June 7, 2017

Hold Your Horses - Chariot Rules

Hold your horses, ladies and gentlemen, because the PHB doesn't have any rules for chariots. In order to correct this grievous omission, the Digits of Vecna have come together, taken the reins and whipped up a proper set of charioteering rules. Hang on to your hats!

Ride Like an Egyptian

Although mounted combat is generally the easiest and most effective way to provide mobile support or devastating charges on the battlefield, there are some times when chariot-based forces are a better option. If you lack high-quality warhorses, for example, or if you don't have the skills for horseback archery.
     Chariots provide fast-moving fighting platforms that are suitable for a variety of purposes, including shock assault and heavy, ranged support. Most chariots bear two- or three-man crews, who will usually carry polearms or bows, though monstrous humanoids have been known to build giant chariots crewed by a single, massive warrior.

Rules for Charioteering

In D&D, chariots are best represented using the rules for ships: that is to say, the chariot itself has hit points and a damage threshold, as well a fixed speed and crew capacity.
     A table of chariots, organized by size, can be found on the Chariot Types table below; assume that all crew must be Small or Medium unless otherwise specified. A chariot's horses use the riding horse stat block and can be targeted individually. These chariot types are only typical examples for their size; well-crafted chariots are likely to cost more and have more hit points than similar chariots used in a gladiatorial arena. It is standard practice to bard chariot horses; the cost of this is not included in the table.
     The space that a chariot occupies is somewhat complex: it is made up of two conjoined areas, one for the horses and one for the car. The areas taken up by the two parts are given in feet in the chariot table (length x width); the car is always behind the horses in a central position as per the illustration below.

Chariot Types
TypeCostHPAC Damage

Light20025155552 (10x10)5x1011
Racing25020120604 (10x20)5x1010
Heavy250501310504 (10x20)10x1012
Monster5001001510403 (10x15)15x151 (can be
1 Large or
4 Medium
Dragoon10075105404 (10x20)25x10110

Chariot Movement
A chariot you are driving moves on your turn; a moving chariot with no driver moves straight ahead at half speed. You must use both of your hands to control the chariot; you cannot let go of the reins on a turn in which the chariot moves. If a chariot would crash into a solid obstacle, the vehicle takes 8d6 bludgeoning damage and each passenger, including the driver, takes 4d6 bludgeoning damage (DC 15 Dexterity save for half). You can use your action on you turn to make the chariot Dash but, if you do so, the chariot must move in a straight line for its entire movement. A chariot with one dead horse cannot dash and is limited to half of its normal speed. A chariot with more than one dead horse cannot move at all.
     Unlike creatures, chariots must face a particular direction when they begin or end moving. If you turn more than 90 degrees from your starting direction when you move, you must make a DC 15 Strength (Vehicles (Land)) check. On a failure, the chariot overturns and all its occupants are ejected into a random square within 10 feet of the chariot, falling prone and taking 2d6 bludgeoning damage (DC 15 Dexterity save for half).
     An overturned chariot can be righted as an action with a successful DC 15 Strength check.

Boarding or disembarking a chariot requires 15 feet of movement. Boarding a moving chariot requires a Strength (Athletics) check (DC equals 13 + 1 for every 5 feet the chariot moved in its last turn).

Trampling and Attacks
You can use your action while a chariot you are driving is moving to attempt to trample a Medium or smaller creature on the ground. To do so, you must move through the target's space, and each of the chariot's horses makes a melee attack against the target. These attacks have an attack bonus of +5 and deal 2d4 + 3 bludgeoning damage on a hit each. The target must make a DC 16 Strength saving throw, or be knocked prone. If the creature succeeds this saving throw by 10 or more, your movement stops and you are treated as if you collided with a solid obstacle.
     Melee attacks made from a moving chariot have advantage against targets on the ground. Passengers fighting from within a chariot are considered to occupy the entire space of the car; their reach begins at the edges of it.
     Ranged attacks made from a moving chariot that do not use thrown weapons have half their normal range, and have no changes to their long range.

Chariots with Other Mounts
A chariot need not be pulled by horses. Any large creature with a Strength of 16 or higher and a land speed of 50 feet or higher can pull a chariot. The type of creature does not affect the chariot's statistics, even if the beasts are slower than horses (horses cannot deploy their full sprint speed while tied to a chariot), if they have a stronger attack (the chariot harness prevents them from using it) or if they are more intelligent than horses (chained together and under the driver's whip, the creature can't utilize sophisticated plans or strategies).

