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Before the advent of the mechanical vehicle, the horse was an invaluable tool: farmers ploughed fields timely; travelers reached destinations quickly and with more cargo; and mounted soldiers gained an edge over those on foot. But how useful are mounts in a game of Dungeons and Dragons? As mentioned by Wizards’ Marketer Bart Carroll, this tabletop game involves extensive dungeon, tomb, ruins, and cavern exploration. Is a horse, or any other mount, compatible with this playstyle?
We think ‘yes’. Let’s explore the advantages of in-game mounts, utilizing them as players and Dungeon Masters, and overcoming mount-related challenges.
—Out of Combat Utility
Tips for Dungeon Masters
—Make an Emotional Connection
—Training a Mount
—Death of a Mount
—Utilizing Impermanent Mounts
—Finding a Well-Suited Mount
—Keeping Your Steed Alive
Rules for mounts are clearly stated in the Players Handbook, pages and , so we will briefly sum them up in this article without going in-depth. A person may acquire a mount through purchase, by raising a creature from birth, through exchanging favors with a deity or patron, or by compelling an intelligent creature to join their cause—willingly or not. Mounts can pull carriages, carts, wagons, and other wheeled platforms; they may be armored (barding) for additional protection; they can be ridden, packed, and fought upon; and they provide cover from attacks in a dire situation.
Flying mounts cover large distances, engage airborn foes, and facilitate wily schemes in and out of combat. A maritime creature can cross bodies of water, gather food, or scout ahead while players travel by ship.
By the rules, a mount may be any willing creature that is at least one size larger than the rider and has the appropriate anatomy for riding. Halflings, Gnomes, and Goblins and Kobolds in Volos Guide to Monsters, are all classified as small creatures, and may ride medium-sized mounts, such as goats, giant frogs, wolves, dolphins, and mules. Small creatures may even ride on the back of a larger ally, but your Dungeon Master would need to deem that ally’s anatomy to be rideable to be considered a ‘mount’ by the rules. As a free resource to you, sort our spreadsheet of beast companions by size to see an extensive list of common beasts for mounting.
Download the Beast Spreadsheet
A Wizard, Sorcerer, or Artificer may cast Enlarge/Reduce to manipulate mounted creature size rules and expand their list of available mounts for one minute. A Druid can shapeshift, and a spellcaster can cast Polymorph or Animal Shapes, to turn themselves or others into creatures for companions to ride out of a dicey situation. A Paladin can use the level-two spell Find Steed to magically conjure a spirit they can mount. A Druid or Sorcerer may cast Dominate Beast to control (and mount) a creature for one minute, or, with the Xanathars Guide to Everything spell Charm Monster (page ), a player could charm a creature for 1 hour to gain advantage on Animal Handling checks.
In line with a Dungeon Master’s accommodation, a mount could be anything from a horse to a pegasus, a war elephant to a wyvern, a giant salamander to a small whale. The possibilities are limited only by campaign synergy, Dungeon Master discretion, enthusiasm of a player, and some dice rolls.
Mounts provide special combat superiority, outlined on page of the Players Handbook. By training a mount, a player earns control over its actions with shared Initiative. Limited actions are available with this option: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. An independent, intelligent mount will act on its own volition, on its own turn, and without restrictions of its available actions.
The Mounted Combat feat grants advantage on melee attacks, additional defensive options, and assurance in Dexterity saving throws. Mounts may don armor, a practice referred to as barding, valued at four times the cost of humanoid armor (yikes) to raise its armor class (nice).
A martial melee lance gives a player Reach with 1d12 piercing damage, utilizing the lance’s one-handed property when riding on a mount. Mounted archers freely traverse the battlefield to avoid melee combat while remaining favorably positioned. Cavalier Fighters in Xanathars Guide to Everything shine in the saddle. Intelligent mounts may use actions such as grapple, attack, or shove on its own turn. Some mounts have special abilities like Pack Tactics or Blindsight that allow them to better serve their riders.
The usefulness of a mount out of combat mirrors closely the versatility of a horse about years ago: transportation, manual labor (pushing boulders or pulling a rope to gain leverage, for example), carrying excess items and gear, delivering messages, hunting, and recreation/sport. Additionally, mounts can be intuitive and can sense approaching danger (this can be interpreted in-game as their passive wisdom). Frontiersmen frequently relied on their horse to sense when a foe was sneaking up on them.
The possibility of utilizing any to all of these skills is, of course, dependent on your Dungeon Master, but there are abilities a player can invest in to facilitate out-of-combat utility. Beast Bond and Beast Sense (Players Handbook) allow rider and mount to share senses, which can aid hunting, sport, and intuition. Casting Haste or Longstrider on a mount will facilitate swift cargo or message delivery.
Another use for mounts out of combat is transporting dead or nearly-dead companions. Though healing is readily available in Dungeons and Dragons, a reduction of an ability score like Strength or Constitution could leave a party member physically unable to carry on. A poisoned individual might also need transportation.
Tips for Dungeon Master
Make an Emotional Connection
It has been my experience that a mount is usually seen merely as a tool and often forgotten about or disregarded when not in use. How can a Dungeon Master make mounts more meaningful to players? What is lacking is an emotional connection. That creature needs to feel like family to the players!
Take Tolkein’s Bill the Pony, for example. Introducing the reader to this noble steed as mistreated and half-starved, Bill took to adventuring eagerly after being nursed back to health by Sam Gamgee. Bill’s courage and devotion gave readers an affection to the creature, and we cheered when reunited with the beast throughout the journey.
Though a controlled mount may not have many actions available in combat, a Dungeon Master may still give the companion virtuous personality traits. Execute inconsequential actions for the mount, such as tripping a fleeing thief or kicking closed an open door to cut off exposure to a threat. Small actions reap abundant emotional rewards, and the usefulness of the mount will broaden beyond packing loot and traveling fast. Players love useful NPC’s, and that includes mounts.
Other factors that may increase emotional connection to a mount:
- Allow players raise their mount as a hatchling or newborn.
- Tie the mount to a player’s backstory.
- Give the mount a unique quirk or trait that proves beneficial or special to the player. Maybe its noises differ from others of its kind, or it has the ability to raise its eyebrows for comedic moments. Perhaps even make its coloring different like a “shiny” in Pokemon.
- Introduce the mount through means of rescue, whether the player rescues the mount or vice versa! I would gladly overlook a deus ex machina of an elk charging my attacker in my moment of need, and I’d love the creature forever.
- Describe the emotes of the mount. Cute is always a winner here, but noble and intelligent may be more meaningful to your player.
- Provide exclusive “bling” for the mount’s barding.
- Bolster the mount against attacks so that it is harder to kill or damage. A mount will be seen as a tool if it is easily expendable. Players might avoid attachment to anything that they expect will easily die.
- Give the creature a slight edge against its peers: able to carry slightly more or move a bit faster.
Training a Mount
In order to ride and control a beast, players should spend downtime training their new companion. There is little guidance in the manuals on how to train an animal, but as suggested on this Stack Exchange Role-Playing Games thread, training in downtime should require a gold cost and workweeks required, similar to crafting magic items in Xanathars Guide to Everything.
Some beasts will be easier to train than others, with factors such as domestication, predatory nature, alignment, owner history (was this creature abused by humanoids? Raised in brutal captivity?), method of acquisition, and intelligence levels. For example, a horse bought from an equestrian trainer can be expected to be controlled nearly instantaneously. Contrast this to a giant lizard, taken from the wild, which is not naturally domesticated or acquainted with the saddle, and may take many months to train.
Dungeon Masters can decide how much effort they wish to put into role playing training. Perhaps only an animal handling check is required once per long rest to keep an animal tamed until deemed trained. Perhaps training an animal is central to the plot of a quest, which can add an emotional depth to a player’s interest in their mount.
