Last Updated: September 3, 2022
Published in Kobold Press’s Tome of Heroes, Black Powder Sorcery gives sorcerers the ability to hold and operate a collection of pistols using mage hand and eventually fire all of them at once. Coupled with the Gunpowder property introduced in Tome of Heroes, it’s an exciting prospect which gives the Sorcerer a fun damage boost without dipping into their spell slots.
The subclass is built around the Fussilade feature, which allows the Sorcerer to fire as many as 5 pistols as a single action. Optimizing the attacks made with Fussilade is central to optimizing the subclass, and relies on bringing in options like Sharpshooter which are typically left to martial characters like the fighter. This adds a bit more emphasis on being a Striker than you would get from the Sorcerer’s core class features.
As with any 3rd-party content, it’s wise to consider balance implications before introducing Black Powder Sorcery to your game. On its own Black Powder Sorcery isn’t worrying. Honestly, it’s not even all that powerful, and it has some frustrating mechanical challenges. Even so: be cautious with 3rd-party content.
Part of the balance implications is the Gunpowder property, which allows damage dice to “explode” when you roll the maximum number (see page 190). Since Fussilade only works with pistols, that’s a 6 on a d6. Typically that won’t be a huge problem even at high levels, but adding in options like Hunter’s Mark or other effects which specifically add “extra” damage could get to a point where exploding dice are frequent. If you are worried about it, consider using the optional gunpowder rules on page 188 to add some extra limitations.
Table of Contents
- Black Powder Sorcery Features
- Black Powder Sorcery Ability Scores
- Black Powder Sorcery Races
- Black Powder Sorcery Feats
- Black Powder Sorcery Weapons
- Example Build – Black Powder and Elven Mathematics
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
Black Powder Sorcery Features
- : The important parts are proficiency in pistols and Mage Hand for free. You can use muskets, but there’s basically no reason to do so.
Gun Hand provides four functions:
: This is arguably the subclass’s central feature, and the rest of the subclass is built around using Gun Hand. This feature is extremely cool, but also has some mechanical challenges. Because it relies on Mage Hand, you’re limited by the spell itself: It takes an Action to cast and only lasts one minute. At the end of the spell’s duration, all of your guns fall to the ground. Re-casting the spell creates a new hand (or hands in this case), so you need to cast Mage Hand, arm yourself, and finish the encounter within one minute. This makes Quicken Spell massively important, but even that won’t fix everything.
- Drawing and Stowing: You can draw/stow one pistol once per turn. It doesn’t take an action of any kind, but you also can’t spend actions to draw more pistols, which becomes a massive problem as soon as you get a second hand at level 5. You also don’t get the choice to drop the pistol on the ground rather than stowing it.
- Reloading: The Loading property is annoying and you can only get around it with the Gunner feat, and unfortunately that doesn’t help your mage hands, so you’ll need to actually load the pistols. Fussilade will load them as part of the action, but if you want to just shoot a gun, you’ll need to either juggle loaded pistols or spend a Bonus Action to reload one pistol at a time.
- Counterattack: The wording very specifically says “within 5 feet of you” and “attacks you with a melee weapon”, which explicitly excludes ranged attacks, spell attacks, claws, unarmed strikes, etc. That limitation makes this feature almost impossible to trigger. It works fine when it does work, and you can use it even if you aren’t aware of the target or can’t see them, but you’ll get to use this about as often as monks deflect arrows.
- More Hands: You get up to 5 hands as you gain levels, allowing you to wield up to 5 pistols and eventually you can fire them all using Fusillade. You gain additional hands at levels 5, 9, 13, and 17, which is weird considering that cantrips and similar things typically improve at 5, 11, and 17. I’m not sure why it’s different.
: This is the Black Powder Sorcerer’s most exciting feature, allowing the Sorcerer to fire all of their floating pistols at once, which is pretty cool as far class features go. Unfortunately, mechanically it’s a huge pain to use.
- Finger Guns: The ability to use Charisma for your attacks is great. Tragically, you’ll never get Extra Attack, and with the Loading property and the unique way that the Black Powder Sorcerer reloads, this won’t work as a class dip. Until level 5 when cantrips increase in damage, using a pistol will outstrip attack cantrips like Fire Bolt, but after that all of your pistol-based attacking will be done with the second half of Fusillade.
- Shooting Stuff: You don’t get this part until level 2 simply because that’s when you get Font of Magic, which gives you Sorcery Points. Until you get a second hand at level 5, this allows you to spend a Sorcery Point to magically reload and fire your pistol once, and if you’re thinking “that’s not worth a Sorcery Point”, you’re right. Even more frustrating, you can only do this once per rest for some reason.
