DD 5e Gunslinger
by Samuel James in
DnD Classes

Dungeons & Dragons, the granddaddy of all tabletop RPGs, is a game steeped in fantasy. From brave paladins battling dragons to cunning rogues navigating the shadowy underworld, D&D offers a multitude of character options to suit every player’s imagination. Yet, among these fantasy archetypes, there exists a class that brings a touch of the Old West into this high fantasy setting—the Gunslinger.

The Gunslinger is a unique breed of adventurer, their firearms echoing through the valleys and caverns usually filled with the hum of spells and clash of swords. Stepping away from the traditional archetypes, they bring an exhilarating and tactical flair to your D&D 5e game, offering both exciting combat mechanics and unique role-playing opportunities.

Understanding how to navigate the Gunslinger’s abilities and make the most out of their firearms is key to mastering this daring class. Whether you’re an experienced player looking to try something new, or a Dungeon Master wanting to introduce more varied combat scenarios, our ultimate D&D 5e Gunslinger guide is here to help.

So buckle up, adventurers. We’re about to dive deep into the Gunslinger’s origins, unique traits, combat strategies, and much more. Whether you’re gunning down goblins or negotiating with nobles, we’ll make sure your Gunslinger is always the quickest draw at the table.

Historical Origins of the Gunslinger

Before we delve into the mechanics of the Gunslinger in D&D, it’s valuable to understand where this archetype originates. This context helps in understanding their ethos and in adding depth to your role-playing experience.

In the wide world of literature and film, the Gunslinger is a figure that embodies the spirit of the wild, untamed frontier. They are typically depicted as fearless, often solitary figures, bound by a personal code of honor. While their weapon of choice, the firearm, signifies advancement and modernity, the Gunslinger themselves are often portrayed as relics of a bygone era, fiercely independent and navigating the tensions between civilization and wilderness.

From the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone featuring characters like the ‘Man with No Name’ to Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ series with its protagonist, Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger is a character that signifies grit, resolve, and a unique blend of martial prowess and craftiness. They thrive in chaos, embodying a certain ‘wildness’ that sets them apart from the order of more traditional fantasy archetypes.

The transition of the Gunslinger archetype to role-playing games, and particularly D&D, presents an interesting blend of fantasy and western elements. The class first made its appearance in D&D with the Pathfinder role-playing game system as a character class. It was later adapted to D&D 5e by the renowned Dungeon Master and voice actor Matthew Mercer for his homebrew campaign setting, ‘Critical Role.’

In D&D, the Gunslinger brings the raw energy and innovative flair of the wild west to a high fantasy setting. With a firearm in hand and a steely glint in their eye, the Gunslinger offers a unique and refreshing gameplay experience, expanding the horizons of combat possibilities while introducing fresh role-playing perspectives. So, let’s explore how this class is brought to life in the realm of D&D 5e.

Understanding the Gunslinger in D&D 5e

The Gunslinger in D&D 5e isn’t an official class, but a Fighter Archetype available at the 3rd level for Fighter characters. Originally created by Matthew Mercer for his homebrew setting of Critical Role, the Gunslinger is a unique subclass that takes the traditional Fighter class and retools it to accommodate the innovative and tactical use of firearms.

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In essence, a Gunslinger is a martial adept, a warrior who focuses on ranged combat, primarily using guns, which are a rarity in most D&D settings. The use of such weaponry often sets Gunslingers apart, marking them as individuals of ingenuity and daring. Adventuring Gunslingers might be seen as pioneers, technologists, or dangerous outliers, depending on the norms of the societies they encounter.

One of the distinguishing traits of a Gunslinger is their intimate bond with their weapon. A Gunslinger’s firearm isn’t just a tool, but an extension of themselves, an instrument they must master and maintain with utmost care. This relationship between the Gunslinger and their firearm is underlined by mechanics such as the ‘Gunsmith’ feature, which allows a Gunslinger to craft their firearms, and the ‘Trick Shot’ feature, which provides them a set of creative maneuvers they can perform with their weapon.

Another defining aspect of the Gunslinger is their spirit of daring and innovation. In contrast to other martial classes that often rely on traditional tactics and ancestral weapons, a Gunslinger is a trailblazer, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in combat. This is embodied in their ‘Grit’ feature, a mechanic that rewards Gunslingers with special points for performing daring feats and using them to execute powerful, cinematic shots.

Playing a Gunslinger effectively requires a keen understanding of these unique mechanics, as well as a willingness to embrace the risk and reward that come with the use of firearms.

