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Cavalier




The thunder of hooves and the clash of steel heralds the arrival of the cavalier on the field of battle, and the opposition knows they have but two choices: To break and run, or to die. The mounted knight is the dominant force in any open arena of war. He lacks the overwhelming might of the barbarian and the flexibility of the fighter, but the cavalier can hold his own beside either of them, and when allowed to fight atop a trained mount, with sufficient room to bring all his skills to bear, he is nigh unstoppable. Yet war is not all the cavalier knows, for his noble heritage and code of honor mean more to him than life itself.

Making a Cavalier

The cavalier is, quite literally, the iconic knight in shining armor. He fights not for himself, but for a liege, a nation, or a cause. His code of honor binds him more tightly, and weighs upon him more heavily, than any suit of armor, yet it is a burden he gladly bears. While he serves well at the frontline of any battle, or in any party of adventurers, he is by far best suited to mounted combat. On foot, he at best equal—perhaps even slightly inferior—to a fighter or barbarian, but when sitting astride a war-trained mount, he puts them all to shame.

Historically, knights were almost exclusively male, but unless your setting makes use of similar distinctions of gender roles, cavaliers can be of either gender.

Abilities: The cavalier is first and foremost a warrior, making Strength his most vital ability. Constitution is nearly as important, allowing him to take damage as well as deal it out, and Dexterity influences his ability to ride, perhaps his most essential skill. A cavalier who intends to lead others into battle would do well to have a reasonable Charisma score.

Races: The majority of cavaliers are human, for it is this race that forms the largest numbers of vassal kingdoms, and thus makes use of systems of fealty that give birth to the noble warrior. Half-elves and half-orcs raised in human lands are next most numerous. Only a rare few members of other races become cavaliers, as elves, gnomes, and halflings prefer fighting styles that rely less on heavy armor, and dwarves tend to eschew mounted combat.

Alignment: All cavaliers are bound, to a greater or lesser extent, by a code of conduct and chivalry. Thus, all members of the class must be lawful. Lawful good cavaliers seek to protect the weak and downtrodden, and to ensure that evil goes neither unopposed nor unpunished. Lawful neutral cavaliers are concerned primarily with obedience and service to their liege, to an extent that even other cavaliers might not match. Lawful evil cavaliers believe strongly in the rule of law, but also in reaping the full rewards and benefits of their station in life. They see no problem in oppressing the peasants below them, so long as the law is on their side in doing so.

Starting Gold: 6d4 x 10 (150 gp).

Alignment: Any lawful.

Hit Die: d12.

Table: The Cavalier
Level Base
Attack Bonus
Fort
Save
Ref
Save
Will
Save
Special
1st +1 +2 +0 +0 Code of honor, mounted combat, warhorse
2nd +2 +3 +0 +0 Fearless
3rd +3 +3 +1 +1
4th +4 +4 +1 +1 Mounted warrior
5th +5 +4 +1 +1 Bonus feat
6th +6/+1 +5 +2 +2
7th +7/+2 +5 +2 +2
8th +8/+3 +6 +2 +2 Mounted warrior
9th +9/+4 +6 +3 +3
10th +10/+5 +7 +3 +3 Bonus feat
11th +11/+6/+1 +7 +3 +3
12th +12/+7/+2 +8 +4 +4 Mounted warrior
13th +13/+8/+3 +8 +4 +4
14th +14/+9/+4 +9 +4 +4
15th +15/+10/+5 +9 +5 +5 Bonus feat
16th +16/+11/+6/+1 +10 +5 +5 Mounted warrior
17th +17/+12/+7/+2 +10 +5 +5
18th +18/+13/+8/+3 +11 +6 +6
19th +19/+14/+9/+4 +11 +6 +6
20th +20/+15/+10/+5 +12 +6 +6 Bonus feat, mounted warrior

Class Features

The cavalier focuses almost exclusively on heavily armored and mounted combat, considering other means of fighting inferior. He gains a great many abilities, but most of them are devoted exclusively to his favored form of warfare.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency

You are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, with all types of armor, and with shields (except tower shields).

Code of Honor

You have a strict code of behavior to which you must adhere. Failure to follow the code results in an inability to advance any further as a cavalier, as well as substantial loss of face among those who know you and your reputation. See sidebar for details on the code.

Mounted Combat (Ex)

You gain the Mounted Combat feat, even if you lack the prerequisites.

