Weapons and Re-enactment.....

From: Dom Twist <thazar_at_globalnet.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 02:00:48 -0000

>The first two ranks are shown crouched down with
>their pikes angled upwards, while the third and fourth ranks hold their
>pikes at different levels. The result is that all four points are held in
>the same vertical line but at different heights.
>I don't have a note of the source for this picture. Anyone seen such a
>setup mentioned in a drillbook?

Irish and Scottish units use this a lot. I have some text books on the way however check out http://www.caliverbooks.demon.co.uk more than your bank manager could ever condone lies within.....if your UK based.....they sell RPG's and King of Dragon Pass also!

Mike Dawson>
>Much to my surprise, several people took the time to write me off-list and
tell me that they don't mind a discussion about real world fighting systems that verges on >the off-topic.


MD again>
>Spears are really deadly in the right SCA situation. I love fighting spear
and do it often. However, I did say that spear and shield is a weapon choice that almost no one >takes.
This is true also in the UK. However because some units fight recreations of actual battles where this was the main weapon system there are a few units around that use it.So you see more troops of this type over here. Some are very poor. Some units are pretty good. These good units do well enough to make me think that possibly its just that it SEEMS such a cumbersome system and lacks 'sex appeal' so isnt as popular as maybe it deserves. The lack of skirmishing ability is a major flaw and I do NOT claim that outside of formation work it isnt a disadvantage...however such groups tend to loose their spear and fight with Sword or Scram or loose the shield and fight 2Handed Spear or just stand and die when the Wall breaks.

>I think that if we're going to continue this discussion, we need to
understand what our various experiences are made up of. (I'm fascinated by the accounts of the-guy-I'm->too-lazy-to-find-the-name-of who is in some Viking recreation group that clearly gets quite physical, even using real weapons

That would be me I guess......(one of) my group(s) started off back in the
Sixties as pure Viking...but these days we're a bit of a mercenary blend of
Viking, Saxon and Celt...still Dark Age and still Norse in culture we've
obviously been recruiting locals to fill gaps in our ranks......Co-incidently this blend actualy makes us pretty close to the Orlanthi doesnt it? Of course our mastery of the Movement and Air Runes havent quite let us do the 'Stuka' thing just yet...but I have seen people go over the top of a shield wall and even done it myself with the aid of a couple of bondsmen and the use of a shield as a launching platform [it would get me thrown off-the field and banned these days <sigh>] ....and some of the particularly nasty old men in the Huscarls are capable of Feats I cant repeat on the grounds no-one would belive them (I dont and I've seen them). Are we that violent? Well Yes and No.....read on if you want to know otherwise leave it and go debate marrige Customs of Apple Valley at your leisure...

>This question showed me that I need to actually provide an introduction to
SCA combat for the list

This is a introduction to the British/European Renactment scene as I see it, as with Mikes post ignore it or heckle as you will....we're nowhere near as organised as our American brothers...there are a few large bodies like the NFPS, The Vikings, the Sealed Knot and The War of the Roses Federation but many shows and many Re-enactors are nothing to do with any of these groups. Check out http://www.ww2.org.uk/Webring/ring.html They've just moved sites and its a bit chaotic right now but there will be a banner with a chance to list all the sites on it somewhere on that page.......some good piccys for Gloranthan GM's in there as the Weapons are blunt steel and so look more the part than the SCA stuff. Of course there's no visible blood but hey paint software packages are great neh? I think my groups have a on-line presence there but frankly our sites are pretty poor right now....I'm a IT professional and as such devote my spare time to RPG's and Re-enactment and have as little to do with website design or other work like activity as I can get away with...but if you see Northland Mercenaries or The Gun Company thats us! Any other Gloranthan Brit renactors feel free to mail me.....An Archeologist friend of mine has a Iron Age village under construction and as he plays in my Sartar Campaign.....photoshoots anyone? Glorantha PhotoBooks? I know several other Gloranthaphile Brit Renactors and some may well be on-line.

