This installment of Legendary Games‘ class rewrites clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We start this supplement with the break-down of the cavalier rewrite, and oh boy, does the class need one, so what does the Legendary Cavalier bring to the table? Well, chassis-wise, the class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per modifier, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all types or armor as well as shields, minus tower shields, and full BAB plus good Fort- and Will-saves. The class begins play with mount, which gets Light Armor Proficiency – but in an important caveat, it does treat Light Armor Proficiency as share spells, which will allow for plenty of companion modifications. It’s a small line, but an excellent one. Another small, but important caveat: The legendary cavalier’s mount, should the old one die, does gain the full ability array and is not basically nigh-useless until the next level attained, so yeah, the base mount ability has been improved. Additionally, the cavalier gets noble steed at first level, which translates to a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls with natural attacks at 1st level, which improves by another +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. I like the higher level improvements, but I don’t think the 1st level bonus was required, considering how deadly the mount can already be at first level, but I digress. At 4th level, the mount may ignore difficult terrain while charging and being ridden and 10th level makes this always on while being ridden, not just when charging.
At 6th level, we get the means to treat the mount as smaller, making it more dungeon exploration-friendly (though ladders etc. still remain a problem). Still, kudos! 7th level nets DR 2/- to the mount while riding, which increases by 1 at 11th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Also at this level, we get a crucial ability: “Risky Lunge” – this allows for a move action to only be 5 ft. and count as a charge, but at -2 AC for cavalier and mount. This allows for some seriously wicked reach trickery and unlocks a whole new array of tactical builds that don’t require straight charging into the fray. 13th level makes the mount count as one size category larger for the purpose of natural weapon attacks, and this increase thankfully doesn’t scale with others. At 9th level, as long as the legendary cavalier is within 60 ft. of it and the mount is above 0 hit points, the cavalier gets Diehard and Deathless Initiate, regardless of prerequisites, which upgrades at 17th level to apply even if the cavalier would be dead! And yes, this allows for healing back up. Pretty awesome. Cavalier’s charge, mighty charge and supreme charge are retained, though the latter is moved down one level to 19th level.
12th level nets steed’s parry, which allows the cavalier to expend 2 rounds of commander’s aura as an immediate action to make a Ride check against the incoming attack roll, halving damage and applying it to the mount instead on a success. I usually cringe whenever I read “parry” in class abilities, as most mechanics are plain broken – this one works really well. What is the commander’s aura? I’m glad you asked!
The most obvious change of pace would be the commander’s aura, which may be maintained for 4 + Charisma modifier rounds per day, activated as a move action and maintained as a free action. Every level beyond 1st adds +2 rounds to the aura’s daily allotment. It has 9 different benefits, extends 60 feet (+20 feet at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter) and is correctly codified regarding the types of effect it is treated as. The effects include scaling DR, fast healing, temporary hit points, AC and weapon damage boosts, energy resistance (sonic is an option!), CMB, movement and save bonuses. I LOVE this. Meaningful tactics and round-by-round agenda every single time. Plus, the cavalier is rewarded for not dumpstatting Charisma. (Oh and yeah, benefits may be switched as a swift action, starting at 7th as an immediate action.) This improvement alone makes the Legendary Cavalier already infinitely better than its regular iteration. This is further enhanced at 4th level, where the cavalier gets commander’s shout – this ability allows the cavalier to spend 4 rounds of the ability to grant an ally an additional move action on their turn, but an ally may only benefit from the like once per day, even from different legendary cavaliers (VERY important catch! Kudos!). 10th level nets the option to grant an additional standard action instead, though this can’t be used for spellcasting or SPs – until 16th level. 20th level nets a move and standard action that may be combined into a full-round action. Love it!
That’s not all! At 8th level, the cavalier gets chivalry’s call – a swift action shout that costs 3 rounds of the aura and affects a target in its range, allowing said target to reroll their Will-save, using the cavalier’s Will-save bonus if it’s higher. 10th level unlocks two of the aura benefits at once (no additional cost in rounds). 15th level allows the cavalier to select an ally to move up to their speed or make an attack when they reduce a target to 0 hp or below. And yes, this is bag of kittens proofed. At 18th level, the cavalier may spend 4 rounds of the aura while making an attack to prompt the target to require to save or be stunned for 1 round; additionally, thereafter, for Charisma modifier rounds, the target needs to save to continue attacking the cavalier.
