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I have been looking at long distance travel via mounts versus travelling on foot, so that I can more effectively build and describe the world, as well as manage random encounters and such. I am having trouble figuring out a certain part of the PHB description of mounted travel:

For short spans of time (up to an hour), many animals move much faster than humanoids. A mounted character can ride at a gallop for about an hour, covering twice the usual distance for a fast pace. If fresh mounts are available every 8 to 10 miles, characters can cover larger distances at this pace, but this is very rare except in densely populated areas.

(Emphasis mine.)

I have already extrapolated the normal travel pace of a creature to be its walking speed divided by 10 rounded up in miles per hour, as this leads to 3 miles/hour for the player characters with exceptions of permanent speed increases as well as with Flying mounts as described in the DMG Page 119:

A creature that serves as a flying mount must rest 1 hour for every 3 hours it flies, and it can't fly for more than 9 hours per day. Thus, characters mounted on griffons (which have a flying speed of 80 feet) can travel at 8 miles per hour, covering 72 miles over 9 hours with two 1-hour-long rests over the course of the day.

(Emphasis mine.)

So looking at either a Riding Horse or a Warhorse, each of which has a walking speed of 60 ft., I would double the travel pace distances covered by a creature with 30 ft. speed. However, the part mentioning acquiring fresh mounts every 8 to 10 miles confuses me, as a horse could move 16 miles per hour during a gallop. Unless the phrase "twice the usual distance for a fast pace" does not refer to the fast pace of a horse, but of typical medium creatures like many PCs, and it doesn't say one way or the other.

So how does that work, exactly? Does a galloping horse travel at twice its own fast pace, or can it only travel at twice the fast pace of a typical medium humanoid? Furthermore, if the correct answer is the latter, since galloping would be akin to the horse's fast traveling pace, does that mean galloping effectively replaces a fast travel pace by horseback?

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    \$\begingroup\$ related: what are the benefits of having a mount? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 19 '16 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I actually just looked at that as well, but your answer there is working off of the assumptions I am sort of bringing into question here. Given that, you are probably well equipped to help me out here, too, assuming you are understanding something already that I am missing. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Sep 19 '16 at 21:23
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In D&D 5e, the daily rate of mounted overland travel is generally the same as on foot, because horses get tired and adventurers carry a lot of heavy equipment.

See the section Special Travel Pace in the DMG (p. 242–243). This section starts:

The rules on travel pace in the Player’s Handbook assume that a group of travelers adopts a pace that, over time, is unaffected by the individual members’ walking speeds. The difference between walking speeds can be significant during combat, but during an overland journey, the difference vanishes as travelers pause to catch their breath, the faster ones wait for the slower ones, and one traveler’s quickness is matched by another traveler’s endurance.

In the same section, the rule is:

  • In 1 hour, you can move a number of miles equal to your speed divided by 10.

and then:

  • For a fast pace, increase the rate of travel by one-third.
  • For a slow pace, multiply the rate by two-thirds.

So an unencumbered horse with a speed of 60 could theoretically travel 6 miles in an hour at a normal pace. At a fast pace (a gallop), 8 miles per hour. That's "twice the usual distance for a fast pace", where "usual" means a creature with a speed of 30. This suggests that a riding horse with no rider, traveling alone, can cover 48 miles per day at a normal pace.

So the rule that "a mounted character can ride at a gallop for about an hour, covering twice the usual distance for a fast pace" seems to exist to allow for mounted travelers covering short distances quickly by using the mount's speed instead of "the usual pace", for up to an hour each day.

So, according to the rules, a traveler on a horse at a normal pace (3 miles per hour) will cover about 24 miles in an 8-hour day. If you make the horse gallop for an hour each day (fast pace for a horse being 8 miles per hour), that range increases to 29 miles. That's within the realm of what you would expect in real life, with a fast horse on good roads in fair weather.

Variant: Encumbrance

If you're using the encumbrance rule, a Riding Horse needs to be carrying less than 80 lbs of rider and equipment to get its full speed of 60. Loaded with between 80 and 160 lbs it has a speed of 50, and carrying between 160 and 480 lbs (its maximum carrying capacity) it has a speed of 30. A 200 lb adventurer in chainmail with a dungeoneering pack, longsword, and shield weighs in at about 325 lbs, so under this rule a horse's travel pace is usually the same as an unencumbered adventurer on foot.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking about asking as well about what you can do after a gallop, because I haven't seen anything about that. I left it out because it's really a separate thing, but I do like your idea there. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Sep 20 '16 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ On Encumbrance: the weigth threshold for encumbrance on a riding horse would be 160 lbs, not 80 lbs. Under Size and Strength (PHB p.176), it says: "For each size category above Medium, double the creature's carrying capacity" \$\endgroup\$ – Gabriel Rainha Jan 25 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GabrielRainha The carrying capacity is doubled, but the rule is silent on the encumbrance thresholds. As written, they are unaffected. Although I agree that it would be reasonable for size to affect these as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Apocalisp Jan 26 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The DMG's rules for special travel pace are specifically for special modes of travel that have advantages over travelling on foot or mundane mounts, like a spell, magical engine or flying mount. These rules aren't meant to be applied to normal horses. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Feb 14 at 19:12
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Over long distances, traveling while mounted is the same speed as traveling on foot. (No rule states otherwise and it is reasonably consistent with real life. People ride horses long distance because it's easier, not because it's significantly faster. A horse with no rider is another story.)

This makes your question about a mount's short term fast traveling moot; the answer is the same whether you use the traveler's pace or the mounted traveler's pace.

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