Certain skills and class traits, such as Animal Handling and the Ranger Beast Master archetype, should give players an upper hand in training an animal. Spells like Animal Friendship, Beast Bond, and Speak with Animals can also speed up the process.
A mount with higher intelligence should be perceived more like a non-player character than a controlled mount. Dungeon Masters may wish to role play these creatures to engage players continually with their mounts. This can provide enriching story development and a deeper emotional connection to the campaign.
An intelligent mount is one who has Intelligence of 6 or higher. Beasts that can communicate with players are especially interesting in this category. Some examples include Dragons, Giant Owls (understands Common, Elvish, and Sylvan), Giant Eagles (understands Common and Auran), Centaurs, Unicorns, and so forth. DM Dave has listed monsters by Intelligence in this article for your easy reference.
Intelligent mounts may have their own end goals for adventuring: seeking treasure, redeeming their slayed clan, repaying a debt, fighting evil. Acquiring such a mount would take tact and patience. Training this sort of mount may not be as intensive if the mount is privy to the adventurer’s plans, but learning to effectively ride a mount in-combat will still require some practice.
An intelligent mount could become loyal, or could decide its path no longer aligns with a player’s, a tool to help a character achieve introspection and development. Intelligent mounts can nudge players in the right direction, give advice, or warn players of unforeseen trials.
Death of a Mount
The hard truth is that mounts are often collateral damage. With limited hit points, it is expected that a mount will eventually perish in battle. However, this can cause a player to disengage with the game if done distastefully or off-handedly, especially to a mount the player really connects with. Rather than allowing mounts to become easy cannon-fodder, find ways to help players prevent the death of their beloved beasts: armor, healing, tactful maneuvering, luck, and allowance for death savings throws instead of outright death at zero hit points.
Nevertheless, if a mount does succumb to a deathly blow, grant the players an opportunity for last words and an homage they will never forget. Allow the mount to self-sacrifice in an epic battle scene, followed by a tender cut scene between mount and player. Allow NPC’s and party members to give a proper funeral and burial, per the rites of the land. Perhaps leave the player something to remember the beast by, such as an item, advice, or offspring, like a phoenix rising from its ashes.
There are many considerations with having a mount: cost of feeding, practicality in dungeons, what to do with mounts in a new town (tie to a mounting post, leave in stables?) and what to do in the wilderness. Even keeping a mount alive in-combat, with their limited hit points, is a major deterrent for many players.
Choosing a mount particular to a terrain should help with the problem of feeding: a horse or elk will find plants suitable to graze on in a pasture or forest; a giant lizard will find bugs, plants, and animals for eating in a desert, which is familiar to them.
Costs associated with maintaining a mount may be settled during downtime, similar to crafting magic items or honing a skill or craft. Dungeon Masters may not even be interested in the particulars of maintaining a mount, so long as there is an obvious cost that takes place behind the scenes.
The problem of where to park your mount while dungeoneering and adventuring is a more interesting topic. It could be very dangerous and stupid to take a large beast down a small cave, but leaving it outside may expose it to predators or enemies who would scare, steal, or eat it.
Perhaps the best solutions are to give your mount sanctuary, employ expendable/impermanent creatures, or find an unusual mount suited for dungeon-delving.
Tying your mount to a tree may not be sufficient if you wish to find it when you return. We recommend utilizing spells that could give it a hideaway while you’re away. Any sort of demiplane or protected pocket like Tiny Hut can help defend your mount, but it may give away your position at the entrance of the dungeon.
Glyphs of Warding may warn you of predators approaching the dungeon, and a triggered spell can also be expended to further hide your mount (Invisibility, for instance, or Rope Trick if the mount has rope-ascending capabilities). However, this method is expensive for spell slots (and money in the case of Glyph of Warding).
Sequester, a very expensive spell, would do well to keep your mount hidden while your party enters a dungeon. Talk to your Dungeon Master about creating a homebrewed magic item that casts Sequester only upon your mount a limited number of times per day. Otherwise, I hope your mount’s guaranteed wellbeing is worth 5, gold pieces to you!
Utilizing Impermanent Mounts
Spellcasters have many spells at their disposal for conjuring impermanent mounts: Find Steed, Find Greater Steed (Xanathars Guide to Everything), Giant Insect, Conjure Animals, Conjure Elemental, Conjure Fey, Conjure Woodland Being or Create Undead will all do the trick, though some of these mounts last only a short duration, and some require you to be a small size.
Finding a Well-Suited Mount
As mentioned, a mount must be one size larger than the rider, and possess anatomy suitable for mounting. This can be on the shoulders or back of a bipedal creature (perhaps in an unusual saddle or carrier), upon the exoskeleton of a giant creepy crawler, or saddled to a giant lizard.
For dungeon delving, a giant spider may be an excellent mount. For swamps, perhaps a giant alligator can navigate murky waters. Giant goats are suited to traversing cliff sides, and a Wyvern can peruse the skies while you’re adventuring underground.
Keeping Your Steed Alive
Most mounts have limited hit points, and despite the protection of barding, collateral damage happens. If you can find a clever way to allow a horse to wear the required ring (maybe wearing the ring with a chain necklace will work), Warding Bond can help keep your mount alive, increasing its AC and resistance to damage. Similar spells and healing abilities will also be useful in preserving your mobile ally.
Keep in mind that a more intelligent mount may have an easier time staying alive, as they can maneuver themselves and communicate about battle plans. Consider using the spell Awaken to make an ordinary beast intelligent.
A more unusual method (run it by your Dungeon Master first) is training your mount in downtime for better defensive stats and maneuvers. Alternatively, use your skills in Herbalism to concoct strengthening treats for your steed; craft magic items that would provide better armor or protection.
Though often underutilized or disregarded for its complication or nuance, a mount can be a helpful tool for all types of players. Whether permanently kept or temporarily used, a mount can accomplish in-game character development, combat maneuvers, favor-currying jobs, and plot advancement.
This started off in the comments, but I'll spin it off to a separate answer. The other answer well addresses some practical RL-based uses for a Mount, and all of those are true.
Here, I will lay out the actual mechanical uses of a mount according to D&D 5E.
A Standard Mount is a creature like a Riding Horse, Elk, Warhorse, Pony, Mastiff (if you're Small), or other such creature. They have a few basic mechanical benefits.
- Greater carrying capacity. They are a Size larger than you, and thus have a greater carry capacity than you do. This only really matters if you are playing with Encumbrance Rules
- Greater Speed. Riding Horses and Warhorses have a Speed of 60'double the average speed of a humanoid. Only a high level Monk can keep pace with a horse.
- An Extra (limited) Action. On your Turn, you can order your Mount to Dodge, Disengage, or Dash that can be used for free on your turn. This means you could have your Mount Dash (up to ' movement speed) and still Attack on your turn. This is a level of mobility that nothing else in the game enjoys. This is a boost to Action Economy, which is one of the most useful things to gain in all of 5E.
Now, what can you do with this?let's look at a few examples.
- Spellcasting on the move: Spellcasters generally do not want enemies to get close to them. If you are on a Mount and someone gets close to you, your Mount can Disengage, move its speed (usually greater than the speed of whatever is attacking you), and you can still cast a spell that round. And very few enemies are fast enough to keep up with a Mount. This allows a spellcaster to effectively kite enemies that do not have a Ranged option, keeping them at distance while bombarding them with spells.
- Blitz. Enemies with a focus on a Ranged Attack, or enemies who are Spellcasters will try to keep you at range, generally because they are very vulnerable in melee. Goblins are notorious for thistheir skill-set makes them fantastic skirmishers who will kite superior opponents until they are dead. If you are mounted, they simply can't move fast enough to stay away from you. You can close with a target far faster than it can get away.
