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I am considering playing a Gunslinger when next we play Pathfinder (I am currently GMing a game, and we'll be switching off afterwards), and thumbing through the Ultimate Combat Playtest v. 2, and I'm wondering how best to keep my damage progression on a decent track. I've considered a couple of things, like taking the various feats which increase damage and critical threat range (seems most guns crit at x4), and enchanting my gun, but I was wondering if anyone had some other ideas on how to keep damage high.

There are a couple of things working against me:

  • Ammo is expensive: A single shot, if made by the Gunslinger costs a minimum of 1gp 1sp, and that's the kind of ammo which takes a standard action to reload (move if you have rapid reload). Alchemical rounds cost something like 6gp a piece.
  • Guns are expensive: A single shot pistol is 1,000 gp (but the Gunslinger can make one for half). Ultimately I think I want a revolver so I can get up to 6 shots before having to reload.
  • Guns don't add ability bonuses: Like crossbows, they do static damage. 1d8 for a pistol.

Things working for me:

  • Within one Range Increment, guns resolve against touch AC: Which means I will probably almost always hit. That's awesome, but doesn't help my damage.
  • Aimed shots at level 7: These are kind of awesome, and can cause nifty status effects.

I don't really need powergaming levels of damage here, just want to keep a moderate level of damage.

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"Which means I will probably almost always hit. That's awesome, but doesn't help my damage." Actually, it does. While your per-shot damage stays the same, your damage over time increases. As long as fights last longer than one shot, upping your chance to hit CAN improve your average damage quite a bit (as long as hitting isn't trivial to begin with). –  AceCalhoon May 3 '11 at 15:46
That's true, and there is another ability which can force the foe to be flat-footed until the beginning of my next turn, which is also awesome. Though, the RoF on a gun is pretty low, but rapid reload can mitigate that some. –  Cthos May 3 '11 at 15:53
For the first time EVER, I want to play this game. –  gomad Apr 17 '13 at 8:36

9 Answers 9

I've played a lot of gunslingers, and they usually end up being the primary damage dealers for the party (until the fighter starts going up his vital feat chain more). First trick is to pick a style and it's corresponding archetype...not as required as one might think, but if you're trying to etch out as much damage as you can, either going Musket Master (for the fast reloading, allowing you to multi-hit with a 1d12 musket with full attacks) or Pistolero (for up-close-and-deadly deed).

The second bit is to pick your weapons well...Musket Master gives you the Musket, Blunderbuss, Rifle, and Shotgun...plus their double-barrel variants where appropriate. For Pistols, you've got the single and double barrels, the revolver, and if your DM is fun, sawn-off-shotguns (which are awesome, though currently homebrew only...so we'll ignore that for now).

Now, remember the double-barrels because they are important. Most double-barrel firearms have the option to fire both barrels with each attack, allowing you to double your damage output per a hit. A 1d8 pistol becomes 2d8...a double barrel shotgun loaded with solid slugs does 4d8. Now, you might be saying to yourself: But that's a -4 penalty...and using bullets in your scatter weapon, that's another -2/4....true...and if you were making normal attacks, that would be a problem. Especially once you start throwing in Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, Called Shots...etc.

And this comes in the third thing to remember: Your range. If you're a musket master, you're at your best at 30ft typically. Point Blank Shot kicks in. If you're a pistoleer, this is 20ft (10-15 if you're using dragon pistols). Stay in this range as much as possible...not only for PBS...but also to keep your attacks against Touch AC.

Because you're not having to punch through armour, shields, Natural armour, etc, you can typically afford to allow for those penalties to accumulate. There is a point where the pens can get aggregiaous, but it's typically situational at which point this occurs.

Example. I'm a level 5 Musket Master (18 DEX) with a Masterwork Double-barrel Musket. I'm making my attack at +4/+4 ranged touch, do to Rapid Shot, Deadly Aim, and firing both barrels at once. Each of those attacks are worth 2d12+9...or 2d12+18 (depends on how your DM reads the rules...but either way, it's a pretty brutal). If you crit, that's 8d12+36/72. That +4/+4 might be a problem, if i

Eventually, throw on feats like Clustered Shots (count all of your attacks as a single attack for purposes of DR, allowing you to bloow

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I don't know if this is exactly completely RAW but this is what I did. Get the biggest gun you can, most damage as possible. Every last bit is important. There's a feat in PF that lets you double, triple, then quadruple your damage with each shot. Vital shot it was called and its improved versions. Then you enchant your gun to have double crit range, take a feat to increase crit range and all that. You should be able to get it to 10-20 crit range. Then what you do is do the sniper shot where you roll all your attacks into one shot. If one is a crit they're all basically crits. So what happens is your attack is equivalent to 4 shots, it crits for 16 times damage, then with your feats its around 64 times damage. On a 1d8 pistol that's 64-512 damage.

