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Phantasmal Octopus

doc the grey's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber. FullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 3,152 posts (3,177 including aliases). 17 reviews. 1 list. 1 wishlist. 11 Pathfinder Society characters. 5 aliases.

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It left me feeling like an Angry Dragon both for good and for Ill

****( )

An overall solid read, legacy of Dragons is a return to form for the legacy line with 32 pages of archetypes, spells, and dragons! for players to explore and find new use for in their character creation schemes. From new spells that let you turn into the alien outer dragons to whole new writeups for the draconic bloodlines to include the near half dozen new True Dragon types like the chinese Imperial/Lung Dragons and the Occult Esoteric Dragons the whole thing feels packed to the gills with cool s+!& to play with.

Of special note is the new Dragonheir Scion. A Fighter Archetype, the Scion is an amazing example of high fantasy concepts applied to martial classes. The fighter slowly becomes a living half dragon, growing scales and being able to call upon his blood's magic to wreath his weapons in their iconic energies while terrifying his enemies with his very presence and slowly growing scales to fend off the slings and arrows of those who dare wake his fury. All that and all you really lose is Armor Training and some Feats!

This is a fighter archetype done right Paizo! I want to see more like this and with other creatures! Take this and give me damned magus', fighters, and cavaliers who become more like devils, vampire sworn fighters who can feed on the dead for power and become more ghoul like as they go, and fey trained swashbucklers who's dealings with the fairfolk make them spritely fighters of deadly dances. This is the mark for where to go next guys, take this in with hungry minds!

The crowning achievement of this book is the drake companions, lesser dragons that have become willing to follow around an adventurer foolish enough to try to ally with a lizard just as willing to eat them as taking orders.The Drakes follow the same structure as animal companions but with their own dragon stats meaning d12 hit dice and fast BAB progression and a new suite of abilities for the characters to invest in as they grow, allowing PCs to build their own custom Drakes to stalk into combat beside them initially as tiny (and likely flightless) pissed off lizards and end as elephant sized lightning breathing death machines that carry you across the battlefield like the angry storm of war! Unfortunately, though the drakes themselves have few flaws (the lack of energy resistances of any type seems a major misstep if not an editorial error) the archetypes that give them to you have some major issues with most of them dumping huge swaths of base abilities just to get them. Druids lose nature bond, wild empathy, woodland stride, venom immunity, a thousand faces, and timeless body and dropping wild shape for a nerfed version that makes them a sort of half-dragon light; Paladins give up channel energy, aura of justice, aura of righteousness, additional uses per day of smite evil gained at 4th/10th/& 16th, mercies at 6th/12th/& 18th, and the assumed divine bond. Worst of all though is the Cavalier who, in order to get a dragon mount literally gives up EVERY ABILITY HE HAS save challenge and orders and even the latter is limited to a small list and whatever your GM approves of. That's huge and though the dragon is good the other limiters put in place by the drake companion mechanics presented within the book like its limited drake powers and inability to easily replace them should they fall does more than enough to limit these guys that this level of class ability slash and burn feels excessive. Now some of the others like the Shaman archetype fair better but in general the Drake companion feels like an albatross tied around the neck of many of the classes that get them, weighing down the class so much by fear of overpowering the base class that it overcompensates and nerfs them into mediocrity or oblivion in the case of the Cavalier.

This right here is what cut a star off this recommendation and if I had the ability at least another half star. Fortunately the new bloodlines, feats, and some absolutely amazing archetypes that aren't connected to the drakes saves this book from mediocrity but don't make up for egregious oversight here with those archetypes that manage to actually get drake companions yet suffer under slash & burn archetype design. Hopefully a few of these will at least get an errata sooner or later to put some of this stuff back, in the meantime I'm going to be figuring out some patches for that cavalier build.