Ähem, where was I? 1st level also nets order, but the engine has been revamped there as well – I’ll get to orders below. Banner is gained at 2nd level, and its improvements have been tweaked to apply on 10th and 18th level instead. Greater banner, at 14th level, has been tweaked – its primary save boost is retained, but instead of a reroll, we have Diehard for allies in range, which fits imho better. At 2nd level, the cavalier gets +1/2 class level to Diplomacy, and 5th level nets the skill unlock for Diplomacy. I know, right? It suddenly feels like you’re looking at a knight, not an armored and mounted murder-hobo! 3rd level nets renown, 8th level great renown and 14th level incredible renown. Minor nitpick – these are social talents, not vigilante talents. 5th level nets a social talent (erroneously called vigilante talent twice) from a list, and 11th and 17th level net another. The capstone, btw. – renown in massive, huge metropolis! (In addition to aforementioned abilities with a more combat-centric application.)
Pertaining orders: The pdf presents 11 orders, and they all have a signature skill. Every cavalier level, the cavalier gets a bonus skill rank and treat said skill as a class skill, with 8th level providing the skill unlock for the signature skill. Oh, and guess what? There is an option for being orderless! And another, important thing: Each order not only comes with a brief flavor text, it also provides a unique application of commander’s aura! The order of the beyond allows, for example, to treat all allied weapons as aligned! Ouch! Temporary skill grants, scaling DR-bypassing, quick and better Survival and Stealth, cavaliers taking ½ damage of allies, and what about allies preventing 5-foot steps and withdraw on a failed save? Better Stealth and demoralizing, etc. also can be found here. In short: The orders have been properly rewired to account for the vastly improved base class engine. Additionally, we get no less than 6 different favored class options for all races, allowing for +1 round, more mount hp, increased movement rate, darkvision, etc.. Liked these!
The class customization is not done! We can also choose two variant proficiency loadouts – one nets you, for example, tower shield proficiency in exchange for ranged martial proficiency, and another allows for exotic weapon use at 1st level. The dual aura ability may be exchanged with challenge if you really want that one back. Instead of the auras and dual aura, you can have weapon training – loss of these doesn’t render the ability useless, due to the follow up abilities. Reduced commander’s aura is also presented here (oddly, thrice – it’s literally the same text, three times. Weird cut copy paste glitch, but doesn’t hurt anyone.) Favored enemy is an option as well. Banner and greater banner may be exchanged for wild empathy, fast movement or fast rider. The renown/court angle may be exchanged for rogue talents, favored terrain or maneuver training; rider’s bond may be replaced with stalwart (not a fan) or uncanny dodge. The charge abilities (beyond the basics) may be exchanged for combat style or martial flexibility. So yeah, you can play brawling hedgeknight, criminal deserters, etc.
The pdf also comes with 11 archetypes: Draconic avenger nets you a drake companion mount (not to be used with Legendary Games’ Wyrmtouched without the feat-chain – kudos for accounting for that!), and the archetype loses the charge/risky lunge array. Dreadnaughts are pretty cool – the class loses the mount, but gets oversized weapons – two-handed weaponry one-handed at first level, intercepting movement, body checks and crashing into targets. This archetype makes you feel like a big, bad colossus dude – basically, the defensive tricks and the like of the mount are integrated into this guy. Really, really cool one, and a resounding success as far as I’m concerned. Firearm soldiers are a straight engine tweak – charges are replaced with a bit of firearm tricks. More interesting would be the houndsmaster, who gets a pair of dogs or wolfdogs that can share a space or “split”, basically tweaking the base companion engine to behave like a conglomerate “lite” version, a splittable entity. I love this. The hounds act as a mount stand-in and allow for some soft crowd control and tactics beyond the regular means that companions offer, and e.g. Combat Reflexes and similar tricks further emphasize this massive engine tweak in a compelling manner, which is particularly suited for darker fantasy games, as the hounds at higher levels can sever limbs when attacking in conjunction – and yep, we get a half-page table that notes the consequences. Minor nitpick: These rules should state loss of ring-benefits, for example, for arms lost, but that is evident from context.
The iron general would be a monk/brawler-like hybrid archetype for unarmed cavaliers. The jungle rider gets a modified proficiency list, can make crooked charges and delays the mount to 4th level, where he gets a more exotic array of creatures to choose from. Masked travelers are a tweak that emphasizes the vigilante-ish angle, losing banner etc. and locking the target into being order-less. Marrow lancers are basically the death knight angle – undead companion (more resilient, less agile), and a fully modified commander’s aura feature that focuses on debuffs, and a more nasty Intimidate focus make this one a great choice for anti-heroes and villains.
