It’s Western Week here at Necromancers of the Northwest, and that means that today’s article is going to scratch your cowboy itch. We’ve already done an archetype for gunslingers this year, so rather than go that route, I’ve brought you a whole new base class that attempts to capture the elements of trick shooting and trick riding in a different way from how the gunslinger handles it, and throws in a few cowboy-specific tropes as well.
New Base Class
Used to making their way in harsh and rural environments, vaqueros are masterful riders and skilled combatants, who train tirelessly to master special weapon and riding tricks. Although many are ranchers or livestock herders by trade, many vaqueros are bandits, lawmen, or simple wanderers.
Role: Vaqueros are daring and clever combatants who rely on the use of a variety of specialized tricks and training with a particular type of weapon to perform incredible feats on the battlefield. Mounted combatants, they often fight from a range, using their mobility and range to harry foes.
Hit Die: d10.
Starting Wealth: 5d6 x 10 (average 175 gp). In addition, each character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gp or less, and the vaquero begins with his starting weapon.
A vaquero’s class skills are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (local) (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str).
Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.
The following are the class features of the vaquero.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Vaqueros are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, and with light armor.
Favored Weapon: At 1st level, a vaquero chooses one of the following types of weapons to specialize in: one-handed firearms, two-handed firearms, or whips. He gains proficiency with all weapons of the chosen type. Additionally, he is treated as having the Weapon Focus feat for all weapons of the chosen type. At 4th, 9th, 15th, and 20th levels, the vaquero learns a special trick that he can perform with weapons of the chosen type. The different weapon tricks for each type of weapon are listed at the end of this section.
If the vaquero chooses to specialize in one-handed firearms, he begins play with a pistol, and if he chooses to specialize in two-handed firearms, he begins play with a musket. If he chooses to specialize in whips, he begins play with a masterwork whip. Regardless of which weapon he starts with, the weapon is battered, and only the vaquero knows how to use it properly. All others treat his weapon as if it had the broken condition. If the weapon already has the broken condition, it does not work at all for anyone else trying to use it. The weapon can only be sold for scrap, and is worth only 4d6 gp if sold. If the vaquero chose either type of firearm to specialize in, he gains Gunsmithing as a bonus feat. If he chose to specialize in whips, he gains Weapon Finesse as a bonus feat instead. For more information on firearms, see Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Combat.
Horsemanship (Ex): A vaquero is an expert rider, able to make the most of any mount he rides. He gains a bonus equal to 1/2 his class level (minimum +1) on all Ride checks. Additionally, any mount he is riding uses either its normal Dexterity bonus to AC, or the vaquero’s Dexterity bonus to AC, whichever is higher, and any dodge bonus to AC that the vaquero benefits from applies to any mount he is riding, as well, as long as both the vaquero and the mount are wearing light armor or no armor.
Mount (Ex): A vaquero gains the service of a loyal and trusty steed to carry him into battle. This mount functions as a druid’s animal companion, using the vaquero’s level as his effective druid level. The creature must be one that he is capable of riding and is suitable as a mount. A Medium vaquero can select a camel or a horse. A Small vaquero can select a pony or wolf, but can also select a boar or a dog if he is at least 4th level. The GM might approve other animals as suitable mounts.
The mount is always considered combat trained and begins play with Light Armor Proficiency as a bonus feat. A vaquero’s mount does not gain the share spells special ability.
A vaquero’s bond with his mount is strong, with the pair learning to anticipate each other’s moods and moves. Should a vaquero’s mount die, the vaquero may find another mount to serve him after 1 week of mourning. This new mount does not gain the link, evasion, devotion, or improved evasion special abilities until the next time the vaquero gains a level.
Bonus Feat: At 2nd level, and every three levels thereafter, a vaquero gains a bonus combat feat for which he meets the prerequisites. For the purposes of meeting the prerequisites of these bonus feats (but not other feats), the vaquero is treated as though he were a fighter whose class level were 4 lower than his vaquero level (for example, at 5th level, he would qualify for feats with a prerequisite of “fighter level 1st,” and at 8th level he would qualify for feats with a prerequisite of “fighter level 4th”).
Nimble (Ex): At 2nd level, a vaquero gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC while wearing light or no armor. Anything that causes the vaquero to lose his Dexterity bonus to AC also causes him to lose this dodge bonus. This bonus increases by 1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd (to a maximum of +5 at 18th level).
Survivalist (Ex): By 3rd level, a vaquero is experienced enough at wandering in harsh environments that he becomes an expert at handling dangerous terrain. He constantly gains the benefits of the endure elements spell. Additionally, he gains a +2 bonus on Survival checks, as well as Fortitude saves and Constitution checks made to resist the effects of harsh terrain, forced marches, fatigue and exhaustion, and similar effects and hazards.
Riding Trick (Ex): At 7th level, and every six levels thereafter, a vaquero learns a special trick that he can perform while riding his mount. He may select any of the following riding tricks.
