Last Updated: March 7, 2022
In this episode of the RPGBOT.podcast, we discuss mounted combat both in DnD 5e and throughout the history of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as drawing comparison to Pathfinder 2e’s handling of mounts. We discuss the current state of the rules in 5e, including issues with the mounted combat rules and challenges around handling things like centaurs, intelligent mounts, and riding on your party members’ shoulders.
For more on mounted combat in 5e, see our Practical Guide to Mounted Combat.
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Materials Referenced in this Episode
- DnD 5e’s Mounted Combat rules, which are available in the Basic Rules for free both as a PDF and on DnDbeyond.com.
- Chainmail (affiliate link), available as a PDF on DMsGuild.com
- DnD 1st edition source book Unearthed Arcana (affiliate link), available as a PDF on DMsGuild.com
- DnD 3rd edition source book Unearthed Arcana (affiliate link), available as a PDF on DMsGuild.com and available for free on d20srd.org
- Pathfinder 2e’s rules for Animal Companions, which are available in both in the Pathfinder 2e Core Rulebook (affiliate link) and for free on Archives of Nethys.
Welcome to the RPGBOT.podcast. I’m Randall James, your Emminent MC and with me is Tyler Kamstra.
and Random Powell.
Awesome. Tyler, what are we doing today?
We’re going to beat dead horses. We’re going to talk about Mounted Combat today. A lot of focus on Fifth Edition on this one, but you know, we’ll touch on some other stuff, too. It’s been a big part of dungeon fantasy RPGs since they started, and we’re going to talk about kind of the state of mechanics and how it works in the game.
Okay, yeah, that’s interesting. I feel like I’ve mainly only played fifth edition. I’ve riddena horse. Was there ever a day you could do more than that?
Uh, was there ever… Yes, yes. Let’s see. So, so let’s get right into it, I guess. Um, so… riding horses has been part of D&D and dungeon Fantasy games for as long as they’ve been a thing. In fact, it’s been part of the game since before it was a game. If you go dig up the rules for Chainmail, which is the game that predated Dungeons and Dragons. Chainmail was a tabletop miniatures war game for medieval-style fantasy combat, and the cover actually depicts a… a guy on a horse fighting a guy not on a horse. So, cavalry is obviously a big thing. If you’ve played any sort of tabletop war game, Warhammer Fantasy, Age of Sigmar, anything along those lines, you probably know how big horses are. And it’s kind of… over the years Mounted Combat has kind of fallen out of favor. So Cavalier was a class in first edition. Second Edition happened and I think Cavalier is still in there, but I haven’t actually played second edition, so I don’t really know. It was… it was a class again in third edition. And I kind of gave fourth edition to miss but that’s fine. And now fifth edition comes along and Mounted Combat has basically been ignored. Like, it’s… it’s reduced to two paragraphs in the player’s handbook that have never really been revisited. And two paragraphs doesn’t sound like a whole lot of rules. But they’re very dense. They’re very confusing. And there’s really just not a lot of explanation for how things work.
Okay, I want to go back to stuff. So, you say Cavalier, and I’m familiar with the Cleveland Cavaliers who are great at basketball. Uh, once upon a time they were, I guess. Cavalier is a person who fights on horse, right? That’s the whole idea. So… so what I’m hearing is like, pre… pre the existence of D&D, basically all the way up to fifth edition, you could literally build a character around the ability to fight on horseback real good.
Yes, entirely. 3.5, mounted combat was very, very well supported. First edition Pathfinder, also very well supported, because it grew out of third… third edition Dungeons and Dragons. Previous editions, Cavalier was just a standalone class. And yeah, you could just be… I want to be a knight on a horse with a lance, and that’s my jam. I want to do that. And we don’t really have that anymore.
