Way of the Pistol Monk. Is it balanced?

I'm going to be playing in a Wild West themed game soon (I'm so excited!) and I found this subclass online. I want to make sure its balanced before I commit to it. I have already gotten then DMs permission but I figured a quick balance pass couldn't hurt. I just don't want to break anything. The DM is also using custom rules for firearms that actually play surprisingly well with this subclass.

https://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Way_of_the_Pistol_(5e_Subclass)


The custom firearm rules.
Revolver: 250gp, 1d10 piercing, 30/60 range. 6 shots before needing an action to reload. One handed
Rifle: 500gp, 1d12 piercing, 40/120 range. 4 shots before needing an action to reload. Two handed
Shotgun: 200gp, 2d8 piercing up to 15ft to up to 2 creatures standing next to each other, 2d6 at 15ft to 30ft to up to 2 people standing next to each other. 2 shots before needing an action to reload. Two handed.
Bullets for each weapon can be purchased at a rate of 10 rounds per 3gp

Gunslinger Feat: You may take this feat to allow you to reload your weapon as a bonus action and you don't have disadvantage if in melee with your target.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Before anything else, the firearm rules aren't balanced against normal D&D weapons. Considering how powerful ranged already is, those will change the whole balance. So trying to critique this class agaisnt an unkwnon balance is a bit hard.

(Note that the reload is absolutely no limitation - for those without multiple attacks all except the shotgun should last a full combat, and for those with extra attack just carry several weapons. Think of all the action ovies where the heroes just drop empty weapons and pull out more.)

Onto the class.

Gun Fu: Hmm, let's make your attacks do twice as many dice of damage, and the disadvantage of that is that it's at range ... oh wait, that's an advantage in most situations, especially with a fast moving character that can spend a Ki to disengage.

And being able to bonus action firearm when doing melee, with no close-up penalty, is also more powerful than unarmed bonus attack because, well, double martial arts die.

Looking at the 3rd level features fo other monk subclasses, Gun Fu is not even in the neighborhood. It is much, MUCH more powerful then what any other monk subclass gets.

Reload without Thought - your firearm rules don't have the Loading property, so it does nothing.

Disarming Shot - fine.

Ki-Empowered Bullets - similar to Kensei's ability, fine.

Zen Marksmanship - unusable since none of the DM's custom weapons can hold 10 pieces of ammunition without reloading. The DMG firearms have the loading property (which this class would ignore) and would be usable. But your DM has made more powerful weapons but they specifically require either an action, or with a feat, a bonus action to load. So you can't get 10 ammo. Assuming that the DM allows this, it's fine. Though it's really odd it's a set DC.

Fatal Shot - no, 5e doesn't do save-or-die. Absolutely no "regardless of HPs reduce to 0" powers.

Conclusion:
This isn't close to balanced, but only because of two feature. Replace Gun Fu and Fatal Shot and you could have something fine.

Personally, the official Kensei subclass will work just fine with pistols and can work really well with them. For example a 3rd level Kensei firing a pistol and spending a bonus action for "Kensei's Shot" would be doing d10+d4+DEX damage. (And that d4 will add into all ranged attacks that round.) At 6th level you can spend Ki to add your martial arts die in as well. They will count as magic, you can gain advantage with them for a round, etc.
 

the Jester

Legend
My strong- STRONG- recommendation is to never try to use anything from that wiki in play. It's awful, almost universally; the mechanics are pretty much always broken as presented. If one of my players brings something from the dndwiki to me, I reject it out of hand. Experience has shown me that it is basically never worth the effort required to fix things from it, and I am more inclined to custom build something for a pc than to allow a dndwiki thing into my campaign.

That said, I think Blue covered the specifics on it: out of balance, and fairly extremely so.

EDIT: All that said, if your DM is allowing it, that's his or her choice! I hope it works out for you and everyone has fun.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
It bothers me that the site is presented as a 'wiki'. It's just a collection of anonymous house rules.
 
[MENTION=20564]Blue[/MENTION], The monk already gets a save-or-die power baseline. It's Quivering Palm. I can understand the rest of that though, for sure. Too bad, I really like it thematically. I might take a crack at writing something myself, I'm not sure. I've kind of fallen in love with the concept at this point. It's a lot more interesting than playing a Ranger which was my fallback lol.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
@Blue, The monk already gets a save-or-die power baseline. It's Quivering Palm.
Oh, I misunderstood the disagreement here. Yeah, that ability is functionally identical to Quivering Palm, except at range (which makes it better) but at half the cost.

It's not 'baseline', though, it's a subclass ability.

And, yes, the "double monk damage" thing is just f-ing ridiculous.
 
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At 17th level.

