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 17:30 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
- Why should I use a mount?
- What is a mount?
- Mounting / Dismounting
- Controlling a Mount
- Where am I while mounted? How does reach work while mounted?
- How do I keep my mount alive?
- How do I fight mounted enemies?
- How do feats affect mounted combat?
- Are lances useful?
- Magic Items
- Mount Options
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 198 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 12.5 feet, and you may have 2.5 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 10-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 a Brontosaurus (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.
no – still use your own reach. #wotcstaff
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) October 1, 2016
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 180 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 a Brontosaurus, a human occupies a 10 foot square in the center of the mount’s space.
On both the elephant and brontosaurus, 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 (magic excluded) 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 may (see the next paragraph) 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 may be a problem. AOE spells are good way to kill mounts and their riders at the same time, especially if you’re protecting your mount from attacks with armor, a Saddle of the Cavalier, and/or the Mounted Combatant feat.
But you may be able to treat your mount as proficient in barding. Page 9 of the Monster Manual has a sidebar titled “Armor, Weapon, and Tool Proficiencies” under the introduction’s section on Equipment which specifies that you should assume that a creature is proficient with its equipment (I can’t legally reproduce the exact text). Jeremy Crawford has asserted that this text is “purposely generous” specifically in reference to barding, but also said the decision is “ultimately in the DM’s hands.”
If your DM does allow your mount to be proficient in their barding, put it in the heaviest armor you can afford without imposing speed penalties (heavy armor still needs 15 Strength to avoid a speed penalty). Even if your DM doesn’t allow your mount to be proficient, this may be worth the cost of perpetual Disadvantage on Dexterity saves. Your mount almost certainly isn’t proficient, so they were almost certain to fail those saves anyway unless they’re Dodging.
If you’re a Beast Master, your DM may hesitate to allow barding in conjunction with the Beast Companion feature adding your Proficiency Bonus to your animal’s AC. As a compromise, you can treat their armor-based AC and 10+Dex+PB as separate AC calculations and use the higher of the two.
If it’s an option, you might also find a friendly wizard to cast Mage Armor on your mount.
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, and crucially it also gives your mount Advantage on Dexterity saves, which may be your mount’s only defense against area damage effects since so few mount options have save proficiencies of any kind.
2/3 of the feat is devoted strictly to keeping your mount alive. If you mount uses 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, such as an elephant, because if you’re stuck in the middle square of your mount’s space, you’ll need reach to attack enemies adjacent to your mount.
Items for Your Mount
A handful of magic items exist which can benefit you and/or your mount.
- : Get a flying mount. If you get one of these, trade it for several figures of wondrous power of lower rarity that you can turn into flying mounts temporarily.
- : Creatures that you use as a mount won’t have their other forms of movement affected by this, and you really want a flying mount by the time you can afford this.
- : A good partial replacement for the Mounted Combatant feat’s ability to take hits for your mount, and it also prevents you from being dismounted.
Figurines of Wondrous Power
The Figurine of Wondrous Power presents a convenient solution to mounts’ poor durability and to the lack of good mount options for non-paladins, offering you a way to conjure up a powerful mount for a few hours. If it dies, it just turns back into the figure (which it was going to do anyway) and after a few days it’s ready for more adventures.
This admittedly trades the issue of permanent death for a cooldown period which can often be frustratingly long, but compare a multi-day cooldown to the time it takes to raise and train a griffon from an egg only to see it get one-shot in your first combat encounter.
- : Good fly speed and it’s more durable than a warhorse.
- : Basically a flying riding horse with Darkvision. It’s not nearly as durable or as fast as a griffon, but the figure stays active for twice as long and with a cooldown of just 2 days you can use it more frequently than most figurines.
- : You probably don’t want to ride these, but they’re decent combat summons thanks to Pack Tactics.
: Three mounts in one!
There’s some complexity here, and you need to track each goat
separately, which is annoying but absolutely worth the effort
considering how good the Ivory Goats are as a set.
- Goat of Traveling: Your go-to mount most of the time. The 24 charges can be easily broken up, so you can easily activate, deactivate, and reactivate the figuring whenever you need it. This allows you to easily recover if your goat dies (which it will with 10 AC and 13 hit points), so you always have a mount ready. However, you need to remember to manage the charges because they don’t start recharging until you expend all 24, and with a 1-week cooldown you don’t want to be caught with too few charges to get through a day. Expect to run down remaining charges at the end of an adventure so that they can start recharging.
- Goat of Travail: Basically your backup goat when the other two are recharging or if you’re saving them for some reason. The stats are bad, and the cooldown is horrifyingly long.
- Goat of Terror: When it’s time to throw down, it’s time for the Goat of Terror. Summon the goat ahead of time and pull off its horns so that you’re not spending an Action in combat to change weapons. The fear aura is great crowd control, and the horn weapons are exactly what a mounted combat build needs unless you already have better magic weapons.
- : CR 4, a mountain of hit points, and attacks good enough to make many player characters jealous. The 24-hour duration means that you can very easily activate the figure, spend a day adventuring, then keep the elephant around for a long rest and get a second day of adventuring before it reverts to a figurine. However, the elephant can’t fly, so in many ways it’s just a bigger, better warhorse. If course, the Mounted Combatant feat makes having a really big mount a great idea, so maybe that’s all you need.
- : The Mastiff is the go-to mount option for small riders, but with just 5 hit points it’s incredibly frail. The Onyx Dog’s big appeal is that it adds Darkvision and can see invisible creatures, but if invisible foes are a problem you should consider a Lantern of Revealing instead.
