“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.


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.


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.


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!



  • 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.

Running the Gauntlet: Demi vs Full

A question that gets asked a lot: What gauntlets can I use for Combat Archery?

According to SCA Martial Law (XVIV. GLOSSARY. A), demi-gauntlets fit the bill. This is the minimum requirement, but as always check your Kingdom Marshal Law regarding same.

But is that what you really need? Depending on how active you plan to be in combat, it may be the perfect fit. However you may find that killing people on the field is so much fun, you need to invest in more diverse ways of dealing out death blows (spear, sword, etc).

If the latter seems your case then you may want to consider investing in good, articulated ‘full’ gauntlets. I suggest articulated because it will afford the dexterity you will need to handle Combat Archery equipment effectively and safely, yet allow you to switch the ‘heavy’ weapons as well.

It is true that most fighters try not to club Combat Archers like baby seals, but it can happen. When it comes to protection, wear the best and most padded you can without trading (too much) performance for protection. You can augment purchased gauntlets with additional layers of closed cell foam if needed. Get some industrial rubber cement, trim the foam, and slap it on! You can still get hit in the hand. Remember Combat Archers, always assume you will get hit!

It is true that ‘full’ gauntlets will run more. ‘Demis’ can be made very easily with leather and rivets with varying levels of quality. These look like a good standard well made demi set. You can even find patterns and instructions. Here is an example of articulated gauntlets. These will certainly be more expensive, but may be the last pair you ever buy.

For the cost of entry though, demis are generally very affordable. Dont spend too much time on the issue if you can afford a pair. If you find later you need to change up, you can. But it is always worth considering options as soon as possible. We all aren’t made of money you know!

Happy Fighting!

Getting ready to be a Combat Archer


you’ve decided you want to hit the road as a soldier of fortune shooting people in the face, sounds fantastic! A few things you may want to think about before starting your adventure! There are lots of considerations: ammo, weapon type, armor, tactics, authorizing… Lets take a brief look step by step, shall we?

SCA Battle Scene


What a topic this can be. Lets start with the easiest path, just go buy your stuff! Sitting down to make bolts or arrows can be a daunting, time consuming, and exacting task. After my last batch of crossbow bolts, at least 6 failed, and I’ve been making them for some time! Back to the drawing board with them, but it goes to show even a seasoned CA can make mistakes. For this reason I would suggest buying your first kit. I would start with no less than 25, but you will be better served by at least 50. This will account for scenarios where you wont have time to ‘glean’ your ammo in between. Take heart though, many people, myself included, if we have extra bolts and you ask, we will share in a pinch.

The general concept for ammo is this: Safety. each step or precaution is suggested or required with safety in mind. It never hurts to go above an beyond to ensure the safety of our fellow combatants. For more info, reference Section VII.G

Weapon Type:

Notice I didn’t just say ‘bows’? Because we can use pavices and thrown weapons as well.

Bows? I’d recommend for a starter a solid fiberglass bow. As a quick reference from the Marshals Handbook (MH) See: Section VII.F.7. Additionally get a string that isn’t crimped on at the ends. A nice Flemish String is solid and not too pricey.

You mainly have a choice of bow, or crossbow. The generally fall into the light and heavy category, but mostly light. Each time you get inspected, the bow will be measured for poundage. For this reason I would recommend a 25# recurve (if that is your choice) as this will afford some variance in poundage up or down.

What about thrown weapons? Wow these can be fun. I’ve even seen people take the field with ONLY thrown weapons in limited engagements, but remember the ammo issue, you can carry a ton of arrows/bolts, but only so many thrown weapons. This would include axes, maces, daggers, spears*, daggers being the easiet to carry a load of. There is also an issue of accuracy, thrown weapons tend to be less accurate and range.


There is a lot of resources available here. Go to any fighter practice or event and chat people up. The main thing to remember here is the only real difference is hand protection. Demi gauntlets are ok if you are only engaging in CA, as opposed to full gauntlets. There are some variances depending but this is the basic rule. Minimum armor requirements (Section VI): Head, gorget, elbows, kidneys, knees and hands. But Id encourage you to go further and get as close to a ‘heavy’  kit as possible. Depending on your ‘fighting’ style, you can find yourself right up in front taking hits with the best of them, at times like this, you will appreciate adequate protection. Even if you’re the type of combatant to hang back, you should still expect to be hit. In a pinch and missing a few pieces? Ask around, lots of people have loaner gear, especially if you’re looking to get authorized and expect to get a kit ready soon.


Use your friends and terrain effectively. If you are able, show up to war practices and work with our regular army. If you are unfamiliar with combat in general, go to a few events and watch battle scenarios and imagine yourself in the melee. How would you react if you were ‘there’ when that rush occurred, etc. Use your shield-mates. and communicate. Tell them you are behind them and foster a symbiotic relationship where they tell you who to take out, and they cover you. Once you can start to think like an archer, you can respond appropriately. Work in twos when possible. A lone archer can be a sitting duck.


In order to take the field as a CA you will need to authorize. I humbly suggest if you authorize as a CA, you additionally authorize as siege, and vice versa. This make you more versatile as an asset, and you can fill slots on an engine at a critical time, or if an engine dies, you can grab a bow and rejoin the fray.

What should you expect at an authorization? Study the rulebook for both Society and Atlantia. Know your weapon,  and ammo types, armor requirements, rules of engagement.


Look, I gotta stop somewhere… This is very brief (well maybe not), as it was meant to be. There is so much more ground to cover. But we are a very welcoming and helpful group. Please reach out if you ever need help. “We’re ready to believe you.”





*there is a difference between a melee spear, and throwing spear

What passes for legal round here?

Quick missive friends,

Recently found myself at an event and a gentle who wished to have his equipment inspected brought up a bow which caught my eye immediately.

The bows stock construction was solid enough to be sure, but what caught my eye was the ‘prod’. I had never seen a prod like this. Four piece of fiberglass rod combined into one piece with copper caps and tape.

So let me do a bad thing and state my opinion right up front. This thing scares me. And without combing over the rules with a fine tooth comb, If I were MiC for CA, I wouldn’t let it on the field.

Here is where you all come in, would you? Of all the severe archery nerds friends to rules buffs, one of you must know the answer to this question.

After some discussion, I posited that if this were to fall under normal bow equivalents, I think this would be viewed as an ‘experimental weapon’ and would be treated as such.

You ready for the money shot?

A different method of crossbow construction
A different method of crossbow construction

What would you do? Please discuss and share your reasons and applied rules!