Primary ClassFighter (Gunslinger is a martial archetype of the Fighter class)
Primary Ability ScoresDexterity (for firearm accuracy), Wisdom (for Grit points)
Secondary Ability ScoreConstitution (for hit points and resilience)
Recommended RacesHumans (Variant), Halflings, Elves (Wood Elves)
Recommended BackgroundsSoldier, Outlander, Guild Artisan (Guild Merchant)
Key Class FeaturesFirearm Proficiency, Gunsmith, Grit, Deadeye Shot, Violent Shot, Trick Shot, Quickdraw, Lightning Reload
Recommended SkillsPerception, Acrobatics
Recommended FeatsSharpshooter, Mobile
Hit Diced10
Armor ProficienciesAll Armor, Shields
Weapon ProficienciesSimple Weapons, Martial Weapons, Firearms
Tool ProficienciesTinker’s Tools
Saving ThrowsStrength, Constitution
Combat RoleRanged Damage, Battlefield Control

Choosing Your Race and Background

Creating a compelling and effective Gunslinger starts with choosing the right race and background. In D&D 5e, your character’s race and background can greatly influence their abilities and backstory. While any race or background can theoretically be combined with any class, some options naturally synergize with the Gunslinger’s class features.

When choosing a race for your Gunslinger, consider races that offer bonuses to Dexterity and Wisdom. Dexterity is crucial as it affects your accuracy with firearms, and Wisdom fuels your Grit points, which are essential for Gunslinger’s special features.

Here are a few options that work well:

  1. Humans: Always a solid choice, the variant human can get a +1 to both Dexterity and Wisdom, and the free feat can be extremely beneficial, particularly if you choose something like Sharpshooter.
  2. Halflings: Their +2 to Dexterity is perfect for a Gunslinger, and their Lucky feature can potentially save you from a devastating misfire.
  3. Elves (Wood Elves): With a +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Wisdom, Wood Elves are an excellent choice. Their Mask of The Wild also makes them adept at ambush tactics.

Once you’ve chosen your race, it’s time to pick a background. This not only provides additional skills but also helps to define your character’s history and motivations. For a Gunslinger, a background that adds depth to their persona or enhances their combat prowess is ideal.

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Consider the following options:

  1. Soldier: Ideal for a more combat-focused Gunslinger, this background gives you proficiency in Athletics and Intimidation, along with a Military Rank feature which could lend itself to an interesting backstory.
  2. Outlander: For those wishing to lean into the ‘wild frontier’ aspect of the Gunslinger, the Outlander gives you proficiency in Athletics and Survival, fitting for a character living on the edge of civilization.
  3. Guild Artisan (Guild Merchant): For a character who crafts their firearms, this background provides proficiency in Insight and Persuasion, and adds a trade-oriented background story to your character.

Remember, the purpose of the race and background is not just about the mechanical benefits, but also about creating a character with depth and backstory. Choose options that resonate with your vision of your Gunslinger, and that will make the game more enjoyable for you.

Gunslinger Class Features

To truly excel as a Gunslinger, it’s vital to have a comprehensive understanding of the class features that define this unique fighter archetype. These class features not only give the Gunslinger their distinctive flair on the battlefield but also open up a wealth of strategic and role-playing opportunities.

The Gunslinger’s class features kick in at the 3rd level when a Fighter chooses to adopt this martial archetype. Let’s delve into these features and discuss how you can use them effectively:

  1. Firearm Proficiency: As a Gunslinger, you gain proficiency in firearms, allowing you to wield these devastating weapons on your adventures. This proficiency is your ticket to ranged combat, enabling you to deal substantial damage from a distance.
  2. Gunsmith: This feature allows you to craft and maintain your own firearms. Understanding this feature is critical as it not only enables you to build and repair your weapons, but it also forms the foundation of your relationship with your guns.
  3. Grit: This mechanic embodies the Gunslinger’s spirit of daring and perseverance. You gain a number of grit points equal to your Wisdom modifier. You can spend grit points to perform special shots, and you regain one grit point each time you score a critical hit or deal a killing blow.
  4. Deadeye Shot: This is one of the special shots you can perform by spending a grit point. Deadeye Shot gives you advantage on your next attack roll, making it a great option when you absolutely need a shot to land.
  5. Violent Shot: By spending a grit point, you can deal extra damage on a hit. This is a high-risk, high-reward option, as a misfire will ruin the firearm.
  6. Trick Shot: This feature offers a series of creative maneuvers you can execute with your firearm, such as disarming an opponent or shooting through cover. Each trick requires a grit point to perform, adding an extra layer of tactical decision-making to your turns.
  7. Quickdraw: Reflecting the lightning-fast reflexes of a seasoned Gunslinger, this feature lets you add your proficiency bonus to your initiative.
  8. Lightning Reload: This allows you to reload as a bonus action, enhancing your efficiency in combat.

