Mounted Combat – DM’s Pocket Guide
Welcome to DM’s Pocket Guide, where we discuss the rules, spells, and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition.
Tricia: Okay, today we are going to talk about Mounted Combat!
Rachel: This is something that has come up in games more and more, especially as people get to higher levels and want to pick up an extra creature, a collection of pets.
T: This information is found on page 198 of the Player’s Handbook, and yeah, I think you’re right. People will always want to have pets. At a certain level, paladins will have the “Find Steed” spell, which references mounted combat, so this is good information to have. Different kinds of mounts could be warhorses, griffons, pegasuses…
T: Or dragons. All those kinds of things. A mount has to be one size larger than you, which would be important but also super fun if you’re a gnome, because then just like everything is bigger than you.
R: Oh yeah.
T: When you’re mounting and dismounting, you do have to take a few technical things into consideration. Your mount has to be within five feet of you. You cannot mount something that is across the room from you.
R: That makes sense.
T: Yes! You also have to use up to half of your speed in order to mount this creature.
R: Oh, that makes sense. Like standing up from being prone takes half your movement as well. Moving through difficult terrain. Okay.
T: So that comes into play if your mount is 30 feet away from you and your speed is 30 feet, you cannot run to it and climb on it in the same turn. You would have to be within 15 feet to run there and jump on.
R: You’d still have your action. So you could take the Dash action and then it would just be movement to get on the horse. You’re not taking an action to get on the mount.
T: Other things to take into consideration, this is kinda cool. If there’s an effect that moves your mount against its will, so a gust of wind pushes it, you have to succeed on a DC10 Dexterity saving throw or fall off the mount. So this is, you’ve lost control of your mount, can you stay on the horse? If you do fall off, you land prone, and if you’re knocked prone, you have to make a saving throw. Saving throws all around! If your mount itself is knocked prone, you have to use your reaction to dismount as it falls if you want to land on your feet and look like a badass.
R: Okay, so. Controlling a mount, there’s a couple of rules around this too. When you’re mounted you have two options. You can either control the mount or allow it to act independently. So this is, both times you’re still on the mount, but you can let it wander off on its own and do its own thing, or you can choose to control it.
T: Like that time we went horseback riding, and you were on a horse, but it was acting independently and going up the hill instead of down.
R: That’s true. And there is a little sentence in here that says, “Intelligent creatures such as dragons can act independently.”
T: Ah, okay, so this is much different than like, you have your find steed spell as a paladin, and those steeds have an intelligence of 6. I’ve looked up dragons, and black dragons have an intelligence of 14. So that’s very different.
R: Yeah, no, for sure. Huge difference there, of like, yup, your intelligent dragon can totally act independently and will make smart choices. Your intelligence of 6 steed warhorse probably isn’t going to make the best choices. It’s still trained, it knows what it’s doing, but you know –
T: It probably could stand still and not flinch in the face of battle, but it’s not going to be like, “I’m going to go to the left and then fight that guy!”
R: “This looks like the strongest person in the battle so I’m going to make sure I target that person.” A horse is not thinking that. You can control a mount only if it’s been trained to accept a rider. Domesticated horses, donkeys, and similar creatures are assumed to have such training.
T: Okay, so if you find a horse at the inn, it probably is trained. If your group wants to role play, you can find a horse and spend time training it.
R: For sure. The initiative of a controlled mount changes to yours when you mount it. So it’s going to share your initiative order. It doesn’t mean it shares your turn, though. It’s going to act either before or after the player that is mounted on it. It moves as you direct it, and has only three options: Dash, Disengage, or Dodge.
T: Wait, wait, wait. Only – so it’s NOT going to attack.
R: No. Not on it’s – when it’s the mount’s turn, it doesn’t have the option to attack. The player still has the option to attack from the back of the mount. But this is, uh –
T: The mount itself is just going to move; it’s not going to take its turn to attack with hooves! And then you attack.
R: Yeah, exactly.
T: We’ve done this wrong, I’ve done this wrong.
R: Yeah, for sure. So the options that are available – Dash, Disengage, and Dodge – are all either movement or defense based, essentially. Because you wouldn’t necessarily be able to take those options, or the player wouldn’t necessarily be able to take those options from the back of a mount. They wouldn’t be able to Dash without dismounting.
T: Yeah, that makes sense.
R: And a controlled mount can move even on the turn that you mount it. So in that example that we gave before, where you rushed the 30 feet, hop on the horse – it’s now the horse’s turn, and it can move it’s movement speed.
T: Yeah, so mounts are pretty awesome! Cause even with those like, movement based skills, that’s pretty rad that you could ride up, and with your player’s turn, attack attack attack, and then use your mount’s turn to Disengage and run away. That’s pretty awesome, because as a player yourself, you cannot both attack and Disengage.
R: Yeah, it makes sense as a cavalry charge. I like that. Okay, so moving on to the other category: the independent mounts.
T: So this is still, you’re on it but it’s independent.
R: It’s doing its own thing.
R: These are our intelligent creatures. So, an independent mount retains its place in the initiative order. It’s got its own initiative. Bearing a rider puts no restrictions on the actions a mount can take.
R: It can do literally anything. It doesn’t have to listen to you. It moves and acts as it wishes. It might flee from combat, rush to attack and devour a badly injured foe, or otherwise act against your wishes.
T: I love that! So that implies to me that the DM is controlling it, but it doesn’t explicitly say that.
R: Yeah, this is where it might get a little bit tricky. It leaves room for interpretation, for sure, about who gets to say what it does. Because it’s called an independent mount, I would say it’s probably the DM is most likely controlling it. But the players are certainly going to want to have some input into what this creature does.
T: That’s one of those trust things, like can your player role play the mount separated from their player’s desires?
R: Yeah, for sure. Judgment call on that one. In either case, if the mount provokes an opportunity attack while you’re on it, the attacker can target either you or the mount.
T: That makes sense.
R: So if you try to move away from a combat without taking the Disengage action –
T: The monster can get you!
R: Indeed. Excellent.
T: Well, that sounds awesome.
R: And that’s all on page 198 of the Player’s Handbook.
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