[RPG] What are the benefits of having a mount


Regarding mounts, especially gained through Find Steed:

  • They have only a few simple actions, without even Help let alone Attack.
  • The spells you can share with them are almost only buffs to keep them alive or let them do odd things like speak to other animals, which aren't much use if you can do the same anyway.
  • They can carry stuff.
  • Combat rules seem to mostly cause you to just have to keep trying to stay on your mount. They don't give advantages to anything except using a lance and maybe moving faster.

What am I missing? It sounds like it would be fun to have a mount, but what are the actual game benefits of having a mount?

Best Answer

The game benefits to having a mount in-game are the same as the real-life benefits of having a mount.

  1. You can carry much more at a normal pace with a mount. A riding horse's carrying capacity is 480lb; a 15-strength PC's unencumbered1 carrying capacity is 75lb.
  2. You can move faster in short bursts with a mount. A mount can gallop, moving at double-pace, for an hour. I've always heard that the best way to get cross-country mileage out of a horse is to gallop an hour (8mi), ride an hour (3mi), walk the horse an hour (3mi); in an 8-hour day this will cover 39 mi (with 3 hours at fast pace) as compared to the 27 mi (with 3 hours at fast pace) you'd cover on foot.
  3. If you're specially trained to fight mounted (read: Mounted Combatant feat) you get some advantages to fighting on a mount:
    • advantage on attack rolls against opponents smaller than your mount,
    • some choice in how to distribute incoming damage,
    • some benefits to dodging damage,
    • likely doubling-quadrupling your speed: riding horse can Dash 120' while you Attack, most humanoids can only move 30' or 40' (Monk) or 60' (Rogue) and still Attack.
  4. As regards find steed: your mount's now celestial, saving you some stabling costs. And is telepathically bonded to you whenever within a mile, which is pretty convenient. And if you choose to drag it into combat with you--I hope you trained for this--it'll share any buffs you choose to provide yourself.

I've read that for much of human history the purpose of mounts was to get to the battle/position, dismount, and fight on foot.2 That is, mounts were a matter of force mobility, not force multiplication. It's not until people start very-specially training to fight in melee while mounted that the mount factors into combat per se.

1 - If you're not using the encumberance rules then you're not engaging in a part of the game--resource capacity and management--which have historically provided a basis for human domestication of animals. So we shouldn't be surprised if choosing to ignore this dimension then makes mounts seem obsolete:we've taken away the thing they're good at!

2 - It was some of the reading I did while listening to Wrath of the Khans, but I can't possibly recall now which book(s) mentioned this. The "research and book list" at the podcast website has plenty of books that delve into the history of mounted combat.