Pathfinder Guns & Gears: An In-Depth Review

Hello again my friends, and welcome back to another PAIZO PRODUCT REVIEW! Today we’re looking at the recent Pathfinder Guns & Gears supplement, which is almost certainly guaranteed to cause a bit of an argument between you and your GM when it contacts their precious setting! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s break this down!
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JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER​

Guns & Gears has a lot of exciting and interesting options and flavor packed into its 235 pages but, at least to my eye, you wouldn’t know it from the cover, which seems most focused on the very angry fire giant screaming in the center—while its guns and gears are tucked off to the bottom corner. But I don’t want to waste too much time on the cover when all the fun stuff is on the inside, so take this as a reason to consider the special edition, and let’s move on!

INTRODUCTION​

In what appears to be a recurring element for recent Paizo books, Guns & Gears starts with an excellent introduction that addresses the mechanical and thematic issues that come with introducing guns and clockwork or pre-steampunk technology to a setting so strongly based on feudal technology. This section, like the one in The Mwangi Expanse, uses real-world examples to support the decisions incorporating the book’s content into Golarion or settings like it—in this case, making note of the fact that black powder development on Golarion is slowed by the utility and ubiquity of magic, or the way real-world plate armor was capable of protecting users from period-appropriate firearms. There’s a brief mention here on the way different regions of Golarion have developed the various technologies, but that gets a full chapter at the end of the book, so we’ll get to that later.

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GEARS CHARACTERS & EQUIPMENT​

Guns & Gears only has two base classes to offer, and the first is the champion of Gears: the Inventor. Defined by its ability to augment a minion, armor, or a weapon, the Inventor is the class you’re going to reach to when you want to play Iron Man in Pathfinder 2E.

One of the fundamental features of the class is called “Overdrive”. This feature is purpose-built for enabling situations where a character yells “WATCH THIS!” to be immediately followed by a tremendous BANG, and laughs are had all around the table. Inventors also get access to a number of feats with the “unstable” keyword, which I love as a bit of game design that allow a character to gamble with a bit of damage for a bit of extra payoff.

Gears-based characters can also now choose a new ancestry—the Automaton. These characters come with a delightful bit of planar and mechanical worldbuilding, and to my mind are ideal for every cheese monkey who’s ever grown irritated at the difference between their Big “Freaking” Cannon and their weak, spindly character. Now YOU can be the anti-tank cannon of your dreams; Bastion players rejoice!

There are also a number of noteworthy Archetypes for Gears characters. Most prominently to my mind is the Overwatch, which near as I can tell is a way of giving Improved Initiative to the entire party(!). Sterling Dynamos as a background feature some excellent efforts to include and normalize the presence of amputee characters or those without the standard number of limbs for their ancestry.

Other interesting Archetypes include the Trick Driver and Vehicle Mechanic, the implementation of which requires the implementation of vehicles to your campaign, a prospect which is disruptive enough that it merits not one but TWO sidebars. Also, these two come with a sidebar about unions—shoutout to the UPW for giving us a good example!

Gears equipment seems mostly focused on sprucing up repeating crossbows or other ammunition-based weapons, but there’s a few delightful paragraphs dedicated to explaining the development of technology in different prominent regions in Golarion. Most amusing to me is the Stasian technology coming out of Irrisen and Ulstalav – you developers may not be allowed to call them Tesla coils, but that won’t stop me from doing so, or from enjoying the bejeebers out of insane gnomish inventors making Tesla coil guns.

The Gadgets section of the Gears equipment feels like a bit of a whiff, though—they seem neat, certainly, but I’ve never been convinced that the Pathfinder adventurer economy really has room for disposable or one-use items.

Really, what gets me excited in the Equipment section is when it cranks the scale up into the industrial: namely, vehicles and siege equipment. SIEGE EQUIPMENT! AHAHAHA! And, of course, gear- and steam-based vehicles mean exactly one thing in my mind (even if it isn’t explicit in the book): TRAINS. Trains mean train heists mean the best session or arc your players will experience in their campaign.

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GUNS CHARACTERS & EQUIPMENT​

GUNS! Let’s be honest, this is the real reason you’re here. You want that pew-pew! The second of the two base classes available in Guns & Gears is the Gunslinger, which allows players to live out their dreams of being the Orc With No Name, a very Precise Sniper, or a Doom Gal using shields and shotguns to impact the battlefield like a wrecking ball. There’s a bit of disparity lingering in my mind between the image of a pistolero using a gun-twirling fast-shooting fighting style and the mechanics of reloading in Pathfinder 2E, but I imagine that will settle one way or another once it comes in contact with the enemy—I MEAN, your players.