Once you have additional hands, the possibility of additional attacks is on the table. Unfortunately, each extra attack costs you another Sorcery Point, so unless you eat spell slots or recharge your Sorcery Points some other way, you’ll be totally unable to use your maximum number of guns more than three times per day, making the once per rest limitation somewhat pointless.
When you do make your fusillade attacks, anything that nicely complements numerous attacks (Hunter’s Mark, Hex, etc.) and anything that works well for Gunpowder weapons (see our Practical Guide to Kobold Press’s Gunpowder) will work nicely. You also have the entirety of the Sorcerer’s spell list to buff your attacks, and quickening a spell the same turn is a great option. Quickened Improved Invisibility is an easy way to get Advantage on all of the attacks. Even so, this is expensive to use both in terms of resources and actions (you need to spend an Action to cast Mage Hand, then somehow load up enough pistols to max out Fusillade within one minute), and optimizing it is a big opportunity cost for something that you can only use once per rest.
With no effort to optimize, Fusillade is at best about as good as Eldritch Blast+Agonizing Blast or a fighter attacking with a comparable weapon and nothing else going for them. The difference in damage dice size will roughly offset the possible extra attack from Fusillade and the mathematical likelihood of a burst, and that’s to say nothing of Eldritch Blast’s considerably better range and the ability to use it every turn at no additional cost. Eldritch Blast can be easily boosted with a spellcasting focus, while getting a better attack with Fusillade would require up to 5 magic pistols, which is doable but unreasonable unless your DM allows you to purchase or craft magic items. Otherwise, your magic items will be almost exclusively pistols and disposables.
The limitations on Fusillade’s attack option are immensely frustrating. The Sorcery Point cost is massively expensive and you can only use Fusillade once per rest. Even if that doesn’t bother you, the range is limited to 30 feet, so you don’t have the option to use your pistols at long range. The designers were clearly concerned that this ability would get out of hand, but I think they swung really far in the other direction. Eldritch Blast+Agonizing Blast is comparable in effectiveness and it’s nowhere near this costly to use.
The ability to spend Sorcery Points to add damage to your firearm attacks is neat, but not very good. You make the choice when you make the attack, not when you hit, so it’s entirely possible that you’re spending a Sorcery Point only to miss with your attack. Save this for when you have Advantage.
If you do spend the Sorcery Point to add damage to a firearm attack, then combine that with your magically floating pistol, the damage is decent and cantrips won’t catch up until level 11 (Fire Bolt: 2d10, avg. 11 vs. pistol at 3d6+5, avg. 14.5). Magic Bullets will pull ahead again at level 14, but spending 2 Sorcery Points is expensive. For the same action cost and Sorcery Points cost, you could quicken a leveled spell and cast a cantrip, and that will almost certainly be more impactful than making a single pistol attack. Even if you stick to something low level like Chromatic Orb, that will deal dramatically more damage. Actually, now that I think about it, Chromatic Orb’s 3d8 damage is almost as good as your pistol with Magic Bullets (avg. 13.5 vs 14.5 for your pistol+Magic Bullets).
More likely, you’ll use Magic Bullets to further boost Fusillade. However, be very careful about the cost since you’re spending one or two points per attack. This can be a terrifyingly powerful barrage of damage, but it will also eat your entire pool of Sorcery Points. At any given level in your career, casting a leveled spell will almost certainly deal more damage at a fraction of the resource cost.
: Since you’ll need up to 5 magic pistols to support Fusillade, it’s very important that your pistol’s attacks count as magic even if you’re not using a magic weapon. Unfortunately, this won’t be super impactful because by this level cantrips are more effective than your single pistol attack (Fire Bolt: 2d10, avg. 11 vs. pistol: 1d6+5 at best, avg. 7.5). It really only matters for Fusillade.
- : Thematically very cool, but functionally it’s 3 Sorcery Points per day. A Bloodwell Vial can do more and it’s an Uncommon magic item.
The ability to fire all 5 of your pistols as a Bonus Action is singularly the coolest thing that this subclass has to offer. It costs 6 Sorcery Points, which is admittedly expensive, but that’s a big pile of damage. The added challenge is that your pistols needs to be loaded, which is a problem unless you’re doing this before you’ve used Fussilade. You also need to deal with the entire setup process, so you’re still stuck waiting 5 turns while your hands slowly pick up pistols one at a time.
: Very cool, but once again the mechanics fall flat. The first half of the feature is an excellent way to spend your Bonus Action every turn so that your pistols remain consistently relevant. Unfortunately, it does cost a Bonus Action to reload a pistol, and having empty pistols precludes the second half of the feature. You’re also limited to casting your lower-level spells to trigger this, which severely limits your options. Quickening a spell and casting a cantrip will still be more effective, though admittedly more expensive.
