One word: "shishkabob" (System: D&D 3.5)
Strength is important to Lancers because of its role in combat; since the lance is their primary weapon, strength is needed to be effective after dismounting. Constitution is also needed in order to survive long enough to close with and engage enemies. Alternatively, a Lancer who opts to wear lighter armor should focus more on Dexterity; but Charisma and Dexterity are both especially useful to a Lancer as they try to spend better than half their combat time in the saddle. Wisdom and Intelligence are also useful, but the only truly required skill is the Ride skill.
Given the Elite Array the best Lancers would have ability scores Str: 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12; light Lancers would have their strength and dexterity scores switched.
The ability sets for barbarians and fighters synergize very well with this path, and those of paladins and rangers also synergize well. Clerics, monks, druids, and even sorcerers tend to prefer ability sets that are not too out of line with this path; but the ability sets preferred by bards, rogues, and wizards can actually interfere with this path.
- Handle Animal (except Paladins beyond 5th level)
- Ride +15 to checks
- Martial Weapon Proficiency [Lance]
|Requirements by Class (standard PHB)|
Overall, fighers, barbarians, and paladins are the best suited to this path. Fighters are the martial specialists here, and their feat access means they practically define the role. Barbarians trade out feat access for a powerful rage ability that provides them with the benefits of several feats (Focus, Specialization, Iron Will, etc.), and they can move quite fast on foot if need be. Paladins get access to spells and even a special mount that can easily make up for losing a few feats and they can smite an evil foe on top of a charge; when it comes to single-target, one-shot damage, there are few if any who can outmatch the paladin.
Druids are mildly handicapped here since they know how to ride and handle animals, and their Wild Empathy class feature can really help in controlling a mount. They even can get a heavy horse as their starting animal companion, which of course they can train to be warhorses; later on they can get buffalo, bear, dire wolf, tiger, elephant, and even dinosaur mounts. Druids also have a number of spells that may boost their effectiveness as lancers. However, druids are not proficient with the lance, and they effectively sacrifice their Wild Shape ability until they can take elemental forms since animals are not capable of riding a mount (as per the skill) or bearing a lance. Druids can still Wild Shape at lower levels, but they cannot joust while in animal form.
Clerics, monks, and sorcerers all have a strong disadvantage in pursuing this path. Clerics may seem to be the least deficient here since they are proficient with heavy armor, and even have a number of spells that can enhance combat effectiveness, but they lack all of the critical skills for the path. Monks are defined by their unarmed combat prowess, and taking up the lance effectively negates this core aspect of that class; furthermore, they lack the proper skills and lose all of their inherent abilities if they wear armor of any kind. Sorcerers have extremely low class hit points, and need to put their charisma first in order to make up for their deficiencies in the standard domain by casting enough of the right spells.
Bards, rogues, and wizards are all severely handicapped when it comes to this class. All of them lack the proper skills (except possibly a wizard or bard who casts the appropriate spells). All of them must focus on tertiary abilities and skills before they undertake those necessary for this path. They all must sacrifice major features while jousting (a wizard could theoretically spend several rounds preparing to joust, but most circumstances will not permit). Basically, they all lack the right things, and all focus on the wrong things for this path; that’s not to say it’s impossible to pull off, just very difficult; in fact, none of these classes will begin as a lancer; at least, not a very good one. Even when one of these classes gets to the point of moderate proficiency, they will be sorely outclassed by those of other classes who did likewise and are of comparable level. However, a wizard who devotes himself to this path (and survives), can eventually match or even exceed non-spellcasters of comparable level in this path (being able to turn yourself into a ghostly dragon goes a long way).
Humans, half-elves, elves, dwarves, and half-orcs, suffer no mechanical setbacks to this class, except the dwarven and orcish penalties to charisma. Elves will feel a bit awkward unless they go the route of a light Lancer (Dex based). However, dwarves, half-orcs, and possibly even half-elves will likely face social, cultural, and other world-based barriers to becoming, and being accepted as, the genuine article. The path of a Lancer is utterly foreign to most elven situations. Halflings, and gnomes both suffer racial penalties to strength, and their size reduces the damage from their lances; they also require smaller mounts (it’s typically harder for them to control large mounts). However, there is a caste of dinosaur-riding halflings in the Eberron Setting. Humans may be the best suited to the path, since their bonus feat and skill (which can’t be lost due to low intelligence) allow them to specialize in whatever path they choose.
