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Pathfinder - The Gunslinger Handbook

Last Updated: February 11, 2019

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

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  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

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Introduction

The Gunslinger is a Striker, plain and simple. If your favorite trick is "use gun on man", the Gunslinger is for you. With a bit of optimization the Gunslinger is easy to play and produces a reliable stream of damage against nearly any enemy.

Be sure to read my Practical Guide to Firearms for general guidance on selecting and using firearms.

Gunslinger Class Features

Hit Points: d10 hit points is plenty, especially because gunslingers are almost exclusively ranged combatants.

Base Attack Bonus: Full BAB.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Reflex saves, and with enough Wisdom to power the Grit pool, and the Gunslinger's saves are very good.

Proficiencies: Only light armor, but access to martial weapons. Oh, and firearms. Don't forget those.

Skills: 4+ skill ranks, but the Gunslinger's skill list contains very few options that work for the Gunslinger.

Gunsmith: Gunsmithing allows you to maintain you weapon, craft new ones, and craft your own ammunition. Getting a free gun at first level saves you a whole pile of money, and being able to upgrade it for 300 gp saves you the cost of buying or crafting a new one when you're ready to upgrade to masterwork.

Grit (Ex): Grit fuels the Gunglinger's deeds, but it's a very limited pool. You can restore grit with critical hits (very difficult) or with killing blows (much less difficult), but you still want to use Grit sparingly.

Deeds: Gunslinger deeds offer numerous tactical options for the gunslinger. See my Gunslinger Deeds Breakdown for more help with Gunslinger Deeds.

Nimble (Ex): A nice dodge bonus to AC will help make up for limiting the Gunslinger to medium armor, and is particularly useful against other firearms. You can supplement this by fighting defensively, by using Combat Expertise, and with the Halfling's favored class bonus.

Bonus Feats: The Gunslinger gets half as many as the Fighter, but this is till a great source of additional feats.

Gun Training (Ex): This is a huge boost in damage output.

True Grit (Ex): Many deeds cost a point of grit to do something awesome, and being able to perform those deeds for free every round can make the Gunslinger considerably more effective.

Abilities

Dexterity defines the Gunslinger, but a bit of Wisdom is important for the Gunslinger's Grit pool.

Str: Dump to 7.

Dex: Dexterity is everything for the Gunslinger.

Con: More hitpoints are always welcome, but the Gunslinger already gets d10 hit points and good Fortitude saves.

Int: The gunslinger's skill list is pretty bad and they already get 4+ skill ranks.

Wis: Crucial for the Grit pool and the Gunslinger's poor Will saves.

Cha: Dump to 7.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 18
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 11
  • Wis: 16
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 18
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 11
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 17
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 10

Races

Dexterity bonuses are crucial, and small size is very beneficial.

Dwarf: Despite lacking a bonus to Dexterity, the Dwarf has some great defensive abilities, and the Dwarf favored class bonus cuts down on pesky misfires.

Elf: The bonus to Dexterity is great, but the elf is much better as a spellcaster. Alternate racial features do very little to improve this.

Gnome: Despite small size, the Gnome offers nothing of interest to the Gunslinger.

Half-Elf: A flexible ability bonus, and a lot of options with alternate racial features. The Half-Elf favored class bonus grants extra Grit points to fuel the Guslinger's abilities.

Half-Orc: Similar to the Half-Elf, but the Half-Elf's favored class bonus is miles better than anything the Half-Orc has to offer.

Halfling: A Dexterity bonus and small size make the Halfling very accurate and effective. The Halfling favored class bonus provides an excellent Dodge bonus to AC, despite being limited to a total +2 bonus.

Human: Flexible ability bonus, a bonus feat, and the Human favored class bonus adds to the Gunslinger's Grit pool.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Occasionally useful for moving out of melee combat. Because firearms resolve as touch attacks much of the time, it can often be easy to Fight Defensively, and 5 ranks in Acrobatics will get you and extra +1 to AC.
  • Bluff (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat for the Gunslinger, and they don't get all of the social skills to justify trying to be a Face.
  • Climb (Str): Too situational.
  • Craft (Alchemy) (Str): You need at least on rank to create ammunition, and it's a good idea to craft your own ammunition because it costs a considerably amount of money to purchase.
  • Handle Animal (Cha): The Gunslinger doesn't care about animals.
  • Heal (Wis): Heal is an excellent supplement to magical healing, and with a bit of Wisdom to fuel the Gunslinger's Grit pool Heal can be very helpful.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat for the Gunslinger, and they don't get all of the social skills to justify trying to be a Face.
  • Knowledge (engineering) (Int): Very situational.
  • Knowledge (local) (Int): Great for identifying humanoids and for plot points in many campaigns.
  • Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game.
  • Ride (Dex): The Gunslinger doesn't care about animals.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Too situational.
  • Survival (Wis): Situational.
  • Swim (Str): Too situational.

