Inspired by this answer to Is this homebrew gunslinger class balanced? I wanted to ask.

Let's say a player wants to play a gunslinger. Let's also say it is a world where firearms are reasonably common. At first level Fighter can choose a fighting style. Would adding a Gunslinger - basically Gunner Feat from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, except the ability score increase, be a balanced option to other ones?

If not, what else from that feat would we need to remove to balance that? Ideally, I'd like the feat to be either completely redundant or not redundant at all, so that the gunslinger player wouldn't need to miss out on things - by either not having to take it at all, or not getting the same benefit twice, getting overall underpowered build.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered just reskinning a crossbow as a firearm and not having to change any rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 6:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri yes, but that would actually require to ignore or change firearms rules as presented in dmg & Tasha's. So I wanted to evaluate this option for balance. Comparison of ways to have gunslinger in the play may be a topic for another question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 7:07

3 Answers 3


How good this is depends on the available choices for firearms

Gunner minus the ability score increase as a fighting style gives you

  • You gain proficiency with firearms (see "Firearms" in the Dungeon Master's Guide).
  • You ignore the loading property of firearms.
  • Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

For rifles, the first two bullets put you on par with what you get when you take a longbow: proficiency and no loading limitation.

With handguns, you can use your other hand for a second weapon, or to hold a shield, worth the equivalent of +2 AC. You'd initially pick this "Gunslinger" fighting style instead of picking Archery, which would give you +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons instead.

If both weapons are dealing comparable damage, that means you are effectively winning 2 AC and the ability to attack from within 5 feet without disadvantage for giving up +2 to hit and a longer range. This makes you better in melee, for being worse in longer range combat. Overall this would seem relatively balanced.

However, how good this really is will depend strongly on the available weapon choices. To compare, here are a few options:

Weapon Range Damage Properties Period
Longbow 150/600 1d8 piercing Ammunition, heavy, two-handed Medieval
Pistol 30/90 1d10 piercing Ammunition, loading Renaissance
Musket 40/120 1d12 piercing Ammunition, loading, two-handed Renaissance
Revolver 40/120 2d8 piercing Ammunition, reload (6 shots) Modern
Laser Pistol 100/300 3d6 radiant Ammunition, reload (50 shots) Futuristic
Antimatter Rifle 120/360 6d8 necrotic Ammunition, reload (2 shots), two-handed Futuristic

For Renaissance weapons like the pistol, it seems slightly better than Archery + Longbow. You deal an expected one point of extra damage (d10 instead of d8), on top of the deal above, which at least at lower levels may be worth about as much as +1 of the +2 to hit from Archery, or half a fighting style.

For all of the modern or futuristic weapons, the fighting style would be clearly unbalanced.1 Here, gaining proficiency with these killer weapons is what really makes the fighting style tick. The other stuff is just gravy.

For example, with a Revolver you would be dealing 2d8 damage, or an extra 4.5 more damage each attack, doubling your damage output. There is no comparable fighting style that would add that amount of extra damage, never mind putting this on top of other advantages like better AC.

If you had access to a Laser Pistol, you would be dealing an expected 6 extra damage with each attack, more than doubling your damage output with each attack, and using a better damage type. This would be entirely broken at low levels.

Now, what weapons are available is of course up to the DM. But in a game world with access to such weapons, getting to be proficient with them would be extremely strong, and would make this fighting style an automatic pick over other ranged fighting styles.

I don't think there is a good way to balance this, because the weapon choices are so unbalanced. Even if you strip away free loading and close combat benefits, just plain proficiency with something like an antimatter rifle is going to be bonkers. And if you take away proficiency instead, Rennaissance weapons would be disgustingly bad.

1 Dropping loading does not matter with modern weapons, as they work with reload instead. But with a typical fight just going about 4 rounds, reload effectively means there is no need to load at all (or maybe once with a bonus action, if you have extra attacks and a revolver).

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, I live in a country with free access to revolvers and longbows, I can shoot both (not so great, but I can) and of course these two are unbalanced and revolver would be an automatic pick. So that effect, while bad for balance, would be actually pretty good for realism. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Should probably list which "Age" the weapons since it's information used later on, unsure how that should be done neatly though as putting it in "Properties" would be misleading \$\endgroup\$
    – Cassie
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cassie, good suggestion, added. I find it funny that the longbow has a better range than even a laser pistol, but that's what the DMG says ;) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin laser needs void or really, really clean air to have reasonable range. That's why most laser anti-missile weapon projects failed, and these didn't even need to get any smaller than a truckload. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 16:41

This is probably fine.

