Learn how mounts work and how to engage in mounted combat
For a long time, mounts (primarily horses) have been a crucial component of combat and warfare in history. The use of a mount has provided a distinct advantage for those riding the mount from the increased speed and power the mount possesses to its ability to trample an enemy and protect a rider. It’s one thing to defend against a charging warrior, it’s quite another when that warrior gains an extra 5 feet in height and charges at you with twice the speed!
In D&D, there are also advantages to using a mount. Of course, with this being a fantasy world, mounts in D&D can resemble a plethora of creatures from horses (of course) to dragons (it’s in the name!) and everything in between. Understanding how mounts and mounted combat works though is crucial so we’ve explained all of this in our guide below.
What is a mount in D&D 5e?
The simple answer here is anything you can ride, which is obvious. The more useful answer can be found in the Player’s Handbook (and WOTC’s SRD document):
“A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount…”
There are 3 requirements here for what constitutes a mount:
- A willing creature – An unwilling creature can’t serve as a mount, they’d either resist your commands or attempt to force you off their back. This one’s pretty cut and dry.
- At least one size larger than you – Another straightforward one. A mount needs to be one size larger than you at least so a medium creature (which most characters are) can only mount a creature that is large or bigger.
- That has an appropriate anatomy – This is where the rules are a lot more open to interpretation. An appropriate anatomy would mean you’d need somewhere to sit on their body (like a horse or a dragon) and it would need to be capable of carrying you comfortably. Some might attempt to argue that a halfling could use a human as a mount (as a halfling is small and a human is medium and technically, the halfling could ride on the human’s shoulders). The issue here is that humans don’t have an appropriate anatomy as a mount, for a start, the effort would be strenuous (I would know, I have halfling-sized children and piggy backs are hard work after a while).
In reality, the golden rule is that the DM decides what constitutes a mount and what does not. Some things like horses and griffons may be cut and dry, others may be more borderline.
What are the benefits of mounts?
This is one to be cautious of. We might naturally look to a mount as having the potential for causing extra damage as we charge into combat, but rules for mounted combat in D&D don’t account for this (though if you’re riding a dragon, then it can still act autonomously and breathe that fire). So don’t expect a horse to start kicking it’s hooves at enemies or trampling them.
The exception here is that if you don’t have control of your mount (as is likely the case with a dragon) then it can attack independently, you just can’t make it move where you want it to. We’ll discuss controlled and independent mounts later but if you have control over a mounts movement, then it won’t also act for you.
There’s are 4 primary benefits to mounts in D&D:
- Increased speed – the additional speed will depend on your mount’s speed but does give you the benefit of being able to move around the battlefield more easily if your mount is quick. A warhorse for example, has a speed of 60ft which is double distance for most characters.
- The ability to fly – This obviously only applies if your mount can fly itself
- Improvements to lance use – Lances are the most powerful one handed weapon in the game dealing 1d12 damage over the usual 1d8 or less of other one handed weapons. There are drawbacks though. A lance can only be wielded one handed while riding a mount, but if you are mounted, it means you can do a lot of damage and wield a shield in your other hand. The other drawback is that you have disadvantage against creatures within 5ft (but you do get a 10ft reach with the weapon).
- Some advantages when using the mounted combatant feat – Mounted combatant will give you advantage on melee attacks against creatures of a size smaller than your mounted. This is a huge advantage as long as you can find a mount of at least large size as most enemies are medium or smaller. You can also choose to take attacks against your mount against yourself using your probably superior AC and HP to preserve your mount. You can also at least half, if not completely remove damage from effects that require a dexterity saving throw (like fireball).
How do you mount and dismount?
Once during your turn, you can mount or dismount as part of your movement as long as you’re within 5ft of the mount. Performing either of these activities costs half your movement speed so if your speed is 30ft, then it takes 15ft of movement to mount or dismount.
If you do not have 15ft of movement left or your speed has been reduced to 0, then you can’t mount or dismount that turn.
If your mount is forced to move against its will, then it becomes harder to stay on the creature. You must take a dexterity saving throw (DC10) or fall of the mount and be knocked prone. If you are knocked prone while mounted, you must make the same save or be knocked off your mount.
If your mount is knocked prone while you’re riding it, you can use your reaction to dismount it. If you’re unable to do this (perhaps because you already used your reaction this turn), then you are dismounted and fall prone 5ft from your mount.