- The Lance. The effectiveness of this weapon, paired with a Mount, is simply spectacular. It is a weapon that can be wielded 1-handed while mounted, has Reach 10', and deals 2d6 damage. The most important part of that feature is the Reach of the weapon. A benefit of a Reach weapon is that it allows you to strike at an enemy from outside of their Threatened space. When you couple this with the extreme mobility of a Mount, and you have an unparalleled ability for striking at enemies without exposing yourself to a counter attack. You command your mount to Dash and ride towards the enemy, always staying at least 10' away from them. This allows you to strike at an enemy as you pass them by, while never getting close enough to risk an Opportunity Attack, and ending your movement so far away from them that they could not possibly make it to you on their next turn. If you have the space to maneuver, melee-focused enemies are trivialized by this tactic.
And all of this is possible without the Mounted Combat Feat. Though if you intend to fight from a mount often, that feat is quite fantastic.
Do note that mounts tend to have rather poor Armor Classbut Barding is only 4x the cost of a standard suit of armor. You can take a Warhorse from AC 11 to AC 16 for only gpwhich is chump change to an Adventurer as you get higher level.
A Paladin's 'Find Steed' mount deserves special consideration for four reasons.
- You can 'instinctively coordinate' with your mount
- Your mount is effectively immortal (if killedyou've lost it for one day at the most, when you can prepare Find Steed again and summon it back)
- Your Mount has an Int of 6.
- It is perfectly loyal to you.
The rules for Mounted Combat specify that an intelligent mount can operate 'independently' while being ridden. This means that it has its own position in the Initiative Order and acts with its full battery of Actions and options for acting. The normal risk of working with an intelligent mount is that it may not do what you want it to doand you're stuck on its back. It may run off, it may chase something you don't want it to, and so on.
With a Paladin's mount, this is not an issue. It is perfectly loyal, and it 'instinctively coordinates' with you. This allows you to use your mount the way a Knight would use their mount in the Medieval era. Here is an example of how this might play out, assuming you are armed with a Lance and riding a Warhorse.
You come up earlier in the Initiative Order than your mount (if not, command your mount to defer its turn until right after yours), and Ready an Action to Attack a specific enemy when it comes into range. Then you end your turn and let your Mount move. You instruct your Mount to charge and trample the same enemy you Readied an Action to attack. It charges and, at 10' out, you lash out with your Readied Action and Attack your targetpossibly hitting your target with some manner of Smite while you're at it. Then your Warhorse reaches them and attacks with its Hooves. If it hits, the target makes a Save to not be knocked prone. If it fails, your horse makes a second attack against it with its Hooves, then continues on its way.
This is not what you'll want to do every timesometimes you don't want to try to trample a foe, you want to stick to the Hit and Ride tactics normally used with a Standard Mountbut it does give you extra options not available to anyone else.
Bear in mind, having your Mount actually trample someone means it won't be staying out of attack range, and won't have its Action free to Disengage, meaning you are subjecting yourself to a possible opportunity attack. But, this is a risk you can afford to take, especially if your Mount is armoredbecause if your Mount is slain, you can just summon it back in the morning.
For extra goodness, pick up the Mounted Combatant Feat and enjoy Advantage on every Attack roll on anything smaller than your Mount (which, if you're riding a Large mountis the majority of enemies), and the ability to force attackers to aim at you (and your much larger pool of hitpoints) rather than at your Mount.
Depending on the Dungeons and Dragons campaign youre playing, you may not use the mounted combat rules very frequently. I mean, who would bring their faithful steed into a dungeon full of traps, vicious monsters, and cramped spaces? Adventurers, thats who.
To be fair, like underwater combat, mounted combat provides a new way to create encounters. It adds a few new mechanics into the mix and keeps things fresh while still being sensible.
Essentially, mounted combat is pretty much what youd expect it to be. The mounted character or creature gains additional movement speed but at the cost of losing some of their freedom to move and having to control an animal in the heat of battle. Its a trade-off, but typically its one that gives a mounted creature the upper-hand over an unmounted creature.
You can find the mounted combat rules for D&D 5e on page of the Players Handbook. With that said and done, lets saddle up and take a closer look at fighting with a four-legged (or winged) friend!
Click this link for a Spanish translation of this article done by DigitalD20!
What is a Mount in 5th Edition?
A mount is simply a willing creature that is at least one size larger than you that has the appropriate anatomy to serve as a mount. The creature doesnt have to be domesticated, they just have to be ok with you riding them.
Typically mounts would not be bipedal creatures. It doesnt make a lot of sense since theyre not usually anatomically built for carrying creatures in this way. They also most likely wouldnt be much quicker than your average walking speed so there isnt typically a huge benefit to mount this type of creature.
But then again, you bipedal have creatures that can act like mounts like the ogre howdah which carries up to 4 goblins on its back in a makeshift wooden fort. I suppose it does have the anatomy to carry small creatures on their shoulders, but its certainly not what youd consider a conventional mount.
Most mounts are going to be creatures that stand on at least 4 legs and have horse-like bodies. Flying creatures can also be mounted given that they fit the size, willingness, and anatomical ability to carry a creature criteria. For example, griffons, pegasi, or dragons are typical fantasy flying steeds.
Mount classification rules are more of a is this possible ruling from your DM than any sort of concrete ruling.
Mounting and Dismounting
Mounting and dismounting are done in combat by using your movement. You can mount a creature within 5 ft. of you using an amount of movement that is half of your speed. For 30 ft. speed creatures this would take you 15 ft. of movement.
If you do not have at least half of your movement remaining then you cannot mount a creature this turn. This means that you can travel to a creature and then mount it on your turn, but you can only do so if half of your movement is remaining once you are within 5 ft. of your potential steed.
Dismounting from your steed also requires half of your speed to do. This typically will make it unwise to dismount in the middle of combat, but of course, there are always times when you may need to. A mount with a mind of their own can be a dangerous partner in a combat encounter!
For the record, you can only mount or dismount once per turn so choose wisely.
Any effect that will move your mount against their will while youre mounted requires you to make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. Failing this saving throw will toss you off the mount and you will land prone within 5 feet of your mount.
This saving throw will also be called for if you are knocked prone while mounted. Again, if you fail the save youll be tossed off and land prone within 5 feet of your mount.
Being knocked prone is itself a hassle in the middle of a combat encounter, but now youll have to deal with corralling a riderless horse which just adds one more problem onto your plate. Be careful of targets that can displace you or your mount while in mounted combat. Theyre pretty major counters to mounted combatants.
If your mount is knocked prone you can use a reaction to dismount as your mount is falling. If you dont use a reaction to dismount, you will fall prone in a space within 5 feet of your mount.
All-in-all, avoiding being thrown off and knocked prone isnt terribly difficult. Especially when we consider the movement speed increases you gain from riding a mount.
The only real playstyle change that you may want to consider during mounted combat is to be a bit more conservative with your reaction. If the enemy has a reliable way to impose the prone status effect on your mount then youre definitely going to want to have a reaction handy.
Controlling a Mount
While you are riding your mount you benefit from their movement speed and any other additional benefits that the mounted creature may provide. Some creatures may require a saddle or other equipment in order to ride them for prolonged periods of time, but thats left up to your DMs discretion.
When youre mounted you can opt to control your mount yourself, or permit your mount act independently. There are pros and cons for both of these options depending on the situation that youre in.
Dash, Disengage, or Dodge
You can control your steed in mounted combat as long as they have been trained to accept a rider. This is typically reserved for standard mounts such as horses, donkeys, and riding dogs. Although it could be extended to fantasy creatures like griffons depending on the setting.
When you control a creature, they act on the same initiative as you. The creature will move as you order it, but they can only take the Dash, Disengage, or Dodge actions in addition to their action.
