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I am the GM of two groups, and currently am running two of them both set in the same town of my homebrew world. There are multiple plotlines I have established, and funny enough they went totally different directions.
I created an Investigator at level 3 that was an NPC in this city, she is a Halfling that's got a background as a criminal and is a bit on the rugged side.
I found her dripping with flavor, and given she is investigating dock disappearances in the port town, she didn't engage in much fighting. She also didn't engage in much fighting by choice, I felt she would lose a lot of engagements unless she was forced into an exchange, so she kept to tactics of hiding and observing to better build her case.
Overall, I loved how much the Class added to her concept. A rogue would not have done the trick at all, and that means the class is 100% doing it's job in making my character Class feel distinct and awesome.
Most of the basic stats are perfect as is, to me, relatively on point. There is one minor exception and one major exception:
- They basically get every skill with the way the class is currently set up
- There are absolutely 0 incentives for maximizing Intelligence or even investing in Intelligence outside of the Alchemical Methodology
- Perception is Wisdom based, leaving your perception, one of the things Investigators should be the best at, in a sad state.
- You already get 8 free skills and bonus skills as you level, so INT is less valuable here too
- You have very few DCs or abilities dependent on INT
The Major issue is a big one:
Now, my NPC ended up going high WIS and INT (halfling helped) with a decent DEX and okay CON. That solution while effective for giving her great perception, was not something I think most Ancestries could accomplish.
Here, there were three choices to be made, Alchemical, Empiricism, and Forensics.
Nadia (the investigator I created) was not so much the Forensics or Alchemical type, so Empiricism was the right choice for her character.
With that said, I found that the other two Methodologies were much stronger by comparison, as not only did they provide thematic feels but also impactful benefits in Combat as well that just aren't fostered by the Empiricism class itself.
Observe Expeditiously can of course be used for a free Recall Knowledge once per combat, which is nice, but feels "flat" especially in circumstances where Recall Knowledge/Sense Motive simply isn't going to provide much benefit.
Generally, I like active benefits that can be triggered by the player, such as Alchemical concoctions or using Battle Medicine more effectively.
Empiricism lacks that feel for me, and as one of the most "active" Methodologies in its nature (engaging and establishing facts that can be acted upon) it feels more passive than the other two.
In addition to these notes, I felt that one of the Methodologies held a distinct difference:
Alchemical Methodology does not enhance a concept, like you would normally expect a Racket, but completely enables/excludes it. That is to say, the only way an Investigator can get Alchemical concoctions without Multiclassing in a reliable fashion is to select Alchemical Methodology out right. While not the biggest deal, it would have been nice for an Empiricism Investigator to find some way to "dabble" without going strictly for the Alchemist MCD.
Lastly, to me, there was a "missing" Methodology in the Sleuth/Underworld Investigator, which seems like it had some concept for the Underworld Investigator (whether it be Intimidate or what have you). This "missing methodology" would be great for Detectives like Rustin Kohl, Batman, and the like.
Is a good concept, but IMO, poor execution.
- It requires it to be used every round, which is distinctly different than Hunt Target, but strictly in a bad sense. Instead of conveying a thematic benefit, it feels like an action tax for damage
- It specifically works worse against those with High Will Save DCs and requires the Investigator to use Perception to beat the DC (which has issues as mentioned).
- A +1 to hit with your next attack, while decent, is not a powerful use of an action given that it requires 2 actions to execute full power (Studied Strike). This then creates the burden of "two rolls" against separate attributes of the enemy (AC and Will saves) for a total of +1d6 damage with 5% more likelihood.
- It doesn't integrate with any other aspects of the Investigator. Study Suspect and Studied Strike are isolated entities that don't do much with the Methodology of the Investigator****
*** Scapel's Point is a great example of what I'd like to see with Study Suspect in general, where the methodology exemplifies how you take advantage of the Study Suspect in more than just the Studied Strike itself and the +1
Others have mentioned issues, but these to me are the main ones.