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Chained and Muzzled

**( )( )( )

The site ate my first draft of this so bear with me but like the star count and title of this review might hint at this book falls tragically short of not only its potential as a supplement to really flesh out the various mundane celestials we already have through interesting writeups but also fails to match the evocative, inventive, and unique works that it seeks to follow up both in Hell Unleashed and Chronicles of the Righteous.

To start, the celestial beings have always had bad hand in tabletop gaming in terms of theme and narrative. Standing beside amazing and enthralling writeups for the various other outsiders like the incredibly detailed Devils as produced by Wes in Princes of Darkness and the volumes of APs and modules that feature them, the new Daemons that create this original group of fiends that are equally horrifying, malicious, and tragic as creatures crafted from the horrible ways they died and the suffering that beset them, or even the Inevitables with their inflexible adherence to law regardless of the morality of it the celestial races have always been stuck falling into one of two camps. The former, a group of outsiders more defined by not being evil than any interesting theme of their own or by being "not as good as they are supposed to be". The former is something that snakes through all of the celestial beings, leaving them for the most part feeling uninteresting and flat, telling me nothing really about them that isn't shared by every other thing statted that doesn't have an E in its alignment. The latter undermines what little we do have to go on when we as GMs sit down to design games around these creatures, with a lot of the other sources we've had to reference about these guys talking more about how all of the interesting ones really just end up falling to evil and tyranny rather than presenting something unique and interesting yet wholly good and caring. It speaks volumes that for the longest time the most interesting celestials we've had in print have been the ones that now rule Hell and when you're talking about beings that are literally forged from the souls of the countless number of paladins, clerics, good wizards, and noble thieves we've all seen cross our tables that seems a bit tragic.

Now, that said Chronicles of the Righteous did an amazing job of pushing back against a lot of this stereotype with it's release and Bestiary 5 gave us our first glimpse of some insanely powerful angels in the form of the Empyrean Angel, but Heaven Unleashed seems to have just devolved back into the pitfalls mentioned above. The bulk of the angelic entries fall into one of the two categories listed above with entries in the former category coming off as little more than "angel that guards a hellgate" or "Planetar who watches over a fort" or entries that fall into the latter category that paint these celestial beings as cause more harm that good at best or coming off as something much closer to a demented demon lord at worst. In the former category I feel particularly bad for the aforementioned "angel that guards a hellgate". A Gate Archon named Ambithas, this angel is described as having studied arcane magic for lifetimes if not eons with some of the greatest arcane minds in existence to such an extent that he can LITERALLY CHOOSE TO MAKE HIS SPELL LIST ARCANE OR DIVINE each morning when he preps spells. He can literally prep wish, timestop, and/or planar binding one day and then miracle, raise dead, and commune the next. He's written like he could have studied under Nex back when he was still on Golarion or Merlin after being summoned from the mounts of heaven 1000 years ago. Unfortunately, all of that interesting character is relegated to a minor paragraph and his special ability on the last page, the rest of his entry preoccupied instead with telling minimally describing the hellgate and the same old story of the diabolist who built his house over it and died opening it.

