Friday, August 9, 2013

A few Pennsic thoughts.

Before I dive back into the Fabris (WITH SHOUTING, FOR IAN) I figured I'd drop a few notes on Pennsic here - or at least specifically fighting notes. In no particular order, even!

The melees were, well, melees. That said though, they were really, really smooth and had not nearly the number of issues that I'm used to. I blame the weather being so awesome and not hot and gross. The fact that it wasn't 95* with humidity to match really seemed to take the tempers off.

There was a meaningful force imbalance in play, though I admit that I'm not sure of the numbers. It was especially noticeable in the woods though, where the East was able to have a pretty much unbroken line across the entire woods and the Middle, well, couldn't. Partway through, the East was told by either HRM or HRH (I got differing reports on that) to stop using DFBsThe bridge battle (Gunning: The War Point) was wacky fun, but pretty unsatisfying as a war point. Again, I didn't notice any really upset fighters though, so I imagine we all had the same attitude going into it.

Another thing that I noticed for something like the second or third year running was the Freelance Academy Press sponsored track of WMA classes. This is excellent, and I want more of this. I realize this means that I need to put up or shut up, and despite my fear of a class full of people who will point and tell me how wrong I am, that I should do this damn thing, huh?

A few things did make me blink over the course of Pennsic, though.

Meat Shields - I come from a kingdom where disabled fencers are obliged to remove themselves from the field, so we tend to just not see them where I'm from. I get that it's not forbidden by Pennsic convention (and likely in other kingdoms as well), but man, I just think it's silly. That said, I saw (and at one point was involved in) what would have been a double kill situation in a tournament with one person dead and the other having lost both arms, but the latter being allowed to continue because hey, they aren't dead. (Which, for the record, I was totally okay with every time I saw it.) So maybe I'm just a hypocrite, or it's a melee thing that irks me because melee.

Spears - Oh, boy. So. A number of folks from a number of kingdoms brought a number of examples of experimental spear designs to show people, play around with, and get feedback on. Universally, I think, the reactions were, "Well, it's neat, but hell if I want to get hit with that." Personally, I have Strong Feelings about them, on both sides. In almost nothing resembling order:

  • Rapier is, at heart, a civilian weapon. Our melees are at best random terrible militia and more likely Montague v. Capulet brawls. Why the hell would we have pikes?
  • Without putting any force behind a shot I was able to hit Caine hard enough to make him, as he put it, "Throw up in his mouth a little." Granted, I put the point in the right place while he wasn't braced for it, but how often would that happen in a melee? Lots. And that was with no force behind the shot - I can't imagine what that would have done with the force that I'd end up throwing in a melee.
  • Any head shot with a spear transferred all the force right to the neck. There's no extra mass in what we wear on our heads to soak up the force.
  • The arms race. We're already seeing it to a small degree with twohanders, and a very large degree with shields. (As an aside, I would kill for a maximum shield size of 24". Pretty sure that's the biggest thing I've found in any manual or the like that was used with rapiers or rapierlike weapons. Am I wrong? I'm probably wrong.) I feel that if pikes showed up, then it would very rapidly become All Pikes and All Giant Shields All The Time and then we're basically fighting rattan without armor. I just don't want that in rapier.
  • On the other hand, spears were taught in a number of period manuals, and also used in the London Masters of Defense prize fights. It would be pretty awesome if we could see a longsword v. spear match, assuming it could be done safely.
I'm not sure where that leaves me. I think that I might be okay with spears as a C&T only option (which also defaults to no melee), assuming a good and safe design could be created - and that's already a pretty high bar to set. They just have more mass, and thanks to F=MA, that means they'll just hit harder no matter what.

DFB - I'm still a little divided here. It's a tool, and I use it really well. It's realistic, in that if I can get behind someone on a melee field for long enough to plant my feet, they're guaranteed out of the fight. But it's not what I want to play. I want more people facing me when I kill them, and I want more of That Kind Of Honorable Engagement. Then again, I'm also the person who wants to give more people singles when they ask for them despite also rolling over people in melees in which we're supposed to be training for Pennsic. I should really just examine what I want out of my own game and make up my mind, huh? I suspect the answer will make me less popular in the East, and more Donovan "Funkiller" Shinnock, but whatev. I'll go read The Phoenix Guard again and remind myself of one of the big reasons I got into this whole organization, right? Right.

So that was my Pennsic. I fought a whole lot of people, saw some great people get recognized for being great, avoided the EMT cart, and had fun doing what I do. Which is pretty great.


  1. What if we take the wacky weapons like pike and 2 handers and use them A&S wise? We could still do bouting, but under the umbrella of this is what was done in period and we're learning stuff.

