Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recreating Belgian Longsword Rules

This past summer, at Pennsic 2008, we recreated a tournament using Belgian longsword rules as part of an anthology of tournament styles at the Company of St. Michael’s Vespers.

We used rattan longswords and the ordinary minimum protection of SCA rattan combat. This was expedient, and although lighter protection and steel fencing longswords would have been closer to the original, this provided a quick and enjoyable way to explore the dynamics of the rules.

Since we were recreating unarmored combat, we counted blows at about half standard SCA calibration. We also disallowed thrusts to the face: this wasn’t explicit in the surviving rules, but it was for rapier rules used by the same groups and it seemed likely considering the limited protection worn.

Otherwise we used the following rules posted by Matt Galas.

Important note: One party is designated as the "King"; he has certain advantages (see below). His opponent is called the "Champion." If the Champion defeats the King, he becomes the new King, and has the corresponding handicap. The goal is to remain King until everyone has fenced; the last person remaining as King wins the tournament.

- Each bout consists of a single round.

- Both cut & thrust are allowed.

- Valid target area is above the belt and above the elbows (ie, no hands or forearms).

- No corps-a-corps is allowed; no grappling or pommel strikes.

- Only two-handed technique (no one-handed or half-sword).

- If you lose your weapon, you lose the bout. If you fall, the bout is played over.

- If the King hits the Champion a clean hit, he wins the bout, and remains King. (Go on to the next contestant.)

- If the Champion hits the King with a clean hit, the King still has one last chance to hit him (called an "after-stroke"). The King can take one step with his after-stroke. If he hits, he wins the bout. (This after-stroke must be delivered immediately, without delay, or it is lost.) If the Champion parries or evades the blow, then the Champion wins the bout, and becomes King.

- If there is a double hit, the highest hit wins (head wins over chest, etc.). If it's the King who has the highest hit, he wins. If it's the Champion, the King still gets his after-stroke (see rule above).

He adds that:

Some of the rule sets prescribe a certain number of "venues" (read: "rounds") that the guild brothers have to fight. Usually, the number is two for a new member, three for a guild member who has passed his initial tests. One rule set explicitly says that the venues cannot be played back to back, but must have at least one other person fighting a venue in between.

Because all of the participants were experienced, everyone was allowed three chances to enter the field. We chose the first King by drawing straws. If I was running a repeat event with the same group, I would have the King from the last tournament begin as King.

Although the limited target area created some artificiality relative to actual combat, the rules were in practice simple and elegant in recreating some of the dynamics of actual combat. The after-stroke rule strongly discouraged depending on attacks that might land first, but left you vulnerable to a dying blow. While in theory it might seem that a weaker fighter could be lucky and enter the field at the right time to defeat a tired but superior King in the last fight of the day, that wasn’t an issue for us, since the weaker fighters exhausted their venues faster than the better ones. Evidently the rules evolved over many years to achieve a good balance between simplicity and realism.


Bod. Lib., Ashmole. MS. 856, art. 22, pp. 376—~83

[376] Too my leve Lordes here nowe next folowinge is a Traytese compyled by Johan Hyll Armorier Sergeant in the office of Armory wt, Kinges Henry ye 4th and Henry ye 5th of ye poyntes of Worship in Armes and how he shall be diversely Armed & gouverned under supportacion of faveurof alle ye Needes to coverte adde & amenuse where nede is by the high comandement of the Princes that have powair so for to ordeyne & establishe

The first Honneur in Armes is a Gentilman to fight in his Souverain Lords quarell in a bataille of Treason sworne withinne Listes before his souverain Lorde whether he be Appellant or Defendant ye houneur is his that winneth ye feelde.

