The ground quakes beneath iron-shod hooves. Gleaming plate armor glints in the morning sunlight. A knight astride a mighty warhorse thunders toward the enemy, couched lance aimed squarely at a foe's chest. This iconic image encapsulates the warhorse's sheer power harnessed for warfare throughout history. In Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the warhorse lives on as a formidable companion for knights, paladins, cavaliers and more. This comprehensive guide delves into everything you need to know to unleash the warhorse's potential at your D&D table.
Our journey begins by exploring the warhorse's origins and status as an icon of mounted knights and warriors.
We then break down the 5e warhorse's statistics and abilities, from its imposing size and bone-crushing hooves to its battlefield mobility. You'll learn effective tactics for cavalry charges, withdrawing, and integrating class features. We'll also cover logistics like costs, care and transportation. And we'll highlight alternative mount options and how to adapt your tactics accordingly.
When the dust settles, you'll have all the insights, tips and tricks you need to bring the warhorse roaring to life in your 5e games. The path ahead promises pulse-pounding adventure. Now gather the reins, steel your courage, and we'll gallop into the fray side by side!
The Iconic Warhorse
Before we delve into 5e game mechanics, it helps to understand the warhorse's heritage. Brave knights charging into battle upon mighty steeds are an indelible part of our collective imagination. But where did this iconic image originate?
History and Origins
Cavalry has played an indispensable role in warfare for millennia. As early as 4000 BCE, the nomadic Scythians of Central Asia bred the first horses strong enough to bear armored riders into combat. Later civilizations like the Parthians perfected archery tactics from horseback. But it was the European knights of the Middle Ages who forged the enduring ideal of the chivalric warrior upon his noble warhorse.
Through extensive breeding programs, Medieval knights produced bigger, stronger destriers to bear their heavy armor. Training focused on aggression and stamina under the pressures of battle. While early knights rode into combat upon regular riding horses, specialized warhorses emerged to meet the demands of shock cavalry tactics perfected during this era. Their bulk, power and fearlessness made them the tanks of the ancient battlefield.
D&D Lore and Flavor
Unsurprisingly, the warhorse features prominently in D&D lore and tropes. The paladin's special bond with their mystical mount captures the knightly ideal. Other classes like the cavalier leverage the warhorse's mobility and vicious hooves as well.
Warhorses have appeared in D&D editions ranging from the 1974 original game to 5th edition today. They are woven into many campaign settings like Forgotten Realms. D&D warhorses exhibit variation beyond the standard breed, including celestial chargers and sinister nightmares. But all share an imposing presence and power that dominates the battlefield.
With an understanding of the warhorse's history, let's break down how this icon is brought to life mechanically in D&D 5th edition.
Warhorse 5e Statistics and Abilities
The 5e warhorse has a robust statblock befitting its size, strength and rigorous training. Let's analyze how its attributes, attacks and other abilities translate into concrete benefits for riders.
Size, Type and Alignment
The warhorse is a Large beast with unaligned alignment. As a Large mount, Small and Medium humanoids can ride it without difficulty. Its beast typing means it lacks higher intelligence or an innate moral compass. Any ethical rider must take care to guide their warhorse justly.
With 18 Strength, the warhorse possesses incredible brawn to bear armored riders and crash into enemies. Its 12 Dexterity provides deftness to avoid blows. A Constitution of 13 grants acceptable endurance, on par with CR 1/2 beasts. Its Intelligence and Wisdom are average for a beast, while a 7 Charisma reflects its fierce but obedient temperament.
Movement and Mobility
The warhorse has a walking speed of 60 feet. This enables it to nimbly maneuver the battlefield while outpacing dismounted foes. Using its action to Dash doubles this speed to 120 feet on a rider's turn. This mobility facilitates hit-and-run tactics, allowing the rider to close within melee range, make an attack, and withdraw again before foes can strike back.
For comparison, the riding horse has only 50 feet of speed. Slower mounts like camels would fare far worse in fast-paced skirmishes. The warhorse's speed is a significant tactical asset. A smart rider exploits this mobility to control the terms of engagement.
Attacks and Damage
The warhorse attacks with dangerous hooves. Each hoof strike hits at +6 to hit, dealing a crushing 2d6+4 (11) bludgeoning damage on average. This hard-hitting attack exceeds what most beasts can unleash.
But the warhorse's true power lies in its Trampling Charge. After moving 20 feet straight toward a target, its hoof attack knocks the target prone on a failed DC 14 Strength saving throw. Once prone, the warhorse can use a bonus action to make another devastating hoof attack against the hapless foe.
By positioning properly, a rider can Charge into melee range and make their own attack with advantage against the prone target. This brutal barrage of blows leverages the warhorse's speed and devastating hooves to overwhelm foes.
Defenses and Resistances
The warhorse has an Armor Class of 11 and 19 hit points, typical for a CR 1/2 creature. This is not overly durable, but decent for a mount.
Barding can boost AC at additional cost. The Mounted Combatant feat allows redirecting attacks to the rider. Abilities like Shield of Faith spell help protect the steed. With some investment, the warhorse can withstand blows in battle.
Magical barding providing resistance is ideal. Otherwise, the warhorse lacks damage resistances or other defensive abilities. Keeping it alive against AoEs and ranged attacks requires clever tactics by its rider.
Action Economy Benefits
A rider can control their warhorse, sharing its initiative count. This allows directing the warhorse to Dash, Disengage or Dodge without using the rider's action. So the rider remains free to make their full complement of attacks, cast spells, use potions or other actions. Essentially controlling the mount grants additional “free” movement and defensive actions each turn.
An independent warhorse acts on its own initiative, but can still take readied actions and respond to commands. This provides flexibility at the cost of finely coordinating actions with the rider. Either approach produces action economy benefits.
