In 1993, TSR published edition #191 of Dragon Magazine. In it was a variety of fantastic articles on Dungeons and Dragons, as well as various other tabletop games that you might have liked to play at the time. You might like to play them today, too, if you can find a copy somewhere.
Among lore and monsters for the Forgotten Realms, Graehawk, and African-inspired homebrew games, sections of new fiction, and reviews of several books, games, and game supplies, is an article entitled Horses Are People, Too, written by Gordon Menzies. You can read the entirety of the article here: Dragon Magazine : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
The Ideas and Content of Horses Are People, Too
It’s not hard to guess the subject of this article – horses! Mounts are an essential part of most D&D games – unless you intend to stay in one city the entire time, walking from place to place gets slow and tedious, and puts you at risk of a great deal more encounters. But players often don’t give much thought to the creatures that they ride.
Menzies’ article seeks to remedy that by discussing almost everything you might want to know about a recently obtained horse. What do they look like? How fast do they move? How much can they carry? Can they perform maneuvers? And if so, how do I train them to do certain ones? How do I care for the horse properly?
Plus, there are a whopping 14 tables provided by the article to generate a randomized horse for you or your players, and tell you exactly what such a horse would be capable of! You can either pick-and-choose from the options that it provides, or pick up your dice and roll up a mount just for you.
Is the Article Still Relevant?
Yes, this article is absolutely still relevant for current players.
In fact, it’s almost more relevant than it was when it was first published. The amount of coin typically given to players has gone up somewhat, as characters are expected to embody higher and higher amounts of power, magic, and ability right off the bat in each edition. So not only are your players more likely to start traveling sooner, but they’re also probably going to have the funds to buy a horse a lot sooner, too. Which, in turn, means that you’re going to get more use out of information about mounts and horses. And that’s just the relevance for the players!
For DMs, the information and tables about traits and tricks transform a simple mode of transformation into a type of treasure/reward to give your players. An adventure in the wild could result in finding a wild horse with a great intelligence, defeating bandits could allow you to steal the leader’s well-trained steed, or serving a god of animals might bless you with a beautiful and able horse in return. Give them a bit of description and personality of their own, and your players may even come to adopt their new animal as a new friend!
How to Use this Content in A Current Campaign
You can use pretty much all of the content of this article in a current campaign.
Rolling Up a Horse
You can use the tables exactly as they’re given in the article to roll yourself a randomized horse. The average heights, sizes, and markings of horses haven’t really changed in the interim between publishing and today, so there isn’t much change to be made!
And if you want to describe your horse, but you aren’t looking to get into the details of carrying weight, feed needed, or game-impacting characteristics, you can simply roll up a quick physical description. There are handy explanations as to what each entry means, too, for readers who aren’t already familiar with the terminology of horse colors and markings.
Teaching Tricks and Adding Traits
Adding one or two traits onto any horse that you roll is simple. You can just roll on the given table, and mark them down. You might (or your DM might ask you to) roll a few animal handling checks to avoid the consequences of negative traits, but those can be useful in roleplay, too. They can certainly keep your mounts from being stolen!
If your horse knows a trick, or if you want to teach your horse a trick, you can choose from the given list or make a roll on it. Additionally, you can look through some of the 3/3.5e materials, which have some lists of potential skills and tricks for animal companions and mounts.
The article also gives a few rules and timelines for teaching a trick to your mount. You take 1d4 weeks and spend 25 gold for each week (unless you’re taking the time to teach it yourself), then make an Animal Handing check to see if the training works. The rules given for training a trick are pretty unforgiving – if you miss a single day of training, you automatically fail. But simply breaking in a wild horse is a little bit easier, and some of these traits are so useful that I’d definitely say it’s worth it!
Care and Feeding
Caring for horses is an aspect that often gets a little bit overlooked by DnD players. They get used to go from one place to another, get stabled in cities, and generally forgotten about when they aren’t actively being ridden.
But your horses can be a compelling motivator for survival and travel in your games. Horses need a great deal more food and water than your player character, almost without exception. And a horse that doesn’t get it will suffer and die. Keeping this in mind, and reminding your players of what their horses need, is a clever way to guide them in the direction of interesting encounters and information, as they have to go out of their way to find sources of food and water. And they won’t be the only ones looking for these sources – everyone who travel on horseback requires them, so there’s no telling who they’ll meet, or what they’ll find as they struggle to keep their animals alive.
How detailed do you get with your horses in DnD? Do you use them as rewards, plot advancers, or just as cute furry friends for your party? Let us know in the comments below!