Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Do's and Don'ts of Events

I had a longer post written, but somehow lost a good chunk somewhere.  Hopefully most of what was lost is still covered.

After arriving at the site, your first stop should be "troll".  This is where you'll sign in and pay for the event. Information and a map are also usually found here, as are any rules specific to the site. It is a good idea to know what rules the event is using ahead of time (Belegarth, Dagorhir, or some Realm's specific rules), and read up on any differences between your home practice and the event.  When in doubt, ask when you arrive.

After checking in, drop off your gear at weapons check (if it is open). If you haven't already marked your gear in a way you can identify it, do so before dropping it off.  Also, make sure they are marked according the rules (like green tape on the pommel for a stabbing sword).

The biggest events are a series of day events strung together with entertainment, feasts, nightlife, and camping.  After you are all checked in and waiting for weapons to be checked, it is a good time to set up camp (and change into garb). Most realms/groups camp together.  The map at troll often has these campsites marked to help you find where to set up with your group.

Before weapons check closes, there will usually be a variety of sparring, classes, and pick up battles.  This is a good chance to fight a few veterans from other realms.  If you aren't sure who to talk to, ask a vet from your realm to introduce you to a few people.

After a long day of fighting, there will usually be a Feast provided by the event, followed by any nightlife at the various group camps.  To really get a feel for each of the units and realms camping out, you need to go visit their camps.  It is best to travel around with a vet that knows the various groups well.  Just be sure to say "Hail Camp" as you approach so they know someone is coming to visit.  Introduce yourself and hang out for a while.

Sometimes, units will have ceremonies, promotions, and the like.  Most of the time, outsiders aren't welcome for them.  If they ask you to leave, do so, but don't feel bad about it.  They are probably just about to have a meeting or other unit business that doesn't involve you.

A few do's and don'ts of events:

1) DO: Take your hits!  I'm required to say that first.  Do your best to take them accurately and portray them quickly.  If you get confused, just take death.

2) DON'T: Call your hits on other people. It is on their honor to take them (see number 1).  If you have problems with an individual, ask a herald.

3) DO: Hit hard.  More adrenaline, more armor, and long days of fighting seem to increase people's hit tolerance at events. Shots that might get taken at a local practice may not be hard enough for someone to feel through armor and in the heat of the moment.

4) DON'T: Hit too hard.  There is no reason to go at 100% full force on your swings.  You want to strike a balance between power and control. Safety is key.

5) DO: Seek advice, training, and sparring during breaks.  If you see someone fight well in a style you want to learn, ask them to spar or for some tips.  Most veterans are happy to share their experience.

6) DO: Swing!! A lot of fighters find event fighting intimidating.  Just go for it.  You'll probably die one way or another during a battle, it might as well be while taking someone else out with you.

7) DON'T: Dive headfirst into the enemy. Aggression is good, but carelessly throwing your life away isn't helping your team.  Wait for a good opportunity.

8) DON'T: Walk through the weapons check area!  You will be yelled at, I promise.  Always walk around.  We don't want someone getting hit with a backswing because they walked through.

9) DO: Have fun, on and off the field. Even if you aren't winning fights, have a good time trying something fun.  Take in the opportunity to socialize with long time veterans and various units.

10) DON'T: Overdo it. Many events are at dry parks, but where alcohol is permitted, be responsible. The last thing you want is to be carried back to your tent or make a terrible impression. Besides, too much consumption will likely ruin your next day of fighting.

11) DO: Be respectful of other camps. This is their home for the week, so respect the rough boundaries around camps and their property.  "Hail Camp" before entering their area.

12) DO: Volunteer to help.  Events are a ton of work.  If you are qualified to help in some way, don't hesitate to volunteer.  Even if they don't need help, you can always make sure to clean up your campsite and trash.

13) DON'T: Argue with heralds.  Take the hits they call.  If you disagree, ask them after the fight.

14) DO: Know the rules. Even vets should reread the rules on occasion. Any rules that deviate from the national rules are likely to be posted at the event.  See this post: Unwritten Rules.

15) DO: Sign up for classes ahead of time.  All sorts of classes are made available at big events, both for fighting and crafting. This is a great chance to learn from veterans and skilled craftsmen.

16) DO: Arrive early.  Try to be at the event as/before weapons check opens.

17) DO: Hydrate! It is easy to forget to take a break and grab some water. I pack a mix of water and sports drinks, along with a few easy snacks.

