Guns & Gears, the latest sourcebook for Pathfinder Second Edition (PF2) features a few things that Pathfinder fans have been clamoring for ever since the game’s inception. Not only do we get two new classes, the Inventory and the Gunslinger, but we also get the Automaton ancestry!
Say what you want about your fantasy settings and whether or not you should have gunpowder in them. At the end of the day, this is a world of magic and including gunpowder and mechanics around…mechanics…opens the setting possibilities to have a more steampunky feel. The best part about supplements for Pathfinder is that you can pick and choose the options that best fit your table and the games that you’re running.
With the release of Guns & Gears, Pathfinder Second Edition officially has 20 playable classes! It’s kind of wild to think about that, considering that PF2 has been around for just over two years, and the amount of character options has breezed past D&D 5E, which has 14 classes if you include the Critical Role Blood Hunter class. That’s amazing for Paizo and Pathfinder players!
Without further fanfare, let’s get into the details of the book!
Guns & Gears: Who It’s For
First of all, I’m really happy with how the information in the book is split out. The writers describe Guns & Gears as functionally existing as three books in one package. You have the Gears section, featuring the Inventor and Automaton, as well as mechanical innovation rules and technology. The Guns section has the Gunslinger, firearm mechanics, and gear customization. The final section is The Rotating Gear which talks about how the contents of the other two books are present in different parts of Golarion.
If you’re primarily a player, the first two sections are definitely for you. This is basically where all of the player options come to light, whereas The Rotating Gear might give you some fun ideas for backstory and how your character was shaped by their surroundings and upbringing. Were they neck-deep in the naval battles in the Shackles? Or maybe they were an apprentice mechanic who helped construct the Black Ephemeron in Alkenstar.
Gamemasters will appreciate The Rotating Gear the most, especially for its worldbuilding and lore. In a certain way, this feels like it belongs in a Lost Omens tome like the World Guide, but obviously it’s all geared towards mechanisms, black powder, and tech. Depending on the role of such whimsical equipment at your table, there is even a table to introduce mechanical errors to gadgets, which is perfect for a world where black powder is still quite new and novel.
Perhaps the best advantage of the formatting in Guns & Gears is that Gamemasters can explicitly have their players only use options from the Gears section, the Guns section, or both. There’s a very nice even split between everything with not much overlap. I know that personally I’m much more willing to have clockwork apparatuses in my campaigns than black powder devices, and this makes the distinction quite easy for everyone involved.
Some of the art looks like it could slide right into any Starfinder sourcebook. You have integrated Firearms in a shiny, silvery automaton next to Rare Breath Blasters made from beasts. The book is filled with really fun and zany firearms, as well as plenty of archetypes to keep your characters on the cutting edge of technology.
Guns & Gears: The Best Parts
Now let’s take a look at my top three takeaways from Guns & Gears. These are things that caught my eye when reading through the book, and the things I’m most excited to bring to the table.
Beast Gunner (Pg 130)
This archetype is all about combining the natural with the man-made. Beast Gunners are primarily from Arcadia and bond to their beast gun through a complex ritual. At the center of this ritual is the hunt, giving off really strong Aloy Horizon Zero Dawn vibes. During the ritual, the prospective beast gunner must take down the beast on relatively fair footing. Sure, you can have help, but if the beast never stands a chance then the magic isn’t going to stick.
You can find many details of the various Beast Guns under the Fantasy Firearms section on page 154. They all have some really fun mechanics like replenishing ammunition, functioning like spells, or even simulating the effects of a dragon’s breath weapon. The additional feat options open the door to spellcasting, taking out multiple targets with a single shot, and even mastering the magic of the connection between you and your firearm.
Sterling Dynamo (Pg 52)
The Sterling Dynamo is an archetype that centers around your sterling dynamo prosthesis. Out of the gate, this allows your sterling dynamo to function as a melee weapon as well as the potential to make it more modular in the future. You can even take the Modular Dynamo feat multiple times to be ready for every situation and adapt accordingly.
What I really like about the Sterling Dynamo is that it gives more options for melee characters, and it’s all about utility which is my bread and butter as a player. This also goes hand-in-hand with Lost Omens: The Grand Bazaar, which introduced and discussed prosthetics at length. I appreciate the fact that Golarion is a world for everyone.
Ustalav: Spark and Shadow (Pg 225)
Now, there’s a section about The Shackles and piracy, but I’m much more interested in the implications of Guns & Gears in Ustalav. This section has a bunch of smaller pieces about various aspects of Ustalav’s involvement in the technological advances of Golarion. For example, you have Galvanic Hearts of the Dead, which essentially function as devices that can reanimate corpses through constant electrical pulses. Or the vivisectionist’s songbirds that are animals combined with technology that creates some terrifying implications.
The reason why I like this section so much is that it serves as a rapid-fire hitting ground for lore. Ustalav is already the de facto horror setting in Golarion, and this amps everything up to 11. How does lycanthropy fit into the greater story of Golarion tech? Can Doctor Ostrea truly extract nightmares or implant dreams into people? Are the terrors of the Dark Tapestry present in Zefirendi’s lace? This is an incredibly creative section that warrants your attention.
Guns & Gears: Parting Thoughts
Well Pathfinder fans, you can put down your megaphones: Paizo is listening. You have your Gunslinger, and so much more! Guns & Gears certainly is another ambitious addition to the Pathfinder Second Edition ruleset. And, like I said above, just because it’s in the book doesn’t mean that you need to automatically have it at your tables. Pick and choose what will bring the most fun for everyone.
All aboard the Clunkerjunker everybody! Guns and gears have arrived in Golarion! The adventures are only just beginning.
[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Guns & Gears from Paizo in exchange for an honest review.]