouch, the first 3 levels were going to be a bit painful during combat...
[Why can't investigators use ranged weapons without completely invalidating their only damage ability? Could it be a talent for those that want it? A firearm or crossbow or throwing knives, seem totally thematic. They even get proficiency in hand crossbows!]
I briefly thought about a dervish dance build but Investigators do not get scimitar proficiency. Then pondered just a general finesse weapon build, but since for RP/flavor reasons the weapon I wanted to use was not finessable anyway, there really was no point.
Since the only way I'd get to do damage later was in melee, I didn't want to tank any of my up close and personal abilities (ie: str (attack/damage), dex (ac), and con (hps))... that left only wis and charisma as options for the knife. Guess Investigators will all be a surly lot (surprising true amongst many popular fictional investigator types!)
My final stats were (as a human): Str 14, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 18, Wis 10, Chr 8
I had no idea what to spend my 2 feats on, so I took the alternate human race trait that gives skill focus at 1/8/16, and just took Dodge for the other, thinking I could switch them out later before level 2 if I thought of something better. I felt this was actually a nice change, as it leaves open build options ... but really felt odd not having at least some idea what to take.
Lots of skill points and skills to choose from, with the added caveat that in order to use the 0-Inspiration bonus on Int-based skills, I had to have 1 rank in those skills... so I put one in Spellcraft and Linguistics (though I wasn't sure how often spellcraft would come up without Detect Magic). Craft (alchemy) seemed like a requirement as well, so one went there. They get trapfinding, so to use it I had to be able to both find (Perception) and disable (Disable Device) them... so those were the next two. RP reasons had me adding Heal and a Profession skill... and for some reason I thought the idea of a Investigator who couldn't follow footprints just wrong, so added a trait to give me Survival as a class skill, and tossed a rank in that. That left 3 ranks for knowledge skills (arcana, nature, and religion).
[note: I later noticed the Perceptive Tracking talent that allowed the use of Perception instead of Survival for tracking things... which seemed perfect, so I might go that way instead... but still... having to use a Talent for it sucks...]
Equipment purchasing was actually a bit more complicated then a typical level 1 char... not only did I have to buy both thieves' tools and an alchemy crafting kit (expensive, and the later heavy!), but because I could, I decided to take advantage of my Alchemy class feature and make some alchemical items at reduced cost. My skill was a +11 so figured I'd be ok with anything DC 20 or less (could take a 10) ... so started with 4 alchemist fires, 4 acids, and a smokestick made by myself. That was actually kind of cool I could do that. With just leather armor, the cheapest of weapons, and a basic kit, I just made it money-wise, even with the two skill kits... but anything more expensive armor/weapon-wise was pretty much out. Dunno if this might be an issue for different builds or not.
So now to the adventure! Some skill checks early on, and I was using my free d6 inspiration dice already. Felt good... though if I'd selected a different set of knowledge skills, it wouldn't have been so good.
Got jumped by a mosquito swarm... ha! Go-go home made alchemical goodies! Handed them to two other chars who actually had a better ranged touch attack (mine was only +2 ... would suck to miss) and the swarm was quickly dispatched. Again, felt good to have made those ... I imagine many new players would not have thought to do this (or even known they could!)
Made a survival roll to not get lost! Hurray... Rolled well, so didn't inspire myself. Not typically a investigator skill, so if I'd had Perceptive Tracking, it would not have applied here... not sure what to take from this... I really hate conditional skills or having to use a Talent to do this...
Got to our goal and went inside...
[Note: Swashbuckler tries to jump a 10' pit, with a +8 modifier ... fails. He's not allowed to use his Derring-Do, unless he declares it before hand. That really sucks! I can roll my Inspiration dice after the d20 roll, so I don't waste them... Swashbucklers have to basically throw them away not knowing if they're wasting them on a really high (or low roll), and they generally will have fewer (though regainable)... still seemed unfair, and not even remotely derring-do-ish. Perhaps only allow them to reroll on 6's if they're doing so before the d20, and just a single d6 if they roll after (but before success/failure is announced?)]
