A lance is a 2 handed reach weapon. PHB also states the following:

Lance: A lance deals double damage when used from the back of a charging mount. It has reach, so you can strike opponents 10 feet away with it, but you can’t use it against an adjacent foe. While mounted, you can wield a lance with one hand.

I know I should split questions, but they are closely related.

1, Does reach work normally while mounted? I.e. you can attack all squares 10 feat away, even diagonally, you cannot attack within 5 feet. (And rules can be applied for facing/line of sight)

2, Does the strength modifier on damage reduce to x1, from x1.5, when wielding a lance one-handed while mounted?

3, Can you wield a lance two-handed while mounted? (I know of the consequent ride check(s))


2 Answers 2


Using a reach weapon while mounted

If you're willing to go outside the Player's Handbook for clarification, a reach weapon does work a little differently for a rider atop a mount: a reach weapon becomes a little more versatile.

The Player's Handbook only says, "For simplicity, assume that you share your mount's space during [mounted] combat" (157). The handful of times creatures otherwise share spaces the creatures are foes (like during a grapple), the creatures are all really little (like a gang of grigs) or one creature's very big and the others littler (like an ogre and a gang of grigs), or one creature's helpless (like when one's dead). Because those all have clear rules and this case doesn't, precisely what the Player's Handbook actually means when it says a rider and mount share the mount's space is up to the DM. With its silence, the Player's Handbook implies that—much like if the rider's mount were wielding the reach weapon instead—a rider wielding a reach weapon is burdened with the reach weapon's lack of close-combat functionality. And, as you may've noticed, this kind of sucks.

I tried to go to the site that hosted this image but couldn't. If it's yours, please alert me, and I'll credit you. St. George behaving ambiguously under RAW.

Now, let me preface this next part by saying that the Rules of the Game columns by Skip Williams—a coauthor of Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition—take some heat because the columns sometimes present wrong information. (For instance, this column had to be reposted because of errors.) Yet in this case, instead of creating a new rule (which the columns sometimes do), the column clarifies the above ambiguous one. The Rules of the Game Web column "All about Mounts (Part One)" says

For all game purposes, you and your mount function as a single unit on the battlefield. Your mount continues to use its own space and reach while carrying you. You effectively use your mount's space and your own reach (or whatever extended reach your weapon gives you) while mounted. While you're mounted, any attack that can reach a square in the space you and your mount jointly occupy can affect you or your mount (it doesn't make a difference which square). Likewise, you measure your reach for your melee attacks and the range for your ranged attacks from any square you and your mount jointly occupy. You don't get cover from your mount unless you use the Ride skill to get it, and your mount doesn't block your attacks and provide your foes with cover.

(Emphases mine.) So, while I expect most folks (like me!) imagined a typical reach-weapon-wielding rider threatening the 10 ft. around the typical mount—and leaving that pesky unthreatened usually-5-ft. gap between the reach weapon's threatened squares and the mount so that the mount must defend itself—, this ruling allows a reach-weapon-wielding rider to, essentially, threaten through the mount so that he can also launch attacks against adjacent foes. (While the first emphasized statement's important, the second seals it: a creature can't make attacks of opportunity against foes with relative cover, and if, for example, a rider measures from the farthest-away-from-the-foe square of his mount through the mount, the Player's Handbook's unclear if the mount's granting the foe cover because rider and mount share the mount's space; this ruling clears up that the mount doesn't grant the foe cover from the rider.) St. George approves.

Keep in mind there's still an area into which a typical reach-weapon-wielding rider atop a typical mount can't make attacks: within his and his mount's shared space! The Dungeon Master's Guide says that "a creature can attack into its own space (unless armed with a reach weapon)" (29). (Emphasis mine.) Beware gangs of grig highwaymen! (But only because they're so adorable.)

Let me make clear that I, too, don't like this ruling's provenance, but mounted combat is so vague in the Player's Handbook that relying on an outside source—even a Rules of the Game column—to make heads or tails of it seems better than giving up and playing Smash Bros.

The other questions

That was long and complicated. These two'll be quick. I swear.

"How much damage does a lance deal?"

A typical creature wielding a lance one-handed deals the lance's damage plus the creature's Strength modifier. A typical creature wielding a lance two-handed deals the lance's damage plus 1½× the creature's Strength bonus (also see here). This amount doesn't change if the typical creature's riding a typical mount, although usually a creature can't wield a lance one-handed when not riding a mount (see below).

"Can a rider wield a lance two-handed?"

Sure. While a lance is usually a two-handed weapon as per Table 7–5: Weapons (PH 116-7), the Player's Handbook also says, "While mounted, you can wield a lance with one hand" (118). Thus, a mounted rider can use a lance either one-handed or two-handed like St. George up there (although, really, St. George may be using a longspear, which is two-handed, mounted or not). A lance gains—not loses—versatility when a rider's mounted.

  • \$\begingroup\$ St. George approves...indeed! ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zarus
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 12:41

Yes, yes, yes (by RAW)

  1. Reach works when you're mounted. However, there is a slight caveat: while mounted your character shares space with the mount, which might be a large creature, occupying (e.g.) 2x2 squares on a 5' square grid. Lance gives you ability to strike anyone within 10' from that field, but not immediately near it. Since you are not a Large creature, you would not benefit from Reach doubling your range from 10' to 20', but instead attack as if you were in each one square occupied by your mount at the same time.

  2. Yes, you use standard one-handed grip when on horseback and your STR bonus to damage is not multiplied.

  3. I can't find anything that says you can't do it. I can't find a rule that says there is a penalty for doing so either. As a GM I would say it's ridiculously unrealistic and not practiced in real life horsemanship so if your game adopts a simulationist point of view, I would rule it out. Using two hands to control a lance in real life wouldn't give much advantage, as lance's thrusting power stems from horse's movement and grip mechanics. Outside of a charge the use of lance would be limited overall due to its length. Then again, it is optimal and advantageous within game environment. That said, if you want to go by the rules and not common sense, there don't seem to be any obstacles for continued two-handed use of a lance while mounted.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you want to go for common sense, the ability to strike alternatively left and right while holding the lance one-handed, or the ability of your mount to face one direction and then the opposite repeatedly within 6 seconds, will be difficult to justify anyway :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 13:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Only rule blocking you is the DC 5 ride check to free your second hand. By RAW you can also just take 2 lances and go crazy on charges. House rules/DM ruling will probably defend common sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – Me_Maikey
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why on earth is two-handing a lance while mounted ridiculous? If it works unmounted, I don’t see why it wouldn't mounted. Lances used in combat were rather different from those used in jousts, you know. That using both hands is optimal is kind of silly, but that is more commentary on the weakness of shields in the game than anything else. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Me_Maikey Dual-wielding lances doesn’t benefit a charge, since you only get one attack at the end. That changes if you have pounce, but two to four feats enabling TWF with two lances is a step price to pay to lose the 1.5 multiplier. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 13:48
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Eikre You obviously know much more about the matter than I do. I could point out that your comment could be worded in a less confrontational manner, but maybe you could make it into a superior answer? I would gladly upvote it if it was as well documented as your comment here. \$\endgroup\$
    – eimyr
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 20:31

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