The knight riding atop their majestic steed, or the ranger prowling while astride their tiger companion…these are iconic D&D character tropes.
Although the rules for it don’t come up often, mounted combat is still a common theme in the myths and tales that inspire characters.
Because the mounted combat rules don’t see much use at many tables, let’s review those rules and see how we can get the most out of them.
Mounting and Dismounting in 5e
The rules for physically mounting or dismounting a creature can be found on page 198 of the Player’s Handbook.
There, you’ll read that, to mount or dismount a creature, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
- During Your Move: You can only mount or dismount a creature when it’s your turn and you take part of your movement to do so.
- Only On An Adjacent Creature: The creature that you want to mount or dismount is within five feet of your character.
- Half Your Movement Speed: It takes half of your total movement speed to mount or dismount the creature.
- You Must Be Able To Move: The rules specifically say that if your movement speed is zero, such as from being restrained, then you can’t mount or dismount from a creature even if all the other factors above apply to you.
In other words, as long as you can get to your mount with half your movement speed or less, you can climb up there with no problems.
Dismounting will be easier since you’ll already be adjacent to the mount since you’re already on top of them. That means you just need half your movement speed to hop off!
Here is the text from the PHB:
Mounting and Dismounting
Once during your move, you can mount a creature that is within 5 feet of you or dismount. Doing so costs an amount of movement equal to half your speed. For example, if your speed is 30 feet, you must spend 15 feet of movement to mount a horse. Therefore, you can’t mount it if you don’t have 15 feet of movement left or if your speed is 0.
If an effect moves your mount against its will while you’re on it, you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall off the mount, landing prone in a space within 5 feet of it. If you’re knocked prone while mounted, you must make the same saving throw.
If your mount is knocked prone, you can use your reaction to dismount it as it falls and land on your feet. Otherwise, you are dismounted and fall prone in a space within 5 feet it.”
It’s possible to be knocked off a mount against your will, especially in combat. Here are a few ways that might happen:
- Your Mount Is Forcibly Moved: If an effect forces your mount to move, such as the Shove or a Thorn Whip cantrip, then the rider has to succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall off the mount and land prone on the ground within five feet of the mount.
- The Rider Is Knocked Prone Will Mounted: If you get knocked prone while mounted, then you have to make the same DC 10 Dexterity saving throw. Success on this save means you’re knocked prone, but still mounted. Failure means that you fall off the mount and land prone.
- Your Mount Is Knocked Prone: When your mount is knocked prone, the rider is thrown from the mount and can use their reaction to land on their feet adjacent to the mount. If you don’t take this reaction, you land prone next to the mount.
The rules aren’t clear on what happens if the same effect that moves the rider also moves the mount or vice versa.
It could be read that since at least one of these triggers has happened, then the saving throw or reaction would be called for at that time. Still, it’s not clear, so make sure to ask your DM before it comes up in combat.
Controlling a Mount in 5e
There are multiple ways that a rider controls their mount in combat. The difference between these options comes down to how much fine control you want over your mount and how intelligent your mount is.
Controlled mounts are directly controlled by the rider. The mount acts like an extension of the rider but reduces the actions that the mount can take on its turn.
First, you can only control a mount that is willing to accept you as a rider it listens to. Warhorses and other trained beasts will usually be willing to go along with your commands, but the dragon that you have wrestled your way onto may not be so accommodating!
While the mount is controlled, its initiative count matches yours and it can move and act on the turn that you mount it.
The mount moves in whatever manner you direct it, and it can only take the Dash, Disengage, and Dodge actions.
Fun fact: mounts still retain their bonus action and reactions even while controlled, so a mount that has abilities for these specific actions can still use them even while mounted!
There’s a little bit of movement weirdness you can do with this, too. Since your movement and the mount’s movement are tracked separately, that means they can be combined on the turn you mount the creature.
If you spend your movement getting to the mount, you can then use the mount’s movement to go elsewhere on the map since it acts the turn you mount it.
Independent mounts are where the rider becomes more of a passenger or someone tagging along. Trying to ride on top of intelligent creatures, or creatures that wouldn’t normally accept a rider, are where independent mount rules come into play.
An independent mount acts on its own initiative count and has no restrictions on its actions, unlike a controlled mount.
The mount also acts in whatever way it sees fit, whether that’s fighting, fleeing, or observing. You might be able to convince an independent mount to do something, but that would fall under the DM’s discretion and relevant ability checks.
