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From "Controlling a Mount" on p.198 of the Player's Handbook:

The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it. It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options; Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.

Does this mean that the rider and mount share a single turn?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Answerers: the Sage Advice podcast on mounted combat is also a useful reference source here. (Linked at the beginning of a discussion on controlling the mount) \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Mar 20 '18 at 14:10
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Yes

The key is in the passage you quote:

It moves as you direct it, ...

which in my opinion needs to be read:

It moves as and when you direct it, ...

You direct the movement of the mount and can take your action and possible bonus action at any time during that movement. The mount can also take its action (limited to Dash, Disengage and Dodge) and possible bonus action at any time during that movement. Note that the limitation on actions does not affect bonus actions.

If you are lucky enough to have a mount with lair or legendary actions (go the dragon rider!) they happen when they otherwise would.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Bizarrely enough (and despite all the downvotes and my own tortured exercise in semantics up there) yours is the only correct answer to my question. "A controlled mount can move and act (even) on the turn that you mount it" would be a clearer argument, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Sebkha Sep 5 '15 at 6:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I downvoted this because 'in my opinion needs to be read' is not a good answer to a RAW question. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Mar 16 '17 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli the downvotes are likely because this answer is purely opinion-based with absolutely no basis in any rules. Whether it is clear in the book or not, this answer does nothing to tell us. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 19 '18 at 20:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli I disagree and so does Jeremy Crawford also here (for what it is worth). The way I read the rules it makes perfect sense. The mount just either moves and acts before or after your turn. Very simple. Very easy. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 19 '18 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 19 '18 at 21:58
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No, a controlled mount acts on its own turn (adjacent to the rider's)

Initiative determines the order of turns during combat. [...] The DM ranks the combatants in order from the one with the highest Dexterity check total to the one with the lowest. This is the order (called the initiative order) in which they act during each round.

The PHB describes the rules for mounted combat. In them it describes that a controlled mount has an initiative that is the same as the rider's:

The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it.

So, what does "changes to match your [initiative]" mean? It means that they have the same total dex check score that you got (after rolling a d20 and adding bonuses). That means that you are tied for initiative. Luckily, there are rules specifically for the case of initiative ties:

If a tie occurs, the DM decides the order among tied DM-controlled creatures, and the players decide the order among their tied characters. The DM can decide the order if the tie is between a monster and a player character.

So, if two creatures have the same initiative (a tie) the players/DM get to decide in which order they go. Nowhere does it say that creatures with the same initiative go on the same turn. And nowhere in the rules for mounted combat is this suggested either.

Thus, the mount gets its own turn but the rules make it so that it acts on a turn adjacent to yours.

Practical effects of this

All this ruling means is that mount and rider take separate turns. The mount can move and act then the rider can move and act (or vice-versa). This is the exact way that independent mounts clearly work and all this answer is saying is that it is also true with controlled mounts.

Official rulings agree

Jeremy Crawford has clarified and agreed with this here:

Q: I listen your podcast Dragon Talk: seems like you said that you and the controlled mount have the same turn. Does this mean that the rider and mount share a single turn? [...]

A: A controlled mount has its own turn, but that turn takes place on the same initiative count as the rider’s turn.

and here:

A rider and a controlled mount have separate turns, but they have the same initiative, which means you decide which one goes first.

House rules

It is fairly common, in my experience, to house rule that the rider and mount can interweave their movements and actions. I don't see, and have not experienced, any issue with this as far as game balance or combat flow is concerned. So, if a DM wished to play it like this there shouldn't be a huge issue. However, from the rules, it is clear that this is not the intended interpretation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Recent Dragon Talk disagrees. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 21 '18 at 0:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron: If you are referring to where he says "it still has a turn but it's turn basically overlaps with yours." then what you just said is very much not true. He said exactly what I am saying in my answer but in a confusing way. He has clarified what he meant here (this is the first tweet I have in my answer, read the context and all will be clear). \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 21 '18 at 1:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ 21:22 your gaining "on your turn" all this potential extra movement. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 21 '18 at 7:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron: Listening to it yet again, I am actually starting to come around to your way of thinking on the issue. Not sure how exactly to square it with the twitter clarifications, but still. If you wanted to write this up as an answer it would probably be a good candidate for my bounty. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 21 '18 at 11:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I'm ready to answer yet. Its a difficult question as there isn't anything more clear on equivalent initiative. I'll keep researching and I did reach out to JC on twitter recently. To be concluded... \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 21 '18 at 11:15
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Yes.

Unlike in previous editions of D&D, a creature's initiative in 5e is an ordinal (e.g "third turn in the round") rather than a numerical score (e.g. "Dexterity check total of eleven").

Because initiative is an ordinal, the "Controlling a Mount" rule works as follows:

A combat is in progress. Applejack the Warhorse's initiative is the sixth turn of every round. Bob the Battlemaster's initiative is the third turn of every round.

  • On his turn, Bob spends half his movement to mount Applejack.
  • Applejack's initiative is changed to match Bob's, becoming the third turn of every round.
  • Bob selects Dash as Applejack's action, making Applejack's allowable movement for the turn 120'. Bob directs Applejack to move 70', bringing him within reach of an opponent.
  • Bob takes his Attack action.
  • Bob directs Applejack to move 50' away from the opponent. Applejack and Bob's shared turn is complete.

If Bob were to be unhorsed before the end of the combat, Applejack's initiative would revert to sixth again; the initiative order itself never changes.


What does "initiative" mean?

Since everything hinges on the phrase "the initiative of a controlled mount changes", let's comb through the rules text.

From page 189 of the Player's Handbook:

Initiative

Initiative determines the order of turns during combat.

Tells us what initiative does, but not what it is.

