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The Paladin spells Find Steed (Player's Handbook pg.240) and Find Greater Steed (Xanathar's Guide to Everything pg.156) list the following creatures that are valid targets to be summoned as mounts:

Find Steed

  • a warhorse
  • a pony
  • a camel
  • an elk
  • or a mastiff

Find Greater Steed

  • a griffon
  • a pegasus
  • a peryton
  • a dire wolf
  • a rhinoceros
  • or a saber-toothed tiger

However, of these options, the Pony, Mastiff, and Peryton creatures are classified as "Medium" creatures. And per the Mounted Combat rules found in the Player's Handbook (pg.198), a valid mount must be a size bigger than its rider:

A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount, using the following rules.

The description for Find Steed stipulates that the summoned creature serves as a mount for the creature that summons them:

Your steed serves you as a mount, both in combat and out, and you have an instinctive bond with it that allows you to fight as a seamless unit.

Is this a case of Specific Beats General, where a medium-sized creature very well could ride on these magically-conjured medium steeds, or is such a creature still bound to obey the restrictions placed on them by the Mounted Combat rules?

A related question about Perytons being summoned by Find Greater Steed touches on this issue, but is scoped around questioning whether the statistics of a summoned Peryton are different from a normal Peryton. As a result, I don't think it's a duplicate of this question: What happens if I summon a Peryton with Find Greater Steed?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, is there something in that Q&A that doesn't answer your question? If it answers your question, then it's a dupe. If it doesn't you should be explicit in what's missing and why your question is different. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 13 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch The question linked has a different scope, dealing mostly with whether summoning a Peryton using Find Greater Steed causes its statistics to change. Its answers obliquely reference the issue of mount sizes, but it isn't the focus of the question. It wasn't clear to me whether it constituted a duplicate or not. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Feb 13 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of What happens if I summon a Peryton with Find Greater Steed? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Feb 13 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Xirema Ultimately it's about whether or not that question answers yours. If you don't think it does, than it's not a dupe :) But if it does, then it is. Only you can tell us (and it sounds like you don't think that it does?) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 13 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'm sure they were, but small characters aren't restricted from using Large-sized (or larger!) mounts. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Feb 14 at 1:19
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RAW, it looks like "Yes"

This question's answer really seems to fall down to which of the two rules is more specific. We have, as you pointed out, both the "at least one size larger than you" and the "[summoned] steed serves as your mount" rules. The first rule, regarding mounts in general, is the general rule covering what makes a viable mount. The second rule, of course, is more specific, since it is a spell description.

With that in mind, the "serves as your mount" would supersede the normal rules for what a viable mount is (allowing for some truly silly applications, with the proper growth spells applied). So, from a strictly RAW perspective, I would have to say that yes, this is a viable use of the spell.

But I would rule "No"

One could also read it as saying that the "at least one size larger than you" clause is actually a specific part of an otherwise general rule, and thus rule that this supersedes the strict reading of Find Steed and Find Greater Steed. Though it is a more difficult pitch to call any part of a general rule more specific than any part of a spell's description, this ruling does fit better into a common sense view of the world and requires less suspension of disbelief.

I also suspect that this falls more in line with designer intent, though I haven't done the research to back that up. Looking at it from this perspective, it's possible that the medium-sized mounts were intended to give suitable options to small characters, such as gnomes.

Because of this, and because I have so far leaned towards a more serious setting, I would probably rule "No" as per this second line of reasoning. I don't think it follows the rules as strictly, but it makes more sense to me, and after all, the rules are there to guide the DM, not to hold the DM down.

Play to the party

If your campaign or your party is going for more serious or realistic, and you lean more towards common sense rulings, then rule as I did here. But if you don't mind a bit of silliness, and especially if the whole campaign is a more light-hearted thing, then by all means allow your goliath-barbarian to drink a potion of growth while under the influence of an Enlarge Size spell and then take a leisurely (murderous) ride on the still-medium-sized mastiff!

Actually, maybe let that happen anyway, you'll be hearing about that story for years!

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As other answers pointed out, the rules for mounts (in the Basic Rules, under Mounted Combat):

A willing creature that is at least one size larger than you and that has an appropriate anatomy can serve as a mount, using the following rules.

conflict with medium-sized characters using the the pony or a mastiff, from find steed spell:

the steed takes on a form that you choose: a warhorse, a pony, a camel, an elk, or a mastiff

and also the peryton, from the find greater steed* spell:

the spirit takes on a form you choose: a griffon, a pegasus, a peryton, a dire wolf, a rhinoceros, or a saber-toothed tiger

I think you can argue in either direction, that the spell definitions take precedence, or that the rules for mounts take precedence.

It Happened to Me

I actually had almost the exact same situation.

The solution I chose was for the paladin's mount to conform to the stats of a warhorse, but appear to be a large-sized mastiff.

One of the characters in my campaign is was a foundling protector aasimar taken in by a halfling priest of Pelor and raised in a halfling community. As he grew up, he felt the call to be a paladin. Realizing that his mere presence was putting his adopted village in danger, he packed up a cart and was preparing to haul it off. His mount showed up. Yes, I know 1st level paladins can't cast find steed, but it was such a great narrative moment, and so the steed answered the call that he hadn't even made yet.

