Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't Stop to Kick the Bear

Years ago, a bunch of us locally played a tabletop miniature game called Mordheim. It was a game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, but was based on small units. We like the game for several reasons... you could play cheaply, as there were not as many miniatures required, there was the option to keep your warband and have them gain experience, and it was a fun excercise in small unit tactics.
All of the scenarios had goals... it wasn't just fight to the last man (necessarily) and you could, in fact, win the fight but lose the scenario.
One game in particular that demonstrated this was between my Pelican Master Harald and my protege brother Gabe. The scenario called for him to get across the board with a treasure, if I remember correctly. Gabe was winning handily... his warband was faster than Harald's dwarf warband, and he was almost at the edge of the board. The last thing in his way was one of Harald's war bears, but it was no threat... it had been knocked down by another character. All Gabe's guy had to do was waltz on by, game over. Gabe stopped to kill the bear. Should have been simple... all he had to do was roll to hit it, then next turn, skip off. No problem.
He failed his roll.
Next turn, the bear got up. It delayed him long enough for Harald's dwarves to get in range. Gabe lost.
We used this scenario for years to demonstrate the concept of not losing sight of your objective. There are many times in melee situations when it can be tempting to step out and play the hero, but in doing so you may risk losing the tactical advantage in the battle.
So remember kids... don't stop to kick the bear.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Uncle Olaf on a plateau

Like the title says... Uncle Olaf feels like he's on a plateau. I have hit a point where I feel like my forward progress has stopped, and I may have even backslid slightly.
Part of it comes from mundane life... I have had a fairly stressful patch in my job, and that bleeds over into everyday life and hobbies. Dalla and I are both feeling it... we've let our diet and exercise slip, and feel it physically, which effects us emotionally... it's a vicious cycle.
This happens... I have hit the wall before... but I need to figure out what to do to break the cycle.
Starting this week, I will be travelling to Coldwood practice on Sunday. This is not a weekly thing ( I couldn't afford to do it every week anyway) but it will give me a change... more variety in who I fight will help, and add new challenges and ideas. Stagnation kills, and fighting the same people every week can get you in bad habits.
I need to start working out more... not weights and gym, but agility/footwork drills and pell. The agility drills help my footwork, but they are also what keeps my knees from sucking, and I am starting to feel that. I will have to figure out how and where to do them inside, as winter is pretty much here, and see what i can do about a pell in the basement.
Getting to events has been challenging. I was hoping to do Hundred Minutes, but I'm not sure if that will happen. It's 7 hours one way and $150 in gas, and I am not sure I can pull that off. Still contemplating, so we will see. I am going to ponder the events map on East Kingdom Gazette and see what I can pull together over the coming months.

I'm not going to make any grand promises about the things I am going to do to get off this plateau... I recognize that first I need to get out of the funk I am in. I will take steps to do that, and move forward. But I will, rest assured, be doing SOMETHING.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Uncle Olaf doesn't fight at the last practice before Pennsic.