As for the appellant thus Armed by his owne witte or by his counsaille wch is assigned to him before Conestabie & Marchall ye wch Counsaille is ordeyned & bounden to teche hym alle maner of fightynge & soteltees of Armes that longeth for a battaile sworne

First hym nedeth to have a paire of hosen of corde wtoute vampeys And the saide hosen kutte at ye knees and lyned wtin wt Lynnen cloth byesse as the hose is A payre of shoen of red Lether thynne laced & fretted underneth wt whippecorde & persed, And above withinne Lyned wt Lynnen cloth three fyngers in brede double & byesse from the too an yncle above ye wriste. And so behinde at ye hele from the Soole halfe a quarter of a yearde uppe this is to fasten wele to his Sabatons And the same Sabatons fastened under ye soole of ye fote in 2 places hym nedeth also a petycote of an overbody of a doublett, his petycote wt oute sleves, ye syses of him 3 quarters aboute wt outen coler, And that other part noo ferther thanne [377] ye waste wt streyte sleves and coler and cutaine oylettes in ye sleves for ye vaunt bras and ye Rerebrase

Armed in this wise First behoveth Sabatouns grevis & cloos quysseux wt voydours of plate or of mayle & a cloos breche of mayle wt 5 bokles of stele ye tisseux of fyne lether. And all ye armyng poyntes after they ben knytte & fastened on hym armed that ye poyntes of him be kutte of

And thanne a paire of cloos gussetts strong sclave not drawes and thatye gussets be thre fingers withinne his plates at both assises And thanne a paire of plattes at xx li lib weight his breste & his plats enarmed to wt wyre or wt poyntes.

A pair of Rerebraces shitten withinne the plates before wt twi forlockes and behinde wt thre forlocks. A paire of vaunt bras cloos wt voydours of mayle & fretted. A pair of gloves of avantage wche may be devised. A basnet of avauntage for ye listes whiche is not goode for noon other battailles but man for man save that necessitie hath noo lawe, the basnet locked baver & vysour locked or charnelled also to ye brest & behynde wt two forlockes. And this Gentilman appellent aforesaide whanne he is thus armed & redy to come to ye felde do on hym a cote of armes of sengle tarten ye beter for avauntage in fighting. And his leg harneys covered alle wt reed taritryn the wche ben called tunictes for he coverynge of his leg harneys is doen because his adversarie shal not lightly espye his blode. And therefore also hen his hosen reed for in alle other colours blode wol lightly be seyne, for by the oolde tyme in such a bataile there shulde noo thing have be seyn here save his basnett & his gloves. And thanne tye on hym a payre of besagewes. Also it fitteth the [378] foresaide counsaille to goo to ye kyng the daye before ye bataille & aske his logging nigh ye listes. Also ye foresaide Counsaille must ordeyne hym the masses ye first masse of ye Trinitie ye seconde of ye Holy Goste & ye thirde of owre Ladye or elles of what other sainte or saintes that he hath devocion unto