New Feats
These feats are available to characters of all classes.

Drive-By Sniper
Years of practice have sharpened your balance and co-ordination, enabling you to hit targets reliably even when firing from a moving platform. You gain the following benefits:
  • Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
  • Ranged weapon attacks you make from a moving chariot do not have half their normal range.
  • Whenever you take the Dash action, you gain a +2 bonus to ranged weapon attacks you make until the end of your next turn. 
  • You can quickly switch out weapons, useful for striking on the run. When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can draw a ranged or thrown weapon, make one or more ranged weapon attacks using it, then stow that weapon and draw a melee weapon.

Wheels of Fire
Prerequisite: ability to cast at least one spell
You have combined the art of charioteering with your magical skills, gaining the following benefits:
  • While in a moving chariot, you have half-cover.
  • Ranged spell attacks you make from a moving chariot do not have half their normal range.
  • When you are casting a spell that does not require a saving throw, you can consider a chariot to be a creature. For example, you can target the chariot with the spells fly or haste.
  • When riding a chariot that you are not driving, you can use your reaction to cast a spell with a range of Touch on any valid target that the chariot passes within 5 feet of during its movement.

Changelog: 6/7/17: Chariot Movement: Crashing saving throws are now Dexterity
Boarding: DC is changed to equal 13 + movement speed/5
Trampling and Attacks: Ranged attacks no longer have disadvantage -- it's half normal range instead. Does not apply to thrown weapons
Feats: Drive-by-Sniper: Ranged weapons at full range
Feats: Wheels of Fire: Added


  1. Seems really cool. One rule is absurd though: The dc for boarding a moving chariot. An athletics check with dc 40 means the tarrasque wound need a natural 20. The dc should probably be 10+(feet travelled/5). Also, flying creatures or creatures with speed higher than the chariot should probably have advantage.

    1. The Tarrasque won't fit in a chariot. :P

      But also, boarding a fast-moving chariot *should* be near impossible - I want drivers to have to slow down if they're planning to pick up passengers.

      And flying creatures have advantage... isn't that a bit like landing an aeroplane on a carrier deck? i.e. very challenging? I don't necessarily mind making that change, but I'm yet to be convinced that it's *right*.

    2. As it is, you can just say "it is impossible to board a chariot moving over 30 ft per turn", even if you're a lvl 20 monk that can move potentially 180 feet per turn.
      Also, drivers should slow down to pick passengers, but enemies should have a fair chance to jump aboard in order to attack the crew, which is currently impossible.

      If you want the dc to be high, then 15+(feet travelled/5) could be ok (from 16, hard, to 27, nigh impossible). A dc of 60 is just not something you should see anywhere in 5th edition (or even at 3.5 before epic levels).

    3. I'm very much convinced by this -- I should have read more carefully into it in the first place. That being said, I think 13 + (feet traveled / 5) is probably more appropriate, for 14 for easy to 23 for hard.

    4. I'd have to recommend reducing the DC if you get a running start, since a lot of characters could outrun these chariots.

  2. Yes! Now I can finally make my siegeball arena chariot friendly.

    1. Next month on patreon, I'm absolutely including an option for the Siegeball Sourcebook. I'd really enjoy making that XD

    2. I'd really enjoy reading that XD

  3. Why is the saving throw for reducing damage from a crash constitution? Con saves are usually to resist poisons or diseases. Dex or Str both would fit better. Dex is for dodging and Str is for being forced to move.

    1. It's Con because it's about toughing it out, resisting the G forces and having bones that don't break in the crash. You can't dodge a chariot crash and it's not trying to restrain you, so it can't really be Str or Dex.

    2. Walls that fall on you and giant rolling stone traps use str or dex. Also, there's a big difference between falling hard on you legs and crashing on your head (hence dex seems to make sense).
      Doesn't seem like a very important point, though.

    3. I still agree with a DEX save as apposed to the CON.

      Alternatively, don't white dragons breath cone have CON saves?

    4. I could go either way on this one -- The Nail's logic relies on thinking about this like a car crash: you're going to take the damage, it's just a matter of toughing it out. That being said, I don't know if there's a good argument to be made for toughing it out actually /reducing/ the damage. That might very well be Dex, as you quickly position yourself to avoid the brunt of the damage from the crash.

