Guide to Mounted Archery

Postby benrady » Tue Mar 18, 2014 8:43 pm

Mounted archery is a surprisingly easy trick to pull off in Pathfinder. All you really need is a mount and bow. No special feats are required. The Ride skill is required but you don't need more than a few ranks to auto-succeed on the necessary checks. Best of all, mounted archery is not class specific. Any class capable of wielding a bow and riding a mount could do it. Classes that don't normally have access to a mount could take a level of Cavalier just to get one, for example.

First, the relevant rules, from Mounted Combat:

Your mount acts on your initiative count as you direct it. You move at its speed, but the mount uses its action to move.

With a DC 5 Ride check, you can guide your mount with your knees so as to use both hands to attack or defend yourself. This is a free action.

You can make a full attack with a ranged weapon while your mount is moving. Likewise, you can take move actions normally.
Spoiler: show
You can use ranged weapons while your mount is taking a double move, but at a –4 penalty on the attack roll. You can use ranged weapons while your mount is running (quadruple speed) at a –8 penalty. In either case, you make the attack roll when your mount has completed half its movement.

So as long as you don't direct your mount to double move or run, you can make a full attack while mounted at no penalty. You don't even have to roll initiative for your mount, it always goes on your turn. Spell casting is similarly unaffected as long as you only make a single move with your mount.

You can cast a spell normally if your mount moves up to a normal move (its speed) either before or after you cast.
Spoiler: show
If you have your mount move both before and after you cast a spell, then you're casting the spell while the mount is moving, and you have to make a concentration check due to the vigorous motion (DC 10 + spell level) or lose the spell. If the mount is running (quadruple speed), you can cast a spell when your mount has moved up to twice its speed, but your concentration check is more difficult due to the violent motion (DC 15 + spell level).

Here are some tips and caveats:
  • You can't use a longbow on a mount, but you can use a composite longbow (which you should really have anyway).
  • Your mount must be combat trained. You can do this yourself using Handle Animal, or take an Animal Companion that is already combat trained (like a Horse).
  • Animals have magic item slots too
  • You might be concerned about taking a mount (size: large) in a dungeon. Don't be. Ever used Enlarge Person in dungeon? It'll be fine.
  • You will need a bit of equipment for your mount. A bit and bridle, and a saddle (military is best) are needed. Saddlebags and barding can make nice additions.
  • If you mount gets frightened, you can dismount, or make a DC 20 ride check to control it. In my opinion, dismounting is usually the best option.
  • If you're still concerned about leaving your mount behind, take comfort in the fact that since it takes no special feats to do this, you'll be almost as effective on foot as you are when mounted.
  • Since you'll only be taking a single move action with your mount, consider what to do with the standard action. Total Defense isn't a bad option, but there might be better ones, depending on your situation.
  • Other uses of the Ride skill skill can be beneficial. For example, did you know that while mounted you can take cover as an immediate action?
  • If you want to do this with a ranger, I recommend Lastoths Guide to Archery Rangers.

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