When combat starts, every participant makes a Dexterity check to determine their place in the initiative order. [...] The DM ranks the combatants in order from the one with the highest Dexterity check total to the one with the lowest. This is the order (called the initiative order) in which they act during each round. The initiative order remains the same from round to round.

There are two distinct concepts here:

  1. The Dexterity check total. This is a numerical value in (roughly) the 1-20 range. There can be ties.

  2. The rank in the initiative order. This is an ordinal value (first, second, third,...last). There are never ties, since they're always resolved according to the following rule:

If a tie occurs, the DM decides the order among tied DM-controlled creatures, and the players decide the order among their tied characters. The DM can decide the order if the tie is between a monster and a player character.

Taking (2) above as the definition of "initiative" gives the most satisfactory interpretation: initiative is a creature's rank in the initiative order. Creatures only share initiative in two cases:

  • Multiple identical creatures under GM control
  • Controlled mounts
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does this mean that Multiple identical creatures under GM control can interleave their actions, too? Or is that specific to controlled mounts? \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Hutton Sep 23 '15 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Paul, yes, identical creatures share a single turn, acting at the same time. (Silly mobile editing...) I think an important point is that a mount can act "on the turn you mount it." A turn specifically refers to a creature's actions. If a mount moved in a separate turn from the rider, the language would have to read "round" rather than "turn" as it does. \$\endgroup\$ – Lost_in_Hyrule Sep 24 '15 at 3:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related reading: Is initiative ordinal or numerical? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Mar 20 '17 at 1:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ This example above with Applejack is incorrect. Bob doesn't get to direct Applejack's movement the final 50 feet, as Bob already chose to end Applejack's turn and make his attack. Both the controlled mount and the rider have separate turns, per Jeremy Crawford (actually posted below as well). \$\endgroup\$ – Seth R. Feldman Mar 19 '18 at 23:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SethR.Feldman They have separate but concurrent turns, but neither ends during the others turn. The turns overlap, see here (You could include this link Sebkha) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Mar 21 '18 at 0:45
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No.

It means that they share an initiative, you pick who goes first. Technically at the beginning of when this happens, and then it stays that way until the combat is over or the ridership is transferred, since there is no delaying by RAW.

I'd imagine however, that many games house rule this so that they can take their turns interspersed.

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You and your mount act on different (but co-current) turns.


PHB pg 198

CONTROLLING A MOUNT

While you're mounted, you have two options. You can either control the mount or allow it to act independently. Intelligent creatures, such as dragons, act independently.

You can control a mount only if it has been trained to accept a rider. Domesticated horses, donkeys, and similar creatures are assumed to have such training. The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it. It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options; Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.

An independent mount retains its place in the initiative order. Bearing a rider puts no restrictions on the actions the mount can take, and it moves and acts as it wishes. It might flee from combat, rush to attack and devour a badly injured foe, or otherwise act against your wishes.

In either case, if the mount provokes an opportunity attack while you're on it, the attacker can target you or the mount.

PHB pg 311

TRAMPLING CHARGE (warhorse)

If the horse moves at least 20 feet straight toward a creature right before hitting it with a hooves attack, the target must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving Throw or be knocked prone. If the target is prone, the horse can take a bonus action to make another attack with its hooves against the target.

OotA pg 226

CAVALRY TRAINING

When the Chitik hits a target with a melee attack while mounted on a creature, the mount can make a melee attack against the same target as a reaction.


There are two cases:

Unintelligent mount

When you mount an unintelligent creature who qualifies as a mount, it's previously independent initiative (as a separate creature) changes to match yours, if you choose to control it. If you choose to allow it to act independently, then it's initiative does not change. (note the wording above: "The initiative of a controlled mount changes")

In the case where you take control, the two of you move co-currently. It does not lose it's initiative, rather it simply matches yours, and acts co-currently to your turn. If you were to dismount, it would still act on it's new initiative, which is equal to the former riders (if not, it could act twice in one round, by rolling initiative lower than it's riders, and then having the rider dismount).

Intelligent Mount

When you mount an intelligent creature who qualifies as a mount, it retains its place in the initiative order. You do not direct it's actions, and your presence does not limit it's ability to act.

Cavalry Training and Trampling charge

From the above analysis, the two creatures do not share a turn. Thus if a Chitik riding a warhorse were to move 20 ft straight toward a creature, and then attacked them, the mount could make a single hooves attack, but not use the "trampling charge" feature.

Furthermore, the mount would have to move away, back again, and then make a second hooves attack before using the trampling charge feature.

This may be best understood in the following (legal) example:

Cor the Chitik Cavalier is riding Bree the warhorse. Cor&Bree start 15 ft away from a goblin Droop.

Cor directs Bree to move 5 ft towards droop to be within range.

Cor attacks Droop with his Spear. Because of his Cavalry Training feature, Bree can move 5ft closer and make an attack on Droop with a reaction.

Cor then directs Bree to move 20 ft away from droop (provoking an opportunity attack).

Cor and Bree move 20 ft towards Droop.

Bree makes a hooves attack as an action. Droop fails his STR ST, and falls prone.

Bree makes a bonus action hooves attack on Droop.

Cor and Bree use the last of their movement and move 10 ft away from Droop.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ (1) The reaction is instantaneous, Bree cannot move 5 more feet to hit it with its hooves. (2) A spear has a reach of 5 feet, maybe you mean a lance? (3) Does your example assume that Cor is not controlling the mount, it's the only way that the mount can attack outside using cavalry training, as its actions are limited while being controlled. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Mar 17 '17 at 0:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by co-current turns? They have the same turn, but can use their own actions and movement? Also your examples don't work. If the mount is being controlled then Bree cannot attack (can't take the Attack action). If it is independent then it definitely does not share the riders turn and the sequence of actions would be impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Mar 26 '18 at 17:22

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