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I have read so many things already that I'm more confused than before. So decided to ask this by myself.

My paladin just got his Find Steed spell, and after some tweaking and talking, he decided to get a Worg and I was okay with it. This last session was his first time using it and I have few doubts when it comes to combat.

I know that while mounted, he uses the mounts movement and actions. But what about when unmounted? What if the combat began with him walking by his mount's side?

  1. Does the mount share his initiative?

  2. Are the actions that the mount do, part of the Paladin's actions? Or are they both separately, having his Action, Movement and Bonus Action and then the mounts Action and movement?

We've stated that it can understand him but not talk back, he just telepathically receives feelings as a feedback to his commands, knowing that the mount understood what he needed. Last session he just said things to the mount like "I tell the mount to protect the ranger and the druid" and in case they got hit, it would attack them, but it didn't really do anything at all, as I didn't know when it would act and I had too many things already to remember about the mount.

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The most relevant parts of the find steed spell are (my emphasis):

... unusually intelligent, strong, and loyal steed, creating a long-lasting bond with it.

Your steed serves you as a mount, both in combat and out, and you have an instinctive bond with it that allows you to fight as a seamless unit.

While your steed is within 1 mile of you, you can communicate with it telepathically.

Telepathically is not defined in the rules so it takes its normal English meaning: "communication between minds by some means other than sensory perception." Importantly, "communication" is a two-way process: you can communicate with it and in can communicate with you.

In conjunction with "fight as a seamless unit" this means you can coordinate your actions with your steed better than you can coordinate them with your other party members. That is, anything you can do in conjunction with the rest of the party you can do better with your steed.

As to the mechanics:

  1. The mount has its own initiative (determined at the start of the combat irrespective of if it is being ridden or not q.v. 4).
  2. The mount has its own movement, action, bonus action and reaction (q.v. 4).
  3. The mount is "unusually intelligent": without direction it will use its movement etc. in an "unusually intelligent" way. With direction it will probably do what you telepathically say but it is an independent creature and, at the DM's behest, may do something different subject to its "unusual loyalty".
  4. When you mount your mount you choose if you will control it or if, as it is "unusually intelligent", you will allow it to act independently as per the rules for mounted combat. In all cases that I can think of, allowing it to be independent is the superior option.
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    \$\begingroup\$ The 2018 errata has changed the spell to better support your point now: it says "you can communicate with each other telepathically". Might be worth putting in there. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 5 at 16:47
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While Not Mounted

Jeremy Crawford settled this issue on Twitter. The answer is:

While ridden, the steed follows the normal mounted combat rules (PH, 198). Unridden, it has normal action options.

So, RAW it should have its own initiative count (like familiars and the revised ranger companion, and other unridden mounts) and would be able to take any/all actions any other intelligent creature of its type would take. It would be under the DM's control but would follow orders of the paladin who cast it. At least, that is what RAW and this ruling imply.

As always, the DM may choose to simplify initiative to give the steed the same count to make life easier on them and you. I personally do this with all controlled animals, as it makes my initiative list shorter and rounds faster to resolve.

While Mounted

The creature is intelligent, but can be controlled, so either options:

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.

This means you can choose the mount to have its own initiative count or act on your own while you mounted or for it to act independently.

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Unmounted - has its own initiative and actions but completely controlled by paladin

  1. At the start of combat, the mount gets its own initiative that is determined at the beginning of combat just like every other creature (including familiars and companions) do.
  2. The mount has its own movement, action, bonus action and reaction which it uses to enact the commands from the paladin.
  3. In lieu of any commands, it would act as a "unusually intelligent" member of its species would.

Following the paladin's commands

Jeremy Crawford has clarified:

Q*: Can I command my Find Steed mount to attack separately while not mounted?

JC: While ridden, the steed follows the normal mounted combat rules (PH, 198). Unridden, it has normal action options.

Q*: And will it follow the commands to the best of its ability?

JC: Yes.

So, the paladin can command the steed to do any of the actions its form is normally capable of doing and it will carry that command out to the best of its ability.

Mounted - the mount can be either controlled or independent

On Dragon Talk Jeremy Crawford explained the intended rules, which are that the Paladin can choose:

The spell says that you and the steed fight as a cohesive unit and you can communicate with it and it serves you.

Really what that means is, it is up to you [...] whether to control it or let it act independently

Jeremy Crawford has made it even clearer by later clarifying:

Find steed / find greater steed—when you ride the mount in combat, you decide whether it follows the rules for a controlled or an independent mount.

Thus, the mount can be treated as controlled but can also be allowed to act independently.