Remember, a good Gunslinger knows their features like the back of their hand and uses them creatively in response to different situations. Understanding these abilities is the key to not only unlocking the Gunslinger’s potential but also maximizing the fun you can have with this dynamic class.

Building Your Gunslinger

Once you’ve chosen your race and background and understood the unique features of the Gunslinger, it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of building your Gunslinger character. This will include optimizing your ability scores, choosing your skills and feats, and understanding the progression of your character.

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Ability Score Distribution: As a Gunslinger, your primary ability is Dexterity, which affects your ability to hit with ranged weapons, including your firearms. Wisdom is your secondary ability, determining the number of Grit points you have and the saving throw DCs of your Trick Shots. Constitution is also important as it influences your hit points and your ability to withstand damage. It’s recommended to use the point-buy system or standard array for balanced and fair gameplay.

Skills: As a Fighter, you can choose two skills from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival. Depending on your character concept, you might choose different skills, but Perception is generally useful for a character who needs to keep their distance from enemies, and Acrobatics can help you in tricky situations.

Feats: There are several feats that work well for a Gunslinger. Sharpshooter is a strong choice, allowing you to ignore cover and increasing your damage output significantly. If your campaign involves lots of maneuvering, the Mobile feat can enhance your ability to move around the battlefield.

Level Progression: As a Gunslinger, you’ll get your first class features at the 3rd level when you adopt the Gunslinger martial archetype. After that, your capabilities will increase as you gain levels. You’ll get an Ability Score Improvement at 4th level (and again at 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, and 19th level), which you can use to increase your Dexterity and Wisdom or to take a feat. You’ll get additional Trick Shots at 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level, and your firearm damage will increase at 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level. You’ll also get the Lightning Reload feature at 15th level, and the Vicious Intent feature at 18th level, both of which enhance your combat capabilities.

Remember, building your Gunslinger is not just about optimizing for combat, but also about creating a character that fits your desired playstyle and backstory. Consider your choices carefully and have fun with the process!

Roleplaying and Tactical Considerations for the Gunslinger

A Gunslinger is a dynamic and versatile class that requires careful thought in both role-playing and combat situations. Whether you’re standing your ground against a hoard of orcs or making your mark in a gritty, lawless frontier town, your approach as a Gunslinger will be shaped by your character’s backstory, their objectives, and the unique features of this class.

Roleplaying Your Gunslinger: Given their association with the wild west, Gunslingers often carry a certain mystique. They may be lone wolves, driven by a personal code, or they could be innovators, pushing the boundaries of technology in a predominantly medieval world. Use this to add depth to your role-playing. For instance, how does your Gunslinger feel about the rare and potentially disruptive technology they wield? Are they cautious, enthusiastic, or conflicted? Remember, the best characters are those with internal conflicts and evolving motivations.

Tactical Combat: Gunslingers, at their core, are fighters, skilled in the martial arts. But what sets them apart is their unique weapon – the firearm. Remember that a firearm can deal substantial damage but comes with the risk of misfires, which can disable your weapon. Always keep track of your ammunition and take full advantage of your class features like Trick Shots and Quickdraw. Use your Grit points wisely, spending them to gain advantage when you most need it, but try to regain them by scoring critical hits or kills.

Positioning: As a Gunslinger, positioning is crucial. Your firearm gives you the ability to damage enemies from a distance, so try to maintain a safe range whenever possible. Use the environment to your advantage, taking cover when needed and controlling the battlefield with your Trick Shots.

Party Dynamics: Every character brings something unique to a party, and as a Gunslinger, you can offer ranged damage and control. Communicate with your party members and plan your strategies together. Your abilities can complement those of your teammates, creating synergy and enhancing the group’s overall effectiveness.


The Gunslinger archetype in Dungeons & Dragons 5e offers an exciting and distinct gameplay experience for players looking to embark on daring feats of skill and ingenuity. Hailing from the mind of Matthew Mercer, it introduces firearms into a predominantly sword-and-sorcery setting, offering a fresh perspective on combat and character development.

Samuel James is a passionate writer with a love for MMO and ARPG games. When he's not busy exploring virtual worlds, he enjoys taking his dog for long walks and writing detailed gaming guides for XPGoblin. He also loves watching sci-fi films, with a particular fondness for the works of Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott.
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