Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Horsing Around

Today I'm going to talk about horses a little. There's a reason I started posting them among the first "common monsters" players should be familiar with, and I'll get to that. I also want to point out how they will differ from horses in Basic Set, and which version the players should expect to encounter (take a wild guess).

Potentially a fair part of this megadungeon will potentially be traveling to and from town, and if the players choose to take land routes, mounts will be a huge help in saving time, hauling loot, and avoiding random encounters. But horses aren't really monsters, are they? No, but they are NPCs - not the brightest or least predictable NPCs, but still NPCs. They're also not human. And if a bear or a tiger or a boar might be a monster, I can't make a split for animals. And if a Pegasus or griffin can be a mount, I can't make an exception for mounts. So the easiest thing to do is put all animals in with monsters.

Ok, so why am I bothering to post stats for horses, though? I mean, they aren't monster-monsters. They're just there because they need a place to be put, right? Well, horses are very player-facing. That means they will have even more people needing to know their stats. After all, players can't decide if they want a horse if they don't know what to expect from a horse. So horses need detailed stat blocks that are accessible to the players. Why haven't I posted stats for oxen, too? Because I've only posted two monsters so far. Yeesh. Give me a chance! . . . freakin' slavedrivers . . .

Anyway, let's talk a little about how they will differ from those in Basic Set. The ones described in p. B459-460 have very minimal stat blocks. They don't have much in way of traits for senses or behavior (horses are easily spooked and destriers were reknowned for being mean spirited). The pricing for some of them is also far too low as compared to historical sources ($5,000 for a warhorse?!). Thankfully, there is this old sample Pyramid article called Horse Sense by S.E. Motimer. I won't repeat everything from it here, but it does lay out much better pricing for horses. It also gets into their care, which I am looking into streamlining in each horse's description as a flat upkeep cost. Lastly, I'm including statistics on eating horses, since I want every players to have every possible option at their disposal. Of course, as expensive as horses are, eating them tends to be a last resort.

So why make horses more expensive? Will this discourage players from using horses? Maybe, but let's be a little more specific about how they are increasing in price. The lower-cost horses won't really see a change. These are peasant horses and will be just as available as always. Their upkeep costs will be listed - price and weight of feed, typical stabling costs in town, typical cost to hire a groom (who can tend up to 4 horses if working full time). The horses that see an increase in pricing are warhorses. These go from $5,000 to $80,000 to $100,000, doubled if blooded. The horses also require professional grooms and good stabling, tripling both prices. On top of all of that, these are big horses that eat a lot. Do I think players will buy these? Not really, but I don't think they'd buy a cheap warhorse either. Horses don't fit in dungeons.

So why bother giving them stats at all? To provide options. If you've been reading this blog this summer, you should know by now that I'm all about making sure the players have choices and letting them decide. If they want a destrier to pull their wagon, they can shill out for one. It might not be the wisest purchase, but that's what they want. Also, as players get more and more loot, they will need things to spend it on. Riding around on a warhorse is a status symbol as much as anything. Maybe someone will want that. I don't know, but I'm not going to tie their hands just because I don't see it happening.

How do your players use horses in your games? Do they take them in the dungeon somehow? How do you handle feeding and care of mounts and draft animals? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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