Pain Points and Suggested Adjustments
- Gun Mage: Mage Hand is the first problem with the subclass. It costs an Action to cast and only lasts for a minute, so pre-casting it before combat is nearly impossible, and the Action cost is too high to justify casting it instead of casting a leveled spell.
- You may cast Mage Hand as a Bonus Action instead of its normal casting time. This means that the Black Power Sorcerer doesn’t absolutely need Quicken Spell just to be a functional character, and you can start loading up on pistols turn 1 in hopes that Fussilade will make sense some time before combat ends.
- Mage Hand should also be granted by the Gun Hand feature. It’s super weird that Gun Hand does all of the cool stuff with Mage Hand, but you actually get Mage Hand from another feature. It’s functionally identical, but conceptually weird.
- Gun Hand: The process of getting pistols into your collection of mage hands doesn’t work in a practical sense. It takes up to 5 turns to get a full brace of pistols ready for Fussilade, which means that in a best-case scenario you can use Fussilade on turn 5. In a game where combat is expected to last roughly 3 rounds, that means that Fussilade is only useful in encounters which run abnormally long, but the Sorcerer needs to pay the resource cost to set it up in every encounter to gamble that the encounter might run long enough to make it matter. That’s less of a problem at low levels, but the fact that it gets harder to set up Fussilade at high levels should highlight that there’s a problem here.
- Drawing and Stowing: When you cast Mage Hand, or as a Bonus Action on a later turn, you may draw, drop, reload, or stow one pistol for each mage hand. This change allows the player to draw pistols fast enough to use Fussilade in the same encounter, but adds a cost for attempting to cycle through firearms quickly rather than reloading them.
- Counterattack: Reword to “When a creature within 5 feet times your Proficiency Bonus of you attacks you or targets you with a hostile spell or ability, you can use a reaction to fire a pistol held by your mage hand at the attacker. Being within 5 feet of the target doesn’t impose disadvantage on the attack roll.” This allows the defense to remain useful without getting into melee and also gives some fun scaling.
- More Hands: Two hands at level 1, and adjust the progression to advance at 5, 11, and 17. This makes Fussilade immediately meaningful, and brings the progression in line with the rest of 5e. Also: Clarify that it’s at whatever levels in this class, otherwise it becomes bait for a class dip.
- Fusillade: Not good enough to justify how costly this is, especially considering what a nightmare it is to actually get ready to do a Fusillade with up to 5 attacks.
- Remove the once per rest limitation. Spending Sorcery Points to use it is sufficiently costly. The opportunity cost to use Fusillade compared to spending those points to get extra spell slots does not justify the additional restriction. For comparison: You’ll spend at most 5 Sorcery Points to use Fusillade. Those same sorcery points could be spent to get an additional 3rd-level spell slot to cast Fireball. If you can hit two targets (8d6 to 2 targets, avg. 56 damage), you’ll do considerably more damage than you could with Fusillade (5d6+25, avg. 35.5). Players will need to optimize quite a bit to justify using Fusillade at all.
- Alternatively to the previous suggestion: Remove the Sorcery Point cost, but keep a daily usage limitation (either once per rest or PB/day). The Sorcerer may fire loaded pistols, but if a pistol isn’t loaded they can spend one Sorcery Point to load the pistol as part of the same Action. This introduces some opt-in complexity in the decision tree, allowing the Sorcerer to either spend their Bonus Action(s) to reload their pistols before firing or to spend expensive Sorcery Points to save that bit of action economy, potentially allowing them to cast a spell as a bonus action on the same turn. The limited number of uses makes Fusillade an additional resource pool beyond the core class features, which means that the feature adds to the class rather than competing for resources with the Sorcerer’s core features.
- Remove the range limitation. Pistols already have a 30-foot range, and if players want to attack at long range and suffer Disadvantage, we should let them. If they spend the opportunity cost to take Sharpshooter to ignore the penalty for long range, we should let them do that, too. Fighters can do this and it’s not a problem, and since the subclass places restrictions on usage of Fusillade (either with a per rest limit, sorcery points, or both), we’re effectively giving the sorcerer the ability to pretend to be a fighter for a few turns per day. Bladesingers get to do it for a few minutes per day and they’re still not amazing, so a few turns per day for a gun-slinging sorcerer isn’t going to break anything.
- Magic Bullets: Too expensive for something you use before you hit. If this could be activated on hit, I’d be fine with it.
- Option 1: Activate the bonus damage when you hit with an attack. This guarantees that the Sorcery Point cost is never is never wasted, which feels terrible.
- Option 2: Rework the damage bonus to be a short-duration buff, and potentially drop the damage. Something like “As a bonus action, you may spend 1 Sorcery Point to empower your firearm attacks. Until the beginning of your next turn, all of your firearm attacks deal an extra 1d6 damage of whatever type. At 14th level you can spend 2 Sorcery Points to instead deal 2d6 extra damage.”
