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Pathfinder - Gunslinger Archetypes Breakdown


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The Gunslinger is a ranged DPS Striker. Their job is to point at something, shout "BANG" and kill it. The Gunslinger gets 4+ skill points and has a few decent skills, but without investing in additional class skills it's difficult for the Gunslinger to fill other roles in the party.

Bolt Ace

The Bolt Ace must overcome the ever-present issue that crossbows are strictly worse than normal bows. They require more feats to be viable, and they don't do noticeably more damage. The Bolt Ace is, perhaps, the best attempt at making a viable crossbow build which has been published so far. However, even the Bolt Ace can't keep up with a vanilla Fight with a longbow. To make the Bolt Ace viable, you need to take just enough levels of Bolt Ace to get Crossbow Training, then dump Bolt Ace for a level of Alchemist to get an extra arm or Witch for Prehensile Hair, then pick up a pair of hand crossbows and start raining bolts. Beyond that, levels of Fighter will likely be your best bet.

Grit (Ex): Identical except for the Crossbow part.

Deeds: The new list of deed is lacklustre.

Crossbow Training (Ex): Your crossbows now have 19-20/x3 crits, and you get to add your Dexterity modifier to damage rolls. At this point you want to choose between two strategies: Two-Weapon Fighting with Hand Crossbows (requires and Alchemist/Witch dip; the pistol option), or using a light crossbow (the musket option).

Replaced Features: Grit, Deeds (Deadeye, Expert Loading, Lightning Reload, Menacing Shot, Quick Clear, Startling Shot, Utility Shot), Gun Training

Compatible Archetypes: Gun Tank

Gun Tank

If your party needs someone in heavy armor, but you still want to play a Gunslinger, the Gun Tank is your answer. The Gun Tank trades in the Gunslinger's bonus feats and some AC-boosting abilities for the ability to wear medium and heavy armor and use shields without hurting their ability to shoot stuff.

Armor Proficiency: A pistol in one hand, a tower shield in the other, and a suit of full plate to back it up.

Deeds: The Gun Tank doesn't give up anything that it can't replace, and gets a couple of very useful Deeds in exchange.

Bullet Defection (Ex): Numble provides a maximum +5 bonus, and a suit of full plate provides +9 (+4 for Bullet "Defection"), and can be enhanced for more. Even a +1 enhancement will make your Full Plate as effective as Nimble at 20th level.

Armor Training (Ex): Unlike the figher ability, this does not allow you to move at normal speed in armor. However, the improved maximum dexterity bonus is more useful for you than it is for most Fighters, and it allows you to continue to have ridiculous dexterity while wearing medium or heavy armor. Between your armor and your dexterity, your AC should be fantastic. Giving up the Gunsligner's bonus feats can seriously limit your offensive options, but firearms don't take a lot of investment to be effective.

Replaced Features: Armor Proficiency, Deeds (Gunslinger's Dodge, Evasive), Nimble, Bonus Feats

Compatible Archetypes: Pistolero

Musket Master

The biggest advantage of firearms is their ability to fire as a touch attack within their first range increment. Pistols, the most popular choice due to their quick reload time, are hampered by their tiny range increment. The Musket, usually limited by a slow reload time, has double the range and slightly more damage. The Musket Master fixes the Musket's reload time problem, allowing the Gunslinger to use their superior range without sacrifing damage output. The Musket Master gives up the ability to use other firearms effectively, but if you never planned to use anything but a musket, this archetype is an obvious choice.

Weapon Proficiency: Annoying if you want to carry a pistol as a side-arm, but the reality of Pathfinder is that you will likely use the same musket for most of your career.

Gunsmith: Obviously, you need a musket to be a Musket Master.

Deeds: Steady Aim isn't any worse than Gunsligner Dodge, and Fast Musket is absolutely essentialy.

Rapid Reloader: If you didn't get it for free, it would be your first level feat anyway.

Musket Training (Ex): Your dexterity should be good, and the growing bonus will become more useful as you gain the ability to make iterative attacks.

Replaced Features: Weapon Proficiency, Deeds (Gunslinger's Dodge, Utility Shot), Gun Training

Compatible Archetypes: None

Mysterious Stranger

Grit (Ex): The Gunslinger has two deeds which depend on Wisdom, and they need Wisdom for saving throws, but thay gain no other benefit for having high Wisdom. Having decent Charisma can allow the Gunslinger to serve as the Party's face, especially if you spen a trait to get Diplomacy as a class skill.


Lucky (Ex): While the weakened AC is a problem, this will help to compensate for the drop in Will save caused by no longer needing Wisdom for your Grit pool. It's also a Luck bonus, which is extremely rare.

Stranger's Fortune (Ex): Postponing Gun Training is a problem. Adding your Dexterity to your damage rolls is a huge boost in damagem, and postponing that boost will make you much less effective. The ability to ignore misfires is nice, but not strictly necessary. Plan to rely on Focused Aim when you really need to deal damage quickly.

Replaced Features: Grit, Deeds (Quick Clear, Bleeding Wound), Nimble, Gun Training 1

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Pistolero is disappointing compared to the Musket Master. Pistols are generally the better choice of weapon because they can be reloaded as free actions with Rapid Reload and alchemical cartridges, which makes them better for damage output. Their biggest drawback is their extremely limited range. The Pistolero doesn't addres the Pistol's limited range, and doesn't provide any interesting options unique to the use of a pistol. You may be better off with the vanilla Gunslinger.

Weapon Proficiency: Giving up the ability to use muskets or cannons for additional range is annoying, but not enough to waste a feat to fix it.

Gunsmith: The pistol is usually the best choice anyway, and it would be a bit silly to be a pistolero with a musket.

Deeds: None of the deeds you give up are very good, but none of the ones you get are much better.

Pistol Training (Ex): Your dexterity should be good, and the growing bonus will become more useful as you gain the ability to make iterative attacks.

Replaced Features: Weapon Proficiency, Deeds (Deadeye, Startling Shot, Menacing Shot), Gunsmith, Gun Training

Compatible Archetypes: Gun Tank