Welcome to Pathology, the series where I take a look at a specific Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Class and Path, and break down its abilities to hopefully help you understand how to make it work for you. I am taking a break from my project (I am actually ahead of where I wanted to be right now) to bring you a breakdown of Matthew Mercer’s Gunslinger path for Fighters, which is available for Pay what you Want on DMs Guild. Did you want to be John Wayne? Because this is how you become John Wayne. And yes, this is a homebrew option, but it’s also a fairly unique one. I do what I want it’s my blog ok! This writeup is based on version 1.3 from the guild.
Now, unlike my Drunken Master breakdown, we really do not need to discuss the basic Fighter options here. Those options do not have a direct mechanical impact on the Gunslingers abilities beyond the way they would interact with any Fighter, really. Action Surge, the multiple attacks, Second Wind, ect all work the same regardless of which path you take as a Fighter, really.
One thing we do need to address, obviously, is the use of Firearms in D&D. Personally, if a player wanted to play a Gunslinger in one of my games I would do my best to make it work. By default, guns are a rarity if not unique. Thankfully the PDF you can pick up has rules for guns including things like crafting them, costs, special abilities and the like. I especially like the Misfire mechanic that Mercer came up with and think that the guns overall seem fairly well balanced.
Now, onto the actual mechanics of the Gunslinger!
At level 3, upon taking the path, you gain Firearm Proficiency and Gunsmith. The first gives you proficiency with Firearms and guns, which lets you gain your proficiency bonus to attacks made using them. The second is what lets you use Tinker Tools to craft new guns, repair broken ones, and craft ammunition. I like that crafting is a big thing here as much of 5th Edition does not touch the idea of players creating their own equipment. Both of these features are also borderline necessary because without them the rest of the class really doesn’t work. Personally, if a player wanted to be a Gunslinger from level one, I might consider giving them Firearm Proficiency at level one as well so they could at least use the guns effectively before taking the path. But that’s a personal choice here for the GM and using firearms prior to level 3 just means you would normally not get any proficiency bonus.
Additionally at level 3 you also gain access to your first two Trick Shots with the ability Adept Marksman. This is the bread and butter of the class, and gives you quite a bit of customization. I will discuss the actual Trick Shots in more detail later but this is where you get to pick and choose the sorts of special tricks you gain do, much like a Battlemasters Maneuvers. You start with 2 Trick Shots at level 3, and will end up with a total of 6 by level 18. You can also switch them at any time you gain a new one. To fuel these abilities you use Grit, which is based on your Wisdom modifier. I like that this Path makes use of Wisdom, which is often ignored by Fighters (and really it should not be, Fighters are NOT proficient is Wisdom saves people! Want to take a Fighter out? Hit em with Wisdom based attacks). You can regain all spent Grit after a short or long rest as per usual with such a resource, or when you roll a 20 on a Firearm attack roll, or when you get a killing blow with a firearm on a “fearsome foe” which really is a DMs Discretion. My personal suggestion is to get at least a +2 bonus in your Wisdom so you start with 2 Grit points. You will always have at least one, but more is obviously better especially since you cannot gain more unless your Wis modifier goes up.
Starting at level 7 a Gunslinger gains Quickdraw, which will make you really feel like an old western Gunslinger. This ability gives you your proficiency bonus to Initiative rolls as well as lets you switch from one firearm to another as a single object interaction. The big part here is switching weapons as a single action.
Rapid Repair is gained at level 10 which lets you take a bonus action to attempt to fix a misfired, but not broken, firearm on your turn. Let’s talk about Misfire here real quick. The guns presented with the PDF all have fairly standard abilities. Reload speed, how many shots they can fire, things like that. The unique one is Misfire. When you roll equal to or less then the guns Misfire rating, it jams and cannot be used until you attempt to repair it. Normally this takes your full action but Rapid Repair changes that. Now if you fail to repair your firearm, you can’t use it till you fix it outside of combat and spend money to do so. However the base DC for a repair is fairly low normally so it’s not a major concern in my opinion. I honestly could see the DC being raised, but its calculation is in line with most other things so I suppose it’s fine.
Now, at level 15 the Gunslinger gains Lightning Reload which allows the Gunslinger the ability to reload as a bonus instead of normal action. Since many of the more powerful weapons only have one shot per load, this gives you a bit more flexibility to use them. And finally, at level 18 they gain Vicious Intent which increases all firearm crit ranges to 19-20, and allows the Gunslinger to regain grit on a natural 19 or 20 roll. They also gain Hemorrhaging Critical which causes targets who have been hit by a crit to take half the damage of the critical attack again at the end of the targets turn. Both of these effects are absolutely nasty when combined with a Fighters multiple attacks and action surge effects.
So those are all the standard abilities of the Gunslinger, so let’s talk Trick Shots. There are 8 total Trick Shots by default, and you will gain 6 of them by level 18. This means that only two Trick Shots will be left to the wayside. To be honest, there are no real “clunkers” as far as options go. Matt did a bang up job with the options and they all feel good. There are a few I want to call out specifically as good choices for your first two, however.
First up, is Deadeye Shot. This is a very straightforward option where you spend 1 grit point to gain advantage to your shot. Good all around option that will always be useful. Another great starting one is Winging Shot where you can spend a grit when you deal damage to force the target to make a Str save or be knocked prone. Good for setting up attacks for your allies. A third good option to start with is Dazing Shot, which deals normal damage and forces the target to make a Con save or suffer disadvantage to all attack rolls till the end of its next turn for one grit point. Finally, Piercing Shot is just fun. It increases your guns misfire chance by 1 in exchange for dealing normal damage to your target on hit, and then getting to make an attack roll with disadvantage against every target in a line behind the original. Only the initial shot can misfire as well, and it costs one grit. To be honest all the Trick Shots are good, these are just my personal favorites, and if I was building a Gunslinger I would go with Winging and Dazing at the start for more control options. Damage is already plentiful, and having the ability to force disadvantage or knock things down is really helpful.
One thing I have barely touched on are the actual Firearms added in this PDF. They are all fairly well balanced and priced. I do like that the most powerful guns can only be crafted, and I have a personal urge to play a Hand Mortar mad Gunslinger using Violent Shot constantly to just do as much AOE as possible. The other crafted option besides the Hand Mortar is Bad News, which is a massively powerful 2d12 Rifle, and I am pretty sure that one is based off Percy’s guns from Critical Role. But there are a total of 7 options ranging from the simple Palm Pistol all the way up to a Blunderbuss and the aforementioned Bad News and Hand Mortars.
Overall, this is a solid option for Fighters and definitely fits the tone and feel of an old west gunslinger. The only concern here is of course adding Firearms to your game. Not every DM is going to be willing to do this, and you would want to check with your DM before getting all excited for the path option. I definitely think it’s worth picking up the PDF (its pay what you want so you can get it for basically nothing if you want) and looking into it. Bringing both firearms in a balanced way as well as granting Fighters a new option is just a solid overall product.
As always, if you are looking for more Path breakdowns, feel free to check out my “Pathology” tag here on my blog for more posts!
Thanks for reading, and STAY NERDY!
Writers note: All images but the one of John Wayne link to the articles or artist pages they were located on and belong to their creators. Click them to find out more about the creators!