Warhorse

You begin play with a light warhorse (or other mount, more suited to your size), without the necessity of paying for it. This includes a saddle and bridle as well. You may, of course, pay to acquire a better mount, or to further equip the mount, but this requires the expenditure of actual funds.

Fearless (Ex)

Beginning at 2nd level, your code and your honor armor you against fear. You gain a resistance bonus to saving throws against fear effects equal to one-half your cavalier level.

Mounted Warrior (Ex)

Beginning at 4th level, you gain a new technique of mounted warfare every four levels. Each time you gain this feature, select one of the abilities below. If an ability requires you to choose a specific weapon to which it applies, you may gain that ability multiple times, focusing on a different weapon each time.

Favored Weapon

Choose one of the following weapons. You have learned to make use of that weapon’s strengths against certain types of defense. Whenever you fight with that weapon, you gain a +1 competence bonus to your attack rolls when fighting humanoids, monstrous humanoids, fey, or giants wearing certain types of armor. (Unlike the other benefits you might select, this applies to all forms of combat, not just when you are mounted.) Improved Charge: Choose one of the following weapons: battleaxe, flail, longsword, or heavy pick.

When making a mounted charge attack with that weapon, you do double damage (or triple, with the Spirited Charge feat), just as if it were a lance.

Improved Mounted Combat

You may roll to negate a hit on your mount, as per the Mounted Combat feat, more than once per round. You may do so one extra time per point of Dexterity bonus you have (minimum 1).

Mounted Lunge

You have learned to use the height and momentum of your mount to augment your attacks. Choose one of the following weapons: battleaxe, flail, lance, longsword, or heavy pick. When utilizing the Power Attack feat with that weapon, from atop a mount, you gain a bonus to damage from Power Attack as though the weapon were wielded two-handed, even if you are wielding it one-handed. (In other words, you do twice as much extra damage as your penalty to hit.) Obviously, you must have the Power Attack feat to make use of this ability.

Shield Mount

You have learned to twist and turn to protect your mount from injury. When wielding a shield, you add your Shield bonus to AC as a bonus to your Ride check to negate a hit on your mount (as per the Mounted Combat feat).

Weapon Bonus When Enemy
Battleaxe is wearing medium armor
Flail is wielding a shield
Longsword is wearing light armor
Pick, heavy is wearing heavy armor

Steadfast Rider: You have learned to use brute strength to augment some of your riding techniques. You may, if you so choose, substitute your Strength modifier for your Dexterity modifier when making use of any of the following uses of the Ride skill: stay in the saddle, fight with warhorse, spur mount, or control mount in battle.

Bonus Feat: At 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th level, you gain a bonus feat. These feats must be drawn from the following list. You must still meet all prerequisites for a bonus feat.

Cavalier Bonus Feats

Animal Affinity

Combat Reflexes

Improved Critical1

Power Attack

Ride-By Attack

Spirited Charge

Trample

Weapon Focus1

Weapon Specialization1, 2

1 When choosing this feat as a bonus feat, the cavalier may only apply it to one of the following weapons: battleaxe, flail, lance, longsword, heavy pick.

2 The cavalier may select this feat even though it is normally limited to fighters only. He must still meet the level-based prerequisite, as well as all other prerequisites. The cavalier is limited to the following weapon choices, whether he takes this feat as a bonus feat or a normal one: battleaxe, flail, lance, longsword, heavy pick.

Ex-Cavaliers

If a cavalier ever becomes non-lawful, or repeatedly violates the precepts of the code, he loses the ability to advance any further as a cavalier, though he retains any benefits of the class he has already acquired.

Playing a Cavalier

You are the epitome of nobility and martial skill. Battle is glory, glory is honor, and honor is everything. You brook no insult, either to yourself or to your liege, and your life is just one more weapon to be wielded — and, if necessary, lost — for your chosen cause. You see adventuring as a means to an end, whether that end is the advancement of a particular goal, the righting of wrongs, or simply the acquisition of personal glory.

You are not necessarily ambitious or arrogant, but you do demand to be treated with the respect you are due. You hold high station in life, and you must comport yourself accordingly. You respond to crudeness with icy politeness and withering wit, rather than resorting to same. You wield and carry only the best equipment, for to do any less would be to disparage your own abilities, and the liege whom you serve.

Religion: Many cavaliers are religious, often honoring deities of war, valor, chivalry, or conquest.

Those who serve a Church or religious institution obviously worship the deity of that order. Their faith does not, however, directly impact their class abilities, and many cavaliers keep their religious affiliation private, feeling that to make a public show of it would detract from their service to their chosen liege.

