Monday, November 26, 2012

This, That, and the Other Thing: A Horse is a Horse

Horses don’t get a lot of attention in role-playing games. They’re big, characters ride them around and they often get devoured by beasties. Nevertheless, I think that defining a horse’s personality can add a bit of flavor to a campaign. If your game features exotic mounts, like griffons, the entries can still be applied. If you are writing stat blocks for mounts, the descriptions below might hint at skills, feats, advantages or disadvantages that can be assigned.

1) Amber
     People wearing cloaks, capes and other loose clothing should not stand too close. This horse has developed a taste for cloth and will begin munching on any clothing it can reach. Attempting to pull a garment from the horse’s mouth results in a humorous tug of war. Characters with magical cloaks should be careful around Amber... 
2) Zeus
     This stallion is fearless in battle. He will charge into a line of pikes and trample foes with zeal. However, children annoy him to no end. Whenever children (or halflings) come near, the stallion grows agitated and requires a great deal of soothing to calm down. If a child persists in its efforts to pet Zeus, he will bare his teeth in a menacing fashion. 
 3) Ruth
     This mare spent the early part of her life pulling wagons for a cruel master. She still recalls the painful whip and back-breaking loads. Whenever a wagon or cart comes near, the mare will kick and rear. She will bite anyone who attempts to harness her to a wagon. 
4) Myst
     This mare is very affectionate. She is a terrible flirt and tends to prance and strut whenever males are around. Men who ignore her attention-getting behavior are shunned and will not be allowed to mount unless they pat her on the neck or give her a carrot. Myst does not perform as well for female riders, resulting in penalties to riding skill checks. 
5) Delilah
     This mare requires a great deal of attention. After being brushed, she will roll in the dirt (or her own filth) so that her owner will have to groom her again. Sometimes she even pretends to be lame in order to have her leg massaged. If this behavior is indulged, then her owner will enjoy a faithful, loyal friend. 
 6) Sampson
     This stallion does not get along with other horses. He bites and kicks at any horse that is placed in the same stable. Moreover, very few stable hands will work with him due to his aggressive nature. This behavior is also carried onto the battlefield, where he is especially adept at trample attacks.


  1. Cool. You're right, horses don't get the attention they ought to. But where would the Lone Ranger (the masked Western guy, not the ranger my cousin played in AD&D when we were kids who was named "The Lone Ranger") without Silver or Zorro without Tornado?

    1. I can only imagine what horses in the wild lands around the city are like!

  2. It's one of my ongoing GM goals to get better about making PCs' horses into something more than a motorcycle that poops. They really should be played with as much personality as bipedal NPC companions. Trouble is, I'm usually putting all my effort into making sure said bipedal NPCs don't fade into the background, let alone the horses!

    1. I've been reading the Two Towers and was really struck by the reverence the Riders of Rohan have for their horses. Like you, I am trying to figure out how to bring that passion to the game table, even if it's in minute ammounts.

    2. Thinking about the Riders of Rohan, I'm thinking one could just channel the American love affair with the car. Think about your typical car nut--and then imagine how they'd relate to their car if the car were capable of recipricating their attention with intelligence and non-verbal communication!

      Speaking of LotR, I always enjoyed the arc in Fellowship with Bill the Pony. He's as much a part of the group as anyone else, and one feels genuine concern for him when he's turned loose to an uncertain fate.

      My wife's a great lover of horses, and this has come through in our Pendragon games with her asking about her horses' coats and appearance and giving her chargers names. The next step is integrating some personality into the "NPC horses."

    3. I liked when Tolkien wrote that as the company departed Bree under very desperate circumstances, Bill was the only happy member of the troupe and he remained that way until their parting. :)