Me: Your steed shows up. You know intuitively that if it goes away it won't come back until you can cast the spell.

Player: What does it look like?

Me: Well, I assume, a warhorse, but you can have it appear any way the spell says. In fact, the spirit communicates to you that it wants to manifest as a warhorse but it will choose to appear as an old broken down carthorse, so as you not embarrass itself, pulling a cart and all, and to keep a low profile.

Player: I want a mastiff.

Me: But you can't ride a mastiff. You're too big.

Player: I was raised a halfling. I want a mastiff. A warhorse will scare the village.

Me: But . . . you're too big. You can't ride a mastiff.

Player: I think of myself as halfling-sized.

Me: But . . . you're not. You're medium. You can't ride a mastiff.

Player: How about a large-sized mastiff?

I almost gave in on this one. I'm still not sure it wasn't the way to go. I was concerned about the effects of scaling a mastiff up.

Me: Well, tell you what. It's actually a warhorse, but it looks like a large-sized mastiff. In every way it is a warhorse, except it looks like a mastiff.

Player: Okay! Hooch, fetch the cart! Let's go!

Some Solutions

So, the solution I chose, was to allow the large-sized mount to appear as a large-sized version of a medium-sized mount, while conforming to the stats of the large-sized mount.

Of course, you could just let the medium character ride the medium mount, and ignore the mount size rule. Narratively it might look a little silly.

Or, size up the pony, mastiff, or peryton to large, either with or without scaling stats. In effect, the pony/mastiff/peryton would actually just be size large, and thus suitable for a medium creature to ride.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I really like this answer. +1 For showing a use case that showcases what I think is a very good compromise between RAW and narrative! \$\endgroup\$ – MrSpudtastic Feb 14 at 16:25
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Adjudicating "Specific Beats General"

The wording in Find Steed says the creature "serves you as a mount", without qualifiers for size, but with qualifiers for creature type. So answering this question is contingent on whether we accept that this line is more specific than the nominal rules for Mounted Combat.

If we accept that the Mounted Combat rules stipulating a creature "at least one size larger than you" are more specific, then the answer is a flat NO: a medium-sized creature cannot ride any of these three creatures as mounts; although nothing in the rules precludes them from summoning any of these three creatures.

If, however, we accept that the Mounted Combat rules' stipulation on creature size is less specific than Find Steed's blanket allowance of any of its specific creatures to be used as mounts is more specific, then the answer is almost YES: a medium-sized creature may ride these creatures... But with one important limit.

A Medium-sized Paladin may ride a Mastiff or Pony, but NOT a Peryton

The reason is a subtle difference in the wording of Find Steed and Find Greater Steed.

In Find Steed, the spell description is very explicit that the summoned creature serves as the character's mount:

Find Steed

Your steed serves you as a mount, both in combat and out, and you have an instinctive bond with it that allows you to fight as a seamless unit. While mounted on your steed, you can make any spell you cast that targets only you also target your steed.

However, in Find Greater Steed, this language reads differently:

Find Greater Steed

You control the mount in combat. While the mount is within 1 mile of you, you can communicate with it telepathically. While mounted on it, you can make any spell you cast that targets only you also target the mount.

"Controlling" the mount in combat is a different claim than "serving as a mount". One simply notes a character's control over the mount, the other implies its specific use as a mount. So if we accept that "serves you as a mount" is indeed a "Specific beats General" interpretation of the Mounted Combat rules, then a Mastiff or Pony (summoned by Find Steed) are perfectly valid, but the Peryton (summoned by Find Greater Steed) would not be.

It probably depends on the style of Campaign being run

Ultimately, the question wants to permit (in the most extreme scenario) a 7-foot-tall Half-Orc Paladin to ride a 4-foot-tall Mastiff as a mount, and while there is a compelling argument to make that the rules-as-written permit this kind of interaction, interactions like this could interfere with the narrative consistency of your campaign.

On the other hand, if your table plays more fast-and-loose with the rules, or has a generally goofier atmosphere, or generally prefers that mechanics supercede narrative logic, then go ahead and allow it. In terms of balancing concerns, the 3 creatures mentioned aren't markedly more powerful than their peers; in the case of the Mastiff, the creature is only a CR1/8, and considerably weaker than other possible mount options offered at that level, so allowing a Medium creature to ride a Mastiff into combat is not likely to offer any meaningful combat advantage over simply fighting alongside it, or (pertinently) using a much stronger mount like a Warhorse that also obeys the size restrictions set by the Mounted Combat rules.

The Peryton is worth mentioning though, in that with its Flyby feature and nominally high-powered damage capabilities, it is considerably more powerful in combat than its peers, and may be highly competitive. So from a purely mechanical perspective, having it have an obvious drawback (cannot be mounted by medium creatures) may be a necessary balancing mechanic.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't considered that Find Greater Steed is worded differently. By strict RAW, that does actually make it play out different than Find Steed! \$\endgroup\$ – MrSpudtastic Feb 14 at 16:29

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