Its pretty straight-forward what benefits youd gain from riding a creature, but lets break-down the specifics using a riding horse as an example.
A riding horse has a speed of 60 ft. and it can take a Dash, Disengage, or Dodge action without using any of your characters action economy. This means that you can travel up to ft. per turn when ordering your horse to take the Dash action. This is roughly 4x the amount of movement an average PC would be able to move in a single turn while using none of their own movement.
A Mind of Their Own
When acting independently, mounts will get their own turn in the initiative order. These creatures will then make their own decisions based on their instinct and intelligence. For example, some creatures may opt to aid you and your allies in combat while others may run off.
Intelligent creatures such as a dragon or a pegasus will always act independently. They have free will and the intelligence to make their own decisions. That being said, you may be able to influence their decisions depending on your bond with the creature and other factors.
You being mounted on them makes no difference to their free will in mounted combat. They will always make their own decisions.
Unintelligent mounts can be allowed to act independently. Whether thats a good idea or not is up to you. Creatures that have been dismounted will always act independently unless there is another way to control them.
Provoking Opportunity Attacks
Being dismounted and knocked prone is already a reason to be careful when engaging in mounted combat. Tack opportunity attacks onto the list of additional dangers of mounted combat.
If your mount provokes an opportunity attack the creature can target either the mount or you. This is a lose-lose situation. First of all, mounts arent cheap, losing one is bad for your wallet. Secondly, if your mount is slain you are effectively slower in combat and afterward if youre traveling to a destination.
Mounts are also larger creatures than you. Its much easier for them to provoke opportunity attacks compared to a medium creature because of their size.
That being said, mounts are able to take the Disengage action at no cost to you. This is a pretty big benefit and should mean that you wont experience too many opportunity attacks if youre a careful rider!
Character Options for Mounted Combat
Does mounted combat sound like a fun time to you? Well, here are a few things that can help you become even better at mounted combat! Most of these options are class-specific, but the Mounted Combatant feat is available to anyone who wishes to take it.
That being said, you do not need to take any of these options to be adept at mounted combat. Any character is capable of riding and fighting while mounted.
The Cavalier Fighter Archetype
Look no further than pages of Xanathars Guide to Everything if mounted combat sounds like the greatest thing in the world and you want a character that has mastered the art of the horse.
The Cavalier is a class designed around the flavor of being a superior mounted combatant. For example, as soon as you take this archetype at level 3 you gain the Born to the Saddle ability. This means that you will both land on your feet if you fall off your mount and you can mount or dismount a creature using only 5 feet of movement.
This feature effectively takes away most of the negatives of mounted combat. It also makes you even more mobile. You can now ride your steed towards an opponent, dismount, and then travel your max speed 5 ft. towards your target.
Another 3rd level feature, Unwavering Mark, helps to carve out the archetypes tanking specialty. This mark imposes disadvantage on a creatures attacks made at anyone other than you. If the creature happens to damage someone else, you can use a bonus action to attack them with increased damage.
Their 7th level feature, Warding Maneuver, grants you the ability to use your reaction to increase the AC of a creature within 5 ft. of you by 1d8. This could be an ally, or it could be your mount. Keeping your steed alive at the cost of a reaction is an excellent investment.
The class other features Hold the Line, Ferocious Charger, and Vigilant Defender focus more on the flavor of locking down opponents movement speed additional ways to use your reactions to make opportunity attacks. The archetype as a whole makes great use of your reaction!
For the record, the Cavalier is just as viable when they are fighting off of their mount. They are not reliant on mounted combat to make them a viable option for a character. In fact, the only feature that requires a mount to use is Born to the Saddle. Every other feature works as well off of a horse as it does on your horse!
Mounted Combatant Feat
You are a dangerous foe to face while mounted. While you are mounted and arent incapacitated, you gain the following benefits:
- You have advantage on melee attack rolls against any unmounted creature that is smaller than your mount.
- You can force an attack targeted at your mount to target you instead.
- If your mount is subjected to an effect that allows it to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, it instead takes no damage if it succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if it fails.
-Pg of the PHB.
This is, understandably, a pretty niche feat for most campaigns. That being said, if youve found yourself in a campaign where youre frequently engaged in combat out in the open and you have a trusty steed this may be the feat for you.
Depending on the size of your mount you may have advantage on many of your melee attacks or the overwhelming majority. This is still a solid benefit even if youre riding a large size horse. Though smaller creatures like halflings riding dogs wont see nearly as much mileage out of this benefit.
The next two benefits that the feat grants are the real meat and potatoes of the feat in my opinion. Generally speaking, your mount is a pretty easy target. Horses and other creatures tend to have low AC and much lower hit points than their rider. Its easy for your enemies to kill your steed and knock you prone to get a few extra hits on you.
Being able to redirect these attacks against your mount prolongs its life and in a way, prolongs yours. As I said, you can generally take more hits than your mount and your enemies are less likely to hit through your stronger armor anyways!
Also, you give your mount the monk and rogue class feature, Evasion.
Find Steed is a paladin spell that summons a spirit in the form of an intelligent steed. The paladin and the steed are immediately bonded, and the steed can take whatever form you choose (given that your DM allows it). This steed has the same statistics as its statblock, but if its normal Intelligence is less than 6 it will instead become 6.
The best part about Find Steed is that any spell you cast that normally only targets yourself will also target your steed. Honestly, its sort of like a familiar, but for paladins. They get their own intelligent companion that can fight alongside them and provide them with some utility.
Phantom Steed allows you to summon a large, quasi-real, horselike creature that will allow the wizard or a creature the wizard chooses to ride it. Its an odd spell choice for a wizard, but its also a ritual spell. Plus, it doesnt require any material components so its cheap. Its a nice, no-risk situational spell.
Unlike Find Steed there is a time limit of 1 hour on this spectral creature. But its still a great way to procure a rental horse without needing to think about the logistics of keeping a horse around.
Druid Wild Shape
You can also ride a druid into battle provided that theyve Wild Shaped into a mountable creature that is at least one size larger than you. Well, provided that your druid friend is a willing mount.
Since the druid is an intelligent creature, theyll retain their own turn in the initiative order and act at their own discretion. Basically, if youre going to perform a riding bear combo, make sure that your druid buddy enjoys your company and isnt going to literally feed you to the wolves.
Like Phantom Steed and Find Steed, this is a cheap option to provide a mount for a PC. Wild Shape is actually a bit more efficient since it will effectively count as a mount for two players. Though be wary, druids only get a limited amount of uses of Wild Shape between short rests!
If youre looking for a list of Wild Shape options check out ThinkDMs Wilshape Options Table!
I had intended to take a small break from writing about 5e mechanics as Id felt that Ive written a lot of articles on the subject in such a short span of time. But then one of my players brought up playing a sheep-riding halfling cavalier.
Needless to say, It was a good opportunity to refresh myself on the mounted combat rules as they dont come up frequently in most of the games I play. However, I really enjoy these rules as well as the Underwater Combat Rules and Im making an effort to design more dynamic encounters using both these unique combat situations.
Mounted combat is just one way you and your druid friend can make a fun combat combo. Its also a great way to maneuver around in open spaces to strike down a slower or heavily-fortified enemy. Sometimes the best way to avoid artillery is to charge straight at it.
If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!
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DnD 5e – Practical Guide to Mounted Combat
Last Updated: October 1,
Do you like horses? Do you like the idea of charging into battle atop a mighty steed? If you don’t like horses, how about a pegasus or a dragon? No? How about riding around on a party member’s shoulders? Well, settle in. I’m going to break down 5e’s mounted combat rules in excruciating detail, which will hopefully answer any question you’ve ever had about mounted combat in 5e.
