Cavalry and Role-Playing Games

My post yesterday about archers and cavalry got me thinking about a major deficiency in most game systems. People who focus on mounted (horses or vehicles)  combat get short shrift in most games.  I started playing games many years ago with “Dungeons and Dragons.” I then moved on to other games, such as “Gamma World,” “Shadowrun” and various fantasy games. It became very clear to me that mounted combat experts rarely got an opportunity to shine. It was never the fault of the DM, it was strictly an environmental issue.

Most games have “iconic” areas that most encounters are built around. Examples include the “dungeon crawl,”  “city,” “sea/airborne” and “wilderness.” There are others, but these cover most of the common adventuring terrain.

Bottom line is horses or vehicles ( I am a big fan of the riggers in “Shadowrun”)  critical to  a mounted combat specialist simply do not fit in most of these environments.

It always felt unfair that a rogue is a rogue, no matter the environment. The mounted knight has to be in an open field, with his mount and enough room to charge and fight from horseback. The very nature of adventuring means that often the horse/vehicle gets left behind. I am sure that a census of gamers would list literally thousands of mounts “left at the camp”  (read “starved to death”) while the PCs spend six months  trying to get back from limbo. Thankfully, there are no animal rights activists in the game!

This leads players to take the mounted combat feats/skills only when their mount is “summonable” and always available. Otherwise they go with some, in my opinion, completely lame solution like a halfling on a riding dog, a la “Elfquest.” A hobbit on Cujo charging orcs  makes me slightly ill just thinking about it.

I am not sure why I am even writing this post. Short of bending the entire campaign around mounted combat, I see no solution. Although, I do feel better after complaining about it.

Trask, the Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.