Guns and Gears has given us a bunch of fun new stuff to play with. Last post, I went over the new class, the Inventor. This time, in going to look at the returning class, the Gunslinger, and discussing the changes the update gave us.
Gunslinger is about what you expect: they are the best at using guns (and crossbows). They’re the first class other than Fighter to get legendary proficiency in a weapon, but ONLY guns (and crossbows). Even if you take an ancestry weapon feat, it doesn’t work. But hey, it’s legendary proficiency. They also get some way to Reload with better action economy built in, instantly elevating it a bit ahead of other options. Guns might not fit in your idea of high fantasy, which is why most options here have “(and crossbows)” added in. Most of the options fit pretty well regardless. Plus, the whole class is Uncommon specifically for GMs to keep them from being everywhere if they want.
Compared to the 1e version, the new gunslinger has a lot more options out there for what sort of actions it can do, in large part because they don’t have to spend their entire turn every round reloading and shooting. Now they got the room for cool new actions and tons of things to fill it with. Just like Fighter, it gets loads of combat actions in its Feats. And there are actual utility things for gunslingers now! You can give your allies bonuses with Covering Fire or Fake Out. You can throw out a smokeshield for battlefield control. You can pick locks and cauterize wounds. All by shooting guns (and maybe crossbows)!
Even more than that, they can get silly now. In 1e, Paizo made the gunslinger class sort of serious and based on old westerns. Gunslingers were cool and collected cowboys. Campy at times perhaps, but still pretty straightforward. Between then and now, Paizo seems to have binged some anime, because holy cow these options get weird. Like holding a slashing weapon in front of the barrel so when you shoot the gun the bullet splits in two and hits two targets, or throwing a melee weapon then shooting it to make it hit harder and bounce back to your hand. I don’t care if it’s unrealistic, that’s some fun wacky stuff. Why should spellcasters be the only ones breaking the laws of physics?
Real quick, there are four base paths for gunslingers called Ways, plus one additional one using a class archetype. They all give an ability used when you roll initiative, a method of Reloading in a way that is more action friendly, and a couple more thematic ways of using your style of gunsligning. The Ways are:
- Drifter: Shoot AND stab things! Drawing both weapons and moving forward during initiative, Reloading despite wielding both, and that spicy throw-shoot-bounce ability mentioned above. In my opinion, the most ridiculous and cartoony of the base Ways.
- Pistolero: The spaghetti western option. You can drop one-liners while you Reload, you call out challenges, and you shoot things for daring to attack you and not killing you first. High on the camp, but still in the range of believability.
- Sniper: Attack from a long ways away. Sneak a bunch and make fewer shots but they do LOTS of damage. It’s probably the least ridiculous of the Ways, in turn being the closest to 1e’s version too before adding class feats. It’s not bad, just simple.
- Vanguard: As tanky as a gunslinger can natively get. This is the heavy-weapons-guy. Big guns, big damage, big AC. Push people around or smash them with your weapon if they get too close. As a fan of shotgun-style combat in games, I appreciate a dedicated way that makes short-range bulky-slingers viable.
- BONUS! Spellshot: The class archetype Way adds magic (though no actual spells, which is odd for a spellshot) and turns the cartoony-anime-nonsense up a notch. Summon ammo out of nowhere, add energy damage to your shots, Dispel magic by shooting it hard enough, and literally shooting yourself through your firearm to teleport. Very cool, though I kinda wish the name was different for a Way that doesn’t actually give spells.
For this build, I want to show some of the wacky stuff gunslingers can do, and the best way to do that is with the Drifter. If for no other reason, Rebounding Assault is such a wonderful and borderline stupid way to attack that I have to use it. On top of that, the way Drifter flows between melee and ranged leaves lots of options open in combat. Reloading by attacking is insane. And finally, it encapsulates a character I’ve been wanting to build perfectly.
The Source Material
New class build and a character conversion build at the same time! A little while back, I wrote about how I take a character from one piece of media and turn them into a ttrpg character. I used one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite games, Darkest Dungeon. Well, as of this post, Darkest Dungeon’s long awaited sequel is coming out tomorrow! And it’s been on my mind, so here’s another hero class from that game turned into a PF2e character.
The Highwayman hero class is perfect for showing off the Drifter Way. He’s got a blade in one hand and a pistol in the other. He’s highly versatile, functioning in any spot in the party line up, dealing damage over time, burst damage, and AoE damage. Highwayman would be considered a “selfish DPS” in Final Fantasy XIV terms, since it only has one support ability, and even that is kind of selfish. Tracking Shot ignores Stealthed enemies, removes their Stealth, and gives the Highwayman big bonuses to accuracy, crit %, and damage. Everything else is damage, from bleeding the target to setting up ripostes to just shooting things really hard. Even its camping abilities are pretty selfish, with only one being purely helpful to the group by preventing nighttime ambushes and helping surprise enemies. Of the rest, two are self-only damage buffs, and one reduces stress by causing another character more stress. But what it does most is damage, and it damages well.
The Highwayman’s attacks range from simple damage effects to repositioning attacks with buffs or debuffs built in.
- Wicked Slice is a basic slashing attack. No problem here.
- Pistol Shot is… the same thing but with a gun.
- Point Blank Shot does a lot of damage, knocks back the target, and moves yourself back. I don’t know of a single action that moves you back and the enemy away from you, which would be ideal, but there are ways to maneuver around while shooting.
- Grapeshot Blast… well, AoE is doable with guns, but not selectively really, so we’ll look at that.
- Tracking Shot makes a stealthed target visible and buffs his own attacks. Very simple to do as we’ll find out.
