While some may make it look easy, riding in general requires talent on the part of the rider. This talent is expressed primarily in the form of the Riding skill, but also through abilities like Attack on the Run, Charge, Fast Mount/Dismount, Firm Seat, and Rear. While these abilities improve the player’s ability in their particular action, general actions when mounted—such as leaping, riding quickly, taking cover, attacking from horseback, overcoming rough terrain, hard turning, regaining balance, taking damage without falling, and guiding with knees—depend only on general riding skill. Failure in some of these is a mere inconvenience, in others it can mean falling from the horse. Despite the dangers, fighting from horseback can be an incredible advantage, allowing more powerful attacks, trampling, and broader movement without giving up the opportunity to attack.
We will first discuss the conditions of riding that can result in a fall for the unskilled rider, they include taking damage, hard turning, rough terrain, leaping, attacking, and taking cover. These events can happen simultaneously, and have a cumulative effect on the probability of falling. These actions do not use either the character’s attack or move actions for the turn and are reacted against at the beginning of the rider’s next turn, rolling at that time on percentile dice. When one of these actions is taken, more likely than falling from the horse immediately is losing balance. A loss of balance results in the rider having to regain balance before taking any actions without a risk of falling and increases the risk of falling when taking normal actions. Under normal conditions (riding peacefully through the woods) the base probability of losing balance is only 20%, with an 80% probability of riding normally(80::20::0). Once off balance, regaining balance consumes the move action of the character, though not that of the mount. When off balance, the base probability of regaining balance is 60%, of remaining off-balance is 30%, and of falling is 10%(60::30::10), again under normal conditions. The actions mentioned above affect the probability as follows.
Attacking, successful or not, increases the chances to become off balance by 20%: (-20::+20::0).
Hard Turning, such as taking corners through alleyways or dungeon passages, results in an additional 10% chance to fall and a 30% chance to be off balance: (-40::+30::+10). Further consequences, including damage to the mount, will be discussed in the following section on horse movement. This action can be ignored if at a walking pace.
Leaping, of any height(capacity to leap dependent on riding ability and mount type), results in an additional 20% chance of falling and 40% chance to be off balance: (-60::+40::+20). It otherwise acts as a normal part of the mounts movement, though consuming extra move distance (as discussed later).
Rough Terrain, though it affects movement variously, for each two feet traversed increases probability to fall by 5% and to be off balance by 15%: (-20::+15::+5).
Taking Cover can have various forms, from leaning close to the horse to sliding alongside it in the saddle. This action adds to the character’s personal dodge roll, adding for each point added to the dodge roll 10% chance of being off balance and 5% chance of falling. A maximum of 5 points can be added this way, though by taking full cover(sliding alongside the horse) an automatic dodge can be made, leaving the rider automatically off-balance.
Taking Damage increases chances to be off balance by 5% and of falling by 5% for each point of damage taken: (-10::+5::+5)*damage. The effect is double for blunt weapons.
Again, these are cumulative penalties and rolls are made against them to stay in the saddle at the beginning of each turn of the character, at which time any bonuses from equipment or the riding skill are applied. For example, Roland has Riding II and leaps a fence(20::60::20) at the beginning of his turn to reach the battle, where he proceeds to cut down an orc with his broad sword and then shield bash another(-20::100::20), during the turns preceding his next turn, he takes 4 arrows for a total of 5.4 damage(-74::127::47). Then it is his turn and he gains a bonus(+80::-50::-30) from his riding ability, rolling against (6::77::17). Roland rolls a 16 and stays in the saddle, though off balance. Using his move action to regain balance, Roland makes two more attacks(40::60::0) and then takes 8.6 damage (-46::103::43), his next turn arrives and he rolls against (34::53::13). He rolls a 58 and is again off balance and loses his move action. He attacks once more, killing two of his foes. And so the battle would proceed. Having two levels in Riding, Roland is unlikely to be unhorsed under these conditions, but will likely lose his movement abilities until the fighting is somewhat alleviated. With another level or two in riding, he would be much more able to move about and use his charge and rear abilities. The loss of a move due to being off balance may seem inconsequential now, but in the following section we will discuss the options lost due to not having a move action.
One of the greatest advantages of being mounted is the ability to move while attacking, these advantages can be reduced or lost when the rider is off balance. When a combatant is mounted, his turn consists of his own move action, his attack action, and the mount’s move action. These actions can be used in many ways, and any mounted combatant can use his move action as a second attack action on his turn. The mounted man’s move action is also used when regaining balance when off balanced by vigorous action and enemy attacks.