The Lancer should begin by focusing his skill points into Ride, and Handle Animal, after choosing any skills demanded by the particular class (such as Spellcraft, Perform, Survival, Concentration, Knowledge, Decipher Script, etc.) Note that classes such as the fighter, paladin, and barbarian do not have any skills that are truly required to be successful in their class, except that paladins are encouraged to focus in the Ride skill anyway. Wizards on the other extreme, are required to focus in 3 prior skills just to discover and advance their spellcasting abilities (which are their route to this path) and then must take Concentration so that they don’t lose it all when they get hit. Thankfully wizards usually have high enough Intelligence scores that they can handle most of those skills, and don’t actually need to make Handle Animal checks if they summon magical mounts such as Phantom Steed. After achieving a satisfactory rank in the primary skills, a Lancer can branch out into any skills that will enhance their combat performance, preferably from horseback, but balance, jump, listen, profession are all good choices. Class skills should be selected sooner.
1st: Mounted Combat; 3rd: Weapon Focus [Lance]; 6th: Ride-By Attack; 9th: Power Attack; 12th: Cleave; 15th: Great Cleave; 18th: Spirited Charge
: 1st: Animal Affinity; 2nd: Skill Focus [Handle Animal]; 4th: Weapon Specialization [Lance]; 6th: Skill Focus [Ride]; 8th: Greater Weapon Focus [Lance]; 10th: Improved Critical [Lance]; 12th: Greater Weapon Specialization [Lance]; 14th: Iron Will; 16th: Improved Initiative; . Alternatively, fighters may opt to begin focus with a secondary weapon, or select feats that improve their combat when dismounted, especially if they happen to have high Dexterity and Charisma scores (e.g. a light Lancer).
The average starting gold for classes best suited to the Lancer archetype is 150 (or 100 for a barbarian). A druid starts with only 50gp on average, but doesn’t have to pay for a horse (75+gp).
The Lancer requires at least a lance, which can be used as a longspear should he be forced to dismount, and requires two hands. A lance costs 10gp. The two best inexpensive backup weapons are the battleaxe (10gp), and the flail (8gp). Keeping a backup weapon allows the Lancer to make use of a shield, which must be a light shield if a Lancer wishes to keep hold of the reins. A light wooden shield costs 3gp. A suit of leather armor will cost only 10gp, hide will cost 15gp, but a shrewd player might even get scale (50gp). The total cost of armaments will range from 21gp to 60gp or more.
The cheapest horse a non-druid can start with (and the DM is perfectly justified in requiring consistent access to a mount to learn skills and feats) is a light horse for 75gp. A standard light horse can carry up to 450 lbs (including rider and barding) as a heavy load. However, a barded mount cannot carry anything besides a rider and normal saddlebags (PHB 131) just as a mount equipped with a pack saddle cannot carry a rider. A simple riding saddle, bit, and bridle, will add up to 12gp. Padded barding (which is not unrealistic) will cost 20gp, leather: 40gp, and studded leather: 100gp. This yields a minimum cost of (up to) 107gp for mount and barding.
No adventurer can assume that they will have a tavern room at the end of the night. Assuming moderate weather and climate (no scaling frozen peaks or camping in the rain), the adventurer really needs only the following gear: a bedroll (1sp), flint & steel (1gp), grappling hook (1gp), jug [clay] (3cp), 50ft. rope [hemp] (1gp), sack (1sp), torches (1cp ea.), and a change of clothes [traveler’s] (1gp). Depending on the circumstances you will want to also get a blanket [winter] (5sp), a tent [sleeps two] (10gp), and cold weather clothes (8gp). Total cost: 4.24gp to 17.74 (assuming someone splits a tent).
The grand total in flat expenses ranges from 132.24gp to 184.74gp which leaves up to 18gp (avg) to the wealthier Lancers which they can use for room [good] (2gp), board [good] (5sp), rations (5sp), stabling (5sp), feed (5cp), and other upkeep each day (3.55gp+ total per day).