In fact, in 3.x, it was interesting there, it’s not just that there were good rules for how to do it. And they were well defined, and they were reasonably strong. There were actual whole character options. A… a thing that always sprang to mind was in one of the “Complete” books, they decided to add a bunch of feats that let you basically mash two classes together and boost some of the benefits of each one. And there was a feat that said, if you are a ranger and a paladin, your animal companion and your mount are the same thing. And it gets all the benefits of both. And boy, was that a terrible thing to multiclass between. But it was fun that they at least thought about like, here is an option that you can take your mount. That’s a literal class feature for the Paladin, and turn it into something even more special.
And so I guess my question would be like, did did folks actually take advantage of this, like when you played third edition, were you playing with folks who were playing as a Cavalier or playing with a ranger that, you know, often took advantage of Mounted Combat?
Every once in a while. Like a horse doesn’t fit into every game, but sometimes you got someone who wants you just want to ride a horse. Sometimes you want to be small and you want… want to ride a really big dog.
I mean, okay, you say a horse doesn’t fit in every game. A horse doesn’t fit in every dungeon either.
Yeah, and that’s… honestly that’s probably one the reasons that horses have kind of fallen out of favor in terms of the dungeons and dragons and other dungeon Fantasy games. To put it simply, it’s… it’s hard to take a horse places. Like, you can get a real big, big dog. And when I say real big, I mean like, as big as a person, you’re talking like, great dane would be probably on the small end of the kind of dog you would want to ride. But yeah, you think you’ve got your big… one of those big war horses, like, Okay, I’m gonna go inside this building on my horse with, I don’t know, eight foot ceilings? That seems like a reasonable height. How tall are ceilings?
Particularly, and you know, this is a nod to realism, particularly in the sort of time period that dungeons the dragons is intended to be set in… short, because humans were shorter.
There are many races that are even shorter than humans, like, elves. D&D elves aren’t Tolkien elves: tall, graceful things. D&D elves are shorter than people and dwarves and all that. And then of course, the races that are actually small. So a lot of buildings just straight do not fit a person on a horse.
So yeah, that… yeah, that’s absolutely one of the biggest problems with riding a horse. Just a lot of adventuring takes place inside and inside is generally a terrible place to ride a horse. Your typical dungeon is probably going to have those eight foot ceilings so like human on horseback, you’re going to be dragging your head across the ceiling all the time. Doorways: generally not built to accommodate horses. Double doors, you’re probably fine; single door, maybe not. And then, every once in a while adventures get dragged into polite society, you know, you’ve got to meet somebody important. You’ve got to go to the local bar or whatever. You need to go buy equipment, and you can’t really just drag your horse around with you. So like there are some ways around it. Like I mentioned earlier, riding dogs as a popular thing for small races. If you’re familiar with Eberron at all, there is a tribe of halflings that rides velociraptors. Which hard to think of something cooler than riding a velociraptor. Sorry, no, not the… goodness someone helpe me here, not the not the Jurassic Park velociraptors the ones that velociraptors are actually supposed to be. Someone help me, I don’t know dinosaur facts.
You are asking the wrong person by dude. I’m sorry.
I can, grab the book.
We’re gonna get raked over the coals on the internet. Yeah, halflings writing dinosaurs lances. It’s a cool thing. Eberron… Eberron has some good ideas.
Look, I want to I want to go back a second though. So when you play third edition and you have a clap Cavalier in the party, like what did it DM typically do just ignore the fact that… it’s like, oh, this dungeon immaculate ceilings. Hugely tall? Or let’s face it, you’ve got to leave the horse outside and roll the dice to see if the horse is still there when we come out.
Well, in my personal experience, you got about 50/50. Sometimes there would be dungeons where like, Oh, this dungeon was built by giant. So all the ceilings are really tall. The doors are really wide. There’s plenty of space for horse to run around. But then, you know, you’d get dungeons where there wasn’t room for a horse. So yeah, you’ve got to leave your horse outside. I hope your build still works, I guess.
And one interesting thing about that is that so for the Paladin, they literally built having a horse into the class as a feature. In 3.5, if you are a paladin at fifth level, you just got a horse. It just appeared a gift from your daddy. A horse now exists next to you and serves you.
Okay? And if you don’t take so good care of that horse, like does another horse show up?
