Guns and Gears in Pathfinder Second Edition

Guns and Gears in Pathfinder Second Edition

I recently covered Pathfinder‘s exploration of the magical arts in my review of their Secrets of Magic rulebook. At the more physical end of the spectrum, the Guns and Gears supplement explores the role of firearms, clockwork devices, and other forms of impressive technology from the Pathfinder world, including the introduction of rarer classes into Pathfinder Second Edition: the Inventor and an update on the Pathfinder classic Gunslinger class.

With this book, they’ve definitely recognized that these two mechanical systems are in many ways very different, and might have very different audiences. While some might want a character to walk around with a gun, they aren’t interested in going full steampunk (or even clockwork punk) by incorporating this level of technology into the game setting on a regular basis. On the other hand, a player might want the technological aspects of steampunk, but feel that the firearms themselves don’t fit with their play style. As such, they book really splits these two sets of rule systems apart, so you can use the portion of the book you want to as see fit, or adopt all of these rules for your game.

The brand new Inventor class is where the book begins. The central feature of this class is identifying an Innovation for your character, representing a superb device that you have created and utilize in your adventures. The three Innovation options are Armor, Weapon, or Construct. In addition to basic features of the item, characters start with an initial customized modification, and many inventor class feats can further enhance and modify the character’s Innovation as they go up in level.

In other words, if you’ve ever wanted to invent a Pathfinder version of Iron Man, now is your opportunity.

Though the Innovations are highly customizable, they do all have one thing in common: you can make them explode! While the idea of turning your construct into a walking bomb has a lot of strategic potential, it would be in only the most dire straits that you’d probably want to turn use the Explode action on the armor that you’re wearing. In addition to intentionally causing an explosion, though, you can also trigger an explosion in the Innovation by pushing it beyond its original design specifications, by activating class feats (like “Explosive Leap” or “Haphazard Repair”) that are designated with the “unstable” tag.

Again, the versatility of the Pathfinder Second Edition system here really helps you determine how much you want to engage with this idea of exploding armor. You could certainly avoid any of these “unstable” class feats, and then play a cautious inventor who rarely runs the risk of having their innovative repeating crossbow explode … but if you like living on the wild side, then you can take feats that up the power of your invention at the expense of this increased instability. Hurling lightning bolts from your augmented sword, unfortunately, really requires the risk of sometimes blowing up if you’re going to get the most out of it.

In addition to the customized power of the Innovation, Inventors also gain the ability to use small gizmos to enhance their combat through an Overdrive ability, which boosts their damage output for one minute. Some Inventors can, during their daily preparations, create a number of temporary “gadgets,” a new class of consumable technological item, if they choose to grow along the Gadget Specialist feat path.

One last aspect of the Inventor class: they all gain the Inventor feat from the Core Rulebook, which allows players to create formulas for new items. This is an odd feat to incorporate into a core class ability, because it really requires a lot of buy-in on the part of both the player and the GM to make it work out well. It can easily be unbalanced or out of control, as players come up with all kinds of eccentric and overpowered ideas for what they’d like to have. The big trouble with the feat is coming to a fair idea of what the item level is for a given type of invention.

While the Inventor has a lot going for it, there are many other options for characters throughout this book. A new rare ancestry, the automaton, allows you to play an artificial creature yourself. And an assortment of class archetypes and backgrounds allows players to incorporate some gear-related themes into a character’s basic construction. And, of course, there’s then a whole chapter of cool technology, including not just clockwork but also steampowered devices and some electrically-charged “Stasian technology.” I’ve already discussed the introduction of temporary gadget devices, but there’s also siege weapons, mobility devices (like wheelchairs) for disabled characters, vehicles … a lot of new options for characters to incorporate into their gear loadout.

So that’s the first half of the book … and then comes the part on guns. It begins with the Gunslinger, a class that is able to utilize even rudimentary firearms with stylistic combat combinations that make them forces to reckon with on the battlefield. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen the Gunslinger, which was a popular unique class in the first edition of Pathfinder. The first edition version of the gunslinger was largely defined by their ability to gain and spend a trait, called “grit,” to perform unique trick attacks with their firearm. In second edition, gunslingers don’t get “grit” any more, but their core abilities instead leverage the second edition action economy to perform several action combos.

Each Gunslinger picks a “way” that represents their particular gunfighting style, and each one provides a feat that gives a free reaction anytime the character rolls initiative. In other words, pretty much anytime that a fight is about to go down, the gunslinger is able to have get a weapon at the ready and, depending on the way chosen, perhaps get into a strategic position before the enemy is able to get the jump on them.

Other feats that the Gunslinger gain as they level up help unlock utility combos like Dual-Weapon Reload that allows you to reload while holding a weapon in each hand or Black Powder Boost to fire your gun to enhance jump distance, economical actions like Quick Draw and Rapid Reload, or new reactions like Hit the Dirt! One of my favorite of the starting gunslinger feats is Blast Lock, which gives you the ability to shoot a lock with your gun in place of using the Pick the Lock action. It’s one of those feats that just seems to really encapsulate the attitude of a character class.

Like in the Gears section, the book follows up the new class with a multiclass archetype, as well as other gun-related backgrounds and archetypes, that allow you to incorporate guns into a campaign or adventure at a smaller scale than going full Gunslinger.

To equip these types of characters, of course, you’ll need statistics for the guns, and there’s a whole chapter with a variety of firearm options, including ones specifically oriented toward ancestries like goblin, dwarf, and even elf. There are some magical “beast guns,” which are biological-based firearms that also act as magical items, able to cast spells in addition to their normal weapon attack. These weapons are based on the Pathfinder land of Arcadia, a separate continent from the main Pathfinder setting, so it provides the basis from some real “frontier” adventures … or “colonial” ones, depending your perspective. There are also a variety of combination firearms, which serve purposes in both ranged and melee combat, as well as a variety of magical firearms, ammunition, and other firearm-related magical items. Building on the siege weapons in the Gears section, there are some black powder siege weapons like the Bombard and Fiend’s Mouth Cannon.

In my review of Secrets of Magic, I praised the fact that they started out with a highly contextual chapter that represented a lot of in-world flavor information, digging into the way magic manifests within Pathfinder. In Guns and Gears, they saved that chapter for the end of the book. The Rotating Gear is a gazetteer section that includes several pages on regions in the Pathfinder setting that really have strong ties to the technological content in this book. The ways that different technologies show up in these different regions is described, including the histories and traditions related to how the people in that region relate to the technology.

Whether you just want to grab some cool clockwork devices to throw in with loot, or you’re looking to really explore this sort of technology as a key part of character growth or story plot, Guns and Gears provides a wealth of material to help support those goals. You can get a copy  through,, or your local gaming store.

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