Roughly 6 months after I initially published this article, WotC’s Dragon Talk Podcast (the official Dungeons and Dragons podcast) did a Sage Advice segment on mounted combat. The segment starts roughly 10 minutes into the episode, but they don’t get into the rules until roughly after discussing the significance and history of mounted combat in fantasy and in Dungeons and Dragons in general. I have updated the document below to address the guidance provided by the podcast.
Table of Contents
Mounted combat is simultaneously simple and confusing. The entirety of the text for mounted combat is half of a page in the Player’s Handbook split into three sections. One which is almost entirely flavor text, and one of which is devoted entirely to getting on and off of your mount, and the third is the actual meat of the mounted combat rules.
This article generally assumes that you are using a grid in combat. While this is technically a house rule, I have never encountered a group that leans on the rules heavily enough to need this article but doesn’t use a grid.
Thanks to the magic of the SRD, I’ll reproduce parts of the rules text below for easy reference. If you want to read the text in its original form, see page of the Player’s Handbook, or download a current copy of the SRD.
Why should I use a mount?
Historically, horses have provided a massive tactical advantage. Until World War I, cavalry was a defining component of any military. A unit of cavalry was more mobile and frequently much more lethal than infantry with the same number of people. Even in single combat, being mounted presented a huge advantage. In addition to superior mobility, striking downward at a foe is easy, while your opponent is forced to strike upward at you, and possibly to hold their shield uncomfortably high if they have one.
Unfortunately, not all of those advantages exist in 5e’s rules. Instead, you just get the improved move speed of the mount, a minor advantage with lances, and some extra stuff if you take the Mounted Combatant feat.
Some people will inevitably make this mistake, so I’ll mention it here: Your warhorse can’t trample people while you ride it. It’s a “controlled mount”, so attacking isn’t allowed, and Trampling Charge requires the horse to make a hoof attack. You could allow your warhorse to act as an independent mount, but that has complications which I’ll discuss below.
TL;DR: Move speed.
What is a mount?
A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount, using the following rules.
Let’s break that down:
- A willing creature: The creature must be willing. There are no rules for riding unwilling mounts, but I suspect that using the rules for grappling would yield roughly the same effect.
- At least one size larger than you: Horses are large, and mastiffs and ponies are medium. Those are the typical mounts.
- That has an appropriate anatomy: This is probably the trickiest part. What defines “appropriate” is extremely subjective. Horses, ponies, donkies, and mules all make fine mounts. What about zebras? They have the right anatomy, but they’re not ridden in real life because their bones are fragile. Real-world dogs aren’t built to carry weight on their backs like a horse, but riding dogs have been a thing in DnD since at least 3rd edition. If the answer isn’t immediately obvious (yes to horses, no to oozes), consult with your DM.
Jeremy Crawford’s opinion from the Sage Advice podcast segment is that a mount should be built in such a way to comfortably bear a rider for extended periods of time. The example provided is a parent carrying a child on their shoulders for several hours without discomfort. Speaking as a parent, carrying children on your shoulders for extended periods of time is exhausting, and my daughter happens to weigh roughly as much as an average halfling. Greg Tito and Jeremy Crawford seem to agree, which would mean that humanoids don’t qualify as a suitable mount. Of course, Mr. Crawford is clear to state that this is a rough guideline.
Mounting / Dismounting
Once during your move, you can mount a creature that is within 5 feet of you or dismount. Doing so costs an amount of movement equal to half your speed. For example, if your speed is 30 feet, you must spend 15 feet of movement to mount a horse. Therefore, you can’t mount it if you don’t have 15 feet of movement left or if your speed is 0. If an effect moves your mount against its will while you’re on it, you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall off the mount, landing prone in a space within 5 feet of it. If you’re knocked prone while mounted, you must make the same saving throw. If your mount is knocked prone, you can use your reaction to dismount it as it falls and land on your feet. Otherwise, you are dismounted and fall prone in a space within 5 feet it.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but with a careful read the whole section is very straightforward. We’ll start with the first half of the section before moving onto what can knock you off of your mount.
- Once during your move: You can only mount a mount once, and it takes place as part of your movement for the turn. So no using your movement to jump between multiple mounts in one turn. “During your move” is a bit of a weird phrase since there is no distinct “move” part of the turn in 5e, but it just means that it’s part of your movement and not an action of any kind.
- you can mount a creature that is within 5 feet of you: The mount needs to be within 5 feet regardless of your size, its size, your reach, etc.
- or dismount: All of the same rules for mounting a mount apply to dismounting; movement cost, etc.
- Doing so costs an amount of movement equal to half your speed.: If you speed if 30 feet, it costs 15 feet. If your speed is 25 feet, it costs feet, and you may have feet movement of movement which is unusable at the end of your turn.
- Therefore, you can’t mount it if… your speed is 0.: The logic of this section is absolutely not correct (half of 0 is still 0), but the important part is that if your speed is 0 feet, you can’t mount or dismount.
This leaves you some room to maneuver. You can use up to half your speed to reach your mount before mounting it. Once you’re mounted (on a turn after the turn in which you mounted your mount), you can dismount and move up to half your speed.
There are several ways to dismount a rider. First, we’ll examine the text specifically included in the mounted combat rules.
- If an effect moves your mount against its will while you’re on it: This can be any number of effects: Your mount could be grappled or shoved, it could be hit with Thunderwave, or it could fall. These are dangerous possibilities, especially if you’re on a flying mount.
- you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall off the mount, landing prone in a space within 5 feet of it.: Bring prone in 5e is fairly gentle compared to previous editions, but it’s still a problem. If your mount is flying, you are now falling. It’s not immediately clear if you place yourself before or after your mount is moved, but I think the intent is to place yourself after. So if your mount is pushed 20 feet, your place yourself within 5 feet of your mounts new location. Your mount isn’t wisked out from underneath you; you’re both displaced, and that movement shakes you loose.
- If you’re knocked prone while mounted, you must make the same saving throw.: Knocking you prone may unseat you without affecting your mount. It’s unclear what happens if you’re knocked prone but pass the saving throw. I think you’re prone, but still mounted. That’s technically possible, but weird to imagine in a practical sense. I think it would mean that instead of sitting upright in your saddle you might be hanging off the side of your horse, or flopped back on your horse but you somehow haven’t rolled off of it.
- If your mount is knocked prone, you can use your reaction to dismount it as it falls and land on your feet. Otherwise, you are dismounted and fall prone in a space within 5 feet it.: You don’t get a save in this case; instead, you can burn your reaction to stay standing. If you took an opportunity attack or something, you’re out of luck.
On top of these mechanisms, other methods can be used to dismount a rider. Grappling the rider and moving them, shoving them, or otherwise forcibly moving them would dismount the rider.
This leads to an interesting question: What happens if a rider and a mount are both moved the same distance by the same effect? Thunderwave is a great example. If both the mount and the rider are forcibly moved, it triggers the “If an effect moves your mount against its will” text, but it’s not exactly clear what happens to the rider. I would rule that the affect moving the rider overrides the Mounting / Dismounting text, but that would mean that the rider ends up on top of the mount at the end of the push. I would then force the rider to fall prone within 5 feet of the mount as though they had failed the DC 10 Dexterity save.
Controlling a Mount
While you’re mounted, you have two options. You can either control the mount or allow it to act independently. Intelligent creatures, such as dragons, act independently. You can control a mount only if it has been trained to accept a rider.
There are essentially two sets of rules for controlling your mounts. Controlled Mounts are easy: trained horses, etc. are essentially extensions of your character. Independent mounts such as intelligent mounts like dragons or untrained mounts like wild animals are “Independent” and do their own thing while you’re dragged along on top of them.
The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it. It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.
