Just The Rules: New Take on the Cavalier

Last week I drafted a cavalier expert path, and was pretty pleased with how it shaped up. After considering my expectations regarding higher-level abilities, I realized the abilities weren’t quite there. Close, but not quite.

I concluded recently (and posted today) that Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures is loaded with ideas that could help enhance higher-level abilities, and there is plenty of third-party content that can also help.

The current version of the cavalier expert path is

  • Level 3: Mount, order, challenge, first order ability
  • Level 6: Banner (+1, attacks and fear), charge
  • Level 9: Second order ability
  • Level 12: Improved banner (+2, attacks and fear, charm, compulsion; commit for day to grant second save or attack), mighty charge
  • Level 15: Third order ability
  • Level 18: Greater banner (+3), supreme charge

Which I think is a good set of abilities, but I feel like it maybe doesn’t scale enough at the higher levels. Greater banner (level 18) just increases the effect by +2… which is nice (especially on 3d6 rather than d20), but ‘just numbers’.

And if you read my blog, you know how I feel about ‘just numbers’.

I’ve cracked open Mythic Options: Mythic Base Class Features from Rogue Genius Games. This title has mythic abilities for classes from the Advanced and Ultimate books (Combat, Magic, etc.)… in this case I’m looking at the cavalier.

I’ve determined that ‘1st-tier mythic abilities’ are probably suitable matches for abilities gained at levels 5..8, ‘3rd-tier mythic abilities’ are probably suitable matches for abilities gained at levels 9..12, and ‘6th-tier mythic abilities’ are probably suitable matches for abilities gained at levels 13..16. At least, these are all starting points, and subject to adjustment.

In this case, I would expect that class-specific mythic abilities are appropriate to the class features they modify. I plan to use only the path features I’ve already chosen, so let’s see how they fit. In each case I’ll summarize the effect and then describe how I think I’ll apply it.

Mythic Challenge [level 3]

When the cavalier challenges a foe, he gains SR against that foe equal to his mythic tier plus his class level.

Maybe? I don’t know what spell resistance is going to look like (I suspect ‘bonus to AC and saves against spells‘, rather than a spell caster check). I’m trying to avoid calculated values that automatically scale, I’d rather give a fixed bonus that climbs automatically.

Also, as written this is likely to not be very useful. If the foe is actually a big enough threat to use challenge, the SR success rate will be roughly 5% per mythic tier (and the first one doesn’t count! At level 10/tier 5 the cavalier has SR 15; if the foe is level 10 the foe needs to roll only 5+ on d20 to succeed – 20% chance).

It would likely be better to make challenge improve in other ways, if I needed it to improve. I’ll have to review how the orders modify challenges.

Mythic Mount [level 3]

Cavalier’s mount gains base mythic abilities at tiers 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 (same as a mythic character).

Alternatively, a cavalier could gain an unusual mount as a cohort, with a CR two lower than the highest-level cohort the cavalier could have.

I was already planning on mounts to be treated as companions, which means they’d already be on the ‘cohort scale’. No change needed there.

Gaining the base mythic abilities… not unreasonable, and goes a long way to improving the chance of the mount not getting blown out from under the cavalier. Having five such advances fits very nicely: a cavalier gets a mount at level 3, and then one base mythic ability every third level.

Mythic Order [levels 3, 9, 15]

The cavalier gains a second order, or enhances the effect of the first and last order abilities.

This one doesn’t do much for me. I’ll need to think about it and come back. If nothing else, I need to also look at the challenge and how that works.

Mythic Cavalier’s Charge [level 6]

Increased threat range on charge (+1, after other modifiers and explicitly stacks with other threat range increases).

Doesn’t really excite me. “Just Numbers” again.

I think I’d tweak cavalier’s charge so it can be done over broken ground (difficult terrain) instead. Or possibly allow a change in direction, so it doesn’t need to be a straight line… but I like the difficult terrain option better.

