I was thinking about Horses the other day. They're very much a part of almost every fantasy story, and yet, at the same time, they're not. Horses in most stories are little more than plot devices to speed travel. And that's fine, but even in that role, they are extremely useful. If you can walk or ride, you would always choose to ride, unless for some reason Horses would be a downside.
Additionally, depending on setting, creatures could find all sorts of useful creatures that could be tamed or domesticated besides horses and mules. So I decided to write up some stuff about that.
Rules and Terms:
Dashing- An action you can take on your turn. This doubles a character's movement speed and gives creatures attacking or attempting to grapple it disadvantage. When running away, as per the Pursuit Rolls, you have advantage on your DEX check if you choose to Dash.
Speed- How far a creature can move in a turn. The normal speed of a Medium creature is 30'.
Capacity- Refers to a creature's ability to carry stuff. Basically function as inventory space, but also determines the number of creatures that can fit on a creature. Creatures that exceed their capacity are over-encumbered, meaning they act last in the initiative order and have disadvantage on any check made to move quickly, dodge, evade or etc.
A Medium Creature takes up 2 Capacity.
Mounted Combat- When mounted on a combat, mount (if capable of independent action) and writer act on the same turn. When fighting creatures that are on foot, mounted creatures get +1 to Atk and Damage. This bonus also applies to Defense rolls.
For some more common mounts, breeding and care matters. Only roll on the table below if the party are purchasing a relatively common type of beast, something that could have enough diversity in it's potential gene-pool that there could be a vast difference between a quality specimen and a useless one. For unique or rare mounts, don't bother.
Also note that the Statblocks below indicate an average creature of that species. Care and breeding can easily turn a mediocre animal into a fearsome steed, or reduce a majestic creature to a shadow of it's true potential.
Mount Quality Table:
1- Nag. Reduce the creature's HD by 1 (min 1). It gets -1 to Atk. It might also have something wrong with it, such as being malnourished, diseased, cursed or simply violent and disagreeable.
2- Poor. Reduce the creature's Atk by -1. This specimen is not good, but it might be worth it, at a discounted price.
3-4- Average. This is about the middle of the road in terms of quality for a creature like this.
5- Good. Increase the creature's Atk by +1. There is a 2-in-6 chance this creature has a special quality.
6- Excellent. Increase the creature's HD and Atk by 1. There is a 3-in-6 chance this creature has a special quality.
Steeds for Sale:
Atk Kick (1d8) or Trample
Saves 9 or less
Skittish: Horses are easily spooked. When faced with loud noises, bright lights, obvious magic, fire or the presence of a natural predator (such as a Dragon, Giant, Troll, etc) Horses must make a morale check or try to flee.
Trample: Horses can charge creatures. If the Horse dashes at a creature and has at least 50' between it and the creature it can try to Trample it. This adds +1d6 to Atk and Damage, but the creature can choose to make a DEX save to try and avoid it. If the creature passes the save, it takes no damage, while taking regular damage on full.
Horses have been humanity's allies since time immemorial. The race of Man was the first to tame them and are still the best to ride them, with the exception of perhaps the ever-perfect Elves. Horses prefer humans above all other species, and are actively hostile to certain species. If you are playing in a game with animal races or other types of humanoid, some of them may be offensive to horses, who will not allow certain creatures to ride them, unless raised and trained around or by them. For example, in Nukaria, Wolf, Bear and Orzane/Pigmen cannot ride horses, as horses are scared of them.
Horse Special Qualities:
1- Brave. This Horses has a Morale of "12". That's pretty brave for a Horse.
2- Aggressive. This Horse doesn't let anyone but someone who it respects ride it. Anyone else is likely to lose a finger or get bucked off.
3- Chieftain. This Horse is recognized as Noble by other Horses. Other Horses can advantage on morale checks when they can see it.
4- Loyal. This Horse loves it's rider and will come to their aid, even if it endangers the Horse.
