A Guide to the Musket Master Gunslinger (Pathfinder)
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, and 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).
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.
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, 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.
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.
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
1 Point Blank Shot, Rapid Reload (bonus), Precise Shot
3 Rapid Shot
4 Deadly Aim
5 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 straight-forward 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.