Pistols are incredibly viable in Starfield; They are light-weight, gain damage via skill progression very quickly, and have quite the “cool” factor for a stealthy player.
This build is going to walk you through the starting traits, background, skills and equipment for the Pistolero build.
Let’s get started with the background.
Starfield Pistolero Build: Background, Traits & Skills
For the pistols-only build I’m recommending you start with Space Scoundrel; Obviously you want the initial point into Pistol Certification; This means right from the start you’ll be progressing on those pistol challenges. Piloting is going to be a useful skill later in the game, and Persuasion in general is something I typically recommend for stealthy players regardless.
Starting traits, I’d go with Introvert and Alien DNA, per usual. Since stealthy players should always avoid companions, Introvert is an easy choice, and healing items are plentiful enough to make Alien DNA not even feel like it has any negatives.
Physical Tree Skills
Much like my stealth sniper build, you’ll be putting a fair amount in here. The obvious one is Stealth: Max this as soon as possible. You’ll also be putting in the points to Concealment down the road, so my usual suggestion is to put 2 into Weight Lifting, 2 into Wellness, and 4 into Gymnastics, but feel free to adjust that to suit your needs.
Social Tree Skills
For the social tree, you’ll again be doing the standard: 1 into Commerce, 3 into Persuasion, and 4 into Isolation. Isolation is going to be more of a late-game damage boost, and is of relatively low priority; you’ll probably find you’re 1-shotting most foes from stealth fairly easily.
Combat Tree Skills
Pistol Certification is going to be your bread & butter here: Get this to 3 quickly, and save the 4th for when you’ve got a free level or need to get to tier 3. Ballistics is my usual recommendation, just because it allows you to have the highest damage weapons that can still be suppressed (the XM-2311 is fantastic in the end-game).
You’ll also want to put 3 points into Marksmanship for the boost to critical hit chance; feel free to grab the 4th rank later down the road if you feel it’s necessary. Putting a point into Rapid Reloading is also useful, since you’ll have limited magazine sizes.
Finally, maxing Sharpshooting is another great way to boost criticals, so don’t hesitate to max it in the late game.
Science Tree Skills
The Science Tree is going to be like most builds for us here: 2 into Astrodynamics and 2 into Research Methods just so we can unlock Weapon Engineering, which we’ll max so we can build the best pistols available.
Tech Tree Skills
Finally, the tech tree is going to be relatively minimal in the early-game; I’d start out with 2 into Boost Pack Training, 1 into Piloting, 2 into Security and 1 into Targeting Control Systems. These are always useful skills.
As you progress into New Game+, I’d suggest investing more in here. You can never go wrong maxing Boost Pack Training, and Piloting opens up a lot more ship options for you as you progress. Shield Systems is going to be a really important one in higher difficulties just to get more power from your shields, and even a couple points into Starship Design is always good when you’re in NG+ territory.
Pistolero Build Equipment
Gear-wise, you’ll mostly just be using whatever you can get your hands on suppressed early on; You’ll typically have something with a faster rate of fire for general use and a Razorback for longer range or heavier hits in the early game.
Once you unlock the Old Earth Pistol, you’ll definitely be making use of it (Short Suppressor is recommended here), but it won’t be long until you finally unlock the XM-2311, which will become pretty much your sole pistol. You can keep another as a backup (such as a Razorback for range, or something with a large mag for bigger encounters), but most of the time you’ll just be using the XM-2311 modded out for damage.
You may wonder why we aren’t using the often-hyped Va’ruun Starshard or Magshot; while both are certainly high-damage, neither are good for stealth play, which is what this build is for. You’ll be getting crazy damage multipliers with maxed stealth and concealment, which will work out much better than a loud weapon for engagements with multiple enemies. In fact, once you’ve got your 3 points into Pistols and max stealth + a point or two in concealment, you’ll be dropping most standard enemies in one shot on hard!
With all that out of the way, let’s talk spoilers.
Starfield Pistolero Build: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Alright, per the usual, don’t scroll past this point if you don’t want to deal with any spoilers!
As far as questlines go, the Ryujin questline is always good for the free Manipulation skill point and the stealth suit. That stealth suit will be really useful in your first playthrough, too, so don’t wait too long to do it; I suggest hitting it once you’ve maxed stealth and unlocked Void Form and Sense Star Stuff from the Starborn powers.
You can also do the First Contact quest to get an XM-2311 for free; Just make sure you have enough money for the grav drive the ship needs to get moving (you can negotiate the cost down to 25,000 credits, FYI, so don’t neglect Persuasion); you can do the settlement deal and still get the pistol, but I was personally never fond of that option here (and credits are pretty easy to come by in general in this game). I’d also suggest saving before you speak to the reward-giver at the end to ensure you get one with mods you want if you haven’t invested into Weapon Engineering yet.
Regarding Starborn powers, other than Void Form and Sense Star Stuff you’ll always want Personal Atmosphere and Phased Time (Phased Time in particular is incredibly useful with sudden close-range combat).
That’s about it! Enjoy the stealthy pistolero build!