Improved Cover: When using the Ride skill to gain cover from your mount, you are able to hang from the side of your mount without the use of your hands, allowing you to attack and cast spells while using your mount as cover. Additionally, you can make Stealth checks (opposed by onlookers’ Perception checks) while using your mount as cover in order to make it appear that your mount has no rider.
Quick Spur: You can make a Ride check to spur your mount as a swift action, rather than a move action. Additionally, when you spur your mount, its movement speed increases by 30 feet, rather than 10 feet.
Second Mount: You are able to control a second mount while riding. If you have the standing rider riding trick, you may stand with one foot on each mount, straddling them both. Otherwise, you ride one mount, and lead the other by holding its reins (or similar) in your hands. While controlling two mounts in this way, both mounts must remain adjacent to one another at all times, and you must succeed on a DC 15 Ride check at the beginning of your turn each round, or you lose control of the second mount.
Standing Rider: You can control your mount while standing atop its back, rather than riding it normally. It is a swift action to switch between normal riding and standing riding. You must succeed on a DC 15 Acrobatics check each round that you ride in this way. While riding in this fashion, you are treated as having higher ground against other mounted opponents who are not standing and are riding mounts of the same size category as yours, as well as against creatures that are the same size category as your mount. Additionally, you gain a +1 dodge bonus to AC and Reflex saves as long as you are riding in this fashion. Finally, you automatically succeed on any attempts to fast dismount made when you are riding a mount while standing.
Switch Mounts: You can jump from one mount to another, landing in the saddle and ready to ride. This functions as normal for using Acrobatics to jump from one surface to another, but if you succeed, you automatically land in a position where you can ride the new mount, and can immediately make a Ride check (DC 15) to gain control of that mount. If the mount already has a rider, or cannot generally be controlled with Ride checks (such as if it is not trained as a mount, or is intelligent and unwilling to bear you as a passenger), you simply land in a position where you are comfortably riding the creature. If you are not standing when you make the leap (with the use of the standing rider riding trick) you suffer a –5 penalty on the Acrobatics check.
Whistling Call: You can summon your mount from great distances by performing a special whistling call as a swift action. By default, this whistling call can be heard by the mount at a range of up to 1 mile, although at the GM’s discretion, certain obstacles or other noise may diminish this distance. If your mount hears the call, it will immediately attempt to follow it to its source, using whatever means necessary to reach you. In addition to being able to use this ability to call the mount granted by your mount class feature, you can also train other animals to respond to a special whistling call. For any animal other than your special mount, however, this counts as a trick, requires a DC 20 Handle Animal check to teach, and can only be taught to animals that already know the come trick.
Reputation (Ex): At 12th level, a vaquero gains a special reputation, based on his deeds to date. He may choose one of the following reputations for which he qualifies, and gain its benefits. If a vaquero ceases to qualify for the reputation he has selected, he loses the benefits of that reputation until he once again qualifies. Whenever the vaquero gains a new level, he may choose to change his reputation to a different one for which he qualifies.
Hero: The vaquero gains a +4 bonus on Diplomacy checks and a +2 bonus on saving throws. Only good-aligned vaqueros can gain this reputation.
Lawman: The vaquero gains a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks and a +2 bonus on saving throws. Only lawful-aligned vaqueros can gain this reputation.
Loner: The vaquero gains a +2 bonus on all skill checks.
Notorious: The vaquero gains a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks and a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls. Only evil-aligned vaqueros can gain this reputation.
Outlaw: The vaquero gains a +4 bonus on Bluff checks and a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls. Only chaotic-aligned vaqueros can gain this reputation.
Ought to be Dead (Ex): By 16th level, a vaquero has had enough brushes with death that he has become exceptionally good at surviving otherwise-lethal situations. Once per day, when the vaquero would otherwise die, he can attempt a Fortitude save to narrowly avoid death, instead.
If the vaquero would die due to damage, then the DC of the Fortitude save is equal to 10 + 1/5 the amount of damage dealt, and the vaquero is left at –1 hit points, unconscious and stable (if he was already at a lower hit point total, his hit points do not change).
If the vaquero would die due to a death effect, then the DC of the Fortitude save is equal to the death effect’s normal Fortitude saving throw DC (if the death effect doesn’t normally allow a saving throw, it is instead equal to 15 + 1/2 the vaquero’s class level), and the vaquero is left at –1 hit points, unconscious and stable (if he was already at a lower hit point total, his hit points do not change).
This ability applies only to a single source of damage: if the vaquero uses this ability on the first attack made in a full-attack action, subsequent attacks made as part of that full-attack are not affected.
Whenever the vaquero uses this ability, he can make a Bluff check (opposed by opponents’ Perception checks) to make it look as though he actually died. A successful DC 15 Heal check, made as a standard action while adjacent to the vaquero, will confirm he is still alive, regardless of the result of his Bluff check.
The following section lists the weapon tricks a vaquero gains based on his choice of favored weapon.
