Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Questions about Class: the Cavalier

Image taken from www.deviantart.com and by biotechbob

Welcome back readers! Here is another entry in our Questions about Class series, this time focusing on the Cavalier. As you may (or may not) know, Flying Pincushion Games is about to released its next book, Into the Breach: The Cavalier.  So we thought it was a good time that I, Kiel Howell, sit down with fellow Pincushioneer Jeffery Harris to talk about the class.

KH: First of all, thank you for taking the time to sit down and answer these questions!

JH: My pleasure Kiel, thank you for taking the time to lay down some excellent questions about the cavalier class!

KH: Can you give the readers a little about yourself and your role at The Flying Pincushion?

JH: Well sure, I am of course Jeff Harris, co-owner, CFO, sometimes editor and lead designer here at The Flying Pincushion.  I have been gaming for more than 24 years, but have only been in the industry officially for about two and a half years.  I am married to a lovely wife and live in a house with as many cats as there are core classes.

KH: So what exactly is a cavalier? Isn’t it just a Paladin on a horse? Minus the curatives?

JH: For those who are not aware, the word cavalier in our real world actually means: Cavalier (/ˌkævəˈlɪər/) was the name used by Parliamentarians for a supporter of King Charles I and his son Charles II during the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the Restoration (1642 – c. 1679). Cavaliers were also known as Royalists.

But for our discussion purposes here, the cavalier is much more than just a magicless paladin with looser ethics.  To me a cavalier in Pathfinder is something of the quintessential hero, or villain.  Charging, challenging, holding the front line, or bolstering allies with tactics, are all things that great heroes and villains do in fantasy literature, and the cavalier does on the battle matt.  While paladins gain power from divine sources, a cavalier draws inspiration and power from dedicating themselves to an ideal, except that ideal need not be honorable or goodly.  In short cavaliers gain their power by belief in the tenants of their Order.

KH: Why does this stand as a whole class to you? Would it have been better as an archetype of the Fighter?

JH: The cavalier is to me a very different animal from the fighter.  Fighters are martial characters, just like cavaliers, but the main difference to me comes back to motivation.  Fighters can certainly have a number of motivations for fighting, but there is no inherent code or motivating factor built into the class, players usually decide why their fighter fights.  A cavalier however comes with a built in ethical and moral compass, which a fighter does not.  Because of the edicts of conduct attached to each order, cavaliers automatically come with some type of ethical motivation, be it personal glory for the Order of the Cockatrice, all the way to defending the common people as with the Order of the Land.  Basically cavaliers take the great role play and ethical/moral aspect of paladins, add all the shades of gray that lie between black and white, and put the end result on a war mount and say “once more unto the breach!”

KH: What is a class that is so dependant on a mount supposed to do when they can’t have their mount?

JH: That is a great question Kiel, as just such an issue often arises for those playing a cavalier in dungeon or narrow terrain heavy games.  The Flying Pincushion deals with this issue in the forthcoming Into the Breach: the Cavalier by providing cavalier archetypes that trade out or alter the mount class feature.  For instance one of our new archetypes trades your mount for an animal companion that you cannot ride, but who makes an excellent combat partner, while another trades your normal horse for a ghostly one, which narrow walls bother not a bit.

However, that answer does not address all of the cavaliers who have a large sized horse or mount, but really want to get into that narrow dungeon.  I suspect this is where clever thinking or a little help from your parties wizard comes in handy here.  A quick casting of carry companion or similar magic can help keep your mount with the party.  Also small sized cavaliers on medium sized mounts are not only interesting to play, but work just fine in most dungeons, I highly recommend trying one out, I happen to know from personal game experience that they can be very fun.

KH: Can you explain Cavalier Orders a bit?

JH: The best way to think of a cavalier Order is as an ethical or moral stance from which all cavaliers of that order work.  They may do things a little differently from person to person, but their strong belief in the tenants of their order make cavaliers what they are and influence how the character interacts with the game world.  

KH: This class seems to suffer from what I’ll call GM arbitration issues. As in, judging when a cavalier character is keeping to his Order’s edicts. Yet there are no rules for “fallen” cavaliers. What do you think?

