[generic] #RPGaDay2020 - 29 - Ride

#RPGaDay2020 - 29 - Ride. I’m not widely read in #TTRPGs but I’ve played a few and self published a couple. Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve come across a game where the rules for riding a mount or travelling on a vehicle or magical construct were anything more than “meh”.

What I mean is that there’s never anything stopping me from getting on a horse in a game and it serves its purpose but it never feels any different from just walking. It never seems to serve a particular purpose.

Thinking about it, many games (including mine) don’t even have any specific rules for it or, if they do, it’s only in passing.

Thinknig off the top of my head (because I’d never even considered this before), I can think of two reasons for this.

Horses et al in the source material are pretty “meh”. I think this is because horses in films were an expense and an overhead which are generally written out or worked around. Never work with children and animals. Why have horses on set if you don’t need to? They were geared up for it in the hey day of westerns but, since then, most Line Producers would probably wince at any proposed film involving a lot of horseplay. Bring on the coconuts!

And this seems to have bled into subsidiary media. He-Man and BattleCat.




I mean missed opportunity or what?

But this brings me to my second point (in this waffling, overlong, unnecessary post): if mounting up is fun - to watch, to play - and gives our characters a significant power boost, then we’d do it all the time.

The only time I can remember enjoying riding a horse - or any kind of mount - in an #TTRPG was way back in a D&D game where we came across some Hill Giants attacking a town. Turns out Heavy Lances on charging Warhorses was the right weapon in the right place at the right time.

In Lawmen V Outlaws everyone starts with a horse as standard because its a Western. However if you want, you can pick the Gift "Trained Horse" so that:

"You own a horse that grants Expert Dice on riding Tests and responds to simple whistle commands. It can place itself under the window you are planning to jump from or drag you out of a quicksand pit."
Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve come across a game where the rules for riding a mount or travelling on a vehicle or magical construct were anything more than “meh”.
Back when I first started playing RPGs (AD&D) we briefly tried out everyone in the party owning horses/ponies/mules. It didn't work out. Horse ownership crashed into the AD&D rules and playstyle and lost out, big time.
  • Horses were quite expensive to purchase, compared to other D&D equipment. You had to buy saddles, etc separately.
  • Horses do not level up, so you buy a horse which has d6 hit points, and roll a 4, and that's the hitpoints you are stuck with forever.
  • This means our horses died. A lot. Stray arrows in a fight with goblins, a stumble on a mountain trail, an angry bear, or - in one memorable event - I fumbled and was told by the GM I'd shot my own mount in the head with an arrow and killed it. As I was sitting on the horse at the time and the enemy was NOT in front of us, there was rather a protracted argument as to exactly HOW my horse had managed to get its head in the way of my shot. :)
  • The bloody things were also always being stolen. Especially if you left them outside a dungeon complex.
  • There didn't seem to be any benefits to owning a horse. No improvements to travel time, no ability to carry heavy loads. In our AD&D adventures of the 80s, there seemed to be no logical reason why mankind (or elvenkind or whatever) had bothered to domesticate the horse at all.
  • Eventually, because buying a horse was quite costly, and there were no benefits, we stopped using horses and just walked everywhere.


The Guvnor
Staff member
Historically horses are expensive and only really useful for skirmishes and heavy cavalry charges in good going. They are good for hauling carts, but more costly than oxen, ditto for ploughs. They eat a lot, die quickly, but they can be pushed hard to cover extra ground for messages and they can safe fatigue if you're posh. So.. looks like they're modelled well in pseudo-medieval RPGs.

Now there are cultural reasons to have riding herd beasts and so we need to turn to nomads that live on grasslands. Horses love grass. Nomads love free grass.

For the best rides and good integration into combat look to Gloranthan Prax and the varieties of Runequest, cos believe you me, having the damage bonus of a bison in a lance charge, the extra attacks from an ostrich and rolling 10+1d10 for hit location is well worth it.

Me? I ride the Crimson Bat...
So.. looks like they're modelled well in pseudo-medieval RPGs.
Yeah I guess if you are modelling the historical period where they hadn't yet figured out how to avoid throttling a horse when it pulls a cart/plough, then you get more work out of an ox. Also if you don't eat horsemeat and drink mare's milk, then horses are only of use for transport. Oxen, on the other hand, are a useful by-product of your dairy cows.

It is slightly disappointing that you can't do horseback "car chase" scenes in pseudo-medieval RPGs! :)


The Guvnor
Staff member
There is a reason why being a member of the equites in Rome, and therefore a provider of cavalry, was reserved to the rich. Even then, they rarely managed it.

Pendragon is really based on the 12th century heavy knights riding warhorses, again a rich group in a wealthy culture.

If your paladins in D&D are wealthy then I think D&D just got it wrong. Probably because one place a warhorse is useless is underground. In a class/level economics and biology go to hell game, surely horses should level or at least share your hit point pool? I dunno, I think 13th Age tried to fix this.
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