- Duelist’s Advance is a move forward, stab, and set up for riposte. Riposte is a little hard to put on a gunslinger, but not impossible.
- Open Vein slashes and causes bleed damage. That’s just a Wounding rune.
Dismas, named after the Highwayman you begin Darkest Dungeon with, is a force to be reckoned with. He’s highly mobile, good at both melee and ranged combat, and loaded up with a few tricks and a lot of over the top shenanigans.
SPOILER ALERT: The next paragraph has minor spoilers for the story of Darkest Dungeon. It’s not anything big, but I personally despise spoilers so I want to put this out just in case.
Duskwalker as the heritage is purely in reference to an item in the game called “Dismas’s Head” which increases a hero’s damage. Given the first two characters you get includes Dismas… it’s a bit weird. Duskwalkers are mortals that come back from death to fulfill some purpose. There’s an achievement in the game for bringing Dismas and his partner Reynauld all the way to the final dungeon of the game. In the very last fight, the game forces you to sacrifice two of your heroes, and if you select the Highwayman, he defiantly says “No way out, hmpf. Let’s do this.” Thus, the Willing Death feat for that little extra flavor and the occasional way to help out the party.
SPOILERS OVER HAVE A NICE DAY
One of the great things about playing a character that uses ammo is you can vary effects by using fancy bullets. A lot of tricks can be covered with special ammo, but that’s gonna be plan B.
I kind of wish I didn’t have to take the swashbuckler feats, but parrying is too important to the character to ignore. Panache and Finishing Strike also work as the buff to offense that Tracking Shot offers. A lot of the remaining feats are all about keeping mobile and minimizing action costs. The amount of Steps and Strides this character can take without actually costing the actions to do so is higher than any other I’ve ever made.
Rebounding Assault and Split Bullet are, admittedly, not in Darkest Dungeon even slightly. However, they’re at the pinnacle of silliness in the class, so I wanted to take them. Plus, in a weird way, Split Bullet can function as the Grapeshot ability Highwayman gets, since actually getting a scatter weapon would limit the firearm’s range and damage too much for the build. Beyond that, the AoE ability can be represented by Step of Thunder, though you do technically need an empty hand to perform this.
Eternally a support character in real life, I felt the need to play up the little utility he provides the team. Dismas maxes out Thievery and takes Wary Disarmament and Quick Unlock because Highwayman has one of the best trap disarm chances in the game. Between Incredible Scout and Shadow Mark, the camping ability to increase chances to surprise enemies is roughly covered.
I gave the character a dogslicer as his melee weapon, which might seem a little odd. At first, I just gave him a shortsword, but when going through the feats I found a problem with that. Rebounding Toss doesn’t work with piercing weapons. I usually think of shortswords (and daggers for that matter) as slashing weapons first, but they’re actually piercing weapons with versatile S, which doesn’t count. I’m sure most GMs wouldn’t mind, but there’s another reason: natively, gunslinger only gets expert proficiency with weapons that aren’t firearms (or crossbows), Unconventional Expertise allows us to upgrade a single weapon’s proficiency past expert, and even if we can’t get legendary due to Singular Expertise, that +2 is big. Dogslicer is a slashing weapon with an ancestry trait, fitting all the factors we need, plus it’s agile and finesse, which further maximizes our attack bonus. I wish it had the parry trait for that little bit of AC, but oh well. Throw on a Wounding rune for the bleed DoT from Open Vein and we’re set. The Thundering and Shocking runes refer to the ultimate weapon upgrade for the hero in Darkest Dungeon called Thunder and Lightning.
Tracking Shot and Grapeshot Blast are both only half represented, but with a little item support, they work out fine. Blood in the Air ignores stealth, but it doesn’t quite reveal the target to everyone else like the Tracking Shot ability does. Combining it with special ammo that reveals creatures that get hit like Fairy Bullets does it just fine. There’s not a lot of AoE options in the build, but Explosive Ammunition and Meteor Shot both create a burst around the target. Some other fun ammo options include Transposition Ammunition to teleport yourself with a shot, Juxtaposition Ammunition to teleport an enemy, and Ghost Ammunition for shooting that meddlesome ghost hiding behind a wall.
In 1e, firearms were expensive, exotic weapons that characters couldn’t use easily. The original version of the gunslinger class was good at one thing and one thing only: it used guns. And honestly, given how 1e handled multiclassing, that was okay. It meant you could invest as much as you need to get the abilities you want for a gun-toting character of a different class. There were also lots of archetypes that made a class into a gun-version of the class by taking away some other abilities. Between the two, you could, hypothetically, make any character a gun-character of varying efficacy.
2e not only made it so characters that only get simple weapon training can still figure out how to pull the trigger on a firearm, but with how 2e dedication feats work, there’s no need for a big complicated rework of a class just so they get abilities that function with guns (and crossbows!) anymore. Better yet, since firearms are less complicated, rules exist for fun, silly, ridiculous stuff in addition to the regular point-shoot-reload stuff from before. If you want to make a weird character that uses guns as part of the concept or just want to have it as a backup weapon option, you can do it as long as you have firearms in your campaign. Or crossbows!
- Filling in the BlanksI went over a method you can use to “mathematically” categorize a character concept or class. However, the class pyramid isn’t limited to this use. It can be a very versatile tool if you know how to use it.
- Make Love, Not WarlockLast in our trio of pseudo-warlocks uses the Psychic class. While there’s no exact copy of eldritch blast, Psychics are the superstars of cantrips and adding bonus effects on your spells.
- I CAST SWORD!Magus is all about combining spells and martial prowess, perfect for a Blade Warlock. Their signature ability Spellstrike has you attack a foe with a weapon and unleash a spell against them all at once.