Being forcefully dismounted is a bit of an inconvenience for a land mount such as a horse, but not devastating. However, being dismounted from a flying mount can be! You’ll take 1d6 of bludgeoning damage for every 10ft you fall up to a maximum of 20d6. At 200ft high, that’s an average damage of 70 which would be fatal to many adventurers so beware how high you fly!
How do you control a mount?
This depends on the type of creature you’re mounting. A trained mount can be controlled and essentially becomes an extension of your own actions. Untrained or intelligent creatures will act independently. Remember that a creature must be willing for you to mount it but an intelligent or untamed creature might allow this but not obey commands and operate autonomously.
Controlled mounts are mounts that are trained to accept and obey riders. They are limited to moving their movement speed and taking only the dash, dodge or disengage actions. This is very useful as it increases your speed and means you can disengage, dash or dodge without expending your own action.
It does mean though, that your mount can’t attack though it can still take bonus actions.
A controlled mount uses your initiative for turn taking and can move on the turn you mount it.
Independent mounts are creatures that either have not been trained to work with a rider, or that are too intelligent to be controlled by a rider such as a dragon or unicorn. Typically, this means a creature of intelligence 5 or higher.
Independent mounts operate differently from controlled mounts. They maintain their position in initiative order and will act independently of the character riding them. This means that they will move, attack, flee or feed upon its own whims rather than those of the character. This is different from a controlled mount whose movement and actions you control.
You still get to act as you would normally, you can take your actions, you can dismount when you choose and so on; there’s just no guarantee the mount will be where you want it to be on your turn.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of mount. You have more control over a controlled mount, but can technically maximise damage using an independent mount so what you choose may depend on your circumstances, what you want to accomplish and the creature you have an opportunity to ride.
If your mount provokes an opportunity attack, can the rider be attacked instead?
Yes, either the mount or the rider can be targeted with an opportunity attack whether or not it was the rider that prompted the attack. When riding a controlled mount, this is easy to avoid as you can take the disengage action basically for free. Independent mounts can be trickier and you need to hope they won’t act in a way that gets you into trouble.
Where is the rider on a mount for determining striking range?
This is where things get a bit complicated. If you are a character occupying less space than the mount, where is your character in the mount?
The official answer is that the space the mount occupies is a free space in which the rider can maneuver around. This means that the location of the rider depends on what they’ve just done.
This explanation makes sense on large creatures like an elephant where you might will move about the beast to adjust to what you’re doing or who you’re attacking. It does break down a bit though when considering horseback riding where the horse is a large creature so occupies a 10ft square space but in reality, other than a little leaning, the rider occupies a central spot.
Other explanations determine the rider as taking the same space as the mount or just maintaining a central point on the mount. All of these explanations come with issues. In reality, a little bit of logic may need to be applied to the circumstances and the age old answer that it’s “whatever your DM rules” is very applicable here.
What creatures can you use as a mount?
Technically any creature that is willing, at least one size larger than the rider and have the appropriate anatomy. This means things like horses, donkeys, elephants, griffons, pegasi, hippogriffs, unicorns and dragons are all allowed. The tricky bit which will be determined by your DM is what constitutes an appropriate anatomy.
Some examples we could probably rule out are most 2 legged creatures (though you might make an exception for something particularly large like a giant), creatures that stand low to the ground (crocodiles would be a challenge for example, even if you could make it willing) or something with anatomy that makes sitting on it a challenge or an obstruction like a stegasaurus with it’s spikes.
In practice, it will be up to your DM to apply logic and possibly a bit of the rule of cool to determine what can be used as a mount.
Can a centaur be used as a mount?
Possibly. There are no rules within the playable character portion of a centaur’s rules that accommodate this, but it does seem to have an appropriate anatomy and could be willing (if you ask nicely enough). The main challenge here is that the mount must be of a size bigger than the rider. As centaurs are medium sized, only a small or tiny creature could use it as a mount.
Can you make a move in the same turn your mount moves?
Yes, if you mount or dismount that turn. Mounting and dismounting costs half your move speed (usually 15ft). If you still have additional movement once you dismount, you can still use that movement. In this case, your mount might move, then you dismount, then you move. Similarly, you might move, then mount the creature, then the creature might move.