Atk Kick or Bite (1d6+2)
Saves 9 or less
Dog Hatred: Donkeys (and to a lesser extent Mules) hate Canines. Anything that looks like a wolf, coyote, dingo, jackal or dog is liable to provoke their rage. When a Donkey senses a Canine or Canine-type creature, including such things as a Canine monster or Dogman, it must make a Morale check or immediately take defensive action against such a creature. If such a creature looks weak or threatens the herd, the Donkey will attack.
Stubborn: Donkeys are stubborn beasts. If you're trying to force it to do something it doesn't want to do, it will simply stop and stand there. You can kick it, yell at it, swear yourself hoarse and it will refuse to budge.
Donkeys are like Horses, except smaller, cheaper and infinitely less pliable. Donkeys are much less willing to do things a Horse can be coaxed or bullied into. They are also known to absolutely despise wolves, coyotes and anything canine-shaped. Mules are Donkeys cross-bred with horses, making them slightly more pliable and less aggressive.
Donkey Special Qualities:
1- Lycanophobe. This Donkey can tell if someone is a Werewolf by scent alone. It hates Werewolves and treats them like dogs.
2- Wise-Cracking. This Donkey can talk. It almost never has anything useful to say, but by God does it love to talk.
3- Fearless. This Donkey is immune to Fear effects and being frightened. It feels no Fear.
4- Hateful. This Donkey hates almost everything. The trait for 'Dog Hatred' now applies to anyone who treats the Donkey poorly, annoys it or randomly on a 1-in-6 chance. No one knows why the Donkey is like this.
Atk Bite (1d6+1 + Grapple)
Saves 8 or less
I wrote plenty about Dogs and their special qualities here.
Dogs are the friend of Man, but certain other species have made great use of them as well. The Hoba have found that a large dog can just as easily carry one of them, or any other Small creature, as ably as a horse can, but with much less cost. Plus, horses make Hoba and other small creatures nervous, in the same way that you would look twice at the Ogre that rode a giant, unpredictable Elephant.
Atk Claw (1d6+2/1d6+2)
Big Eater: Bears consume double the amount of food a Horse would. They get surly if not fed the proper amount and trust me, you won't like them when they are hungry.
Tracker: Bears have a keen sense of smell. They get +4 to track by scent and can follow a scent-trail if given something belonging to a specific creature.
Roar: As an action, a Bear can roar. Any creatures who can see the Bear or are within 100' must immediately make a Morale check. On a failed check, they will immediately flee or surrender.
There are a dozen explanations for who decided that trying to tame bears to ride, and none of them are very good. Frankly, it is just a terrible idea. Only species with sufficient technology or magical prowess would even attempt such a silly project. Bears are slower than horses, less trainable, less manageable and a terrible danger to anyone who attempts to take care of them or ride them. The only people who make a regular project are Elves, Wizards and the insane, but I repeat myself.
Bear Special Qualities:
1- Honey-Hoarder. This Bear loves honey. When given the chance to obtain glass, it will steal containers to fill with honey and store for later. Anyone who touches it's stash of honey will face growls and potential violence.
2- Hibernator. This Bear, when faced with cold weather, will curl up into a ball and pass into a coma-like state. It can sleep for up to 4 months like this.
3- Man-Eater. This Bear loves the taste of manflesh. When given the chance, it will eat humans. If allowed to do this for too long, bad things will start to happen, as this a violation of natural law.
4- Snow Bear. This Bear has white fur and is resistant to cold damage and cold weather.
Atk Bite (1d8+1 + Grapple)
Saves 10 or less
Terrifying: Giant Wolves are fearsome carnivores who strike fear into the hearts of prey animals, such as horses. When prey animals catch sight of or scent a Giant Wolf, they must succeed a Morale check or attempt to flee.
Obligate Carnivore: Giant Wolves only eat meat. This is much more expensive than ordinary feed for livestock.