Spells listed roughly in order of selection, and according to level (i.e. spells listed sooner should be prioritized at lower levels); note that no spell list is absolute, and spells should always be chosen (when possible) based on circumstances (e.g. if a healing spell is needed, pick that one). Boldface spells indicate final selection for the level, prioritized from first to last. Selection may indicate more spells than possible to cast; this is to help account for bonus spells.
: 1st: Magic Weapon, Detect Poison, Protection from Evil, Bless Weapon, Lesser Restoration, Resistance, Divine Favor, Bless; 2nd: Delay Poison, Bull’s Strength, Remove Paralysis, Eagle’s Splendor, Resist Energy; 3rd: Remove Curse, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Dispel Magic, Greater Magic Weapon, Magic Circle against Evil, Prayer, Magic Circle against Chaos; 4th: Neutralize Poison, Break Enchantment, Death Ward, Holy Sword.
- Spellcasters are not necessarily proficient with any weapons they may conjure, including lances.
- A longspear may serve as a lance, but effective use in this manner requires proficiency with a lance.
- Bards, Druids, Monks, Rangers, Rogues, Sorcerers, and Wizards lose or inhibit a significant majority of their class features and abilities if they wear heavy armor, use a lance, or ride a mount of almost any kind. Rogues cannot perform a Sneak Attack while charging (especially on horseback) since the target must be unaware of the rogue. Fast Movement is the only class feature or ability that a barbarian loses when mounted or encumbered.
- Since a lance is not (necessarily) a metal weapon, it is not forbidden for a druid to use one.
- Barbarians can Rage while performing a mounted charge with a lance in full plate at no inherent penalties; no part of the Lancer’s core function fundamentally interferes with a barbarian’s modus operandi in any mechanical way; it is certainly an odd application, however. As a matter of fact, the barbarian’s Rage stacks quite nicely with a Spirited Charge.
- Sorcerers and Wizards have a plethora of spells that can actually propel them into this path, despite their otherwise distinct lack of suitable synergy. For example, they can conjure their own weapons, armor, and even mounts (ones that don’t interfere with spellcasting); they can also enhance their natural abilities, increase their chances for success with attacks, and even grant themselves the proper proficiencies and skills to perform as a Lancer, albeit temporarily.
- While rangers have very good combat capabilities that lend strongly to this path, their talents lend themselves to other archetypes much better, even mounted archetypes, namely the Cataphract and the Horse Archer.
- The DM may allow a feat that makes skills class skills. This may be a single feat that grants up to 3 skills, or the DM may rule that Skill Focus can make the chosen skill a class skill. The most balanced solution is simply a one-feat, one-skill approach, and players shouldn’te expect anything more than that (if that).
- Note that an ill-suited class will likely have to invest feats into this class before they can begin the Main Progression. The first should displace Weapon Focus; the next, Spirited Charge; then Great Cleave, Cleave, and Power Attack. Also note that some classes may require the Lancer to select other feats that are outside of this progression in order to progress in their class or this path.
- Spirited Charge should be taken as soon as 9th level (or possibly sooner for a Fighter) if opponents tend to be fewer and bigger than smaller and more numerous.
For regular Lancers, a Dexterity score of 13 is arguably ideal because the player doesn’t have to worry as much about limitations on dexterity bonuses, while still having one. Better still, if the Lancer gets a hold of some mithral full plate he can increase his dexterity score to a 14 and even a 15 without suffering from restricted dexterity. Because he doesn’t start with a score of 14 he isn’t “wasting” any of his ability scores in case he can’t get ahold of special armor (maybe the elves, dwarves, or dragons are hoarding it all, or it just doesn’t exist in that particular world); however, he is always on the cusp of that achievement. 14 is at least a close second because (frankly) it’s unlikely that mithral or its equivalent doesn’t exist in a fantasy world with elves or dwarves, and because it boosts AC by one more whenever the character isn’t encumbered by full plate (e.g. his entire early career). 12 is a solid third place because there’s (almost) never a wasted point, but it takes 2-3 points to improve the score should opportunity provide.
