Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New BX/LL Character Class: Cavalier

As far as I know, no one's really taken the Unearthed Arcana stuff and converted it for BX/LL. So with that goal in mind, here's my take on the cavalier. I know that, at first glance, it seems pretty long (especially compared to some of my 1-pager character classes), but I promise, in my normal 2 column format (per most of the NBD books), it's only 1-1/2 pages.

Illustration by Walter Crane
(from The Faerie Queene by Edmumd Spenser).


The cavalier is the quintessential knight in shining armor. Most cavaliers belong to the upper social class or nobility of a society. The cavalier dedicates their life to the service of a higher authority, such as a noble or sovereign, deity, military or religious order, or a special cause. Theirs is a hereditary honor that comes with the price of lifelong service to their monarch, country, or other object or entity. The cavalier is expected to participate in any wars or other armed conflict in which their lord or cause is engaged. Cavaliers in service to other nobles often serve their master beyond the battlefield as well, performing such duties as their skills, and their noble lord, see fit. The cavalier often pursues such selfless goals as the eradication of evil and chaos from the world, and justice for all the subjects of his land. He can also be a bully and a braggart who uses his status and privileges to pursue only his own self-aggrandizement.

The prime requisite of a cavalier is Strength. Cavaliers with a Strength score of 13 or greater gain a bonus on earned experience points. Cavaliers use the same attack and saving throw tables as fighters. Because cavaliers have the support of their lords or orders, they begin twice as much money as standard character classes (6d6×10 gp, instead of 3d6×10 gp).

RESTRICTIONS: Cavaliers use eight-sided dice (d8) to determine their hit points. They may use any weapon, wear any type of armor except leather or padded (see “Armor” below), and may use a shield. Cavaliers are permitted those magic items normally permitted a fighter. A cavalier must have a minimum Charisma score of 9.


Weapon Proficiencies. As cavaliers rise in level, they receive a number of melee (“to hit”/damage) weapon-based bonuses as outlined below:

Horsemanship. Cavaliers are born and bred for the saddle. As such, they benefit from a number of horsemanship abilities, as outlined below:
At 1st Level: the cavalier is able to vault into the saddle and have the steed underway during the same round.

At 3rd Level: the cavalier is able to coax additional speed out of a steed, increasing its movement by 30'(10').

At 5th Level: a cavalier may ride a pegasus as a steed.

At 7th Level: a cavalier may ride a hippogriff as a steed.

At 9th Level: a cavalier may handle a griffon (or similar creature of lawful or neutral alignment) as a steed.
Cavaliers benefit from a number of other special abilities, including the following:
Fear Immunity. Cavaliers are immune to all fear effects (magical or otherwise).

Strong Will. There is a 90% chance that any attempt to control a cavalier magically or psionically (e.g., charm, domination, hold, hypnosis, possession, sleep, suggestion, etc.) will fail. If the resistance roll fails, saving throws are made normally by the attempt to control.

Charge. The charge of the cavalier is among the most devastating offensive weapons any culture can hope to field. When mounted and using a lance, the cavalier recieves a damage bonus equal to his or her level (e.g., a 5th level cavalier would receive a +5 damage bonus when using a lance while mounted).

Reputation. As a cavalier rises in level, the character’s reputation precedes them, providing them a bonus on all reaction rolls for all intelligent creatures with whom the cavalier is capable of speaking. For example, if the cavalier meets a goblin king who doesn’t speak common, and the cavalier is not capable of speaking goblin, then the reaction modifier does not apply to the roll.

Banner. Beginning at 7th level (as a Grand Knight), a cavalier’s banner becomes a symbol of inspiration to his allies and companions. As long as the cavalier’s banner remains clearly visible, all allies within 60' receive a +1 bonus on saving throws against fear; additional and all companions of the party (hirelings, henchmen, etc.) within that range receive a +1 bonus on morale checks. For each 3 additional levels, the bonus increases by +1 (i.e., +2 at 10th level, and +3 at 13th level). The banner must be large enough to be clearly seen from the 60' distance, and must be carried or displayed by the cavalier (or his mount) in order to function.
ARMOR: To a cavalier, armor is more than protection—it’s a badge of station. With appearance being just as (if not) more important than function, cavaliers will seek to own the best and most elaborate armor they can afford. Plate is the cavalier’s armor of choice, with lesser types of armor ranking increasing lower on the scale of desirability (with banded/splint next in line behind plate, then chain, then scale and ring mail). This succession of desirability for armor supercedes its protective abilities (e.g., a cavalier would rather wear standard plate armor than +3 chain mail). A cavalier may never wear leather or padded armor; being the dress of theives and commoners, such armor is below the cavalier’s station.