The Knights Lupus were an ancient order of Knights that served the Grand Duchy of Yashan. They were fearless protectors of the weak, noble friends of the just and proud servants of the Grand Duke. They led his armies in battle and defended his peasants against the many grasping nobles attempting to assert themselves with the death of the long-distant Emperor and the de facto emancipation of the Water Duchies. By the end of the Order's life, the Knights were all-but running the Duchy, the Grand Duke little more than a puppet, while the Protector of the Realm made all the real decisions. So when the Duchy itself fell, the Chivalric order fell and splintered with it. The Knights Lupus were no more, much of their secrets lost in the chaos or stolen by unscrupulous members.
Besides their own magicks and fighting techniques, the Knights Lupus were most famous for the breeding and training of a special type of giant Wolf. These mounts were part of their mythos and brought them countless victories on the battlefield. Since the Order's demise, the secrets of breeding and training the Wolves has fallen into the hands of several groups, none of whom have any where close to the skill, talent or required knowledge to do it safely or effectively. Still, even if these beasts are shadows of what those Knights rode in that more heroic age, they are still potent weapons.
That being said, don't let their lengthy pedigree fool you. These Beasts have been domesticated, but they are still extremely dangerous. Mistreat one and you could easily end up it's meal. And even if you don't, accidents happen. These accidents are so common that in some parts of the world, "Riding the Wolf" is a common term for attempting something extremely foolish.
Giant Wolf Special Qualities:
1- Silver Fangs. The Giant Wolf has silver fangs. These cause it's bite attacks to count as magical and allow it to bite immaterial things, such as ghosts.
2- Winter Wolf. The Wolf is white-furred. It is resistant to cold and cold damage.
3- Grand Commander. This Wolf terrifies lesser Wolves and canines. When faced with it, they will submit to it's authority and will refuse to attack any group this Wolf is a part of.
4- Ghost-Bound. On nights with a Full or Wolf Moon, this Wolf can summon the spirits of it's ancient ancestors to ride and hunt with it. The Wolf can do this 1/Day (night) and can summon 1d6+4 Giant Wolf ghosts.
Atk Horns (1d8) or Trample
Saves 11 or less
Tempermental: Aurochs can't see well and are generally unpleasant creatures. When faced with something irritating or potentially dangerous, or the color red, Aurochs must make a Morale check. On a failed Morale check, they charge. Also, Aurochs generally respond to threats by trying to gore or trample them.
Trample: Aurochs can charge creatures. If the Aurochs dashes at a creature and has at least 30' between it and the creature it can try to Trample it. This adds +1d6 to Atk and Damage, but the creature can choose to make a DEX save to try and avoid it. If the creature passes the save, it takes no damage, while taking regular damage on full.
Because Horses do not permit some species to ride them, a new solution was sought. This solution ended up arriving in the form of the Aurochs, the shaggy-haired and even worse tempered cousins of the buffalo and the cow. Aurochs are slower than horses, but make up for this in their ability to carry more and their natural aggression. Horses have to be trained to fight and not flee in the face of violence and adversity. Aurochs have to be trained to retreat and not just trample everything.
These creatures often are depicted in ancient legends as prized by the Gods, and many ancient Gods of blood and war wore antlers of the Aurochs as they demanded sacrifice spilled over their golden idols. One of the most famous heroes of Orzanian legend has one of their future Emperors stealing a red-skinned Bull from the pastures of the Gods and riding into battle, goring countless foes on it's horns. The Bull would later on become a symbol of many of the Orzanian Gods, including Marzan, their God of Glory, Soldiers and War. This makes it rather embarassing that many of the Orzanian's conquered peoples enjoy blood-sport where champions fight Aurochs and bulls in the arena.
Aurochs Special Qualities:
1- Warhorn. This Auroch used to belong to a soldier. It gets +1 to Atk.
2- Splint-Hind. This Auroch has udders and produces thick, viscous milk that is basically undrinkable, unless you have no better options. There is a 1-in-10 chance that upon tasting it, a creature will like the taste. Otherwise, it is just disgusting. But if you don't milk it, the Auroch will get very irritated.
3- God-blooded. This Auroch can trace it's ancestry to that original stolen Divine Bull. Other Aurochs will not attack it, nor allow their riders to.
