October 7, 2010


Mounts, like NPC Allies, never sat well with me in the D&D game. That is to say, the rules supporting mounts never sat well with me. As written, mounts function as bonus monsters allied with the PCs, with a few added bells and whistles due to the Mounted Combat feat. They eat up experience points, slow down combat in general, and allow the mount's PC rider to have almost double the amount of "stage time" at the table. I've been playing this version of D&D on a regular weekly basis since Keep on the Shadowfell, and additional one-shots and other short-lived groups. That's about 30 months of fairly intense gaming, and in all that time, I have never ONCE seen a PC bring a mount into combat. Clearly, the rules don't work here. If something is written into the core rulebooks, and is never used, it is simply wasting space.

What typically will happen at the table, especially in groups where the majority of players are rather ignorant of the complicated mount rules, will be that players will get a stroke of inspiration and imagination. They imagine their PC galliantly riding into battle on a celestial steed, or soaring above the skies atop a leather-skinned drake. They often ask, "what kind of feats/skills/etc. does my character need to ride one of these beasts?", and they are elated to find that their heroic characters need nothing extra to do so.

...then the Dungeon Master or rules-lawyer in the group will explain the full extent of the mount rules. They talk about XP loss, and the once-excited player scraps the idea and is dejected for the rest of the session, if not the rest of the campaign.

I do think mounts should have a place in the game. Certainly not in every session, maybe not for every character, but they need to have a useful presence. So in making mounts work in the game, the very first thing I wrote down was "NO XP LOSS". XP loss is utterly intolerable to players. For those of you who remember, think back on 3rd Edition's magic item creation rules. There may have been a few sticklers here and there, there may have been a few corner cases where it was worthwhile (ie. wand of cure light wounds); but on the whole players simply didn't pursue this option for their PCs. Taking these things into consideration, I looked at the existing vehicle rules from Adventurer's Vault as a guideline. I also cut all of the mounts' Hit Points in half from their published values. With the possibility of a single stray burst or blast sending the PC hurting off on an out of control mount, your players will be forced to strategize, plan, and make a meaningful choice as to whether they bring their mounts with them on a particular adventure. The HP’s as written are so high that the Out of Control penalty simply never comes up, and so it's never an interesting question whether to bring the mounts or not. For costs, I used the highest treasure parcel value per level and reasoned that it includes the cost of buying the mount, saddle, and associated upkeep costs. Don't make your PCs worry about the money for food and stabling if the mount is in a civilized town, it'll just annoy everyone with tedium. Increase or decrease the base cost of the mount if you feel like the mounts are wrecking your combat or simply not being used.

I haven't been able to put my mount rules into too much actual use, at least not as much as I'd like to have seen. Players are hesitant on dropping gold on a set of rules that, once upon a time, left a bad taste in their mouth. I've also noticed that many players reason that horses and the like wouldn't be comfortable going into underground dungeons. Bill the Pony sure didn't. So, like all of the new rules I post here, please understand that these new rules may just break your game into pieces.


Use the Mount rules as presented in the DMG (p.46), except for the following:

+ Actions: While mounted, a mount has no actions of its own. A PC can use its own set of actions to control the mount, as indicated in the mount's statistics. A mount in combat with no rider will become Out of Control, attempting to flee the area as soon as possible.

+ Experience: Mounts are never considered for purposes of calculating experience points or encounter difficulty.

Riding Horse Large Mount
Cost 200 gp
HP 18; Bloodied 9; see also out of control
AC 14; Fortitude 15, Reflex 13, Will 10
Speed 8
Ride (move; at-will)
The riding horse moves up to its speed and remains In Control.
Turn About (move; at-will)
The riding horse turns up to 180 degrees and remains In Control.
Out of Control
If there is no rider on the riding horse, or if the riding horse is bloodied, it becomes Out of Control.
When the riding horse is Out of Control, it turns around and moves its speed straight ahead, avoiding any dangerous terrain, until it is brought under control.

Next time, I'll spill out all of the Monster Manual's heroic tier mounts.

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