More skill rolls, Nature and Religion both coming up ... and Linguistics! Yay for free inspiration use! Still feeling good about out of combat utility, but again, only because I picked the right skills to put a rank in, so its all free Inspiration (would be out by now otherwise)
[Note: I'd made a Extract of Enlarge Person and one of Comprehend Languages but forgot to use the later. Would have come in handy with some azlanti language stuff! Still had it unused at the end]
Some social interaction, some more knowledge stuff, a bit of puzzle stuff... all of which I could help in... we gain some interesting, though inconsequential temp bonuses.
Combat! All undead skeletons and zombies ... mostly just provide flanking bonus... though do manage to take out a skeleton (all misses otherwise, though).
[note: was not much I could do in combat here, but I was still 100 times more useful then the swashbuckler with only a rapier... DR/Blunt and DR/Slashing respectively, with horrible damage potential, meant he was almost useless... I felt a little sorry for him, but ribbed him anyway. Swashbucklers seem to have it even worse for combat from 1-4 then Investigators.]
Next up, some oozes... regretted not crafting some alkali flasks (had intended to, but was rushed and forgot in the end). Used my sling instead, but was firing into melee, so not much to add here.
Next, final fight! Chugged my Enlarge Person extract (would have been nice to give it to the barbarian, but only worked for me... Infusion talent later looking like a must). Spent a round and a half moving into range to swing at something... Was all ready to use an Inspiration to jump the creek and swing at him with reach and an enlarged weapon, but the enemy was down before I got to do either. Sigh.
Overall, the class was fun to play, if you're the type of player that doesn't mind only excelling at out of combat stuff. None of my extracts could be used on other people, so I didn't feel like much of a support character, and despite some small combat success, I knew I was not anything remotely resembling combat support (at least not 'til level 4, if then). Anyone who wants to be effective in combats too might be chomping at the bit for the first few levels.
Still had my full allotment of Inspirations at the end... not sure if that was good or bad... really didn't get alot of chances to use them that weren't free anyway... and the final fight ended before I got the chance there.
Investigators use the Alchemist formulae list... but the list felt a little lackluster... was disappointed there were no spells that affected items (really was hoping for magic weapon or the like)
Can investigators use spell trigger items for spells on their formulae list? wasn't sure, assumed no.
Hopefully they'll adjust the class to give them some sort of support melee options prior to level 4 that don't front-load the class too badly.
I'm extremely late to the playtest/discussion party. I had fallen out of the loop with Pathfinder due to work.
Right now I am playtesting this class through RotRL and I feel these changes would better balance the class.
Looking at the class, I liked its overall feel and flavor, but I agree, that combat is rather lacking in early levels. Not to mention the Studied Combat/Strike abilities are sub par to sneak attack.
Honestly I would like to see Sneak Attack return, but have a 1d6 at 1st then +1d6 every three levels thereafter. I think that is fair, not competing with rogue, but not entirely negating its use either.
Studied Combat is another nice addition, but I believe that the insight bonus and how long the ability lasts should be switched. I.E. The bonus is equal to your intelligence modifier, and the bonus lasts a number of rounds equal to your level (Or half if you want to keep it from being combat heavy.)
I also feel Inspiration should be renamed to Gnosis, I think that fits better flavor-wise.
I'm not much on the use of poisons, so I don't see much use for it in the class, but others probably like it better. I'd rather see Poison Lore/Resistance be switched for some more investigative abilities like Detect Magic, Detect Alignment, Zone of Truth, and the like.
When I first saw the class, the lvl 2 poison use, lvl 4 studied strike left me a little mystified.
SS is very sub-par to SA. Poison use is okay, but a little resource intensive. I think they should, *at the very least* flip them, so you get SS at 2, and poison use at 4. I also think SS should be a move action to activate.
My comparison to the Investigator would be the bard, who outshines the investigator hugely. By lvl 5, bard song is a +2/+2 to the WHOLE party. This is about what SS gets for the investigator only. (+3 +1d6 at lvl 6). At lvl 7 bard song becomes a move action. And the bard spell list is FAR superior to the alchemist/investigator. In terms of being a skill monkey, the investigator edges the bard. They are the master of knowledge skills. But bard song has way more flexibility than inspirations.
When you bring in clerics and inquisitors, its really obvious Investigators desperately need love.
I'd really like some inspiration-based combat paths that use inspirations in different ways (burn an inspiration for a +1d6/2 lvls poison application, or 1d6/rd with a DC of lvl+int, combat maneuvers are a free inspiration use, etc.)