This pdf clocks in at 35 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 31 pages of content. It should be noted that these pages are formatted for booklet-sized supplements, meaning you can fit up to 4 pages of the pdf on a given sheet of paper when printing it out, provided your eye-sight’s good enough, that is.
The unchained gunslinger presented herein gets d10 HD, 4+ Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, as well as proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armors. They begin play with Gunsmith and blunderbuss, musket or pistol as choices. The gunslinger must maintain the weapon each morning – failure to spend 10 minutes with a gunsmith’s kit means that he loses the Gun Training bonuses. These are gained at 4th level and require that the gunslinger chooses one specific firearm: he gets + Dex-mod damage with it and reduces the misfire rate by 1 to a minimum of 0. Misfires with it increase the misfire value by only 2 instead of 4 Every 4 levels thereafter, the gunslinger gains gun training with a new gun and further decreases the misfire value by 1 – I assume for all guns, but RAW, it could be read as pertaining only to guns with previously existing gun training. When a gunslinger gains a new guntraining, he gains a +1 bonus to damage with all firearms chosen for gun training on previous levels A new gun training is gained every 4 levels after the 4th, excluding the 20th. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a bonus feat chosen from the combat and grit-feats.
True grit, just fyi, remains unchanged, though there is a serious change to grit: For the unchained gunslinger, it is governed by Intelligence, rather than the default Wisdom, which makes the gunslinger class more skill-friendly.
Okay, so far, so common, right? Well, this is pretty much where the similarities to the regular iteration come to a screeching halt: The deed-system has been completely revamped: For one, you do NOT automatically get a variety of deeds at certain levels – instead we have player agenda, namely a new deed gained at 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter. Furthermore, the deeds each now have an active AND a passive component: The passive one is always on as long as the gunslinger has a point of grit left. The active one may be activated by spending the grit cost. Furthermore, the class recognizes so-called Trick Shot deeds as a subcategory, which may be activated as part of an attack, even a full attack, with free selection of which shot will be used – however, only one trick shot deed may be performed in one full attack, providing some nice tactical considerations.
The benefits of the respective deeds tend to scale in two steps and some feature minimum level requirements. Saving throw DCs, when applicable, are btw. governed by Intelligence. – but let’s take a look at their precise benefits: Advanced Training hinges on choosing two skills; one of these may be a non-class skills, which becomes a class skill: These skills gain a surge-like bonus while the gunslinger has grit, one that actually behaves like an exploding die: Rolls of “4” let you roll again and total the maximum, with Intelligence modifier capping the exploding die. While one sentence is slightly awkward in its verbiage here, the intent remains pretty clear. By expending one point of grit, the gunslinger gains the Skill Unlock’s benefits for the next application with one such skill. I *assume* that ranks still matter and that this works with taking 10 and 20, but clarification would have been nice here, if only to err on the side of caution.
Where things get really nasty is Cheat Death: When reduced below 0 hp, spend four grit to instead be reduced to only 1 hit point. This can thankfully only be done 1/round. Passive bonus-wise, we have scaling bonuses to Fort-saves to stabilize…wait, what? That would not be correct – stabilizing requires Constitution checks last time I checked, not Fort-saves! The 4 grit-cost is brutal and means you won’t be doing it often – neither can you maintain a reliable invincibility, which is a good thing in my book. Still, I do think this should have a minimum level. A level 1 gunslinger being able to withstand a meteor swarm just feels wrong to me.
We can also find deafening or fascinating shots, the option to cause sonic damage in bursts to those nearby when firing, fire dazzling flares (including the option to shoot them at targets for scaling fire damage instead). Duck for Cover now provides evasion as a passive benefit, and the option for an adjacent ally to use the worse of the two rolls of the gunslinger’s Ref-save – which makes sense to me. There also is an improved version, with higher range and better benefits. Flash rounds are also interesting, increasing condition severity at higher levels as an option included. Fluorescent blasts can be neat as well. At 6th level, there is a deed that lets you spend 1 grit to bet on how often you hit. You wager 1 point of grit per attack you think will hit – if you match or exceed your bet, you gain bonus damage on all shots fired equal to 1d4 times the number of attacks that hit in the following round; if not, however, you lose double the amount of grit wagered AND imposes a penalty to damage equal to the amount of grit wagered. The passive benefit reduces the penalties for attacks beyond the first by granting a +1 bonus that scales up to +3 – which is not only insanely strong, it also can leave you in the awkward position of e.g. having a better BAB with off-hand than main hand.
Quick clear’s passive benefit, just fyi, now reduces the misfire rate by 1. Quick draw provides scaling initiative bonuses (which can be very strong, particularly in mythic gameplay, I’d disallow that). Firing rounds that scent the target and make him easy to track thus are pretty damn cool, as is the option to increase movement – and upon getting far enough away from hostile creatures, you regain one grit Which is dumb. Add signature deed and you have infinite grit replenishment. after combats. This is a puzzling oversight to me, since quite a few of the deeds do take this potential reduction into account.