Effective Tactics and Strategies
We've covered the warhorse's attributes and abilities. Now let's dive into proven tactics to maximize its impact in your D&D games.
Charging and Withdrawing
The warhorse's Trampling Charge delivers a powerful opening attack. But careless charges also provoke opportunity attacks once in melee range. The rider must gauge when best to Charge versus cautiously advancing.
Against lone, dangerous foes like enemy knights, Charging may be unwise. But against hordes of lower-CR enemies, it devastates. Withdrawing before surrounding foes can retaliate is also key.
The rider's actions matter, too. Charging and using Divine Smite as a paladin multiplies damage. But withdrawing prevents enemies from swarming the warhorse next turn. Analyze each battlefield to determine optimal Charge timing and retreats.
Class features that boost accuracy or damage benefit warhorse charges. Spells like Bless improve rider attack rolls. Paladin smites or the cavalier's Ferocious Charger ability increase damage.
AoE spells like Entangle can neutralize groups before Charging through them. Guiding Bolt helps land the initial Trampling Charge. Combine the rider's abilities judiciously with warhorse Charges to annihilate foes.
While hardy for a beast, the warhorse is far from invulnerable. Mages and enemy cavalry are lethal threats. Use range, cover and mobility to avoid exposures to damage.
Treat AoEs with extreme caution. Hit a clustered enemy from range rather than Charging into their midst if they wield Fireball.
With 19 hit points, fallen riders, and failed saves, even a few attacks can quickly slay an unprotected warhorse. Use its mobility judiciously and keep foes off balance. A living warhorse is a devastating weapon – a dead one just a liability.
Alternative Mounts and Tactics
While potent, the warhorse is not always the optimal mount. Different situations warrant different steeds. Small dungeon corridors may preclude a Large mount entirely.
Flying creatures excel in open spaces but falter in confined dungeons. Aquatic mounts like hippocampi dominate underwater but are useless on land. Assess each environment and adventure to select the ideal steed.
Spells like Find Steed and Find Greater Steed summon mounts temporarily, while Figurines of Wondrous Power produce mounts lasting hours at a time. Consider the duration and availability of conjured mounts – a summoned steed unavailable when needed does you no good.
While slower, more expeditions rely on overland travel than combat. Horses fare better than warhorses in this role given lower costs and maintenance needs. Evaluate the split between conflict and exploration when selecting mounts.
Some magical mounts like griffons or nightmares possess additional abilities like flight or damage resistance. But acquiring such exceptional steeds may require quests or bargaining with powerful factions. Weigh investment costs against mission needs when deciding which extraordinary mount to pursue.
At the end of the day, the humbler warhorse remains an excellent option for Cavaliers and Paladins heading into battle. Its availability, mobility and vicious Trampling Charge provide a balanced combination of utility and combat power. Not every adventure requires an exotic, mythic steed – the stalwart warhorse more than pulls its weight.
Care, Handling and Logistics
While a powerful ally, warhorses demand significant upkeep. Costs go beyond just initial purchase to encompass care, feeding and transportation.
Acquiring and Costs
At 400gp, the warhorse costs ten times more than common riding horses. This premium reflects intensive breeding and training. Make sure to bargain or use Persuasion to negotiate the fairest price when buying a warhorse.
Costs continue even after purchase. Barding armors the warhorse but quadruples standard armor prices. Full plate barding runs an eye-watering 6,000 gp. Prioritize quality over opulence when selecting barding to avoid wasting coin.
Feeding, Grooming and Stabling
Warhorses are not low-maintenance pets. They require over 20 lbs of feed and 10 gallons of water daily. They must be groomed daily and secured in safe accommodations when resting.
In settled areas with access to stables, costs are manageable. But expenses accumulate rapidly when traveling roads, camps and dungeons far from infrastructure. Stocking weeks worth of feed bags in your inventory strains even the heartiest pack mule.
Hiring hostlers in villages to care for warhorses while adventuring or planning supply lines for longer expeditions is crucial. Neglected warhorses grow sickly and weak, transforming from a mighty steed into a burden.
Transport and Dungeoneering
Getting a 1,500 lb warhorse and its barding down twisting dungeon corridors poses challenges. Warhorses are best utilized above ground, not below.
When exploring ruins and catacombs, the wise adventurer leaves their warhorse in a secured camp or settlement nearby whenever possible. Hiring a trustworthy hostler to care for your mount avoids returning to find it stolen or slain.
Quests through portions of dungeons with massive chambers or high ceilings may justify bringing along the warhorse temporarily. But plan your routes carefully and keep ample feed on hand.
On ships, space constraints limit warhorse usage as well. Transport enough feed for the journey's duration and keep your warhorse secured but content in its assigned stall.
While limitation exist, thoughtful planning reduces headaches. With care and foresight, even rugged adventures often find moments to unleash their warhorse against worthy foes.
The rumbling hooves of the warhorse have trampled battlefields for eons and its legacy thunders on today. Within D&D 5e, the warhorse fulfills its ageless role as a steel-wrapped battering ram, granting knights and cavaliers the mobility and power to shatter foes.
This guide has detailed how to unlock the warhorse's potential as an ally. From leveraging its abilities to careful logistics, you now have the insights needed to ably ride these magnificent beasts into your adventures. Though other mounts possess unique strengths, the warhorse remains an icon for good reason.
Yet comprehending game statistics, costs and tactics only reveals part of the warhorse's appeal. These noble creatures can bond profoundly with their riders, their teamwork speaking to the depths of camaraderie. The true magic of the warhorse is not in its rules, but in stirring tales of their courage and sacrifice.
So go now, not just as a master of rules, but as a steward. Bring to life warhorses like Bucephalus, Rocinante and Shadowfax – steadfast companions destined for great things. Let their hoofbeats thunder once more!