Yep. Except theoretically, it’s the same horse. But you know, it’s deties, who knows what they’re doing? But, you know, and so that was one of the big ways that people did get horses is because Paladin was a popular class that had a lot of really good benefits. And if you were going into a dungeon at some point during the many years span of 3.5, they said, “Alright, this is ridiculous that we’re going to give you an entire class feature that just doesn’t work in a lot of places.” And so they said, “you can replace that horse with doing more neat stuff in dungeons there.” I mean, I don’t remember what the feature did exactly, but it was basically like if you were in an enclosed space, you could whack people against the walls for extra damage or something like that. But you know as an actual mechanical trade, acknowledging that horses don’t really work everywhere.
I mean, a horse could slam somebody into a wall too, especially in an enclosed space. So…
That’s definitely true.
I think I’d keep my horse if it’s just me.
Yeah, unfortunately, even with, let’s see, so, so that they definitely solve the problem with paladins and their horse feature. But if you didn’t want to be a paladin, like let’s say you wanted to be a fighter or something, and you still wanted to fight on a horse, you just have a regular horse in your horse is going to have some number of hit points, I cannot remember what it was in third edition, but it wasn’t a lot. And then you’re going to be level 15, like slaying demons on the plains of hell. And like, someone’s gonna go, “Hey, you’re really hard to kill, but your horse has like 10 hit points and no armor. So I’m just gonna knock your horse down.” And suddenly, you’re out half your class features. So the issue of your mount taking damage has been a problem… basically, forever, and it certainly hasn’t gotten better with fifth edition.
It sounds like fifth edition, just would you count one, two paragraphs, right?
Two paragraphs, yeah. two paragraphs in the Playing the Game chapter or the Combat chapter. I should probably remember that off the top of my head at this point. So the… Okay, so let me explain basically how the mounted combat rules work in fifth edition. So you get on your horse, which takes half your movement. Your horse… basically, there’s two ways to handle your mount. Is your mount intelligent? Is your mount not intelligent? Let’s… let’s focus on horses for the time being, and let’s assume that your horse isn’t intelligent. And the the specific word intelligent isn’t especially well explained either, which doesn’t help. So you get on your horse, your horse now shares your initiative and effectively acts on your turn. And you can kind of just trade actions back and forth between yourself and your horse. Your horse can only do certain things while you’re riding it so it can’t attack. So, it’s action options are limited, but you can still use its movement and stuff. So in terms of just like, I want to get around on a horse, it works pretty well. But the things kind of fall off the things kind of go off the rails as soon as you try to attack or anything like that. So I’m going to ask you a trivia question. So, Randall, you said you’ve ridden a horse, yes?
No, actually, I’ve never ridden a horse.
Okay. All right. So use your imagination. Can you picture a person riding a horse?
Okay, now, where does a person sit on a horse?
Uh… basically mid horse.
Yeah, right? Okay. Now… Now you’re playing D&D. Now, a horse is large, So it takes up a 10 foot by 10 foot square.
Makes sense, makes sense.
Now, you are a human. Let’s say your character’s human, you’re medium. So you take a five by five square?
Where do you go on the horse?
Well, in reality, you would want to drop an imaginary square that can’t possibly exist because people only move in discrete units. So… I assume I sit on its, you know, back right cheek? Is that…
I mean, that’s one of the options. Like, that… That’s where things get weird! As soon as you get on the horse. Because you don’t stop using the normal movement rules. Like, you… you move into the horse’s space, and you take up one of those four squares on the horse, and you basically float in space relative to the horse right there. The horse could run around in a full circle and you remain in the same position relative to the horse. So if you get on your horse and you’re in the, say southwest square relative to your horse, if your horse turns around and runs to the south, you continue to remain floating in space adjacent to your horse. All of your attacks are made from that square. Your position is treated as in that square. If someone drops a fireball on your horse, they could hit your horses opposite corner and you could be totally fine. You can interpose your horse between yourself and enemies to make it hard for them to attack you. You can use a reach weapon to attack the other side of your horse. Your horse could spin in… in place infinitely fast and burrow a hole into the ground and you just kind of… float there. So this all this all sounds maddening and unimportant, but… Lances are an especially good example of why this doesn’t make any sense. So if you attack a target… if you attack a creature with a lance, and they’re within five feet of you, you suffer disadvantage on the attack. But there are reach weapons so you can attack creatures 10 feet away from you. So effectively, what you can do to use a lance effectively is you can just kind of walk to the other corner of your horse and attack them. Which…
I have to… I have to spend five units of movement to switch corners of my horse.
