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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

I thought Dark Archive was next, but looking at the schedule, you're apparently right.
Yup, that's the summer release, actually riffing off this-- one big question right now is whether or not there's an autumn rulebook release with another two classes in it coming up as well, if so we would expect to see the announcement and playtest drop in January. They did it this past year with Secrets of Magic + Guns and Gears, and in theory, it would be in line with the stated number of yearly subscription releases for the rulebook line-- but its also possible that was to help get all the 'essential' Pathfinder favorite classes and options like firearms into the game ASAP, and that we're slowing down a little on those kinds of major rule expansions, we won't know for sure until something is announced, and that something doesn't have to be a class book either.

If we are getting it, I'd expect to see the Inquisitor, based off some vaguery from Erik Mona right before Dark Archive was announced.
 

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And of course you always have the question "Will this old PF1e class be a class or an archetype this time around?" Some people find the latter unsatisfactory, but then, some of them find the new versions of classes unsatisfactory anyway.
 

And of course you always have the question "Will this old PF1e class be a class or an archetype this time around?" Some people find the latter unsatisfactory, but then, some of them find the new versions of classes unsatisfactory anyway.
Pretty much, although I feel like very few classes that people really valued became archetypes- the only exception being something like Vigilante, where it def works better anyway.

Right now Vigilante, Arcanist, and Cavalier, if im not mistaken are the classes that have become archetypes. I don't really hear anyone complain about any of those choices.

The bigger controversy is Warpriest as a class path, and thats more about full casting restricting the weapon's place in the power budget than unique identity.
 

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