    1. I'm always a fan of awesome period weapons in A&S! I don't believe that really allows for bouting in the same way, but working through plates and techniques it totally allowable.


    It gets into gray ares.

    1. Seems pretty clear to me, in that there's the "safe and prudent" bit and the "no competition" bit.

  3. Re: the difference between losing two arms and being dead.

    This comes entirely from an Eastern brainspace. I have absolutely no idea what the conventions are in other kingdoms.

    I saw the time in the tournament when the person who lost two arms was allowed forward over someone who was killed. I certainly wasn't going to even think of arguing with the Queen's Whim, but it still felt weird to me. It seems like the sort of thing that should be put up front in a tournament, with the rest of the "What do we do if we double kill" speech.

    I know there was at least one person in another tournament who thought that because he had only lost two arms he was able to move forward as a winner and it took the marshal telling him to convince him otherwise. So maybe this does happen in other kingdoms more often? Maybe it should be talked about more between kingdoms along with so many other things.

    /Friday afternoon rambling. For now.

    1. Yeah, I can argue it either way. The fighter isn't dead and the other one is, so you can advance! The other fighter is dead, but you can't wield a weapon, so you both sit down!

      Clearly the answer is to have wounds be retained in all tournaments. :)

      I mean, I was the beneficiary in one of these cases. HRM Ansteorra made a call to resolve a double kill situation. I felt weird, but I also am willing to roll with what she wished. It's her tournament, after all - and heck, to a degree I don't mind so much because if I'm dead I'm not advancing either way, so it doesn't affect me if my opponent goes on, y'know?

      Still, totally worth discussing among other fighters and other kingdoms.

  4. The RBG battle was silly. As a marshal, talking with the other marshals, we all kinda had the same 'why are we doing this? nobody actually wants to do this...' discussion. But overall, it was not nearly the level of stupid that we expected, so YAY.

    On force imbalance - I think it was about 3:4 them:us. Ish. I may be wrong, but I recall that being a ratio that was tossed out.

    I am not a fan of RBGs or pikes/spears or giant shields. It takes away a lot of the skill involved in killing (or not being killed by) your opponent. I'm much more invested in having a good, fun fight, even if I lose. One of the reasons I marshaled the bridge RBG battle was because I didn't much care to get all dressed up, get shot, and go sit down for 20 minutes while everything finished up/reset. That being said, I missed Tortuga this year. Tortuga is fun because it's a RBG battle with resurrection! I can come back after being shot in the head! Wheee Zombie Fencer! :)

    Also, Spears? Ow. Anywhere. Head especially. F=ma, and even a little bit of F concentrated on a wee little sword point is an awful lot when backed up by the m of the handle...

    1. RBGs: Yeah. I made some ammo for my old Kendall boot pistol (which I hadn't touched in, uh, six years? Seven?) and I even fired it, three times in the three battles (on the third run, the orders for red tape were: "Go fight, by havoc. Get in fast, be a machine of death, and get killed so the guy behind you can have his turn." Mostly, that meant that those of us on the red side who *had* guns didn't even bring them, the third run out). I only shot people who had guns. It was, well, exactly what I expected it to be...

      Force imbalance: I think it was wildly different, from one day's melees to the next. I did hear the "hard counts" on the woods-- and, let me start by saying that "hard counts" have pretty wide confidence intervals, and that the Blue side's hard count included some 30 late-comers, who had forgotten gear and joined only the last 1/4 to 1/3 of the melee. The hard count in that battle was 220 to 88 (which, for the record, is 2:5, or close to twice the multiplier you've estimated).

      I'm glad to hear that you guys are as skeptical about spears (in melees) as we are. I'm pretty sure that I'm completely uninterested in being involved in such a melee (and I'm a crazy stupid thug, who has practiced with solid and unbending metal-tipped oak spears, while wearing a fencing mask and a T-shirt...)

      Now, that said, I'd be happy to incorporate a decent spear simulator into cut-and-thrust, and there's the brand-new HMA options (under which people can petition Earl Sir Brian for permission to train and then practice and then compete with basically anything for which they can create a reasonable proposal.)

  5. Pike & Shot, baby. Let's do it. :)

    I'd probably find Pennsic War Points more fun if we were able to use the entire field -- like heavy -- and the tactics we're supposed to learn, know, utilize. Giant line battles bore the crap out of me. And my (so far) one and only Pennsic had several instances in which I didn't fence anyone before the War Point was over.

    But we've covered why my one and only year was so crappy. :( Though I'm thinking about giving it another shot next summer...