Yes you do.
Okay. If I switch, like let’s say, I’m sitting on like, the front right shoulder, and I moved to the back left cheek… do I give up an opportunity attack? Or do I have cover?
You do. You provoke an opportunity attack. For leaning on your horse.
Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s a little bit more in the lean. You moved. I mean, what do we assume? You know? Sure.
You walked five feet to the other side of your horse
While riding… unless we’re talking about you know, swashbucklers standing on the back of their horse shenanigans here. I yeah, it is leaning, which is part of why this doesn’t make sense.
That’s, that is the art that we need, though, right? Like, the answer to this question is like, you constantly have the person, like, leaning like they’re hanging off a sailboat, but it’s actually a horse. And that’s how they ride like, oh, we’ve got to go to the next village. Just… yeah.
Just some kind of weird, like, vertical pole to hang from on the horse.
Arm strength, like wicked arm strength. Right, I think we’re gonna make a valid point. But I got excited. Because…
Oh, I mean, only a little bit. That… So, what Tyler was talking about, were the like, moving around, uou know, that is… since there isn’t really a good solution to how that doesn’t make sense. There’s a couple options, like, so… if you can move around like that, and as mode start to scale, this becomes a bigger question, right? Like, you know, if you’re on the back of a horse, okay, yes, it makes reasonable sense that I can use a sword to hit a person next to me while I’m on the back of a horse. If I’m in the middle of an elephant, which is a huge sized creature, technically speaking, the rules, say I move to the right side of my elephant, and stab downward. And I can stab somebody with a sword from the back of an elephant, which is nonsensical. And there’s, there’s a couple of ways of going into this, and I will let Tyler go off on these because he has delved into these in so much depth.
Yeah, Random is absolutely right. As changing the size of the mount that you’re riding really illustrates a lot of the problems. An elephant is a great example, because they’re a huge mount, that historically people have ridden and still do ride today. So, you put somebody in the middle square of an elephant with a lance and they can poke everybody immediately around the elephant. That’s pretty great. Because other people will have trouble hitting you back. If you scale down to a medium amount, such as a riding dog or raptor of some kind, a particularly large bird, perhaps… things actually make more sense, which is weird, because you no longer have the issue of walking to the opposite side of your horse. So, honestly, the best way to handle mounted combat in fifth edition is halflings on riding dogs. Like, anything other than that, things get a little screwy. You throw in ranged weapons, and you can be like, yeah, I’m gonna hide on the wrong side of my horse and shoot the guy over there. Everything’s fine.
So I want to… there’s a couple of things I want to poke at that you’re calling out. So one, my elephant, my elephant is huge. Remind me is that, like, three by three in the grid? 15 feet by 15 feet. Okay.
So… I… it isn’t free motion. I can’t just move from like one corner to the other corner. I have to consume my motion to make that, right?
Yes, you do.
And I give up opportunity to tech for it.
So does that mean the world is okay? Like it is physically nonsense. But, I would… I would also argue that like the… the, the motions, we go through the six seconds per round of combat, like, but we still take turns within the six seconds. It’s all a little nonsense, but we accept it because it’s what makes the game work.