And it's not baseline, it's a subclass ability.
You're right, I missed it was in a subclass. No need to get all hostile with the bold and whatnot. It was being compared to a different 17th level subclass ability.

Edit: Oh now I see the edit lol. Sorry
 
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Mort

Community Supporter
Fatal Shot - no, 5e doesn't do save-or-die. Absolutely no "regardless of HPs reduce to 0" powers.
I agree with most of your assessment, but this ability is just quivering palm, but twice as expensive and at range - also without the ability to delay like quivering palm has.

That said, this ability, at firearm range, is likely too much.

Edit: beaten to the punch.


Also, double monk damage, at range is also too much.
 
Okay, so full disclosure: I just got a tooth pulled and I may not be thinking at my 100%. I encourage anyone to double check my math.

Comparing the Way of the Pistol, I actually found things to be (mostly) balanced between the Kensei and the Pistol monk. I'm going to do a side by side comparison of each of their abilities and damage potential along with any other factors I find applicable. This assumes 16 dex from 1-4, 18 dex from 4-7, and 20 dex after.

3rd level:
Kensei in melee can do 1d8+1d4+2*dex for 13 damage, or 1d8+2d4+3*dex for 18.5 damage with flurry
Pistol in melee can do 1d6+2d4+2*dex for 14.5 damage, or 1d6+2d4+3*dex for 17.5 damage with flurry.

Kensei at range can do 1d8+1d4+dex for 10 damage
Pistol at range can do 2d4+dex for 8 damage.

So out of the gate the Kensei is doing 2 more damage per shot at range, while the Pistol is doing 1.5 more damage in melee normally, or 1 damage less with a flurry in addition to sometimes having to use a ki point to reload occasionally.
The Kensei has the option to lower their damage by 2 for a 2 point AC increase, and the Pistol has the option to spread the damage between melee and ranged. All in all I'd say the two are fairly balanced between the two at this level. I could see arguments being made for either being the stronger of the two, but I think it's close.

6th level:
Kensei in melee is doing 2d8+1d6+3*dex for 24.5 damage, or 2d8+2d6+4*dex for 32 damage with flurry.
Pistol in melee is doing 4d6+3*dex for for 26 damage, or 4d6+4*dex for 30 damage with flurry.

Kensei at range is doing 2d8+2d4+2*dex for 22 damage
Pistol at range is doing 4d6+2*dex for 22 damage

Kensei gains the ability to expend a ki point to deal an extra 1d6 damage, Pistol gains the ability to spend a ki point to attempt to disarm an opponent, but only at range. Both of these are fairly situational, but I think the Pistol's is better. Kensei can alpha strike a little bit better (at a terrible cost to damage ratio) Pistol can disarm opponents, but that only works if the opponent is actually holding anything. Pistol caught up in range, and is still 1.5 more damage in melee but is now 2 damage behind with flurry damage and is more likely to have to spend ki points to reload since they're shooting twice per round now.

11th level:
The math starts to get murky here because of the Kensei's Sharpen the Blade ability occasionally granting up to +3 on attack and damage rolls and the Pistol's Zen Marksmanship ability (which I agree needs to be workshopped or scrapped)

Kensei in melee is doing 3d8+3*dex for 28.5 damage, or 4d8+4*dex for 38 damage with flurry.
If the Kensei Sharpens the blade these increase to 3d8+3*dex+6 for 34.5 damage, or 4d8+4*dex+6 for 40 damage with flurry, with a +3 to all weapon attack rolls.

Pistol in melee is doing 4d8+3*dex for 33 damage, or 4d8+4*dex for 38 damage with flurry.

Kensei at range is doing 2d8+2d4+2*dex for 24 damage
If the Kensei Sharpens the Blade this increases to 2d8+2d4+2*dex+6 for 30 damage, with a +3 to all attack rolls.

Pistol at range is doing 4d8+2*dex for 28 damage.

At this point Pistol has almost totally eclipsed the Kensei at range, and is usually better than the Kensei in melee. However if the Kensei Sharpens the Blade it still pulls ahead in damage, and has a massive boost to accuracy to boot which can't be discredited. At this point it sort of boils down to individual campaign styles and how often groups take rests to regain ki points. For shorter days or those with frequent rests, the Kensei pulls ahead. For longer days where Ki points are more scarce, Pistol is better.

17th level:

Kensei in melee is doing 3d10+3*dex for 31.5 damage, or 4d10+4*dex for 42 damage with flurry.
If the Kensei Sharpens the Blade these increase to 3d10+3*dex+6 for 37.5 damage, or 4d10+4*dex+6 for 48 damage with flurry, with +3 to all weapon attack rolls.

Pistol in melee is doing 4d10+3*dex for 37 damage, or 4d10+4*dex for 42 damage with flurry.