Mounted champions presented an interesting thing I seriously did not expect to see: Spheres of Might-synergy! Yep, Legendary Games and Drop Dead Studios synergy? Awesome! This fellow employs the Beastmastery and Warleader spheres, allowing for full Spheres of Might synergy. Nice! (Minor nitpick: The header for Mount (Ex) is not bolded.) The pegasus knight is straightforward, and nets you a neutral winged animal version of Pegasus. The steppe rider gets the chance to fire through wind walls, more mobile mounts (while in full movement), shots that hamper targets, Perception skill unlocks, severing arrows at higher levels – basically, think of these guys as the equivalent of the mighty Mongolian cavalry.
The pdf also includes a 6-level PrC, the lancer, who requires +5 BAB, Mounted Combat and Weapon Focus (lance), 2 skills at 5 ranks to take; the PrC gains ½ Fort-save progression, full BAB-progression, d10 HD, 2 + Int skills per level. Ultimately, this PrC represents a different take on the cavalier concept – namely that of the lance-wielding knight who gets elevated to his position. Renown and several cavalier-ish tricks are gained, emphasizing the journey to knighthood, if you will.
We also are introduced to 7 new feats: Aura Study nets you one additional aura you’d usually lose to reduced commander’s aura. Wait. What? Yep, this ties in, obviously, with the tripled reduced commander’s aura – it is evident that a variant that should provide less auras was intended to be one of the reduction options and got somewhat shafted by the glitch. If you really want a base order’s challenge, you can gain the like via a feat, and e.g. houndmaster can choose wolves. There also is a feat to gain an order’s aura, etc. The magic items section includes a banner enhancer, and weapon property that enhances the aura. Really cool: There is a gem that can be attuned to a companion allows you to bring an attuned companion back from the dead. A bridle that makes targets behave as combat trained can be found, and a saddle allows a critter to use the rider’s Will-save vs. mind-affecting effects. The shared pain saddle, finally, allows for 1/round transferral of pain to the mount, with HD as a cool scaling mechanism.
The book concludes with Arsa Verain, a CR 3 sample Legendary Cavalier, who comes with a detailed background story as well as his mount’s stats. His questing has a personal take – Arsa had feelings for a man called Jerome, who, alas, before Arsa could confess, was seemingly taken away by a mysterious woman – and so he looks for a lost love that may be not even reciprocal. He does come with full boon-notes. (I noticed a missing “l” at one point in the prose there.)
Editing and formatting are still very good as a whole; the book generally tackles complex concepts with pinpoint precision, avoiding the usual oversights we’ve come to dread. Anti-abuse caveats, smart notes on statting, ability classification – this gets almost all right…excluding the odd tripling glitch, which does negatively impact in a minor way one of the feats and some intended customization options. It’s not hard to salvage this, mind you, but it’s a bit of a downside. There are also slightly more typos/aesthetic formatting glitches here than usual for Legendary Games, though these still number less than in the vast majority of comparable publications. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features a variety of new and classic full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Sooo…the legendary cavalier’s base engine is a resounding frickin’ success of epic proportions. There. I said it. Sure, a couple of the archetypes are the obligatory engine tweaks, but we also get several intriguing and well-wrought complex options. The lancer realizes an alternate take on the concept, suitable for more historic/medieval-themed settings…but seriously, for me, the base class is the unmitigated star.
The vanilla cavalier had an identity crisis, was boring to play, did not have much customization options or agenda in combat. The Legendary cavalier is not the most customizable class ever – you can still hand this to a novice without much issue. However, the awesome aura-engine means that you have viable, interesting combat options. The departure from the challenge focus means that you don’t have to rest all the damn time for that one class feature…and I could go on. Is this formally perfect? Nope, and I do have to account for that.
More important, though: Does this finally do the cavalier justice? Make him a non-magic knight that is badass and cool to play? That does something else than charge every damn turn?
Heck yeah. N. Jolly, Dave Nelson, Jason Nelson, Hal Kenette and Blake Morton rocked this class hardcore. I don’t even have to think for a second – this guy replaces all cavaliers in my games, and should be considered to be an EZG Essential for all games that feature the cavalier class.
It’s a straight, vast improvement that finally makes the cavalier feel like it should be. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 (because the few glitches are excusable), and this gets my seal of approval. Make your cavaliers actually matter and be fun. Get this one!
You can get this inspired, creative rebuild of the cavalier here on OBS!