A number of years ago... Pennsic 35… I got hurt in the last fight practice before War. Practice was on Tuesday, and we left on Saturday.  I caught a shot right on the inside of my elbow, at just the right angle that there was no armour there. It hurt like Hel, and swelled and bruised pretty spectacularly. By the time we got to Pennsic… it had not improved.
I decided to fight Monday when the war points started anyway… I had OK range of motion and could work a spear pretty well, and I had not driven there to sit on the sidelines. The Monday battle was the town battle. I’m not sure if folks remember this one, but it was the one where we built a HUGE town out of hay bales. I mean HUGE… it took up the entire battlefield, and was a rabbit warren of streets and alleys and buildings. Our plan was to hit in three teams, penetration, assault, and security. Penetration team punched in fast, advanced to contact, and made the enemy stop and engage. Assault team followed that up and knocked them back, and the security team… the slower moving but generally heaver fighters… held the ground. Rinse and repeat.
Heading into the town.Photo by Ursus of Anglesey
We took over half the town at the opening cannon, and never gave it back. It was a gloriously brutal battle.
Maybe halfway through, I came to the sudden and frightening realization that I could no longer feel the hand on my injured arm. I took this as a Bad Sign. I came off the field right in front of the Tuchux pavilion, and started to drop my gear. A couple of their dogs started ripping into me to GTFO of their space, but Animal saw I was hurt, and smacked them down. I explained what was wrong, and he asked me to take my arm harness off and he would try some acupressure. I had no idea what that was, but at that point, I was willing to try anything.  He worked on the arm for a few minutes, and feeling returned. Pretty much as soon as it did, I wished it hadn’t… because that hurt like a mother. After he finished, Animal told me I probably shouldn’t fight.  I intended to follow the advice, but a quick glance at my exhausted compatriots fighting the good fight, and I decided to go back in. My intent was to carry water up to those people guarding banner points, and I didn’t carry a spear. I had my seax on my belt, so I was armed, and I figured I would count as a combatant if they needed bodies for a count around a banner. This not fighting thing lasted a VERY short time… there was a push on the line where I was, we were about to be overrun, and almost without thought, I flipped a spear that was lying on the ground up into my hand, and started killing folk. The spear broke in my hands (I lost three spears that day, though this was the only one broken) and I ended the battle batting cleanup with the seax as the enemy tried penetrating our line.
I staggered off the field, and had to be helped back to camp. I was hurting. Bad.
That night, there was much prayer in camp. Master Harald blessed his own Thor’s hammer and had me wear it. A massage therapist worked on the arm a while, I took it easy, I ate motrin like candy.
I woke up the next morning, and the arm was still f^cked. The swelling had worsened. The bruising had spread… it was now bruised from mid forearm to my shoulder, ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE ARM!
Harald looked at it, and told me if I went out and fought the woods, it was very likely that I would not be fighting the rest of War. I sat in my tent and watched my friends head off to the woods battle.
I sat there staring at my helmet and thinking. I popped back out of the tent, looked at Harald and said “Boss… I would rather miss the rest of Pennsic than not fight the woods.” I was going. There wasn’t a question.
He looked at me, understanding. Nodding, he said “So suit up.”
I did. Threw my armour on as fast as possible and left the camp just as the cannon went off to start the battle. We were on the far side of the woods that year… about a mile walk from where I was. In under fifteen minutes, I had reached our res point, grabbed a spear from the spare gear ( I had not gotten my spear back from the battlefield the day before) and was in the woods.
I proceeded to have one of the best battles of my life. Seriously… occasionally you have one of those days where damn near everything goes right. This was one of those days. I felt unstoppable, and many a fun story came out of that woods battle.
At the end of the battle, we piled in the vehicles and got a ride back to camp. I got back, armoured down, and took a look at my arm. The swelling was gone. The bruising was almost gone… the arm barely tinged with yellow. I fought the rest of War, no pain or discomfort.
I don't fight the last practice before Pennsic now though. J

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dreams of a modern viking...

One of my Facebook friends made a post the other day asking people about their dreams. Not “hey, do you have that dream where you’re in front of the class in your underwear”, rather if money or real life allowed, what would you do?
A particular dream of mine came a number of years ago when I made a flip offhand comment to some of our close friends “Man, what we really need to do is start up our own commune!”
I was surprised when they looked at me and nodded, wide eyed at the idea.
The incident got me thinking, and we talked about it some with my Household. I would love to take a plot of land… decently sized, with a combination of woods and field… and turn it into an actual Wolfhaven steading. I don’t want to do a fully Viking era thing… the intent is for it to be livable and modern. But I would want to run it as a steading, with houses for each family and a great hall or common building for all to use. Farming could be done cooperatively, with all providing labor and sharing in the produce. It wouldn't be fully self-sufficient, I am sure that most would still have an everyday job (I know I wouldn't leave MY job). Bills would have to be paid, and running a truly self-sustaining farm is very difficult. It would really be co-housing or an intentional community. Some folks I know in the SCA have done something similar with Camelot CoHousing in Massachussetts. What they have done isn't exactly what I intend (in my fantasy world), but it is still awesome, and an inspiration.

