Gunslinger Paths

 

As a gunslinger advances, they choose one or more paths to follow. Those who follow one path gain more power, while those who choose from different paths trade power for versatility. The Path of Lightning and the Path of Thunder represent two poles of the gunslinger’s existence: speed and accuracy. Some gunslingers tread between the two, while others devote themselves wholly to one road. Whatever path the gunslinger takes, their enemies can look forward to a death in thunder and fire.

cc by Prodigy DuckPath of Lightning
A gunslinger who follows the path of lightning is the embodiment of speed. Your weapon clears its holster before your opponents know you’ve moved, and you can draw and fire many weapons in the time it takes others to find their sword. You might be in constant motion, your hands never resting and your feet always tapping, or you might believe in conserving your bursts of speed for just the right moment, standing completely still until you are called to act. You know that there are two kinds of people: the quick and the dead.

Bull-stopper
Prerequisite: Level 4 gunslinger
When you damage a target with a ranged attack with a firearm, spend 1 grit point. The target must succeed on Constitution saving throw (DC 8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus) or be stunned until the beginning of your next turn.

Killer Smile
One per round, as long as you have at least 1 grit point and advantage on an attack with a firearm, you may add your Charisma modifier to damage.

Pistolero
Prerequisite: 7 Path of Lightning abilities
You are a master of one-handed firearms. When you are two-weapon fighting and you make the off-handed attack with a firearm, you add your Dexterity bonus to damage for that attack. In addition, choose one ability that you used as a prerequisite for this one, which costs one grit point. You may use that ability as long as you have at least 1 grit point. If the ability requires an action to use, you must still spend that action.

Quick Clear
When your firearm misfires, you can spend 1 grit point to use your bonus action to clear it. 

Rain of Lead
Prerequisites: Level 4 gunslinger, rapid reload
You can spend 1 grit point and use your Attack action to target all opponents within 30 feet. Roll each attack individually, but only roll your damage for the attack once, except in the case of a critical hit.

Rapid Reload
As long as you have at least 1 grit point, reloading a firearm is considered part of the action to fire it, for you, even if it has the early or long-loading property. 

Sidestep
When an opponent makes a ranged attack against you, you can use your reaction and spend 1 grit point to grant that opponent disadvantage on the roll.

Snap-shot
When you roll initiative, you can spend 1 grit as a reaction to draw your firearm and make a single attack. 

Sudden Shot
Prerequisites: Level 4 gunslinger, rapid reload
When you spend a bonus action to make an attack with a firearm, you may spend 1 grit point to make an additional attack with that weapon.

Thunderous Intimidation
Prerequisite: Level 5 gunslinger
As an action, you can spend 1 grit and fire a firearm into the air. All enemies within 30 feet of you must succeed at a Wisdom saving throw or be affected by the fear spell for one round. The saving throw DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. 

 

Path of Thunder
A gunslinger who follows the path of thunder might not always shoot first, but they make every shot count. You believe that a single, well-placed bullet is worth more than a dozen scattered shots. Some thunderers are marksmen, preferring the long rifle, approaching every encounter with patience. Others may use pistols, but still conserve their efforts, waiting for the right shot before taking it. All followers of the path of thunder share the same motto: “one shot, one kill.” 

Aim
If you spend 1 grit and use your bonus action to steady a firearm, you gain advantage on the next attack you make with that weapon.

Critical Shot
Prerequisite: Level 4 gunslinger
As long as you have 1 grit point, your ranged weapons attacks with firearms score a critical hit on a roll of 19-20.

Distract
If you use a firearm to make a ranged weapon attack against an opponent and miss, you can spend a grit point to grant advantage on the next attack an ally makes against the target. 

Marksman
When you make an attack with a firearm and spend 1 grit point, the attack deals one additional die of damage.

Musketeer
Prerequisite: Level 5 gunslinger
If you spend 1 grit point and make an attack with a heavy firearm, you can use your bonus action to make a melee attack with that firearm or with a light weapon.