Even if a Lancer doesn’t need to make many Handle Animal checks (or hit very high DCs) for some reason, they should still persist in the skill until they have 5 ranks so that they can get the +2 synergy bonus on ride. Similarly, if for some reason the Lancer doesn’t actually need to make ride checks (or hit very high DCs), they should still persist in the skill far enough to get the +2 synergy on Handle Animal checks. If the Lancer doesn’t need Handle Animal or Ride, something very fishy is going on. Note: those with special access to a mount, such as an animal companion, special mount, familiar, cohort, or conjured steed do not automatically get to stay in the saddle when those creatures move; niether do such creatures necessarily waive the beneficiary of a Handle Animal check. That is, animal companions are still animals, with minds of their own.
Generally speaking, a Lancer wants to eventually be able to regularly hit Ride and Handle Animal DCs of 25 or more. Synergy, feats, ability, and magic item bonuses can add about 10 bonus to either (or even both) of these checks in most games. In such games, a Lancer would do well to advance both of these skills at least until he attains 15 ranks at level 12. Remember: .
If circumstances arise that would require a Lancer to divert their focus to other skills, they should first check to see if there is another reasonable, consistent way to achieve the same goals – perhaps a flying mount (or spell) would be more beneficial this one time than learning how to climb would be. Learn to rely on your teammates to use skills that you might not be able to take, such as swim, listen, or hide; your strengths lie in the open field, and you there.
This feat could technically be avoided: warhorses are durable and require no ride or handle animal checks to enter combat or perform combat maneuvers, many are already trained to do the basic tricks that could be required of them in combat, and barding can protect them from harm; but fully fledged heavy warhorses and barding are quite expensive – much more than the initial would-be knight can afford. But, instead of spending 8,000+gp for horse & barding, a would-be knight can simply take the Mounted Combat feat, and effectively grant his mount an armor bonus equal to his ride check, which can be fairly high if he specs for it (which he should). Furthermore, he can begin with a light horse that only costs 75gp, and if he has ranks in handle animal he can train it to be a light warhorse, which he can later re-sell for at least the same as he paid. If he doesn’t have the handle animal skill, perhaps a druid friend (i.e. party member) does and can train the horse, or perhaps he can find someone who will train the horse for less than an additional 75gp. This feat should be taken at level 1 for anyone because it increases a mount’s survivability, which is more important than even a +1 on attack rolls.
Weapon Focus [Lance]:
Bonuses on attack rolls are hard to come by; armor is cheap. Every point counts, so this needs to be picked up as soon as possible.
Ultimately this is the mounted equivalent of Spring Attack; except that trying to engage in mounted combat without this feat is a lot like a dragon trying to ‘strafe’ without Fly-By Attack: it’s very clumsy, and prone to failure, hazard, and other undesireable results. If being able to handle and save a horse in combat is the precursor to knighthood, this is the most basic requirement: the ability to engage and disengage a chosen target with minimal complications (e.g. getting boxed in). This is also a critical building block for advanced maneuvers.
To some extent this feat is merely flavor; but it is quite possibly the single most powerful feat in the game, because it gives you a potential for x5 damage on a successful critical strike – the highest in the game (short of supernatural intervention). Better still (since crits only roll around less than 5% of the time), it allows you to deal x3 damage with a lance, which is effectively an automatic critical strike for the lance, which has crit 20/x3: it ensures that the mounted lancer will put most targets out of commission indefinitely. Be sure to remind your DM of how this works (that you can potentially get a x5 crit), since this does stack on top of the lance’s natural mounted multiplier, and stacks with crit damage. It is not a x9 multiplier (x3 x3) because the rule of multipliers is that two doublings is a tripling, another is a quadrupling, and four doublings is a quintupling. Essentially, the critical multiplier gives the first two doublings, and the lance itself and this feat each give another doubling, which adds up to four doublings: a quintupling. Still, 5d8+25 (~50 avg) is a lot.
Another feat that may seem superfluous, but once a mounted champion starts facing more creatures such as giants, dragons, and creatures with damage reduction – especially those that are easy to hit – the ability to deal more upfront damage, even if it sacrifices accuracy, cannot be overlooked. Besides, by this point the Lancer should have some bonuses to attack from other sources, and this feat is a precursor to another critical building block.