- Absorb Power: A Bloodwell Vial can do more and it’s an Uncommon magic item.
- Change the cap from 3 points per day to PB points per day (5 at this level, up to 6 in a few levels). Even with that change, this isn’t amazing. Allowing this once per Short Rest instead of once per Long Rest would do a lot to mitigate the cost of Fusillade, but suffering through 13 levels of over-taxed resources to get here doesn’t justify that change.
- Ensuing Shot: Very cool thematically, but still too late, too limited, and too costly and frustrating to use the full barrage.
- Reword the second half of the feature (the full barrage) to activate Fusillade as a Bonus Action. Keep the mechanics consistent, remove the frustration of reloading 5 pistols, and allow players to opt into using as many shots as they want to pay for.
Black Powder Sorcery Ability Scores
While Black Powder Sorcery does grant proficiency in firearms and you’re able to use them normally, there is nearly no reason to do so. With that in mind, the Black Powder Sorcerer’s ability score needs mostly match that of any other sorcerer.
16 Dexterity will make a musket at low levels will be more effective than cantrips, but drop it at level 5 in favor of Fire Bolt.
Black Powder Sorcery Races
The Black Powder Sorcerer’s race options are largely identical to that of a typical sorcerer, but there are a handful of interesting rules interactions.
- MMoM: Surprise Attack should be awesome with Fussilade, but the setup for Fussilade puts you well past turn 1 unless you can somehow cast Mage Hand and sit around for a few rounds before popping out and rolling initiative. You might make it work a few times, but it won’t work consistently enough to make this a good idea.
- : Elven Accuracy may be the single most useful thing you can for the Black Powder Sorcerer.
- MToF / MMoM: Either variety of the classic gith with the custom origin rules or the updated githyank/githzerai is already a good option for the Sorcerer, but you’ll also be able to cast mage hand and make the hand invisible. So now your your guns are just floating in mid-air shooting stuff.
Kobold Press Races
Black Powder Sorcery Feats
The Black Powder Sorcerer is still mostly a normal sorcerer, so the feat coverage in our Sorcerer Handbook still applies. The addition of Fussilade and the dependence on pistol attacks changes expands our interesting feat options. I’ll also include feats from Tome of Heroes.
- TCoE: Normally essential for most firearms users, since the Black Powder Sorcerer uses their pistols in a unique way, Gunner doesn’t help you much. It will allow you to fire them without Disadvantage while within 5 feet of an enemy, but that’s a terrible place for the Sorcerer to be.
- TCoE: Fighting Style (Archery) for +2 to your attacks will do a ton to help you with your pistol attacks.
- PHB: Adding +10 damage to all of your Fussilade shots will dramatically increase your damage output. The attack penalty can be a problem, but the Sorcerer is extremely capable of giving themselves Advantage by magical means, mostly offsetting the penalty.
- KP:ToH: An excellent feat for sorcerers, and considering the high Sorcery Point cost to use both Fussilade and Magic Bullets, you need as many Sorcery Points as you can get.
- KP:ToH: With up to 5 attacks from Fussilade or Ensuing Shot, you get more shots than literally anyone else except a fighter using Action Surge, which means more chances to score critical hits.
Black Powder Sorcery Weapons
Since the subclass comes from Tome of Heroes, I’m going to assume that the weapons in Tome of Heroes are available to you.
- KP:ToH: With 16 Dexterity, a musket will out-damage cantrips until cantrip damage increments at level 5.
- KP:ToH: Your entire subclass is built around these.
This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.
- : One level for Fighting Style (Archery), heavy armor proficiency, and shield proficiency does a ton for you here. +2 to hit with Fussilade will go a long way, and the extra AC will make Gun Hand’s counteract much safer to use.
- : Two levels for Fighting Style (Archery) and Hunter’s Mark is very tempting since Hunter’s Mark synergizes well with both the Sorcerer’s spellcasting and Gunpowder, but higher-level buffs from the Sorcerer’s spell list will quickly make Hunter’s Mark obsolete.
Example Build – Black Powder and Elven Mathematics
Building this subclass to be effective is a challenge, but we’re going to do it anyway. A lot of this example build will highlight exactly how frustrating it is to build and play the subclass, but I’m going to do my absolute best to make this thing terrifying anyway. It’s going to involve some… unusual build choices in a few places.
This build will use the published version of the subclass with none of the suggested alterations above. I’m going to assume the full range of official source books and Tome of Heroes are available, and while I don’t typically do so, I’ll also assume that magic items are available and that you’ll receive them in step with the Wealth by Level table.
I’m only going to cover spells which directly complement the function of the subclass, which leaves a lot of room for customization with your other spells known. See our Sorcerer Spell List Breakdown for help filling in the gaps.