JH:  On one side, this open area is role play opportunity and wiggle room for the player, but for GM’s it boils down to a judgement call.  If I were GMing a player whose cavalier has very clearly and often violated their Orders edicts, I would have that player lose their Order abilities until he or she undertook making reparations or returns to following more closely the edicts of their Order.  Falling further out of line with ones edicts could well also cause an alignment change or invoke the wrath of that Order, again, it falls to the GM to deal with such an issue as they deem appropriate.  However it does pay to remember that cavaliers are not paladins, and as such likely do not need a “fallen” template.  Also, if a player cannot or does not follow the edicts of their current Order, the GM and player may well just want to sit down and perhaps find an Order whose edicts are more in line with the players style.  This is a spot where communication is likely key to keeping the game fun for all while keeping with the spirit of the cavalier’s Orders.

KH: The way the class itself reads, there isn’t much flexibility for what type of character you can play...

JH: At first glance, that looks very true, as on the surface the cavalier seems very much a “challenge BBEG, charge BBEG.  However, not only have we attempted to broaden the horizons of the cavalier class with our offerings in Into the Breach: the Cavalier by reimagining what the scope of a cavalier is, but just like any other class, how you build and play it define it.  Sure you can just go with the change on a mount basic build and optimize that all day, but taking time to really imagine a unique and personal take on the cavalier is likely more satisfying.  Being size Small opens up quite a few interesting options, as does experimenting with styles that may not be perfect, but that are interesting and flavorful.  As with any class, a cavalier is only what you make of it.

KH: Should the Cavalier get some sort of Weapon Training ala the Fighter?

JH: From a strict balance perspective, I would say no, simply because there is a plethora of feats, traits, and other options that are just as good as Weapon Training that the cavalier can already obtain.  From the theme perspective the cavalier is more than just a fighter on a horse, he can be a general, an outrider, a robber knight, and much more, all just by using the features that class already has.  The answer is not always giving a class something more, it is making what they already have go further.

KH: Challenges are interesting enough, but they seem limited in both number of uses and number of creatures affected. Your thoughts on the mechanic?

JH: I cannot speak for the Paizo design staff, but the limits to challenge make sense to me.  In keeping with the flavor of the cavalier, challenge is likely very much limited in target scope to further play up the heroic and brave/egotistical and brash aspects of a cavalier.  Challenging the BBEG or BLGG (big lawful good guy) and going at him one on one, is cavalier in the extreme (as in, having a cavalier attitude).  Limiting the number of challenges a cavalier gets per day, just like limited spells, or limited channel bursts, is just that, a balance factor, as in the end, Pathfinder is still a game that needs balance to its rules in order to function, and here we see just that.

KH: Should the cavalier be a full BAB class?  Most cavalier type stories I can think of don’t revolve around being able to attack a whole bunch of times...

JH: Here again the choice of making the cavalier a full BAB class is a balance choice in my opinion.  Fiction tells tales of one great charge, hundreds of horses hooves churning the ground and their riders in gleaming plate lowering lances in unison to devastate a massed foe on foot.  However fiction does not have a complex system of rules, which must balance out against each other.  As a martial class the cavalier falls in line with all other martial classes, which means a full BAB.  Sometimes reality needs to be ignored in order to retain balance.

KH: What would you change about the base class if you were given free reign?

JH: I would expand the available mount options for cavaliers, especially for Small sized characters.  However as it sits, cavalier is near the top of my list for favorite martial class to play.

KH: Have you ever had to ban or have you seen the class banned at a table?

JH: At least from personal experience I have never had an issue with a cavalier character at my table, and have not seen any sort of article alluding to there being a ban.  That is not to say it has not happened, but as a martial character, the cavalier lacks many of the “game breaker” factors of certain other classes that will remain nameless.  The GM may feel differently when a cavalier impales his four hours worth of work BBEG with a lance using Spirited Charge, but generally that just means you doing something right.

KH: What is your advice for building a successful Cavalier?

JH: The best advice I can give is be flexible, build smart, and pick a few things you want your cavalier to do well, and build towards those.  The cavalier has plenty of class features that work fine when not mounted, and there are plenty of ways to work with or around the limiting factor of mount size and dungeon/tight space areas.  While mounted charging does lots of damage, I urge people to explore and play with the other features of the class, like Tactician and challenge.  And of course, if you want new and interesting options for the cavalier, pick up a copy of Into the Breach: the Cavalier, as it has lots of new twists and takes on the vanella jump on a horse with a big sharp stick cavalier.  Cavalier is an attitude along with a class, and the The Flying Pincushion writers have really put some ‘tude into their work on the Cavalier.