The Mount’s Move Action
The mount’s move action is used primarily in order to move the mount’s speed, just as a character’s move action. The mount’s move action is also required for charges and rearing.
The Rider’s Move Action
While a man on foot can use his move action only to rise, move, or arm himself, a mounted man can use this action for many other things. In addition to being used to regain balance when off balance, a rider can use his move action to move the mount’s speed once more or to guide the mount with his knees. This action can also be applied to dismount, gain a second attack action, rear, or charge,
The Rider’s Attack Action
A rider’s attack action differs little from that of a man on foot, except it cannot be applied to movement and it can be used to attack those who would be able to make reflexive attacks, forcing them to parry or evade and avoiding damage from such an attack. Attacking while moving benefits from extra area affected with regards to dodging and Cleave.
Charge is a powerful form of attack allowing increased damage and trampling. It uses all of the actions of the user for that turn(attack, move, and mount move actions) and can be done for up to 2 turns in a row. The charge must be performed at the beginning of the player’s turn and must move in a straight line. It tires the mount as a double move and the rider for successful attacks made along the way.
Guide with Knees is an action used to free both of the rider’s hands while still moving the mount’s move speed. It uses the rider’s move action and requires a check using the rider’s normal riding bonus added to (20::60::20), where a roll indicating a fall means the rider has to use both hands and lose all attacks or become off balance, a roll indicating an off-balance means one hand must be moved to the reins and not be able to attack or become off balance, and a successful roll means both hands can be used to attack and the rider is not off balance.
Hard Turning, in addition to increasing the rider’s probability to lose balance or fall, has an opportunity to causing damage to both mount and rider. The likelihood of such damage depends on the speed of movement and the width of the turn. Ideally, a rider could move a mount around a corner without any sliding, remaining the whole turn no more than 2 ft from the corner. This is quite the feat and usually the horse will slide as it takes the turn. The distance of this slide(in the direction of initial movement) is twice the distance to be moved in the turn divided by 2d6 minus the rider’s level in Riding: (2*distance/2d6)-Riding. This value cannot be less than zero and is added to the ideal 2ft. If the slide is interrupted by a wall, both mount and rider take 1d4 blunt damage per foot remaining to be slid. Other obstacles in the path of the slide, such as cliffs and combatants, are handled at the Master Weaver’s discretion.
Leaping is carried out as part of the mount’s movement, whether the move action of the mount or that of the rider. When making a leap, the distance considered to be traveled during the leap is equal to four times the height of the leap plus two times the length of the leap (4*height+2*length). A rider can only drive a horse to leap as high as his level in Riding+1 ft, though most mounts will also have a maximum height they can clear. A distance equal to or greater than the equivalent distance of the leap (4*height+2*length) must be traveled in a straight line leading up to the leap prior to leaping.
Rear is an ability enabling the mount to attack with hooves in addition to the rider’s attack. A rear can be a useful action when surrounded or closed in, but requires both the move action of the mount and that of the rider. This action has a probability of throwing the rider from the saddle, but this probability is less for higher levels of Rear and Riding.
Riding Quickly is an extended action used for travel, and does not apply to battle. While a mount normally walks at 1/8th its speed, at times greater speed is desired. This speed can be reached by attempting to spur a horse into a canter, gallop, or run. When desiring to ride quickly, the maximum speed attainable by the rider is (1d100+RidingBonus)/200*mountspeed, with a minimum of 1/8th speed. This roll can be remade each 10 minutes if it is not as high as the rider wishes, or the rider can assume a walking pace after 10 minutes of struggle with the animal if the speed is less than 1/8th. The speed attained by this roll can be maintained for 1 hour before another such roll must be made. Spurs or a well trained horse can give bonuses to this roll. The mount tires appropriately for the speed traveled.
For example, if a group of three riders wish to arrive as quickly as possible at a destination several miles away, they will opt to ride quickly rather than walking. Their horses each have a speed of 24. One of them has Riding II, another Riding I and the third does not have Riding. They each roll and the first rolls 14(+80), giving a total of .47*24=11.28 miles per hour. The second rolls a 64(+50), giving a total of .57*24=13.68 miles per hour. The third rolls a 50, giving a total of .25*24=6 miles per hour. If they wish, they can ride at merely 6 mph and stay together, however, if their mission is urgent enough, the first two may ride ahead at 11.28 mph and arrive sooner. Alternately, they could ride at 6 mph for 10 minutes and attempt another roll for the third rider, but this could result equally in a better or worse roll, and at the very worst, come up between 1 and 24, leaving the third rider struggling to move his horse at a mere 3 mph for 10 minutes.