Edit: There's also a god-touched template that doubles crit rate with all weapons so its possible to get 10-20 crit rate. But other than that, yeah, I doubted that was okay but still. I tried. :P

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I'm not aware of any way RAW to get crit range any lower than 15. –  Cthos Jul 14 at 14:22
This does not work for at least three different reasons: 1. "Keen" does not stack with "Improved Critical", nor do any other crit-range modifiers AFAIK. 2. Vital Strike requires the use of the Attack action (aka a standard action attack), and is thus incompatible with Dead Shot. 3. Vital Strike's Bonus Weapon Dice explicitly do not multiply on a critical hit. –  MrLemon Jul 14 at 17:03
@MrLemon - You're right, none of the crit-expanders stack, thus getting to 15 is the best one can, and that's on a weapon with a 'normal' crit range of 18-20. –  Cthos Jul 14 at 17:36

From my experience, gunslingers are just not going to end up doing as much damage as other combat focused characters. Damage isn't everything though and they are quite powerful in their own way. Being able to deal damage vs touch AC with a weapon is incredibly powerful.

A fighter has the best BAB you can get because it needs it. He needs to be able to beat that 30+ AC from monsters once he reaches higher levels or he can't deal damage and he may still only hit 2-3 times with his 4-5 attacks (hasted.)

A wizard has the worse BAB progression and can still only fire off 2 rays that hit touch AC a round (with a swift cast from metamagic.)

A gunslinger has the best BAB you can get. With haste you can attack 5 times. Add all the two-weapon fighting feats and you get 8 attacks. If you're using revolvers, and getting full attacks off every round, you are hitting for 8-64 damage with no bonuses from magic whatsoever and you're probably hitting 7-8 times because touch AC is not hard to beat when you are adding double digit bonuses to every attack.

You may not hit hard, but you will most certainly be dealing damage. The longer combat goes on, the more you'll balance out with the rest of the party if not surpass them.

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Can you address the problem around spending 8.8 gp while making all these attacks? Seems like at "lower" (right after being able to get multiple attacks) you'll be spending a fair chunk of your wealth-per-level on ammunition. Especially if you throw in alchemical rounds. –  Cthos Jul 14 at 17:40
@Cthos Leadership, and a wizard cohort (or a wizard dip or custom magic item). Blood Money + Fabricate Bullets. Abundant Ammunition. Reloading Hands. BM+FB still needs powder, and RH only gives you one free shot per gun per round, but both still help. AA is best of these, and if combined with Rapid Reload, 2 Pepperboxes, and a pouch with 1 more alchemical cartridge than the number of shots you make per round, can get your ammunition costs to zero fairly easily. There are probably plenty of other ways, but these are what come immediately to mind. –  Matthew Najmon Jul 30 at 0:31
@MatthewNajmon - Sounds like a good answer if you can flesh it out a bit more. –  Cthos Jul 30 at 15:53

The double pistol. It is a standard action to load each barrel of the gun, or a move action if your character has Rapid Reload for the specific gun (p. 136, Ultimate Combat).

The Gunslinger gains a massive damage boost at level 5 when you gain Gun Training, adding you Dex to damage, and as you are using a ranged weapon, and Dex is one of the biggest boosts to your AC, it is a huge damage bonus.

Your damage per hit might not be the highest in the party, but you are the most likely to hit of any member in the party, meaning your damage is likely to be the most consistent, and the highest on average. The only way to keep your damage on par and increasing at the same rate as your other party member is to have advanced firearms paired with rapid reload, so you can pump out the maximum amount of ammo. The Pistolero deed Up Close and Deadly also helps, especially when paired with Two-Weapon Fighting, Rapid Shot or Snap Shot feats.

The Gunslinger is not designed to be the highest damage-dealer, as they gain other abilities such as Nimble and Deeds, along with having more skills than a fighter. So, they are better understood as a cross between Fighter and Rogue.

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The answer to your cost-per-shot problem is buried in the starting Feats for Gunslingers.

Gunslingers start with Gunsmithing Feat. The Gunsmithing Feat allows you to (among other things):

"Crafting Ammunition: You can craft bullets, pellets, and black powder for a cost in raw materials equal to 10% of the price. If you have at least 1 rank in Craft (alchemy), you can craft alchemical cartridges for a cost in raw materials equal to half the price of the cartridge. At your GM's discretion, you can craft metal cartridges for a cost in raw materials equal to half the cost of the cartridge. Crafting bullets, black powder, or cartridges takes 1 day of work for every 1,000 gp of ammunition (minimum 1 day)."

So there you go. Gunslingers make their own ammo for 10% of the listed cost.

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Welcome to the site, Frozen. Excellent catch. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 6 '12 at 0:06
That's actually included in my calculations. The market price for a single shot is 11gp, 10 gp for the powder, and 1 gp for the bullet. paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/combat/firearms.html :( (Also note that I said "A single shot, if made by the Gunslinger costs a minimum of 1gp 1sp"..) –  Cthos Jun 6 '12 at 18:27

Deadly Aim and Point Blank Shot combined with Rapid Shot offer the best boosts to damage. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the Paizo firearm rules. A misfire is easily resolved by a Gunslinger.