KH: Thank you for taking the time to have this chat, Jeff!

JH: Not a problem, as it has been an honor to respond to your insightful and interesting set of Questions about Class this time around.  And I hope this discussion helps folk better understand a great class and that its just not for horse fans anymore.  If you like playing a martial character with a reason for being that has nothing to do with gods and lots of attitude, the cavalier is most definitely for you.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett Tribute

The world of fantasy fiction mourns the passing of Terry Pratchett at the age of 66.  He is best known for authoring the "Discworld" series, and his work has influenced and amazed generations of fantasy fans the world over.  He often used his fantasy writing as a platform to satirize the real world in a meaningful way, a way that made us (the reader) look carefully for the nugget of wisdom or truth hidden inside.  Terry will be missed by the entire fantasy genre, but his contributions will live on to influence generations to come.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy Tribute

The Flying Pincushion extends its deepest regrets at the passing of a great man, Leonard Nimoy.  While he was best known for playing Spock in the original Star Trek, the man himself was far more.  A poet, a proponent of science and logic, and a damn good human in general.

Leonard Nimoy influenced generations of young minds for the better, and taught all of us a great deal both through the character of Spock and by simply being himself.  I still remember watching his great show, In Search Of, and of course, Star Trek.  Leonard all at once showed us what humanity can accomplish and at the same time through the character of Spock, made us look long and hard at what being human really means.

Leonard has now gone where all of us must boldly go one day.  May your soul find solace in the stars which you taught us are never really out of reach.  You lived long and prospered, and you will be missed, but never forgotten.

Jeffery B. Harris
Flying Pincushion co-creator

Friday, December 5, 2014

GM_Solspiral's PAP Guide to the Cavalier: Archetypes and Multiclassing

There’s a few awesome options and a few head scratchers. The cavalier could certainly use more.

Beast Rider trades heavy armor and expert trainer for a really nice mount upgrade that continues to upgrade at 4th and 7th levels. Really solid choice.
Daring Champion pretty much your best option if you do not want a mount
Dune Drifter if you wanted a gun this is the way to go, you lose tactician which is awesome and you aren’t quite as cool as a regular gunslinger but it is an equitable trade.
Emissary you gain things you can gain in other ways and lose things you cannot gain in other ways.
Gendarme be less versatile for no good reason
Herald Squire takes out some of the best parts of being a cavalier, no dice
Honor Guard another spellcaster’s cohort
Horselord ok if you wanted to make a dex/dervish build but if you’re doing that why cavalier?
Huntmaster it is a really good trade low-mid levels a sad mistake in high level play
Luring Cavalier Cavalier’s aren’t great archers, if you are hell bent on this path this is for you.
Musketeer dune drifter does it better
Outrider (Lashunta) basically this is a decent teamwork focused archetype.
Standard Bearer great way to get banner instead of mount for a cavalier dip, for a standard cavalier this is not a good option.
Strategist improves cavalier’s best abilities, swaps one of the worst.
Wave Rider not an aqua campaign? red, aqua campaign? Blue

Racial Archetypes
Fell Rider is amazing I just wish it came with mount options, but this will make a mean horse.

Thanks largely to boon companion you can dip upto 4 levels in a full bab or ¾ bab class with little to no pain, there are some truly solid options that reward you for doing so. Some even give you your feat back!