4- Kane Ra. This Auroch is one of the Kane Ra Bulls, known for their awful smell, red hair and unquestionable courage. This Auroch, if it is ever Frightened or affected by a mental condition, can 1/Day ignore that state and replace it with blistering, soul-blackening rage.
Atk Antlers (1d6 + Grapple)
Saves 11 or less
Speed 25' (on the ground)
70' (in the air)
Limited Flight: Bison Beetles can fly, but only when at 2/3 Capacity or less. They can also only fly for 1 hour continuously before they get too tired and have to rest.
Throw: When a Bison Beetle successfully hits someone, they entangle that person in their antlers. If a person in a Bison Beetle's antlers at the start of it's turn, it can, as an action, hurl that person 50' in any direction it chooses. This also throws the person 1d6*10' into the air and does normal falling damage.
Bison Beetles are huge, domesticated beetles covered in slab-like armor. They are slow moving and though they possess the ability to fly, rarely choose to do so except to escape dangerous terrestrial predators or move over obstacles they cannot climb over, such as gorges or wide rivers. They are poor swimmers. Bison Beetles are very common in more arid regions as beasts of burden, as they while slow, they are very genial and not nearly as fearsome as they appear. They can also carry large loads and only really tire after flying, otherwise they can plod along for long periods with little rest.
Bison Beetle Special Qualities:
1- Silver-Shelled. Unlike others of it's kind, this Beetle has an exoskeleton of blazing silver. It has resistance to fire damage and can survive in desert conditions with no problems.
2- Jewel Beetle. This Beetle has the uncanny ability to find gemstones. If it detects a nearby vein or collection, it will change directions and walk as close as it can, then flop down nearby.
3- Grinder. This Beetle loves to chew rocks. It will go and seek out the largest rock it can find and slowly crush it up. This is rather annoying and causes persistent noise.
4- Fertilized. The Beetle you bought was a female and had recently been mounted. 1d3 weeks after you first acquired her, she lays 1d10+2 eggs which hatch into baby Bison Beetles. She will watch over the eggs until they hatch, after which she will abandon them. The babies will crawl onto her back and ride her around for the first couple months, or until they get too heavy and she throws them off.
Giant Squirrel or Chitterer
Atk Bite (1d8+2)
Saves 9 or less
Skittish: Giant Squirrels are easily spooked. When faced with loud noises, bright lights, obvious magic, fire or the presence of a natural predator (such as a Dragon, Giant, Troll, etc) Giant Squirrels must make a morale check or try to flee.
Climber: Giant Squirrels can easily climb wood or other soft surfaces, gaining a +4 bonus to do so. They also gain a +2 bonus to climb stone or harder surfaces their claws cannot penetrate.
Giant Squirrels, or Chitterers, are strange creatures. They are usually only found in Elven or Faerie woods, as they love the enormous trees and massive nuts there. Despite this fact, they are often highly prized by certain types of knights as rare and agile mounts. Though not overflowing in courage, Chitterers, as they are sometimes known, are quick and and intelligent steeds that easily make the most of their abilities. They move with incredible speed and can climb trees as easily as they run. Additionally, in spite of their cowardice, they have jaws that can crush skulls and helmets with ease.
Giant Squirrel Special Qualities:
1- Glider. This Giant Squirrel has flaps of skin under it's arms. If it leaps off a high place, it can glide down to the ground.
2- Tail Pollen. This Giant Squirrel has a fungus living in it's tail in a mutualistic relationship. The fungi produce halluciongenic chemicals so that if the Squirrel swipes someone with it's tail, they must save or start hallucinating for 1d4 hours.
3- Color-changing Fur. This Giant Squirrel has color-changing fur. It can camoflague itself to match it's environment, gaining a +4 to stealth.
4- Cuddly. This Squirrel knows how to comfort others. If someone is frightened, charmed or otherwise distressed, the Squirrel will restrain and cuddle them, wrapping them in it's fluffy tail. This grants a new save and is super comforting.
