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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Pathfinder Gunslingers and Touch AC

I like Gunslingers, but I think the Pathfinder rules for firearms targeting Touch Armor Class instead of regular AC is too powerful.

I've been looking at ACs for creatures as they increase in level (there's a great chart of that here, containing damn hear every beastie in Pathfinder), and when you compare them you see that while the Mean, Median and Mode of regular AC increases with CR at a fairly constant rate, touch AC hovers in the 10-12 range.

This is troublesome because Gunslingers get a +1 to their base attack bonus every single level, which means a Gunslinger will quickly end up hitting every damn thing every damn time unless that creature is intangible, or has such an  abnormally high touch AC (due to magic or Dex) that the wizard can't hit it with magic.

Now I understand the reasoning behind guns hitting touch AC, but that "game logic" falls apart when you consider that blunt weapons like maces and hammers also ought to hit touch AC because the impact damage would get transmitted through the armor to the fleshy bits underneath (concussions happen to people wearing helmets all the time).

On the other hand, I don't want to nerf the Gunslinger, either.

So I came up with a compromise based off the Bolt Ace ability Sharp Shoot, and ruled that:
  1. Firearms target regular AC.
  2. At 1st level, a Gunslinger may resolve a firearm attack against touch AC instead of normal AC when shooting at a target within its first range increment. Performing this deed costs 1 grit point. This deed’s cost cannot be reduced by any ability or effect that reduces the amount of grit points a deed costs (such as Signature Deed).
I think this is balanced. Instead of hitting nearly every time, a Gunslinger needs to save their attacks for special "oh crap" moments or dramatic combats. And since there are ways to regain grit in combat, plus the Extra Grit feat and magic items like the Ring of Grit Mastery, it's less a case of taking away something special and essential to the class and more turning it into another resource management mini-game like spellcasters have.

And now, I shall pre-emptively answer some expected objections:
Under rules as written, firearms only resolve vs Touch if they are in the first range increment, and outside of that they will take a -2(or higher) to attack. Isn't this enough?
I've been running a Pathfinder game with a Gunslinger for about a year now, and I don't think I've ever had a combat outside that range increment. Most fights occur within 30-50 feet, which is easily within range of a move action + shoot.
Gunslingers are vulnerable to attacks of opportunity when reloading!
This is true. However, 5 foot steps and teamwork mitigates a lot of this. If not, drop the firearm (free action), draw a melee weapon (move action) and attack (standard action) with that fast BAB.
Slow reloading times are a balance for the class!
Tell that to the 3rd level Musket Master in my game. Rapid Reloader + Fast Musket + Alchemical Cartridges means he can reload as a swift action so long as he has 1 grit point.
Gunslingers cannot rapid shot!
Double-Barreled muskets exist and can, regardless of level, fire both barrels in a single attack action. All the Rapid Shot feat would do is reduce the -4 penalty to -2, which seems both logical and fair and there's nothing in the rules to suggest that they cannot.
Firearms break on a misfire roll!
... which can be remedied as a standard action with the Quick Clear deed so long as they have (not spend, have) 1 grit point.
What will your Gunslinger PC think about being nerfed?
I ran it past him before I implement this rule. His answer was It seems like a pretty clean solution to what will definitely become a problem. I say we roll with it and see how it plays out on the table. 
How does it work in play?
We've only had a couple combats since then, but so far it seems to be working well. He's hitting opponents with about the same percentage as the crossbow-using Ranger, and is saving Grit for special occasions. So far we both like what we see, and will address concerns as they come up.

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