Echoes of the Rising
-Flint Beastwood, The Mysterious Stranger
(Kval Gunslinger 9)
The rules for Mounted Combat are difficult to understand and leave lots of room for interpretation. For starters the rules are spread out over several sections and need to be pieced together. For another, some rules are simply omitted or require the player to “read between the lines”. The following is my attempt at streamlining the rules:
Rules As Written
Mounted Combat Rules:
- These rules cover being mounted on a horse in combat but can also be applied to more unusual steeds, such as a griffon or dragon.
- For simplicity, assume that you share your mount’s space during combat. This means you can attack from or be attacked as if you where in any space your mount occupies. This does not effect reach or size bonuses.
- If your mount moves more than 5 feet, you can only make a single melee attack. Essentially, you have to wait until the mount gets to your enemy before attacking, so you can’t make a full attack. Even at your mount’s full speed, you don’t take any penalty on melee attacks while mounted. This is where the feat Mounted Skirmisher becomes important.
- Your mount acts on your initiative count as you direct it. You move at its speed, but the mount uses its action to move. Your mount uses “it’s action to move” is the important line. However, directing an animal to perform a trained action (such as moving) is typically a move action… unless its a companion (free action) or it has already been given a command (still attacking same enemy).
- If your mount charges, you also take the AC penalty associated with a charge. If you make an attack at the end of the charge, you receive the bonus gained from the charge. When charging on horseback, you deal double damage with a lance. Pathfinder Society is currently plagued with the RageChargeLanceLol build at the moment and the Devs have yet to take a position, instead relying on DM’s to make the call for their game. I am on the fence regarding this one. For the moment I’m ruling that charge/pounce is OK simply b/c martial characters (and especially melee) is under-powered IMHO. If, however, it proves to be too strong then I reserve the right to change my mind. Should it be overly abused we will likley change the attack so only the first attack on a Lance (or valiant / spirited charge) pounce gains the charge bonuses.
- If your mount falls, you have to succeed on a DC 15 Ride check to make a soft fall and take no damage. If the check fails, you take 1d6 points of damage. This assumes your mount is on the ground of course. Falling from a flying mount will be significantly more damage.
- If you are knocked unconscious, you have a 50% chance to stay in the saddle (75% if you’re in a military saddle). Otherwise you fall and take 1d6 points of damage. Without you to guide it, your mount avoids combat. Important for flying mounts. Last line can sometimes save your life.
- You can use ranged weapons while your mount is taking a double move, but at a –4 penalty on the attack roll. You can use ranged weapons while your mount is running (quadruple speed) at a –8 penalty. In either case, you make the attack roll when your mount has completed half its movement. You can make a full attack with a ranged weapon while your mount is moving. Likewise, you can take move actions normally.
- You can cast a spell normally if your mount moves up to a normal move (its speed) either before or after you cast. If you have your mount move both before and after you cast a spell, then you’re casting the spell while the mount is moving, and you have to make a concentration check due to the vigorous motion (DC 10 + spell level) or lose the spell. If the mount is running (quadruple speed), you can cast a spell when your mount has moved up to twice its speed, but your concentration check is more difficult due to the violent motion (DC 15 + spell level).
- Mounts that do not possess combat training (see the Handle Animal skill) are frightened by combat. If you don’t dismount, you must make a DC 20 Ride check each round as a move action to control such a mount. If you succeed, you can perform a standard action after the move action. If you fail, the move action becomes a full-round action, and you can’t do anything else until your next turn. Handle Animal Skill includes a "Train an Animal for a Purpose section containing Combat Training. It is important to note that a combat trained animal does not have the “double attack” trick, meaning a combat trained mount no bonus tricks (such as from being an animal companion) will only attack Humanoids, Monstrous Humanoids, Giants, or other Animals. It would require a “push animal” action to make them attack unnatural enemies like demons or undead, which is a full round action for normal animals.
- Guide with Knees (DC 5): You can guide your mount with your knees so you can use both hands in combat. Make your Ride check at the start of your turn. If you fail, you can use only one hand this round because you need to use the other to control your mount. This does not take an action.
- Fight with a Combat-Trained Mount (DC 10): If you direct your war-trained mount to attack in battle, you can still make your own attack or attacks normally. This usage is a free action. This is an important check if you plan on mounted combat. If your animal attacks anything, you must make a DC 10 Ride check to also be able to attack. There is a grey area however which I hope to prevent with the following house rule: If you attack before your mount you must then make a DC 10 Ride check if you want your mount to attack also.
Mounted Combat is an excellent option for anyone with an animal companion. The ability to give commands as a free action free’s you up for full round actions (such as moving and a full attack). This is a massive boost to your action economy.
It is still a good choice for classes without animal companions however. You don’t gain free movement 100% of the time, but your move speed essentially becomes that of the animal your riding (or fly speed should that be the case). They won’t be able to attack “unnatural creatures” without a DC 25 Handle Animal check, but honestly animals typically don’t scale well with level without significant investment in them.
Some important things to keep in mind:
- Mount/Riders are a good target for AOE attacks. This is bad for non-animal companions as they are squishy at higher levels. This also means you might save but your mount succumbs to a fear effect, AOE stun, or some other disable… leaving you suddenly stuck until you dismount.
- Mounts don’t fit everywhere. If your build is centered on mounted combat I’d recommend being small so you can have a medium sized mount and fit in buildings and such
- Flying mounts are a great advantage and great disadvantage. Raining death down on baddies who can’t fly is a simple yet powerful tactic. But if your mount dies, is stunned, or entangled while flying you both could fall to your death.
- If your mount does fly, be sure to read up on the fly skill. Being unable to “hover” will make flying in tight areas (such as caverns, buildings, forests, etc) difficult.
- Mounts of character appropriate levels can be expensive if you aren’t capturing and raising them on your own. Doing the things that you do weaker animals must be considered “expendable”.