Horses in Combat

Horse Movement
The Move Rate of a horse is as follows:
Rouncy: 6
Courser: 9
Charger: 8
Destrier: 7

A horse can trot for double this amount, or gallop for triple.

Horse Damage Rating
4th ed. rulebook pg. 162 clarifies that the damage rating of a warhorse is understood in the context of a lance charge. The GM is to assign lesser ratings for attacks involving kicks, bites, etc. (although Stafford did not go into further details). With this in mind, the following damage ratings are used in the Huntington Campaign:
Rouncy – lance: 4d6; galloping bash: 3d6; trotting bash or kick: 2d6; walking bash: d6.
Courser – lance: 5d6; galloping bash: 4d6; trotting bash or kick: 3d6; walking bash: 2d6.
Charger – lance: 6d6; galloping bash: 5d6; trotting bash or kick: 4d6; walking bash: 3d6.
Destrier – lance: 8d6; galloping bash: 6d6; trotting bash or kick: 5d6; walking bash: 4d6.

Trampling Damage: A horse can trample someone whether walking, trotting or galloping. If a combat situation results in trampling damage, use the above indicated bash rating, but any rolled 1 is counted as a 2.

Armor of Horses
All horses have a natural armor rating (4 for a rouncy, 5 for a courser, charger or destrier). Moreover, the caparison that most warhorses wear is worth 1 pt. of protection.

Beginning in Phase 2, trappers (providing 5 armor points) are available for coursers and chargers. Note that a destrier could certainly wear one, but such mounts are not available until Phase 3. A trapper is a thicker version of a caparison and is too heavy for a rouncy.

Beginning in Phase 3, light barding is available for chargers and destriers (it is too heavy for smaller horses). It provides 8 points of protection.

Phase 4 introduces chainmail barding, which only destriers are strong enough to wear. It provides 10 points of armor, and is the best sort of protection available to horses in the Pendragon game.

Spooking a Horse via Damage
Being a tough, combat-trained animal, a warhorse is willing to ignore damage inflicted upon it, but only to a point. The rules governing this are a mount’s Damage Threshold (representing 1/3rd of its total HP) and it’s Major Wound score.

Rouncy – Damage Threshold: 13; Major Wound: 14
Courser – Damage Threshold: 15; Major Wound: 15
Charger – Damage Threshold: 15; Major Wound: 12
Destrier – Damage Threshold: 17; Major Wound: 10

A horse that takes a Major Wound is thereafter permanently ruined for combat (4th ed. rulebook pg. 228) and during the beginning of the next movement phase, it will automatically gallop away from what it perceives to be its biggest threat, regardless of the commands of its rider (i.e., no Horsemanship roll is made). Simply put, a Major Wound automatically spooks a horse due to the shock and pain from the power of such a blow.

If a horse takes damage that matches or exceeds its Damage Threshold (even if collectively during the course of a battle), then it is possible for the horse to be spooked (assuming that a Major Wound is not also involved, in which case the animal is automatically spooked). During the beginning of the movement phase of the following round, its inclination will be to immediately gallop away from what it perceives to be its most dangerous threat. The rider can keep the mount from doing this (ensuring that it continues to be mindful of its combat training) by making a Horsemanship roll, with the following results:

Critical Success: The horse will be mindful of its combat training for the rest of the battle at hand, resisting the urge to flee even if damaged further.
Success: The horse will be mindful of its combat training for the round at hand (and will not actually engage in any movement until the rider commands). Additional rounds spent in combat require such a Horsemanship check at the beginning of each of their movement phases.
Failure: The horse gallops away despite the commands of the rider.
Fumble: The horse immediately rears up, causing the rider to make a DEX check (not adjusted by armor) to keep from being thrown off. If thrown off, he makes a Horsemanship roll to land on his feet (otherwise he lands prone, taking d6 falling damage from which worn armor offers no protection). The horse then gallops away, heedless of its rider.

