Ah, the investigator. Combat’s favorite punching bag. Many people believe that the investigator simply cannot keep up in the throngs of combat, what, with its limited ability to use studied strike and its lack of competitive damage options. Well, what if I told you that there was a way that you could throw a whole bunch of class-based bonuses on your damage rolls for a few uses of inspiration? Would you be interested?
Let’s look at a combination for a high-damage investigator today, on Iconic Design!
Here’s the basics for today’s Iconic Design.
- Classes: investigator 9
- Feats: Inspired Strike
- Abilities: investigator talents (amazing inspiration, combat inspiration), studied combatant
- Other: +1 inspired weapon (or better)
This is essentially a baseline combination for the investigator, but it was spread across so many different sections of the Advanced Class Guide (classes, feats, and magic items) that it never crossed my mind that they could all work together. Essentially, an investigator who has the combat inspiration talent (minimum 9th level) and a +1 inspired weapon can play some inspiration used to get a pretty potent to-hit and to-damage modifier, abet with the restriction that you’re spending inspiration to do. Effectively, combat inspiration reduces the amount of inspiration needed to apply the investigator’s inspiration die on your weapon’s attack rolls by 1. (Its normally 2 uses.) Now, this is the same baseline effect as a +1 inspired weapon, so chances are that you’ll pick up the weapon first and have a more economic use of the inspiration ability in combat.
BUT, and I say ‘but’ in all caps because this is important to the build, BUT an inspired weapon has a secondary effect—if you already have the combat inspiration talent, you get to add twice your inspiration die’s result to your weapon’s damage roll instead. At 9th level, when you likely have amazing initiative, this is a not-so-insignificant range of 2 extra damage (if you roll a 1) to 16 damage (if you roll an 8), or an average of 9 extra damage. VERY impressive.
But what about the Inspired Strike feat? Well, this gem lets you spend a use of inspiration whenever you hit a target that you have studied using studied combatant to roll your inspiration die and add the result to the damage roll. So that’s another 1–8 damage, for an average of 4.5. Contrary to belief, that isn’t bad for a single feat’s investment.
But, of course, here’s the REAL question—can I combine these abilities? The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Studied combatant is a standard action to begin (or a swift action if you’re like me and take the quick study investigator talent ASAP), but on the round afterwards you’re golden. It is a swift action to activate the combat inspiration talent, but the Inspired Strike feat doesn’t specify an action to use; it simply triggers with the choice whenever you hit a studied opponent. Now, factoring in that you’d need to be at least 9th level for this whole combo to work, here’s what you’re looking at for two uses of inspiration:
- +4 to hit and to damage from studied combatant.
- +1d8 to hit (average 4.5), +2d8 to damage (average 9) from inspired blade, not counting the weapon’s enhancement bonus.
- +1d8 to damage (average 4.5) from Inspired Strike.
- Total: WEAPON + WEAPON BONUSES + 4 + 3d8.
For some better context, let’s use the stats of my 9th level investigator, Ihan Ichihara. He’s a finesse guy with a rapier, with a Dex of 18 and a +1 inspired rapier.
- 1d6 weapon damage
- +4 from Dexterity
- +1 from enhancement bonus.
- +4 from studied combatant.
- +2d8 from his inspired weapon.
- +1d8 from Inspired Strike.
- TOTAL: 1d6 + 9 + 3d8, for an average of 25 damage at the cost of 2 uses of inspiration.
Am I going to be winning the DPR Olympics any time soon? No, not when that 25 damage costs 2 uses of inspiration per swing. But it’s a fun little combo that really shows off how the investigator can be used to deal damage. And let’s be honest here—this example is NOT the high end for damage with this build. I’m not Strength based and I don’t have access to the mutagen alchemist discovery. You can do a LOT more damage then I can, if you want.
Before we go, let’s look at a theoretical Strength-based investigator, with a Strength of 18 and a +1 inspired nodachi.
- 1d8 weapon damage.
- +6 from Strength (+2 for using it two-handed).
- +6 from Power Attack (BAB +6 at this level, or +7 if you multiclassed for weapon proficiency).
- +1 enhancement bonus.
- +4 studied combant.
- +2d8 from inspired weapon.
- +1d8 from Inspired Strike
- TOTAL: 1d8 + 17 + 3d8, for an average of 35 damage per swing at the cost of 2 uses of inspiration.
Not too shabby! And this is all before making my attack my studied strike (but honestly, in my opinion keeping the studied combatant bonus to hit and damage is more important long-term).
That’s it for this week’s Iconic Design. Tune back in two weeks for more ideas for your next PC or NPC. Take care!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.