Mounted Combat

There has been a running debate on the DragWars forum on whether there should be any modifications to combat rules when one, or both, or many, combatants are fighting on horseback. One could probably summarise the consideration as revolving around:

  1. Whether there should be an advantage of horseback over unmounted,
  2. Or a disadvantage; then
  3. Whether anyone, or only some professions, can fight with 2-handed weapons from horseback; and finally
  4. Whether there ought to be special advantages or skills available to Knights* or Barbarians* (in particular).

Advantages or Disadvantages for Fighting from Horseback

Wayne Imlach got the ball rolling on this debate on September 29, 2006, advocating an advantage for mounted vs unmounted:

Mounted Combat
I would only allow a bonus if the mounted Knight* is attacking a target lower than himself - two mounted Knights* deulling from horseback would cancel out any relative advantage. I would remove the bonus to attack, as fighting mounted is in no way 'easier' than fighting from foot. However, I would instead add +1 to Armour bypass and Damage. Fighting from an elevated position (such as horseback) allows the knight to use gravity and momentum to their advantage when delivering blows to less elevated targets
RJ Lambert added in his PBEM campaign at DW-Clyster the following rules interpretation:
Knights*, Barbarians*

  • 1 handed weapon on horseback: no penalty, even with shield
  • 2x1 handed weapon (via Weaponskill: -2 ATTACK with each weapon, no DEFENCE penalty
  • 2 handed weapon: -4 ATTACK and -4 DEFENCE

  • 1 handed: -2 ATTACK, no DEFENCE penalty
  • 2x1 handed: -4 ATTACK with each weapon, -2 DEFENCE penalty
  • 2 handed weapon: -6 ATTACK and -6 DEFENCE

Other professions:
  • 1 handed: -4 ATTACK and -4 DEFENCE
  • 2x1 handed: -6 ATTACK and -6 DEFENCE
  • 2 handed weapon:
    • generally can't be done, if they insist, -8 ATTACK and -8 DEFENCE,
    • 1 in 10 chance each combat round they will fall off the horse

I am open-minded to horseback fighting being learned as a skill, but really as rank improves the deficits of this will slowly become less of an issue. Fighting Orcs*, for instance, an 8th rank Knight* might not mind so much being -4 ATTACK and DEFENCE, confident that won't hurt him. This could explain, then, say the fighting with 2H weapons seen in the movies - those warriors are "high rank" fighters who care not about the combat deficits of horseback fighting, but wouldn't dream of fighting a powerful foe from horseback unless the foe was doing likewise.

Two-Handed Fighting from Horseback

Kharille indicated on DragWars on November 13, 2006 that "realistically you can't really use your halberd from horseback...". He restarted the debate in very late 2007, to which Wayne Imlach replied:

I seem to recall reading somewhere that when a two-handed sword was used from horseback, it was weilded much like a scythe, sticking out at a 90 degree angle to the horse. The rider would sweep through the enemy and 'reap' a crop of heads, arms, whatever happened to get in the way... This is battlefield combat though rather than mano a mano - in this case a two-hander would indeed be a bit unweildy from horseback. As a rule of thumb I'd impose a -4 penalty to ATTACK and DEFENCE if a weapon was considered hampered by the environment or situation.

Under question from Kharille, Wayne withdrew the scything concept but the Penalty argument still stands. Furthermore, Peter Lee said on December 30, 2007:

... So, I would think that mounted characters shouldn't be allowed to wield two-handed weapons without some significant penalty...

Damien Wise agreed that day, saying:

As for a Two-handed Sword -- the practicalities of balance and technique, I think, would make it a poor choice for use from horseback. But, having only sat on a horse _once_ in my life, you may argue freely with my views! ;)

Nirmalan DeSilva added:

With two handed swords, I thought the celts fought with two handed swords on horseback. Polearms were meant for foot soldiers, but I thought some were used on horseback as well. In my games, the only people able to use a two handed weapon from horseback are Knights* and Barbarians* anyway, and that includes missile weapons.

"Bigbluedog" Charles added another angle, in a discussion on two-handed swords, suggesting they be treated as simply as potent as a one-handed sword (that is, reduced potency):

They were also used from horseback, Talhoffer, describes their use and it seems that they were just used one handed (they're not much heavier than an arming sword). If that's the case I would just treat them as a sword and be done with it.

Missile Fire from Horseback

Those familiar with "cowboys and indians" movies of the 20th century will be well familiar with the Indians firing arrows from horseback. Kharille asked the question on Dragwars as to whether bows etc could be fired from horseback. Nirmalan DeSilva suggested (see above) only Knights* and Barbarians* could, but later retracted, saying:

As for shooting while riding, I think that will have to be a Skill of the Mighty*, or something that has to be specially learned. Even with a pre-loaded crossbow.

Chris Loh added on December 31, 2007:

Regarding the horseback shot, I feel that the "moving quickly" or "moving slowly" penalty should apply only if the target is moving appropriately. However I would give a circumstance penalty for shooting from an unstable ground. If the rider is shooting at a fast moving target, the penalty is cumulative.

In other words, the fact of being in horseback, in Loh's view, is simply a penalty factor for the missile shot. Kharille agreed, saying:

Not only is a charging Mongolian archer travelling at high speeds but also bumping up and down. I read on wiki that they timed themselves to release arrows at a certain time on the horses gallop. Should be another penalty for shooting from a non-stable platform whether that is a moving coach, chariot or horseback.

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