Controlled mounts are (mostly) easy. In the simplest case, you start your turn mounted. Your mount moves (and you don’t), and can take one of just three actions. Dash gets you more movement, Disengage lets you move without provoking Opportunity Attacks, and your mount can Dodge any time that you don’t need Dash or Disengage.
So long as your mount can take actions (even if that list of actions is limited), it can still take bonus actions. However, warhorses still can’t use their Trampling Charge while acting as a controlled mount because they can’t take the Attack action in order to hit a creature with their hooves. Similarly, they can still take reactions, so they can make opportunity attacks.
Unfortunately, the simplicity of controlled mounts also reduces their usefulness. A warhorse is CR 1/2, and does as much damage as a character with a greatsword and 18 Strength. Removing that hoof attack means that riding your horse may actually make your party less effective. This will become less of an issue as your character gains levels and your mount becomes less comparably dangerous, but it’s still something to consider when weapons come out.
Due to the wording of the Mounting / Dismounting rules, there’s a tiny bit of abuse you can do extend your movement. You still get to use half of your movement in turn in which you mount/dismount, so you can move to your mount, mount it, then move your mount’s full movement (and possibly Dash). If you’re already mounted, your mount can Dash, move twice its speed, then you can dismount and move half your speed. This probably won’t happen much, but it’s a fun option to have available.
It’s unclear what happens if multiple creatures mount the same mount. I would rule that the on rider becomes the “driver”, and the mounts initiative is tied to that rider. Additional riders are “passengers”, and treat the mount and driver as though they were an independent mount. In the event that a driver cannot be agreed upon, the mount is treated as independent, and the riders may need to grapple each other for control.
The rules don’t explain what happens to your mount’s initiative if you dismount. I think the intent is that their initiative changes back to their original initiative roll, but if you started combat mounted you may not have bothered to roll for their initiative in the first place. The rules also don’t explain what happens to the mount’s actions, so a rider could, in theory, jump on and off of their mounts in consecutive turns to allow their mount to attack while still enjoying most of the benefits of being mounted (e.g. they could attack with a lance one-handed).
To limit abuse, limit the actions of the mount: if they have already acted in the turn in which they are mounted, they can take no further actions that turn (though they may spend any movement which they did not spend on their own turn). On the turn in which the rider dismounts, they are still limited to the actions which they could have taken while they were mounted (Dash, Dodge, Disengage). If they rolled initiative at the start of combat, their initiative score reverts. If they did not roll initiative, they must do so now and assume that initiative result at the beginning of the following round.
An independent mount retains its place in the initiative order. Bearing a rider puts no restrictions on the actions the mount can take, and 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.
Independent mounts are where things get confusing for people. Independent mounts usually include anything with grater than 5 Intelligence and any creature which isn’t trained to carry a rider. Dragons, wild animals, and party members are all (typically) independent mounts.
In a practical sense, you have no direct control of an independent mount. You might attempt to convince your mount to do something or go somewhere, but this is no less difficult than doing the same for a creature that you aren’t riding. You are less a rider, and more a passenger.
There is no guarantee that any given point you will be in a position on your own turn to do anything useful, and since your mount doesn’t move on your turn you have no way to reposition unless you dismount. Unfortunately, 5e provides no way for you and your independent mount to bring your initiative scores closer together. Your DM might allow it, but that would be a house rule. Assuming no house rules, the best case scenario is for your mount’s turn to occur immediately before yours so that it can position itself for you to be as effective as possible in that round. If it is practical to do so, identify enemies whose turns take place between the end of your mount’s turn and the beginning of yours and eliminate them early so that your turns are lined up in the most useful manner possible.
Can an intelligent creature be a “controlled” mount?
RAW, no. However, this means that there must be a clear delineation between “intelligent” and “non-intelligent” creatures, which I will discuss below.
As a DM, I recommend allowing players to decide if the mount acts as an independent mount or a controlled mount. The mount would need to consent to be controlled, so mounts like dragons or other characters likely won’t be controlled, but things like the horse from Find Steed would almost certainly comply. However, even this solution introduces complications because it would allow the only mechanism to change your initiative score after combat starts. To address this, consider the initiative fix I proposed under “Controlled Mounts”, above.
Jeremy Crawford state in the Sage Advice podcast segment that he recommends allowing the rider to decide if a mount acts independently at the beginning of each round. This is helpful because it would allow you to let your warhorse attack freely while you are fighting, even though it is not an intelligent mount.
How do I determine if a mount is “intelligent”?
I have no idea. I thought you could use Intelligence, but that’s mostly arbitrary since animals go up to 6 Intelligence (including the horse from Find Steed). Then I thought you could use the capability to understand speech, but earth elementals have 5 intelligence and can speak. Alignment could work (anything that is “unaligned” is unintelligent), but even that isn’t a foolproof method. There are no hard mechanical rules for determining what constitutes “Intelligent”, so it’s really up to the DM to decide.
Jeremy Crawford specifically address Find Steed in the Sage Advice podcast segment. He suggests that the mount is intelligent enough to be considered independent, but you can choose to treat it as a controlled mount, and you can decide whether to treat it as independent or controlled each time you mount it. He suggests earlier in the podcast that DMs should allow players to make this decision each round.
Opportunity Attacks While Mounted
In either case, if the mount provokes an opportunity attack while you’re on it, the attacker can target you or the mount.
This is important. If your mount dies while you’re riding it, you’re going to be very sad. If you’re on an independent mount, it’s possible that your mount could get you attacked through no fault of your own. One controlled mounts, remember that Disengage is one of the three actions your mount can take. On independent mounts, you’ll need to hope that your mount is cautious enough not to get you killed.
Where am I while mounted? How does reach work while mounted?
This is a question which doesn’t occur to most people until you get to the table and start trying to ride around in combat. For small creatures riding medium mounts, ths answer is easy. Small is basically “medium light”, so you still occupy the same size space with the same reach.
Medium creatures on large mounts (like horses) are much more of a problem. Medium creatures occupy one 5-foot square, while large creatures occupy a foot square. In this case, it’s completely unclear where your character is, and what you can reach.
this tweet from Mike Mearls is the closest we have to an official answer, and I don’t know if it answers the question in a useful way because it introduces a ton of other complications. As such, I’ll explain the “Mearls Method”, then I’ll propose the “Blob Method” and the “Center of Mass Method” and discuss their pros and cons. For examples, we’ll consider a horse (large), and elephant (huge), and an Ankylosaurus (gargantuan) as mounts. I’ve intentionally avoid independent mounts of mounts which fly in order to keep the examples simple.
Any time we examine rules response from Mike Mearls, it’s important to note that he is not the definitive source of rules answers. Jeremy Crawford is the lead rules designer, so the order of rules supremacy is the official Errata and Sage Advice documents, Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls if his arguments are good, and everyone else. I am in no way disparaging Mike Mearls; we’ve exchanged emails, and he has never been anything but wonderful to talk to. However, his answers occasionally conflict with Jeremy Crawford’s and with those eventually published in Sage Advice, so it’s important to examine them critically.
Under the “Mearls Method”, the rider is essentially a free-moving creature trapped inside a box the shape of the mount’s space. When mounting a mount, the creature would presumably move into the nearest space within the mount’s space, and would continue to occupy that space unless the rider moved. The rider would need to use their movement to climb all over their mount in order to get to a place where they could reach foes with their weapons. This does have some backing in realism; a rider on an elephant would have a lot of trouble reaching an enemy on foot with a sword unless the rider climbed around on their mount. The rider might instead use a long weapon like a spear or lance. However, atop a horse this complication seems frustrating and pointless. With no “center” square, the rider is forced to constantly move into one corner of their horse’s space to simulate leaning slightly in one direction.
