The Great Stirrup Controversy

I am currently running a semi-historical campaign (with Eldritch magic) set in Roman Britain in 400AD. One of the assumptions of the rules is stirrups have been invented. However, in my campaign they have not (yet). So.what is the effect of lack of stirrups on mounted characters and troops. 

Looking through the rules, the closest I can find is this:- 

"Riding saddle and tack is designed for the rider’s comfort. Military saddle
and tack is designed for stability during combat. A character
in combat without a military saddle must save versus Paralysis
every time he is dealt damage or be knocked off the horse."

So, I am happy to have PCs made Paralysis saves when they get hit in mounted combat. But how would the lack of stirrups affect mounted troops? 



Not an Autarch, but my instinct for a simple effect at the Domains at War scale would be that all attacks deal double damage to mounted troops.

There's no question that the stirrup was a valuable invention, but there were many successful cavalry armies before the stirrup. Alexander's Companion Cavalry fought without stirrups, and they actually charged into battle with spears.The Parthians didn't have stirrups, nor did the Assyrians. And the Plains Indians didn't use them either, and they were some of the fiercest mounted warriors in history. Stirrups put riding on Easy Mode but if you're able to ride on Hard Mode you can do without and be very effective.

When I use D@W to simulate ancient battles (Alexander vs. Darius, etc.) I don't make any rule changes at all. My assumption is that stirrups make it easier to learn to ride, and easier to be a rider, but that has resulted in a more select, elite group of riders.

I would suggest the best rule would be as follows:

1. Any character in a riding saddle must save vs. Paralysis if struck in battle.

2. Any character in a military saddle without stirrups and without Riding proficiency must save vs. Paralysis if struck in battle.

3. Any character in a military saddle with stirrups can take damage without needing to save.

4. Civilizations that do not have stirrups have access to 1/2 the normal cavalry that could be levied/trained/hired as mercenaries.


Thanks, Alex. That sounds like a well balanced set ot rules. The reason I called my query "The Great Stirrup Controversy" is beacuse of the debate over how significant the invention stirrups really was. I like the idea of it opening up cavalary to less skilled soldiers, much like muskets opening up ranged combat to  soldiers less skilled than an archer.

Glad to be of assistance! Cheers.

The notion you need stirrups to perform a charge with a lance is a myth. What they do is provide lateral (ie side-to-side) stability. Which is useful (but not essential) when using a mount as an archery platform, and helpful in a standing melee (less likely to be unhorsed by a blow to the side).