In fantasy, the most highly regarded and possibly considered overused archetype for a main protagonist hero would have to be a warrior clad in metal armor atop a mighty steed galloping through hordes of enemies to save some damsel in distress. Yes, it’s a antiquated archetype but it has endured for centuries within fairytales and folklore. Plus somebody once in a while wants to fulfill that archetype and enter into the role of a noble knight on horseback. But if you’re going to make the horseback or mount a key feature of the warrior, than perhaps you may want to distinguish this character from the generic knight in plate mail. Have this hero become a bastion of hope and glory that can rally his allies into a charge and use the momentum to disastrous effect.
Doesn’t that sound appealing?
You wanna backstab people and blow them up with magic? Well that’s fine, I guess.
For those true believers who follow the way of the bannermen and cavalry riders, march forward! Behold!
Brainstorming Features & their Logic
To remain on theme, we have to think of chassis will support our desired archetype? We instinctively think Paladin or Fighter as viable support vessels for the aesthetic relevance each class provides. I personally do not need a mystical warrior like the Paladin to fulfill the role, and while the Paladin has the amazing spell Find Steed to perfectly satisfy that portion, being able to cast divine spells is not a necessity. I wanted this class to be more warrior than some divine champion, so Fighter fits the bill adequately.
Wizards provided a write up for the Bard and the Fighter in an Unearthed Article (here), inside there was a write-up for a Cavalier Fighter archetype, so at least we both on similar wavelengths. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that they did it until I started doing some research on any 5th Edition Cavalier based class design.
I did enjoy Wizard’s use of the Superiority die again for this archetype, but felt that it mimicked too much of the Battle Master archetype and decided what we could use the superiority die still but instead give more supportive features instead of simply a class that excels only while mounted. I mean, yes, the class is a character on a mount but I did not want to make it the only means for any features to be activated. So a few of the features I write up will be more class agnostic and won’t punish the player for not having a mount. Granted, I do have an idea on how to provide the character with a mount too.
Now most class archetypes that utilize superiority die typically have no features at 18th level and simply end with a Relentless class feature to regain superiority die. The LOGIC behind this design, and not because it was overlooked (which it could have possibly be the case, we can’t rule that out), relates the power creep that Fighters feel once they reach 15th level and all the way up to 18th level. The 15th level class feature is generally a means to improve combat efficiency, the design logic for the 18th level feature is usually some minor boost. For the Champion, it was extra hit points to reflect a Champion’s survivability, the Eldritch Knight gains an improved version of their War Magic feature way back from 7th level. I have read from other players that the change of the Superiority die from a d10 to a d12 at 18th level was a drastic change in regards to power and damage potential. I personally do not believe in it, but it can be devastating adding a d12 to a weapon damage roll when the weapon probably already deals anywhere from 1d8 to 1d10 damage. If the character is mounted, and has the Mounted Combatant feat, the ability to gain advantage on attack rolls on creatures a size smaller than the mount can be devastating. Not to mention that the Fighter at 18th level has 3 Attacks per Attack action, it’s not going to be pretty by a long shot. Gods preserve you if the Fighter uses its Action Surge feature too.
So we’ll try to respect the design logic, even if it’s a bit too cautious for my personal taste.
the Cavalier, a Fighter Archetype
Mounted Ally: Starting at 3rd level, you can cast find steed as a ritual. You also gain proficiency with the Animal Handling skill. If you are already proficient with Animal Handling, choose another skill proficiency of your choice: Athletics, Insight, Persuasion, or Perception.
Author’s Note: See, I told you I would find a way for the cavalier to get its mount.
Natural Equestrian: At 3rd level, you have advantage on saving throws made to avoid falling off your mount. If you fall off your mount, you always land on your feet if you are capable of taking actions. Mounting or dismounting a creature costs you only 5 feet of movement, rather than half your speed.
Author’s Note: I wanted the Cavalier to be a warrior of action, swiftly mounting on their steed and charging into combat right away.