Now is when the fun begins. Step 1: charge an enemy; Step 2: kill target enemy; Step 3: kill another enemy. See the Mechanics Section for more details.
As Cleave, but more times.
In general, any feats taken (e.g. from bonus feats) should improve 1) the ride check, 2) the handle animal check, or 3) the attack and damage rolls for the lance. After that (or as needed) feats that improve general offensive or devensive capabilities, especially those that shore up weaknesses, should be prioritized. As with most things, this should not be formulaic; for example, if the Lancer’s wisdom score is lacking (i.e. negative), then Iron Will should be taken sooner to prevent an early vampire from dominating an otherwise easy target.
Most low level characters will be hard pressed to find a heavy warhorse for less than 400gp, gear will be 12-22+gp, and barding will cost four times the normal rate, which yields a range from 20gp for padded barding to over 9,000gp for full-plate barding (1,500+800 x4 = 9,200gp). Magic enhancements cost the same for barding as for normal armor (e.g. 1,000gp for a +1 enhancement bonus). Note: if an extremely wealthy character started out getting plate barding, they would not need to pay the fitting cost, and the armor would only cost 6,000gp.
Barding a mount with non-fitted plate mail is bound to chafe the mount. For the purposes of determining fatigue and injury, such a mount that moves normally is considered to be hustling, but checks for fatigue after two intervals. Such a mount that hustles, runs, or makes a forced march is considered to take twice as long doing so (i.e. they make checks and determine fatigue twice as quickly). For example, an ill-barded light horse can move at a normal speed for 2 hours and cover 12 miles (8 if encumbered) without issue, but becomes fatigued and begins taking damage if it moves any further before resting (while barded). If the same light horse hustles, it becomes fatigued and starts taking damage after only half an hour. If the horse runs, it can do so for only 7 rounds before making constitution checks, and pushing an ill-barded horse beyond its base limit deals 1d6 points of lethal damage when it fails a check (or otherwise ceases to run) as if it had completed a forced march. See Mounted Movement (PHB 164). A fatigued mount cannot run or charge.
In general, spells should be selected at first on an as-needed basis, and then they should be selected for their ability to enhance the Lancer’s capabilities.
Paladin: initial spell selection should be utilitarian. A paladin gets spells as a cleric does, which means he can always choose ones according to specific situations. At first the spell selection needs to be such that it increases survivability; later on spells should be chosen to enhance performance. As better spells become available, lesser ones should be phased out (e.g. after the paladin starts taking Greater Magic Weapon, he no longer needs Magic Weapon – besides, they don’t stack). At the last levels, Greater Magic Weapon is preferred to Holy Sword in situations where enemies are not evil; but both spells will usually be beneficial. Restoration has an expensive material component, so the lesser version (which doesn’t) is preferred for everyday selection. Eagle’s Splendor improves Smite attack modifiers, among other things (e.g. Turn Undead checks).
Initial combat tactics are relatively simple. Until the Lancer gets Ride-By Attack, he selects a single target, preferably an isolated one, and charges them. If the defender has a reach weapon, both get attacks as per the rules of a charge, which should be resolved simultaneously. If the defender does not have a reach weapon, resolve the Lancer’s attack first. If the Lancer doesn’t kill the target outright, he has two options. The first: stop; a lance is a reach weapon, so stopping will allow the lancer to move away from the target without provoking attacks of opportunity (AOs) from him, unless the target advances, incurring an AO from the Lancer. The second option for the Lancer in a charge is to continue; if the Lancer has enough movement remaining (at least 20 ft. for a medium foe), he may attempt a mounted overrun against the target as part of his charge. Technically this is all one fell swoop; the Lancer is simply moving from A to B, the foe is in the way, and the Lancer is taking advantage of that by attacking the foe while he’s at it, and if the target is still standing the Lancer will proceed to knock him down. If the defender has a reach weapon, he only gets one AO per offender, per round, even though the Lancer is presenting him with two opportunities here. If the defender does not have a reach weapon, he gets his AO when the Lancer incurs it (upon entering the defender’s space), and then the Lancer proceeds with the overrun attempt as outlined in the rules for an overrun (PHB 157). Note that if a defender sets a weapon against a charge, and survives the initial attack, that weapon is still set against the charge, and benefits accordingly when the Lancer proceeds with an overrun attempt; also, the defender may target the Lancer’s mount instead. Performing an overrun is hazardous for a number of reasons, including the risk of failing, falling, or being subjected to a weapon set against the charge. If the overrun is successful, most characters cannot make AOs while prone, so the Lancer is free to move on to another target, or prepare for another run against the former.
