Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rules of the Game Part Two

The other day, I talked about random rules that aren't always clearly written. Today, I want to recap rules we discussed at practice for reds and greens (that's class two and three from the Book of War, respectively), and armor.

Armor is fairly straightforward, it gives each area covered one extra hit. Regardless of how many different pieces of armor cover a hit zone, it still just gets one extra hit, and only if the armor was hit. For example, if I had two pieces of armor on my leg, a hit to either of them takes all of the armor on my leg. A second hit to the armor acts just like a normal hit, disabling the limb. If your first hit finds its way to a gap where there isn't armor, it takes the limb, ignoring the armor.

There are a few more rules for armor, like how thick, what materials, how much it has to cover, and who you can grapple. I'll leave those out until people seem interested in getting armored up. Just ask one of us knights if you are curious.

Greens are stabbing weapons. A stab to the body kills, just like a normal strike. Stabs to limbs act a little different. You still take the hit like normal, dropping your gear or going to a knee. However, these pierced limbs don't count towards you being dead, you can be stabbed in both legs and both arms without being dead.

Represent pierced arms by letting it dangle at your side, rather than putting it behind your back. If you get stabbed in that arm again, you can ignore it at call "pierced arm". Once someone comes along and hits a pierced limb with a swing, it starts to count towards death, so you would put your arm behind your back to show it has been hacked off.

There isn't a great way to show that you leg is pierced, rather than hacked off. If your opponent wasn't there to see you get stabbed, a little advanced warning is considered polite. Start the fight saying "right leg pierced" so they know.

If both legs have been stabbed, or one stabbed and the other hacked, both of your knees will be on the ground. This means the "dead leg" rule doesn't apply. The dead leg rule also doesn't apply if only one leg is pierced (with the other intact and up), meaning it will get hacked off and then be a dead leg.

Reds are two handed slashing weapons. All weapons can be wielded with two hands, but reds do a little extra when used that way. Swung one handed, they just act like any sword. With both hands, they ignore armor and can break shields.

Two solid, two handed hits from a red breaks a shield. After the first hit, say "One" so they know they damaged it. After the second hit, it is broken. Once broken, you need to drop it. If for some reason you can't, further hits to a broken shield count as hits to your arm. Since hits to a hacked arm count as body, this means that four red swings to a shield can kill you, even if you have full armor.

"Solid" is up to whoever takes the hit to their shield. In general, it should be hard enough to move a shield with a wooden core a bit. Most people expect it to be harder than a one handed strike would be. As a new fighter, just assume it was solid.

Later this week, I'll talk about late hits, missile weapons, and any questions that come up at practice. Hopefully we'll see you all Saturday for Fall Opener, our first day event of the semester.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rules of the Game

We introduce new fighters to the sport with a few simple rules. No headshots, one hit to body is dead, and losing two limbs is dead. Hit to the arm is represented by dropping whatever it is carrying and putting the arm behind your back. Hits to the leg are displayed by dropping to a knee (keep the other up).

Pretty simple, but there is a larger rule set we use for everyday practice and events called The Book of War. It is written and revised by people all across the country, including local representatives. Despite our efforts, it is a little daunting to read through the first few times. Today I want to talk about a few rules that are important, but not always clearly written out in the rules. We'll be going over more this week as well.

Heralds/Marshals -- Our version of a referee, wearing a yellow tabard. The only person that can call someone dead or bring someone back to life. Our vets might help you learn the rules by letting you know something has killed you, this is an exception to how it is usually done.

"Hold"--someone yelling this stops fighting for the entire field. Drop to a knee and stop fighting immediately because there is a safety or medical concern. Once the problem is clear, a herald will call "resume positions" and then "lay on" to restart the fight.

Hand on weapon/equipment-- Hits to your hand count as arm, unless you are holding a weapon or shield in it. At that point, it just counts as part of the weapon. That means you can use your hand on weapon to block, just say "hand" so your opponent knows.

Dead limbs -- once an arm has been hacked off, any further hits count as a hit to the body. Once you've lost a leg, further hits are ignored (say "dead leg"). This only works if your knee is on the ground and your other one is up. If it isn't clear which leg is the dead one, a hit to either kills you.

Double taps -- getting hit two or more times in rapid succession to the same spot counts, even if you haven't displayed the injury. As in, if I hit you twice in the arm before you've even dropped your weapon, the second shot counts as body.