Yeah. I guess you could argue that, yes. It is a little silly. It, it’s consistent within the realm of the rules. The difficulty is it just, like, it doesn’t reflect your expectations of how riding an animal should work. The… like, the simple act of like, say, I’m a fighter, and I’m level five, and I’ve got two attacks, if I want to hit one guy on my left, and one guy on the right, and I want to hit each of them once, I shouldn’t have to walk back and forth on my horse to do that. And the the entire point of, well, not the entire point, but one of the big points of riding amount is your mount has a lot more move speed than you do. So your move speed while riding a mount shouldn’t really matter. Like if, if you got hit with a bunch of penalties that dropped your move speed to, let’s say, five feet like, ah, okay, all I’m gonna do walking around this turn is I’m going to move to the other corner of my horse. And if I want to get back, I have to dash to run to the other side of my horse ever so slowly.
Yeah, I guess I’m trying to think this all the way through. So I can break up my movement in fifth edition, though. And so if it’s just the horse, like with anybody, I ought to be able to go to one side, go to the other and come back, even with an elephant ought to be able to kind of cover right?
Yes, totally. Like your typical creature is going to have 25 or 30 feet of movement. Yeah, you can run all over that thing.
What what are the rules for motion of my mount? You know, can we can we just perpetually say that my mount holds their motion and then does whatever I tell them to on my turn? So I want… I want my horse to go 50 feet that way, and then I’m going to use my motion to swashbuckle left to right.
If it’s an unintelligent mount, yes. So typically, with a horse or a riding dog or something, yeah, you can do exactly that. Things get a little complicated if you have an intelligent mount, because they keep their own turnt. Which… which we should talk about that real quick. So… so riding an intelligent mount is something that’s going to happen to people every once in a while, you’ll meet something cool like a dragon or a giant eagle, and they’re intelligent, free thinking creatures. Arguably… paladins get a spell called fine steed which summons an intelligent mount, which I think is intended to be treated as unintelligent, but rules as written as it is an intelligent mount and gets to keep its own tourn and stuff. So… and of course, there’s always the example of I just want to ride on one of my party members, like somebody’s a centaur, or you have an intelligent horse in the party, or like you’ve got a gnome who wants to ride around on the goliath’s shoulders. Like, what do you do, then? At that point, the… it might as well just be the ground moving beneath you during a fight, you have no control over what’s going on, they take completely independent turns, and you just hope you’re in the right place at the right time to do something useful.
And that does bring up, you know, so like you talked about, there’s no like, “holding” in fifth edition, no holding of actions, but you can ready in action. But the problem is, if you’re waiting for this ready, like if you’re reading an action constantly that uses both your bonus action and your reaction, because you bonus action to ready your action, and then you use your reaction when the trigger happens to do the thing. So that is enormously wasteful in the action economy to try and deal with that.
Unless the only thing you can do is move.
Right, but at that point, I mean, there is no intelligent mount that you’re going to find that can only move, right? You know, we’re talking about things like a dragon, or, you know, if you are using the Find Steed, you can have like a wolf, right? And these are things which have good mechanics that you can absolutely use. And one other interesting thing about intelligent mounts is who decides what they’re going to do, right? Is… are you just going to give the player you know, like, are you going to try and force the player to persuade their mount and have a chance of failure? Are you going to have the DM be running this NPC and, you know, have this be like a thing where maybe, you know… Find Steed being a good example because it is always meant to serve you. It’s meant to replace the the paladins mount feature that was in previous editions. So, you know, is this a character that has separate wants from you? And how does that end up, you know, but role playing both outside of combat but also, you know, in combat. You know, like… could your… if you don’t use Find Steed, you know, if you are riding say a dragon or something, could your mount perhaps disagree with you and start carrying you away from the fight or to somewhere dangerous? Right?
And that feels like it makes a lot of sense to me, though. Like, That actually sounds exciting. I feel like that would work, right? Like if I’m on a horse, I assume horses do not speak common.