And that he be watched alle that night hym that he is watched and light in his Chambre alle that night that his counsaille may wite how that he slepeth, And in ye mornyng whanne he goeth to his Masses that his herneys be leyed at ye North end of ye Auter and covered wt a cloth that ye gospell may be redde over it and at ye laste masse for to be blessed wt ye preist and whanne he hath herde his Masses thanne to goo to his dyner. And soo to his Armyng in ye forme aforesaide. And whanne he is armed and alle redy thanne to come to ye feelde in forme to fore rehersed, thanne his counsaille bounden to counsaille hym & to teche hym how he shal gouverne hym of his requests to ye kyng or he come into ye feelde and his entrie into ye felde and his gouvernance in the feelde for ye saide Counsaille hath charge of hym before Constable and Mareschal til that Lesses les aller be cryed. The whiche requestes ben thus that ye saide Appellant sende oon his counsaille to the kyng for to requeste hym that whanne he cometh to ye barrers to have free entrie wt his counsaille Confessour & Armorers wt alle maner of Instruments wt breede & wyne hymnself bringing in in an Instrument that is to saye a cofre or a pair of bouges. Also their fyre cole & belyes and that his chayre wt [379] certaine of his Servants may be brought into ye feelde and sette up there the houre of his comyng that it may cover hym and his counsaille whanne he is comen into ye feelde this forsaide gentilman Appellant comyng to ye Listes whether he wol on horsebak or on fote wt his counsaille Confessour & other Servaunts aforesaide havyng borne be fore hym by his counsaille a spere a long swerde a short swerde & a dagger fastined upon hymself his swerdes fretted and beasagewed afore ye hiltes havyng noo maner of poyntes for and ther be founden that day on hym noo poyntes of wepons thanne foirre, it shall tourne hym to gret reproof. And this gentilman appellant that come to ye barrers at ye Southeest sone, his visier doune And he shal aske entrie where shal mete hym Constable and Mareschal and aske hym what art thou. And he shal saye I am suche a man & telle his name to make goode this day by ye grace of God that I have saide of suche a man and tell hys name bifore my Souain Lord and they shal bidde hym putte up his visier and whanne he hath put up his visier they shal open the barrers and lette hym inne and his counsaille before hym & wt hym his Armorers & his servaunts shal goo streight to his chayer wt his breed his wyne & alle his instruments that longe unto hym save his weppons. And whanne he entreth into the felde that he blesse hym soberly and so twys or he come to before his Souverain Lord And his Counsailles shall do thair obeisaunce before thair souverain Lord twys or they come to the degrees of his scaffolde and he to obeye him wt his heed at both tymes Then whanne they to fore thair souverain Lord they shal knele a downe and he also they shal aryse or he aryse he shal obeye hym at his heed to his souverain Lord and then aryse and whanne he is up on his feete he shal blesse hym and turne hym to his chayre and at the entryng of his chayr [380] soberly tourne hym his visage to his souverain Lord wards and blesse hym and thanne tourne hym againe and soo go into his chayre and there he maye sitte hym downe and take of his gloves and his basnet and so refresh hyrn till the houre of hys Adversarie approche wt breed and wyne or wt any other thing that he hath brought in wt hym. And whanne the Defendaunt his Adversarie cometh in to the feelde that he be redy armed againe or that he come into the feelde standing withoute his chayre taking hede of his Adversaries comyng in and of his countenance that he may take comfort of. And whanne the defendant his Adversarie is come int ye felde and is in his chayre thanne shal the kyng send for his wepons and se him and the Conestable and the Marschal also and if they be leefull they shal be kept in the feelde & kutte the same day by ye comaundement of the kyng and the Conestable and Mareschal in ye kynge’s behalve. And thanne fitteth to the foresaide counsaille to arme hym and to make hym redy against that he be called to his first ooth and whanne he is called to his first oothe thanne fitteth it to alle his counsaille to goo wt hym to his first ooth for to here what the Conestable and Mareschal seyen unto hym and what contenaunce he maketh in his sweryng And whanne he hath sworne they shl ryse up by ye comaundement of the Conestable and Mareschal. And whanne he is on his feete he shal obey hym to his Souverain Lord and blesse hym and thanne turne hym to his chayre his visage to his souveraine Lord wards and in his goinge blesse hymn twys by ye weye or he come to his chayre. And at ye [381] entryng to his chayre soberly tourne hym his visage to his Souverain Lord wards and blesse hym and soo go into his chayre. Thanne fitteth it to his fore saide Counsaille to awayte where the defendaunt shal come to his first ooth and that they be ther as sone as he for to here how he swereth for he must nedes swere that al that ever th appellant hath sworne is false substance and alle, And if he wol not swere that every worde & every sillable of every worde substance and alle is false the Counsaille of ye saide appellant may right wisly aske jugement by lawe of Civile and raison of Armes forafter ye juge is sette there shulde noo plee be made afore hym that daye.