- : The 8-hour duration and 2-day cooldown mean that the owl is frequently available and lasts for a full adventuring day, and with 60 ft. fly speed and flyby it’s excellent for charging in and out of melee. However, the Giant Owl is actually less durable than a warhorse so you really need to work to protect your owl.
- : A Nightmare is a great mount. It flies, it’s reasonably durable, and it gives you resistance to fire. If you’re good-aligned, it may occasionally decide to ignore your orders, but it’s still friendly to you and your allies so it (probably) won’t just run off and abandon you unless you try to ride it. However, the 5-day cooldown can be difficult. Fortunately, the 24-hour duration is long enough for a full day of adventuring, a long rest, and another day of adventuring.
- : 8-hour duration, 60-foot fly speed, and it resets at dawn. Very good, but given the choice I could happily trade this for a dozen Bronze Griffons.
While you can ride a much larger variety of creatures than the options listed here, I’ve chosen to present a list of options which are feasibly accessible to players in many games, including options which are commonly depicted as mounts in various fantasy media.
Note that your mount must be at least one size larger than you. There is nothing in the rules preventing small riders from riding a warhorse most of the time, then switching to a mastiff for cramped quarters.
Staple Mount Options
Commonly available for purchase, these are the go-to mounts for most characters.
- : Available in Icewind Dale, the Axebeak is slightly slower than the Warhorse and not strong enough to wear heavy armor, though it does have just as many hit points and costs one eighth as much. If you’re not planning to spend money on barding, a small herd of axebeaks may be more economical than expensive warhorses.
- : Faster and more durable than a mule, more hp and cheaper than a riding horse, but also slower than a riding horse or war hrose.
- : Absolutely dirt cheap, it’s effectively a small draft horse. For small riders who need inexpensive, disposable mounts, look no further.
- : The cheapest horse, but also the slowest by a large margin. Its only advantage over the Mule is that it’s larger, and that only matters if you also have Mounted Combatant.
- The Monsterizer, that raises its Defensive CR from 1/2 (low AC hurts) to 3, which is a massive increase. Oh, and it’s size Huge, so if you do decide to stick around, Mounted Combatant gets you Advantage on attacks against anything Large or smaller. The only difficulty is bringing them inside (and feeding them if your DM cares about that). : How are these half the price of a warhorse? They’re CR 4, which is just absolutely insane. 72 hit points is a ton for a mount (even its paltry 12 AC is unusually high), but looks at its attacks! It’s probably better offensively than you are for a huge chunk of the level range. Heck, throw full plate on it and set it loose in combat and you can go home. According to
- : Technically viable, but worse than other medium mounts.
- : Better AC than the Pony, proficient in Perception, and Keen Hearing and Smell. But it also has less than half of the Pony’s hit points, so even minor AOE damage will kill it. Average damage on 1st-level Burning Hands takes it from full hp to outright dead. The Mastiff is a great companion and watch animal, but don’t take them into combat.
- : More than twice the Mastiff’s hit points, and enough Strength to wear heavy armor without penalty. A Warhorse is still a much better mount, but in tight quarters the Pony may be your best bet.
- : Fast and inexpensive compared to the Warhorse, but worse HP and just over half as many hit points as the Warhorse.
- Wealth By Level Table. If you’re expecting a few dead mounts, it’s more practical to purchase several other mounts and use them instead. : The best horse in every aspect except cost. At 400gp, it costs more than five times as much as a riding horse, and you can’t reasonably afford one until level 5 according to the
Beast Master Ranger Mount Options
Available as beast companions, the Beast Master Ranger’s Beast Companion options include several possible mounts. They are limited both by CR and size, so these options are largely excellent for small riders, but outright unavailable to medium riders.
Options available as “Staple Mounts” are omitted. See the previous section.
- : Slow and unremarkable.
- : Medium, Keen Smell, Darkvision, and a burrow speed. The burrow speed is the best thing here, and it’s not enough to make this a combat mount.
- : Medium, blindsight, a swim speed, and it’s amphibious. Not terribly fast, but maybe useful in an aquatic campaign.
- : Similar to the giant crab, but you get Standing Leap instead of blindsight. If you care about jumping, just get something that can fly.
- : Darkvision and Keen Hearing and Smell. It’s basically a Mastiff with Darkvision.
- : Blindsight, Darkvision, Spider Climb. I hate it, but it’s objectively good.
- : Worse than the Mastiff as a mount.
- : Reasonably fast, climb speed, Keen Smell.
- : It flies, and that is frequently enough to make the difference.
- : Take a mastiff, double its HP, boost its AC, and give it proficiency in Stealth just for good measure.
Find Steed and Find Greater Steed
See our Practical Guide to Summoning Spells. Note that Find Steed covers some great mount options like Griffons and Dire Wolves.
- : 80-foot fly speed, a big pile of hit points, and Keen Sight. A linear upgrade from the Hippogriff.
- : The budget version of a griffon, the hippogriff is slower and has fewer hit points, but fills the same niche. Your DM may be much more willing to let you have a pet hippogriff than a griffon because it’s easier to kill if it becomes a problem.
- : A riding horse for one hour and you can cast it as a ritual.
- : All the speed of a warhorse, 3 more hp, slightly higher AC (which you might override with fresh barding), and you don’t need to feed it or groom it. Immunity to exhaustion means that it can march until its body breaks down (though the rider might still get tired). If you or someone in your party can magically seize control of a warhorse skeleton, there is no better horse equivalent.
I’m still not thrilled with 5e’s mounted combat rules, but using the “Blob Method” and a bit of optimization can at least make them usable. Keep your horse alive and keep spare horses on hand for when you get fireballed.