Horse Breeding (sage ability)
Horse breeding is an expert-status sage ability that enables skill in selective breeding of horses. The study incorporates methods by which specially desired characteristics of domesticated horses are enhanced through their offspring. The ability also grants superior skills in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and successful foaling.
The character is able to recognize the pedigree of horses upon examination, determining with sight and skill those characteristics that make a specific horse a good candidate for breeding. This knowledge is then applied when inducing a stallion and a mare to mate and reproduce — not only so that their pre-existing traits can be shared by the offspring, but also to ensure the highest possible chance of a giving pairing producing a positive-mutation.
For game purposes, a simplified method is used for the pedigree of horses. Each horse is scaled according to its health, robustness, speed, courage and fertility. Health registers the resistance of the animal to disease and fatigue; robustness, the overall strength and endurance of the horse as a working animal; speed, its value as a racehorse; courage, its temperament when exposed to combat; and fertility, the ease with which it procreates and the chances of a positive mutation.
All horses, wild or domestic, already have specific characteristics relating to their type. These types are the result of thousands of years of breeding; any horse, therefore, is compared by its pedigree. Thus, a workhorse is bred primarily for robustness and health, while warhorses are bred for courage, and to a lesser extent, speed.
Each of the five characteristics above is rolled for on 4d6, the average of which is 14. These numbers are not applicable from one breed of horse to another. A "warhorse" with a speed of 14 is NOT as fast as a racehorse with a speed of 14. A typical warhorse is much slower than a typical racehorse; therefore, speed and other characteristics aren't applicable from one breed to another.
Each point above or below 14 indicates a 1% adjustment from the "average" health, robustness and so on of that breed.
- For example, a pony with a health of 12 would be 2% less resistant to disease than a pony with a health of 14. A pony with a 16 robustness would be able to haul a 2% greater load with regards to encumbrance. A pony with a 16 speed would be 2% faster; one with a 16 courage would have its morale improved by 2%; and one with a fertility of 16 would be 2% more likely to reproduce and 2% more likely to produce a mutation in its offspring.
This seems a minor adjustment — yet when applied to millions of domestic horses, slight improvements give the ability to win races, survive a fight or produce new and more robust and healthy breeds entirely. This is how wild, lean horses were eventually bred to be heavy, strong-boned warhorses.
The formula enables the creation of a wide distribution of unusual horses, potentially adjusting a horse's price or giving a tremendous credence as to why persons might sincerely treasure their beloved mounts. Breeding is therefore easily managed in game terms, since it's presumed the horse breeder is fully aware of the horse's pedigree as described above. Therefore, the stallion and mare are selected, with the resultant offspring randomly assuming the pedigree of one horse or the other. The mutation for the offspring is rolled on a percentile die; if the mutation occurs, then the highest two pedigree characteristics of the offspring will be raised by 1-2 points. If more than two pedigrees show as the highest number, a random roll determines which two are raised.
If "00" is rolled on the mutation die, then the mutation is negative. If so, two random pedigree characteristics, regardless of importance, are each lowered by 1 point.
Obviously, the bloodlines of stallions and mares must be kept clean. Second cousins increase the chance of a negative mutation to 10%; first cousins, to 20%; and between siblings or direct ancestors, to 40%. Normally, horses won't mate willingly with their siblings and direct ancestors.
A male stallion with 18 health, 15 robustness, 9 speed, 10 courage and 16 fertility is mated with a female mare whose like characteristics are 16h, 10r, 10s, 16c and 18f. We roll a 50% chance for each to determine the dominant partner in each characteristic, and find the dominant is the female, male, male, female, female. Thus, the offspring's characteristics are 16h, 15r, 9s, 16c and 18f — which, rolling randomly, chances to be markedly better than both parents.
The total chance of a mutation is 6% — 2% from the male and 4% from the female, based on their initial fertility. In this case, if a successful mutation occurs, the offspring's fertility would be improved by 1-2 points; and likewise with either the offspring's health or courage (random 50% chance of each). If a negative mutation is rolled, two random characteristics lose a point each.
The chance of a negative mutation is made lower than a positive because it's assumed poorly bred horses have been consistently culled from the breeding pool for millennia (and, with the help of magic, better than was done in human history). Note that "24" is not the maximum pedigree a horse can achieve; higher numbers are possible through breeding.
Only characters with horse breeding ability can recognize the exact characteristics of a given horse on examination, though even unskilled characters will recognize when the horseflesh is recognizably improved from one market to another.
When buying a horse, the number of available animals differs by the size of the market where it's sold. Small markets with 1 point of reference have only "average" horses, where each pedigree is rolled on 4d6 without adjustments. Larger markets have better horses; for every point above market-1, add ½ pt. to the average. Thus, a market-7 would sell horses that had an average pedigree of 17.
As purchasers are permitted to examine horses, a horse breeder can recognize prior to purchase the pedigree numbers for each horse. This examination takes about 10 seconds per animal with visible pedigree — health, robustness or fertility — that's below 12, as the outward flaws are instantly recognisable. A deeper knowledge of other considerations requires 5 minutes. It's recommended that when enough horses are present, the DM can simply re-roll any number of 11 or less for visible characteristics, and allow the character to "look" as long as they wish at the remaining product.
- For example, a horsebreeder has 5 horses in a small market to choose from. Starting with the three visible pedigrees, we roll a "10" for the first horse's health; at once we move on to the remaining horses, because the buyer probably doesn't care about that one. The second horse has a health of 16 and a robustness of 9 ... so we skip that one also. This saves us time on having to roll out every characteristic on every horse, allowing the process to move more quickly.
Horsebreeders can encourage sellers to drop their price if the horse has a combined pedigree of less than 70 points; the new cost would be a percentage of the horse's pedigree divided by 70 and multiplied against the local price.
The very best horses are withheld and sold at auction; the animal is still available for examination but the final purchase price is likely to be higher.
Numerous horse breeds already exist, with standardized pedigrees established over time. No list of horse breeds exist at this time, though eventually this should be addressed.
It's possible that characters, through true-breeding characteristics over a number of generations (where the stallion and mare have interchangeable characteristics so that it matters little from which the offspring takes its pedigree), could establish a unique or semi-unique bloodline. In which case, it's sensible to establish specific coat colors and distinctive markings for the created bloodline. This could probably be done as needed, with the players having input, since they would be, in part, responsible for the final breed's existence.
See Horseback Riding