A rider who attempts to control a spooked horse expends an action doing so. Therefore, engaging in multiple actions results in a -5 / +5 reflexive modifier, although the -5 penalty is not applied to the Horsemanship roll. Basically, he is penalized for multi-tasking. For example, a knight who attempts to control his spooked horse while swinging his sword against a mounted opponent suffers a -5 penalty to his Sword skill, but not his Horsemanship skill. His opponent receives a +5 bonus against him.

Knockdown (i.e., Size) and DEX Scores of Horses:
Rouncy – Knockdown: 26, DEX: 10
Courser – Knockdown: 30, DEX: 25 (or 18 if vs. Set for Charge damage; see below)
Charger – Knockdown: 34, DEX: 17
Destrier – Knockdown: 42, DEX: 10

Turning a Horse
For a horse to gain its full allotment of squares when moving, it must be going forward (in a straight line, while also possibly veering off into left and/or right angles). If a horse is standing still or going its base Move Rate, it can rear up and launch itself into a 90 degrees right or left turn, but this counts as one square of movement. The horse can also rear up and wheel itself around, effectively making a 180 degrees turn, but this will count as 3 squares of movement. A horse can make such special maneuvers from a standing position, or at any time while walking, or at the beginning of a movement phase when it will next be trotting or galloping. In the latter case, naturally it is possible for a horse to wheel around and then launch into, say, a gallop, but it is not possible for it to already be galloping and then suddenly wheel around.

A horse can execute more than one special turning maneuver in the same round, provided that it has enough allotted squares of movement to cover the movement cost. If the movement cost cannot be met, the mount cannot execute the turn in question.

Backing up a Horse
Horses are trained to back up (i.e., walk backwards) but can only do so slowly and carefully. A horse can only back up while at walking speed (i.e., it cannot combine it with trotting or galloping forward in the same round). Each square that a horse walks backwards has a movement cost of one extra square. For example, whereas a charger can walk forward 8 squares, it can only back up 4. A horse moving backwards can also be commanded to turn but this maneuver in and of itself will have a movement cost of 2 squares (rather than the standard 1). There is no additional movement cost, however, if a horse is backing up and then commanded to wheel about (i.e., this particular maneuver will have the standard cost of 3 squares).

Height Advantage (4th edition pgs. 161)
A rider gains a +5 / -5 reflexive modifier against opponents on foot, unless the opponent is particularly tall (such as an ogre). Note that an opponent with a great spear or halberd has a +5 non-reflexive bonus against a mounted rider, which effectively cancels out the -5 penalty normally imposed upon people on foot. Nevertheless, a rider fighting an opponent with a great spear or halberd still has a +5 bonus from the height advantage.

Lance Charge (4th edition pgs. 162, 177)
The weapon of a lance charge is a spear, although the Lance skill (rather than Spear skill) is used. The rider holds the spear in the right hand while crossing it over the horse’s neck, allowing the knight to crouch behind his shield (4th ed. pg. 177). Once the lance charge is completed, the rider uses his Spear skill until he can initiate another charge.

In order to affect a lance charge, the horse must either trot or gallop, and go at least 10 squares in a straight line prior to impact. If the mount is specifically galloping (rather than trotting), the rider gains a special +5 lance charge bonus, in addition to any other bonuses. Note that the lance charge does not get the special +5 lance charge bonus vs. an opponent who is likewise lance charging him (at a gallop), or against an opponent wielding a great spear. He does, however, get this special bonus vs. an opponent with a halberd.

Movement after Lance Charge
After the issue of lance combat has been resolved, the horse must continue going in a straight line until it falls within the range of squares represented by its rate of movement. For example, let us say that a rider is on a charger (Move Rate of 8) and he has it gallop for a lance charge (i.e., 17 through 24 squares of movement). The horse has to travel at least 10 squares in a straight line in order to initiate the lance charge. If the distance between the lancer and his target was not greater than 10 squares, the horse must continue traveling in a straight line for at least 7 additional squares, but no more than 14 additional squares. Generally speaking, the rider determines where his horse will end its movement within the appropriate range. Note that all this assumes that open squares exist for the mount to move through; see below if it happens to be colliding into one or more people.