Combat Superiority: When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain a set of abilities that are fueled by special dice called superiority dice.
Superiority Dice. You have four superiority dice, which are d8s. A superiority dice is expended it when you use it. You regain all of your expended superiority dice when you finish a short or long rest.
You gain another another superiority die at 7th level and one more at 15th level.
Using Superiority Dice. You can expend superiority dice to gain a number of different benefits:
- Whenever you make a Handle Animal skill check to influence, control, or stay mounted on a creature you are riding, you can expend one superiority die to add it to the check. You apply this bonus after making the check but before learning if it was successful.
- When you make a weapon attack against a creature, you can expend a superiority die to add it to the attack roll. You can use this ability before or after making the attack roll, but before any of the effects of the attack are applied.
- While mounted, if you move at least 20 feet in a straight line, when you a melee weapon attack against a creature, you can expend a superiority die to add it to the damage roll. In addition, the target of the attack must make a Strength saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier) or be knocked prone.
- If either you or your mount is hit by an attack or makes a Dexterity saving throw while mounted, you may expend a superiority die as a reaction, adding the number rolled to your or your mount’s AC or saving throw (you choose). If you the attack still hits or you fail the saving throw, you or your mount take half damage.
Author’s Note: I use most of the Cavalier abilities provided in the unearthed arcana article, but changed it a little bit to fit the idea of charging into their foes on their mounts instead of relying on a specific weapon as portrayed in the original article.
Banner of Courage: At 7th level, the cavalier learns to rally his comrades to arms and charge. Using an action, choose any number of creatures within 60 feet of you that are allied with you, they may Dash using their reaction, provided that they can see or hear you.
Author’s Note: Yes, I know it’s not very “courageous” but I wanted an ability that granted allies the ability to advance further along the battlefield. I thought about how this would interact with the Charger feat, and honestly since the allies are moving on their reaction they still can’t utilize the feat, which to me felt fair. The Cavalier himself however would have to use another action to Dash themselves across the battlefield in order to implement the Charger feat. So the cavalier sacrifices advancing his allies instead of charging into the fray by themselves. Dash might be too powerful and may be reconsidered to either the ally’s movement speed or a flat number like 20 or 30 feet.
Improved Combat Superiority: At 10th level, your superiority dice turn into d10s.
Author’s Note: I kept part of this feature around, but took away the 18th level superiority die progression so I could fit an actual 18th level ability. But I did not want to sacrifice the overall damage potential from this archetype either.
Relentless: Starting at 15th level, when you roll initiative and have no superiority dice remaining, you regain 1 superiority die.
Author’s Note: I honestly didn’t see the need to replace this ability, why fix what isn’t broken?
Bastion of Glory: Starting at 18th level, whenever you use your Indomitable feature to re-roll an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throw and aren’t incapacitated, you can choose a number of allies equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1) within 60 feet of you that also failed its saving throw against the same effect. If that creature can see or hear you, it can reroll its saving throw and must use the new roll.
Additionally, whenever creatures use the Dash action granted from your Banner of Courage feature, they gain advantage on their next melee weapon attack before the beginning of your next turn.
Author’s Note: Okay, so this is where we break the design mold, sorta. So we removed the superiority dice improvement for an actual feature at 18th level. By 18th level, in regards to other classes, full casters can cast 9th level spells (even if it’s only once between long rest) which can ultimately powerful, not including the myriad of spells available at lower levels. The Paladin becomes a physical personification of their Oath at 20th level, I don’t see why we can’t make a feature for the Fighter at 18th that defines and highlights the option’s distinguished ability. I wanted a feature that gave the Cavalier the ability to inspire their allies to not fear the dragon and charge forward with renewed vigor. It make sense to me anyway, I did burrow the idea in-part from the Bulwark feature from the Purple Dragon Knight archetype but modified it be a bit more powerful and added an addendum to the Banner of Courage feature for the Cavalier here.
Now charge forward! FOR GLORY! FOR RUIN! FOR AWESOME, BADASS VICTORY!
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