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FIND STEED: Your Pony Has Opinions

I've read people commenting on the mount companion from the 2nd level conjuration spell "Find Steed", describing it as if it were nothing but some robot mount that they control like a puppet. In my opinion, the Steed deserves far more consideration.

The steed is described as "intelligent, strong, and loyal", but that doesn't mean that the steed is brave, dominated, brain-dead, or suicidal.

The steed has a life. It has intelligence, with hopes and fears of its own. Loyalty is also not the same as absolute obedience.

The steed is essentially a fully-fledged NPC, a character in the story that can make its own decisions and affect the course of events with those decisions.

The steed exists somewhere when it isn't called, so it could actually find the PC instead of having to be "found" with the spell, and has memories and knowledge acquired from sources that the PC is unaware of.

Your pony has opinions, and perhaps you should listen, because the fate of the realms may depend on it.

Will the steeds in your campaigns be more than just a stat block? Are you willing to go the distance for pony-sama?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I try to give steeds (and familiars for that matter) a bit of personality but ultimately treat the steed as an extension of the caster. I get where you're coming from but the steed is not a real animal. If they die they just get sent back home, I suppose it's theoretically possible for a steed to permanently die I've just never seen it.

On a related note, we had a campaign my wife was DMing where a player kept getting their familiar killed off. We discussed it and the familiar started suffering from PTSD. Still followed commands but was visibly fearful and would hide when the PC wasn't looking, etc. Eventually the player got the hint.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
While it is great to give steeds personality, the are spirits, not beasts. They won't die or anything like that if destroyed. You can dismiss them and summon them in new forms. Familiars are the same. They know that even if destroyed, they only cease to exist in physical form. They can come back in a new body. As such, there is no real risk for them when the player asks them to do something "self-destructive". They know they will always return when the spell is cast again.

Sadly, this is practically the same for PCs once revivify enters the game...

At any rate, this is different from AD&D, where paladin's warhorses and familiars were actual, physical animals, not just spirits taking on a physical form. Then players were much more cautious about putting these "pets" in harm's way. In 5E, there is no need to be cautious with the "lives" of steeds and familiars as they can't die.
 

Dave Goff

Explorer
I have to agree with OP, the steed or familiar is a real being and has its own personality. While it may be a spirit, it's not just a formless bag of nothing created for the caster, it's an independent living being that exists on another plane and probably has existed for much longer than the caster themselves.

Heck, with an intelligence of 6, that makes them as smart as Grog from Critical Role.

Mechanically though, if it's trouble that gets in the way of fun- yeah, sure, it's a robot pony.

I prefer it to be more interesting than that though. :)
 
While it is great to give steeds personality, the are spirits, not beasts. They won't die or anything like that if destroyed. You can dismiss them and summon them in new forms. Familiars are the same. They know that even if destroyed, they only cease to exist in physical form. They can come back in a new body. As such, there is no real risk for them when the player asks them to do something "self-destructive". They know they will always return when the spell is cast again.

Sadly, this is practically the same for PCs once revivify enters the game...

At any rate, this is different from AD&D, where paladin's warhorses and familiars were actual, physical animals, not just spirits taking on a physical form. Then players were much more cautious about putting these "pets" in harm's way. In 5E, there is no need to be cautious with the "lives" of steeds and familiars as they can't die.
I think that it calls up the question of whether or not the steed can feel pain or discomfort either from injury or a violent forced return. In addition, if the PC is alright with treating the steed as a disposable creature, then the steed might choose to break its bond with the PC, thereby ending the spell permanently and preventing the summoning of the same steed. There's no particular rule covering such an occurrence but it would probably make sense from a roleplaying perspective if the bond requires the maintenance of trust and friendship.

If the players at my table decided to treat their PCs as disposable, I might start imposing insanity effects on the PCs for engaging in nihilistic proclivities - to maintain immersion of course...
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I think that it calls up the question of whether or not the steed can feel pain or discomfort either from injury or a violent forced return. In addition, if the PC is alright with treating the steed as a disposable creature, then the steed might choose to break its bond with the PC, thereby ending the spell permanently and preventing the summoning of the same steed. There's no particular rule covering such an occurrence but it would probably make sense from a roleplaying perspective if the bond requires the maintenance of trust and friendship.

If the players at my table decided to treat their PCs as disposable, I might start imposing insanity effects on the PCs for engaging in nihilistic proclivities - to maintain immersion of course...
Well, of course that is your prerogative. However, as the spell forces the spirit to be loyal to the caster, it should do what it can despite any pain or discomfort it might feel either from direct damage or the forced ending of the spell in service to the summoner. The caster should understand the steed's role is a disposable creature, because its physical body is temporary, and the spirit can be summoned again later on, fully restored. Thus, only the form is disposable, but the bond/spirit can still be greatly valued--even more so due to the caster's understanding of the possible sacrifice/pain given in service. The spirit would understand this as well. It's (possible) pain in service to the caster likely prevents harm to the caster and is a badge of honor so to say.