Barbarian- solid option if you want a damage upgrade and lose no BAB. The 2 rage powers you gain usually trump feats and you get a few bonus goodies to boot.
Bard - For 1 BAB and a feat you get to be even more a team player than a normal cavalier, gain a boatload of skill points and class skills, some ok spells, and shore up your 2 weak saves. It is a solid option
Cleric - for a 1 level dip you can gain 2 domain powers worth way more than that feat, for 3 levels you can self buff a bunch as well. You’re a little more MAD but not overly much.
Druid - I love druids but you’re way too into metal for this to work.
Fighter- only reason to bother is weapon specialization.
Monk poor synergy.
Paladin/Antipaladin - It’s a good match if you’ve got the Cha.
Ranger not a terrible route, not a great one either.
Sorcerer -sorcs are very all or nothing, exception is to get into Dragon Disiple which is an awesome prestige class for you.
Wizard good utility but you’ll mostly cast from wand.
Alchemist -Vivisectionist and mutagens sell me.
Inquisitor -cleric dip is way better.
Magus -I want this to work, it does not
Oracle -Great options with revelations and opens up extra revelation. You can pick an AC and stack them which is another bonus.
Summoner -Not for you
Witch -not front loaded in the right way
Arcanist -like the wizard only not as front loaded, like at all.
Bloodrager -good alternative to sorc dip for DD
Brawler -the fighter called, he wants his lunch money back. This class is broken because of that flexible feat.
Hunter -ok this can mix really nice if you want to maximize your TW feats and pets. I’ll revisit in the builds.
Shaman -like  the witch only worse.
Skald -it’s an ok option but I’m not sold for some reason
Swashbuckler -just play a daring champion
Warpriest if you’re in this it is likely for sacred weapon meaning you’re in it for 4
levels. There’s a lot to like about warpriest but I’d rather dip 1-3 levels of cleric for the more powerful domain abilities.

Prestige Classes
For this guide I’m going to stick to the ones that seem like they might make sense to a cavalier. If it isn’t called out specifically it is in all likelihood red.

Dragon Disciple -so many nice bits for a cavalier primary… the stat adds being the best part, but also the spells, and the wings, and the breath weapon.
Duelist -lose no BAB and get really good with 1 handed weapons, seems like it’d mix well with daring champion.
Eldritch Knight -lose no BAB but you’re mount is going to suffer and you’re just gettign caster stuff in exchange.
Shadow Dancer -would mix well with daring champion but only take 4 levels.
Battle Herald -if you want to make your bard dip pay off a little more there are worse choices.
Celestial Knight -your mount suffers for your gain, might be worth it for some builds but nothing I’m about to present.
Chevalier -lots of the benefits of the paladin dip without the paladin code, or being specific to a deity.
Furious Guardian -if you were determined to make one of those awful guard the other character archetypes work this would be a decent way to finish the concept into something kind fo awesome.
Golden Legionnaire -ok so make yourself even more of a team player for not at all painful requirements. Would mix well with a daring champion or something that loses mount in particular.
Grand Marshal -mixes great with your gun archetypes.
Gray Warden -gain judgements and divine caster levels and bonuses to intimidation. Good way to round out a cleric dip and order of cockatrice.
Hell Knight Commander -kind of awesome really.
Hell Knight Enforcer -loses too much
Holy Vindicator -could be worth it but I hate losing mount levels for this.
Inheritor’s Crusader -just be a paladin if you wanted this.
Justicar -sounds like something we’d want, we don’t
Liberator -weird combo that could make a fascinating character… Beast rider from isc + Liberator to make a wild savage that broke from slavery and now takes revenge. You’d be really good at sunder.
Low Templar -mix a little roguish dirty fighting in with your knight.
Mammoth Rider -no BAB loss and your companion gets better… if you’re not into dungeons and spend most time out in the open this is almost a straight upgrade
Nature Warden can be sooo awesome when combined just right with an oracle or cleric dip and aasamar
Pit Fighter -progresses BAB and gains a few nice dirty tricks and could mix well with a order of cackatrice
Stalwart Defender -mixed with barbarian and dwarf maybe this could be worth it but generally I prefer mobility to standing still and hoping to get attacked
Student of War -could be cool despite losing mount levels, there’s something for the stances and bonus feats.
Swordlord -not a good mix

Attributes and Races
Traits, Skills, and Feats

Alternate Opinions and a few areas I didn't cover

Spirited Charging Pouncer
Knight of Shadows
Dragon Knight
Mighty Halfling

GM_Solspiral's PAP Guide to the Cavalier: Orders

Cavalier Orders

To evaluate an order we have to consider if the edicts are manageable, the class skills useful, the challenge bonus, and the order abilities. Order abilities that are front loaded at 2nd level are going to weigh much more heavily than the 15th level ability or the class skills. Overall ratings are essentially balanced on Edict, Challenge bonus, and 2nd level order ability the rest is significantly less important.