If you’ve wondered where Animal Handling proficiency comes into play, trying to work with an independent mount is one of those times!
It’s worth mentioning that the “intelligent creature” description here doesn’t have a set definition in 5e.
In previous editions, an Intelligence higher than 3 was needed for things like speech and complex reasoning, but 5e doesn’t have those same guidelines.
This is another case of “go ask your DM” when you need to decide if your mount is intelligent or not.
Where is Your Mini While Mounted?
While not all D&D groups use a grid map for their games, the question of where a rider sits on their mount is a big question. For Small riders on a Medium mount, this question doesn’t matter.
Both Small and Medium creatures take up a five-foot square on the map, but Medium riders on a Large or larger mount can get confusing.
Unfortunately, the rules are again unclear on this portion of mounted combat. The rules make no mention of where your rider is placed on the mount if is Large or larger, or from which squares you can attack from while mounted on such a creature.
Many DM’s will make the abstraction of your character merging with the mount, essentially fusing together for space and attack reach.
So when it comes to your tokens or your physical miniatures, you’ll have to decide for yourself where it sits.
As with every other gap in the mounted combat rules, you’ll want to consult your DM on what their preferred method to handle this is.
Here is the PHB content on Controlling a Mount:
Controlling a Mount
While you’re mounted, you have two options. You can either control the mount or allow it to act independently. Intelligent creatures, such as dragons, act independently.
You can control a mount only if it has been trained to accept a rider. Domesticated horses, donkeys, and similar creatures are assumed to have such training.
The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it. It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.
An independent mount retains its place in the initiative order. Bearing a rider puts no restrictions on the actions the mount can take, and it moves and acts as it wishes. It might flee from combat, rush to attack and devour a badly injured foe, or otherwise act against your wishes.
In either case, if the mount provokes an opportunity attack while you’re on it, the attacker can target you or the mount.”
What Mounts Can I Have in 5e and What Do They Cost?
The rules for mounts don’t restrict what creatures you can mount by creature type. Size is the only restriction – as long as the creature is a larger size category than you are, you’re good to go!
As a starting point, the Equipment chapter of the Player’s Handbook has a section called Mounts and Vehicles. On page 157, you’ll find a table full of sample mounts that a player could buy to use as a mount.
The prices that are listed there are prices for the player to own that mount, rather than renting one out from a stable.
Otherwise, it will fall to the story and what your character does that unlock other mount options for yourself.
For an Underdark campaign, you may be able to liberate some steeders from a duergar camp to crawl along the underground, never-ending caverns.
Adventurers in the Plane of Air might want to bring along some giant eagles from the Conjure Animals spell to soar through the cloudy expanse. The possibilities are endless!
The Best Mounts from the Player’s Handbook
As nice as it is to envision fantastical mounts for your character, the ones in the Player’s Handbook seem to be the most accessible for many groups.
Here are some of the stronger options you could consider for your adventures:
- Donkey/Mule: At only 8gp, these make for the most economical option for pulling your carts and wagons across the countryside. However, mules are Medium-sized, so only Small characters will be able to use them as mounts.
- Riding Horse: The standard option for speed at 75gp each, riding horses are one of two options for a 60-foot movement speed in the Player’s Handbook. These horses can only carry 60 pounds more than a donkey/mule, so riders with heavy armor and heavy backpacks could slow them down.
- Warhorse: The other standard option, warhorses combine a fast 60-foot movement speed with a carrying capacity of 540 lbs., which is about 15% more than a riding horse. Warhorses also have a nasty hoof attack they can use in combat but are expensive for low-level characters at 400gp each.
- Elephant: If you want something large and in charge, an elephant will easily fit the bill. A 40-foot move speed and a 1,320 lbs. carry capacity attached to a CR 4 creature make for a fantastic, if unorthodox, mount at 200gp each.
- Elk: These aren’t a mount you can buy from the Equipment chapter, but paladins will recognize this from their Find Steed spell. This creature has similar, but somewhat weaker, stats compared to the warhorse, but it makes a great visual for an Oath of the Ancients paladin!
Our List of Exotic, Rare and Uncommon Mounts
Rare mounts typically can’t be found for purchase anywhere, so we wont include costs here. If you do encounter such a creature for sale, the cost would be dependent on how it was acquired, how valuable it is to the owner.
Still, these creatures are found in the wild and as such can be potential mounts to the right rider.
