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Calling in the Cavalry: Mounted Mayhem in Paizo’s Pathfinder

Battle of Chocim by Józef Brandt
From the heavy horse of medieval Europe to the marauding Mongols that dominated Asia, cavalry has been one of the deadliest forces in the history of warfare. In order to bring this kind of combat to your Pathfinder Chronicles game, all it requires is building the proper mounted warrior.

Benefits

There are certain inherent benefits to playing a mounted character. In no particular order those are:

  • +1 to attack against opponents of equal size for being up high.
  • Added movement. Mounts tend to have 40 ft.+ as a standard move.
  • Fight as a team. Trained war mounts can attack right alongside the rider when initiative is rolled.

Drawbacks

For every benefit, there’s also a drawback. Before committing to playing a mounted character, players have to consider the following:

  • The size of the mount. Horses and other mounts are Large sized, which can lead to problems.
  • Space. Mounted combat relies heavily on the charge, so narrow hallways and obstacle can render you ineffective quickly.
  • Ride checks. Ride checks are affected by your armor check penalty, and you have to make them with every ride maneuver, and especially with untrained mounts.

Base Classes

There’s no “right” way to build a character. That said, the best options you have for starting classes for a combat-related mounted character are as follows:

Paladin

The paladin is the penultimate knight in shining armor. Any paladin can gain the services of an intelligent mount starting at level 5, but the shining knight variant (page 117 of the Advanced Player’s Handbook) allows you to negate the armor check penalty on your Ride checks beginning at 2nd level. That is perhaps the most advantageous ability of any mounted character.

Cavalier

The cavalier was born to be a mounted fighter. Cavaliers begin play with a mount that is intelligent, has Light Armor Proficiency and is combat trained. Cavaliers never take the armor check penalty on Ride checks.

Fighter

Fighters make up for the lack of special abilities with bonus feats that make them deadlier adversaries. The Roughrider variant (page 106 of the Advanced Player’s Guide) takes away the armor check penalty for Ride by level 3. It doesn’t give you a special mount, but it does give you bonuses to riding in armor, and it gives you bonuses to attack and damage when fighting mounted started at 5th level.

Barbarian

Not to be outdone, the barbarians have a mounted variant as well. The Mounted Fury (page 79 of the Advanced Player’s Guide) gives you the Bestial Mount feature. It can be affected and benefited by your rage and rage powers. Ferocious Mount and Ferocious Trample (Advanced Player’s Guide, page 75) are mounted-barbarian specific powers that make for battlefield devastation.

Feats

There are certain feats that go into any mounted character’s build, regardless of which base class you choose.

Mounted Melee

Melee combat on a mount is defined by the ability to charge; it’s why a lance does double damage. Many of the feats you take will reflect this, but in general you want the following feat trees, listed below with page references.

  • Mounted Combat (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 131), Ride-By Attack (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 132) Spirited Charge (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 134), Death From Above (Ultimate Combat, page 94): Increases your attack and damage, as well as mobility with mounted charges.
  • Trick Riding (Advanced Player’s Guide, page 173), Mounted Skirmisher (Advanced Player’s Guide, page 155): Allows you to automatically make Ride DC 15 or less, take full attack action when mount moves its speed.
  • Shield Focus (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 133), Mounted Shield (Advanced Player’s Guide, page 165): Get higher AC from your shield, add shield bonus to mount’s AC respectively.
  • Power Attack (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 131), Improved Overrun (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 127), Greater Overrun (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 125), Trample (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 136): Gives you bonuses to overrun opponents and the chance for your mount to attack fallen enemies. The overrun feats can be taught to special mounts as they advance.

Mounted Archery

For those who want to shoot on the run (keeping you mobile and out of reach), then, in addition to archery feats such as Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot, you should take the following:

  • Mounted Archery (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 131): Halves the negatives to shooting while mount moves.

Tips and Tricks

There are some other things you should keep in mind when playing a mounted character that can help make your job easier. For instance:

  • Invest in a military saddle. It has a 75% chance of keeping you in the saddle if you’re knocked out.
  • Remember that you can do a quick dismount with a Ride check of 20. That free action can make a lot of difference.
  • Don’t be afraid to use Small-sized characters. Their mounts can go anywhere, and the added mobility for ranged shooters, or the extra damage from charging, can be just the thing to put the punch in a small package. They won’t be able to Overrun as much, but take that into account when building.
  • Teach your mount tricks. Tricks are listed under Handle Animal, and the more tricks your mount has, the better a combatant it will be. Choose its feats carefully as it advances as well.
  • If you fight with a lance, either keep another melee weapon ready to draw, or take Improved Shield Bash. Charging is a ranged game, and sometimes enemies get close.

4 Replies to "Calling in the Cavalry: Mounted Mayhem in Paizo’s Pathfinder"

James Wylie

February 21, 2013 at 5:40am

I didn’t realize the power of mounted combat until I joined a 3.5 Expedition to Castle Ravenloft game at the last minute and just went with a basic 3.5 mounted paladin. He shredded the early town and outdoor encounters, though having all his feats devoted to that definitely hurt in dungeon settings.

Most encounters definitely aren’t designed to factor in mounted mobility, and if you get a good initiative you can be threatening a distant enemy quickly before the opposition closes ranks.

An animal companion mount can also provide mobility and protection for a focused spellcaster Druid or Animal domain Cleric.

Philo Pharynx

February 21, 2013 at 2:52pm

Actually you missed a few of the most interesting types of mounted character. The druid’s animal companion can serve as a mount under some circumstances. Druids are still 3/4BAB characters and their companions gain power and abilites as the druid advances. Bonus tricks make it easy to get a combat-trained mount. Getting lance proficiency is a feat, or they may dip into a fighting class

The ranger’s animal companion isn’t as powerful as the druid’s, but they get full bab and can take the mounted combat fighting style to improve their powess in the saddle.

The summoner. They can use their eidolon as a mount that gets a variety of exotic abilities. 1 evoilution point makes a quadruped or serpentine eidolon into a combat-trained mount. As with druids, a feat or dipping into the fighter pool is needed to get a lance. With higher level summoners thier mounts can end up like any number of mgaical beasts – dragonlike eidolons are very popular.

Caleb T. Gordan

February 22, 2013 at 12:02pm

I have used mounted combat for my witch character, and it really helped me out. I was playing a small sized race, so at first it was just to keep up with the party, but then I realized that I had a full round of actions after the mount moved. Because hexes are not like spells in that they need concentration checks, I would have the mount move as much as I needed him to on rounds I would going to use a hex. Then, use spells once I was in a position where movement wasn’t needed as much. It made for a powerful combination, and really made a difference in the combat.

Charles Carrier

February 26, 2013 at 8:26am

Outstanding article! I really like articles that provide specifics on *how* to do something, instead of just saying “it can be done, but figure it out for yourself”.

Thank you Mr. Litherland. :)

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