These days British and European re-enactment tends toward the Medieval or English Civil War although there are still plenty of Roman/Celtic re-enactors and Dark Ages may be making something of a come back.... Dark Ages and Earlier are obviously of concern to Gloranthan fans focused on Dragon Pass. [There are also WWII, US Civil War(?!?!?!), Cold War etc etc out there but those dont concern us]

    Like the SCA we do not attack oponents on the ground...or fight from the ground under normal circumstances. However attacks from behind, Wrestling and Shield Bashing are allowed and in fact pretty common within limits. What consitutes a valid 'hit' is a matter of debate. Different groups have different thoughts on this. Normally the pattern is whichever group or organisation is Hosting the event decides. This gets argued with, often loudly, at the commanders meeting before a battle and sometimes modified as a result of preference or safety concerns. Every one is then informed what todays rules are before the Show......Often a certain number of Hits (depending on your armour) or a obvious Kill shot is decided apon. This will be modified depending on the desired battle. In a longish battle people may have 'lives' and can suriptiously return from the dead or Everyone is immortal untill after a certain event. Groin and Eyes shots are universaly baned. Hand shots are frowned apon and tend to occur only by accident or to people wearing full plate Armour Gloves. Head shots are mostly outlawed although at least one show allows them assuming the target has good head protection and the blow is pulled. Leg, Arm and Back shots are banned at some events but not all. Weapons are inspected by unit commanders AND Marshalls before any fighter is allowed on the field. Blades are inspected for burrs, and all weapons are inspected for safety. Although no actual weight limits are official a 10 pound sledge hammer will not be allowed, points to blades must be rounded etc. Basicaly common sense.

    Fighting is competitive. We Really try and beat our oponents. Although some units, including my own, choreograph moves for Display this is not used in Battle. Ocasionaly you end up fighting a friend and do so or actual 'duels' or 'battles of champions' occur as scripted events within or in breaks in a battle but this is not the case for most fighters. However a battle itself is often 'scripted' with certain units expected to try and manuver in a certain way and the general outcome probable. Certain units are unscripted however and these or brilliant/terrible performances by a scripted unit can result in unexpected results. Hence the Lancastrians winning the recreation of the Battle of Tewksbury last year...(well on Saturday anyway...on Sunday we Lancastrians were killed to man...as per script).

    We use real armour and real (but blunt) weapons. (Check out http://www.jelldragon.co.uk, wonderful, wonderful stuff suitable for re-enactment or Musem Display...and I mean that. If you buy anything please tell them DomT sent you 'cos I'd like to try for a discount on a new Dane Axe!) Blows are expected to be pulled if the lack of pulling would cause injury. Full force blows to shields, weapons and people with sufficent armour do occur. Stabbing/thrusting is heavily frowned apon unless expertly done. Stabbing with short bladed weapons such as daggers is often under ban although its easy enuf to turn it into a slash with a flick of the wrist. How then do we make weapons like Quarter Staff's safe? We dont. The User is expected to behave as responcibly as any other practiser of Martial Arts and his Group to ensure his/her competence before taking the field. In events Marshalls police this. Even so I have dents in my Helm from over entusiastic aplication of Polearm. Said Helm is a recreation to exact spec of a Viking Spectacled Helm. In fact its the actual one on the Website above....if a little more battered these days.

    As with the SCA combat is on the Honour System, with Marshalls and increasing heavy handedness of agreived oponents for back up. Shield Bashes do occur but not normally to the face and normally these are well telegraphed. People do get quite spectacularly knocked off their feet on occasion by them. Blunt wood does kill (ie axe handles, staffs etc) but seems to preceived as somehow less deadly, especially by fully armoured knights who object to being killed by peasants. Horses do occasionaly take the field, but with great care taken. Both sides in such case will have trained together (or often are the same actual unit split up) with very strict limits placed on how and where horses are allowed. I get the feeling these extreme measures are there to protect the horses more than the humans but it has that effect as well.

    Canon and Firearms are also strictly controlled but thats really off topic....Archers, Crossbowmen etc etc do take the field using low powered replica weapons fireing paint bunt (rubber tipped) arrows and bolts. There are rules against 'flat' fire.