Kensei at range is doing 2d8+2d4+2*dex for 22 damage.
If the Kensei Sharpens the Blade this increases to 2d8+2d4+2*dex+6 for 30 damage, with a +3 to all attack rolls.

Pistol at range is doing 4d10+dex*2 for 32 damage.

Kensei at this level gets Unerring Accuracy for free rerolls, and combined with Sharpen the Blade should ensure the Kensei almost never misses. Pistol at this level gets Fatal shot, which at the cost of 6 ki points can kill a target outright, or do 10d10 damage for 55 damage. It is worth noting that this can miss and those 6 ki points are wasted.

The Pistol at this point completely trumps the Kensei in terms of ranged damage, but the Kensei can keep up with the Pistol in melee and surpasses it when sharpening the blade, and with Unerring Accuracy it has far, far better accuracy than the Kensei. I would wager that with the accuracy increases the Kensei's damage still pulls out ahead in the end in melee, and in comparable in range but I don't quite know enough about the accuracy math to say that 100% true.


My personal conclusions:

TLDR, the Pistol subclass isn't as overpowered at it might first appear, and is in fact balanced quite well against the Kensei monk. It's Zen Marksmanship ability needs to either be scrapped entirely or heavily reworked, but that's the only major flaw I could find with it personally.
 
Sun Soul is the subclass to base another ranged subclass from.
Yeah I can definitely see the comparison. I think it has more in common with Kensei though for a couple of reasons. Sun Soul really wants to be a ranged blaster, and gets a few interesting AoE options as well. near as I can tell Sun Soul never wants to be in melee if it can avoid it since it's damage really stays the same at any range. Kensei and Pistol both use weapons, lack AoE options, and they both have motivation to try and to weave in and out of melee.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
If the pistol subclass is truly balanced with the kensei, then just play a kensei and take the Gunslinger feat.
 
The big appeal for me was the bonus action shot. I feel like Kensei is an overall better subclass, but Pistol fulfills the fantasy of weaving guns and martial arts a lot better. Minus the, uh, sex appeal I really just wanna do this. Kensei doesn't *quite* get me there, but Pistol is like a perfect match which why I got so excited when I saw it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIOxsYDHWGc

Edit: So with my number crunching, what would you all propose to bring it in line with the other subclasses? Obviously rework Zen Marksmanship (which I'm unsure of what to do with) and maybe drop the scaling on the guns so it's just gun damage instead of 2*unarmed damage? I was thinking of something along the lines of at level 6, if you make a melee attack you can flurry with the guns. This still keeps it mixing melee with ranged attacks, but makes it distinct enough from the Sun Soul monk which can do full flurries at range.
 
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ad_hoc

Adventurer
Yeah I can definitely see the comparison. I think it has more in common with Kensei though for a couple of reasons. Sun Soul really wants to be a ranged blaster, and gets a few interesting AoE options as well. near as I can tell Sun Soul never wants to be in melee if it can avoid it since it's damage really stays the same at any range. Kensei and Pistol both use weapons, lack AoE options, and they both have motivation to try and to weave in and out of melee.
You should take another look at the Sun Soul.

They do better in melee than ranged. Their ranged attack is just a way to attack if they can't get to melee. They can't Stunning Strike with it for example which is a Monk's best ability.

They also want to be up close in order to Burning Hands.

Fireball comes much later and is again, a back up option. Having a 3rd level spell at level 11+ is nothing special but it is there as an option.

I don't understand why a gun subclass would get melee abilities.
 
You should take another look at the Sun Soul.

They do better in melee than ranged. Their ranged attack is just a way to attack if they can't get to melee. They can't Stunning Strike with it for example which is a Monk's best ability.

They also want to be up close in order to Burning Hands.

Fireball comes much later and is again, a back up option. Having a 3rd level spell at level 11+ is nothing special but it is there as an option.

I don't understand why a gun subclass would get melee abilities.
Mmkay, I see that. I always pictured them as more blasters than anything but you raise a fair point with Stunning Strike

But take a look at the video I linked. It's about rule of cool more than anything. I find Gun Kata to be absolutely wickedly awesome and I want to do THAT, and I'm trying to find a way to make it work. Kensei is close, but doesn't quite get me there. Pistol is the closest thing I've found and I want to make that happen. Sun Soul is awesome, and I've got a Sun Soul monk I'm wanting to play someday, but she's definitely not for a cowboy game. Playing a cool awesome martial arts cowboy kick and shooting dudes at the same time sounds like more or less the coolest thing imaginable and that's where the fantasy lies.

Edit: And like I said I want to workshop it. I know it needs work, I'm really just wanting some help getting there.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Anyway, you should watch the final scene in Kurosawa's Yojimbo before you make any decisions about sword vs. pistol....
 

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