At 1st level, 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the class gains a really cool innovation that further sets it apart: Contraptions. These represent mechanical devices and knickknacks, which are mundane or supernatural. Contraptions have limited uses, which replenish upon resting. The verbiage that explains that Intelligence is the governing spellcasting attribute, class level the caster level for those that duplicate spell effects is somewhat jarringly non-standard, though at least functional. Similarly, there are a couple of instances throughout where italicizations have not been implemented properly – remnant (i)s have not been closed a couple of times.
But let’s talk about contraptions: From earhorns that grant echolocation to breach explosives that can wreck doors, cream that temporarily increases object hardness, the ideas are really cool, though e.g. the mixing of damage types in the otherwise cool dead man’s explosive west could be clearer – is it 1d6 fire + 1d6 bludgeoning damage per gunslinger level or it half fire and half bludgeoning damage? On the plus-side, yes, we do get the info to disarm them! An exoskeleton that grants haste feels weird to me – it should have stats, weight, occupy a slot…or have different dressing. I get the angle, but it doesn’t really work for the benefit here. On the plus-side: Horseless carriage? 9th level breath of life-defibrillator? Engines that make food and water (prolonged use can make you really nauseous, though…), named bullets – there is a lot of cool stuff to be found, often with slightly science-fantasy-ish flair.
The pdf provides 3 archetypes: The bootleg alchemist replaces grit and the 1st level deed with an unstable mutagen and loses all deeds, replacing them with a unique formulae-progression for extracts, though he can still gain deeds via Extra Deed. The archetype also comes with sample discoveries.. The construct tinkerer can choose one of three base construct companions, gaining upgrades instead of bonus tricks – kudos: natural attacks are properly codified and having an afterburner on your companion rocks. The spell-reference to at-will mend should refer to the proper name, mending, though. It thankfully only allows the tinkerer to fix the companion. And yes, it RAW does use Handle Animal – you get a robo-dog/copter…thingy in exchange for 5 deeds. The motley gunman, the third archetype, gains the vigilante’s dual identity and may choose one of three versions of his cloak of motley colors. Unfortunately, the higher level options, with some patches only being available for some cloaks, are pretty hardcore. They are, fyi, replacing the contraptions with magic abilities and a exploding dice mechanic for temporary hit points that is tied to them in per se interesting ways that do, however, oscillate regarding their power.
The feats include Extra Deeds, Contraptions, Patches and Upgrades.
The pdf comes with a cool bonus-pdf penned by Perry Fehr that depicts the Beavertail (aka Bebruzila), a Small fey with adamantine teeth and a particular aptitude for item creation when wood is concerned – nice critter!
Editing and formatting are a weak point of this pdf: We have quite a few remnant “(i)”s that should have been caught and oh boy, could I pick apart non-standard wording in this one. Which brings me to the rules-language…which is actually surprisingly good! I mean it! This is a rather complex modification and for that (and the fact that this is, to my knowledge, the author’s freshman offering!), this is a pretty impressive book! It *is* precise…for the most part. But there is a reason I harp on maintaining the precise wording – the issues that can be found fall in one of two categories and one is the glitches due to nonstandard verbiage. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column standard with purple highlights and the pdf provides a solid full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Zachery Cothern’s unchained gunslinger is an impressive freshman offering – while verbiage of quite a few abilities deviates a bit from the standard, for the most part, this is a well-crafted class. The author’s inexperience does show in a couple of the balance- and design-decisions, but it rears its head significantly less often than I would have expected from such an offering. More importantly, the unchained gunslinger herein actually is a more rewarding class than the base gunslinger. The Int-focus, use of contraptions etc. makes this a really interesting and, dare I say, fun option. Mathematically, a 3/4 BAB would have made sense and gotten rid of the “I always hit”-syndrome gunslingers at higher levels experience, but you can’t have everything, I guess.
This pdf offers a ton of things to love and I found myself enjoying this significantly more than I thought I would. At the same time, I wish a strict rules-developer had gone over the verbiage and some of the more questionably balanced options and smoothed them over. This is, with a bit of work, pretty much a 5-star class regarding its chassis. At the same time, I can’t rate what it would be with some work; I have to rate what’s here. And that could, in parts, use a whack with the nerf-bat here, a minimum level requirement for a deed there – you get the idea.
If you’re a GM and willing to invest a bit of time to make this fellow shine, then you’ll never look back to the vanilla gunslinger. I mean it. I like this class much more than the standard version, balance-concerns of some tidbits be damned – this class is more versatile and rewarding and I love the revised deed-system with its active/passive-abilities. With one dev-pass by a veteran, this can be made into a true star of a pdf!
On the downside, if you want a class to just plug and play, then this fellow can yield some issues in the details, particularly for lower-powered gaming groups. Hence, my final verdict would be 3.5 stars, for a quintessential mixed bag on the positive side, one with brilliant highlights, but also dark shadows. I’d usually round down here…however, since this also is a freshman offering, it gets the freshman bonus and thus, my final verdict will round up.
You can get this amazing, if flawed pdf here on OBS!
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