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I may be a bit late with this, but one thing to keep in mind if you play in the normal Pathfinder setting (Golarion). If you've got your eyes on a revolver, your DM may be more stringent with their availability - just because they're on the equipment tables doesn't mean you'll be able to find one.

The finalised gun rules* mention different stages of firearm availability and Golarion defaults to "Emerging Guns", meaning revolvers and other Advanced Firearms are very rare:

Firearms become more common. They are mass-produced by small guilds, lone gunsmiths, dwarven clans, or maybe even a nation or two—the secret is slipping out, and the occasional rare adventurer uses guns. The baseline Gunslinger rules and the prices for ammunition given in this chapter are for this type of campaign. Early firearms are available, but are relatively rare. Adventurers who want to use guns must take the Gunsmithing feat just to make them feasible weapons. Advanced firearms may exist, but only as rare and wondrous items—the stuff of high-level treasure troves.

Basically; it's entirely up to the DM where, when and how you get a revolver if you're using the normal Pathfinder setting as-is.

If this doesn't apply to your question, then just ignore it - but maybe it'll help anyone else who finds this page through Google.

*Found here: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/equipment---final/firearms

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Yeah, I'll be acquiring a pepperbox, since revolvers don't really exist in the setting we're playing. –  Cthos Nov 1 '11 at 14:24
@shadowFighter15 welcome to RPG.SE, this looks like an excellent answer. Hope you stick around and ask and answer more questions. Please drop by our FAQ. –  wax eagle Nov 1 '11 at 17:21

Be a Pistolero, take two weapon fight, two double pistols, and rapid shot (and pre-reqs). At 11th level take signature deed (or w/e it's called) and place it on the bonus deed you got from becoming a pistolero. You'll also need rapid reload and alot of alchemic rounds.

Using the double pistols special each shot can shoot 2 bullets, since it's now a free action to reload and you only need to possess 1 grit point in order to perform the deed given to you at first level.

You can fire 3 times a round off of your normal attacks + 1 from 2 weapon fight + 1 from rapid shot which = 5 shots. Each shot is shooting 2 bullets so 10 shots a round. Say you miss with every shot 10 * 3d6 / 2 on average = 45 damage a round WHEN YOU MISS ALL OF YOUR TOUCH ATTACK SHOTS. :P Have fun.

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This is a great answer on the damage and mechanics, but does not address the cost factor at all. –  wax eagle Mar 6 '12 at 15:07
And how do you propose to reload, when you're holding a weapon in each hand? –  Adeptus Jul 14 at 5:51
When the original answer was made, this combination actually worked via the use of Weapon Cords (allowing you to drop and juggle your pistols while you reload). A recent errata changed the way Weapon Cords work, specifically to depower a lot of this combo. However, you could still use the dual-double pistols for at least 4 attacks in a round, and possibly more if you drop the secondary pistol to allow reloading the primary. –  YogoZuno Jul 28 at 3:15

Your main problem is that the Gunslinger is gimped by the awful Pathfinder gun rules. It will never have comparable damage to other characters. Consider getting your DM to allow better firearm rules, they exist in the Pathfinder Freeport Companion and Adamant Entertainment's Tome of Secrets, and here's a great free set of gun rules (I wrote) for Pathfinder from LPJ Design via RPGNow.

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Can you elaborate on why you changed it from touch AC to flat-footed AC? That seems to nerf their distracting shot ability. –  Cthos May 3 '11 at 17:33
Because no other physical attacks ignore armor. If an ancestral rune encrusted +5 sword has to contend with your enchanted armor, so should bullets. Otherwise you can have all the super magic adamantine armor you want and it is zero worth against chunks of lead. Making specific nondamaging attacks touch is fine but shooting someone and hitting them to do damage is never a touch attack by core d20 ruleset theory. –  mxyzplk May 3 '11 at 17:55
It makes sense with your changed damage calculations for weapons, but it also nerfs some of the other abilities that are given in the Playtest. I'm also kind of curious if they were doing that to compensate for gun damage. Either way, high enough dex and deflection bonus and it won't much matter. Will-o-wisps are terrifying (lest they're flat footed). Sorry, to the point, what benefit does this give to someone who can only fire one-two shots, and still has to deal with range increments which are short? It seems to me that you're nerfing them a bit more with that ruling. –  Cthos May 3 '11 at 18:12
Oh, and hey, your Blog post links to the Ultimate Combat PDF, but I've been using rules from Round 2 (paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/v5748btpy8j5e&source=search), not sure if they updated Ultimate Combat or not. –  Cthos May 3 '11 at 18:17
Much higher damage. As you already noted your to-hit is high enough that's not an area that needs more optimization. Fighter BAB plus flat-footed, more than that is pennies on the dollar. –  mxyzplk May 3 '11 at 21:19

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