Other Classes: Cavaliers are most comfortable around other martial characters. Assuming compatible alignments, they prefer the company of fighters and, particularly, paladins. They respect the abilities of the barbarian, but consider him undisciplined. Cavaliers honor clerics as servants of a greater power, even as the cavalier sees himself. They are often distrustful of arcanists and rogues.

Combat: You are very much a straightforward combatant. This doesn’t mean you ignore tactics and strategy — in fact, you may well be expert at both — it simply means that once battle is engaged, you prefer direct confrontation. Your hit points and AC ensure that you can absorb a substantial amount of punishment, allowing you to move in close and smite your foes at close range.

While you can certainly hold your own on foot, you are truly devastating in mounted combat.

Seek out opportunities to make use of these abilities, even where they aren’t obvious. If you have arcanist allies, encourage them to prepare spells such as mount. If you are fighting mounted, focusing your attacks on the strongest of your opponents, using your powerful charges to take them down quickly.

You never retreat from battle, unless failure to do so is blatantly suicidal. The exception to this is if your companions are likely to fall. Your honor is everything to you, but it is not admirable to sacrifice an ally for your own glory. Be prepared, if necessary, to stand against impossible odds to allow your allies time to escape, or at least regroup.

Advancement: You were highborn, from a noble or at least upper-class family, and you have been groomed for this role since you were a child.

You learned the basics of your skills—not merely combat, but riding, animal care, and behavior — as a squire for another cavalier. You may have loved your master or hated him, but either way you soaked up the knowledge you needed. The day you knelt before your liege, or a representative of your cause, to become a knight was the greatest of your life.

While you’ll obviously want to select feats that augment your mounted combat abilities, choose specifically based on your favored weapons.

Remember, as well, that you cannot count on always having your mount available, so devote at least some attention to other forms of battle as well. Consider keeping your Ride skill maxed, or at least reasonably high.

The requirements on equipment and weaponry are not mere rhetoric, where cavaliers are concerned, but actual restrictions.

You must, even from the point of character creation, acquire the best armor and weapons you can afford, paying for additional equipment out of whatever remains. Where weapons are concerned, you must upgrade to masterwork as soon as you can afford to do so. You must constantly acquire the heaviest armor you can afford — full plate is optimal — and attempt to acquire it in masterwork as well. A cavalier prefers heavy armor even when other options are available. Only if he is sacrificing a tactical advantage would he choose otherwise. For instance, +3 chainmail offers the same AC bonus as normal full plate; the cavalier always prefers the full plate. Only if the chainmail was of sufficient enchantment to offer a better armor class would he go that route.

You should keep your mount fully barded and equipped as well. Your mount is an extension of your own combat ability.

The Cavalier’s Code

All cavaliers are sworn to uphold a code that resembles, at least to some extent, the Medieval code of chivalry. While the specifics of the code can certainly vary from campaign to campaign, region to region, or even (to an extent) knight to knight, the following aspects are considered the core of that code.

Loyal Service: Cavaliers swear service to some master or greater power. This might be a king or other noble liege, a church or deity, a specific region, or a knightly order. Any quest or service demanded by the cavalier’s liege must be undertaken with all due diligence and effort. Failure or refusal to serve is a black mark against the cavalier’s honor, and repeated failures constitute a violation of the code.

Courage in the Face of Adversity: A cavalier shows no fear, and never flees in the face of battle.

This does not mean the cavalier must be suicidal, but if his cause requires him to fight in anything shy of a truly hopeless battle, he must do so.

Deference and Respect: A cavalier shows honor and etiquette to those of equal or higher station, even if they are an enemy. A cavalier is never crude or ill-mannered. Similarly, a cavalier is owed respect by those beneath his station, and is entitled to seek redress for any slight or insult.

Battle is Glory: A cavalier prefers melee combat to any other form of conflict resolution. He does not start battles that need not be fought, but he would rather destroy an enemy of his cause than to compromise with them. A cavalier engages in missile combat only when circumstances require it, and enters melee as soon as he may reasonably do so. When given a choice of opponents, a cavalier seeks battle with the toughest or highest-ranking.

Conduct Becoming a Knight: A cavalier always behaves, dresses, and equips himself as appropriate to his station. He girds himself only in the best equipment and wields only the best weapons.

Death Before Dishonor: A cavalier prefers to fall than to besmirch his honor, or the honor of his lord. If charged with a task, or answering an offense, it is better to die in the effort than to cravenly abandon it.