These are thematically inclined abilities, but Take the Case is really muddy.
IMO, instead of saying it "has to do with the case", it should just be that the person is on a case in general, and that the benefits that apply to any Intelligence, Charisma, or Wisdom based rolls.
My reasoning is from the perspective of the GM:
- Investigators go down "wrong" paths all the time, technically, eliminating possibilities is still relevant to the case even if it seems like it's not
- Investigators often investigate the "right" path and find it to be the wrong one
- Investigators are in the zone as soon as "the game is a foot"
- It's way too complicated to manage from the GM perspective IMO or even from the Player's position. Either integrate some aspect of "Study Suspect" with Take the Case or open it up to be more broad, drop the benefits to something more minor while "the game is a foot" and then add benefits for hitting markers
Perfect as is to me.
My only gripe with these is they are wide when it comes to power, at least to me.
- Flexible Studies - Not a great feat simply because you already have most Skills due to INT and skill bonuses.
- Known Weakness - This is what Study Suspect should already do, IMO, and taxing a Feat for something that will provide marginal benefit depending on the enemy, isn't ideal. This also devalues the Empiricism Methodology (but I sincerely hope that gets changed anyways) as the "free action" Recall Knowledge every 10 minutes effectively allows this (although this would give you two RKs, which against some enemies might have value).
- On The Scene - I like this feat, but it does not provide a lot of mechanical benefit and requires the GM and the Player to both actively keep in mind every single thing a player might encounter when entering a new room. I personally would love this if it was in some way combined with Trapfinder or finding "secret doors" to emphasize the Investigators ability to examine a room and find something out of sorts. In a way, this does that, but in a less concrete way, so I find it troublesome.
- Underworld Investigator - is awesome, and I loved having contacts, informants, etc. in certain spots of the city I could access for knowledge. I would change nothing about this feat.
- Combat Clue - is weak, but as a function of Study Suspect. Should study suspect change, and this provides an improved benefit, it would be valuable.
- Framing the Case - is a flawed concept built on Take the Case, which as I mentioned earlier has lots of issues. An investigator should always be able to expand their case, and having to "reframe" your case multiple times just isn't a fun mechanic. This feat was created to solve a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place, and for that reason I hope it gets deleted and TtC gets changed.
- Trapfinder - is a fine feat, I do wish it were combined with On The Scene for more thematic benefit or just outright included as a First Level feat (and then give Empiricism Methodology an interaction to extend it to things that aren't traps).
- Alchemical Discoveries - Great feat. Wish this could double as a way for other investigators to get some alchemical discoveries like the methodology (effectively if you took the methodology, you get the benefits, but if you didn't, you get Alchemical Crafting and Quick Tincture but limited recipes)
- Detective's Will - This is straight up worse than Canny Acumen in terms of bonus increases and only allows the +1 to be transferred to allies with Clue In (requires a reaction). Just a terrible waste of Class Feat with TtC in it's current state
- Guided Observation - Lacking severely. More of a problem with Empiricism, but I could never see myself choosing this as a free RK or Sense Motive for an ally is almost always going to be worse than mine anyways.
- Predictive Purchase - Great feat and very thematic. Not much to add here.
- Scapels Point - is a fantastic feat, both powerful and thematic
- Studied Assessment - This should be what the default Study Suspect provides along with the +1 in my opinion. It is a decent Feat considering the Class in it's current state though.
- Accurate Study - It's boring, its a wash at best with the original CS feature. Just not something I'd ever want. Better off grabbing an MCD or any lower level feat than this.
- Ongoing Investigation - Solid Feat. Should be available earlier IMO, it's way too weak for a level 6 feat.
- Thorough Research - Does this feat even do anything? If you already have Studied Assessment this gets even worse. It doesn't really stack with Empiricism. I struggle finding value here.