Foot on ground -- hits to your foot count as leg, unless it is on the ground. At that point, you can ignore the hit and call "foot on ground".

Hit zones -- wrist counts as arm. Ankle counts as leg. Butt, crotch, and the tops of your shoulders count as body. Neck/head start at the base of your neck. No Neck or Head Shots!

Light/Graze/Garb -- you might hear veteran fighters calling these out. You have to hit with sufficient force for your strikes to count. This first week, we'll be trying to take lighter shots while you are learning, but it is a hard habit to break. For now, just take any shots you feel.

Friendly fire -- definitely not friendly, hits from your team still count. Even your own sword hitting you can count. That includes someone else hitting your sword into you.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Welcome New Fighters

So you've had your first taste of fighting and enjoyed it. Of course, it is a lot to take in, techniques to learn, rules to get used to, people to get to know. This post will help you find your way into the sport of Belegarth.

Where to start? If you've made it here, then you are probably already on the local group's Facebook page (Realm of Numenor!). I'll toss some more useful links down at the bottom of the page.

This is the small event we were at yesterday.  The cones are the edge of a 'bridge' in front of the enemy castle. 

I had several questions from new fighters, so I thought I would put together a small FAQ to help you all out.

Q: How do I join the club?
A: If you've joined the Facebook group, that's about it.  Show up and hit people at the scheduled practice times.  We'll have extra gear to loan out.  We do have a mailing list you can sign up for later this week, but most of the info you'll want will be posted on the Facebook page.

Q: Do I need to bring anything?
A: We have plenty of gear for you to use, but a few essentials like kneepads or padded gloves are a great investments.  Most sporting good stores sell both items.  Many of us use volleyball kneepads and padded lifting or MMA gloves.  As always, bringing water and wearing clothes you don't mind dirtying up is probably a good idea.

Q: I have a question or problem, who should I talk to?
A: The local realm has a great group of veteran fighters that can help you out.  Knights (the ones with the fancy garb and heater shield, like home base) take charge of the local group and have lots of experience with fighting.  Don't be intimidated by all the armor or angry face on the field, we're here to help.  Our squires (knights in training) all are seasoned fighters and usually wear a white tabard.  Any of them should be able to help you out, or direct you to one of us knights if they aren't sure.

The Knights of Numenor. These are the people you should go to if you need help.

Q: The rules seemed a little too simple, is there anything else I should know?
A: We use the simplest, abbreviated version of the rules for events like Quad Day, so you can come out and get into the fighting quickly.  The full version of the rules can be found on the Belegarth Wiki page,  It isn't an easy read, I'll put together a more comprehensive list of common rules questions this week.

Q: What is a realm, unit?
A: Realms are geographic locations within the sport.  UIUC is the Realm of Numenor.  ISU has one called Wolfpack just 45 minutes from town.  There are realms spread out all across the country (and internationally), but not all are connected to universities or colleges.  Units are groups of fighters that train, fight, and hang out together. Local units include the Dunedain and Dark Guard.  Some units, like Brotherhood of the Falcon (BOF) and the Urak-hai span the nation, grouping up at major events. If you are interested in joining a unit, ask around and get a feel for each one.  If you can make it to Oktoberfest, it is a great place to get to know units and spend some time hanging out with them around a campfire.

Q: I keep losing, how do I get better?
A: For one, don't get discouraged.  Between learning the rules and getting your body used to swinging a sword, the game can be quite hard.  Remember, some of our veterans have a decade or more of fighting under their belts--they aren't going to be easy to kill.  We'll do more structured training this fall to get people ready for the first major event of the season.  More on that later.

Q: Do you have tournaments, rankings, levels, events?
A: There is a large number of events, some of which are major, weeklong camping events.  Sometimes they have individual and team tournaments at these events.  While there are definitely different levels of skill, there is no official ranking system or levels of combat.  This coming Saturday is our local group's first mini-event of the season.  We'll have food, games, and lots of company.  In October, our group hosts one of the largest events in the Midwest, Oktoberfest, a weeklong event with camping, feasts, tournaments and plenty of nightlife.  Imagine 500+ fighters on a field, pretty epic.