We’ll use a modified version of the ability scores suggested in the Sorcerer Handbook. We want 16 Dexterity at level 1 so that we can use a musket effectively until level 5 as our primary attack option.
Half-elf. Any variety of elf or half-elf will suffice here simple because we want elven accuracy. Half-elf is a great go-to option for sorcerers both because of the ability score increases and two additional skill proficiencies.
We’ll take the Diplomat background from Tome of Heroes. Insight and Persuasion and two languages are absolutely perfect for a Face, and I love that the text of the Feature starts with “your reputation as a peacemaker” because I seriously doubt that we’re anything of the kind. We’re here to do some black powder diplomacy.
Skills and Tools
We’ll get Insight and Persuasion from our background, Deception and Intimidation from our two sorcerer skills, and we’ll take Arcana and History with our two skills from being a half-elf. The Intelligence-based skills won’t be super useful due to our dumped Intelligence, but that’s fine.
There’s a ton of room for feats here, but Elven Accuracy is the heart of the build. We’ll grab Sorcerous Vigor (Tome of Heroes) to give us an easy way to get more sorcery points to fuel Fusillade and our other subclass features since they’re so resource-hungry, and we’ll grab Sharpshooter to make the damage from Fusillade meaningful.
We’ll also add Stunning Sniper at high level because rolling 3 d20’s per attack gives us a decent chance of scoring a critical hit, but we’ll save that for when we have numerous attacks from Fussilade in order to maximize the effectiveness.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1||Black Powder Sorcery|
– Fire Bolt
– Any 3 others
– Mage Armor
– Any 1 other
|For your starting gear, take a pistol (which is a simple weapon), a component pouch, either pack, and two daggers. We’ll buy a musket as soon as we can afford one.|
We get a total of 5 cantrips since we Mage Hand for free from Gun Mage. We’ll take Fire Bolt and any 3 others of your choice. You won’t use Fire Bolt until level 5, instead preferring a firearm.
We take mage armor to keep ourselves alive. If you’re super brave you might run in and out of melee to trigger the reaction attack from Gun Hand by drawing opportunity attacks, but that’s super risky and also requires you to cast Mage Hand and maintain a loaded pistol, which is expensive in terms of action cost. You could also take Shield to make this less scary, but it competes for your Reaction.
For your second leveled spell, pick something that fits your party’s needs. Tasha’s Caustic Brew is good if you need area damage, and we’re not using Concentration for anything else.
|2||Font of Magic|
New Spell Known:
– Any 1
|Font of Magic gets us Sorcery Points, which allows us to use Fusillade to fire our pistol(s) without loading them. Of course, we can only hold one pistol in our mage hand at this level, so you’re spending a Sorcery Point to save yourself the Bonus Action to reload your pistol. You’re not using that Bonus Action for anything else, so there’s little reason to do so. By now you should have a musket, and that musket will be more effective than Fusillade.|
– Contingent Spell
– Quickened Spell
New Spell Known:
|3rd level brings Metamagic, and goodness do we need it. Black Powder Sorcery’s action economy is hugely frustrating, so we need to break the action economy to make it work. Enter Contingent Spell and Quickened Spell.|
Contingent Spell, published in Tome of Heroes, is perhaps my favorite thing in the whole book. The spell Contingency, a wizard exclusive, is among my favorite spells, and Contingent Spell allows the Sorcerer to do the same thing. Weirdly, the text doesn’t limit you to one contingent spell and doesn’t impose a time limit, but it’s not clear if that was intentional. We’ll assume that Contingent Spell has the same spell choice limitations as Contingency and that we can only have one such spell, otherwise the game plan become “I spend a week preparing contingent spells triggered by passwords, then read them in order until my problems go away”.
Tragically, it doesn’t look like you can use Contingent Spell with cantrips, otherwise we could make Mage Hand contingent, which would be massively useful for the subclass.
Quickened Spell lets us get a second spell into the same turn. Considering that Mage Hand takes an action to cast, it’s the basis of the subclass, and the 1-minute duration is too short to pre-cast, we need to be able to cast Mage Hand and still do something useful during our first turn in combat.
At this level, our go-to tactics are to cast Invisibility using Contingent Spell to trigger when we see an enemy. This ideally allows us to start combat invisible, which is useful defensively and allows us to cast a spell on turn 1 while invisible. Casting an attack spell like Chromatic Orb is a good idea, and we can upgrade that to Scorching Ray when we learn another 2nd-level spell. If you’re short on spells, Advantage on your musket attack is nice, too.
|4||Feat: Elven Accuracy (Charisma 17 -> 18)|
New Cantrip Known
– True Strike
New Spell Known
– Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp or Web
|Elven Accuracy is really good. We’ll increase our Charisma to 18 so we don’t fall behind the Fundamental Math, but we’re here for the super advantage on attacks. With our contingent spell in place, you can start combat invisible and make an attack at super advantage as an action.|
True Strike is… challenging. You can use Quicken Spell to cast it as a Bonus Action, but it doesn’t benefit you until your next turn. So a typical turn for you could be to attack, quicken True Strike, then attack with super advantage on your following turn. If you start combat invisible with Contingent Spell, you can spend every turn attacking with super advantage at the cost of 2 Sorcery Points per turn.
