This review was first published in GMS Magazine and written by Thilo Graf.
This pdf is 11 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 9 1/3 pages of content.
The pdf kicks off with a short discussion on the nature of cavalier orders and presents a summary of the 7 new ones contained herein, 1 more than in this pdfs predecessor. The first Order is already more original than almost all from the first pdf, being the Order of the Bow, an order that (Surprise!) focuses on mounted archery. Seeing that up until now this niche has not yet been covered well by the class, I consider this to be a nice addition. Especially the lvl 15 ability that lets the Cavalier end a mounted charge with a ranged attack is quite a nice one. If you’re the Cavalier and not on the receiving end of the charge, that is.
The next Order, the Order of the Citadel, focuses on battlefield command and tactical support of his allies, featuring the ability to issue commands that grant significant bonuses to his allies, going so far as to offering a selection 5 decisive commands in addition to the standard battlefield support, making this mechanic a) more versatile than a single one and b) actually pretty useful, as e.g. one of the tactics enables the cavalier to grant his allies his Cha-mod as morale bonus to their crit-confirmation rolls, initiative and ref-saves –Neat!
The Order of the Raven acts as a kind of dark enforcer for a lord, and, while not necessarily evil, they usually are feared. They are quite adept at demoralizing foes and generally speaking, I much prefer them to the one-dimensional oh-so-evil cardboard cut-out Order of the Skull. My only, minor gripe with this class is the lvl 15 ability that once again nets the Cavalier limited spellcasting at his level minus 14, which at this level is simply neither impressive, nor too useful. Plus, I’ve said it once and will say it again: The Cavalier, at least to me, is a rather worldly class and would be better suited for some supernatural or unique ability.
The next on the list is the Order of the Shroud, a dedicated undead slayer whose challenges are especially lethal against the living dead and who get usage to channel energy, but only for smiting purposes. Unfortunately, there’s a minor formatting glitch here: A part of the order’s cool crest’s white background conceals approximately one fourth of the letters of the first column on page 6 – while still decipherable, it’s still a glitch that could be avoided.
And now comes one of my favorite Orders from this pdf, the Order of the Trident, which focuses on aquatic combat – now that’s a bit out of the ordinary, gathered, but it can be a godsend and offers for some rather interesting new concepts with regards to what one think of when the term “Cavalier” is uttered. Even better, a smattering of sample aquatic mount stats are presented that range from the obvious dolphins, whales, sharks and orcas to the rather cool giant morays, manta rays and even 2 kinds of dinosaurs –now if that’s not cool, I don’t know what is. If you happen to own Alluria Publishing’s Cerulean Sea campaign setting, be sure to check this order out.
The penultimate Order is one of those iconic ones one practically has to like: An all-female Order of the Unicorn, who even can get the legendary creatures as mounts. The rules for the pure mounts are analogue to those of the Order of the Griffon from the predecessor and, while not necessarily the solution I would have chosen for the mount’s advancement, definitely work, though as a DM I would impose some restrictions with regards to the class-levels the mount can take.
The final Order is dedicated to the Wolf, a barbaric scion of a tribe who can inspire allies via pack tactics but also work alone. More importantly, though, he gains an extremely iconic direwolf mount. Oh yeah! Unfortunately, once again, the heraldic crest’s white background is somewhat superimposed over parts of some letters and while not impeding usability, it is somewhat annoying.
Finally, there are three new feats: One grants you +4 cavalier levels for the purpose of one of your abilities, one increases a mounts atk and damage and the final one, squire (intended for non-cavalier classes), lets you gain the skill-bonuses and class skills of an order of your choosing, but only as long as you do not violate the teachings of that order. This is a feat I really enjoy, as it practically combines a substantial, yet cool benefit with a background for your character, namely having served a squire. You don’t have to be a genius to come up with some neat ideas resulting from that.
Editing is top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Unfortunately, the same does not hold tue for formatting, as I’ve mentioned in the review. Layout adheres to the 3-column standard and the pdf has no bookmarks. The front cover by Redpeggy is beautiful and the b/w-crests for the orders are a nice touch. All in all, I’m very pleased to say that this book is superior to its predecessor in each and every way imaginable: Designer Marc Radle with Owen K.C. Stephens has trumped his last shot at orders by a huge stretch: While the Orders presented herein still remain easy to integrate in every campaign setting out there and are generic, they all offer enough touches, nooks, ideas to make them captivating in some way. Be it via an interesting, ability, a cool mount or just iconic imagery, they all serve a certain theme that goes beyond being the bland fulfillment of a trope. My only very minor mechanical gripes are the “spellcasting at level minus 14”-mechanic, which I consider useless and the class levels for the unicorn mounts, but these are personal preferences and not necessarily something I can hold against this pdf. Indeed, when all’s said and done my only true gripe with this pdf lies with the minor formatting glitches. If they would make parts of the text unintelligible, I’d detract a whole star. As the lines are only partially obscured, cutting of parts of capital letters, though, I’ll only detract the half star that separates a very good file from an outstanding one, resulting in a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform and making this, in my opinion, one of the best advanced options books.
[5 of 5 Stars!]