    The big difference is that our shows are normally in front of a Audience. Often a paying Audience. It is not common practise but not unknown for us to get paid to attend a event (Normally only Beer and petrol Money but hey!). I only had two paying gigs last year.....but I have more scheduled for this. It is not uncommon to see re-enactors as Film Extras and my own group has Equity membership. An Associate Scottish group (with whom we exchange training sessions and invites to gigs with) recently did Gladiator...you'll remember their leader as holding a axe in one hand and the head of a Roman in the other....name of Chick...beat hell out of me last year at our Battle of Camlan)

    With use of real weapons dont people get seriously hurt or killed? Yes. But not often. In fact considering the injury/fatality figures from organised team sports like Rugby or Soccer less than you would expect. Major bruising is about the worst you expect, occasional grazes and actual cuts are much much rarer. Now and then a broken bone occures...normally a knuckle or nose but occasionaly someone will fall and break a leg or arm. I fight in two groups that between them have 200-300 members (many like myself fight in both)....last year we attended an event just about every weekend from March-September 2-5 battles of 1/2 hour to 2 1/2 in length per event. 3 Members required Medical attention but no-one required stiches or ended up in Hospital. I saw blood flowing a couple of times mostly from nose bleeds. In another group at an event I was not present at a terrible accident occured and a group of Heavily Armoured Knights fell on someone who died as a result (a broken nose forced into the brain by a shield). However this sort of thing can and does occur in any team sport. I do have Scars from re-enactment but I have much more dramatic ones from everyday life in the 20th Century.

    As to personal ability...well I've been playing this particular game for 11 years, and although I dont place in tourney quite as well as Mike does....thats mostly because I belong to group that includes Warriors, Huscarls and Jarls that have been doing it for 25+, are rather good and enter the same tourneys as I do (dammit!). I do Okay but will have to wait untill age slows some of the old codgers down enuf for my speed to outweight their experiance. My personal method for beating one of them invloves a fair distance, buying them lots of mead and a crossbow. A good Gloranthan point that. At a Recent practise one of the Huscarls hobbeled in, muttered about not being in a wheel chair this week, picked up a Quarter Staff and proceded to beat everyone in the room, no matter what weapon they tried (including two marshall Arts Instructors who teach staff) and then hobbled out muttering it was time for his Arthritis medication. Old Warriors are survivors and probably very very good. Luck can only take you so far.

Moral is a issue for us as well, although the use of real weapons adds a lot. Its not unknown for groups or individuals to turn and break rather than receive a charge or after taking losses.....Two groups broke in front of us last year...and I once broke mysself. Hey, your standing on your own, wearing a little padding, a light helm and holding a stick, nursing a injury and thinking 'I'm just here to make up the numbers today'....When 3 heavily armoured loons twice your size come bundling out of the frey screaming DIE DIE DIE, looking completely out of control, running toward you holding great swords or glaives, one of whom is a known SwordsMaster...what would you do? Personaly although a man of normally high courage, I ran like a girl! My unit commander was a tad peeved with me though as it transpired that his flank was left vunerable as a result. I vowed not to let it happen again and it hasnt so far....however getting scared is not that uncommon. Still we're a heck of a site braver than if we were REALLY going to have to storm that Fortress Wall. Yup we do that. Low wooden walls true...with SERIOUS scripting...but we do it]

IMHO think that the British model of Re-enactment gives a better feeling for how it 'really' was [what its like to be first through the breach in the wall FREX], is much better to watch for the public but probably the actual combat, as oposed to the total experience, is less fun for the participants. There are often 'after hours' tourneys and events at shows these days and last year there was a 'no public show' in a peice of seculded woodland where a battle raged for as long as people could standup........I missed it but THAT would have been as good a model for Gloranthan Warfare as you'll find anyware! Healing magic abounded with serious wounds cured by water bearers or touching the Standard! Flying still is a tad tricky to maintain tho....and the three unarmoured spearmen lurking in the bushes mugging passing Knights all day and then rolling them in the mud and giggling hysterically probably wasnt exactly on truth.............although.....


ps I hope that wasnt too off topic......I think that we need to ground GAME combat out with as much realism as possible from time to time.....not that too much reality is always a good thing, MOB's famous comments about child mortality spring to mind, but it can get all a bit, well, D&Dlike if we're not carefull. Anyway People like Myself and Mike Dawson DO know a thing or two about combat...not as much as a Centurion from Caesar's day perhaps....but a fair bit.

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