When Horses and People Collide
What happens if a knight advances his warhorse (either walking, trotting or galloping) into ranks of footmen? Unfortunately, the Pendragon rules do not address this. What Greg Stafford did instead was design “Battle System” (4th ed. rulebook, pg. 256 ff.), which covers mass combat in a broader sense rather than breaking it down into individual confrontations the way we have historically done in our Pendragon campaigns. Personally, I desire to keep using (and expand upon) our system because I think it is more enjoyable. After all, ours is the tantalizing combination of a board game and a RPG. Moreover, some of the most memorable Pendragon sessions of the past involved our system of mass combat (either during an actual battle or a tournament). With this in mind, I needed to craft rules for dealing with horses crashing into ranks of footmen.

In some tabletop wargames, there is a phenomena sometimes called “battlefield shift” in which a profound event causes counters / miniatures to be repositioned, although not as an aspect of their normal movement phase. This concept is now incorporated into the Huntington Campaign.

1) Rider Determines Attack Type, Movement, and Target: The rider decides if he is specifically using a lance charge or other form of attack. The movement rate and general path of his horse is determined. Note that a rider cannot attack the square directly in front of him (i.e., not enough reach over his horse’s head). If using a lance charge, the target will be passed on the left side of his mount (i.e., the spear is held in the right hand and steadied across the animal’s neck, also allowing the rider to crouch behind his shield). If using another weapon (including a spear that is not specifically being used for lance combat), the rider can strike an opponent on either side of his horse (but not directly to his rear).

2) Initial Combat Resolution: The combat between the rider and the initial opponent(s) of his attack is resolved in the usual manner. Note that the footman (or footmen) targeted by the rider will be passed by the horse, so there is no opportunity for the mount to crash into them.

3) Advancing Horse into other Footmen: The following rules are used for each footman in the path of the advancing horse.
a) The footman must make a Valor roll with the following adjustments based on the speed of the incoming horse: walking: +2; trotting: -2; galloping: -4. Moreover, a defender gets the following bonuses to his Valor (if applicable): armed with great spear or halberd: +2; trained as a knight, squire, heavy footman or heavy hobilar: +2. A failure or fumble indicates that the defender will attempt to Dodge. A success or critical success gives the defender the option of Set for Charge, Sidestep & Attack, or Dodge.

b) Set for Charge: This option can only be employed by defenders using polearms (which in Pendragon does not include normal spears, and is instead limited to great spears and halberds). The defenders get a single, unopposed attack on the incoming horse (they cannot divide attacks or use Double Feint). Note that three soldiers standing side-by-side can use the Set for Charge maneuver against the same horse if its point of contact is the middle defender. Moreover, great spears have a 2 sq. reach and any defender that can target the front square of the advancing horse can likewise use the Set for Charge maneuver against it. A footman who has already attacked this round (such as striking the rider) does not get to also use the Set for Charge maneuver.

If the total Set for Charge attacks collectively impact an advancing horse in an amount equal to or greater than its Knockdown score, the horse abruptly stops in its tracks. Note that such damage is calculated without taking off points for the mount’s armor. This abrupt halt to the animal’s advance stems from the resistance of the weapons stabbing it along with its decision to put on the breaks due to the immense pain and damage suffered. The horse must also make a DEX roll or be knocked down (note that a courser’s DEX in this regard is 18 rather than 25). In any event, the mount has no more movement that round (despite what was previously determined), and does not crash into any footmen. Moreover, the “Spooking a Horse via Damage” rules may also need to be consulted, depending on how much actual physical damage the animal took (through its armor).

To keep things simple (or relatively so), the Set for Charge option is only available to footmen with polearms on the front rank, and footmen with great spears on the second rank, against the initial impact between the horse and the front rank. If the horse plows through the first two ranks then footmen in the deeper ranks are allowed to attack it, but not specifically with a Set for Charge maneuver.

