Who has two thumbs and is still obsessed with SPY x FAMILY? This guy! So last time on Fox’s Cunning I assessed the various Assassin archetypes in Pathfinder 2e, but what about spies?! Naturally there’s enough crossover that many of the assassin archetypes brought up in the last Fox’s Cunning still apply, but there are quite a few spy-exclusive and spy-adjacent archetypes that you should be able to make your own LOIDMAN!
What is a Spy?
A spy is an operative who secretly gathers confidential information. It is a classic archetype that often fulfills niches in several skills many other character types tend not to excel in, functioning very much like an Investigator or Mastermind Rogue. I personally highly recommend checking out the Investigator Reforged on Pathfinder Infinite for a better tuned investigator kit that can let your spy play as flashy a combatant as the aforementioned Loidman. Or you can just check out these archetypes and tack them onto almost any other base class in order to make an instant spy!
File 1: The Lion Blade
The Good: The premiere spies in Golarion, playing a Lion Blade may grant you some level of access to the spy networks of Taldor, depending on your GM. This archetype is ideal for urban campaigns where Lost in the Crowd and Crowd Mastery can shine. Expeditious Advance is one of the easiest ways to get a permanent status bonus to speed, and Flicker is an excellent defense if you have a third action! This archetype is ideal if you are playing a Taldor campaign.
The Bad: Many of these feats feel like they should have been skill feats and the crowd feats are so circumstantial they feel wasted. Spy’s Countermeasures feels more like a campaign tool than a necessary feat given how often an effect like that will completely warp the game (or be bypassed to prevent it from doing-so). Most players will probably take this archetype for Flicker and Expeditious Advance, which don’t really feel like “spy” abilities so much as Zoomer feats.
The Fix: Bake Crowd Mastery into Lost in the Crowd (otherwise Rogues would rather just take Gang-Up). Make Spy’s Countermeasure a skill feat. Even then, it just needs more feats.
File 2: Vigilante
The Good: Having a secret identity is an excellent tool for any spy! Being able to resist zone of truth will keep you from blowing your cover. Social Purview also let’s you pick another archetype from this list you can use!
The Bad: The ability to frighten and stun probably aren’t what most people have in mind for a spy, but if it is this archetype is perfect for you.
The Fix: I have a feeling this archetype will get better and better when we get some more content like the Gray Gardeners. Maybe if Paizo publishes a Lion Blade adventure!?
File 3: Pathfinder Agent/Scrollmaster
The Good: Tons of these feats are perfect for spies! Pathfinder Agent gives you anti-trap measures, the ability to reroll Recall Knowledge checks so you can understand the information you’ve been sent out to retrieve, the ability to completely memorize an entire page of information in just 3 actions, and every spy needs a versatile and easily concealable gadget (i.e. wayfinders)! You can then easily hop on over to the Scrollmaster archetype and expand on your Thorough Reports feat, leave foolproof instructions for your allies once you’ve obtained your critical information, and even get otherwise hidden or obscured information with Lore Seeker. Masterful Obfuscation is almost necessary for fooling people with impromptu disguises (“yes, of course I’m just a cook. Listen, I can tell you all about baking…”), and what is a spy if not a Determined Lore Seeker?
The Bad: Many of these feats feel like Skill Feats. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you have a combat heavy party and want to play the phantom-thief super-spy type character that spends combat running around disabling hazards and activating wands of manifold missiles for damage. But that takes a very particular sort of character and it often means you will either have the spotlight shining on you for entire exploration mode sessions, or be completely forgotten until the encounter ends.
File 4: Dandy
The Good: Oftentimes being a spy just means knowing how to schmooze. The Dandy makes a great archetype to compliment your spy, giving you information with Gossip Lore, cover with Fabricated Connections, and the ability to infiltrate high society with Party Crasher! The best part? Most of these are skill feats!
The Bad: Party Crasher is perfect for a spy, but can oftentimes be a curveball for a GM and should be something you discuss with your GM before you even take the Dandy Dedication given oftentimes a GM will simply not be prepared for the party to attend the event, especially if running a prewritten campaign.
The Good: In the lore of the Golarion setting, these archetypes are for spies and thus could potentially be a way to talk your GM into giving your PC access to the spy networks associated with the archetypes, however regional they may be. If you are playing a Goka/Walkena/Alkenstar campaign, these archetypes are great for any spy! Otherwise, they are mostly combat style archetypes.
The Bad: The abilities these archetypes confer just aren’t that great for spies. Innocent Butterfly and Prepare Papers are the only exceptions, but the rest of the abilities are pretty much about shooting guns, casting light magic, or wielding daggers. It’s totally possible to be a spy that uses those three tools, but the actual abilities of these archetypes don’t scream “spy” to me.
Biased End Result
While Vigilante is good, a Pathfinder Agent/Scrollmaster is probably your best route to playing a “Spy”, which makes sense given the Pathfinder Society is about gathering information. I’d probably beg my GM to divorce the archetype from the Pathfinder Society organization, given they aren’t really about being spies so much as
murder hobos archeologists. I’d consider taking the Dandy if the campaign was high-intrigue and Fabricated Connections/Party Crasher felt useful, but I’d talk to my GM about it. The others tend to be too focused on combat, or should have had a few more of their feats turned into Skill Feats. While writing this I was surprised we didn’t have a “spy” archetype, but maybe by the time you need to build a spy we will have one. I know this has inspired me to make an expanded Lion Blade archetype for Pathfinder Infinite…