So a couple of sessions ago in the campaign that I play, my character bought a horse … a very fast horse!  Although technically his base speed is the same as a regular horse (speed 10), he’s got a considerably higher Dex and some other cool abilities that help to bump it up a bit, and the DM helped to add some flavor as well by continuing the theme in his own world of them being a special elven breed of horses known for their agility and swiftness.

I got a kick out of it because it gave my character something special that not everyone else had, and it also gives me another angle to further develop him as well because being one with nature and the outdoors, I can easily see him building a strong bond with this noble steed that grants him the power of speed that few creatures can match.

But then I got to thinking – just how fast actually is this mighty riding horse???

Speaking in terms of combat rounds, and assuming I don’t actually have to attack and instead am focusing on just clearing as much ground as physically possible…

The horse’s base speed is 10.
Running adds +2.
His Swift Steed minor encounter power gives him +4 to speed until the end of his next turn.
I also picked up some Horse’s Breath, a consumable magic oat bag of sorts, which grants him an extra move action this turn.
So his total run speed is 16, and on an action point he can take a total of 3 moves in one turn, for a grand total of speed 48 for a single turn in combat!

If you do the math, that works out to about 27 mph here in the real world, which is apparently actually pretty close to the ball for how fast real horses run … but instead of dwelling on that downer of a note, it seemed like it would be more fun to compare my new ride to something a bit more fearful in this fantasy realm of ours…

You know, like a red dragon!

Looking at the stats of an adult red dragon (level 15), it gets a little tricky because they have a fly speed of 8 but also an overland flight speed of 12. For the purposes of this comparison, we ended up settling on the regular fly speed with the idea of one trying to outrun the other. If it was a simple, long distance race, the dragon would still win by having that soaring speed to eventually bump up to, but at least in theory he would no longer be a threat to those of us back down on the ground from that altitude!

Anyways, following the same logic for big red as we did for my horse, his total flying run speed is 10, which means on an action point he’s still only moving speed 30 for that single turn … however, one thing to keep in mind is that dragons have 2 action points, and so instead we need to look at it over multiple turns to get a true picture of who comes out ahead:

  • Round One – riding horse, speed 48; red dragon, speed 30
  • Round Two – riding horse, speed 32 (total – 80 squares); red dragon, speed 30 (total – 60 squares)
  • Round Three – riding horse, speed 24 (total – 104 squares); red dragon, speed 20 (total – 80 squares)
  • Round Four – riding horse, speed 24 (total 128); red dragon, speed 20 (total 100 squares)
  • Round Five – riding horse, speed 24 (total 152); red dragon, speed 20 (total 120 squares)
  • (at round 3 and above once we’ve both spent our action points, etc…, at a steady double run each the horse will continue to outpace the dragon by a net gain of +4 squares per turn…)

Now it’s probably worth emphasizing just how vital that initial burst of speed is in this particular game of cat and mouse because while my horse may have the leg up on the dragon by 4 squares at our normal, double-run speeds, lest we not forget that his breath weapon is a close blast 5 (not to mention a stunning fear effect that’s also close burst 5), so in the event that we’re not the first ones out the gate or I don’t have an action point to spend, we’re pretty much boned, but in a dead ground to air race across an area that keeps him from hitting that overland speed, my horse can EASILY outrun an adult red dragon!

Of course, go figure … the campaign that I play this character in doesn’t really have much for dragons anymore, save for one ancient, gold dragon that lives in some mountain somewhere and hasn’t been seen for years, but just knowing that I could outrun one if we’re scouting through the woods and come across something that we really find ourselves regretting – I think that’s still pretty cool, if you ask me! 🙂

One Response to Horse vs. Dragon, from a D&D statistical perspective…

  1. Scott says:

    Update…
    So at random I was taking another look back at this post and realized something that I overlooked about round #1 that could buy my mighty steed even more of an impressive lead! The way I ran these numbers the first time, round #1 looked like this:

    – Standard Action: Swift Steed minor encounter power
    – Minor Action: Horse’s Breath / extra move action
    – Move Action: Run (speed 16)
    – Move Action #2: Run (speed 16)
    – Action Point: Run (speed 16)

    That results in a solid speed 48 that then begins to degrade in round #2 and beyond, but instead if I hold off on some of that firepower until round #2, I found that I can actually sustain a speed 48 for two rounds before dropping back down to speed 24 for the duration!

    Round #1:
    – Standard Action: Run (speed 16)
    – Minor Action: Swift Steed minor encounter power
    – Move Action: Run (speed 16)
    – Action Point: Run (speed 16)

    Round #2:
    – Standard Action: Run (speed 16)
    – Minor Action: Horse’s Breath / extra move action
    – Move Action: Run (speed 16)
    – Move Action #2: Run (speed 16)

    So whereas in my original example I was actually using the Horse’s Breath first to get four move actions at speed 12 in round #1 and then two move actions at speed 16 in round #2, it actually works out in my favor to the tune of a net extra 16 squares of movement to take the speed bump first and just enjoy a steady 3 move actions for those first two rounds. It seems a little nit-picky, but hey – if I do find myself fleeing from an angry dragon of chromatic intentions, I’ll take those extra 80 feet in a heartbeat if it means my own continuing just a bit longer! 😉

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