COAT OF ARMS: Every cavalier has a coat of arms and armorial bearing (a heraldry design depicted on a shield) which the cavalier wears in order to identify himself in tournaments and on the battlefield. While traveling, the cavalier’s armorial bearing may be hidden, but it must be revealed when an encounter occurs with intelligent creatures that might understand its importance (see “Banner” above).

CODE OF CONDUCT & ETHICS: Cavaliers are required to follow a code of conduct and ethics, or risk losing the prestige (and, to some degree, the abilities) provided by their class.
Serve a Person or Cause: Normally, this is a deity, a greater noble, an order of knighthood, or a similar cause.

Sustain the Knightly Virtues: In all actions, the cavalier must seek to sustain the following chivalric virtues: prowess, courage, honesty, loyalty, generosity, faith, courtesy, and franchise. Franchise is the virtue of practicing the other eight virtues without any though of profit or personal gain. It is the purest motive—selflessness in every action

Adhere to the Knight’s Code: Cavaliers fight not to defeat foes, but to prove their honor, demonstrate their prowess, and win renown. As stories rise from their deeds, they seek to lead by example, and encourage others to live righteous lives. The Knight’s Code, therefore, focuses on fair play; victories won through skill gain more glory than those achieved through chicanery. Any victory won that violates the following code will not earn experience points for the cavalier.
A cavalier never attacks from behind.

A cavalier never strikes a foe that has not prepared themselves for battle. (A cavalier may never attack during a round in which his party has surprise.)

A cavalier never attacks a helpless foe in a manner that will cause the foe hit point damage. A cavalier may, however, strike a foe as long as the damage imposed does not deal hit point damage (e.g., magical effects).

A cavalier of neutral or lawful alignment never uses poison against a foe.
STRONGHOLDS: Beginning at 6th, any cavalier with enough money may choose to build a manor house, but must hire any personnel required to manage it (especially in the cavalier’s absence). Even after the manor house has been constructed, the cavalier is still considered to be in the service of their lord or order. However, beginning at 9th level, a cavalier may petition their lord or order to establish their own lordship or order, respectively. Should this privilege be awarded (and assuming the cavalier has enough money) the cavalier may then build a stronghold (usually a village castle), which will attract additional settlers beyond those in the employ of the cavalier.


  1. Nice I was just talking to someone about the UA Cavalier the other day.

  2. Nice! I would adjust the following, though, as B/X levels are slightly more truncated than AD&D levels:

    Horsemanship: Collapse the pertinent levels to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 9th (getting to ride the griffon at Name Level);

    Charge: Lances already inflict double damage on a charge attack (p. X25), so I would return this to the original bonus of 1 damage per level.

    Immune to Fear: Dunno if you purposefully dropped that or not, it was part of the whole Strong Will element that cavaliers were immune to normal and magical fear.

    As to your note on G+ regarding conversions of UA classes, I myself designed a barbarian class for Labyrinth Lord that was "strongly inspired" by the UA class.

    1. Good points. See updates above to reflect your thoughts. (The fear thing was just something I'd missed; I had planned to wrap it into the strong will thing, and just had forgotten to go back. Made sense to separate it here.)

  3. Good stuff! I think the artist is Walter Crane - great find, by the way.

    1. Thanks. And you're absolutely right it's Walter Crane—a mistake I made when I was editing the post for publication. I was going back and forth between using one of Crane's illustrations from the Faerie Queene, and one of Rackham's Illustration from the Romance of King Arthur. Look at the name of the source file for the image (Cavalier-WalterCrane.jpg). I fixed the book title, but forgot to fix the illustrator name (fixed now). Thanks for catching that.

  4. Reading UA character classes last week. Good one.

  5. I think it is close to the mark. Was going to so something similar.