Meanwhile the latter category of celestials who are more like evil pricks who somehow have a G alignment are all the more infuriating. The flying helmet angel is so rigid and blunt that it sounds more like an inevitable than any angel, constantly berating and instigating conflict in its quest to ferret out "the sins/truths" of others while simultaneously giving it not a single redeeming quality that helps make it come off as if it were good save the fact that it's an angel. The worst offender though has to be Andoletta. The Empyreal Lord of Consolation, respect, and security (a portfolio I looked up in Chronicles of the Righteous because it was better defined their than in the writeup itself) Andoletta comes off less both less interesting than her original writeup in Chronicles of the Righteous or her Infernal Duke counterpart in Hell Unleashed and yet somehow more malicious and disturbing. Her whole schtick at best can be defined as "Old lady who always knows better than those gosh darned kids" at best but once you get into her the description her whole concept seems to take on a tone far more in tune with that of a fiend. Her heavenly realm is initially described as this idyllic little village on a hill but the more you read the more disturbing and out of character it seems to become. A whirlpool swirls at one corner of the the realm and when her petitioners see it they, "are struck by a troubling sense that they’ve forgotten something important" which quickly disappears when the whirlpool disappears back into the fog, a secret groove is cordoned off by stags devoted to erastil who both won't let others onto their tiny island and act nervous and fidgety if anyone asks what they or their site are doing here like some kind of weird blackops site for the stag lord. Finally, he village contains a forest that no one can enter unless they have forgotten their previous mortal life and when said event occurs are shepherded their by Andoletta, never to be seen or heard from again. The whole description paints it less as a heavenly afterlife and more like heavenly slaughterhouse designed by demon lord taking design tips from Temple Branden, Soma pumping through the air to pacify and fog the minds of the chattel souls about to be slaughtered ala Huxley's Brave New World. The whole thing feels like a cosmic oversight and and on top of the copy past errors already in that chapter (her writeup has abilities listed that she doesn't actually have), a list of pretty uninteresting powers already, and again her most interesting facets relegated to a few tiny paragraphs at the end of the chapter. I mean in the last page of her chapter we are introduced to the concept of her clerics solidifying in the dreams of the faithful and fending off Freddy Kreuger like threats in pitched dreamscape battles alongside her SPECIAL ANGELS SPECIFIC TO THIS TASK. But yet again all that cool stuff occupies the tiniest part of that whole chapter, filling out the end and stopping just as you get really interested.

On top of all of this the art inside the book (unlike the amazing cover) is for the most part boring and uninspired. Art for the heavy hitters either looks just like the art for said character's creature type from a different angle or boring and derivative of stuff we've all seen before. Tzyduk and Ambithas just look like your stereotypical white guy with wings & male gate archon, Andoletta looks like the iconic spiritualist crossed with an old varisian woman to make a character that is both less than the former amazing art by Wayne Renolds and like something we've all seen a million times before in both paizo art and the classic old gypsy woman trope any of us could find with a few seconds of google searching, Awigazi (the half celestial coatl) is cool but thanks to the odd perspective makes him look like he's got a disproportionately large head on a tiny body, and Penshi, the choral angel that runs a bar's art just paints him as an Asian bard with a lute that feels so generic it could be replaced with nearly any similar art of an asian bard and you likely wouldn't notice. Hell this is an angel! Give me art of how it looks in its true angelic form, NOT THE DISGUISE HE USES TO BLEND IN WITH PEOPLE SO THEY DON'T THINK HE IS ANYMORE THAN A MUNDANE HUMAN! I can find art like that on google in 5 mins based on the text description, I'll have a much harder time finding art of the unique agendered angel from a class of angels that has art of them singing notes so pure they literally are FRYING BEARDED DEVILS in Chronicles of the Righteous. Worst of all the human characters we get are little more than Iomedean clerics and paladins that we've all seen a dozen times already in everything from Wrath of the Righteous and Inner Sea Gods to the Bestiary in the Numeria campaign book, with both of them (especially the paladin) looking just like all the other attractive girl paladins in not boob plate with a sword that Iomedae has in spades. S~~!, if all the mortal worshipers in here must follow Iomedae (and not someone who's church we haven't seen a lot of representation for like say, a Sheyln paladin) could we at least get some body diversity? I would love that paladin to have looked more like Brianne of Tarth, a fat elf woman covered in scars, a trans dwarf woman with a beard styled after the dwarf from Rat Queens or a dozen other options over 2 pics of what is essentially the same holy woman of Iomedea I've already gotten a dozen pictures of but this time with red hair. Ohh and last but not least, we have an Empyrean Angel (the type of angel on the cover) who just looks like Warlord Shen from LoL with some fire wings that could just as easily be banners. All that said there are some standouts that really do look amazing like Pilali the Keeper (an Exscinder Archon with amazing burning wings of this amazing cobalt blue) or the Cassian Angel Cadathiel who's design reminds me of a highly stylized mix of ancient Assyrian helmets and the silver immortal masks from 300, they are but a tiny minority among the other trite offerings they seem to share the pages with.

