Tuesday, March 3, 2009

REVIEW: Original Edition Options - Paladin, Cavalier & Squire

This 7-page PDF confused me at first. Some months ago, I reviewed another PDF entitled Original Edition Characters, produced by Goblinoid Games in order tweak the rules of the excellent Labyrinth Lord to play a bit more like those from the little brown books of OD&D. Given that this product, published by Brave Halfling, uses very similar trade dress (intended to recall the White Box), I suppose the confusion was inevitable. In point of fact, though, the "Original Edition Options" line, of which Cavalier, Paladin & Squire is one example, isn't a support product for Labyrinth Lord alone, but for all OD&D-descended retro-clones and simulacra, including Swords & Wizardry. Unsurprisingly, I think this is terrific and evidence of just how compatible the pre-WotC editions of Dungeons & Dragons were with one another, despite their having been packaged and marketed differently from another another.

As its name suggests, Cavalier, Paladin & Squire introduces three new character options for original edition games, chief among them the cavalier, knightly warriors who excel at both mounted combat and swordplay. Unlike their predecessors in Unearthed Arcana, the cavalier presented here is a reasonable -- dare I say "balanced?" -- class with a very specific focus. Cavaliers receive bonuses when fighting form horseback, when attempting to parry attacks, and are disciplined to the point of nigh-fearlessness. In addition, cavaliers must abide by a code of chivalry, adherence to which earns them respect and benefits in the eyes of their peers and social superiors. Like all the Brave Halfling character classes, the cavalier presented here is straightforwardly archetypal, with simple mechanics that support that archetype.

Also included in this $1.25 PDF are rules for playing a 0-level squire, a would-be candidate for knighthood. I have mixed feelings about 0-level characters as PCs, but they do have a history in D&D, albeit one from late in the 1e era, when the Golden Age had long given way to the Silver. There are also rules for using the paladin as a sub-class of the cavalier rather than of the fighter -- a very Gygaxian conception of the class. The presentation of the paladin here supersedes the presentation found in Delving Deeper - Paladin, at least for original edition games, making the earlier PDF superfluous. Like 0-level characters, I have mixed feelings about the paladin as a cavalier sub-class, partly because of how egregious the AD&D version was and partly because I don't see any inherent connection between the saintliness of the paladin and the knightliness of the cavalier.

However, I do love options and Brave Halfling once again provides this in spades for a very reasonable price. If you have even the slightest interest in cavaliers, 0-level characters, or original edition character construction, you'll get your money's worth out of this product. Here's hoping we see more entries in the "Original Edition Options" line in the weeks to come.

Final Score: 4½ out of 5 polearms


  1. I don't see any inherent connection between the saintliness of the paladin and the knightliness of the cavalier.

    Yes. One of my most memorable experiences as a player was discovering that the the dark, brooding PC in the corner could detect evil-- because he was a paladin!

  2. I always loved the idea of 0-level characters - the idea mind you, they never really seemed to work in practice because you're basically retrofitting a feature into a system that it doesn't support well. You can't really get very far with 1 hit point unless your DM "pretends" to do his job, in which case, what's the point?

  3. I actually bought the Greyhawk adventures book in order to have the 0 lvl rules to take for a spin. The campaign I envisioned, where the part starts out as essentially children in a typical fantasy village and "grow up" together thru a series of adventures as 0 lvl characters that would lead them into 1st lvl character classes gradually, never took off.

  4. Whenever I see a "Cavalier" class, I want to partner it with a "Roundhead," a mythologised version of Cromwell's "Russet-coated Captain," that combines new professionalism in soldiering with fanatical (religiously inspired) loyalty and a strong preference for meritocracy. It might be a really interesting rethink of the Paladin.

    ...not that everything has to happen down the dungeon, but a Cavalier with all his equestrian buffs always seemed a little out of place to me in the canonical environment, in a way that no other class did (oddly, even the Ranger). How does this version handle in the underworld?

  5. How does this version handle in the underworld?

    This version still, I think, suffers a bit as a dungeon-delving character class, because one of its main class abilities pertains to mounted combat. I think it'd work better in a wilderness-oriented campaign.