This class clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The highwayman is a cavalier/rogue hybrid class and, chassis-wise, receives d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, hand crossbow, light and medium armor, full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. The class begins with a non-scaling +1 bonus to Acrobatics, Climb, Disguise, Escape Artist, Knowledge (nobility), Sleight of Hand and Stealth as well as Swim.
At 1st level, 1/day, as a swift action, the class gets a kind of swingy challenge variant: The highwayman receives 1/2 class level to Sense Motive versus the target as well as +1d6 damage. This imposes a penalty of 1/2 class level to Perception and Sense Motive-checks involving anyone else – on a nitpicky side, the penalty-sentence fails to print the skills with capital letters and lacks the minimum 1-note, but that’s mostly a cosmetic glitch. The highway man increases the bonus damage by +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter and also receives an additional daily use. The class receives mount and order at 1st level, thankfully noting that challenge modifiers instead apply to the modified ability.
Starting at 2nd level, the class gets +1 to Perception and Sense Motive, +1 every 3 levels thereafter and also nets *drumroll* a boon, which would be the talents of the class – yes, this means we have actual CHOICE and player agenda here, something painfully non-existent in the vanilla cavalier. An additional boon is gained every 4 levels after the second. The boons allow for the taking of a limited array of rogue talents, substituting the bonus damage of his variant challenge for sneak attack prerequisites. Beyond that, teamwork feat sharing, skill bonuses, (improved) uncanny dodge etc. complement the selection. Here’s the cool thing: The boons allow for non-combat utility. The class actually plays rewarding when it’s not bashing brains in.
On the defensive side, evasion at 3rd level, improved evasion at 9th and mounted bonus feats complement the concept. The capstone further upgrades the variant challenge of the class. And in case you’re wondering – tactician, bonus feats, banner and the charge-related abilities are the things the cavalier retains over the highway man, ensuring that the parent retains supremacy in open warfare – which constitutes a perfect representation of fluff-relationships of classes in crunch. Kudos!
The pdf also sports a new cavalier order, the order of the road, which focuses on social skills as well as Bluff-demoralizes and is pretty non-descript – an okay order, but not one you’ll see players gushing on about.
Editing and formatting are good – while there are some minor formal hiccups, the book is easy to grasp and well-presented. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and sports solid stock art. The pdf is layered, allowing you to turn off the blue background and the pdf comes with the good type of hyperlinks. Furthermore, it does sport bookmarks in spite of its brevity.
What John Buckley presents here can be summed up with few words: Genius in simplicity. The main issue of the cavalier lies in its lacking flexibility and player agenda as well as next to no non-combat-utility. This adds player agenda as well as the skills necessary to be a good face and actually matter in non-combat situations. The design’s variant challenge is pretty elegant and maintains easy compatibility with rogue material, should you elect to diversify the portfolio of the class. Basically, what we have here is the class the cavalier should have been. While the order is not too exciting, that is imho not enough to drag down this class, particularly not at the exceedingly fair price. Similarly, while it does have some minor hiccups in editing, I don’t consider that enough to truly complain about it either. I really, really like this class and will continue to use it in my game – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform and, since this provides a more rewarding take on the cavalier-niche while maintaining compatibility, I will also slap my seal of approval on it.