Here then is our list of Exotic Mount options:
|Giant Ant (Medium)|
|Axe Beak (Large)|
|Giant Bat (Large)|
|Blade Spider (Large)|
|Blood Horse (Large)|
|Byok (Riding Lizard)|
|Dire Boar (Large)|
|Dire Hawk (Large)|
|Dire Wolf (Large)|
|Giant Firefly (Large)|
|Ghost Mount (Large)|
|Rage Drake (Large)|
|Riding Lizard (Large)|
|Giant Sea Horse (Large)|
|Stone Flyer (Large)|
|Vulture Drake (Large)|
We always like watching Dungeon Dudes, and here they are discussing Mounted Combat in 5e:
What Can I Equip a Mount Within 5e? Barding, Tack, and Drawn Vehicles
While flipping through the Mounts and Vehicles section of the Player’s Handbook, you’ll also find a Tack, Harness, and Drawn Vehicles table.
That table has several things you can equip onto your mount that an adventuring team could find useful while traveling long distances.
For example, barding is one of the main ways you can use some of your adventuring spoils to boost the survivability of your mount.
Barding is armor specifically designed for a mount to wear, and it protects the mount’s head, chest, and body. Barding is based on the armor types that characters can wear, but the weight is doubled and the cost is quadrupled compared to the armor type you’re using.
That means that plate barding for a mount would cost 6,000gp and weigh 130 lbs.
Anyone looking to ride their mount is going to need a saddle. The saddle gives your rider somewhere to sit comfortably on the mount.
Notably, a military saddle grants advantage on saves needed to stay mounted, while an exotic saddle is needed on any creature with a swim or fly speed to use those exotic movement types.
Bit and bridles are needed as well since they allow you to steer your mount with the reins attached to the bit.
Saddlebags let you turn your mount into your personal porter. Since you have somewhere to store items on your mount with saddlebags, you can use your mount’s carrying capacity to help you bring the loot back into town.
Saddlebags also make for a great place to store the feed you’ll need to bring along your journeys – your horse needs to eat, too!
Mounts and Vehicles
You can also attach drawn vehicles to your mount to have them pull the vehicle along. Carts, wagons, and even sleds can be used to help transport you and your gear across the wilderness.
If you want to have your mount draw a vehicle, make sure that you aren’t trying to saddle your mount with more than it can handle. The equipment and vehicles all have a weight listed, which counts against your mount’s carrying capacity.
Trying to stick your mount with too much stuff will cause it to move at half speed or not be able to pull the vehicle at all.
Below is a list of costs associated with Mounts and Vehicles:
|Camel||50 gp||50 ft.||480 lb.|
|Donkey or mule||8 gp||40 ft.||420 lb.|
|Elephant||200 gp||40 ft.||1,320 lb.|
|Horse, draft||50 gp||40 ft.||540 lb.|
|Horse, riding||75 gp||60 ft.||480 lb.|
|Mastiff||25 gp||40 ft.||195 lb.|
|Pony||30 gp||40 ft.||225 lb.|
|Warhorse||400 gp||60 ft.||540 lb.|
|Bit and bridle||2 gp||1 lb.|
|Carriage||100 gp||600 lb.|
|Cart||15 gp||200 lb.|
|Chariot||250 gp||100 lb.|
|Animal Feed (per day)||5 cp||10 lb.|
|Saddle, Exotic||60 gp||40 lb.|
|Saddle, Military||20 gp||30 lb.|
|Saddle, Pack||5 gp||15 lb.|
|Saddle, Riding||10 gp||25 lb.|
|Saddlebags||4 gp||8 lb.|
|Sled||20 gp||300 lb.|
|Stabling (per day)||5 sp||—|
|Wagon||35 gp||400 lb.|
|Galley||30,000 gp||4 mph|
|Keelboat||3,000 gp||1 mph|
|Longship||10,000 gp||3 mph|
|Rowboat||50 gp||1½ mph|
|Sailing Ship||10,000 gp||2 mph|
|Warship||25,000 gp||2½ mph|
Mounted combat allows for some fun movement options a standalone character wouldn’t usually have.
Once you understand how these rules work, you could use a mount to add a huge amount of speed to your character, letting you close the gap between you and the enemies, or even create more distance.
Mounts also make great places to store extra items and gear that you might not need all the time inside a dungeon. Overall, mounts make for a fun tactical option in D&D!