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A Guide to the Musket Master Gunslinger (Pathfinder)

Kevin has been playing tabletop games for almost as long as he can remember and currently edits for Jon Brazer Enterprises.

We are a nation founded on gunslinging, clearly.

We are a nation founded on gunslinging, clearly.

The Overview

Pathfinder’s latest base class, the gunslinger, brings with it a truckload of different firearms, and they’re tailor-made to use them. Due to the necessity of the Rapid Reload feat for gunslingers to function properly, just about every gunslinger’s going to be specialized in a particular type of firearm; luckily, there’s an archetype for each of the two primary types: the musket master and the pistolero (Ultimate Combat 50-51).

Both of these archetypes offer some very nice benefits, and most gunslingers will probably want to take one of the two of them. This guide’s going to take a look at the musket master, which happens to be the main way to make a gunslinger with a two-handed firearm viable (if you’re not using advanced firearms).

About the Musket Master

Unlike the standard gunslinger, musket masters are only proficient with two-handed firearms; they have to take Exotic Weapon Proficiency (firearms) to gain one-handed firearm proficiency and to be able to use firearm siege weapons. As part of this, a musket master has to choose a musket as his battered firearm at 1st level, but that shouldn’t surprise you, given the archetype’s name.

Deeds and Feats

The musket master swaps out two deeds (gunslinger’s dodge and utility shot) to gain steady aim and fast musket. As long as the gunslinger has 1 grit, steady aim lets him take a move action to extend his firearm’s range increment by 10 feet, letting him target touch Armor Class with his shots a bit farther out than normal.

Fast musket is absolutely crucial: As long as he’s got one grit, this deed allows him to treat two-handed firearms as one-handed firearms for the purpose of reloading, allowing him to reload them as a standard action instead of a full-round action. This is the only way to pull this off, and—combined with paper alchemical cartridges and the Rapid Reload feat—it lets the gunslinger make a full attack with his musket.

The most a standard gunslinger can manage is two attacks per round (using the lightning reload deed, gained at 11th level). As an extra layer of frosting on the musket master’s cake, he also gains Rapid Reload (muskets) as a bonus feat at 1st level.

Musket Training

And if you needed still another reason to take the musket master archetype, there’s the extremely nice musket training, which replaces and improves upon the gunslinger’s normal gun training. Like gun training, this grants the musket master the ability to add his Dexterity bonus to firearm damage rolls, but unlike gun training, musket training keeps getting better as the musket master gains levels.

Every four levels after 5th level, the musket master gains another +1 bonus to his musket damage rolls, but that’s not all: At 13th level, the musket master will never misfire when using a two-handed firearm. Past 13th level, this makes the musket master an incredibly accurate damage dealer and largely makes the musket master better at his job than the gunslinger could ever hope to be.

Sample Build

Ranged characters are not typically difficult to choose feats for, so the following sample build may come as no surprise to anyone familiar with basic optimization. Musket masters do get Rapid Reload for free, though, which will give most of them an extra feat to play with compared to a gunslinger.

Human Gunslinger (Musket Master) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy):
Str 10, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 8
Point Blank Shot, Rapid Reload (bonus), Precise Shot
Rapid Shot
4 Deadly Aim
Weapon Focus (musket)

Most gunslingers are going to be struggling to have all of these feats by 5th level, making the musket master pretty special in that regard. As always, you’ll want to stick to paper cartridges to make sure that you can full attack without trouble. The only downside to this (compared to, say, the pistolero) is the musket’s higher misfire rate, but given that you’re almost never going to miss, the occasional extra move action and grit point spent to quick clear a broken firearm isn’t that terrible.

After 6th level, your feats are largely wide open. I’m a big fan of the Snapshot line, as having a 15-foot threatened area is really impressive. Gunslingers in general can take great advantage of Combat Reflexes with their primary score being Dexterity, as well.

With the musket master largely being a straightforward improvement, there isn’t much else to say, so I hope this guide convinced you to specialize your musket user. Unless you’re really attached to the idea of using a wide variety of firearms, there’s almost no good reason not to.


CRH on February 03, 2017:

very helpful! especially the reloading clarification. I'm new to firearms and I'd not considered paper alchemical cartridges.

Christina A Morris (author) from SOUTH BEND on March 08, 2013:

That's not true at all, or otherwise a number of mechanics in the game wouldn't work at all at the levels they're available, including the monk's Flurry of Blows class feature and Two-Weapon Fighting.

Full attacks are not "gained" at +6 BAB at all. They're simply an action you gain no benefit from taking until you have some method of gaining additional attacks in a full attack action (via Rapid Shot, TWF, Flurry, high BAB, or other methods, such as spells like haste).

shyy on March 07, 2013:

no rapid shot is allowed before 6th lvl cause you don't have full att before having +6 bab

Christina A Morris (author) from SOUTH BEND on April 12, 2012:

Looks like I did forget the 4th level bonus feat, and Rapid Shot and Precise Shot should be switched, yes. Thanks for pointing these things out. I'll fix them.

ryleyg on April 12, 2012:

I think you meant Rapid Shot at 3rd, as that's when re-loading becomes a free action.

RaptorJesus on April 06, 2012:

Nice guide, but i'm pretty sure you forgot the bonus feat at 4th level?

Steven on February 29, 2012:

Early Firearms: When firing an early firearm, the attack resolves against the target’s touch AC when the target is within the first range increment of the weapon, but this type of attack is not considered a touch attack for the purposes of feats and abilities such as Deadly Aim. At higher range increments, the attack resolves normally, including taking the normal cumulative –2 penalty for each full range increment. Unlike other projectile weapons, early firearms have a maximum range of five range increments.

For Zakat.

Christina A Morris (author) from SOUTH BEND on February 09, 2012:

Deadly Aim works with firearms. A lot of people think that it doesn't because Deadly Aim states it doesn't work with touch attacks.

Firearm attacks, however, are *not* touch attacks. They target touch Armor Class, but they are not classified as touch attacks in any section of the rules. It's a subtle distinction, but it's an important one.

Zakat on February 07, 2012:

The deadly aim feat won't work on firearms. Its even noted on the firearms ruleings.