Alternatively, you can use Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp or Web to restrain targets. Making them Restrained grants Advantage on attacks against them (super advantage for you), which helps your whole party, and should be much less costly than spending 2 Sorcery Points per turn since you only have 4 of them at this level.
|5||Gun Hand: 2 Hands|
New Spell Known:
|5th level is big for us. We get 3rd-level spells, cantrip damage increases, Gun Hand gives us a second hand, and we might get an uncommon major magic item around this level. We’ll assume that you picked up a Bloodwell Vial because it gets you an additional 5 Sorcery Points per day in addition to being a +1 spellcasting focus.|
For our leveled spell, we take Fireball. It’s extremely difficult to beat Fireball. You might be tempted by Haste, but Haste won’t do anything for you except make musket attacks continue to be appealing, and literally any martial character in your party is still a better recipient for Haste.
With cantrip damage increased, it’s time to put down our musket in favor of Fire Bolt. It served us nobly for 3 or 4 levels, and we’ll miss it dearly. Now it’s time for pistols to become our favorite gun.
With a second hand in play, Fusillade suddenly starts to matter because it’s actually better than just firing a gun by hand. However, it takes time to set up. We can only load one gun into our mage hands per turn, which means that we can’t use Fusillade meaningfully until turn 2 of combat, and we need to cast Mage Hand on turn 1.
If you’re planning to use Fusillade, your typical first two turns should look like this:
– Turn 1:
– Cast Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp or Web (whichever you took) to restrain targets
– Quicken Mage Hand (2 Sorcery Points)
– Arm one hand
– Turn 2:
– Arm a second hand
– Fusillade as your Action against a restrained target (2 Sorcery Points)
If you’re not planning to use Fusillade (maybe it’s waiting for a rest to recharge), your typical first turn should look like this:
– Turn 1:
– Cast Fireball
– Turn 2:
– Basically whatever you want
You might note that it took us two turns and 2 Sorcery Points to effectively replicate the Extra Attack feature. According to the DPR Calculator, Fusillade’s 2 attacks with Elven Accuracy’s super advantage gives us 15.45 expected damage without considering bursts. For 3 Sorcery Points we could instead get a 2nd-level spell slot and spend it to cast Scorching Ray which will deal 23.09 damage with Elven Accuracy’s super advantage.
New Spell Known:
|Magic Bullets solves the issue of enemies with resistance to non-magical piercing damage. The ability to add additional damage to our firearm attacks is neat, but at just 2d6 damage per Sorcery Point it’s expensive and you can’t afford to use it constantly. If you have super advantage from Elven Accuracy, it boosts your expected damage per hit by roughly 8, more than doubling your expected damage for that attack, but outside of that scenario you’ll be better serve by reserving that Sorcery Point. Quickening a cantrip like Fire Bolt is a more economical use of that same Sorcery Point in most cases.|
If you add the bonus damage from Magic Bullets to both attacks with Fusillade, your expected damage goes up to 30.75 without considering bursts. That’s slightly better than Fireball’s 28 damage per target, but it still costs you two turns and 4 Sorcery Points to set up and use.
In terms of action economy, Fireball’s 8d6 damage deals an average of 28 damage to multiple targets (not accounting for successful saves), absolutely blows Fusillade out of the water at the equivalent cost of 5 Sorcery Points, so for 25% more Sorcery Points you save a 2nd-level spell slot worth 2 or 3 Sorcery Points depending on how you look at it and an entire turn, and you could deal almost twice as much total damage if you hit just two targets with Fireball. Fireball is the clear winner here.
Tragically, there aren’t any 3rd-level spells which obviously complement Black Powder Sorcery, so do whatever you like here for your new 3rd-level spell.
|7||New Spell Known|
– Greater Invisibility
|Greater Invisibility combined with Elven Accuracy is basically easy mode for shooting stuff. Unfortunately, we only get one 4th-level slot at this level and creating a new one costs 6 Sorcery Points, eating nearly all of our 7 points, so you’ll need to use your Bloodwell Vial and/or eat some spell slots if you want to use it with our Fusillade combo more than once. Use Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp or Web if your target(s) are likely to fail the save, but if you’re not sure, Greater Invisibility doesn’t care about the target’s stats.|
|8||Feat: Sharpshooter||Elven Accuracy easily offset the attack penalty from Sharpshooter, and we’ve been consistently giving ourselves super advantage for several levels now. With Fusillade’s two shots, Elven Accuracy, and Sharpshooter, our expected damage per Fusillade is now roughly 42 damage without considering bursts, and it all it takes is 2 turns, 4 sorcery points, 2 feats, and a spell slot which would cost 3 to 6 more Sorcery Points to replace.|
3rd-level unmodified Fireball is still winning by a generous margin.