Without built-in facing rules, this means that the rider would be moved about all over the mount as the mount moved around on the grid. If the mount turns around degrees, a rider previously on the mounts rear end might find themselves atop the mount’s head. This is one of those things where the DM either needs to ad-hoc some simple facing rules, or you need to hand-waive it and use your imagination a bit. But if you use ad-hoc facing rules to solve this issue, suddenly facing rules become a huge tactical component in combat as the rider can command his mount to pirouette, bringing him into reach to attack then out of reach again without actually expending the rider’s movement. If you hand-wave the positioning, you come dangerously close to using the blob method.
The Mearls Method also complicates reach. Ranged weapons are mostly fine; you just measure from your current space and everything is good. Melee weapons are a nightmare. If the rider is using a lance while riding a horse, they can move into a space away from their target, negating the lance’s Disadvantage on attacks against adjacent foes and removing the handicap which was added to balance the lance against other weapons. If the rider is on a huge mount like an elephant, using a reach weapons means that the rider is never within melee reach of creatures with 5 foot reach. If our rider is on a gargantuan mount like an ankylosaurs, they could use a reach weapon and only be able to attack a portion of two sides of the mount’s space.
Those points considered, riding a mount under the Mearls Method feels less like riding a mount and more like running around the ground and having your mount carry you by the scruff of your neck any time it moves, only to put you down again when it stops.
Pros: Possibly realism; reach weapons and ranged weapons become very important on big mounts. Cons: Extra tracking, facing rules may be required, unpleasant feel, lance abuse, complicates the Mounted Combatant feat’s second bullet.
Jeremy Crawford states in the Sage Advice podcast segment that this is the official way that things work. He doesn’t discuss anything about reach weapons or the Mounted Combatant feat, however, which means all of my concerns about this method are unanswered. However, it’s still useful to know that there is an official answer.
The blob method is simple. When you mount a creature, you share that creature’s space, effectively making the rider and the mount a “blob” of. The rider’s reach is measure from the edges of that creature’s space. For example: If a human mounted a horse while wielding a longsword, they could attack all creatures within 5 feet of the horse using their longsword. That same human would suffer disadvantage to attack foes within 5 feet while using a lance atop their horse, but could reach all foes out to 10 feet away from the horse.
Things break down a little bit when you consider bigger mounts. Using a longsword from the back of an elephant is clearly silly, and a lance small enough for a human to hold it comfortably might not reach very far away from the elephant. Clearly some realism is lost by this method, and the reliance on reach weapons is greatly diminished. Even on gargantuan mounts the rider could dart about making longsword attacks against foes on all sides of their mount.
Pros: No extra tracking, very easy to play. Cons: Poor realism, loss of emphasis on reach weapons.
Center of Mass Method
This method is a fusion of the Mearls Method and the Blob Method, combining some aspects of the Mearls Method’s independent positioning with the simplicity of the Blob Method.
When mounting a mount, you occupy the center-most space in the creature’s space. if the center of the creature’s space is an intersection, you occupy all spaces which touch that intersection. This means that a human on a horse occupies the mount’s entire space. On an elephant, a human occupies only the center square of the elephant’s space. On an ankylosaurus, a human occupies a 10 foot square in the center of the mount’s space.
On both the elephant and ankylosaurus, the rider would need a reach weapon to attack creatures within 5 feet of the mount. This seems to me to be a reasonable nod to realism without sacrificing simplicity in the common case of humans on horses. Creatures with only 5 foot reach cannot reach the rider unless they also use a reach weapon.
Pros: Realism, reach weapons and ranged weapons make sense, riding horses is still simple. Cons: Complicates the Mounted Combat feat’s second bullet.
How do I keep my mount alive?
There are three options for keeping your mount alive, none of which are mutually exclusive. I recommend combining all three as much as much as you possibly can.
Pay Bethesda some money and get your mount some barding (do people still remember that? Am I old now?). It costs four times as much as armor for a humanoid, but the cost will eventually become negligible as you gain levels. Of course, animals generally aren’t proficient in armor, so wearing it will impose Disadvantage on attack rolls, Dexterity checks, and Dexterity saves. Your mount won’t need to make attack rolls very often, but Disadvantage on Dexterity saves can be a problem. AOE spells are good way to kill mounts and their riders at the same time.
Dodge should be your mount’s default action if they have nothing better to do. It works really well, and if you don’t need to Dash or Disengage there is no reason not to use it.
2/3 of the feat is devoted strictly to keeping you mount alive. If you mount use Dodge, they get Advantage on Dexterity saving throws and if they pass they can ignore AOEs. This is really nice when you’re at high levels and your warhorse still only has 19 hit points.
How do I fight mounted enemies?
The most obvious solution is to kill the mount. Enemies with Mounted Combatant can redirect attacks to target themselves, so that’s generally not the best option. Instead, use AOE damage effects like Fireball. Sure, Mounted Combatant grants Advantage on Dexterity saving throws and Evasion, but a warhorse has just +1 to Dexterity saves so even with advantage it’s an easy target. A warhorse has just 19 hit points, so if you can deal 38 damage (admittedly difficult in 5e without very high-level spells) the horse is almost certainly dead.
If you can’t easily kill the mount, your backup plan is to separate the rider and the mount. Effects like Thunderwave or Lightning Lure work very well. If the mount and rider remain adjacent (such as the rider falling in an adjacent space), this will provide little advantage. Instead, you need to create distance between the rider and the mount. Standing up while prone costs half your speed, as does mounting a mount. Therefore, if you can put just 5 feet between the mount and the prone rider, the rider will be forced to Dash to re-mount their mount in a single turn, robbing them of their action and likely preventing them from doing anything dangerous for a turn.
How do feats affect mounted combat?
There are few feats which have notable affects on mounted combat, but I’ll discuss them and their relationship with the rules above to clarify their effects.
This does not work with mounted combat. It requires you to use your own action (not your mount’s) to Dash.
An excellent defensive option if you don’t use your Reaction frequently, this can be especially useful if you have Mounted Combatant because you can still use it when you take attacks originally intended for your mount.
Clearly the most important feat for mounted combat enthusiasts. The first bullet is the only offensive portion of the feat, and in a campaign where human-sized enemies are common it’s massive. However, it means that you need to ride the biggest mount you can get your hands on. Medium-sized mounts like mastiffs and ponies will lose much of the feat’s effect.
The second and third bullets keep your mount alive. This is crucial because your mount’s capabilities likely won’t advance beyond their basic stat block. A CR 1/2 Warhorse is the same at level 1 and at level 10, but if you take hits for your mount you don’t need to worry about its relatively few hit points or terrible AC. Its saves might still be poor, but reducing AOE damage by half goes a long way to keep your mount alive.
Are lances useful?
Lance: You have disadvantage when you use a lance to
attack a target within 5 feet of you. Also, a lance requires two hands to
wield when you aren’t mounted.
While mounted, the lance has the highest damage of any one-handed weapon. However, the difference between 1d8 and 1d12 is big, but may not be worth the trade in the face of potential Disadvantage. Reach is admittedly nice, but Disadvantage against adjacent foes is a huge handicap which no other reach weapon faces. This means that if you’re fighting adjacent enemies you may want to drop your lance and pull out a sword or something. This allows you to keep your shield equipped while still enjoying the benefits of reach, though you may be forced to drop your lance on the ground to do so effectively. Or, instead, your mount can take the Disengage action to move away from adjacent enemies, allowing you to continue using your lance effectively until your enemies again move inside your reach.
Depending on your group’s method of interpreting space and reach (See “Space and Reach”, above), lances may become crucial if you find a mount larger than a horse
Mount rules dnd
Rules FAQ How Does Mounted Combat Work in D&D 5E?
This is the part of a weekly series of articles by a team of designers answering D&D questions for beginners. Feel free to discuss the article and add your insights or comments!
