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Here are the statistics from the Mounts and Other Animals Table in the DMG:

Item Cost Speed Carrying
Capacity
Pony 30 gp 40 ft. 225 lb.
Donkey or mule 8 gp 40 ft. 420 lb.

The pony costs 30 gp, and can only carry 225 lb.
The mule costs just 8 gp, and can carry 420 lb.
Both have the same speed, 40 ft.

I'm wondering why someone would rather buy the pony, when its nearly four times as expensive, and can only carry about half as much weight?

I would have expected the mule to be more expensive than the pony given these stats, not less expensive. Is there any amazing advantage of a pony I am missing?

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    \$\begingroup\$ My little princess is getting a pony, not some classless peasant mule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Warcupine
    Jun 23 at 12:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've always thought it was weird that mules are listed as "medium" given that they are in fact popular mounts for real life trail-riders. A mule is smaller than a horse but like... not that much smaller. The real difference ought to be that a pony is correctly sized for a Small rider while a mule is not! (Also they're adorable and how dare you @Warcupine ) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 13:58

3 Answers 3

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The saying goes "stubborn as a mule".

You are thinking about this out of character while looking at game mechanics. Yeah, the mule is better-by-the-numbers, and if that's all you ever consider, then you will pick the mule. But this is a role playing game: think about this in character. What if I don't really need the extra capacity or surefootedness of a mule? Which am I going to pick? Some smelly, stubborn ass or a pretty, patient, and compliant pony? And consider the image you are projecting. Are you a band of dirty low-lifes riding mules or a party of respectable, pony-riding problem-solvers? Obviously this all depends on how your DM cares to roleplay the difference between a pony and a mule within the narrative, but it is definitely something most characters would consider when selecting a mount.

Also ponies kick harder (+4 to hit for 2d4+2 damage vs. +2 to hit for 1d4+2 damage), and are stronger, allowing them to wear better barding. The pony has 15 strength, so it can wear Splint or Plate barding without penalty, but the mule has 14 strength.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A minor note in the veins of kicking harder, ponies also have a strength of 15 (not 14) so they'd not be slowed down by barding made from splint or plate. And if you're spending 800 or 6000 gp on the barding, 30 gp for the pony is nothing \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jun 23 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ For the record, mules aren't actually stubborn, they're just much smarter than we're used to seeing in equines. They will actively refuse to do things they can tell are dangerous, or carry loads that are too heavy for them, which we sometimes read as stubborn if we don't pay attention. And sometimes they'll be jerks on purpose but that's more in the way of a prank than anything else. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot - at the Grand Canyon they use mules for people riding up/down the canyon from/to Ghost Ranch, not ponies. Impressively sure-footed animals. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 23 at 14:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonCuster Guess you don't have welsh mountain ponies there ;) Or mountain horses (that are a breed of Balkan Ponies). And most of fantasy settings are European-based. YMMV, breeds we have now have a thousand years of selective breeding since then anyway, so all we can do is guess, today comparisons will always be abysmal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Jun 23 at 14:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is breeding big in D&D? Because mules tend to be sterile, which might be a disadvantage for someone who'd want to breed them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Jun 23 at 23:36
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Easy. I need a pack animal and I come across a guy selling a pony. A mule might be better on paper, but he's not selling a mule. I could hold out until I find a mule for sale, but in the meantime I have to leave some of this sellable loot behind because it's more than I can carry by myself. Is that actually more cost-efficient in the long run? Probably not, unless I somehow know for certain that there's a mule for sale somewhere nearby.

When looking at different options in table form like that, it's easy to think of it like a catalog or menu board. In the real world (game world?), you have to make choices based on the limited selection that you have available, which is usually not the full menu. In this scenario, buying the pony is a no-brainer. Should I happen across a mule for sale later I can sell my pony for almost what I paid for it (they don't depreciate like cars), buy the mule, and end up with most of my money back. If the difference between the pony's buy and sell price is less than the value of the additional loot it allowed you to carry, then you came out ahead.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That actually is a good reason. Our group bought a pony in Phandalin in Mines of Phandelver, because one could not buy a Donkey there, and we needed a pack animal. And my character was a cutesy Halfling Bard so Lord of the Ring cultural reasons helped. But we would have bought a mul instead had there been one on sale. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25 at 5:53
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Because she wants a pony for her 16th birthday.


The game tries to account for the numerous differences between ponies and mules (abilities, temperament, shape, prestige, etc) via their stats, but it does a bad job because that's not the focus of the game. Sometimes, one in-game option is clearly better than another stat-wise[1] even if that wouldn't be the case in real life.

This brings us to the real reason for the existence of the two: They both exist in real life and a character might want one for what it is, rather than for its stats. A player wanting a pony wouldn't necessarily be interested in a mule, whatever its stats.


  1. The answer shows that this is the case for mule vs donkey.
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