Archetypes for Guns characters start out with, in my fevered opinion, the best of the lot: the Artillerist. Just seeing a whole archetype dedicated to the concept of “any problem can be solved with the proper application of heavy artillery” sends me into a tizzy—and honestly makes this whole book worthwhile for me.

Other delightful archetypes for Guns characters include Beast Gunners, which appear to be Paizo’s acknowledgement and adoption of the incredibly popular Monster Hunter series, and Bullet Dancers, for the nerds of you who have seen Equilibrium and always wanted to do Gun Kata but didn’t have Christian Bale’s choreographer or cinematographer. If you haven’t seen Equilibrium—get on that!

Guns Equipment is largely devoted to (you guessed it) firearms, and the quite lengthy section before the personal firearms where the devs try to cut off at the pass any arguments about making guns more automatic or modern. IT’S FOR GAME BALANCE, STEVE. That said, they do kinda shoot themselves in the foot by a) mentioning that they’ve already included WW1-era weapons in various APs and b) describing the mechanics of a hypothetical modern longarm.

As for other equipment—beast guns are GROSS and BIOLOGICAL and WONDERFUL and please keep them away from me. The siege guns, on the other hand … well, the less I have to say about how excited I got, the better. It’s definitely inspired me to try my hand at coming up with rules for modelling Age of Sail ship combat—and, inevitably, how to abstract that down so players don’t have to worry about two hundred NPCs taking three actions each to fire forty cannons in a round, and how those numbers change once the arm-sized splinters start flying.

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THE ROTATING GEAR​

The last major section of Guns & Gears dives into how and where these relatively advanced technologies have impacted Golarion. I gotta say, this section really has a special love-hate place in my heart. On one hand, I dig the hell out of seeing all of Golarion laid out in a broad view, complete with trade routes and the flow of specialized goods. They’ve even made four circular views of Golarion to show its true shape as a spheroid—truly just jaw-dropping worldbuilding on display here. That having been said, I got the same initial reaction to the massive world map that I did when I first realized Golarion had 10,000 years of recorded history: it’s … a bit much, isn’t it? Like I said with that history in The Mwangi Expanse: use it as a Backstory of Doom, don’t commit it to memory. And, while I can’t fault the map of Arcadia for its legibility (nor its cartographer for getting published in a setting book like this), I also can’t help but feel it looks a little ... flat? Uninspired? It’s an effective map, if not an exciting one.

CONCLUSION​

Guns & Gears (and yes, I have misspelled it Funs & Gears like 4 times now) is an incredible shot in the arm for the technological texture and advancement of Golarion and any campaigns using the PF2E system. It also, I have no doubt, will be the source of an incredible number of arguments about whether or not guns have a place in your game. Read the introductory paragraphs of the equipment section VERY closely, as they will have ammunition for you to fend off your biggest munchkin if things get out of hand. Just make sure you give them a siege engine once in a while!
 

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Ben Reece

Ben Reece



My longest 2e campaign was done using the green "Mighty Fortress" historical setting rules in a home brew world. The firearms and technology was more historically accurate less steampunk.

I like including early firearms, but not the kind you can fire once every 6 seconds. Heck I don't even like how fast you can fire crossbows in most games. (France called and wants a redo on the battle of Agincourt using 5E crossbow rules)
 


JThursby

Adventurer
The setting material for Arcadia is really enticing to me, I’ve wanted new and refreshed villain factions and calls to adventure for a while and it sounds like my speed: a cabal of technocrat industrialists with a clockwork army, a theocracy worshiping pazuzu, a Wild West bandit gang run by a stone giant that chucks headstones at people, this is the kind of cool stuff I want to test my parties against.

The guns came out great IMO. Guns will always be a controversy in a fantasy game, but my lizard brain will never get sick of imagining explosions and gun battles in a tabletop game.
 

Will we see Pahtfinder vs D&D skins in Fortnite? I am only kidding.

The players can invent anti-guns magic, for example illusory magic for effects as smoke-grenades, summoning swarmns or bulletproof creatures (for example a psionic astral construc), or a little piece of ectoplams to block canons and mechanic pieces of gears or to water the gunpowder+explosives.
 

That third image of the party is great: Especially the Cleric with the flipping double barrel shotgun going Doom Guy on a couple of the zombies there.
 


Jimmy Dick

Adventurer
This sentence contains the essence of why I am not thrilled with this book at this time: In what appears to be a recurring element for recent Paizo books, Guns & Gears starts with an excellent introduction that addresses the mechanical and thematic issues that come with introducing guns and clockwork or pre-steampunk technology to a setting so strongly based on feudal technology.

I really am not in favor of crossing the steampunk setting with the medieval setting. I don't mind steampunk, but Golarion is not made for it. I just do not like how this is shaping up. For those who homebrew, it's not a problem in the first place, but since I play Society most of the time, I foresee it being a big problem over time.
 

