Monday, September 15, 2008

Deeds of Arms at St. Festus Faire

Let all princes, lords, barons, knights and squires of the marches of the Isle de France, Champagne, Flanders, Ponthieu first of seignories, Vermandois and Artois, Normandy, Aquitaine and Anjou, Brittany and Berry, and also Corbie, and all others of whatever marches that are in this kingdom and all other Christian kingdoms, who are not banished or enemies of the king our lord, may God save him, know that on the 20th of September, in Dragonship Haven, there will be a very great festival of arms and a very noble deed of arms, with crests, coats of arms and horses covered with the arms of the noble tourneyers, as is the ancient custom. This shall be done in all ways at the direction of the wise and puissant Baron Angus Kerr of Concordia, who shall be the Master of the Tourney, and in conjunction with the Company of St. Michael.

Rules for the Deed of Arms

Overall Guidelines

This is a Passage of Arms, so Chivalry, Heraldry, Pageantry, Nobility are foremost in the day. Come with a retinue, make your entrances grand. Bring ransoms, bring gifts for honorable opponents, show the kingdom your largesse. At the Pas we strive for the great prize of renown. More on how to prepare yourself for a deed of arms can be found here.

Note that there have been some changes to the rules originally announced.


Armor must be accurate to the time period of the Hundred Years War. European armor only please. Some anachronisms will be allowed for safety, ie. hand protection. Sneakers or blatant non period footwear is disallowed. Armor may be made of non period materials as long as it looks period from a distance of ten feet. All kits must be vetted by the Grand Marshall before being allowed on the Field of Honor.

A note on hand protection. Most combats will be fought with some form of great weapon, so half gauntlets/basket hilts are not acceptable for these fights. Hockey gloves and “bear claws” are likewise unacceptable.

Nonetheless, so that the comers may more liberally assay their prowess and chivalry, the Master of the Tourney will make such exceptions as seems good to him, and the comers may apply to him for license at


The weapons allowed are as follows: A lance up to nine feet in length. A pollaxe up to six feet in length. A single sword no longer than the distance from the ground to the wielder’s armpit. A dagger. And if you do not have these weapons for single combat, a pair of each will be provided, and you may choose the one you like best. And you may only use a shield if your opponent consents and is similarly provided.

Heralds and Heraldry

All entrants are strongly recommended to bring their own personal field herald for the day. Heralds will be used to make challenges and to introduce combatants before their bouts. All entrants are encouraged to bring banners, pennants, and shields showing their devices. Pageantry is highly encouraged.

Conventions of Combat

There will be three conventions allowed at the deed of arms.

Combats a Plaisance

The plaisance fights will end as soon as one or the other has thrown an agreed number of blows, even if nobody is knocked down or disabled first.

Each combat between two champions will continue until the judges stop the fight, or a champion is unable to continue, or the agreed number of blows has been struck by one side or the other.

A champion is unable to continue if he is struck five good blows in the course of the combat, or falls or becomes disarmed, or is disabled as described below. A champion whose weapon breaks is not considered disarmed, and the fight will halt while he replaces it.

The challenge for a specified number of blows may be for different weapons in turn: for example, five or ten blows with spear and likewise with axe, sword and dagger, all fought on foot. In some combats with multiple weapons the spear or dagger was omitted. When the blows with a given weapon are completed by either champion the combat pauses and they both take up the next weapon. Alternatively, all of the blows may be fought with a single weapon, usually pollaxe, but sometimes sword, estoc or lance. The total number of blows possible for each champion could range from 15 to 63.

Combats a Outrance in Single Combat

Each combat between two champions will continue until the judges stop the fight, or a champion is unable to continue.

A champion is unable to continue if he is struck five good blows in the course of the combat, or falls or becomes disarmed and is taken before he can recover, or is disabled as described below. His opponent may then be able to claim a ransom of him.

Combats a Outrance in Group Combat

Each combat between a group of champions will continue until the judges stop the fight, or until one side no longer has any champion able to continue.

A champion is unable to continue if he is struck three good blows in close succession, or falls or becomes disarmed, and is taken before he can recover or is disabled as described below. In each case he may be taken from the field by any opponent that claims him, and required to pay ransom. If so he may not return to the field during that combat.

Some advice on ransoms can be found here:

Single combats will be of like weapons against like

Effects of Blows

Two handed edge blows have no effect against plate or brigantine torso armor, and count as one good blow against the head or other protection.

Single handed edge blows have no effect against any plate but the helmet, and count as a good blow against the head or lesser protection elsewhere.

Thrusts have no effect against any plate except for plate helmet visors or faceplates, count as one good blow against these or mail, and a disabling blow against barred visors and lesser protection.

Heavy hardened leather and other suitably covered rigid protection will generally count as plate, with debatable cases to be decided by the discretion of the judges. The judges will, as far as seems practical, attempt to match opponents with similar levels of protection like against like, and harness from the same period like against like.

I suggest these rules for halfswording with two-handed swords, if both parties consent.

For an outrance fight, there would be no limit on the number of blows thrown. A disabled combatant would be forced to surrender.

Do not act out blows, but call them out clearly. Except in group combat you need not keep track of the blows struck yourself: those guarding the list will do so for you.

Structure of the Deed of Arms

There will be two major elements to the deed of arms. First, there will be group and single combats to the outrance as long as both sides are willing and able to hazard ransoms. Next will come the pas d’armes proper of plaisance combats on agreed terms, which shall continue as long as it please the ladies. As this is a pas, chivalry is the tone of the day, and the joy of combat is its own reward. As such, there will be no winner in the traditional society sense. Combatants are encouraged to bring items to give to opponents they felt did them most honor.

You can learn more about 14th and 15th century deeds of arms at here and here:

Some of the historical basis for the combat rules can be found here.

The St. Festus event announcement is here.

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