I have a soft spot for Paladins, so one of the first things I checked out when I got Heroes of the Fallen Lands was the new Cavalier build. Some thoughts below (mostly good!):
- Stats: This Paladin uses Strength and Charisma, which is great. The other Strength based Paladin technically relies on 3 stats, Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma, which is ROUGH. Also, the powers the Cavalier uses will go a long way towards filling out the other Strength based build as well (which had it very rough in the PHB1 and has been slowly crawling forward ever since).
- Defender Aura: Identical to the fighter one, so pretty standard. But an aura 1 is probably more effective than just marking one guy who you’re usually going to be adjacent to anyway!
- Righteous Radiance: Similar to the effect from Divine Challenge, but the auto damage does go off if the enemy shifts, so it gives the Paladin some nice stickiness.
- Holy Smite: The Paladin equivalent of Power Strike, it’s noticeably better, probably along the lines of back stab. Does decent auto damage and dazes on a hit, so a nice little power to stack up on.
- Righteous Shield: There were already a few ways for Paladin’s to get cool powers to take damage for allies, but adding one that all Cavaliers get is very nice. It feels very Paladiny to take the brunt of your allies attacks!
- At-Wills: I was a little surprised to see all Cavaliers get Valiant Strike, which is in the phb 1, but it is a solid power, so that’s fine. The other powers, which you get based on which virtue you take, both become more powerful when allies are bloodied. That works pretty nice thematically and makes for interesting metagaming theoretically. I like the idea of stuff that encourages people to stay bloodied, since generally most people want to be at close to full HP. It’s nice to imagine enough things, racial bonuses, feats, powers, etc. that swing in someone’s favor for them to want to be bloodied a lot of the time, always on the razor edge between noble effectiveness and unconsciousness!
- Restore Vitality: A crappy version of lay on hands (because it can only be used once per day, as opposed to several times per day for a Paladin with decent Wisdom), but then again it takes away the need to pump points into wisdom, which no Paladin ever got super happy about, since both types had to pump points into Charisma too (so doubling up and getting only 1 defense boosted).
- Pace of the Virtuous Chargers: Paladin’s get a bonus to speed when riding mounts in non combat. They also grant the bonus to their party. A bit lackluster, but it is nice to have a nod towards Paladins actually riding mounts!
- Spirit of the Virtuous Charger: I understand why they didn’t want you to actually summon a virtuous charger into battle (what if you’re already riding a horse or are in a cramped dungeon), but thematically this felt a little silly. Nonetheless, bonuses to speed and damage with charge attacks are fun, and flying at level 18 is super boss, even if it’s just 1 encounter a day!
- Paragon Path: Valiant Cavalier: I haven’t been super blown away by any of the essentials paragon paths and this one is no exception. It gives a string of okay bonuses and the like (such as +2 to STs, immunity to most diseases, and a bonus to your healing surge value), but compared to the arguably overpowered stuff in the phb1 and other books, this one falls short!
All in all, I’m pretty pleased with the Cavalier. It seems like in general it will be able to do its defender job a little better than other versions of the Paladin. It loses some backup lay on hands healing (being able to lay down 3+ heals in one tough encounter is a pretty big boon), but that frees up having to dunk points into wisdom, which is pretty nice.
Was this really a cavalier analysis of the cavalier? Probably not. More like a clinical and dry analysis of the cavalier. But really, that’s not at all catchy. I suppose I was a bit cavalier in my use of the word cavalier!