Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide: Investigator & Oracle

As I wrote about last week, I recently got into Pathfinder‘s wonderful second edition, and it turns out I couldn’t have hopped in at a better time–last Thursday saw the release of a new sourcebook for the game, the Advanced Player’s Guide!

This book has some big shoes to fill; the first edition version of the Advanced Player’s Guide was a turning point for that version of Pathfinder, introducing a wealth of new classes and archetypes. Luckily, the folks at Paizo have done it again–the second edition APG brings the heat with four new classes, dozens of new archetypes, a bevy of spells, and more! It’s an absolutely fascinating addition to the game. There’s a lot to talk about, but to keep things digestible, I’m going to do a series of smaller posts rather than one huge one. Today, I want to talk about two of the most exciting things this book brings to the table: the Investigator and the Oracle, two of the four new classes included in the APG!

The Investigator
The first class introduced in the Advanced Player’s Guide is the Investigator. Investigators existed in the original Pathfinder as well, where they were a hybrid class of Rogue and Alchemist; the second edition version maintains some flavor from both classes, but also develops its own unique style!

The easiest thing to compare Investigators to–the thing I imagine most reviews will point to–is Sherlock Holmes. After all, it’s a class that puts deductive reasoning at the forefront of its playstyle! There are all kinds of new class features and feats for finding and examining clues, following leads, and connecting dots. There’s a bit more to it than just being a canny detective, though.

First of all, Investigators can also be potent combatants. Their ‘Devise a Stratagem’ class feature allows them to use their Intelligence modifier on their first attack roll of the round, as well as giving them something akin to a Rogue’s Sneak Attack. This already-useful ability gets even better if it’s used against an enemy that is related to a lead the Investigator is following–because, that’s right, Investigators have an actual mechanic for tracking leads! Stratagems can be further fortified by a fair few feats, if that’s the kind of build you’re interested in.

While the abilities to pursue leads and devise clever combat stratagems are central to the Investigator class, there’s another aspect to them that shouldn’t be ignored: methodologies. Choosing your Investigator’s methodology is the first major decision point the class provides you with, and there’s really no wrong answer! If you really want to lean in to the Holmes thing, you can choose Empiricism, which increases your capacity for finding and examining clues. On the other hand, you could take inspiration from more modern procedural dramas and go with Forensic Medicine (CSI: Absalom?), which can beef up your healing ability in addition to your investigative skills. If you’re planning on being the face of the party, consider specializing in Interrogation so that you can pursue leads in conversation with ease. Or, you could go with my personal favorite: Alchemical Sciences, which grants access to some limited alchemical crafting abilities.

While one could be forgiven for assuming Investigators are all about skill checks and social encounters (and, indeed, they do excel at these things) the truth is the class is flexible enough to do just about anything you want to build it towards. You could be an eagle-eyed detective, piecing together clues from the scene of a crime; a smooth-talking sleuth who can talk the secrets out of anybody; or a rough gumshoe who’s as comfortable with a mace as a magnifying glass. The class offers an exciting and unique blend of abilities that should make it a blast to play, especially in games that focus on intrigue.

The Oracle
Next up: another returning favorite, the Oracle! The first edition version of this class debuted in the original Advanced Player’s Guide, so it’s neat to see the new version here. Oracles are interesting because they’re divine casters, but they function much differently than Clerics or Champions.

The central hook of the Oracle class is that they’re cursed. Taking a cue from Greek myth, these characters are blessed with incredible power, but at a cost; every Oracle has a Mystery, and that Mystery comes with both boons and drawbacks.

Before we get into that, though, let’s talk about the Oracle’s spellcasting. Traditionally, divine casters in D&D and Pathfinder have an advantage over arcane casters: they know all the spells on their spell list and can prepare any of them they wish, without having to limit themselves to a smaller grouping of learned spells. Not so with Oracles! Instead, they work much more like a traditional Sorcerer: they learn a small pool of spells, which they can then cast spontaneously. That’s not the real twist to Oracle spellcasting, though–their Focus pool is where the fun begins!

I really like the Focus mechanic in PF2E, as it lets classes have a few unique, reliable spells that they can (usually) regain between encounters. Focus spells are especially important to Oracles, because Focus points interact with the Mystery class feature. First off, Oracles start with a Focus pool of two (rather than the usual one). Once they spend a Focus point on a spell, their curse kicks in! Spending more Focus points intensifies the curse, adding more effects (both good and bad). It’s a fun twist on a great mechanic, and the risk/reward nature of it is sure to appeal to a lot of players.

I’ll admit, at a glance, it does feel to me like the positives almost always outweigh the negatives in each Mystery; that said, it’s a hard call to make without having actually seen an Oracle in action. Plus, with eight different Mysteries to choose from–each with their own pros and cons–it’s likely to depend more on the specific situation than anything else.

Aside from being mechanically distinct, the Mysteries are just plain interesting! My two personal favorites are Cosmos and Life. The former ties your Oracle to outer space (and the eldritch beings that sleep between the stars), and its curse puts you in danger of breaking free of gravity. The latter is a more straightforward link to the vital essence of all living things, but its effects–improving your ability to heal others, but causing your own vitality to gradually seep away–are absolutely wild.

There are some wonderful Focus spells available to the different Mysteries, too: spells that allow the Oracle to unleash barrages of flame, steal their foe’s memories, take on a spirit form, and more. While there are certainly standard damage-dealing spells here, I’m happy to see quite a few options that are just delightfully weird.

I never tried out the Oracle in Pathfinder‘s first edition, but this 2E version has certainly grabbed my attention. It’s invigorating to see a class that strays from more traditional fantasy archetypes and gets a bit wild, and Oracle does so with aplomb–despite their divine caster roots, they don’t feel like Clerics or Champions at all. Their Mystery mechanic helps set them apart, and they’ve got cool lore, too! It’s going to be really fun to roleplay a character with the level of built-in conflict (in terms of both mechanics and narrative) that this class offers.

So, there you have it–the first half of the new classes on offer in the Advanced Player’s Guide! I quickly fell in love with both of these classes, and I can’t wait to try them out in a game (I’ve already got some ideas brewing for an Investigator). Check back on Friday for coverage of the other two new classes: Swashbuckler and Witch!

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