Okay. Good, good. Good. So, so me, you know, maybe they know a couple of words. They’re not fluent, I guess you would say, right. So I can imagine a situation where like, every time I want the horse to do something, I say “I want the horse to go from A to B.” And the DM says, “okay, roll animal handling, and roll with disadvantage because your horse got punched in the face last round.” Or, you know, roll with advantage because you just fed a sugar cube. You know, I got three sugar cubes in my pocket, but this is all I’ve got. But if it’s a dragon, a dragon might speak a language so then it becomes… maybe it’s a persuasion check. But the… you know, the point you might like the, the alignment. Imagine an animal that loves you so much that it pulls you away from the fight because it was worried you were gonna die.
Yes, the mighty paladin and his cowardly steed.
And so one other interesting thing about intelligent creatures and items designed for mounts. So centaurs, as Tyler briefly touched on, there are two items that are preposterous on centers, because their item budget is designed for them to be used on mounts. So there’s horseshoes of speed. They’re four horseshoes, you slap them on a centaur and that centaur runs 30 feet faster, which on the player character, being able to spend an uncommon item, they’re just uncommon on running 30 feet faster is crazy. And that’s the less ridiculous of them, because the other one is the saddle of the cavalier. So if you slap a saddle of the cavalier on a centaur PC, and you have a rogue sit on the back of the centaur PC. The center now has permanent “when anything attacks it, it has disadvantage,” period, it just has that. And once again, this is an uncommon item. You are essentially granting displacement to the centaur for an incredibly cheap item.
Uncommon is like, less than a +1 weapon rarity.
Like that… that is how inexpensive this item is.
Like, your level three, level four characters ought to be able to find that in any major city, right?
Yeah. Items for mounts were clearly not written with centaurs in mind. A lot of things were clearly not written with centaurs in mind. Centaurs were barely written with centaurs in mind.
I really want to play…
You want to play centaur?
Or like a wizard, you know, a gnome wizard standing on his back. Ready to go? Absolutely.
Yeah, that… Oh, gosh. I don’t know if you guys remember the… the Unearthed Arcana, where we first saw centaurs, they originally had specific rules around having members of the party ride them. And because of the way the rules were written, you could have an infinitely tall tower of centaurs riding each other.
Because the centaur could mount the centaur?
Yeah. So centaurs are medium, well, the playable version at least, centaurs are medium and any creature of medium or smaller could ride them. And they… they get the same thing that goliaths and orcs do where there can carry four times normal carry weight, or double whichever it is. So yeah, you get a bunch of really strong centaurs and just have them stand on top of each other.
Nice. A totem of centers.
And now here’s the fun one, because of how reach works in D&D, the infinitely tall tower, the top center can still reach anything five feet adjacent to the bottom centaur, unless the DM decides to get into how actual 3d space works.
To go back to the, the “Where are you on your horse” question. You have the same… you have the same thing on your centaurs. So you’re packing a theoretically infinite number of centaurs into a five foot square. And it… like if you if you consider a three dimensional space, typically you just say yeah, everything is as high as it is wide. So yeah, you’ve got your five by five by five cube with an infinitely large number of centaurs squished into it with lances pointing in every direction.
Perfect. So you could actually have like a ring wall of spears just facing out that nothing can penetrate.
Yeah. So, so I want to touch on one more thing that’s kind of a big problem in 5e. So, how do you keep your horse alive? Because in… in 3.5, in Pathfinder, and definitely in Pathfinder second edition, you have mechanics for getting an animal companion of some kind, that’s going to be tougher than your average bear. The closest thing we have in fifth edition… beastmaster rangers can get it can get a beast companion. Only beastmaster rangers. And then paladins have the Find Steed and Find Greater Steed spells, but like Find Steed is going to get like a horse, a wolf, something that’s like CR one or two. Find Greater Steed is going to get you probably the best option Griffin, Demigrif, or a direwolf. But those are still like CR two CR three. When you’re like a level 15 character like you’re getting way up there, your real strong, your mounts got like 40 hit points. First area effect is just going to obliterate them in one shot. And there’s really nothing you can do about it. Like you can take the mounted vombat feat and it helps a tiny bit. You can get the saddle of the cavalier, which also helps a little bit, but there’s limitations on your action economy. Because mounted combatant you have to spend your reaction to protect your mount saddle of the Cavalier will impose disadvantage on attacks against them, but like your horse is going to have like 12 AC, so disadvantage isn’t going to matter that much. So, how do you keep your horse alive?