Shootist
When you make a ranged attack with your firearm, you can spend grit to extend your weapon’s close range. For every grit point that you spend in this way, you extend your weapon’s close range by 10 feet.

Shoulder-brace
Prerequisite: Level 5 gunslinger
As long as you have at least 1 grit point, you add your Strength modifier to damage when you make a single attack in a round with a firearm.

Sniper
Prerequisite: 7 Path of Thunder abilities
When you score a critical hit on an attack roll with a firearm, you can spend 1 grit point. If the target has fewer than 100 hit points, it must succeed on a saving throw (DC 8 + your Strength modifier + your proficiency) or die. In addition, choose one ability that you used as a prerequisite for this one, which costs one grit point. You may use that ability as long as you have at least 1 grit point. If the ability requires an action to use, you must still spend that action. 

Targeted Shot
When you make a ranged weapon attack with a firearm, you can spend 1 grit point to target a specific part of your opponent’s anatomy. Your opponent must succeed at a Dexterity saving throw or either drop one item, be blinded for one turn, fall prone, or (if it is flying) fall 20 feet.

Through and Through
Prerequisite: Level 4 gunslinger
If you spend 1 grit point with you make an attack with a firearm, you can make attack rolls against all creatures in a line, up to the firearm’s maximum range. You can’t use this ability again until you finish a short or long rest. 

 


 

Hacking the Gunslinger

Prestige classes are an interesting challenge to design for. A character could hit the top level of a five-level path by eighth level, or could enter later and hit it at 15th. Ideally, the prestige class should be as good at the early levels as at the later levels, without being overpowering at the early levels. One way to balance this is to key abilities to proficiency bonus, so that they’re more powerful at higher levels, instead of attaching static bonuses. Extra attacks are always good, too.

The requirements are an important part of the prestige class. I like the idea that a gunslinger can be charismatic, but doesn’t have to be, particularly if they have a “street cannon.” In addition, guns are expensive, so if a DM wants to delay entry into the class, they can hold off on making guns available early on in the game, until a character can afford  one. The idea of completing a deed is important, too. In the movies and books about gunslingers, there is often a young gun who wants to learn from an older shootist, and they work together to complete a task (usually defending a town or a ranch). (Usually, the young gun gets killed to spur the retired gunslinger back into action, but D&D doesn’t tell that story as well as the story of the mentor who dies to impart one final lesson.)

Grit is important, since it’s a resource pool. 5e doesn’t do much with resource pools, but I think that if someone wants to take a prestige class, they’re looking for a little more complication in their game, and this adds that. At the same time, the pool shouldn’t be so big that at high levels it stops being something the gunslinger worries about.

Speaking of reflecting the genre, I’m pleased with Lucky Shot. There aren’t many things in the game that play with the death save mechanic, and it’s fitting for the gunslinger to get a little closer to death in return for the chance to end a fight.

As with 5e base classes, prestige classes seem to present choices. For the gunslinger, three basic options present themselves: pistols, long guns, and magic. In Pathfinder, these are archetypes: the pistolero, the musket-master, the spellslinger. Pretty much everything else the game does with the gunslinger are tweaks of those pillars.

For the 5e Gunslinger prestige class, I wanted something a little more flexible, something not so tied to a specific piece of equipment. Instead, I keyed them to ability scores: Dexterity (with a little Charisma), Strength, and Charisma. Lightning and thunder are, I think, nicely representative of the poles of speed and power, and if a gunslinger wants to devote themselves entirely to one weapon, they can be rewarded for that. If they want to branch out, though, they’ll miss out on the “pistolero” and “sniper” abilities, but open up some interesting combinations of abilities (if they want to burn through grit).

 

There is a third path, the Spellslinger, but that’s taking more work to balance properly, so it’s not quite ready, yet.

What do you think?

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