We have been using primitive firearms in our Pathfinder campaign Reavers on the Seas of Fate, and watched with interest Paizo’s publishing of new gun rules and the Gunslinger class as part of a playtest for Ultimate Combat. In this last Reavers session, I put in a pirate captain with four levels of gunslinger to kick the class’ tires.
The gunslinger class is fine. But the gun rules Paizo published are awful and suck utterly. Because their gun damage output is so low, and because they published them before the gunslinger class and they were therefore not up for playtest, to be viable the gunslinger ends up spending loads of abilities on getting more and more attacks, which is of course totally unrealistic with early firearms. It also drove them to include revolvers and other anachronistic weapons in a desperate attempt to fix their rules by sacrificing the game world, and even with all that they don’t favorably compare to the other classes in damage output. I actually had Wogan switch over to the Paizo gun rules for several sessions to give them a fair shake but we all decided they were just preposterously bad.
If your sword-and-sorcery fantasy world concept includes people reloading and shooting guns multiple times a round or blazing away with twin revolvers, then sure, use their rules. I think that’s a bit of a stretch however. A lot of people don’t like including firearms at all, and many of us who do want it to be more “Pirates of the Caribbean” than “Hard Boiled.” The “emerging guns” level as they describe it in the Paizo playtest doc.
Luckily, the fix is simple. I used my existing gun rules – in fact, after consideration and a year of playtest, I upped their damage to pistol: 2d6, musket: 3d6. I’ll note the gun rules in the Freeport Pathfinder Companion from Green Ronin have them doing even more damage that I just upped ours to, like 3d6/4d6! I didn’t want to go all that way yet, but after more time I can’t say we won’t. Then I told everyone “there is no combination of powers that lets you get off more than a shot per round per chamber.” Reload time is move action minimum. No class powers to reload faster. And I don’t have revolvers and whatnot – I mean, maybe something like that could be found as part of a crashed spaceship in Numeria, but not in common use.
In fact, this pirate captain had as much as I’m willing to do in medieval/renaissance fantasy, which is a double pistol (two barrels). You can shoot both in a round at -4, or do one at a time. He had Rapid Reload so he could load and fire once a round. Or you can draw and shoot multiple pistols in a round (needing quick draw), but then you run out of loaded guns quick.
We did keep one part of the Paizo rules, kinda, in that they had firearms be a touch attack in the first range increment. We changed that to “versus flat-footed AC” (like everyone on the playtest boards told them they should do, but they ignored). This provides firearms a little extra boost. They still need it, because one shot at 2d6 damage is still worse than your average archer who can crank out 2 1d8+STR attacks with Rapid Shot (and a hundred other enhancement options besides). Especially since the guns have misfire chance.
Even with all that, the captain had a hard time hitting Sindawe – of course he wasn’t single class gunslinger (he was level 8 to the PC’s level 5, though) and Sindawe had a monk’s AC, where even flat-footed is high,and he was spending ki on keeping it at like 25.
The pirate captain got to use all his abilities. He used pistol-whip on a pirate the PCs charmed to attack him, he used quick clear because his gun jammed while Sindawe was swimming around the cave, he used snap shot on the PC’s first action, and used utility shot to set off the gunpowder keg bomb. And he combined his rogue sneak attack with it once when Sindawe was flat-footed.
So in the end, fixing the gunslinger to be a playable and balanced and non-anachronistic class is easy.
- Fix the guns. Use my gun rules and up the damage to pistol: 2d6, musket: 3d6
- Fix the gunslinger. Change the “super fast actions” powers like Lightning Reload to something else. Maybe have Rapid Reload just take reload times down to one full round action and then Lightning Reload can take it to one move action.
I have to admit, I’m a little cheesed at Paizo. They keep running these playtests, but of the wrong things. It’s always “here, playtest this class,” seemingly more as a marketing promo than as an actual desire for input, but it’s the weapons that everyone can use that need more playtesting. Adventurer’s Armory was poorly tested and edited and was riddled with errors and bad ideas many of which haven’t been clarified to this day (like how brass knuckles etc. interact with monk attacks). They should have playtested these gun rules – most of their Gunslinger playtest was an exercise in “how do we make bad gun rules feasible” which is not an insipiring mission statement.