I'm a new DM running a 5e combat encounter in which the NPC attacker is mounted on a Riding Horse.

One of the players' characters has just cast Confusion, which indicates that

Each creature in a 10-foot-radius sphere centered on a point you choose within range must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw when you cast this spell or be affected by it.

Both the rider and the mount are creatures, so they independently roll; both failed. Now, one of the potential effects on a d10 roll of 7 or 8 on upcoming turns is:

The creature uses its action to make a melee attack against a randomly determined creature within its reach. If there is no creature within its reach, the creature does nothing this turn.

It's not clear to me whether the rider would be confused enough to make a melee attack against its own mount.

Also, given the mount is not independent, it is not permitted to make an attack action, so I would assume it does nothing in my particular case, but I am curious about whether, in the case the mount were independent, it might attack its own rider.

Does a mount count as a "creature within its reach" of its rider? Is the rider a "creature within reach of a mount" if it is acting independently?


2 Answers 2


The rider can attack the mount

The mount is a “creature within reach” so is a valid target. Note that the actual creature attacked is determined randomly.

The mount can attack the rider

While a controlled mount’s action options are limited, this does not stop the mount from attacking if this result comes up. There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. Specific beats general: the Confusion spell is a more specific effect than the mounted combat effects.
  2. The spell causes the mount to “[use] its action to make a melee attack” - this is not one of the ‘normal’ actions a creature can choose from the combat rules nor is it an action from the stat block of the creature. It is an action type that the Confusion spell creates1.

Bonus: if the rider is forced to move by the spell, they dismount first

That’s because the spell causes the creature to use “all its movement” - not its mount’s movement (and see this answer where the rider is forced to move by dissonant whispers - similar to confusion in that it is a mental trigger).

1While there is a standard list of Actions in Combat, note that "When you take your action on your turn, you can take one of the actions presented here, an action you gained from your class or a special feature, or an action that you improvise." Several spells, as class features, allow you to take 'special actions', defined within the context of the spell. Here, the 'confusion action' gives the controlled mount the ability to attack. As another example, the Call Lightning spell grants you the ability to call down lightning as a special action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer could be improved by linking to or referencing other "special actions granted in specific circumstances". \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 10, 2023 at 1:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike by all means, improve it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jun 10, 2023 at 1:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike I'm not sure just how much value that adds. Some such actions would include the dragon's breath spell's action, or the actions afforded by some restraining effects like the net: "A creature can use its action to make a DC 10 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success." In any of these cases it is the specific beating general that allows the mount to use these actions (if they are usable at all, some of these may be debatable) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2023 at 2:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ As OP I considered the "dismount first" in terms of movement, but eventually decided that dismounting was an "action" and was thus not part of the impact. Now if you could creatively indicate how a rider's forced movement translated to a mount they controlled, I'd be more interested. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2023 at 4:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielWiddis How does forced movement affect a rider?, Dissonant whispers targeting a mounted combatant \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 10, 2023 at 4:09

Yes, the rider can end up attacking his mount.

The mount is a creature within reach of the rider, basically by definition as they share a space and the mount is a creature. Thus, it must include the mount as an option for the randomly-picked target of a confusion effect. Nothing in either the Mounted Combat section or in the spell say otherwise, so that's the only clean reading, at least by default.

The mount cannot make attacks while being controlled, so it does nothing in that case. Although there is a colorable reading that the spell is more specific than the Mounted Combat rules, and so the mount attempts to kick or bite (depending on what it has available) someone within reach, which might be the rider.

Note that this is actually fairly well aligned with reality, where crazed/badly-trained horses attack their riders with some frequency, and where a misaimed strike from a melee weapon can absolutely hit the horse (especially with a sword or axe).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what you mean by a "colorable reading". Also, are we sure that the mount is still controlled, if the confused rider has "uncontrolled action" as a result of the spell? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 10, 2023 at 1:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KirtnoQA4mewhilemodsstrike colorable just means plausible in this context. It's a fun synonym \$\endgroup\$ Jun 10, 2023 at 2:27

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