Order of the Beast (ACG) if you start at 8th level this is green possibly blue.
Edict: predictable and not hard to follow.  Challenge: yeah giving your bonus to your mounts sucks Class Skills: good class skills to have 2nd level ability: garbage, after like 5th level animal enemies never come up 8th level ability: awesome ability that comes late to the party 15th level ability: just not good enough for a 15ht level ability.
Order of the Beast (ISC) in an evil campaign this might be the best choice especially if you are not starting a level 1 but this is hard to pull off with a neutral character so edict is where this gets a little hamstrung.
Edict: really hard to follow in a non-evil campaign.  Challenge: useful to cleave, except what if I don’t pick up cleave this early (likely) 2nd level ability: great when I get something like Improved sunder for free. 8th level ability: freebie trample for my mount, yes please 15th level ability: this is pretty useful except the part where it almost ensures you will get yourself killed.
Order of the Blue Rose so much no in one order.
Edict: pretty much talk first edict makes this one of the more annoying ones  Challenge: reinforces an annoying edict by giving a bonus to an attack roll you likely don’t need Class Skills: two of the worst knowledges 2nd level ability: look at all the not-killing you’re doing 8th level ability: situational DR essentially 15th level ability: good team player ability that would be awesomesauce at 2nd level, here it is almost an insult.
Order of the Cockatrice if it isn’t the best order it is close.
Edict: I hereby dub you the munchkin edict, seriously though you can play this with a degree of subtlety  Challenge: synergizes with your order ability Class Skills: garbage 2nd level ability: free dazzling display with no prerequisites and removes a condition on it, YES! 8th level ability: hang with a crit fisher for maximum carnage 15th level ability: who gets 1 round a day to be completely awesome? You do.
Order of the Dragon plays extremely well with others and with the right team can be awesomesauce.
Edict: Do that thing you were going to do anyway Challenge: I don’t need help hitting with a full BAB class Class Skills: best class ability add ons you can ask for 2nd level ability: great ability for a team player 8th level ability: see 2nd level 15th level ability: near broken level of teamwork.
Order of the First Law want to make Pathfinder cause as many arguments as monopoly, take a cavalier with this, and an evangelist, then have a paladin, and a CE rogue.
Edict: look a mechanic that makes you argue with the healer all the time  Challenge: if your AC is high enough this further elevates your ability to tank Class Skills: you need heal as a class skill because you’re likely to piss off the healer 2nd level ability: here have a +2 on all saves in exchange for never taking a divine buff… yeah that’s a shitty trade 8th level ability: situational but useful in those situations 15th level ability: great for GMs pissed off at their high level clerics.
Order of the Flame one of the better options, especially if you can ramp the damage enough and don’t really get into charging lane issues.
Edict: if you are the party tank this isn’t doing things that differently but it can get you into some trouble so it’s not blue  Challenge: if you can 1 hit things this is essentially an endless challenge, smart players can make this very broken very quickly Class Skills: not bad 2nd level ability: slightly confusing but essentially can get you a immediate move action and not be flatfooted for it to get into position for the next round 8th level ability: extra rider on crits, the problem most things are dead now if you did your job 15th level ability: useful but 1 round with no progression.
Order of the Guard mediocrity except at escort missions. This is a great order for your wizard’s cohort.
Edict: not hard to follow but sort of lame  Challenge: it scales somewhat poorly but it’s always useful thus green Class Skills: best class skill in the game and a crap knowledge 2nd level ability: depressingly mediocre 8th level ability: excel at escort missions 15th level ability: I like Attacks of op but this is a little late.
Order of the Hammer this order adds versatility and fun. It is also super front loaded for those looking for a quick beneficial dip.
Edict: Not a hard thing to do Challenge: eliminate the need for 2 feats Class Skills: not bad 2nd level ability: forces you to get into improved unarmed combat for some reason (not literally but you prolly should) 8th level ability: neat 15th level ability: useful bonus that isn’t just a single use and it buff allies in multiple ways and its a +4!!!.
Order of the Land not a great choice unfortunately.
Edict: not hard to follow makes you act like a hero  Challenge: more damage Class Skills: ok mix 2nd level ability: I loved this so much until it was pointed out that this is a 1/ per combat power then I got depressed 8th level ability: even the ranger is like, that sucks 15th level ability: if this was the power at 8th it would be my go-to order despite how much that 2nd level ability sucks.
Order of the Lion great cohort archetype as if can buff all your friends 3 ways.
Edict: not hard to follow but sort of lame  Challenge: it scales somewhat poorly but it’s always useful thus green Class Skills: boo 2nd level ability: solidly green, makes your allies better, stays green because it doesn’t effect you 8th level ability: see 2nd level only more so 15th level ability: excel at escort missions.
Order of the Paw despite a meh challenge ability this is a solid choice especially because it helps out your mount, blue if starting at 8th level or better.
Edict: painless entry  Challenge: power is meh Class Skills: survival is good 2nd level ability: flexible, multiple uses, strong duration, and doesn’t effect you so green 8th level ability: 2 solid bonuses to upgrade your mount 15th level ability: it’s a damage bonus so it’s not red but a little situational, a common situation but situational none-the-less
Order of the Penitent challenge and order ability sucks so this order sucks
Edict: painless entry  Challenge: power is meh Class Skills: survival is good 2nd level ability: this si not very helpful 8th level ability: look something that is actually good. 15th level ability: this is a murder-hobo game