Mounting A Creature
To mount a creature:
- You must be within 5 feet of it.
- It must be willing to bear you as a rider.
- It must be at least one size larger than you and have an appropriate anatomy (DM discretion; horse yes, gelatinous cube, probably not.)
- You must spend an amount of movement equal to half your speed; 15 feet if your speed is 30 feet, for example. You can’t mount if you can’t spend this movement for any reason. Dismounting is the same process, and you dismount into a space within 5 feet of your mount.
You can only mount or dismount once per turn, and once you’re mounted, the following rules apply:
- If your mount is a trained one, such as a horse or mule, you choose to either control it, or let it remain independent.
- When you mount an intelligent creature, such as a dragon, it always retains its independence. This also applies for an untrained creature.
- If you control a mount, its initiative changes to match your own, but it can only choose from three actions; Dash, Disengage, or Dodge. It can act immediately on the turn when you mount it.
- An independent mount retains its place in the initiative order, but can take all its actions normally.
- In every case, if your mount provokes an attack of opportunity, the attacker can choose to target either you or the mount, so long as it can reach you.
Merlina the githyanki dragonrider is mounted on her young red dragon Cinder and making diving attacks on a storm giant. Initiative has already been rolled, and since Cinder is an intelligent creature, he has his own initiative. Merlina has a 19, the storm giant has a 14, and Cinder has a 7. On her turn, Merlina readies an action to strike with her halberd when she’s within reach. The storm giant acts, then Cinder’s turn comes up, and he flies in, making his full multiattack against the giant. At the same time, Merlina’s readied action goes off, and she attacks with her halberd. As they fly away, the giant gets an attack of opportunity on the dragon, but decides the rider is more dangerous; he targets Merlina instead of the dragon, and hits her with his greatsword, wounding her severely as the pair fly by.
Naturally, being mounted carries some drawbacks, as well.
- If your mount is moved against its will, such as by a thorn whip spell while you’re on it, you must immediately make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. On a failure, you’re thrown off your mount, and land prone in a space within 5 feet of it.
- If your mount is knocked prone, you can use your reaction to immediately dismount, “bailing out” and landing on your feet within 5 feet of the mount. If you can’t or don’t use your reaction for this, you are instead prone within 5 feet of your mount.
- Apart from this, a DM can call for a Strength (Athletics) check to remain mounted in response to sudden disruptions. Of course, these checks will be much easier with the…
If you’re riding in a military saddle, you “have advantage on any check you make to remain mounted”. Note this doesn’t mention saving throws, unfortunately. Furthermore, if you want to ride an aquatic or flying mount, like a gryffon or a dolphin, you’ll need an exotic saddle instead; prices can be found in Chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook under Mounts and Vehicles.
In addition, you can also buy barding, which is armor for your mount. Barding works exactly the same as armor for humanoids, but is four times as expensive and weighs twice as much; expect your DM to up this price if you’re buying barding for an especially unusual mount!
But Where Am I?
If you play on a grid, you’ll encounter the question of where, exactly, the rider is on the mount. In the center? Do they share the mount’s space?
The answer in the rules is that the rider is in a space the mount occupies, and can use its own movement to move freely on the mount.
Many people, unsatisfied by this answer, either put the rider in the center of the mount (sometimes placing them on an intersection) or just treat the mount and rider as a single creature that occupies the mount’s space. Any of these three solutions can work, but—and say it with me, folks—talk to your DM and get their interpretation before proceeding. Remember that, for especially large mounts, you may need a reach weapon to even attack from atop it!
Some other game elements interact with mounted combat in various ways; a few examples are explained below:
- Lance. The classic weapon of a riding knight, the lance is normally two-handed, but can be wielded one-handed while mounted. This technically means you can dual-wield lances while mounted with the Dual Wielder feat. Do with that knowledge what you please.
- Mounted Combatant. Of course we had to mention this one. You gain advantage on melee attack rolls if your mount is bigger than the target you’re hitting; a major boon if you fight a lot of Medium creatures. You can redirect attacks on your mount to you instead, which is great if you’re sick of mounts dying. And creatures you’re mounted on gain the rogue’s Evasion feature. Very sweet all around.
- The Saddle of the Cavalier prevents you from being dismounted forcibly, and imposes disadvantage on attack rolls against your mount. A decent upgrade so your mount won’t have to Dodge so often.
- Cavalier. A bit much to dive into here, but if you’re looking to make a mounted combatant, check out the Cavalier Fighter Archetype in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
A knight charging into battle on a warhorse, a wizard casting spells from the back of a griffon, or a cleric soaring through the sky on a pegasus all enjoy the benefits of speed and mobility that a mount can provide.
A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount, using the following rules.
Mounting and Dismounting
Once during your move, you can mount a creature that is within 5 feet of you or dismount. Doing so costs an amount of movement equal to half your speed. For example, if your speed is 30 feet, you must spend 15 feet of movement to mount a horse. Therefore, you can't mount it if you don't have 15 feet of movement left or if your speed is 0.
If an effect moves your mount against its will while you're on it, you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall off the mount, landing prone in a space within 5 feet of it. If you're knocked prone while mounted, you must make the same saving throw.
If your mount is knocked prone, you can use your reaction to dismount it as it falls and land on your feet. Otherwise, you are dismounted and fall prone in a space within 5 feet it.
Controlling a Mount
While you're mounted, you have two options. You can either control the mount or allow it to act independently. Intelligent creatures, such as dragons, act independently.
You can control a mount only if it has been trained to accept a rider. Domesticated horses, donkeys, and similar creatures are assumed to have such training. The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it. It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.
An independent mount retains its place in the initiative order. Bearing a rider puts no restrictions on the actions the mount can take, and 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.
In either case, if the mount provokes an opportunity attack while you're on it, the attacker can target you or the mount.
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D&D 5th Edition
An animal pulling a carriage, cart, chariot, sled, or wagon can move weight up to five times its base carrying Capacity, including the weight of the vehicle. If multiple animals pull the same vehicle, they can add their carrying Capacitytogether.
Mountsother than those listed here are available in fantasy gaming worlds, but they are rare and not normally available for purchase. These include flying Mounts(pegasi, griffons, hippogriffs, and similar animals) and even aquatic Mounts(giant sea horses, for example). Acquiring such a mount often means securing an egg and raising the creature yourself, making a bargain with a powerful entity, or negotiating with the mount itself.
Barding: Bardingis armor designed to protect an animal’s head, neck, chest, and body. Any type of armor shown on the Armortable can be purchased as Barding. The cost is four times the equivalent armor made for Humanoids, and it weighs twice as much.
Saddles: A Militarysaddle braces the rider, helping you keep your seat on an active mount in battle. It gives you advantage on any check you make to remain mounted. An exotic saddle is required for riding any aquatic or flying mount.
Vehicle Proficiency: If you have proficiency with a certain kind of vehicle (land or water), you can add your Proficiency Bonusto any check you make to control that kind of vehicle in difficult circumstances.
Rowed Vessels: Keelboats and rowboats are used on lakes and rivers. If going downstream, add the speed of the current (typically 3 miles per hour) to the speed of the vehicle. These vehicles can’t be rowed against any significant current, but they can be pulled upstream by draft animals on the shores. A Rowboatweighs pounds, in case Adventurerscarry it over land.
|Bit and bridle||2 gp||1 lb.|
|Animal Feed (per day)||5 cp||10 lb.|
|Saddle, Exotic||60 gp||40 lb.|
|Saddle, Military||20 gp||30 lb.|
|Saddle, Pack||5 gp||15 lb.|
|Saddle, Riding||10 gp||25 lb.|
|Saddlebags||4 gp||8 lb.|
|Stabling (per day)||5 sp||—|