And if so be that the Defendant swere duly thanne ye Counsaille of the foresaide Appellant shal goo to his chayre agayne and abide ther til they be sent for. And thanne shal they bringe hym to hys second Ooth and here how he swereth and whanne he hath sworne they shal goo wt hym to hys chayre againe in the forme aforesaide. And whanne he is in his chayre the saide Counsaille shal awayte whanne ye Defendaunt cometh to his seconde ooth and here how he swereth and if he swere under any subtil teerme cantel or cavellacion the foresaide Counsaille of th appellant may require the jugement. And if he swere duely thanne shal ye Counsaille of ye foresaide Appellant goo to his chayre againe and abide there til they be sent for.

And thanne shal they brynge hymn to his thirde ooth and assuraunce. And whanne they be sworne and assured the saide appellant wt his Counsaile shal goo againe to his chayre in the fourme afore saide and there make [382] hym redy and fastene upon hym his wepons and so refresche hym til ye Conestahie and Mareschal bid hym come to ye feeld. Thanne shal his Armorers and his Servaunts voyde the Listes wt his chayre and alle his Instruments at ye Comandement of ye Conestable and Mareschal. Thanne fitteth it to the Counsaille of the saide Appellant to ask a place of ye kyng afore hym withinne the barres upon his right hande that ye saide Counsaille of th appellant may come and stande there whanne they be discharged of ye saide Appellant.

The cause is this that suche pyte may be given to ye kyng if God that noon of hem shal dye that daye for he may by his prowaie royal in such a cas take it into his hande the foresaide Counsaille of the Appellant to abyde in the saide place til the kyng have geven his jugement upon him—And thanne ye Conestable and Mareschal shal deliwer the foresaide Appellant by ye Comandement of the kyng to his foresaide Counsaille to govern hymn of his going out of ye feelde as wele as they did of his comyng in his worship to be saved in al that lyeth en hem. And soo to bryng hymn to his Logging agayne to unarme hymn comforte hymn and counsaille hym And some of his Counsaille may goo to the kyng and comon wt hymn and wite of the kyng how he shal be demeaned. This enarmyng here aforesaide is best for a battaille of arreste wt a sworde a dagger an Ax and a pavys til he come to th asseblee his sabatons & his tunycle evoyded And thanne the Auctor Johan Hyll dyed at London in Novembre the xiii th yere of kyng Henry the Sixt so that he accomplished noo mor of ye compylyng of this [383] trayties on whose soulle God have mercy for his endles passion Amen.

This as an informative treatise, but very specialized to the requirements of the judicial duel. The author devotes considerable ingenuity to giving his reader every possible advantage in a life or death fight at a predetermined time with complete support staff on hand. A sleeveless, collarless “petycote… of a doublet” is worn, which would support the legharness without binding the shoulders. Over that is an “other part noo ferther thane ye waste wt streyte sleves and coler and cutain oylettes for ye vaunt bras and ye Rerebrase”. This could support the armharness while allowing relatively free movement. Once the arming points are tied the ends are cut away.

Hill suggest that the the body armor be closed up with “wire or points”. Wire would be less vulnerable than buckles, but impractical on campaign. Similarly, instead of buckles and hinges, the rerebrace is closed with forelocks, metal wedges driven into holes in the end of bolts. Again, this provides a very secure closure, but requiring the assistance of an armorer to remove. He recommends a “basnet of avauntage”, useful only for single combat, with locked “baver and vysour”, with the helmet also locked to breast and backplate with two forelocks.

Finally, he suggests that the legharness by covered with red fabric “tunictes” to conceal any loss of blood. "Tunictes" might be translated as vestments or jackets. He says that the champion’s swords should be be “fretted and besagewed” before the hilts. He condemns the practice of adding additional points to the weapon by sharpening the ends of the cross of the hilt or adding a point to the pommel, both of which appear in Continental fighting manuals.

Monday, December 15, 2008

In My Parallel Universe II

Hedge fund manager Otto Spork has been charged with bilking investors of millions of dollars in two fraudulent glacier investments.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Medieval Field Flask

Just in time for Christmas! A recreation of a medieval field flask in lead free pewter.