18) DO: Check your gear ahead of time.  Even if you aren't sure how to check weapons, have a vet check your gear a few weeks before the event.  This gives you time to make repairs and break in new blades.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Unwritten Rules

If you've read the Book of War for Belegarth, you've heard of "medieval combat precedent".  The phrase gets tossed out quite a bit during rules discussions, especially those between fighters from various realms/regions.  Part of the reason for this is that the rules for Belegarth (and Dagorhir) leave several items open to interpretation.  The rules are sparse to allow ease of use, which also means some rules aren't fully explained.

This leaves us with a several "grey" areas that some people play a little differently than the rules might suggest.  The following list is by no means comprehensive, but covers a few of the most common.  Check with your local realms and events to see how they play the them.

In no particular order:

1) "Shot in motion".  According to the rules, when your arm gets hit (or your body), you drop what is in your hands.  However, a large portion of the sport plays shot in motion, where you can finish any swing that was already started and have it count, within reason.  The opposite approach is "atomic clock", where the swing is discounted immediately.

2) "Double tapped legs". Subsequent strikes to a disabled leg are ignored, unless both knees are down or you are rolling, etc.  However, many play that you must be portraying the wound before that rule applies, meaning two hits to the leg while you are standing can kill you.  You can avoid any confusion by taking the wound quickly (and wearing good knee pads...).

3) "Grappling".  Armored fighters can't initiate grapples against unarmored fighters. Archers can't grapple.  However, the rules don't mention grabbing equipment.  Grabbing a spear shaft isn't generally considered a grapple.  But what about a sword handle, a strap shield? There isn't much precedent, so I usually use safety as a test.  An archer grabbing a spear to defend themself isn't placing the spearman in danger (6' away), but grabbing a weapon handle might place both of them in danger of the poky bits from the arrows and bow. My opponent can easily let go of their weapon to get out of the situation if I grab their handle, but not if I grab their strap shield.

4) "Head, then body".  The rules say to take the worst of the hits of a strike hits more than one zone. But the head is an illegal target, so what happens when a shot hits the head, then hits body?  Two sides to this one, either the "worst" means "bad for you, take the body" or "illegal target is worst, ignore the rest".  Precedent, from back when, was that this is a body shot.  Recently, more people air on the side of it being counted as a head shot.  I generally try to gauge it based on how much of a head hit it was.  Grazing a bit of an ear and landing solid on body, it's a body shot.  Blazing me in the side of the dome and carrying a somewhat light hit down into the body, it's a headshot.  This varies greatly from fighter to fighter.  Best advice, avoid hitting people in the head.

5) "Late hits". See number 1. Your opponent throws a shot after he's been hit in that arm, so it doesn't count.  But, you got hit and started dropping your gear.  He says "late", implying you are still alive and should keep fighting.  All fine and good.  Though, none of this is in the rules.  Normally, if you take an injury, the herald is the only one that can/should "heal" a wound, and even that is a stretch.  However, "late" calls help keep people happy and fighting, and are generally accepted.  Just give fighters nearby a friendly heads up that you are still alive.  If you've been dead for a while, just stay dead, especially if being alive again would give you a very big advantage (behind enemy lines, etc) that you didn't already have.

6) "Point!". Guy throws a javelin, hits with the haft, then yells "point!" expectantly, thinking he has landed a good, point first javelin hit.  The rules are honor based, you are in no way bound to his call of point,  if it indeed hit with the haft.  This call is something that probably should be replaced with "haft" or "nothing" when the thrower is pretty sure the hit wasn't valid, or "javelin" if someone is looking around to see what hit them.

7) "Pool cueing double greens". There was recently a large discussion about this one.  Pool cueing is letting the spear/glaive slide through one hand while pushing with the other.  Dagorhir specifically labels this as a one-handed stab, Bele doesn't specify. I call them as a single when I glaive, but others want to call them double.  This is because the rules say "when wielded with two hands", leaving the amount of effort applied by the second hand undefined. Many play it like Dagorhir, where both hands have to be firmly gripping the weapon from the start of the stab until contact is made.

8) "Calling colors". While the Belegarth rules only specify that you need to call "two" when attacking from behind with a two-handed weapon, the general practice is to call the type of hit if it is anything other than a one-handed, swung weapon. Preference seems to be calling colors: red for class two and green for class three, while calling blue for one handers from behind.  Also, calling stabs as "single" or "double" is acceptable, especially for polearms that switch between one and two handed often.

9) "acknowledging hits". Calling hand, armor, light, garb, graze, pierced arms, and any other call about how you got hit and didn't take a wound or die isn't required by the rules.  However, playability says otherwise.  Even if it is a few second afterwards, a call can help clear up the situation and prevent your opponent from getting upset that you aren't taking hits.  As long as you are correctly taking your hits, missing a call here or there isn't the end of the world, just do your best to call what you can.

