JP On Gaming

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Critique of Paizo’s Gunslinger Class

I have been talking to a number of people who play Pathfinder Society and I’ve been rather surprised by the hate generated by the Gunslinger class currently in playtest available at Paizo’s website. Go ahead, it is a very interesting read.

The Pro: Pirates are now real pirates, no more puffy bow-wielding or crossbow-totting wannabes… No. They wield pistols and muskets, fire cannons and mortars at towns. They don’t have to "proxy" weapons to do what they should do. Now if you want to create a pirate, you have a pirate. You wield a cutlass and a pistol. Or if you want to create a D’Artagnan-style musketeer, you got it.

Could you have created a similar concept using a crossbow or a bow? Yes. Did we need a whole new class for this? Not really. The gunslinger character could’ve very easily used a specialized fighter using an archetype, as presented in the APG.

The Con: I’ll be honest. I dislike the name and the old-west terminology used in the class. That is my biggest gripe with it. The term "grit" and "gunslinger" make me think of the old west: John Wayne movies, horseback riding through the plains, or the showdown at the OK Corral. Although I don’t really have anything against that, I like the west (so much so that I left my home to settle here and buy me some land!). But images of the West and

When I think of what a gunslinger should be, I think of a swashbuckler (such as D’Artangnan and the three musketeers), or a gentleman robber (such Du Val) or even a murderous bandit (such as Richard Turpin). I see wenches and swinging from chandeliers, I see carriage pursued by the Cardinal’s men and our protagonist doing all sorts of stunts to get them off his trail. I see damsels in distress.

I also think of pirates, ruthless men like Captain Kidd, Lolonois, Morgan or Blackbeard. Even gallant adventurers and sailors like Captain Cooke or Jacques Cartier (who discovered Canada in 1534) or even builders and explorers Samuel de Champlain (founder of Quebec in 1608). I guess one could even add the entire cast of RL Stephenson’s Treasure island (another cherished book).

All of those characters are from the 17th through the mid-18th century. That is the era of the single-shot firearm, the era of the flintlock and sword. An era of gallantry and grace the 19th century really lost, especially in its second half. With massive conflicts like the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Zulu and Boer Wars, the massive imperialistic wars of conquest in Africa and Asia, nations really emerged that did not have the same pizzazz, the same flavor. The French Revolution really ended that era…

I don’t see John Wayne doing any of what those guys did. He’s just not the type…

Things I would’ve preferred: Naming the class "Swashbuckler", "Highwayman" or even "Musketeer" would’ve really brought a whole different feel to the class. It would immediately have brought images of lonely English Moors under the moonlight, fast mounting horses with a quip remark and Your purse or your life! Oh Sorry milady, if ye dance with me I shall let you be on your way… Wayne Reynolds’ AWESOME ART (as usual) for the Gunslinger Iconic really brings the feel and flavor of the era I think about when I imagine the class, the names just feels… Well it feels wrong.

Instead I think of John Wayne. You’re gonna get it, Pilgrim! or even The Man with No Name… It’s just not the same. Cool? Yes, but differently.

Had Paizo gone for a more 17th-18th Century name, I think the class would’ve received much wider appreciation. The flavor, what is presented, points towards that time period. It should be much more Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf) than True Grit or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

More on this later.



  1. While gunslinger isnt the best name, you do know this class uses a gun. Simple and to the point.

  2. @Louis

    I think that the point is, though, you could communicate "dude uses a gun" with a feat called "Use a gun."

    The issue here is that the general nature of the class (and the weapons it wields) are more akin to a Musketeer than a Cowboy (and I'm talkin' "fought the Earps" capital-C Cowboy). So when the class, and its powers, are named along Leone-lines it suggests that the character plays a certain way, is flavored a certain way, and so forth.

    Which isn't a sin, by any means. But had the class been named "Musketeer," it would more easily jump into people's minds that this class can perform in a buckled-swashes fashion rather than a stand stock-still at high noon fashion.

    However, I'm not sure which they were going for with the class itself; I have a much harder time envisioning a black powder pistol being used for effective covering fire and so forth. At the same time, the "daring maneuver" options definitely seem more buckled-swash, since swinging from a chandelier is very Musketeers...whereas shooting it to fall on a dude's head is more Western.

  3. @Seth: is it the word "slinger" that breakes it? It sounds like a modern word to me.

  4. @Louis: Well, Gunslinger means a specific thing: an old-west style dude with one or possibly two six-shooters, blazing away in the middle of the dusty trail.

    It's kind of like how Musketeer evokes a very specific image...and, frankly, occupation.

    If they'd called it something like "Black Powderist" then it would have felt more style neutral and setting-appropriate; but it would have been a pretty wretched name. But calling it Gunslinger is about as specifically evocative as calling it "US Marine" or "McDonald's Drive Thru Worker."