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What is a level 20 build that would let me play a spellcaster who uses guns in combination with their spells? I'd like the build to revolve around this concept of using guns and magic in combination (preferably to use the former to fire the latter). I want to focus on medium damage output with the possibility for more than one attack per round, with the ability to switch to nuke-a-boss or mass-slaughter-mooks modes pretty easily.

I've considered that these three classes in combination could be helpful on the basis of what they offer, but I'm open to concepts which don't involve them:

  • Gunslinger: The grit system helps clear the gun and perform some Ex abilities.
  • The Spellslinger: The ability to cast spells through the gun gives me an enhancement bonus, and I get a mage bullets ability.
  • The Magus: allows me to cast a spell and shoot in the same round. (The Alternative Magus also offers a ranged spellstrike, but I'm confused if the spellslinger's spell through gun stack.)

Again, I'm not opposed to exploring other classes.

How can I build this concept?

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2 Answers 2

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Spellslinger option

Gunslinger 1/Spellslinger 19 seems like your best bet. Gunslinger 1 gets you Grit, most notably the Quick Clear option early on. Also, getting Gunsmith from both Gunslinger and Spellslinger arguably gets you two battered guns, which is nice with the dual-gun option on Arcane Gun. The single-gun option doesn’t seem worth it, particularly not when you have two guns anyway.

Feats

Feats are a problem; you want a lot of them. Human as your race probably makes the most sense. Point-blank Shot, Precise Shot, and Rapid Reload are stupid feat taxes, but you still have to take them. Two-weapon Fighting seems kind of obviously desirable, but I’m not actually convinced that it is: you need a lot of feats, and you will not be Full Attacking often, between the need to reload and the use of Standard Actions to shoot.

Too bad guns suck

The other issue is that, sadly, firearms pretty much suck. They’re expensive (or time consuming) to arm, they are prone to misfire and breaking (especially Arcane Guns), their damage is decent to start with but doesn’t scale very well since you’re not adding any ability scores to it, and they take ages to reload. Rapid Reload is a necessary feat and still isn’t nearly good enough.

School of the Gun is absurd

And then we come to the huge problem: School of the Gun forces you to ban four spell schools. See my Q&A on banning schools; it’s 3.5-based, but ultimately the choice is based on which spells each has, and the spells have not changed all that much between 3.5 and Pathfinder. I recommend banning Enchantment and Evocation to start with, and then Abjuration and Divination so long as you have a cleric who can cover those. If not... I really would not be doing this. Necromancy’s next up, probably still along with Divination even if you don’t have a Cleric; you don’t want to leave your party without dispel magic. You really do not want to give up Conjuration, Illusion, or Transmutation ever.

Frankly, you’re getting nothing but problems here. The gun’s damage isn’t even remotely enough to justify their own misfires and reloading problems, much less the loss of four schools. You don’t even get the Arcane Archer’s trick of throwing Personal-range effects “over there.”

Arcane Archer option

A much, much better approach is to just go Wizard 10/Arcane Archer 10, and call your light crossbow a gun. Maybe talk with your DM and see if you can take firearm-specific feats with the crossbow. But you can keep the crossbow behaving as a crossbow; no need to use firearms’ terrible mechanics. With this, you can also take the fairly-solid Focused Shot feat after Precise Shot, to add Int to your damage.

Straight Gunslinger; take magical feats, traits, and ammunition

The other option is to go straight Gunslinger, and ignore spells entirely. This guide is excellent for that. Notably, Gunsmithing and a rank of Craft (alchemy) can create alchemical cartridges for guns. Further, the Mysterious Stranger archetype is Charisma-based, and that can lead you to having decent skills with Use Magic Device even cross-class (it is a very, very bad sign that cross-class UMD is a serious suggestion, though). Mysterious Strangers can also put the Dangerously Curious and Magical Talent magical traits to good use. Ultimate Magic’s Eldritch Heritage feats come highly recommended, again especially as a Mysterious Stranger (the aforementioned guide goes further and recommends a halfling mysterious stranger, but I’m not sure why). Master Craftsman and Arcane Talent can also allow you to craft true magical ammunition.

Gun Magus homebrew

Finally, this homebrewer has created a Gun Magus archetype that might be worth considering, if you’re allowed homebrew. The ability to “shoot spells” is still quite limited, again falling quite short of what the Arcane Archer can do, but you get grit, deeds, and spells. Furthermore, ErrantX is one of the best d20 System designers out there right now: his homebrew has long been widely regarded as some of the best out there, his long-running homebrew PrC competitions have been wildly popular and have produced some incredible work, and he currently is a professional RPG author for Dreamscarred Press, hired as the Lead Developer of their forthcoming Path of War supplement. If you’re unfamiliar, Dreamscarred Press is responsible for Pathfinder’s psionics system, and are, themselves, extremely well thought of. I would say they know Pathfinder better than Paizo does. They certainly have superior design skills.

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One note: Banning schools in Pathfinder isn't like banning schools in 3.5. You can still cast spells from that school, they just take two slots. It's still not a great deal, but it still gives you access to those spells if you really need it. –  DuckTapeAl Sep 15 '13 at 19:32
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@DuckTapeal Fair enough but not enough to salvage School of the Gun, not by a long shot. –  KRyan Sep 15 '13 at 19:53

The easiest way to do this is just to refluff a wizard or sorcerer. Provided you're not too concerned about whether or not you get the extra tiny bit of damage from the bullet's impact, just let your character be mechanically identical to a sorcerer with a blaster-focused build, and in the fluff, describe your casting as being delivered by firing a bullet you previously enchanted to deliver whatever spell you're casting. Instead of waving your hands around, your somatic components consist of chambering the right round and aiming the gun. Instead of speaking the arcane words of the verbal component into the air, you say them over the gun as you prepare to fire, thus activating the shot. Material components are incorporated into the bullets those abilities use. As for non-blasting spells, such as buffs, this character concept won't use many of those, but if you do need to cast one, i dunno, maybe rubber bullets?

regarding specific modes you want to have access to, that's a matter of spell selection. here are example spells for each mode:

  • multiple attacks per round: magic missile, chain lightning (in the latter case, may want to refluff as a shot to each target, instead of arcing, though the requirements for who has to be where wouldn't change)
  • nuke-a-boss: acid arrow, disintegrate
  • mass-slaughter-mooks: fireball, any area damage spell
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