If the advancing horse is not stopped, then the footmen in its direct path may get bashed or trampled.

c) Sidestep & Attack: A footman (who makes his Valor roll, as per 3-a above) who is in the path of an advancing horse can elect to sidestep it and attack it. The footman makes a DEX roll adjusted by armor as follows: no penalty for normal clothing; -5 DEX for leather, cuirbolli or ring mail; -10 DEX for Norman chainmail or better. In fairness, and to keep things simple, this particular footman is not allowed to strike at the rider because the rider is not permitted to strike at him (due to the fact that the footman is technically in the square directly in front of the advancing horse, and therefore out of the rider’s reach).

If the footman makes a successful DEX roll, and he has not already attacked this round (as in the case of a Set for Charge maneuver), he is allowed to attack but penalized with a -5 / +5 reflexive modifier (due to the multi-tasking involved). Naturally, any other applicable modifiers are also used. A critical success, however, means that the -5 / +5 reflexive modifier (specifically due to multi-tasking) does not come into play.

If the footman fails his DEX roll then he is not permitted to attack and instead takes damage from being bashed by the horse, and is knocked down. If he fumbles his DEX roll then he is likewise not allowed to attack, and is trampled by the horse as well as knocked down. The defender is permitted a second DEX roll (this time not modified by armor) to see if his shield provides protection from bashing or trampling damage.

d) Dodge: (4th ed. rulebook pg. 155 ff.) In this case, the footman attempts to completely throw himself out of the way of the horse. He is allowed to do this even if he has already performed an action that round (as a Battleground Shift consideration), but, if he has not, the Dodge maneuver counts as his action (i.e., if he still had an attack coming to him, it is now forfeited). The footman makes a DEX roll adjusted by armor as follows: no penalty for normal clothing; -5 DEX for leather, cuirbolli or ring mail; -10 DEX for Norman chainmail or better.

A critical or successful DEX roll means that the defender avoided the horse and remains on his feet. He cannot be harmed by the advancing horse. A failed DEX roll means that the defender was bashed by the horse (taking the appropriate amount of damage) and has also been knocked down. A fumbled DEX roll means that the defender is knocked down and trampled by the horse. The defender is permitted a second DEX roll (this time not modified by armor) to see if his shield provides protection from bashing or trampling damage.

Rider Electing to Target Footmen in Deeper Ranks
It is possible for the rider of a horse to attack any of the footmen on either side of his horse, according to the path the horse will take that round. For example, he can elect not to target a footman on the front rank, but instead target one or more in the deeper ranks. Keep in mind that he cannot target defenders directly in front or directly to the rear of his mount (due to the limitations of reaching over the horse’s head or rump).

The rider must also be aware that it is possible for any footman he passes while plowing through their ranks to strike at him (assuming they have not already attacked that round).

First, plot the path of a horse through a group of footmen. At this point, do not actually place the horse beyond the footmen’s front rank, nor move any of the footmen on the battle map. Determine the outcome of the confrontation between each footman and the mount, according to the above “Procedure for Advancing a Horse into Footmen.”
a) If the horse does not end its round in the square of a particular footman, this footman will remain in the same square, and will be either standing or knocked down (as previously determined). This will be the case regardless of what sort of maneuver he did (i.e., Set for Charge, Sidestep & Attack, or Dodge).

b) If the horse ends its round in one or more squares occupied by footmen, then these footmen will be placed in open, adjacent squares (the GM will randomly determine, if needed). This is even the case if a person was knocked down by the horse. If all the adjacent squares are occupied then the GM will move them in order to make room for the horse in their midst. The repositioning of these persons is considered free movement on their behalf, and they will suffer no penalties from this either (such as the above mentioned multi-tasking reflexive modifier). After the counters of the footmen are repositioned properly on the battle map, the horse’s counter is placed in the appropriate squares.

Horses in Combat

The Huntington Campaign Celtic_Cleric