Once the Lancer gains Ride-By Attack, the tactics change drastically. In addition to the 2 options mentioned above, the Lancer has a 3rd: avoid. This feat by itself allows the Lancer to continue on past a target without attempting an overrun attempt, and without provoking an AO. At its simplest, this allows the Lancer to ‘strafe’ a target, by charging them, passing them, and repeating. However, the three classes best suited to this path also gain an extra attack at level 6, when they will generally be acquiring this feat. The rule of a charge without this feat is that you have to stop when you hit something, and therefore cannot make multiple attacks, because you have to “wait ’til you get there” before you attack. But this feat effectively negates that rule by allowing you to move after a charge, continuing the charge (i.e. you don’t let up the charge; you’re still charging). Therefore, after “completing” a charge with this feat, you effectively begin a new one for free, as long as you still have movement left for the round, and as long as the new charge is in line with the old one. This is incredibly important as it gives you the ability to attack another target so long as you threaten them along your path. Note that the DM may rule that you must move at least 5 ft. after each attack (successful or otherwise) or stop completely, and may rule that you can only attack enemies within a cone (10ft.) in front of you, so that if there are 2 enemies of equal distance, you can only attack one of them. However, with some clever positioning, you can usually line up a charge to get all of your attacks off. NOTE: under no circumstances (save a cleverly placed dimension door) does this ever permit a character to attack the same target more than once on any given charge. What it does allow a character to do, is aim down a line of stupid goblins, and pick up 2 or 3 or 5 or 10 of them, depending on how many attacks said character has and how close together said stupid goblins bunched up. This effect also works with Cleave and Great Cleave, but the targets can’t have more than 1 space between them.
Hrothgar a 16th level Lancer has advanced all the way up to the point that he now has Great Cleave, and his mount has only a light encumbrance and barding so it moves at a base speed of 60ft. or 120ft. in one round (virtually crossing the diagonal of a standard grid). The Lancer currently finds himself (and allies) up against a small band of 40 advanced goblins, who have grouped up so that they can take advantage of the group tactics that goblins are so fond of. Hrothgar wants to minimize his exposure to AOs, and opts to ‘shear’ an edge off the goblin warband. He sets up a charge along the longest edge of th goblins’ area, and proceeds to engage the first goblin, who through chance and possibly experience manages to avoid the attack; Hrothgar moves on, unable to attempt another attack against that goblin this turn. The Lancer adjusts his lance to attack the next goblin, who was right behind the first, and hits; but since this is a hobgoblin lieutenant with good armor and apparently some serious toughness the target doesn’t drop; Hrothgar adjusts to use his 3rd attack on the next goblin, just behind the hobgoblin. He hits, and because the goblin is relatively weak, he kills the goblin, and proceeds to drop the next 2 as well, all of them within 2 squares of each other. However, there’s a gap in the goblin line of just 2 squares and therefor the Lancer is unable to Cleave through to the next one. Hrothgar has now traveled 7-9 of 12 squares when he reaches the next goblin in line: an archer. Because the goblins massed their archers toward the back flanks, the Lancer has a good shot at up to 8 or 10 of them who are all adjacent to each other on the outer 2 lanes of the area and Hrothgar’s lance has reach. However, the DM rules that because of Hrothgar’s angle of approach, he’s going to have to choose between each pair of goblins as they enter his threat zone (or rather as his threat zone reaches them). He opts to stick to the outermost line for the rest of the charge and it’s not too hard for him to pick up another 4-5 goblin kills thanks to their relatively low hp. Hrothgar exits the charge with half a dozen goblins “shishkabob’d” on his lance, his sorcerer friend flinging fireballs and quickened magic missiles at the rest of the warband, and his ranger friend finishing several more off with a barrage of arrows. The remaining dozen or so goblins flee while they still can.