Finally, the book has a bad habit of overusing their, they, and them exclusively to describe "agendered" characters. Now I understand the want to explore characters who's gender falls outside the human gender binary and I am excited nay thrilled and elated to see more of them going forward but Paizo has to start using different pronouns here. This is a game that not only has capacity for agendered characters and beings to exist within its worlds but also animated objects, legion like hive minds, plant beings, vishnu like multifaceted plural beings, and machine robots that do not reproduce at all or do through a mechanism like say crafting them that would be wholly alien to our understanding of gender. And yet, all of these things can be described using the pronouns they, them, and their and it just leads to confusion. For example, in this book we have 2 minor characters mentioned in the first 2 pages of this book named Henezien the First and The Many Faced Prophet. The former is the first sentient Iron Golem who reads like it could be either the first singular golem of its kind or a whole batch of sentient Celestial Iron Golems who became their own group or could even be a hivemind. Meanwhile the latter is a doppelganger oracle who cycles their disguise and identity with each village/city/culture they pass through to such an extent that I could totally see them having something much closer to a pangender (panperson even?) identity construct akin the the concept of Vishnu where they are both one person, many people, all the same and all different, but because all of these characters use the same freakin' pronouns you can't really tell. On top of all that, it runs into readability problems the minute you start reading anything in which these singular characters start to interact with small groups of undefined characters like the PCs. This leaves you with sentences that can read like,

"Azreal talks to the PCs and pleads for their help exploring the tomb. If they accept their proposal, they nod and head off to explore the west side of the crypt while they sweep the eastern wing."

It's grammatically correct but incredibly confusing and considering how often we are going to see these characters' actions written in response to the group the is the PCs I think it's time we pick pronouns more specific to the character in question than they. I mean right now we have ey, hu, jee, ney, peh, per, e, thon, ve, xe, and yo just for agender singular pronouns alone, why not use them? And hell, once you crack that box and start applying cultural filters on top of it we could maybe even see something really cool, like associations based on cultures the characters inhabit like agendered Garundi out of Thuvia using Peh or agendered numerian technomancers using thon. That gets me far more excited than having to sit here and read these entries multiple times and try to parse out which of the aforementioned genders or more the author could be alluding to by using "they".

Now I could go on (even the chapter on heaven feels boring and uninspired when compared to some of the other realms we've seen like Hell, Abaddon, or the Akashic record) but I feel like I've made my point well enough. For all the hopes one might have for Heaven Unleashed considering the pedigree of books that came before it, all it manages to do is present a lot more of the same.

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A perfect complement to your Iron Gods or strangely your Kingmaker game

****( )

For those of you who don't know I'm a big fan of the technology guide. I love that we have rules for adding things like lasers, robots, rockets, and power armor to my fantasy setting. I love that it grants us the chance to insert a little more mystery into our worlds than just "it's magic" and make our players a bit more intrigued by the dungeons and worlds that exist in their lands both in Paizo's home setting and our home games without having to write a book myself to do it. What's more the style in which it was presented was amazing, a fusion of classic scifi tropes like laser pistols and death rays with a healthy dose of 40k future diesel punk and grim dark thrown in for some amazing options (looking at you chainsword, monowhip, and rad grenades) that really scratch that itch and make these options feel grimy and brutal in all the right ways for a world with Conan style barbarians rubbing shoulders with robot titans.

But with all that in mind it wasn't enough. We got a lot of the good starters but we were left with far more questions. How the hell does all of this fit into a world like golarion where stuff like a toothed sword that screams as it saws a man in half is far more likely to be attributed to being possessed by a demon than it is to a microprocessor? And for that matter what do they do with all the broken pieces, do they just leave them lying around, what do they think happens when one finally shuts down, and do they ever try to fix them or more try anything more interesting? Well it seems Fat Goblin has heard me, since with this book I get new tech, an answer to some of these questions, and oddly enough a tech tree system.