10) "Solid Shield Breaking Hits".  Different places have different standards on how hard a class two weapon needs to hit a shield to qualify as a shield breaking hit, especially when adding in Dagorhir* realms.  Some realms encourage the idea that it only needs to be as hard it would need to be to count against a limb. Most large events play it as needing a significant amount of extra power to break shields.  This probably comes from the historical/practical argument of "would that shot have actually damaged a shield in a significant way".  I prefer the heavier hitting style, on both sides of the hit.  As a two-hander, I'd rather people only take "good" swings, rather than lighter hits that weren't intended to break their shield.  As a shieldman, I expect other red users to be capable of the same hits.

*Dagorhir has a few extra rules towards discounting the hits that could easily be misread to mean "if it hits a weapon first, it doesn't count." As best I can tell, that isn't at all the intention, but I have seen it played as such.
Parting thought: bastard swords (min red) aren't really intended to be great for breaking shields. Try hunting armor instead.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Dude, I totally killed you."
"There's no way that was your arm, you're dead."
"Point, that javelin killed you."

--Random, but common phrases uttered on the fields of Belegarth and Dagorhir.

First off, a reminder: heralds/marshals are the only people who can call someone "dead" or even bring someone back to life.  Archers are the only fighters that can call their shots (as in that arrow hit you in the torso, not arm). Even calling "point" on a javelin is pushing the boundaries of acceptable practices, especially if you follow it with the expectation that they take the hit.  Granted, I occasionally find myself questioning how someone took (or didn't take) a hit, but I usually try to ask them when the fight is over. Or keep swinging until one of us calls themself dead.

"But what if I know, 100%, that guy is cheating?"

Well, that is why we have heralds.  Ideally, their presence alone will keep most people honest, to the best of their hit registering ability.  Of course, people will miss shots or end up in a confusing situations.  This is where heralds start making calls in order to clean up the situation.

Not every call they make will be 100% accurate, and that is ok.  They are trying to fix a bad situation, and will do their best to call someone dead before things get too complicated or messy.  They also won't hesitate to call people dead for safety reasons, because maintaining a safe field is far more important than one fighter's success.

"That herald made a bad call, I disagree, I'll give him a piece of my mind."

Adrenaline plus being told you are dead, when "clearly" you weren't, trips that moment when you want to argue with someone.  Stop, breath, calm down.  Remember, Bele and Dag specifically give heralds the right to kick you off of the field if you are being a problem. Arguing with one probably is a quick way to get them to send you to the sidelines.  And if they don't, I know quite a few people that would be happy to escort you there.

After the fight, ask them, politely. Sometimes their vantage point gives them a better angle to judge some shots.  Other times it is worse.  Sometimes what you felt and what they saw are two very different things.  They made the call that seemed the most appropriate from their perspective. Oh well, move along, the next fight is starting in about ten seconds.

"I've never seen that herald fight, they don't know enough to call hits."

Fighting and heralding are two very different things.  There are good fighters that are terrible at it, and there are people that rarely or never fight that are incredible at it.  Odds are, if a non-fighter is heralding, they've actually read and studied the rules far more than most fighters.  I also know quite a few great heralds that rarely fight today, but have a long career before you even caught a glimpse of them.

Do we really think NFL, NBA, or NHL refs are amazing, former pro players?  Probably not, but they have spent a good deal of time learning how to do the job.

"I want to herald!"

Great.  First things first, read the rules, a few times. Make sure to ask vets how your realm (or event) are handling any grey areas (that probably should be another post, huh?).  I don't recommend starting at an event, get some training by following a good herald at a local practice. Make sure to ask what they are seeing and hearing. And yes, the sound of a sword hitting a shield is different that it hitting a body.

Different heralds have different approaches.  I air on the side of "looked like it was probably blocked enough to be light" and try to only make calls if truly necessary.  Others take the "I saw it make contact and he didn't call light, so he's dead" approach, and make several calls.  Neither are perfect; I miss a few shots that should be called, but their style makes a few more "bad" calls.  Try to strike a balance and set a standard for when you want to step in and make a call.  Just be sure you are close to the fight, move with the battle.

Oddly enough, I usually end up making far more calls about arrows than poor hit taking. Archers and targets can't always see deflection or where the arrow hit.  Being perpendicular to the shot gives you a great angle to judge. Because arrow rules are less well know to newer fighters and smaller realms, this is when knowing the rulebook well comes in handy.

TL;DR: Listen to heralds, they are doing you a favor by running the field so everyone else can fight.

Take your hits!