Even better! The champion mythic ability ‘burst through’: you can move through allies and opponents (on a successful overrun combat maneuver) without provoking attacks of opportunity (but if you fail any of these checks you still don’t provoke, the obstructing opponent gets to enjoy your charge).

The original charge ability gives a bonus to attack and negates the AC penalty for charging. I rather like “on a successful Ride check you can ride through occupied squares without provoking attacks of opportunity” (probably commit effort). If I incorporate a fray die mechanic like Godbound, this is a situation where it would be appropriate.

Mythic Banner [level 6]

Adds mythic tier to class level when determining effect of banner, ability’s range increases to 120 feet.

I’m not applying these changes, for reasons that will become apparent. The banner will give +1 (remember, it counts for more) to attacks and to saves vs fear to all allies within 60 feet who can see the banner and are charging.

Mythic Mighty Charge [level 12]

Adds mythic tier to CMB check to make a free combat maneuver check on a successful charge attack.

“Just Numbers”. This is a level 12 ability, on the edge between ‘superhuman’ and ‘superheroic’.

The champion mythic ability “blowback” could fit here nicely: on a successful charge, the skirmish ability (normally moves an opponent a small distances) blows them back 10 feet per point… and I’d be willing to let the blown back opponent be used as an attack on other opponent, if there are enough stunt points left for an extra attack.

(Yes, sounds kind of unrealistic. That’s what superhuman means.)

The champion mythic ability ‘mounted maniac’ could also work: while charging you can make an Intimidate check to demoralize opponents within 30 feet, if you spend mythic power they are frightened.

I think there might be enough options that charge could have different effects based on order. One has extra mobility (difficulty terrain or through crowds), another smashes targets and blows them away, a third is terrifying to see.

The class-specific option doesn’t do much for me, but I’ve got lots of options.

Mythic Demanding Challenge [level 12]

A challenged (and threatened) target takes a penalty equal to the cavalier’s mythic tier if attack anyone other than the cavalier.

“Numbers”. Perhaps “attacking someone other than the cavalier provokes an attack of opportunity from the cavalier” instead.

Oops. I didn’t include demanding challenge earlier. Let’s say that it’s here now, and means the target wants to focus on the cavalier.

Mythic Greater Banner [level 18]

The cavalier can, as a swift action, wave his banner to grant allies a new saving throw. Allies may benefit from this effect twice per day.

Isn’t just numbers! But perhaps better would be… huh, I don’t see ‘Mythic Improved Banner’.

Okay Improved Banner is now

  • Bonus from banner is +2: attacks, saves vs fear, charm, compulsion
  • Area of effect increased to 120 feet
  • Commit for day to grant second save or attack

And Greater Banner becomes

  • Bonus from banner is +3: attacks, saves vs fear, charm compulsion
  • Area of effect increased to 240 feet
  • Commit for day to grant second save or attack

Which is still all mostly numbers, I admit. My ideals are not always met.

Mythic Supreme Charge [level 18]

Once per day, on a successful charge attack, target must make a Fortitude save or die.

Not numbers. If I were to include this it would probably require effort, rather than ‘once per day’.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do admit a certain satisfaction to a martial character having a save or die effect, normally limited to casters, but I’m still not fond of the idea in general.

I’ll need to think about it.

The New Cavalier Expert Path

Lots of mumbling up above regarding the abilities. Let’s put it together.

3Mount as companion
Challenge based on order… and I probably want to rewrite
Order as cavalier, but probably rewrite abilities
Order Ability gain first order ability
6Mount gains ‘hard to kill’ base mythic ability
Charge based on order
Banner +1 to charging allies in 60 feet: attacks, saves vs fear
9Mount gains ‘amazing initiative’ base mythic ability (or surge)
Order Ability gain second order ability
12Mount gains recuperation’ base mythic ability
Mighty Charge based on order
Improved Banner +2 to charging allies in 120 feet: attacks, saves vs fear, charm, compulsion. Commit for day to grant second attack or save.
15Mount gains ‘mythic saving throws’ base mythic ability
Order Ability gain third order ability
18Mount gains ‘immortal’ base mythic ability
Supreme Charge based on order
Greater Banner +3 to charging allies in 240 feet: attacks, saves vs fear, charm, compulsion. Commit for day to grant second attack or save.