First lets talk about the biggest addition and the bulk of this product for most consumers, augmentations. An answer to my biggest question about what the hell all these primitive societies do with all this broken or discharged tech that is lying around in places like Numeria's rust fields or other worlds where these things are ancient technology left behind that they barely understand, augmentations are weapons and armor that have had used, broken, and discovered technology incorporated into their design to help improve their function or capitalize on the remains of destroyed tech. Augmentations let you do everything from repairing armor by lashing it all together with ion tape (basically duct tape) to attaching chainsaws to your greatclub to give you a baseball bat that will chew through your enemies like a wood chipper. In short they are amazingly inventive and already have me and my players chomping at the bit to play with them at the table, from our warpriest wanting to wrap a chainsaw blade around his holy weapon to both of them wanting to buy a pack of cylex rounds (ammunition coated with impact activated C4) to help them even the odds against a morlock tribe they ran afoul of in a local dungeon these things get me amped to not just incorporate them but use them as ways to explain how this midevil culture has started to incorporate them into their world beyond sacred relics. It lets me have blacksmith who make full plate out of rare plastics scraped from the machinery of ancient dungeons, weaponsmiths who craft greatswords around damaged graviton engines to impart "the thunder of the gods" into the wielders stroke, and to have kobolds that craft uranium laced longspears from broken rad grenades to permanently cripple any foolish long shank dumb enough to try and break into their lair. And all of it is done with a fusion of old gear and the pieces they would naturally find. That is awesome and what's more those are just some of the examples I could pull from here. On top of all that the rules for crafting them allow you to use old, burnt out, and discarded tech to create these augmentations, turning that timeworn chainsword you picked up and burned out a few sessions ago from a worthless piece of junk and into a key component for turning your humdrum greataxe into a howling toothed chainsaw greataxe that would make Kharn the Betrayer proud.

The next big thing in here is the tech tree system, oddly something designed for of all things the kingdom building system presented in Kingmaker and Ultimate Campaign. With this system you get what is essentially a civilization style tech tree system that allows you to invest build points into furthering your nations understanding of technology, granting basic things like learning physics and basic biology at the start to eventually crafting things like orbital space stations, airports, and hospitals that can replace your arm with a top of the line cybernetic replacement at the highest end of the trees. The investments are steep for each facet of the various trees you invest in and many require investing in multiple trees to qualify for options (i.e. pharmaceuticals requires you have invested in biology and chemistry in order to begin studying it) but having a way to not further your nations education in a tangible way and see the fruits of it start to show up is just icing on the cake. The system even helps incorporate things like firearms into the equation, offering them up as some of the first pieces of advanced technology your budding nation can produce. The examples here go on and trying to lay them all out could take pages but suffice it to say if you would like to add a little more Civilization to your kingdom building this is a great place to start.

Finally you get the actual new tech of the book which is surprisingly sparse, in total numbering out to maybe a half dozen or so new items that are not examples of augmented tech but all of which are pretty cool. Ranging from a set of adamantine piston knuckles a la fallout that let you roll twice for damage to a nanofiber vest that can expedite healing and even grant fast healing but has the wearer risk cardiac arrest if the push the system too far. Each one is interesting, well priced, and easy to insert into any campaign alongside the tech guide with little problem.

Now the book is not perfect. It's got some formatting errors that drive me crazy like notes for where bullet points are supposed to be that haven't been added (part of why it's not 5 star as of this writing) but overall the book is an absolute treat for those looking for more ways to incorporate the options introduced in the technology guide in more interesting ways. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to design a gnoll barbarian with a radioactive axe.