Q: Why do you guys wear that clothing/do I have to dress that way?
A: Garb isn't specifically required for fighting at practice.  The local group usually just asks that you get garb before moving on to using weapons beyond basic swords and shields.  Nationally, garb is required for events.  The minimum garb is outlined in the rules, and we will definitely work with you to get geared up for the first major event.

Here are a few other links you might want to know:

From last year's Oktoberfest Realm Battles (each realm for themselves):

From a nearby event, Wolfpack Opener, a couple years ago: This is the home of the national organization.  The forums have a large amount of information, and links to training videos and guides. The Belegarth wiki. Lots of info on units, realms, and people. It is in the process of being made a little more user friendly, but there is basic information buried on there. This is the most readable version of the rulebook we use. There are a few rules that aren't clearly spelled out, but definitely a must read.  I'll post up some common rules that aren't really defined in the book later this week. Locally operated foamsmith. They made a large portion of our loaner gear and personal equipment.  The guys will be around selling gear at future practices.  Lady Armstrong is a local seamstress that has made some of the fine looking garb you'll see around.  We don't expect new fighters to look that amazing, but it should give you an idea of how cool garb can be.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not quite dead yet.

It has been a while since I posted anything on here. The blog isn't going away, I just haven't been doing a great job of keeping up on it. Theory Thursday will be back soon enough, however, with recruiting season just around the corner, expect to see more "welcome to Belegarth" type posts in the next few weeks.

The plan is to recap whatever techniques were discussed in our new guy classes or any topics that are brought up that we've missed in our introductions. Not the most exciting read for any veterans that read this, but if you happen to be working with a lot of new people, feel free to use any of my posts or class materials for your own recruiting.

I'll try to keep the posts somewhat generic, but expect the first post or two next week to be geared towards my home realm of Numenor. We'll be invading Kill,Grill, Chill this coming Saturday, so maybe there will be a post about castle battles next week.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Theory "Thursday": Aggression

A good number of fighters play the wait and see game, filling their spot in the line, but waiting for someone else to break the stalemate. It is a very defensive mindset that can work in some situations, like while defending a bridge or other choke point. The problem is what happens when the enemy breaks the stalemate. When that happens a vast majority of the sport wants to back up, letting their line get pushed back. There are definitely times when that is okay, but why let them dictate the tempo of the fight?

Before I go too far and forget to mention it, remember that aggression isn't blindly flinging yourself at the enemy in hopes of scoring a hit. There are times when a well placed rush can have great effect, but trading your life for a small chance to take a limb or piece of armor isn't a good trade for your team. Diving into a group of enemies has a low chance to succeed, especially without armor and support. If you feel the need to just go in, try to look for a gap, rather than going strait up the middle.

Aggressive fighting can be as much about forcing the enemy to consider you as a threat as it can be about rushing. In considering the range game, we see that fighters will add some margin of error to how they perceive your range, including how far you might lunge or step. Top tier fighters will allow just enough margin to let them react to your aggression, but newer fighters will underestimate the range. Once you have entered this zone, they are forced to pay attention, at least to divert some from whoever they may have been fighting.

This notion of threat range means a single fighter might be able to support more than one person merely through their presence by being a threat to multiple enemies. In the case of equal numbers, a skilled fighter might choose to take on a little extra risk, from the person across from them, in order to apply extra pressure on a second enemy. With some luck, the extra pressure might allow an ally to rush in with a little extra safety.

As far as targets go, often spears become a target that has to be rushed or allowed a wide berth. The key to rushing a spear is timing. The two main openings left to you are either while in the process of deflecting a stab, or as soon as they have switched to a different target. Ideally, the spear will be between you and the shieldman guarding it. Remember, though, to keep your guard as you rush. You may need to swing at the guard first, before engaging the spear directly. The goal being, at the minimum, keeping their weapon at bay until you can hit the spear user.

One advantage you will find in being the aggressor is that many fighters will lock up when rushed. While they might maintain their guard or rotate to counter you, many of them will fail to move their feet. This is especially true if you change direction mid-rush. I'll look at offensive footwork in more depth on a later post, but for now just remember to play the angles.

Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle (or not so much) reminder from one of our allies to get us to spring to action. As the new school year approaches, I'm reminded of all the times I've heard "swing, swing, swing!" yelled as some form of encouragement to new fighters. All too often, it seems, even us veteran fighters might need to remember that very thing.