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I have been interested in how to make the Inquisitive Rogue (Xanathar's Guide to Everything, p. 45-46) valuable, but I'm having some difficulty wrapping my head around how to utilize some of its features.

Notably the Inquisitive Rogue gets two major abilities: The ability to "study" an enemy and always land sneak attacks, and the ability to use an Investigation check with a bonus action.

However, compared to other Rogue subclasses, this seems rather weak. Swashbuckler Rogues have a similar ability, to inflict sneak attack bonuses on enemies who are neither granting you advantage nor are near allies, and the Mastermind Rogues can use the Help action as a bonus action (making a major part of their playstyle).

But the "studying" effect seems rather weak, compared to the Swashbuckler Rogues' abilities to taunt, gained initiative, and avoid Attacks of Opportunity.

And the Investigation as a bonus action ability seems hardly usable at all in combat (when a bonus action is most valuable), and seems pointless out of combat (when you usually can spend as much time as you need to investigating anyway).

Any advice as to how to use Investigation so that Inquisitives can get more value, without turning a 5e campaign into a detective show?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking how, as a player, you can get more use out of Investigation? Or are you asking how, as a DM, you can make Investigation more valuable to the party? \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 17 '18 at 20:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I'm not sure what the difference is. I am a DM, but I feel like those are the same questions just with different perspectives. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 17 '18 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a DM you can create situations where Investigation is useful. As a player you're limited to finding uses for Investigation in the situations presented by the DM. For example, consider this question/problem: "Our campaign is set in the desert, and my ice-climbing gear isn't very useful." As a DM, you can provide scenarios that take places in icy areas instead of just the desert; as a player, you're stuck trying to repurpose the ice-climbing gear. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 17 '18 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage That's a fair point, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 17 '18 at 20:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil From the title it sounds like you're asking how Investigation is useful at all, and implying that campaigns where it is useful are anomalous in some way. I think the gist of your question is really how it's useful to make Investigation checks as a bonus action. Is that right? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Aug 18 '18 at 1:22
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The specification:

Starting at 3rd level, you can use a bonus action to make a Perception check to spot a hidden creature or object or to make an Investigation check to uncover or decipher clues.

Suggests that a bonus action specifically will be useful - meaning that the Investigation check will be useful in a combat or other time-crunch scenario.

Uses for Investigation checks

Taking some examples from the DMG on how an Intelligence (Investigation) check might be used in combat:

Perhaps your party is being chased by a powerful adversary, and you need to escape a dead-end room. DMG 104:

Opening a Secret Door. Once a secret door is detected, a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check might be required to determine how to open it if the opening mechanism isn't obvious.

Perhaps your party is engaging an enemy in a battlefield that the enemy had the chance to prepare. Detecting and disabling the traps for yourself or your allies is key. DMG 121:

If the adventurers detect a trap before triggering it, they might be able to disarm it, either permanently or long enough to move past it. You might call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check for a character to deduce what needs to be done, followed by a Dexterity check using thieves' tools to perform the necessary sabotage.

There's plenty more ways, depending on how combat goes. You might need to quickly figure out how to use the MacGuffin to annihilate the baddy, or spot a clue as to their social ties that you can use for leverage.

Balance

The Swashbuckling Rogue Rakish Audacity feature:

[...] You also gain an additional way to use your Sneak Attack; you don't need advantage on the attack roll to use your Sneak Attack against a creature if you are within 5 feet of it, no other creatures are within 5 feet of you, and you don't have disadvantage on the attack roll. All the other rules for Sneak Attack still apply to you.

Only really works for one-on-one fighting, you can have neither allies on your side, nor additional enemies. While it is certainly powerful, it's not quite an always-free Sneak Attack.

And the Panache feature:

[...] If you succeed on the check and the creature is hostile to you, it has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you and can't make opportunity attacks against targets other than you. This effect lasts for 1 minute, until one of your companions attacks the target or affects it with a spell, or until you and the target are more than 60 feet apart. [...]

This feature occupies a different niche than the Inquisitive Insightful Fighting feature. Panache is more of a support feature, making the enemy less likely to hit your allies, while Insightful Fighting helps you deal damage directly. The value this brings to you depends on your team composition and tactics.

However, you're right in that the Inquisitive subclass is altogether weaker directly as compared to the Swashbuckling subclass. Initiative and Attacks of Opportunity are all things that take part in every combat, whereas having the combat depend on your character quickly identifying some tipping point is a lot more circumstantial. If you want your Inquisitive Rogue to use their class features in combat more, and in a meaningful way, you should talk to your DM about it. The examples above show that there are ways to make Investigation useful in combat, it then falls on your DM to give you these opportunities.

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I think one of the most common issues or mistakes players make is trying to find a way to make their character ALL about combat. I get that many DMs just want to focus on the combat aspect of the game and lost most/all of the story line in the process, but there is more to the game than combat, just like there's more to life than fighting.

One of the biggest things to focus on is that this is an RPG, emphasis on RP. I tell my new players that I teach that if they want a game only about combat to just go back to Xbox and Playstation because this is a different type of game. Without the story line as to why you're there, which you participate in, there's no reason for the combat.

Actually, I've had many tables spec their characters towards group/team support, and away from combat, and they've looked at the problems in front of them and gotten around it without entering combat once. I've seen a lot of players view combat as a punishment because they weren't sneaky enough, or didn't get the right piece of information, thereby provoking the enemy into attacking accidentally.

With the Rogue-Inquisitive, I tend to picture them more as the "CIA Mole" on a dangerous mission. Infiltrate, get the info needed, and report back to HQ. Same as a Wizard-Divination, you can use the info gained to help your team prepare and come up with a good plan.

Same with the Rogue-Mastermind, they're not particularly skilled in combat either, but they have things that can help buff the team both inside and out of combat. These are the characters that, in my mind, actually shine. EVERY CHARACTER you can create can swing or shoot a weapon, and sooner or later they'll get a kill. It's the ones who can subtly manipulate the battlefield in favor of their team/side that REALLY make the differences.

So, for you, I'd suggest trying to picture what they could do outside of, or inside battle, to actually assist the more battle savvy members of the party. While your barbarian celebrates that they got the killing blow, just know that you made it possible with the info and assistance you provided.

Now, all this takes into account that your DM actually makes one shots or campaigns that aren't 100% combat. Sadly though, all combat one shots and campaigns seem to be the new norm.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't really answer the OP \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Aug 17 '18 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Investigation isn't a combat ability. Your original poster seems to only be concerned with combat abilities. You're a rogue, and the big dirty secret is if you don't have the imagination of how to use your abilities, you shouldn't be what you are. Instead of focusing on combat, maybe you investigate the enemy and try to steal and get away to avoid combat, or find a weakness of some sort. Bottom line, stop thinking about ONLY combat. That's not the "end all, be all" of EVERYTHING. Use your imagination and get creative. \$\endgroup\$ – Phann Aug 17 '18 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Two things: 1) On this site we don't dictate to other people the "correct" way to play. Focusing on combat is a perfectly valid form of play. 2) The original question is asking how to make Investigate useful during combat, since the Rogue-Inquisitive are able to Investigate things during combat as a bonus action. The question asker wants to know what kind of scenario would ever involve finding clues while still engaged in combat. \$\endgroup\$ – GreedyRadish Aug 17 '18 at 21:23

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