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The second best option for injecting more Undead toys into your game

****( )

So if you are like me and have been playing Pathfinder for even a short amount of time there's a good chance 2 things have crossed through your mind. First, is how cool and exciting the chance to raise and lead a horde of undead with your own hands can be and second is how difficult that is by the standard rules. Being a necromancer can get really expensive and on top of the obvious in game social issues of looking at a potters field as a recruiting station the mechanics of doing so can be both exceedingly cumbersome and a bit uninspiring. The only way to interact with undead is to either spend money and make them or get lucky and flip them to your cause with spells or a single ability if you have the luck of running into one. This is only exacerbated at low levels when you're at that also stuck being too low level to create undead and yet your other abilities don't really hold up to making you feel like the undead connected necromancer you are trying to play. Enter Summon Undead, a book that tries to correct this through introducing a new mechanism for giving you undead early while not overshadowing the options that already exist.

To start, summon undead takes a page from the summon monster spells in core, giving you a set of spells that summon undead to your side from a list of options presented in the book. This list ranges from moaning heads and feeble ghouls on the lowest end to Banshees and demiliches on the highest levels. This gives players and GMs wonderful options that allow players at low levels to really start making those squads of undead and getting used to that power and play style at the earliest level. At the same time it also keeps balance with the system since, like summons all these options are limited to only a few rounds of service before they return to wherever they came from, allowing your necromancers to burst into hordes of dead but keep them from being able to command and strategize in ways that those with more permanent necrotic flunkies could manage.

Things get even more interesting once you start looking at some of the other spells that managed to make it in here. Summon Minor Undead is a really cool 0 level spell that lets you create a minor undead flunky to help you out after a 1 hour ritual. Thing takes forever and the corpse isn't exactly a combat machine, but like prestidigitation and other utility level 0 spells the options it opens up are really nice. Summon a floating head to spy around corners, a skeleton to help port goods, or even a zombie king crab to tank a room while you get away. The options are many and the idea of 12 hours with an undead sycophant are exciting. Also really love the Summon undead Legion, Horde, and Army spells as a great way to just instantly summon these huge swaths of shambling corpses like every would be necromancers dreams about.

Now on top of all that we get a new summoner alternate class called the undead summoner and 9 new archetypes, 2 of which are for the new aforementioned class. Also of note is that we even manage to get an archetype for the new classes presented in the ACG which in this case is the hunter. All of the classes are pretty cool with most of them taking some advantage of the new eidolon type that the undead summoner gets (referred to as a fetch) and all of them having some sort of connection to undead. Most of them are pretty cool and though the fetch isn't always the most interesting option for some of these (I would have preferred something like a negative energy affinity for those classes that already have animal companions) the replace for them is pretty simple and the rest of their kits are usually evocative enough in the mechanics department to carry them through.

Now again though the biggest draw here though are the spells which again, feel amazing but have just one big problem. That problem in short, is Deep Magic by Kobold press. Another 3rd party source that offered up their own take on this same niche and though it lacks the more diverse list of options that Summon Undead does it presents a system MUCH more uniquely undead than this book does.

Now that might sound pretty damning and on some levels it was, this books system though cool was just not as original or outstanding as the one leveled against them by Kobold but you know what? I still enjoy it. The work is solid, the archetypes cool, and the spells that are in here are still solid. In my home games I know I've done some conversions on certain spells to bring them more in line with Kobold's Animate Undead line of spells and I've loved what comes out of it and with this books tables of pre built undead I've still got mounds of options for when my players decide to use that spell to try and convert X monster into a zombie without having to worry about stopping game to have to do a stat block. On top of all that too at a price point of only $5 usd it's still a 5th of the price you would be spending on that book just to get at that spell.

So in closing I guess what I have to say is this, Summon Undead may not have the greatest version of this summon monster/undead fusion I've seen put to page in pathfinder but it is still leaps and bound ahead of the options Paizo has given us thus far in the niche and for the price is a fine replacement or even supplement to both those rules and the options presented in the titular Deep Magic.