Becoming more in line with what I have in mind. I don’t have everything sorted out entirely… I found that I was really tempted to take a step back and creating something inspired by the cavalier class, but actually driven more by a mix of the champion and marshal mythic paths.

Still, the abilities are reaching the degree and scope I had in mind. I think perhaps having the banner and charge interact more with the order might be a better idea. When the cavalier leads a charge (or coordinates — the reason I allowed such a big area is to allow multiple groups to charge under the cavalier’s banner) the effects could be different depending on the order.

Or maybe… trim the path down a bit, back to a single core set of abilities. Remove order from the expert path, and make it the primary element of a master path that provides additional effect to the base abilities (or just the additional effect, without the base abilities (the Order of the Sun master path grants those fighting under its banner weapons of blazing sun… and if the character is also a cavalier, the regular cavalier banner bonuses).

Yes, that sounds right. The paths work well together, but the Order of the Sun master path can also be used by non-cavaliers who are leaders or marshals. The cavalier expert path is a ‘specific’ set of abilities, the order is a specialization.

Must ponder. This did not end up where I expected… but I’m not disappointed.


  1. Steve Gunnell

    Just a thought … if you don’t mind anime have a look at Kingdom. Set at the beginning of the Qin dynasty it clearly displays a tier like hierarchy between the common soldier and the Generals. The protagonist Shin is trying to climb that hierarchy. At one point he gets gifted the polearm of a dying general and even though he is a tier or more likely two above a common soldier he is unable to lift the weapon for any length of time let alone wield it. which leads to a thought that some treasures could be the high tier weapons. For your godling to effectively a sword from Sam’s Armoury is just not going to hack it. And neither is the weapon going to be useful / usable for a hopeful from a lower tier.

    • Kingdom is on my list to watch, actually. My Shelf of Shame is prodigious.

      I had considered having the power of magic items mostly scale with that of the wielder. I don’t want magic items to be gewgaws that are acquired and then replace when something more sparkly comes along. I’m pretty okay with a character having to grow into their greatest items.

      On the other hand, I do like the idea of items being out of a character’s league, and they have to grow before they can use it.

      Yes, two directly opposed tropes. I’m not sure how to reconcile these… perhaps many items grow with the character and some are just So Powerful they need special ability to manage? Must ponder.

      • Chakat Firepaw

        They aren’t quite that opposed: Just because items grow in power it doesn’t mean that they can’t have a high starting point.

        It could even be that the truly legendary items tend to have a climbing sawtooth history of power. As each great hero in its history takes possession and uses it, it grows in power first as the hero learns to unlock what it can do then grows farther as the hero’s own greatness feeds back into it.

        When a hero falls or settles down to a post-adventuring life and the item sits waiting for the next hero, the powers start to go dormant and its power level fades. However, it never quite fades to the level the last hero got it at.

        This results in an outcome I kind of like: It naturally means that the items you need to be worthy of are the ones with histories of great heroes.

        • An interesting idea, Chakat.

          I am reminded a little of Earthdawn. I always liked the idea behind significant items in Earthdawn, but it felt like it could get out of hand if everyone was trying to level up their gear.

  2. Steve Gunnell

    You can, of course, have it both ways. But if you are only upgrading once a tier or maybe every couple of tiers then that is never going to be weapon of the day especially if you have to invest significant effort to master it. Or you could go the _Mahabharata_ route. Aujuna obtains _Pashupatastra_ but that is a weapon that cannot be used against unworthy foes.
    High tier weapons are never going to be things that you can just pick up and charge into combat.

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