We’re also slightly behind the Fundamental Math now, but we’re going to have to be okay with that for now.
You might find a second uncommon major item around now. Consider a +1 pistol. It won’t be amazing, but it will help.
|9||Gun Hand: 3 Hands|
New Spell Known:
– Hold Monster
|3 mage hands improves the effectiveness of a full-powered Fusillade by 50%, but also increases the cost in both Sorcery Points and in turns by the same amount.|
Looking at our expected first two turns above, you now have some flexibility. Quicken mage hand on turn 1 (or cast it normally and cast something else as a Bonus Action), do something to give yourself Advantage between then and the end of turn 2, then turn 3 arm your last hand and use Fusillade. If we go all in, it costs 6 Sorcery Points plus whatever spell we cast to get Advantage, and our expected damage is roughly 63 damage without considering bursts, which means that we’re finally dealing more damage than 3rd-level Fireball’s average of 56 total against 2 targets.
But a 3rd-level fireball takes one Action to cast and we can replace the spell slot with 5 Sorcery Points, so the cost to cast Fireball is massively smaller than Fusillade.
9th level also brings 4th-level spells, so we’ll grab Hold Monster. Being Paralyzed also makes the target Incapacitated, which removes the Disadvantage for making a ranged attack in close quarters. Furthermore, we get super advantage and if you can get within 5 feet before using Fusillade, you’ll definitely hit thanks to Elven Accuracy and you get guaranteed critical hits.
With three shots, quickened Hold Person, and Magic Bullets on all three shots, Fusillade will deal an expected 98.8 damage without considering bursts. But again: it takes 3 turns to complete the combo and costs 10 Sorcery Points total (2 to quicken Mage Hand, 2 to quicken Hold Person, and 6 to fire all shots with Fusillade + Magic Bullets) and our highest-level spell slot. We only have 9 Sorcery Points, so you’ll need to eat a spell slot to get an extra.
For the same resource cost, we could cast Fireball twice and have resources left over, not mention a third turn to spend high-fiving our party after fireballing your enemies into non-existence. If you hit two targets with two 3rd-level Fireballs, you can expect roughly 112 total damage, not accounting for successful saves or potentially additional targets.
New Cantrip Known:
New Spell Known:
|There’s no obviously helpful metamagic option here. Heightened Spell to help make Hold Person more reliable would be nice, but remember that it only affects the initial save and targets get an additional save at the end of their turns, so it’s entirely possible that even with Heightened Spell, Hold Person will wear off before your next turn when you activate Fusillade. You can instead quicken Hold Person as a Bonus Action immediately before using Fusillade, which creates less points of failure and costs fewer Sorcery Points.|
Your new spells at this level are up to you since there’s nothing that obviously complements Black Powder Sorcery. Mind Sliver to impede your target’s saving throw against Hold Person could help if you cast it the turn before your quickened Hold Person + Fusillade combo.
|11||New Spell Known:|
|6th-level spells brings us a new competitor to Fusillade: Disintegrate. While its average damage is only 75 (remember that we got Fusillade up to 107.5 in ideal scenarios), It’s a useful comparison as a source of single-target damage, and it’s more of an apples-to-apples comparison than comparing Fusillade to Fireball.|
Cantrips also improve at this level.
Let’s consider three turns: Disintegrate, followed by two turns casting Fire Bolt, which will give us an expected damage of 11.55 per shot without Advantage for a total of roughly 98 damage. That’s basically identical to our Fusillade combo, but it doesn’t cost any Sorcery Points and it doesn’t rely on any feats.
|12||Feat: Sorcerous Vigor||Sorcerous Vigor is a great feat for any sorcerer, but it’s absolutely imperative for the Black Powder Sorcerer because they eat Sorcery Points so quickly. You need to be able to recharge your Sorcery Points to full on every Short Rest in order to fuel Fusillade with Magic Bullets in order to justify the action cost to use it. Your Sorcery Point cost to use Fusillade is going to increase sharply for the next two levels, so getting Sorcerous Vigor now is crucial.|
|13||Gun Hand: 4 Hands|
New Spell Known:
|Much like when we added a third hand, a fourth hand puts an extra turn worth of action economy between when we cast Mage Hand and when we want to use Fusillade.|
If we can get Hold Monster + Fusillade to work, we’re up to 131.04 expected damage without considering bursts at a cost of 12 total Sorcery Points and one 5th-level spell slot.
