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So I got into this discussion the last time my group met and I still don't have a solid answer. When a medium character wielding a lance charges on his mount he needs to stop and attack from 10 feet away to make his attack because he's using a reach weapon. This is where the argument begins for us, my friend uses the following passages from the Mounted Combat and Charge sections of the Combat chapter for support.

If your mount charges, you also take the AC penalty associated with a charge. (Link)

You must move to the closest space from which you can attack the opponent. (Link)

He points out that because your mount is the one charging and because it must move to the "closest space from which you can attack the opponent" which for a horse is adjacent, its rider can't make an attack with a lance or any reach weapon.

While I can't help but agree with him in his interpretation of the rules there are glaring examples (double damage with a lance, spirited charge, etc) throughout the core book that indicate a mounted character can indeed make a charge attack with a lance. Is he wrong?

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Your friend is basically wrong.

The mounted combat rules are not very well written. But the crux of the matter is that there is a distinction between you charging while mounted, and your mount charging while you are mounted.

From the Mounted Combat section of the SRD:

Your mount acts on your initiative count as you direct it. You move at its speed, but the mount uses its action to move.

Mechanically, the mount spends its action to grant you its movement, rather than moving directly itself.

In other words, when you "move" while mounted, the mount spends actions. When you charge while mounted, the mount spends actions, but you are still the one who is charging.

Particularly bad is this paragraph:

If your mount charges, you also take the AC penalty associated with a charge. If you make an attack at the end of the charge, you receive the bonus gained from the charge. When charging on horseback, you deal double damage with a lance (see Charge).

You really have two different clauses here. The first is what happens when your mount charges (instead of granting you movement):

If your mount charges, you also take the AC penalty associated with a charge. If you make an attack at the end of the charge, you receive the bonus gained from the charge.

The second is the special rule for lances, which triggers "when you make a charge while mounted:"

When charging on horseback, you deal double damage with a lance (see Charge).

When trying to run at someone and hit them with a lance, the mechanics are:

  • You take the charge full-round action.

  • The mount spends its actions to grant you its movement.

  • You stop at the edge of your reach, and poke it with your lance.

By contrast, I suppose you could command your mount to charge.

  • The mount takes the full-round charge action.

  • The mount moves to within its reach of the target.

  • The mount attacks.

  • You may attack, if able (but generally not with a lance, because your mount is too close to the target).

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    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like if the rider charges and orders his mount to charge, the rider'd make the attack with his reach weapon when he was able (i.e. usually before the mount's attack) and the mount would continue its movement and make its attack when it was able (i.e. usually after the rider's attack with a reach weapon). Does something prohibit that? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 1 '15 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Action economy, mostly. If the rider charges, the mount uses "its action" to support that (it's unclear if "its action" is a single move action, or the full-round action worth of movement required for charge). That doesn't leave the mount with enough actions to charge. And, because it used it's action rather than losing it, the mount can't partial charge. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jan 1 '15 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan There are also some fiddly timing bits... I.e., after the rider has charged and attacked, the mount is too close to charge. So the mount and rider would have to be doing a lot of things simultaneously, or interrupting each others actions a lot. But the action economy thing is the big one. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jan 1 '15 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ The simple way to look at it is: You use your mount's movement. It ignores it's initiative and acts on yours. If you're in a situation where it might get an attack (vaguer than the movement) it attacks on your turn. You really can't have separate initiatives because you'd have problems with things like charge. With a lance, the attack ends as you strike the target, unless you have ride-by-attack, then you could move the next square up, but unless the mount has spring attack, you'd then be stuck next to the enemy with a reach weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – Xander Jan 1 '15 at 19:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for recognition of the atrocious rule-writing in (ahem) play here. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jan 2 '15 at 0:12

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