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Probably one of the best supplements to the class


In case the title to this review seems a bit hyperbolic let me be clear. I love the cavalier class, I've loved it since it dropped in Advanced Players Guide and since I got to finally play my first character that wasn't one I ran from behind the screen. I've loved the whole concept of this more classic knight designed around the idea of a noble who is trained to lead his men as part of his education in becoming a king, queen, duke or what have you and finally I've loved how things like the tactician abilities and especially the orders help me as the player not only feel like a tactical commander (as opposed to the solo trained fighter or barbarian) and through the orders have a way to build a huge variety of cavaliers that supports this huge brevity of characters. From bastards of the Cockatrice order to nobly striving Blue Rose men who want to try to fix the world they live in. All that being said, the cavalier has had its problems and one of them is order options. Sure we have a lot, nearly 3 different hardbacks and likely over a half dozen softcovers all take a stab at adding new orders to the list for the wayward master of the mount and field but the overall quality we get amongst them can be middling in narrative uniqueness. We exist in a world where the diplomacy focused but hard trained diplomats of the Blue Rose exist beside the at least 2 different orders that focus on protecting peasants specifically and though that is cool we all know there is a lot more ground we can cover here and I'm happy to say this book does it in spades. Giving us 12 new orders and an archetype on the side, flaming crab games has managed to squeeze out what might be some of my favorite orders yet on page along with some great support for each.

To start we get the Order of The Black Rose or as it has come to be called amongst my peers the death knight order. Ever wanted to play that cavalier of Ugathoa who lauds the power of undead and seeks to slowly become one? You got it. The Black Rose gives it to you, focusing on improving your abilities to understand undead and even granting you the ability to command them with your raw magnetism a la the grave knight at 2nd level with command undead and from their it only gets worse. Your challenges flay peoples AC with a challenge and eventually your capstone power lets you smack the divinity out of your clerical foes, severing their ability to channel positive energy against you if they fail to fend off your might. On top of that the feat option they give you allows your mount to slowly become necrotic with you, gaining the ability to heal off negative energy as you do and best of all the feat can be picked up as one of your cavalier bonus feats (a pattern that gets repeated throughout the book).

Next we get the the order of the Claymore, these rough and tumble cavaliers who are all about physical prowess, never backing down from a challenge, and kicking the ever loving s#@* out whomever is dumb enough to challenge them with big two-handed weapons. At first sounding a bit redundant what makes these guys really stand out is not only their stellar abilities (including getting to treat a greatsword like a lance for damage when charging, boosting challenge damage vs. really tough opponents, and literally being able do a mounted cleaving charge like some demented set of battlefield hedge clippers) but the story that ends up getting told through both the art and the support feats they get access to. You see the Claymore cavalier presented in the art here isn't this young barbarian conan type you might expect but this old, weathered vet. The dude looks like Don Quixote in his mid 50's but he's still clutching this greatsword and riding off into combat, ready to take on any fool who's thinks they can unseat the old man. To top it off you get the feats Grizzled and Rugged, the former letting you add double your age bonuses to Sense Motive and Intimidate to mirror your decades of service and the latter allowing you have one of your physical stats IGNORE AGE PENALTIES. That's huge and what's better is as a Claymore Cavalier you can take it up to 3 times! Basically letting you play a 65+ year old vet martial character without worrying about having your Str, Dex, and Con be total crap. It turns the class into this haven of grizzled veterans in my mind, this group of cavaliers who've lived so long they've formed this fraternity of the best and baddest brawlers to ever trot the earth. They've managed to jokingly become known as the Liam Neeson order at my table but they are still so good that anyone interested in either combat focused 2 weapon cavaliers or playing that aged swordsman who's come back to fight that one last time should really take a look.