Now is also a good time to discuss some fundamental expectations of the game. DnD 5e’s rules assume that combat will last roughly 3 rounds, and uses that baseline assumption to balance monsters and the encounter rules. If you’re expecting combat to take long to use your signature feature, either you’re not going to use it, or you’re going to use it to clean up the last remaining enemies who are still gasping for breath on round 4.
|14||Magic Bullets Improvement|
|We can now spend 2 Sorcery Points per shot to get 4d6 extra damage out of each pistol shot with Fusillade. That raises our full-power combo’s cost to 16 Sorcery Points (yes, you’ll need to convert some spell slots to Sorcery Points somewhere in those 4 turns) and one 5th-level spell slot. You deal an impressive expected damage of 183.44 without considering bursts.|
But again: it takes 4 turns to do this, and in that time other sorcerers are massively outpacing you. Let’s imagine a sorcerer with Quickened Spell, Twin Spell, and Fire Bolt, so they can drop 3 Fire Bolts of damage per turn. Over those 4 turns at a cost of 12 Sorcery Points, you can deal 138.6 damage. Add in Elven Accuracy, and that shoots up to 217.8, and you’re left with 4 Sorcery Points compared to the Fusillade combo and you didn’t need to take Sharpshooter to do it. Fusillade can make up that damage gap in the extra turns between when they cast Mage Hand and when they use Fusillade, but at that point you’re actively doing everything in your power to make sure that you never use Fusillade.
Fusillade is literally a failure case. Even heavily optimized, your resources are better spent on almost anything else. Against multiple enemies, upcasting Fireball is still a better idea. Against single enemies, Hold Person is already a win condition, so going straight there is more effective than waiting 4 turns.
If you’re thinking about using Magic Bullets with a regular pistol attack instead of casting a cantrip, compare it to using the same 2 Sorcery Points to cast Fire Bolt and Quickened Fire Bolt. Not accounting for magic weapons or your Bloodwell Vial, your pistol will deal an expected 21.35 damage with Sharpshooter (without considering bursts) compared to 23.1 with the two Fire Bolts, so they’re really close together. If you can apply super advantage with Elven Accuracy, the pistol deals an expected 32.64 damage, while the Fire Bolts deal an expected 36.3.
It’s not a huge gap, but yet again casting a spell with no subclass features or feats remains consistently more effective and less costly than Black Powder Sorcery’s subclass features.
Absorb Power gives us an extra 3 Sorcery Points per day. Between our Bloodwell Vial and Sorcerous Vigor, it’s… unimpressive.
|15||New Spell Known:|
|Nothing exciting at this level except 8th-level spells.|
|16||Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 18 -> 20)||We’re finally caught up to the Fundamental Math. You probably won’t notice a huge difference in Fusillade because Elven Accuracy drowned out the miss chance issue a long time ago, but your spells will be a bit better.|
You could take Stunning Sniper at this level, but the plan with Fusillade is to paralyze something, then melt it with Fusillade damage.
|17||Gun Hand: 5 Hands|
New Spell Known:
– Time Stop
|Gun Powder Sorcery needs Time Stop perhaps more than any other character in the game. The additional turns provided by time stop cut the number of rounds you need to wait before you can use Fusillade.|
If you cast Time Stop on turn 1 alongside quickened Mage Hand, you can now activate Fusillade on round 4-1d4, potentially getting all of your guns up and ready before Time Stop expires. If you roll a 3 or a 4 on the die, you can can use Fusillade on round 2 in the turn immediately after Time Stop expires.
You also get another hand at this level, and between that and boosting Charisma at level 16, our Fusillade combo deals an expected 237.45 damage without considering bursts. That feels like a lot of damage.
But Meteor Swarm deals 40d6 damage for an average of 140 per target, and if you can’t hit two targets with Meteor Swarm there simply aren’t multiple creatures in this encounter. Easily 280 damage without spending a single Sorcery Point or another spell slot. Sure, you can only do that once per day and you could theoretically use Fusillade three times per day if every one of your encounters lasted 5 rounds, but that’s borderline impossible unless your DM is uniquely talented at making combat take forever.
|18||Ensuing Shot||I really wish the cap on spell level for this was 5 to support our Hold Monster combo, but we’re not that lucky. If you can restrain a target with Web, you can use Ensuing Shot to fire all 5 of your pistols, provided that they’re ready and loaded, which means the same setup process that we’ve been doing for Fusillade. If combat somehow hasn’t ended by the time you finish your 5th turn, you could use Fusillade on turn 6.|
|20||Sorcerous Restoration||4 Sorcery Points per Short Rest. It helps, but by this level it feels really disappointing considering the rest of our build.|