- Blind Fight - Good feat. Nuff said.
- Clue Them All In - Very thematic and a good way to maximize the value of the other Clue In feats. Wish it were earlier as an ability, but if Clue In gets altered, might be fine where it is.
- One More Thing - Great Feat. Totally not a level 10 feat in my eyes and honestly could easily have been a Skill Feat everyone could take. Lukewarm to me.
- Suspect of Opportunity - Once again a feat trying to solve the TtC problem. 10th feels awful for this.
- Sweeping Study - Appropriate level, since you'll be fighting enemies with immunities to precision often now, but a bit on the weak side in terms of damage. It would be nice if instead of applying your damage dice it was just your level or your Intelligence Modifier. Name seems meh though.
- Foresee Danger - I like this feat and the concept it is going for, but a single reaction against a single attack is rough, especially in the case where Wisdom is still the primary Perception modifier. With Magic armor (undoubtedly at level 12) this becomes like AC assurance, which while okay, is not nearly as strong.
- Reason Rapidly - While thematic, this is just a time sync for both the GM and the player. It seems like one of those "what would be impressive??!? Oh I know, five knowledge checks in one action!". I can't help but feel a more elegant solution for the concept can be found, but overall, I suppose it's fine power wise, but it bogs down play.
- Plot the Future - This should just function as the Augury spell IMO, I like the flavor though. Solid feat.
- See the Unseen - Solid feat. Nothing to add.
- Studied Bypass - One of the few feats that takes advantage of INT. Solid Feat provided there's enforcement for the Primary Key Ability
- Implausible Purchase - Solid ability. Seems a little late for level 16, perhaps an early entry with an increased item level once you reach Level 16 (like doing this at level 10 for level 3 items and below and then bumping it)
- Didactic Strike - Weirdly powerful considering how weak some of the other Study Suspect feats work, mostly for the additional 2d6 precision damage. Solid Feat but might need reworking if Study Suspect changes.
- Reconstruct The Scene - This is too high level and is too nebulous. I would like this much better if it functioned like Clairvoyence but in retrospect to some degree, I get that's what it is going for, but it doesn't feel "tangible" as currently written.
- Trickster's Ace - Great feat. Seems late to get this, would like it if there was a lower level version that was enhanced, possibly combine with Predictive Purchase for Scroll use or something.
- Everyone's a Suspect - Everyone is a suspect, why this needs to be a 20th level Class feat is beyond me. See other feats that are contingent on TtC as it is currently written.
- Infallible Research - If RK had more inherent benefits to the Investigator that would help, but sort of falls flat for a 20th level feat.
- Biographical Eye - Nice Skill feat, seems like the complexity could drop some, but definitely very iconic to the Investigator (particularly Sherlock).
- Forensice Acumen - Nice addition.
- Urban Pursuit - This feat should be automatic for Investigators, Nadia basically had to take it and it felt like a tax.
- Underground Network - This feat should be automatic with a Methodology for the "gritty investigator" methodology that I sorely wish existed. It was also a must take for Nadia.
I loved playing Nadia. She felt amazing, and while I did avoid combat with her, I still felt able to contribute monumentally to the narrative and in her role in the campaign. Despite some of the gripes I have, because I stayed relatively low level (3) I didn't have to experience any of the issues I have with the higher level Feats or low Wisdom (since she was a halfling).
Out of combat, basically close to perfect outside of the wonky ways of Take The Case gumming up at some points. Thematic, fitting, awesome.
In combat, feat wise and action wise feels like I should be doing literally anything else. I do not expect them to be power houses, but certainly able to do more than they can now.
In terms of thematics, freaking nailed it. In terms of niche in a party, completely freaking nailed it. And since those two things are the most hard to get right, I must say Bravo Paizo!
Out of all the Classes, I'd say they were the third from the top in terms of "close to complete" for me (behind Swashbuckler the dead leader, and the arguable close second being Oracle).