Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Pathfinder playtest - the Gunslinger

Paizo has come out with the first playtest for the upcoming Ultimate Combat splatbook for Pathfinder. The pdf includes three new classes, the ninja, the samurai and the gunslinger, as well as new combat rules for firearms. I don't really have much to say about the ninja and the samurai. We've seen those classes done numerous times before and my only response to yet another incarnation is profound indifference. However, I'm very interested in incorporating blackpowder weapons into my games, so I was more than a little curious to see what Paizo had in store for us.

First off, I'll get it out front. I hate the name of the "gunslinger" class. I would have preferred something like "fusilier" or "arquebusier". For that matter, given the sort of swashbuckler character this class seems designed to create, the name "musketeer" might even be appropriate. The primary class feature of the gunslinger is Grit, a pool of points the character can draw from to execute various daring maneuvers or shooting tricks. It ends with the inevitable True Grit capstone ability which ties in with the name of the class. Still, the iconic image included in the pdf is far more reminiscent of Capt. Jack Sparrow than Rooster Cogburn, so there seems to be a bit of confusion as to what cultural icon (with an avian name) the designers were going for here. Yet, despite the aggravation caused by the Wild West terminology used, the class itself seems decent enough. I doubt most gunslingers in the game will concentrate solely on their guns, given the limitations of those weapons (which I will discuss below), but a gunslinger with a handy rapier at the ready would be a formidable combatant.

Even more than the gunslinger class, I was interested in reading the firearm combat rules. D&D has always had a problem with guns, because of the nature of the armour class rules. Guns are inevitably inferior to bows unless some way of incorporating armour penetration exists in the game system. Some d20 games have done a good job of dealing with this, most notably True20 by Green Ronin, by introducing a new saving throw, called Toughness, which represents a character's ability to avoid damage. The armour bonus adds directly to the Toughness save, rather than the Defensive Modifier (the character's ability to avoid being hit). Likewise, the attacker's weapon adds a modifier to the DC of the save, with firearms generally having higher modifers than more primitive weapons. This approach, however, requires wholesale changes to the game mechanics, since True20 uses a damage track, rather than hit points. The Paizo design team is using a simpler approach to model firearms. Attacks within the first range bracket are touch attacks. Why didn't I think of that? It's so obvious now. No fiddling with DR, just turn off armour altogether versus guns at close range. A few people might have a problem with it, because it means even adamantine armour won't stop a bullet, but that could be house-ruled easy enough. Just increase the cost of adamantine to reflect its added advantage and say that guns don't get touch attacks against adamantine armour. You could then add adamantine bullets to get the touch attack ability back.

Now guns do still have disadvantages, notably the rate of fire, though how much of a disadvantage that will ultimately be is a bit hard to tell right now since only the most basic firearms rules are included. It's possible that feats and magic options may appear in the final product which can mitigate the problem. Another problem I see is the cost of ammo. One shot of black powder costs 10gp and a single bullet costs 1gp, so it's going to cost 11gp per attack. Contrast that with 20 arrows or 10 heavy crossbow bolts for 1gp. Conserving ammo and using a backup weapon whenever possible is going to be the order of the day for gunslinger PCs. Nonetheless, I can't wait to try out my first gun-wielding character.


Update: One more comment about the Gunslinger. It has a class feature called Brave and Tough which provides bonuses to both Fortitude and Will saves. The Reflex save is the good save for the class, but with the bonuses provided, Fort and Will never fall less than one point below Ref, giving the gunslinger almost monk-like saving throws. This is quite a major advantage that might be easily overlooked.

Further Update: Upon further perusal, I notice it is possible for a gunslinger to use grit points and the Lightning Reload Deed feat to reload as a free action. This doesn't really mitigate the rate of fire problem though, since grit points are not typically abundant. Still, it's good to have when you really need it.


Little Tayloritos said...

It sounds almost as if playing a gunslinger would be generating a character who fights like they did in last of the Mohicans where you fire 1 or 2 shots then engaged in melee. It sounds very interesting and I agree with the change of name

Rognar said...

Seems likely. The gunslinger will favour Dex over Str, so Weapon Finesse and a light melee weapon will be a must, but certainly a gunslinger will have to be something of a melee combatant as well.

Gerald said...

I just made and played a level 5 gunslinger, I took the rapid reload feat along with point blank shot, precise shot, weapon focus, and two weapon fighting and a few other ones that work well with a gunslinger so at this point Im able to reload one gun as a move action, take my free 5 feet, and fire a gun in the same turn as a standard. You can also use grit points to pistol whip and knock prone with a CMB check. The gunsliger is kinda like a monk with guns, Constantly moving to avoid attacks of oppottunity while reloading, blasting, and shifting because guns still count as ranged weapons(as far as I know?) But the great thing is that pistols and muskets only have to beat touch AC ;) awesomeness!

Rognar said...

Sounds sweet, Gerald. I will be curious to see how they change the gunslinger in the final product as there doesn't appear to be much middle ground on this one. People seem to love it or loathe it.

Anonymous said...

I hope that the gunslinger is true to what type of guns and the ratr of fire on those guns. a more acurate RoF would be something like. maybe once every 6/7 rounds? I could see with feats and class abilites getting that down to maybe once every 3. Becuae even in late 1700's era the best you could hope for was 8 shots in a minute that was sacrificng already crappy accuracy and the earliers guns were even worse honstly 1/3 of the time the poweder just burnt up without launsing the bullet.

also Gerald. you are doing illegal actions, as a free 5 foot steps is only allowed if you took no move action. as you take the feat that allos you to reload as a move action you would not be allowed the 5 foot step.

Anonymous said...

I'm newish to the pathfinder game but if i rember right are there not rules for rifles and revolver in the old campaing guide? did thy just do away with all the old (3.5) world stuff i liked that and it why i am looking at the stand alone game.

Craig said...

Nah, Gerald's got it right. It's not about whether or not you take a move action that would prevent a 5-foot step. It's about whether or not you move. Taking a move action to move your base speed prevents it, and so does using a full-round action to Run. (I suppose if you had somehow used a standard action to walk/swim/fly that would also prevent it, but I don't know how one would do that.) Think about it: Would it make sense to be able to move 5 feet after taking 6 seconds to reload, but not after taking 3 seconds to reload?