So, I got to make a post on reddit about this recently, but when using a reload weapon, the basic loop in terms of actions and multi attack penalty looks like this, I'm gonna share it because its really neat exposition on the kind of fun action optimization you can do with a gunslinger.

Turn 1: Shoot (-0), Reload, Shoot (-5) + Turn 2: Reload, Shoot (-0), Reload-- and then it loops if you can continue firing and reloading, the Gunslinger has the increased proficiency for guns that the Fighter gets, which means its very likely to hit and fairly likely to crit in most scenarios. Many (but not all) of the guns have fatal dice, which means they hit harder when they crit (by increasing the die size to the listed value and adding an extra. The class has subclass features and class feats that offer specific reload options that let you reload while doing something else (and in one case, reload while attacking, at the risk of misfiring your gun if the attack doesn't land and needing to take an action to clear it.)

In tandem with the many different guns, building a Gunslinger feels like working through a puzzle with the way the action economy works, for example a double barrel Musket which has a d6 and Fatal d10s... if you don't use the option to fire both barrels at once can change your four turns to look like this:

Shoot, Reload, Shoot + Shoot, Reload, Shoot + Reload, Reload, Shoot + Shoot, Reload, Shoot -- this pattern means you only miss one of your -5 'second attacks' to reload for four rounds of combat (the second one you would lose is being displaced into round 5, and its been fairly rare for combat to go that long.)

If you wanna get real fancy (and gamble a bit) you can take the Risky Reload feat at 2, and then use it on round 3 to get that attack back as well by replacing the first reload with a Risky Reload, then reloading and firing as normal with the following two actions, then doing the same the following round, so it looks like this:

Shoot, Reload, Shoot + Shoot, Reload, Shoot + Risky Reload, Reload, Shoot + Risky Reload, Reload, Shoot

Granted, it breaks if you miss either risky reload, but its also your first shot on each of those turns, so that isn't too likely to happen that often so its probably a worthwhile usage. Now if we pick another reload feat up, or have one we like from one of the class paths we can substitute some of those bare reloads as well. I'd actually be tempted to use a double barrel pistol instead, smaller damage, but then it synergizes with the Pistolero path better, and you can demoralize/create a diversion when you reload (and get some other cool bonuses), technically you can do that with the musket but some of the later class path features are useless to you. The musket is better for a sniper, who can take cover and hide on reload, and increases that first turn damage which is neat.
 


How does attack work for gunslingers now? I absolutely hated the touch AC attack in PF1. I slightly less hated for Alchemist bombs.
They're normal ranged weapon with reload actions, and neat traits (like Fatal) the Gunslinger itself has increased to-hit ala the fighter.
 

I really am not in favor of crossing the steampunk setting with the medieval setting. I don't mind steampunk, but Golarion is not made for it. I just do not like how this is shaping up. For those who homebrew, it's not a problem in the first place, but since I play Society most of the time, I foresee it being a big problem over time.
Golarion has had firearms from nearly the beginning of the setting.
 

Nilbog

Snotling Herder
I'm not a steampunk fan, but this book is so modular in nature that bits can easily be added as required, also with the use of the rarity tags it's an easy and valid option for a DM to not allow the new classes.
 


AlwaysMerlin

Villager
Shoot, Reload, Shoot + Shoot, Reload, Shoot + Risky Reload, Reload, Shoot + Risky Reload, Reload, Shoot

Short of good planning, I can foresee this loop happening one time at my table, before the next encounter completely demolishes the person who chose to stand completely still for 4 rounds.
PF2e is not great for anyone who wants to just stand still and attack non stop à la 5e. Granted the ranged attackers do get to do it more often.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Too much off the rails for my taste.
You can do steampunk in a steampunk world, but when you put steampunk in one corner, Vikings in another, renaissance in the middle and also put in ancient greeks and egypts it gets silly.

The new classes are also too much over the top for my taste. Too much John Wick, not enough Paul Revere...
 

payn

Legend
I thought kitchen sink would bug me too, but the separation puts them out of sight out of mind. It's no different than all the D&D settings only you got a one stop shop instead for Golarion.

Im curious about the classes, the gunslinger in PF1 was on my ban list it bugged me so much.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I thought kitchen sink would bug me too, but the separation puts them out of sight out of mind. It's no different than all the D&D settings only you got a one stop shop instead for Golarion.

Im curious about the classes, the gunslinger in PF1 was on my ban list it bugged me so much.
The separation is actually a problem for me. It is silly that on the world, which is very open and cosmopolitan compared to the real world, everyone sits in their corner and does not interact with each other and knowledge does not spread.
 

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