“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.

Move Along Lil’ Doggie – Switching Teams and Siege Tactics

Friends recently I participated in a siege battle at Pennsic 47 and thought Id share a few observations

Anyone Home?: We were a few people short of fielding up to three engines. Luckily we were able to shuffle some people around, myself included, to get them fielded. The scenario dictated: once an engine was destroyed, or couldn’t be operated (too few engineers) that the engineers cannot move. Well then, OK! But if we are to keep and engine running, a ballista for instance would best be served by having 4 engineers so if one died, there is a replacement. Some people only want to fight with their unit. That’s OK as well, but if you’re open to moving, and you have more than enough people, consider moving to a new home for a bit. The greater glory and honor will be served in keeping your team alive as opposed to just your squad.

fig. 3,4Targets of Choice: In some cases, being smart about targeting helps. A larger hit zone, proximity, obstructions. But I want to talk specifically about unceremoniously ganging up on people. Referring to fig. 3,4 we can see the concept of ganging up on one or two targets. Thereby increasing the hit chance. This can take targets out more quickly and reduce the return fire. This combined with position, can be brutally effective.

fig.1,2Field Position: “Nobody move! Maybe they wont see us!”… and so it was. Not one engine moved. It seems to me that if there is one line facing another line, moving engines to increase the distance from opponents, while maintaining good distance to others whom your teammates are targeting is a good thing. Moving out of their range? Even better! Referring to fig. 3,4 we can see the concept. Move your engines if possible. During set up, engines that can’t move put them in a safer position. In this case we had an elevation advantage. If we had moved engines to the top of the hill, they’d have to shoot uphill effectively reducing their range. Then combine this with fire concentration… again, brutal.

Rules: There are rules, then there are scenario restrictions. This can be in the form of increased safety zones, etc. Now scenario or Kingdom rules can augment, but not replace, or reduce Society law (eg: reduce safety ranges). But important things to note are thing like, if a ballista bolt is moving, am I dead? According to Society rules, once a bolt touches the ground then hits you, you are not dead (section VI). This happened to my team.

Swords to Plowshares: It has happened before where as a combat archer, I have put my bow aside and stepped on to a siege team to keep the engine running. And vice versa. Being aware of your surroundings and communicating need can sway a battle BIG time.

Wrapping up: Not trying to write a novel, just a few observations from the field, and I hope it helps!


References: https://www.sca.org/officers/marshal/docs/siege/siege_engines_handbook.pdf

Atlantian Nights – A Near Eastern Experience at Pennsic

Friends, here we are. The forming of an amazing night. Through the grace of the Kingdom of Atlantia, do we, your humble servants, bring you a night of festivity, culture, music, and amazement.
We will have an assortment of activities for your pleasure.
SCA Medieval Barter Town will be present with a trading bazaar starting at 6p. Come share, and trade with your populace!
6:00‘Great Atlantian Camel Race’ hosted by our friend Brad Fisher! If you have a hobby camel (horse) to race, bring it! Get there a little early to register your steed or dromedary!
Musical perfomances:
7:00 – Kylie Hilali ‘Moroccan Madness’ a presentation of amazing Belly Dancing performance with special guests.
7:30 DragonSong an amazing group if you havent heard them, now is the time! I always love their shows!
8:00Melissa Murphey and friends, and in this case, friends, is YOU! come bring your darbukas, saz, oud, ney, whatever, and help make this an event for the record books! Dancers of all levels and style are welcome!
“Beer from Alain!” Our good friend Berry Williams will have two taps from our good friend. We heard a rumor he will have brewed something ON SITE!
A hookah will be available! If youre a hookah master and want to help run it, let us know!
Are you a henna artist? We will have cones thanks to Glaukos and we can set you up with a space!
Glaukos Athenaios will have a coffee bar and will be brewing the best coffee and refreshment available
Thursday night friends. This will be a night to remember, Atlantian Nights. Bring your good times, and your laughter too. We’re gonna celebrate and party with you!
If you have something you want to share re: Near/Middle Eastern Culture, Arts and Sciences let us know! There may be a competition, but you dont have to participate in that aspect, we want you to share your amazing ‘thing’!
Request space or sign up here! We want YOU to shine and share the culture and experience!
I can’t stress enough how much love and dedication will be poured into this event, for you… the populace of the known world.
Share it with us, share a world we all can know better, a welcome and learning environment, from our heart to yours: Atlantian Nights – A Taste of the Near East.

Meet and Greet for the Omnibus Peerage at Pennsic

Greetings friends one and all!

Its that time of year where a young persons fancy turns to thoughts of Peerage for those who are deserving…

Omnibus Proposal Flag
Omnibus Proposal Flag

This year at Pennsic we are pleased to announce at least one meeting regarding the Valiance Proposal (Omnibus Peerage). We will be meeting at the Thrown Weapons tent on the main battlefield at Sunday August 5th at 5:30 pm. Scheduled for one hour depending. Look for the banner!

This will be an open forum to discuss any issues or concerns about what the Peerage aims to achieve, walk each other through the process, or simply answer questions.

Our last large meeting was very productive. We had an array of positions on the proposal and discussed them openly. Very civil conversations and all voices were welcome.

This is the environment we want to foster this year. Bring your thoughts and concerns, or simply listen.

This Society is made great by those that care for, and nurture it.

Share the flier, and get involved!

Flyer for the Pennsic Valiance Proposal Meeting
Flyer for the Pennsic Valiance Proposal Meeting

Read a review of how our last meeting at Pennsic went!