The Gunsmith Expansion

This immediately follows on from the Gunsmith class I released here yesterday. After (mostly) finishing that brew and getting through a big chunk of playtesting I felt there was some thematic space I hadn’t explored yet, and around the same time Xanathar’s Guide to Everything had just launched.

So I decided to make my own subclass expansion, styled after XGtE.

Theme

Obviously most of the theme follows the themes of the base class. I mentioned above though about thematic space I felt the base class hadn’t covered, so I’ll focus on that.

The supplement brings 2 new subclasses to the table – the Hinawaju and the Shield Gunner – and both move further away from our more established gunslinger tropes. It also introduces a bunch of Xanathar’s-style background tables designed to provide deeper flavour to Gunsmith characters (one tied to the idea of being a manufacturer of firearms, not just a user of them)

The first is inspired by the Arquebus-wielding Samurai of the late Sengoku jidai. It’s also the most recently altered part of this brew. More on that later. It’s meant to fill the thematic space of ‘martial expert with guns’. Historically Samurai considered the firearm to be another tool in their arsenal, and I wanted something that could perhaps match that fantasy a bit better.

The Shield Gunner dips far more into fantasy territory. It honestly came about from the idea of ‘a gun mounted on a shield would be cool’, and it’s a concept that appears often enough in fantasy media that I felt there was some justification for supporting this character archetype through a full subclass.

Mechanics

I want to start with the Hinawaju. Mechanically it’s the only subclass where I chose to have the loading property on their firearm. There’s some extra background to cover here quickly, so I’ll get that out of the way first.

Originally all of the firearms had the ‘loading’ property, but in order to have abilities that helped support the fantasy archetypes I wanted the class to enable the ‘loading’ property presented a massive anti-synergy with just about everything I wanted the class to be able to do. Many would feel the ‘loading’ property would make firearms more realistic, but I would counter that it would make them less fun. I considered other options, like have ignoring loading be an ability that the class got at level 5 alongside Extra Attack, but that made me wonder why I was bothering with it in the first place. I also considered adding a feat that let one ignore the loading property a-la Crossbow Expert but that would essentially be a mandatory feat, in which case it should be a class ability, and then we would be back to the same issue as before.

The Hinawaju was different though. For one thing it did more damage (2d6 out the gate), but also the subclass was designed to be about switching between your firearm and other weapons. It had abilities that supported this, like the ability to draw or stow your firearm while drawing or stowing another weapon. It also got access to fighting styles, including a ‘martial arts’ one I made just for this subclass that let it use dexterity instead of strength for weapon attacks. Unfortunately the class was just clunky, and there was a really shitty point where you would hit level 5 and get Extra Attack, but not be able to use it with your firearm until you got your 6th level feature that gave you something to do with that second attack. There was an entire level where the best way to play this Gunsmith subclass was to forego the use of your gun.

So the 3rd level suite got totally rebuilt. It moved away from the original power fantasy, but in exchange it got a much more satisfying mechanical experience.

The Shield Gunner is arguably quite one-dimensional, but certainly not boring in that one-dimensionality. You can choose to essentially become a stationary gun emplacement. You give up your ability to move in exchange for increase AC and damage. Leaving this state requires a full action, so you really have to be ready to commit to being a sitting duck in combat.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

The other thing worth discussing are the background tables. When all is said and done, this may be the thing in this entire class that I am the most proud of. I talked at great length in the original post for this class about how I felt the point of differentiation between this and other Gun-class brews out there is that this one made its gun. It is an inventor class, thematically akin more to an Alchemist than a Fighter. These background tables solidified that better than anything in the base class ever did. The idea that your background details are all to do with the manufacture of your gun should really drive home to players what the core premise of this class is.

Obviously the player is at total liberty to twist the formula (just like how not all Wizards need to be elderly cloistered scholars), but it’s important for that formula to exist before twists are taken.

I find this all a little more than amusing though given that one of the more famous ‘gun-wielder’ characters in popular culture is Critical Role’s Percy, which was itself a twist on the original Gunslinger formula in that he was someone who had manufactured his gun.

I digress

Smoke and Steel

That’s all the Gunsmith content I have, and I imagine all the Gunsmith content I will ever create. There is a non-zero chance that I rework the base class someday using the Quickdraw Action fixes I discuss over in the post about the base class. The argument against that though is that this class has, in the most important sense, been a success. I mentioned it in the other post, but of all my homebrew this has been the most played. Some of that may be by virtue of it having been around the longest of all my homebrew, but it’s the one where I have players see someone else play a Gunsmith and go ‘I want to try one of those, that looks like fun.’

Not that this hasn’t happened with my other homebrews, mind you. I just think the Gunsmith speaks to that base thing within so many people when they play D&D that says ‘guns are cool, I want to use them’. Enabling that was my goal from the outset, and this expansion really helped me reach it.

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