Clearly, you run Heroism on the horse, so it gets temporary hit points every round.
That’s actually not a terrible idea.
Yeah, I mean, if, if that’s the best use of your concentration that you’ve got, yeah. Heroism on your horse. It’s also immune to fear, which is another problem. What if they just make your horse afraid and it just runs away?
With with you on the back?
Of course. Yeah. Honestly, I haven’t been able to find good answers to any of these questions. Like the best things I’ve come up with… there are a couple of magic items you can use like figurines of wonders power. A couple of the options work as mounts, like one of them is a Griffin. So yeah, you’re just like, “Oh, yeah, I don’t have to worry about my Griffin dying, it just turns back into a statue if it does.” So, here’s my Griffin, I’m gonna ride it for a couple of days, it’ll die and I’ll be just fine. But that’s… that’s kind of it. The… I mean, even the revised version of the beast master that we got and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, neither of the new beast companion options are any good as a mount. So basically, the strongest thing you can get is a warhorse. They’ve got like 50 hit points, they’re pretty durable, they’ll stay good until probably like level seven or eight before they just start becoming a liability. But, boy, it is not easy to build a mounted character in fifth edition.
Nice. Well, but so I guess my understanding, though, is that no modern ruleset has properly handled Mounted Combat.
I don’t know if I could say that. Um, Second Edition Pathfinder is actually really, really good in a lot of ways. So they… so there’s a core mechanic called “minion,” and just if a creature is a minion, if you want to command that thing on your turn, you spend one of your three actions, and it gets two actions. So it can it can move, it can fight, it can do whatever. And then there’s just general animal companion rules that basically anyone has access to if you take the right options, so your Champion, which is the Paladin equivalent, your Druid, potentially your Ranger, there’s a couple of multiclass archetypes you can take that you can get an animal companion, it starts off like… I have a horse, it’s hitpoints will advance slowly as I gain levels so won’t immediately die at high level. And the more feats you put into it, the better it gets. You can customize it, you can make it, like, there’s a… like I specifically want this thing to be a riding horse, not a fighting horse, like there… There’s a whole feat tree that you can customize your companions and they stay good, relevant, stable, and survivable for your character’s entire career. You might never upgrade from the horse you started with at level one, and that’s just fine. It works great.
Yeah, I guess it never occurred to me till you said that. But maybe the key thing really is, like scalable or like leveling up. Whatever your mount is.
And the risk, I guess is if you pin that to a single mount, unless you have like, you know, infinite gift from the gods horse, a la Paladin back in the day, you you risk losing it anytime that you bring it into combat. But yeah, vice versa. I guess having a feat tree where it’s like, oh yeah, I can just I can train up any wolf or horse to do this in a moment’s notice. I suppose that makes sense. And I guess you could, you could bring that into fifth edition, right? Like you could have, you know, here’s a creature and I want some scheme of leveling it, and DM what if you weren’t a jerk?
Yeah, that would present an interesting challenge. Because there’s… What fifth edition generally does very well is provide you a framework to work in on a lot of things. And then say, you know, and let’s not be 3.5, where we put all of the minutia as ink on paper, we’re just gonna say, “here’s a framework. DM, go.” Right? And fifth edition does that really well. But because there’s so little framework for mounts, even that trying… to trying to import something… When… so I have played a paladin, in fifth edition, I have used Find Steed. And because this was Strahd and for reasons, the wolf that I summoned, rather than trying to scale it, my DM just said, um, you can wear your wolf, you’re a werewolf now. That wasn’t intended to be a pun at the time. But, yeah, and that was a great way to have it stay relevant and while being a very simple action. But that required a lot of plot setup, and it’s not going to work in every game. And so you know, if you are confident that you can improvise something like that as a DM, that’s great. That’s something that you can work with your players on. But it really does take figuring out some kind of creative solution, because there is so little to go on.