Fast Draw (Ex): At 4th level, a vaquero who specializes in one-handed firearms is able to draw his weapon with exceptional speed. He gains a bonus on initiative checks equal to 1/4 his class level. Additionally, he gains the benefits of the Quick Draw feat, but only for the purposes of drawing one-handed firearms. Finally, when firing a one-handed firearm at a creature that hasn’t acted yet that combat, the vaquero gains a +2 circumstance bonus on attack and damage rolls.
Ricochet Shot (Ex): At 9th level, a vaquero who specializes in one-handed firearms is able to shoot in such a way that his bullet ricochets off another object and hits his target from an angle. As a full-round action, he can make a single attack with a one-handed firearm. This attack is treated as though the distance between the vaquero and the target were twice what it actually is for the purposes of determining range penalties and effects such as whether the attack is resolved against the target’s touch AC, but it ignores cover, including total cover. While the bullet is capable of ricocheting along improbable and sometimes even impossible paths, it cannot pass through solid objects, and so sources of cover that completely enclose the target (such as a resilient sphere, or a wall of force that completely blocks a stone corridor, etc.) apply normally.
Hip Shot (Ex): At 15th level, a vaquero that specializes in one-handed firearms is so adept at firing them swiftly that he can get a shot off even while drawing his weapon. As an immediate action, when a vaquero draws a one-handed firearm, he can make a single attack with that firearm, albeit at a –5 penalty. The first time each combat that the vaquero uses this ability, the target is treated as flat-footed, even if they aren’t actually (creatures that can’t be caught flat-footed, such as those with uncanny dodge, are not considered flat-footed in this way).
Deadly Barrage (Ex): At 20th level, a vaquero who specializes in one-handed firearms can unleash a deadly barrage of bullets at incredible speed. As a full-round action, he can make a total of six attacks with a single one-handed firearm. He can make these attacks regardless of the firearm’s capacity or remaining bullets, as he is able to reload the firearm with enough speed to complete the barrage (he must still have sufficient ammunition). All attacks made in this way are made at his full base attack bonus minus 10, and are otherwise resolved normally.
Distance Shot (Ex): By 4th level, a vaquero who specializes in two-handed firearms is able to fire them accurately at a greater range. When firing a two-handed firearm, he resolves attacks made with the firearm against the target’s touch AC at up to one additional range increment (the first two range increments for early firearms, or the first six range increments for advanced firearms).
Penetrating Shot (Ex): At 9th level, a vaquero who specializes in two-handed firearms is able to fire them effectively through opponents’ armor. As a standard action, he can make a single attack with a two-handed firearm. If the attack hits, it deals damage to the target as normal, and also deals an equal amount of damage to any armor the target may be wearing.
Careful Aim (Ex): At 15th level, a vaquero who specializes in two-handed firearms can spend a move action to carefully line up a shot, taking aim on a target he can see. If he does, he gains a +5 circumstance bonus to attack and damage for the next attack he makes against that creature with a two-handed firearm, and he treats the weapon’s critical threat range as 2 higher than it actually is (for example, a two-handed firearm that normally threatened a critical hit on a roll of 20 would threaten one on a roll of 18-20, instead). This stacks with other increases to the weapon’s threat range. If the vaquero does not make an attack against the target by the end of his next turn, the benefit is wasted. Multiple instances of this ability do not stack, but each additional move action the vaquero uses to aim in this way before making his shot, the circumstance bonus to attack and damage increases by +2.
Sniper (Ex): At 20th level, a vaquero who specializes in two-handed firearms can strike down foes from incredible distances. He suffers only half the normal penalty due to range on attack rolls made with two-handed firearms. Further, he can make attacks with two-handed firearms at up to 15 range increments, rather than the usual limit of 10. Finally, when making attacks with a two-handed firearm, he resolves attacks against touch AC if the target is within the first five range increments (for early firearms), or the first ten range increments (for advanced firearms).
Combat Whip (Ex): By 4th level, a vaquero who specializes in whips knows how to use them to fight effectively in combat. When wielding a whip, he can choose for it to deal lethal or nonlethal damage, and suffers no penalty for having it deal lethal damage instead of nonlethal damage. Additionally, attacks he makes with a whip are able to damage opponents regardless of what armor or natural armor they may possess, and he does not provoke attacks of opportunity for making attacks with a whip.
Fine Manipulation (Ex): At 9th level, a vaquero who specializes in whips is able to use them with incredible finesse and delicacy. He gains a +4 bonus on all combat maneuvers he makes with a whip. Additionally, when he uses a whip to perform a dirty trick, drag, reposition, or steal combat maneuver, he can make those combat maneuvers in place of an attack, rather than having to do so as a standard action.
Sonic Boom (Ex): At 15th level, a vaquero who specializes in whips is able to crack his whip at supersonic speeds. Whenever he makes an attack with a whip, he may choose to have that attack deal an additional 1d6 points of sonic damage.
Threatening Whip (Ex): At 20th level, a vaquero who specializes in whips is able to use them to strike with lightning speed, responding to the actions of his foes. When wielding a whip, he threatens all spaces within the whip’s reach.