Order of the Scales really solid 2nd level ability but everything else about this order essentially sucks.
Edict: basically be a lawful character  Challenge: how does it get worse than an attack bonus? make it situational Class Skills: boo 2nd level ability: very decent, effectively gives a bonus to a useful skill and a feat for both you and your mount 8th level ability: situational as heck 15th level ability: very powerful in enforcing contracts which would be great for a side business I guess.

Order of the Seal overshadowed a little by order of the hammer, but a very solid choice nonetheless.
Edict: this can be blue or red depending on what you’re defending  Challenge: eliminates the need for 2 feats Class Skills: decent 2nd level ability: flexible as it applies to attack rolls and saves 8th level ability: I’m not moved by this bonus 15th level ability: Good ability but not great

Order of the Shield might seem like a harsh rating but the 15th level ability sours me that much.
Edict: be a goody two shoes  Challenge: I guess a bonus to attack rolls isn’t so bad if you’re fighting defensively all the time Class Skills: look 2 skill you didn’t want 2nd level ability: oh boy converting small chunks of damage to non lethal 8th level ability: great feat freebie 15th level ability: is there a worse color than red?

Order of the Staff this is a great 2nd character or leadership feat option for spellcasters, it would be a little less exciting as a primary caster.
Edict: makes you every spell caster’s bitch basically  Challenge: this is powerful, for your spellcasting allies Class Skills: useless 2nd level ability: again you’re the caster’s bestie 8th level ability: finally you get something out of this arrangement, you know as long as your caster is giving out a buff 15th level ability: add insult to injury.

Order of the Star solid choice, better with cleric or paladin dips
Edict: depends on the faith in question Challenge: shores up saves Class Skills: survival is good 2nd level ability: flexible and extremely friendly for multiclassing 8th level ability: this si pretty boss if everyone is on the same page faith-wise 15th level ability: really really good since it specifies you

Order of the Sword for mounted builds this is beyond good, its prolly cyan, for everyone else it’s yellow at best.
Edict: be good aligned basically Challenge: situational attack bonus, not red because its a very common situation for you Class Skills: no good 2nd level ability: passive and shores up saves 8th level ability: this is so powerful for mounted builds that it is hard to justify a different order 15th level ability: Upgrades the heck out of your challenge ability

Order of the Tome you suffer until 8th level then you become a 2nd rate backup caster on top of being a decent tank...
Edict: be the uber librarian  Challenge: pretty darn close to useless Class Skills: predictably terrible 2nd level ability: if I wanted to play a wizard or bard... 8th level ability: the only reason to bother with this, but it is a pretty solid reason  15th level ability: solid team friendly power

Order of Vengeance an amazing 8th level ability doesn’t fix the early issues with this one.

Edict: this will cause trouble  Challenge: power is meh Class Skills: no good 2nd level ability: if you wanted an intimate build go cockatrice 8th level ability: this is really a good ability 15th level ability: good ability makes little sense for you though