So… So here’s a creative solution that what I wish I had thought of a long time ago: the sidekick rules. So the sidekick rules came originally in the Essentials Kit, and then got like massively expanded and Tasha’s. And one of the, like, one of the recommendations that I think may have been Crawford or somebody on the Dragon Talk podcast mentioned, if you want your character to have some kind of animal companion beyond what the beast master gets, you just you take an animal and slap the sidekick rules on that thing. That gives it hit point scaling, it gives it saves, it gives it some features, proficiency advances, etc, etc. So why not just have your horse be a sidekick? Now you do run into the issue where sidekicks are supposed to, like, consume a portion of the experience points that the party gets so like, you effectively have another person in the party, but I could see talking your DM like, yeah, maybe they get half level advancement, and instead they don’t get experience.
Yeah, or I mean, so many games these days I feel like are milestone driven anyway. You know, leave it to DM to figure out how you want to level out the fact that you have this awesome sidekick.
That’s definitely true.
Just… sidekicks here for the group. Because if I fall over…
It’s dominoes. Just everybody.
Nice. Nice. Awesome. Good talk, folks. Do we do we have a question of the week this week?
I don’t think we do. But yeah, folks. These are going to be posted on RPGBOT.net as a blog post with the full episode transcripts and show notes and all those good things. If you have questions that you want to hear answered on the next episode, leave them in the comments. We’ll see what we can do.
Awesome. Okay, well, thanks, everybody for joining. I am Randall James. You can find me at AmateurJack.com as well as at JackAmateur on Twitter and Instagram.
I’m Tyler Kamstra. You can find me online at RPGBOT.net and you can find me on Twitter and Facebook at RPGBOTDOTNET because RPGBOT was taken.
And I’m Random Powell you won’t generally find me on social media. If you play games in various places, you may find me as Hartlequint or Hartlequint depending on where you look. But mostly you’re going to find me contributing to RPG bug.
Nice, nice. Alright, so for our next episode, we’re going to talk about meta currencies and tabletop RPGs.
We sure are.
Awesome, awesome, and yeah, look for us wherever find podcasts are sold or rented. And of course always check us out at RPGBOT.net
You were talking about Pathfinder 2E – have you taken a look at the my favourite, the Cavalier archetype? Anyone Trained in Nature or Society can take it, granting you a mount (a horse or riding drake) and it has a bunch of cool and exclusive feats for mounted combat, for example your shield adding to your mount’s AC as well as your own.
Also, PF2 animal companions get 6+Con HP/level, which could equal the HP of a wizard.
The Cavalier archetype is excellent, and it’s a great example of how PF2 makes options like mounted combat easily accessible to every character.
For anyone else who finds this: Take a look at the archetype on Archives of Nethys. It’s great. https://2e.aonprd.com/Archetypes.aspx?ID=53
Loving the show. I’m doing my first mounted combat character in PF1 Rise of the Runelords. He’s a Halfling Cavalier with a wolf mount. Learning mounted combat rules as well as building an animal companion has been a learning experience aided by your website, I appreciate the well timed episode topic!
When building an animal companion for a cavalier, are there any feats that stand out as essential? Do you have specific recommendations for a wolf?
I allowed one of my players to take a horse as a sidekick and it worked wonderfully! The horse was a little powerful but the player used the horse as a reliable mount and not as a source of damage and it did indeed pad the horse from sudden death and some of the sidekick bonuses the horse got the player was able to benefit the player on the horse. Definitely takes a little balancing sometimes but is always worth trying out for those players that are committed to a mount.
Loved the episode gentlemen! How about exploring the aspect of sidekicks and hirelings in an episode?
For instance, how much gold can you throw at a problem in the form of bodies rather than solve it in a traditional fashion? How would you as a DM balance the fact that your PCs have enough gold to hire kingdoms to go to war for them vs. the public ire when the dragon roasts out 60% of the people you hired to do the deed?
Thanks for the great content! Keep it up!
I love that idea! I’ll add that to your list of future episodes.