As I stared at my unpainted minis tonight debating whether or not to start one, I saw my unpainted monster slayer mini (he's got a rifle). Even though Ultimate Combat has been out for 9 months now no one in my gaming group has shown any interest in playing a gunslinger - including me. With my interest piqued, I decided to do some research. I've seen threads on the Paizo board claiming they are over powered but lots of other people jump in and claim that they are balanced but strong. I wanted to decide for myself so I tracked down a couple threads on what makes a gunslinger good.
With HeroLab loaded I made a gunslinger and fleshed him out at levels 4, 7, 12 and 17. At 4 he kinda sucks. An archer is way better. By level 7 equality has been achieved. They do roughly the same damage but the archer tends to have a better to hit bonus. This is balanced by the fact that the gunslinger is doing range touch attacks in the first range increment (which is scary close if you are using pistols, but a bit more reasonable with a musket).
From what I can see if you want to multiclass as a gunslinger the best break points are after level 5 (when you get dex to damage) and level 11 (when you get all sorts of goodies). For the sake of this demo I decided to go all fighter after level 11.
At level 12 a straight Fighter archer is going to out damage a gunslinger but not many other classes can manage it. By this point the gunslinger can take the signature deed feat which makes one of his deeds practically free to use (no grit required). This means they can do bleed damage equal to their dex bonus on every attack, auto disarm, auto trip, or lots of other nifty tricks.
By level 17 Gunslingers have pulled ahead and don't look back. By taking 6 levels of fighter, the gunslinger is now sporting such fighter only feats as weapons specialization and point blank mastery as well as wearing dueling gloves since he's got weapon training from the fighter levels. Without haste he's firing 5 shots, the lowest at +14, that have to beat Touch AC. Each does about 38 points of damage.
Now the Gunslinger has a deed called Dead Shot. Its a bit complicated so I recommend going to read it but its a bit unclear exactly how it works. It works a bit like Vital Strike with each attack adding to damage but it doesn't state if you can include the extra attacks from Rapid Fire and Haste. If you can't it really doesn't have much use except to help beat any sky high DR that you can't penetrate. If it includes any and all attacks then it's a pretty mean ability. With my level 17 build, with Haste and using rapid shot, Dead Shot has about 1 in 2 chance of inflicting around 280 damage on a full round attack assuming all of the touch attacks hit. If the dice don't cooperate it is a rather lousy 70.
And don't think I loaded all of its abilities into offense. Almost all of the characters I build in HeroLab are meant to be playable so they have to have good saves (lowest save = character level or higher), and AC (or at least some other defenses like Displacement). The gunslinger could be fun to play. They have more options than the Archer Fighter who just shoots his bow every round, or the Barbarian who swings his axe. Rogues would love them since they can render opponents flat footed. I think I can crank out even more damage using dual Pistols but solving the reload problem will some creativity.
That's not to say my next character is going to be a gunslinger. I have a database full of cool characters I'd love to play and I just have one more now. I finally found a Magus build I was happy with yesterday and that's been added to the list now as well. But if we find ourselves in a high level adventure where we need more firepower I know just where to turn.
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