Next we get order of Cold Iron, likely the most metal order in the book. These guys are like paladins, dedicated to the complete destruction of demons and their friends but don't have to worry about being L or G to do it. They are unyielding and unwavering in their quest to put down every succubus, baubau, and cultist that allies with them and they are going to take a page out of the titular metal's play book to do it. To start they get flat bonuses against the spells and spell-like abilities of their challenge and bonuses at id'ing their favored foes but eventually they gain the power to dispel the DR of cold iron weak creatures they crit for a short time and eventually outright banish them back to the abyss with a swat. Heck the class is so metal their first ability lets their mounts natural attacks treat as cold iron for overcoming DR! and it only gets better once you start looking at the feat selection including Strike the Weakness, which allows you to add a monsters DR to your critical hit if you pulled off said crit with a weapon that overcomes that reduction.

And this level of cool and detail continues on with nearly each other order moving through this book. The order of the Flagon are a bunch of beer swilling partyers who get better in combat the more intoxicated they become. The order of Fortune are a bunch of mercenaries who focus on adopting wildly diverse tactics from other orders in order to win, going so far as being able to outright copy other order abilities as they go along, allowing you to create insane odd ball combos of powers and techniques you could never do otherwise. The order of Luck gives up all their tough decisions to random chance, trading in sure thing answers for big crazy boosts in combat. They aren't for the faint of heart but encourage this level of interesting and inspired play that is just unique, like being able to say I'm going to either attack this guy with my longsword or tumble around this other guy to give my buddy flanking, flip a coin, and now whichever one I got gets a nice bonus but if I choose to do something else I take a penalty (but am not forced to take the chosen option). It balances the risk of building a character around such chaos with a reward system and rules good enough to keep a player engaged. Order of the Road is this group of old souls who are tasked with roaming all that they can see and more, never staying in one place for long and helping weary travelers find their way. Not focused on combat for sure this option really shines in something like kingmaker where wilderness travel, survival, and the harsh realities of weather and season really matter. What's even cooler is one of their feats gives you an aurochs for free as a mount and (if you are like me and run games with more open mount options) also treats its Str as 10 higher for the purposes of carrying capacity. That might not sound as cool up front but as a GM who runs an open world survival game where roughing it is the norm that boon has lead more than one player to flirt with the idea of a buffalo riding nomad. Order of the Scorpion lets you live out your fantasy as a Medjai from the Mummy, protecting your chosen place with your horse and stinging whip and eventually letting you effectively wield the thing at no penalty alongside your other weapons. Being able to whip trip someone as a swift action and then charge them down with my lance sounds so good it hurts and I love that this gives me that option I never knew I wanted.

The final one I really want to gush about though is the order of the White Rose. Focused on the classic idea of chivalrous love, the White Rose cavalier devotes themselves to a singular individual and the protection of that person, going so far as to risk life and limb to make sure they are okay. Now this might sound like a recipe for trouble but the class executes it with such grace you just want to play one and makes it a joy to run. Your challenge grants passive AC to your charge, your 2nd level ability lets you share a square with your charge (even while mounted), give them cover while sharing it, and lets me charge through their square. Effectively I can select my monk, rogue, or other melee focused teammate as my charge (this bond doesn't have to be romantic but does represent a deep connection with this person), let them get into a fight, and just charge right to them. Now all of a sudden my partner has gained a free +4 AC bonus minimum just by having me gun in to save them and I'm still feeling like I get to be that protector character without hindering their ability to play the character they want. From their White Rose only gets better, giving you Saving Shield for free (with boosted effects on your charge), shield other 1/day on charge, and finally the ability to magically transpose an effect onto your cavalier that your charge has failed to save against, taking the full force of the spell but letting them walk out unscathed. I wait for a day I can get to roll up one of these guys.

Now not all of these orders are this spectacular. The order of the Sea is really niche and doesn't sing like the rest do and the order of Truth is really cool thematically but in execution falls a little flat of the judge dredd styled Inevitable of truth it's aiming for but on the whole are small misses when compared to the sheer awesomeness that is the rest of this book. In short, if you are into cavaliers and are looking for more order options that give you great options both mechanically and thematically to tell interesting stories this book is for you. Go out, get it, it's totally worth the $5 USD is asking for it.

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