It’s been a busy month, and posting kind of got away from me. I’ve been working on this for a while, and I’m pretty proud of it. I love the idea of the prestige class in 5e, and even though I know some people aren’t so keen on it, I think it opens up a lot of possibilities, without limiting anything. Recently, I considered a bunch of new rules for firearms, trying to better represent the way guns really work. I wanted to do something similar with the gunslinger. The whole point of guns is that anyone can use them, so anyone should be a gunslinger. It shouldn’t be limited to fighters or rangers (though they might be better at it). Making “gunslinger” an archetype of fighter closes that door. Why can’t rogues shoot a gun, or sorcerers? The prestige class is the prefect answer.
Enter: the gunslinger prestige class!
Prestige Class: Gunslinger
Anyone can shoot a gun, but a for gunslinger the firearm is an extension of their body. Maybe you found one in a hoard, a mysterious piece of technology, seemingly out of place amongst swords and armor. Maybe you made one yourself, from secret plans. Without the proper training, however, a gun is as dangerous to its wielder as to the enemy. To get that training, you must find another gunslinger to teach you the way of the gun.
Every gunslinger takes up the path for different reasons. Some seek more efficient ways of killing their opponents. Others are intrigued by the mechanism, or by the way guns and magic interact. A gunslinger might use one weapon to the exclusion of all others, or be always on the lookout for another firearm to add to their collection. Whatever your reasons, if you have the grit and the tools, you can be a gunslinger.
In order to advance as a gunslinger, you must meet the following prerequisites (in addition to the multiclassing prerequisites for your existing class):
- Dexterity 13. Gunslingers are renowned for their agility and speed. A slow gunslinger is a dead gunslinger.
- Charisma 13 OR Strength 13. Some gunslingers live by the force of their personality, while others let the might of their arm steady their weapon. Whether you enter the brotherhood of the gun by charm or brawn will impact your choices, later on.
- Posession of a firearm. No one will give you your first gun. You must earn it, steal it, or build it before another shootist will teach you to master it.
- Character level 3rd. You must have proven your ability to survive by your wits and your skill before another gunslinger will take you on. An apprentice who’s not ready will only end up bleeding on your shoes.
- Complete a special task. You must find a gunslinger and demonstrate your ability to hit a target to their satisfaction, without shooting yourself or someone else in the process. You cannot gain more levels in this prestige class than your mentor has. Before a shootist will take you on, they will ask you to perform a service for them. The exact service varies, but it always involves 1) being unarmed except for your firearm and 2) a nearly-impossible task. You might be asked to kill a rival gunslinger more powerful than you, or to defend a bridge against a tribe of goblins. Most gunslingers are more interested in testing your tenacity than your skill, and while few will let you die in the completion of the task, none will apprentice a coward.
As a gunslinger, you gain the following class features.
Hit Dice: 1d10 per gunslinger level
Hit points per level: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per gunslinger level
Tools: Gunsmith’s kit
Saving Throws: none
When you are accepted in the gunslinger prestige class, you are given a holster for your primary weapon.
1st Path, Grit
2nd Path, Pistol-whip
3rd Path, Trick Shot
4th Path, Extra Attack
5th Path, Lucky Shot
For a gunslinger, nothing is more important than grit. You pride yourself on your ability to endure challenges that would crush lesser souls. Grit represents your strength of character, and you use that grit to perform amazing feats. Starting at 1st level, whenever you finish a long rest, you gain a number of grit points equal to your Charisma modifier + the number of levels you possess in the gunslinger prestige class, your maximum grit. You can never gain grit points above your maximum grit. In addition to completing a long rest, there are three ways to regain grit points:
Critical hit with a firearm. Any time you score a critical hit with a firearm, you regain a grit point.
Feats of daring: Any action that would earn an Inspiration point can instead, at your DM’s discretion, earn a point of grit.
Inspiration. You can spend a point of Inspiration to regain a point of grit at any time.
When you enter the gunslinger prestige class, choose the Path of Lightning, the Path of Thunder, or the Path of the Spellslinger. You must choose the same path as your mentor. This path will determine the abilities you gain at 1st level. Each time you gain a gunslinger level, you may gain access to additional abilities from this path, or to learn another path, if you have a mentor who also has access to the new path.
The first time you choose a path, you gain one ability from that path, as long as you meet the prerequisites. Each time you choose to follow a path in which you already have abilities, you may choose two abilities from that path, as long as your meet the prerequisites for those abilities.
At 2nd level, when you make a melee weapon attack with your firearm, it is considered a simple melee weapon. If you spend 1 grit when you make this attack, the attack does not cause the firearm to jam.
When you reach 3rd level, you learn to use your firearm as an extension of your reach. When you use your action to make a single attack against a small, unattended object, you make that attack with advantage. If your attack hits, you can choose the effect, such as destroying a lock to open a door, moving an item 5 feet, or breaking a rope.
At 4th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, when you use the Attack action on your turn. Alternately, if you use an ability that requires you to spend grit as part of an action, but don’t take the Attack action, you can spend 1 additional grit point as a bonus action to make a single attack with your firearm.
At 5th level, when your hit points would be reduced to 0 by an attack, you can use your reaction and spend 1 grit point to make a ranged weapon attack with a firearm against one opponent. You have advantage on the attack. If the opponent is killed by your attack, you regain hit points as though you had rolled a hit die. If the opponent is not killed by your attack, you are dying, and you automatically fail your first death saving throw. You can’t use this ability again until after you finish a long rest.
Hacking Prestige Classes
New prestige class rules were introduced in an Unearthed Arcana on the D&D website, last month, and while they’re still in the testing stages, I think they’re awesome. The 5e base classes are great, and they’re broad enough to cover most concepts, but they lack story.
In earlier editions, prestige classes were a problem. There were too many and most of them didn’t serve a purpose. In the UA article, though, prestige classes introduce to the game something that no base class can do, something that opens up story possibilities in ways that the game, quite literally, had no mechanic for, previously. They require a mentor. As a piece of story, this is huge. It creates new avenues for storytelling, instead of just introducing new powers or abilities.
In the past, prestige classes were built with base classes in mind. It didn’t make sense to become a “Frenzied Berserker” if your character wasn’t a barbarian (and, in many cases, those limitations were built into the requirements for the class). With the introduction of archetypes, bloodlines, and so on, that is unnecessary. Why make “frenzied berserker” a prestige class for barbarians when we can make it an archetype? However, this means that prestige classes present another opportunity: they are “archetypes” that any class can take.
Take for example, pirates. If I wanted to make a character who was a pirate, I could just say “my sorcerer has the sailor background,” but that doesn’t do anything for me, mechanically. What if I wanted to be a really, really good pirate? I might want to be able to fight better on a ship, repair a ship, use certain weapons more effectively, or move around in the rigging more quickly. If the prestige class makes it worth my while to lose a level or two of spells (or even gives me pirate-specific spells, maybe at second level), I might sacrifice a level or two of spellcasting to become a really awesome pirate. If the prestige class is written right, it doesn’t matter what class I am: if I want to tell this story, the prestige class is worth joining. In fact, if prestige classes are flexible enough it makes sense to have a whole party take the same prestige class (there might be a pirate path that’s better for sneaky, mobile, pirates, a path that’s better for brutes, and a path that’s better for spellcasters). It might take a lot of juggling to do well, but I think that the beauty of prestige classes, in 5e, is that they make it possible to tell more stories in new ways.