Now, if the player throws their steed to the wolves (literally even LOL) repeatedly and shows no appreciation or remorse, they might not go insane, but should drift towards neutrality or even evil in alignment. Such acts, without feeling for the fate (albeit temporary) of the steed is hardly the act of a good person IMO. Of course, even then, they know their steed will return unharmed.

That is my take, for what it's worth. :)
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
The steed is essentially a fully-fledged NPC, a character in the story that can make its own decisions and affect the course of events with those decisions.
So a DMPC huh? Yea, no thanks.

The story is about the PCs, not the PC's companions/familiars/hirelings/etc. Sure such entities are part of the story, just like all NPCs are, but how much of the story should be left up to the Players to decide, not the DM.
Will the steeds in your campaigns be more than just a stat block? Are you willing to go the distance for pony-sama?
No.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
In game, the steed can be it's own personality.

At the player level, the steed is the effect of due to what's on their character sheet, so while we can endeavor to bring it to life, we won't attempt to use it to subvert the player's wishes.

On the player's sheet = not the DM's.
 
In game, the steed can be it's own personality.

At the player level, the steed is the effect of due to what's on their character sheet, so while we can endeavor to bring it to life, we won't attempt to use it to subvert the player's wishes.

On the player's sheet = not the DM's.
As with all summoned monsters, the DM is expected to provide the stats for the steed and allows/disallows choices depending on the circumstances of the campaign. The DM should however have a discussion with the player about how they wish to go about it since the steed has a potentially major impact on the roleplaying (for example - where the steed comes from can matter a lot since it is a fey/fiend/celestial).

As the spell itself grants the steed decision-making power of its own as an intelligent creature and nowhere does the spell's description say that the steed obeys the PC's commands like a zombie (there's a difference between a faithful servant and a dominated slave), there is going to be a common sense limit to how much the player can push the steed unless the campaign itself is the type that rolls with extreme in-game decisions (ex. a Monty Python style campaign).

If it's a campaign that is roleplaying-focused with a level of immersion that everyone has agreed upon and the player is mature enough to not constantly throw their steed into pits of carrion crawlers, problems where the DM has to curb the brakes on what the steed is willing to do will probably not come up.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Explorer
I have the opposite problem. I play a paladin and my steed has the personality of "proud, dumb warrior guy" so he constantly wants to get into battles and "gloriously defeat the enemies of Erathis." Most of the time while mounted I take direct control but sometimes I dismount and he gets to act on his own. He almost always just charges the nearest creature. This was cute when I first got him but we are now level 9 and he hasn't scaled at all so he basically poofs out of existence if anyone looks at him funny in combat. And resummoning him in the middle of an adventuring day is one less spell slot used for a smite or emergency heal.

But he isn't actually bothered by dying. What irritates him the most is when I hook him up to a cart in conjunction with a draft horse I bought. He feels that menial labour is boring.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
The steed is described as "intelligent, strong, and loyal", but that doesn't mean that the steed is brave, dominated, brain-dead, or suicidal.
Counterpoint- the steed is in service of a Paladin; at best, it deserves to be served up in an Ikea meatball, if not a glue factory.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
As with all summoned monsters, the DM is expected to provide the stats for the steed and allows/disallows choices depending on the circumstances of the campaign. The DM should however have a discussion with the player about how they wish to go about it since the steed has a potentially major impact on the roleplaying (for example - where the steed comes from can matter a lot since it is a fey/fiend/celestial).

As the spell itself grants the steed decision-making power of its own as an intelligent creature and nowhere does the spell's description say that the steed obeys the PC's commands like a zombie (there's a difference between a faithful servant and a dominated slave), there is going to be a common sense limit to how much the player can push the steed unless the campaign itself is the type that rolls with extreme in-game decisions (ex. a Monty Python style campaign).

If it's a campaign that is roleplaying-focused with a level of immersion that everyone has agreed upon and the player is mature enough to not constantly throw their steed into pits of carrion crawlers, problems where the DM has to curb the brakes on what the steed is willing to do will probably not come up.
Every campaign is "roleplaying-focused" since players are playing roles by determining what their characters think, do, and say.

The assertion that the steed "wouldn't" do this or that really strikes me as an excuse by the DM to jump in and play the character (or in this case, the character's resource) for the player whenever the DM doesn't like the player's choice. Because D&D shares elements with childhood games of make-believe, for every reason a DM can think of that the steed wouldn't jump into a pit of carrion crawlers, a player can think of a reason why it might. Provided that choice is contributing to the group's ability to achieve the goals of play - that is, everyone having a good time and creating an exciting, memorable story - then whatever reason underpinning it is fine.

If a DM doesn't like a player's choice because perhaps it isn't fun for everyone and/or isn't helping to create an exciting, memorable story, that is deserving of a side discussion in my view to get on the same page rather than the creation of a backdoor to negating the player's choice in the first place.
 
Every campaign is "roleplaying-focused" since players are playing roles by determining what their characters think, do, and say.