Telepathy is two-way

This issue of whether telepathy in general allows a creature to communicate two ways is highly contentious (see Is Dominate Person's telepathic link one-way or two-way? and Is the Warlock's Awakened Mind telepathy two-way, or only one-way? for example). However, in this case errata has made things clear. The 2019 PHB errata changed the wording of find steed to say:

While your steed is within 1 mile of you, you can communicate with each other telepathically.

So, yes, the telepathy here is two-ways.

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Unmounted

A creature that isn't mounted is simply a creature and has all the normal mechanics and actions available to any NPC as described throughout the rules of the game. The Find Steed text doesn't assign any exceptional rules that limit what it's capable of doing or when it acts: it gets its own initiative and takes all actions, as described very well by Dale M. The Find Steed text does give pretty clear guidance on what the horse would want to do while unmounted, which is be loyal to its master and his/her telepathic instructions, again described very well by Dale M.

Regarding who controls it, there is no exceptional rule stating that the player controls it, and therefore the general rule applies which is that the DM controls all things other than the players. Therefore, the DM decides exactly what the mount does while it is 1 mile away from its master and their telepathy is cut off, and the DM also decides how the horse responds to your telepathic commands within 1 mile. Of course, if your DM plays your mount as anything but loyal to you and unusually intelligent, that's unfortunate and not intended by the RAW.

Rules As Written - Mounted

The only way a mounted mount can attack is if it's independent. If a creature is "intelligent", it acts independently. From the PHB:

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.

Confusion #1

People are confused about whether the Find Steed mount is intelligent and therefore independent because the Find Steed text describes the steed as unusually intelligent and assigns a minimum INT of 6. Does this qualify as intelligent enough to act independently, such as a dragon in the example? Perhaps. It isn't perfectly explicit. Confusion is very understandable.

Confusion #2

Another confusion is whether this line from "Find Steed" explicitly overrides the mount's "independence:"

you have an instinctive bond with it that allows you to fight as a seamless unit.

Does "Seamless unit" mean that this mount is no longer independent, and therefore cannot attack in combat? Perhaps. It isn't perfectly explicit. Confusion is very understandable.

For both of these confusions, there is no basis to know for sure in the RAW, and many look to Errata and Game Designer tweets for clarification. Without external clarification, the books are genuinely ambiguous. Like all ambiguities, this leaves the decision to DM discretion.

External Clarifications - Mounted

Lead Game Designer Jeremy Crawford has issued two clarifications on Twitter.

If your DM adjudicates based on authority like Crawford, (s)he will probably want to allow the mount to attack in combat. However, with even the lead game designer changing his mind over the course of 3 years, it's easy to see what a difficult decision this is and perhaps easy to forgive your DM for choosing a different ruling than you'd expect.

My humble Assessment

As a hobbyist game designer for many years and modest statistician, the horse appears to be a valuable asset on par with a 2nd level spell slot without giving an extra attack each turn:

  • Incredible movement speed, in and out of combat
  • Potential to fly, depending on the mount
  • Telepathic control with an animal, yielding combat and non-combat advantages (create distractions, explore areas you can't reach, have it bring you the keys to the prison cell you're trapped in, etc etc)
  • An extra HP pool to scrub attacks
  • Doesn't really cost a full 2nd level slot. Cast it out of combat, take a long rest, and go perhaps several long-rests before needing to recast it.

To take this and add in an extra semi-permanent attack on every single round of combat as long as the horse is alive (+6 to hit, 2D6+4 for warhorse) seems a far greater damage output than any typical 2nd level spell that consumes an entire slot on each cast and only fires once. It is my assessment that it is unbalancing and perhaps game breaking to give this. If a paladin's Find Steed warhorse lasts 1 full day and the DM gives a typical 6 encounters, each lasting even 3 rounds, the paladin gets a total 36D6 + 17 damage, for an expected value of 143 damage, though all requires hit roll. That's a conservative estimate. Compare to Scorching Ray, which also requires hit roll, and yields 6D6, for an expected value of 21. The scorching ray has the potential for more burst damage in one turn, which does not even somewhat compensate for the myriad advantages Find Steed has over it. I wonder if perhaps Crawford was on this same line of thought with his 2015 ruling. Undoubtedly it's the reason a "normal" mount can't attack at all or is too intelligent to be controlled into attacking and would probably share XP.

Finally, if a DM rules that it cannot attack while mounted, the paladin can skirt the ruling altogether and get an attack each turn from the mount anyhow by simply jumping off of it. This is clear in the rules as well as Crawford's clarifications, already shared.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 17 at 7:04
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it is worth keeping in mind you could command the mount to use a ready action, to move where you command and when. if you do this all the time then it would act as a unintelligent mount while still being able to use its turn (and attack) as normal if you choose to not do the ready action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Ready action isn't an available option for controlled mounts (PHB, p. 198): “[A controlled mount] has only three action options: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge.” \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 7 '17 at 20:59

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