Mounted Combat

Fighting on horseback (or on a wyvern, unicorn, or pegasus, or whatever) is a different affair from battling on solid ground. The fighters must deal with their mounts--unpredictable and sometimes skittish creatures. Plus, the business of fighting on horseback demands different tactics from foot combat.

Mounts--Trained and Untrained

Mounts trained for combat (a heavy warhorse, for example) present few problems. These can be used in mounted combat with no penalties. However, steeds not trained for combat are easily frightened by the noise and confusion.

Those fighting from the back of untrained creatures suffer a -2 on their chance to hit, since much of their time is spent simply trying to keep the mount under control.

Panic: The rider of an untrained mount must make a Riding proficiency check whenever the mount is injured or startled by a surprising event (such as a lightning bolt spell blasting the rider or someone close by).

If the check fails, the mount panics and bolts, carrying its rider up to 1-1/2 times its normal move. Although the mount panics in a more or less random direction, it goes generally forward unless that carries it straight into the face of danger. If unable to flee, a panicked mount rears and bucks uncontrollably.

Characters without the Riding proficiency automatically lose control of a panicked mount. A proficient character can attempt to regain control once per round. Regardless of the rider's proficiency, the mount's panic lasts only 1d4 rounds.

Fighting from Horseback

In mounted fighting, a character gets a +1 bonus to his chance to hit creatures smaller than his mount. Thus, a man on horseback gains a +1 bonus to his attack rolls against all medium-sized creatures such as other men, but would not gain this bonus against another rider or a giant. Those on foot who fight against a mounted rider, have a -1 penalty; this not applied to attacks against the mount, however.

Lances are the preferred weapons of the mounted rider. However, the type of lance used (light, medium, or heavy) can't be greater than the size of the horse ridden (light, medium, or heavy).

Medium and heavy lances gain their striking power from the momentum of the mount. By themselves, these lances are not capable of doing significant damage. Simply stabbing someone with a heavy lance won't produce much in the way of results. Therefore, these weapons are most effective when there's plenty of attack space.

During the first round of a battle, a rider can attack with a heavy or medium lance. After this, however, the rider must break off (most likely by continuing past his opponent), turn his mount, and gallop back again. This series of actions takes one round. Thus, at best, a rider can attack with a lance once every other round.

If the rider wants to continue the fight close in, he must throw the lance to the ground and draw another weapon. Often, lances are used for the first attack and then discarded in favor of swords, maces, etc.

Another consideration to bear in mind when using a lance is that lances are breakable. Heavy and medium lances are relatively inflexible. The DM can make an Item Saving Throw (for crushing blow) on each successful hit. A light lance is made with a great deal of spring (bamboo or cane are common materials). An Item Saving Throw is made only if the number needed to hit is rolled exactly, after modifiers.

Missile fire from the back of a moving horse is possible only if the rider is proficient in horsemanship. Even then, only short bows, composite short bows, and light crossbows can be fired from horseback by normally proficient characters.

Long bows can be used by those with specialization (if this is used). Heavy crossbows can be fired once, but cannot be reloaded by a mounted man since the bracing and pull is inadequate.

If the mount is not moving, the rider can fire normally (with full ROF and chance to hit). When firing while on the move, the rider has his rate of fire reduced by one. A 2-shot-per-turn ROF becomes a 1 shot every two turns; and so on.

In addition, the distance moved modifies the attack rolls according to
Table 53 .

Being Dismounted

The other great hazard and difficulty of mounted combatants is the risk of being abruptly and rather rudely dismounted. An opponent can make this happen in one of several ways.

Killing the Mount: This is the grim and efficient method. Once the horse (often an easier target) is dead, the rider is certainly dismounted. The steed automatically falls to the ground.

If the rider has the Riding proficiency, he can attempt to land safely on his feet on a successful check. Otherwise, the character also falls to the ground and suffers 1d3 points of damage. The character cannot take any action that round and must spend another entire round gathering himself back up and getting to his feet.

Lassoing the Rider: The more heroic method of dismounting someone is to try to bring down the rider without harming the mount. This is also more desirable from a bandit's point of view, as he would rather have a live horse than a dead one.

Certain weapons (such as the lasso) can be used to yank a rider off his speeding mount. However, riders with Riding proficiency can attempt to stop short, reining the horse in before the rope is fully played out. If the check is successful, the horse stops before the line goes taut. The rider remains mounted, albeit still lassoed.

Whether the proficiency check is made or missed, the person or monster wielding the lasso must make a Strength check with a +3 bonus for every size category he's bigger than the rider (or a -3 penalty for every size category smaller).

A 20 is always a failure and a 1 always succeeds--unless the DM deems the result utterly preposterous. If the check is successful, the roper remains standing and the rider falls. If the check fails, the fellow on the ground gets yanked down and possibly dragged along.

Weapon Impact: Riders also can be knocked off by solid blows from a variety of weapons. Any time a rider hits another mounted character or creature with a melee weapon 3' or longer and scores a natural 20 on the roll, the other character is knocked from the saddle, suffering 1d3 points of damage (if from the back of a normal horse).

Foot soldiers with weapons of 10' or greater have the same chance. Riders with Riding proficiency can attempt to retain their seating by rolling a successful proficiency check.

The Flying Tackle: Finally, those on horseback can attempt to dive on another rider by making an attack roll.

If the attack roll misses, the attacker falls to the ground, suffering 1d3 points of damage (more, at the DM's discretion, if the mount is larger than a horse).

If the attack roll succeeds, the target must roll a successful Dexterity check to remain in the saddle. If this roll succeeds, the rider remains mounted, but the attacker is hanging on his side, feet dangling just above the ground. If the attack succeeds and the Dexterity roll is failed, both the rider and the attacker fall to the ground.

Footsoldiers can also attempt to pull down a rider. This is handled by the rules for overbearing.

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