The assertion that the steed "wouldn't" do this or that really strikes me as an excuse by the DM to jump in and play the character (or in this case, the character's resource) for the player whenever the DM doesn't like the player's choice. Because D&D shares elements with childhood games of make-believe, for every reason a DM can think of that the steed wouldn't jump into a pit of carrion crawlers, a player can think of a reason why it might. Provided that choice is contributing to the group's ability to achieve the goals of play - that is, everyone having a good time and creating an exciting, memorable story - then whatever reason underpinning it is fine.

If a DM doesn't like a player's choice because perhaps it isn't fun for everyone and/or isn't helping to create an exciting, memorable story, that is deserving of a side discussion in my view to get on the same page rather than the creation of a backdoor to negating the player's choice in the first place.
There's a difference between being focused and being the general theme. For example, some campaigns could focus primarily on the wargaming aspects of DnD, with minimal roleplaying.

Also, I'm not suggesting that the DM pull a unexpected fast one all of a sudden on any player.

If the DM and player have had a discussion about the steed as well as a session zero about the expectations of both sides about the campaign, and the player decides to not only disregard the discussion with the DM but also what all the players agreed upon during session zero, it becomes a problem where the DM can and probably should step in somehow, at least to remind the player about being consistent in a cooperative gaming activity.

Another result of the DM having a discussion beforehand with the player - they also have prior agreements on HOW the DM cuts in on what the player does at the table.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There's a difference between being focused and being the general theme. For example, some campaigns could focus primarily on the wargaming aspects of DnD, with minimal roleplaying.
Not according to how the rules define roleplaying which is simply determining what your character does. Determining that your character attacks an orc is roleplaying whether you do that via active roleplaying or descriptive roleplaying. If all a player does is have his or her character attack orcs in a given session, he or she is roleplaying no less than someone who has his or her character engage in a session-long first-person internal struggle and/or dialogue with other characters about the morality of killing orcs. It's all roleplaying.

Now, you might say something like, in the course of our roleplaying as a group, I really want you guys to expound upon your internal struggles as bold adventurers confronting deadly perils and engage more with the social interaction pillar than combat, but make no mistake that the guy or gal who just wants to kill orcs is also roleplaying.

Also, I'm not suggesting that the DM pull a unexpected fast one all of a sudden on any player.

If the DM and player have had a discussion about the steed as well as a session zero about the expectations of both sides about the campaign, and the player decides to not only disregard the discussion with the DM but also what all the players agreed upon during session zero, it becomes a problem where the DM can and probably should step in somehow, at least to remind the player about being consistent in a cooperative gaming activity.

Another result of the DM having a discussion beforehand with the player - they also have prior agreements on HOW the DM cuts in on what the player does at the table.
I agree that people should be held to their agreements. "I'm sometimes going to take over the playing of your character when I don't like your choices" isn't something I'd agree to, but if I did, I'd expect to hold to it and be held to it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
As the spell itself grants the steed decision-making power of its own as an intelligent creature and nowhere does the spell's description say that the steed obeys the PC's commands like a zombie (there's a difference between a faithful servant and a dominated slave), there is going to be a common sense limit to how much the player can push the steed...
As long as we remember the fact that it is a spiritual entity, and basically immortal. Unless it is not aware of its nature, it wil have a somewhat different perspective on its role than most living creatures. One would have to go a long way to find a physical threat that would really worry the thing, as its continued existence is only rarely in question.

Of greater interest might be the moral or ethical implications of its actions. You probalby can't order your Celestial steed to go stomp on puppies for no good reason, for example.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not according to how the rules define roleplaying which is simply determining what your character does.
Are you sure (or do you even reasonably suspect) that the pedantism of definitions is really going to be constructive?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Are you sure (or do you even reasonably suspect) that the pedantism of definitions is really going to be constructive?
My position is one based on inclusivity in addition to what the game has to say about the definition under discussion. My understanding is that, as a community and per this community's rules, we're for that. No matter a particular D&D game's or player's focus, we're all roleplaying. To suggest or infer that one person is roleplaying and another person isn't because of how they treat a spell like find steed doesn't strike me as inclusive and I have offered a rules-based position to resolve that.

If that position is not to your liking, I'm happy to discuss it with you over PM so as not to derail the thread.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Counterpoint- the steed is in service of a Paladin; at best, it deserves to be served up in an Ikea meatball, if not a glue factory.
Unfortunately, unlike Ikea meatballs which sit in your stomach like lard laced with concrete, the paladin's steed disappears when it dies. Not very filling.

I know this because I had a dwarf who viewed steeds as backup food supply and couldn't understand why we couldn't just carve up the paladin's steed for supper. It could have hobbled around on three legs for a while as the food digested.

Stupid selfish paladins. :(
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Loved the thread title, but not the conclusion.

The Paladin mounts (at least) are spirits taking on the form of normal critters. Despite their intellect, their attitude will be deferential to their Caller. Think of the Cylon response, “By your command.”

Or the exchange between Shaka Zulu and his most important follower:

“Remember, Shaka, we share a common life.”

“Indeed- yours”
 
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