Atk Trunk Grab or Trample (1d12+1d6)
Saves 13 or less
Big Eater: Elephants eat four times what a Large mount would eat. They get surly and unhelpful if not fed.
Trample: Elephants can charge creatures. If the Elephant dashes at a creature and has at least 30' between it and the creature it can try to Trample it. This adds +1d6 to Atk and Damage, but the creature can choose to make a DEX save to try and avoid it. If the creature passes the save, it takes no damage, while taking regular damage on full.
Trudger: Elephants cannot dash.
There are some who object to the use of the Elephant as a beast of burden or tool of war. These gentle giants, they claim, are simply too noble to allow them to dirty their tusks with blood or grit. And then there are the people who have seen the incredible use an Elephant can provide through it's overwhelming size and power. To these folks, there is simply no argument otherwise.
Elephant Special Qualities:
1- Albino. White Elephants are considered to be favored by the Gods. Even in cultures where Elephants are used as beasts of burden, it is considered a grave sin to make a White Elephant work. The Gods will surely punish such a person. And if the Gods don't, the King definitely will. That being said, White Elephants are said to bring great fortune to those who own them.
2- Long Speech. This Elephant has the ability to receive and transmit messages to other Elephants over vast, impossible distances. Using two Elephants like this, you could communicate with another Elephant rider dozens of leagues away. Non-talented Elephants can receive these messages as well, though they might not understand them.
3- Dragon-bred. This is an Elephant bred by Dragons to function as a food source. Though less intelligent and sensitive, this Elephant is much larger. Add +1 to it's HD and Capacity.
4- Anointed. This Elephant is what mortals confuse ordinary White Elephants with. This Elephant is secretly an emissary of the Gods. It will pretend to be a normal Elephant and judge it's owners. If they are noble and good, it will reveal it's true nature to them, then bless them and disappear. If they are wicked, it will curse them and vanish.
From this point on, all the mounts below are already to be considered rare and powerful. They all possess special features. Roll on the table below to see what special qualities they have.
Also, I feel like I shouldn't have to explain this, but none of the mounts below are ones you can buy, unless you're buying them from a God or a Lich or something on that level. These are mounts earned exclusively through quests and being a brass-balled son-of-a-gun.
Atk Kick (1d8) or Aerial Armor
Saves 10 or less
Speed 45' (on the ground)
120' (in the air)
Smarter than it looks: Pegasi can understand many languages. They cannot speak, lacking the throats, but they are as smart as humans.
Aerial Armor: When flying, a Pegasus can surround itself with a protective layer of fast-flowing air, giving it an AR equal to 4. This armor does not exist while it isn't moving, however.
Pegasi are the beautiful, ethereal horses that soar above the peaks of green mountains or haunt the lonely vales of abandoned mountain cities. They seem fragile and delicate, but move like the wind and possess an intelligence equal to man. Pegasi seek only to live freely and to have adventures. They look down on other horses as you look down on apes. Pegasi will never be pressed into service and will only accept riders who are faithful and noble- wicked, greedy or unscrupulous individuals will be abandoned or rejected.
Pegasi Special Features:
1- Brother of Birds. This Pegasus is loved by a powerful Bird, who will come to it's aid if the Pegasus is ever in danger, or calls for aid.
2- Gale Blades. This Pegasus has the ability to project blades of wind. It can fire off two blades of air that do 1d6 damage, or 1 that does no damage, but forces a STR save, and on a failed save knocks creatures prone and pushes them 30' away from the Pegasus.
3- Companion of Heroes. This Pegasus aided a Hero on a quest in the past. The Pegasi, for it's troubles, was given a magical necklace that gives it the ability to speak telepathically to all creatures within 100', if chooses.
4- Steel-shod Hooves. This Pegasus' hooves are augmented with horseshoes of enchanted steel. It does 1d10 damage on a hit and it's attacks count as magical.