I'm going to say this is probably just fine on the basis that two out of the three points you would gain are just to make the weapons usable. The second and third bullets of the Gunner feat give you proficiency and allow you to use Extra Attack with the firearm. These points shouldn't be considered for balance because these are just the bare minimum for actually being able to use the weapon. So what we're really looking at here is "is the third bullet appropriate as a fighting style?":

Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

There really isn't much to compare this to, other than this also being one of the bullets from Crossbow Expert. I don't think it's too powerful as a Fighting Style. While it might see more use, I don't think it stronger than the Blind Fighting style:

Blind Fighting

You have blindsight with a range of 10 feet. Within that range, you can effectively see anything that isn’t behind total cover, even if you’re blinded or in darkness. Moreover, you can see an invisible creature within that range, unless the creature successfully hides from you.

So it probably isn't overpowered, and whether or not it comes off as underpowered is probably going to depend on the character's playstyle. If you never shoot up close, you'll never take advantage of the feature, and it might feel like an underpowered fighting style choice. But if you shoot up close often, and you get to see a bow-wielding ally struggle to get a hit off up close, you'll feel like a proper gun slinger.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: “is the third bullet appropriate,” I had to read twice because I thought we were talking about a third bullet shot from the gun after the attack and extra attack :P Anyway, +1, but I would comment that this only establishes that this is not overpowered which doesn’t fully ensure balance—if anything, the question seems most concerned that the option might be underpowered. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The bullet pun was too good to pass up. As for being underpowered, I think it will depend on how often you shoot up close and if you ever get to see a ranged ally struggle in close quarters, I added a note about that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it worth mentioning the Fighting initiate feat, which equates a fighting style to a whole feat (as opposed a half feat)? I don't think it invalidates this, as I don't think FI is particularly good. Another potential note; the Archery fighting type (despite the name) works with firearms, so I'm not sure I wouldn't build the hypothetical character with Archery+Gunner, parallel to how you'd build a crossbow fighter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 19:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil I thought about that, but decided against it because I think FI is a woefully underpowered feat option. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth mentioning that UA has the Close Quarters Shooter fighting style, which is this and more. I don't think it is worth its own answer since it was probably balanced around the Underdark, but maybe worth a mention. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 19:55

It would be a decent choice, maybe a bit weak

Presuming the firearms in your world are the two renaissance weapons (Light crossbow for comparison):

Weapon Damage Properties
Pistol 1d10 Piercing Ammunition (range 30/90), loading
Musket 1d12 Piercing Ammunition (range 40/120), loading, two-handed
Light Crossbow 1d8 Piercing Ammunition (range 80/320), loading, two-handed

And the rule of Firearms which would imply your character already has proficiency in a world full of guns:

It’s up to you to decide whether a character has proficiency with a firearm. Characters in most D&D worlds wouldn’t have such proficiency. During their downtime, characters can use the training rules in the Player’s Handbook to acquire proficiency, assuming that they have enough ammunition to keep the weapons working while mastering their use.

Then this trait is essentially giving:

  • Ignore Loading property
  • Ability to use guns in melee range

Comparing to just using a Light Crossbow and taking Archery the difference is:

  • You won't have the +2 to accuracy
  • You will have bigger hit dice leading to 1-2 damage more per attack for pistol-musket
  • You have considerably shorter range, making the melee range guns useful (crossbow is outside of normal move speed for melee fighters, pistols are not, muskets are just)
  • Make crossbow expert worse to take

As a result, this is different strength between musket and pistol. Musket is essentially the feat thrown weapons/duelling, pistol is slightly weaker. However would add something extra to the feat, either the ignore cover portion of Close Quarter Shooter (emphasis mine):

You are trained in making ranged attacks at close quarters. When making a ranged attack while you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature, you do not have disadvantage on the attack roll. Your ranged attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover against targets within 30 feet of you.

Or give it as a half fighting style with Archery and give it a +1 to hit, maybe with a proviso that you may change it if it turns out too strong.


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