Feats

  • Deadly Aim: Trading some attack bonus for damage is great since hitting is so easy for a gunslinger. This normally doesn't work with touch attacks, but Ultimate Equipments rules for early firearms state "this type of attack is not considered a touch attack for the purposes of feats and abilities such as Deadly Aim".
  • Deft Shootist: The prerequisites are stupid, and this is only helpful for weird melee gunglingers.
  • Extra Grit: You will get a better return by using a favored class bonus which grants additional Grit, but if that's not an option two points of Grit will go a long way.
  • Leaping Shot: Basically shot on the run.
  • No Name: Buy a Hat of Disguise
  • Ricochet Shot Deed: Situational, but spending a grit point to ignore cover and concealment can be very helpful.
  • Secret Stash Deed: This can be helpful if you like to use special types of ammunition, but the grit cost hugely outweighs the cost of buying a few extra pieces of ammunition that you might not need.
  • Signature Deed: Absolutely amazing. Targeting and Bleeding Wound are both excellent choices.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: Two-Weapon Fighting is difficult for the Gunslinger without a class dip into Alchemist or Witch because you can't reload with out a free hand. You can probably get away with two-weapon fighting without the feat because it's so easy to hit with a pistol.
  • Point-Blank Shot: Not much fun, but a prerequisite for some very important feats.
    • Far Shot: Decreasing the range penalty is nice, but you still can't make touch attacks beyond the first range increment.
    • Precise Shot: Absolutely essential if you have allies who go into melee combat.
      • Clustered Shots: A fantastic way to handle DR.
      • Improved Precise Shot: Makes it much easier to hit enemies, especially those with concealment or in melee with your allies.
        • Pinpoint Targeting: You can do this just by using a gun.
    • Shot on the Run: Very rarely helpful.
    • Rapid Shot: More bullets means more damage.
      • Manyshot: Doesn't work with guns.

Weapons

See my Practical Guide to Firearms for help selecting firearms.

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

  • Studded Leather: Your starting point. This should last through early levels. Don't bother enhancing because you're going to get a Mithral Shirt pretty quickly.
  • Buckler: I don't know why more people don't use bucklers. A masterwork buckler is 165gp, has no armor check penalty, and doesn't prevent you from using your off hand. Your off hand is going to be empty anyway (unless your using two pistols, in which case the -1 to attacks is almost certainly worth the AC bonus), and you need all the AC you can get. When you start having enough gold to enhance your armor, enhance your buckler first because it has no maximum dexterity bonus, and you won't need to trade up.
  • Mithral Shirt: Mithral Shirt will be your best bet for AC until your Dexterity bonus hits +10, which will be extremely high level.
  • Haramaki: If you want to invest enough gold to get a suit of haramaki to +4, it can improve your AC more than the Gunman's Duster. However, if you need AC that much there are more cost-effective ways to do so like ioun stones or rings of protection. Instead, enhance it to +1 and start adding secondary enhancements like energy resistance.

Magic Items

Weapons

  • Distance (+1): Firearms are most effective within their first range increment, so doubling their range increment doubles the distance at which you're most effective. This is especially crucial for pistol users.
  • Lucky (+1): 1 extra point of grit per day. Nice, but I don't know if it's worth the cost.
  • Lucky, Greater (+3): By the time you can afford this you should be good enough at recharging your grit that a +3 enhancement bonus for a larger pool doesn't sound appealing.
  • Nimble Shot (+4): Absolutely not worth the +4 bonus.
  • Pistol of the Infinite Sky (73,300): Expensive, but it's hard to complain about infinite ammunition with no need to reload and no misfire chance.
  • Reliable (+1): If misfires are really a problem for you this might be worth it, but you'll probably be fine without it.
  • Reliable, Greater (+3): If you're really having this much trouble with misfires you need to look for a less-expensive solution.

Armor/Shields

  • Celestial Armor (22,400 gp): Unless you have heavy armor proficiency and a Dexterity modifier of at most +5, Celestial Armor is the best armor in the game if all you need from your armor is AC. For more, check out my Practical Guide to Celestial Armor.
  • Gunman's Duster: While not technically armor, the Gunman's Duster provides a +4 armor bonus with no maximum dexterity bonus plus a ton of other amazing stuff like an extra Grit point at the beginning of each day. The duster occupies the body slot, so you can still wear armor with it if you have a good reason to do so.

Rings

  • Evasion: Excellent at high levels, especially since you have lots of Dexterity to back it up.
  • Grit Mastery: You can't get the grit back out, and the abilities you can use it for are bad.
  • Protection: +1 is an inexpensive boost to AC, and AC bonuses against firearms are important in a campaign where they're allowed.
  • Resilience: Remove pesky status conditions like blindness through sheer force of being cool and also owning this ring.

Wondrous Items

  • Belt of Incredible Dexterity: Essential.
  • Cloak of Resistance: Too crucial to forgo.
  • Gunman's Duster: See the Armor section, above.

Permanent Spells

  • Reduce Person: The bonus Dexterity and size bonus to attacks is fantastic. Losing a bit of Strength will likely never matter for you, and reducing the weapon die size of your guns is negated by the Dexterity bonus once you get to add Dexterity to your damage thanks to Gun Training.

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

  • alchemist: Two levels can get you the Extra Arm discovery, which is just as good as Prehensile Hair, but takes an extra level.
  • Witch: A single level of witch and the Prehensile Hair hex gives you the extra hand you need to reload weapons, which means that you can use two-weapon fighting with pistols effectively. You want to make as many attacks as possible to fish for critical hits to fill your grit pool, so more attacks are always better. Oh, and you can nearly double your damage output.