Giddy Up – Horses for Cairn

In my previous post, I already lauded Cairn’s WIP 2e Wilderness Exploration rules. They got me thinking – how would mounts, specifically horses, interact with this system? (I’ve also been playing Red Dead Redemption 2, and Arthur’s confirmation that horses are, in fact, good boys/girls still rings in my head, so yeah).

Image: Horse Riders by Alexander Forssberg

Throughout this article, I’ll go into two types of horses. Actually, they’re both horses, but the Warden’s part in it varies.

  • Simple horses are the easiest to implement in the game
  • Fancy horses include all sorts of variant rules and stat methods I came up with

I generated 100 fancy horses for ease of use – find it on Itch!

See whichever you like more!

Horses 101

To acquire a horse, visit the local stables and see what’s for sale. I’d say that horses are…

  • Pretty strong
  • Pretty quick
  • Easy to spook
  • Not good at defending themselves
1d6Coat ColorMane & Tail ColorBody Markings
1ChestnutWhiteWhite socks
2PalominoBlackWhite blaze
3BlackChestnutWhite spots
I also had to Google half of these. Good way to learn about horses!

Simple Horses

A horse has STR 16, DEX 12, WIL 5, and 3 hp.

Fancy horses

Random rolls can be way more fun. I did some magic, and came up with the following:

DEX4d6, drop the lowest value
WIL3d6, drop the highest value

That gives us the following ranges:

  • STR: 12 to 18, average of 15
  • DEX: 3 to 18, average of 13
  • WIL: 2 to 12, average of 6
  • HP: Between 1 and 4

Players can inspect prospective horses. Use the above ranges and averages to describe the horse. A horse with 13 STR, 10 DEX, and 9 WIL would be:

A horse of average physical condition, yet its reflexes seem a little slow. Its eyes glitter with intensity, giving you the impression that this horse is not easy to scare.

Inventory Slots

Next, I’m going to borrow something from Alex Dzuricky’s amazing Knave-hack Brave: horses have a bunch of inventory slots (way more than people), and riding it automatically occupies 15 slots.

This means that you can walk next to a horse filled with cargo, or you can ride it can have it carry some goods.

For our simple horses, we’re just gonna give each horse 25 slots.

For our advanced premium randomly-rolled fancy horses, we’re gonna take the horse’s STR and add 10 to get the number of slots. I’d say that this inventory space does not decrease when the horse takes STR damage – life is hard enough as it is.

That means our fancy horses get between 22 to 28 inventory slots, with an average of 25.

Buying A Horse

Visit your local stable, and peruse the horses there (whether they be standard/simple or fancy/randomly generated). Brave sets horse prices between 1.000 and 10.000 coins. Let’s use that as a reference.

Buying A Simple Horse

A simple horse costs 1000 gold.

Buying A Fancy Horse

Okay, I did the math. Use this table to look up the attributes of the generated fancy horse and matching added cost:

It ain’t pretty, but it should line up with the bell curve.

Traveling On Horseback

The basic idea is that a horse improves your travel speed on easy terrains like roads, grasslands, and plains. In other kinds of terrain, a horse does not provide significant speed bonuses.

A Small Update

After having looked a bit more into horses, hiking and travel speeds, I think the easiest way to summarize the next bit would be “Horses go twice as fast as walking on easy terrain”.

The calculation of this travel speed bonus depends on how you run your journeys. I like to look at the map, see where the players are going, roughly calculate the distance (in kilometers, you heathen), and divide that by the number of Watches it would take to get there.

The aforementioned Wilderness Exploration for Cairn 2e assumes the party can move one hex per Travel action. Using standard 6 mile (ew) hexes (which are roughly 10km), means the party can travel 10 km per Watch (of 8 hours). A horse would make that 15 km per Watch.

So, if the players want to travel to the Peak of No Return on horseback, we’d look at the map and see that it’s 75 km over the Plains of Joy and then 20 km through the Smelly Swamp.

On foot, this would take 75km / 10km per Watch = 8 Travel Actions to cross the Plains, and, since swamps have tripled travel times, 20km / 3 km per Watch = 7 Travel Actions to cross the Swamps, for a total of 15 Travel Actions, or 7,5 days of travel if the party takes 2 Travel Actions per day and rests the third.

On horseback, this would take 75km / 15km per Watch = 5 Travel Actions for the Plains, and 7 Travel Actions for the swamp, for a total of 12 Travel Actions, or 6 days.

So, horses are not a whole lot quicker, but they do allow for way more gear, especially if you add carts.

Carts in Brave

Brave has carts, wagons, and carriages.
A cart has 10 slots and costs 50 gold, so cannot take a rider.
A wagon has 40 slots and costs 120 gold.
A carriage has 80 slots and costs 320 gold, and requires two work animals to pull.
I’d rule that none of these can travel beyond easy terrains like roads, grasslands, and plains.

Combat On Horseback

Horses mostly serve to give increased mobility in combat, both when fighting or fleeing. They can also be quite intimidating (something to perhaps take into account with Morale rolls for opponents), and can perhaps use their hooves (d6 damage).

Skilled riders can leverage their high ground into advantage in combat, like for instance through the Mounted Mastery skill from Block, Dodge, Parry, which makes all attacks while mounted Enhanced.


Horses allow for a quick getaway in combat.

When fleeing from creatures that cannot logically keep up with horses and that cannot make ranged attacks, a horse rider does not need to make a DEX Save to flee – it just succeeds.

When fleeing from creatures that can keep up (a pack of wolves), make a DEX Save to get away safely, using the horse’s DEX. On a failure, the combat continues.

When fleeing from enemies that can make ranged attacks (but cannot otherwise keep up), make a DEX Save using the horse’s DEX to avoid getting hit when you flee (you still get away though).


As stated before, horses can get spooked.

A horse must make a WIL Save when confronted with ferocious animals or monsters (once again, a pack of wolves), and when their HP reaches 0.

As an optional rule, you can interpret a WIL of 10 or higher as a horse trained for combat, that only needs to make a WIL Save when attacked (but not when confronted with ferocious foes).

If a horse is mounted, the rider must use their WIL instead of the horse’s to make the Save. If the rider is a notably experienced rider, this might also bypass the need for a save (such as with Block, Dodge, Parry‘s Mount Mastery skill, which states that “You can always keep any mount you’re riding calm and under control.”

A spooked horse will throw off their rider (if they have any) and run off. They can be recovered after combat, as they tend not to run far.

If a rider is thrown off, they’ll find it quite hard to defend themselves from immediate attacks, as they’re prone on the ground. If you get attacked before you can get up during your turn, this attack is likely to be Enhanced and/or ignore your HP.

That’s it, I think! Quite a bit on horses. Oh, and Brave is really neat. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Giddy Up – Horses for Cairn

  1. Love this! Awesome work. I was wondering if you’d be able to provide an example of purchasing a fancy horse using your varying cost table?

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