“A message for you sir!” – Face shots at Pennsic? UPDATED

Prepare for battle!

Recently we became aware of some changes to the combat rules at Pennsic this year. Initial reaction was anger but just getting angry doesn’t necessarily help. So I stopped to consider the issue.

Calibration

We repeatedly hear between battles, “Calibrate you blows!”. This is a general, and good, warning. Things can get heated on the field, and having that reminder echo in your head to remain calm is a good thing. So what is a ‘telling blow’? Well I can ‘tell’ you that I feel a pole arm in arm or chest as much if not less than a combat bolt from a crossbow. Generally a sword strike I can feel more if the individual isn’t calibrating. Generally however, these are telling blows. We have all been guilty of not feeling a blow, and taking a blow in reaction even if it wasn’t a good one. Combat bolts and arrows are however calibrated specifically. The reason they are so, is safety. If a fighter really wants to throw a ’10’, they can. We cannot. With a crossbow, the best I can ‘throw’ is a 4-5. By design!

Plate Proof!

You may hear the term, ‘Plate Proof’. This means something to a few of us, but the general idea is that some are considered to be wearing full plate armor, therefore the effectiveness of weapons against plate should be adjusted.

Here is the glaring problem with this issue: Most all people are not wearing full plate. I think it is reasonable and correct that if one wants to claim ‘plate proof’, they should, in fact, be wearing full plate armor. Historically armies would not all be kitted up with full plate armor. There is no historical or actual reason for claiming “Plate Proof” unless you are actually wearing plate.

When receiving a blow from a ‘sword’ on the arm, is anyone asking the question, “Well Im wearing plate, so would it have actually cut through and damaged my arm”? No? Then why hold missile weapons to a different standard?

Lay On!

It isn’t enough that Combat Archers and Engineers are restricted to very few scenarios to begin with. This falls under two areas:

  1. We can be better organized, and ensure we have more scenarios. We can have Missile Weapon Tourneys, and more. IKCAC are another way to have fun at a war
  2. The larger battles, usually 5, we are told to sit out 2 of 3. Most of us understand the rationale, and for some it gives us the opportunity to cross train and use another weapon form. This seems enough regarding ‘fairness’. For Engineers its even worse

Choose your weapon!

What will be the actual result? Demanding that only face shots count is preposterous on its own, but what is the actual result? Hand bow in the combat realm are far less accurate. This isn’t a reflection in the user, but more a combination of factors. With a crossbow some can shoot people in the face all day long even getting jostled in the front lines. A hand bow, this can be harder to accomplish. So this rule can reduce the effectiveness of a hand bow more, and reduces the effectiveness of the average crossbow-person.

What restrictions are being put on other weapon types? Pole arms limited to 4′? No shields?

What is the Rationale?

What are the real reasons this rule is in effect? My guess based on experience, is that there is some ignorance associated with some particular weapons forms. This generally is not an issue, I am ignorant of a great many weapons. That does not preclude my seeking further knowledge and wisdom. How many in the archery or CA community were consulted in this decision? What were those opinions? My guess is that these decisions were fairly unilateral, and made without the context or wisdom required before forcing this on an entire populace, at one the the premiere events in the world.  Prove me wrong, Im happy to be wrong.

Science!

Lets compare weapon types. Let’s assume a fighter can hit a combatant with the force of a baseball bat. There may be core issues with that assertion but let’s roll with it. The force delivered by a fully swung bat by a professional can deliver up to 270 ppsi. The windlass for example can deliver a blow at around 250 ppsi (at 5″ draw).

A person wearing plate being hit in the arm by a sword at a calibration of 4-5, would not lose that arm. They would continue to use it, and likely would be quite fine. But in the SCA, it’s considered ‘lost’ Why this low bar of acceptance? Safety. So why then would a bow, intentionally weakened for safety, not have the same effect? If we consider real blows, they are equivalent. Only the method of delivery changes, and that shouldn’t be relevant in a conversation about what a telling blow is. It should matter how something hit you in the arm or chest with that force, if in reality, that force is equivalent, take it, and like it.

Historical ‘accuracy’

There were many battles where missile weapons played a role. The use of archers have been used to great effect on the field. The fact that one army over another has more archers than the other may be dismaying, but who’s at fault here? Why are the combat archers being restricted for inadequacies of the opposing forces numbers? If you want an army that can be effective regardless of opponents missile weapons, this strikes me as issue with army training an cohesion, not the archers and engineers.

At the Battle of Agincourt, they may have cried, “Light” as the English arrows pierced outside their grills, but they died all the same. Archers are a part of war, like it or not… but this time, the French called, and the English are going to acquiesce.

Affect on the populous

For those who are new to combat archery for a variety of reasons this places an unnecessary restriction on how combat archers normally play. For some its health issues, others may be new to combat altogether. For those who are not as proficient, for whatever reason, this rule has taken the joy out of playing the game. This will reduce participation, and personally, that feels like the goal.

We authorize and train like any other combatant. We are proud and effective. Arbitrary restriction make the group a target. Commanders are reinforcing the message that we are second class citizens. Which depending on how you view the topic, is provably true. We need to stop targeting specific segments of Society and strive towards an equitable Society.

Conclusion

It isn’t fair to compare bows to swords in the SCA for a variety of reasons, but many do. The reason a hand bow feels weak versus a blow from a short sword should be obvious to all, but without continued context and positive engagement, it is easy to lose that context, or ignore wisdom and knowledge.

If a human were wearing full plate, and you got hit in the chest with a Windlass, you would not idly brush that off and continue, regardless of whether it penetrated or not.

I get it, it’s all a game. But it is a game where the boundaries get fuzzy, and not in any small way as a result of safety issues! We all want to be careful out there and ensure that we are being safe, and having fun. To restrict one very specific group and directly impact the way they play their game is unwise at best, intentional and direct discrimination at worst. Either way, not a good look.

I for one likely won’t be participating this year. Let them win you might say? Maybe but there are other segments of Society I don’t have to constantly fight to be recognized and valued. Sometime we need a break from the negativity. The Valiance Proposal is a perfect example of so much wrong with our Society, but thats another topic.

I am no person in authority, nor considered important surely by anyone who made these decisions. I implore you all to reach out to those who made these decisions, both the community, and our allies. Let them know, this is not acceptable, or simply that you are concerned about the impact.

This line sticks with me, “If your army can’t handle some combat archers, you need a better army.” This is snarky, but really means by closer training together we are more comfortable together. At the very least your armies should be training with them so they are more comfortable with their tactics, strengths, and weaknesses. Every unit brings something, Shields bring protection, poles distance, we have have a role to play on the field.

Treat each other well, enjoy what you do, even if others don’t!

 

References:

  • https://www.quora.com/How-much-PSI-does-a-professional-batter-output-when-he-swings-How-much-damage-could-it-do-to-a-person
  • https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Crossbow

There are more references but these are good starting points.

Published by

Cameron de Grey

Archery, Combat Archery, Leatherworking, Blacksmithing, Near Eastern Music, Bardics

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