  4. Couple things:

    1) Seems historically inaccurate to penalize ranged attacks from chariots since in warfare that's what they were primarily used for. Seems especially odd since there is no penalty for ranged attacks from horseback in the standard rules and horses jostle the rider more on horseback than in a chariot, but idk if you were looking for a way to balance out the advantage on melee attacks.

    2) Why give melee attacks advantage? If it's a case of having the high ground or moving with enough speed to make it easier, it seems like the standard riding rules should also give advantage. I get that there should be some sort of actual benefit to being in a chariot, but wouldn't it make more sense to give the driver/occupants cover?

    3) Just curious about the movement bit. Does it cost any action to control the chariot? Does it move as your movement action? Can you still attack with two-handed weapons while driving the chariot? Is there some sort of penalty or benefit for holding the reins in 1 or 2 hands?

    1. 1) I researched this. In real world history, chariots would drive up, stop, fire, pull back, stop, fire, rinse, repeat. You'll note that the disadvantage only applies to *moving* chariots.

      And it annoys me how easy horse-archery is in D&D. In real life, it's an incredibly difficult skill to master.

      2. Pretty much what you said. And mounted fighters *do* have advantage against foot soldiers if they take the feat (and I've never seen anyone build a cavalryman without the feat).

      I think I *did* originally have the chariots providing cover. I don't why I took that out... or maybe I didn't and it was something the Finger changed when he formatted it.

      3. It moves as if it were your movement; you can use an action to dash. My intention was that you *need* both hands to control the chariot, but it looks like I didn't spell that out...

    2. 1) Ah, okay, makes sense. Yeah, I'd love to see alternative rules for mounted combat. I've been toying around with mass combat and it's annoying that there is no real mechanical advantage to use a polearm against cavalry...

      2) Then maybe make the advantage into a feat as well? It just seems clearly better to use a chariot over a mount if you have the means to do so.

      3) okay, was just checking. I know with the mounted combat they don't penalize riding without hands (for some inexplicable reason...)

    3. I was planning to add some feats to this... I have one for mages called Wheels of Fire that we haven't quite agreed on yet. I suppose the melee advantage could be made into one too, though I'm not sure what else such a feat would do.

    4. Being able to use the chariot for cover could also be part of the feat (or maybe improving from 1/2 to 3/4 if you plan to include cover anyway).

    5. maybe hurt add an addendum to charger to make it apply to chariots?

    6. Historically, it was a driver and an archer. Archery via horse back is an easy skill to master compared to the many other skills in D&D such as magic, stealth, taming beasts. Penalizing it due to a bias or even to "it's hard to do IRL" sounds in bad spirit. All the time my characters do things that test the foundation of what is real and possible so why do we draw the line at chariot archery? Additionally, we have Marines who can snipe people on rough open sea water rocking up and down many feet at a time. So it is totally within the realm of realistic.

      Additionally, to make this not a complete hassle on this topic I would like to thank you for writing it and praise the hand for third diligent work every week. I still greatly enjoy your picture and your Tumblr.

    7. Another thought is, why is it so much to hit a wall but much less when you hit a creature with the trample attack? Is that intentionally separate?

    8. I want to pop in and make it clear that I'm happy with rethinking the idea of disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks from chariots. I /do/ think that advantage on melee weapon attacks is the right move (even though this diverges from typical mounted combat rules -- this makes sense to me), and I also think that something should be done to ranged attacks to balance that out.

      I might be happy with simply reducing the normal range of ranged weapons by half while in a moving chariot.

  5. Wish you guys would go back through some of your older content and either rework or remove some of it.

    1. We do swing by and rework choice bits from time to time especially if we get comments on it, but removing a lot of our older content is out of the question. Even the classes I don't think hold up at all (the Hulk, for example, which wasn't even written by someone with the blog today, and has a lot of balance issues) are still being actively played by some people, and it'd be a disservice to remove them.

      It really comes down to priorities. I only have a finite amount of time to post things on a given week, and I have to choose between making new stuff and reposting fixed older stuff. For the most part, I think people want the former.

    2. Even with two new digits, there is still a lot of work that goes into a dnd blog. I'm just glad you guys manage to keep this place running smoothly. Respect.

    3. Mhm. It's tough to go back and re-work old stuff (aside from potentially causing problems for anyone who's still using it), because it really has to come from the original writer, which means the newer digits can't contribute.

      It can also be hard to remember what you were thinking when you look at stuff from years ago, so you can't really get back into that mindset to fix it. The better thing to do is delete it all and start again but, if we're writing from scratch, we may as well be doing it for new content.