Atk Claws (1d6+2/1d6+2) or Beak (1d8 + Bleed)
Saves 12 or less
Speed 45' (on the ground)
90' (in the air)
Terrifying: Gryphons are fearsome carnivores who strike fear into the hearts of prey animals, such as horses. When prey animals catch sight of or scents a Gryphon, they must succeed a Morale check or attempt to flee.
Lover of Horseflesh: When a Gryphon has a chance to eat or hunt a Horse, it must succeed on a morale check to resist the temptation.
Gryphons are the proud and noble lords of the air. Noble and beautiful, these creatures rule vast territories of wind-swept plains or rocky hills, living in small societies of up to 50. Though beasts, they possess keen intelligence and a strong sense of honor. They will serve men, but only when they feel respected and appropriately honored. They love the taste of horseflesh and eagerly hunt horses above all foods.
Gryphon Special Qualities:
1- Lord of the Air. The air will never disturb the flight of this Gryphon. No wind, rain or snow will make it harder for it to fly. Lightning will never strike it, whether conjured or natural.
2- Pack Hunter. This Gryphon can summon 1d4 other Gryphons to aid it in battle.
3- Feathered Crown. This Gryphon can summon birds to aid it. As an action, the Gryphon can summon 1d20 other birds. It usually summons other birds of prey, but it will also summon more common birds.
4- Victory's Cry. 1/Day, this Gryphon can unleash a cry that echoes for miles. At the sound, your allies regain 1d4 FS and can save again against any Charm, Fear or other mental effect. Meanwhile, enemies must make a Morale check or flee.
Atk Bite (1d8+2 + Grapple) or Stinger (1d6 + Venom)
Saves 11 or less
Speed 25' (on the ground)
100' (in the air)
Terrifying: Wyverns are fearsome carnivores who strike fear into the hearts of prey animals, such as horses. When prey animals catch sight of or scents a Wyverns, they must succeed a Morale check or attempt to flee.
Venomous Stinger: When stung by a Wyvern's sting, any creature that is Medium or smaller must save or die. On a successful save, take 2d6 poison damage. On a failed save, you die. Large or bigger creatures take 2d6 poison damage on a successful save, 4d6 on a failed save.
Wyverns are (relatively) small flying lizards possessing fearsome stingers and a voracious appetite. They are the bane of farmers and land-lords everywhere, as they are extremely hard to kill. Agile on the ground and untouchable in the air, a Wyvern is easily capable of swooping down into a sheep pen, stuffing a sheep down it's gullet, grabbing another and then flying off in less than a minute, though it's unlikely to do so. Wyverns rarely feel the need to hurry, as they know they always have their hyper-lethal venom to fall back on.
Wyvern venom is horribly lethal to most creatures because it's meant to dissuade Dragons and other super-predators from trying to eat them. A Dragon who is stung will likely survive, though Dragons have been known to die from such stings. That being said, it will be extremely unpleasant and very painful in the mean-time, while also leaving a Dragon vulnerable to being robbed or attacked by other predators. But when such venom is directed against a smaller, frailer creature, the results are much more dangerous. A human who is stung by a Wyvern and lives is not unheard of, but it is rare. It is mostly a result of luck and the intervention of fickle Gods.
Wyvern Special Traits:
1- Agonizing Venom. This Wyvern is a mutant. It's venom cannot kill you, but it does cause agonizing pain. When stung by this Wyvern, you take 1d6 COG damage if you choose to move or take an action (2d6 if you do both). If reduced to 0 COG you lay there on the ground, twitching in horrible pain. Too much exposure will drive someone permanently insane.
2- Natural Kerosene. This Wyvern sprays an organic, and highly flammable sludge from it's stinger. This a variety known as a False Dragon.
3- Hypnotic Eyespots. This Wyvern has eyespots on it's wings. If it exposes them, creatures must succeed on a CHA save or fall into a catatonic state. This lasts until the creatures take damage or are otherwise shaken out of their trance.
4- Brood-mother. This Wyvern is a mother and has 1d4 hatchlings with her. Each hatchling is about the size of a dog and eats half it's body weight in meat every other day. Thw Wyvern mother will never abandon her young and any who harm her will face her wrath.