We already live in a somewhat communal fashion in our Pennsic encampment. Personal space is allotted for each person, but there is also a large common area where meals can be shared, people can hang out, and projects can be worked on. I picture this as a larger extension of that model (but obviously with larger personal space, private kitchens, etc.). I like the community feel we have at Pennsic... when things need to be done, we all pitch in. Our House is a fairly closely knit bunch, and I trust everyone in it... I would not want to do this with folks who were not truly invested in it. This would not be a true commune anyway... resources (personal monies) would not be pooled, though labor would be. The idea is closer to cohousing, a grouping together to create something closer to a closely bonded neighborhood with common values and goals.

Problems with the idea are plentiful… startup capital would be difficult to come up with, the House is already scattered about due to real world jobs, and there is not the job base to draw them back to the area. Once the land was acquired, there would be common area and homes to build, land to clear and cultivate. How the group would be organized and run would be a question, and how people would “buy in” and what happens if they leave…

Were I to come up with a large chunk of money, I would do it. No question… I would simply buy the land and charge in blindly. Allow House members to build on the land, carve out their own space in return for working the common crop land and building projects. The common hall would double as a feast hall for events, and we would be able to host some pretty excellent SCA events.
As it stands though… it is just a pipe dream.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Frolic 2013

As I said in my last post, This weekend was Fall Frolic here in the Northern Outpost. Fall Frolic is our fall camping event, lasting from Friday afternoon till Sunday. It is where we hold our Shire Championships for armoured combat, rapier, arts & sciences, and archery.
Jeremiah owns the site, and it is a beautiful old farmstead, split between fields and woodland. We camp at the top of one of the open fields butted up against woods, and backed by an old orchard. We have cleared a section of woods for fighting, and built a fort facade there. It is a great site, and Jeremiah has been gracious enough to let us build things and hold archery there. The outhouse we built is referred to as the "Hall of Champions" we started keeping a recording of past Shire Champions on the wall. It's a running joke playing on the Shire name... Northern Outpost, Northern Outhouse... it amuses us. :)
Rose (the girl in pink) beating the pants off everybody in
a game of stake. She won by 12 points... in a 10 point game.
photo by Jenn Hostetter
I had a great time at the event. Our common tent was full of people on Friday night, relaxing and chatting, a really relaxed and fun atmosphere. Full of good food, with some good beers and meads, bright fall moon shining down... could not have asked for better.
On Saturday morning things really kicked off... more people arrived, which is one of my favorite things about SCA events. Friends from far away, people at their first events... all what make the game great. We snacked, chatted, and invented a new game called "stake" (mainly Ravenhair invented it) a game inspired by lawn darts bit played with steel tent stakes.

We also got ready for the tournament. It started raining pretty much the same time as we started... but it was still a blast. We fought a few melees, then the tournament. I did decently, not two and out... lost to Ian and Ravenhair. Emery, Arnbjorn and Snorri all fought well, but Ian went on to win the overall tournament. Not bad for a guy who had been out for several months. Fought some pickups as well, with Ravenhair, Snorri, and Conrad. Ravenhair had basically one shotted me in the tournament, so it was nice to fight him a bit so I didn't feel completely incompetent. I wish I had gotten to work with him more... some of the stuff he has been learning at Knight's Hall practices is very cool, and I want to see more of it.

 The fighting was overall very laid back, and everybody seemed to have a good time.That evening, Wolfhaven hosted pretty much the entire population of the event in camp. it was great that everybody felt welcome, we fed people and I think it was about 01:00 by the time everybody wrapped up (at which point I am kind of embarrassed to say I shushed them because it was late and they woke me up. I'm getting old...).
Ollie. photo by
Jenn Hostetter
Alfrun and Wilhelm showed up partway through the day with their baby Ollie. He is an absolutely adorable child, and I was lucky enough to get to play with him for a while. Alfrun also organized a Freyfaxi ceremony later in the evening. This is a Norse Heathen ceremony usually held in August, when the first harvest of wheat is. We celebrated it later, but it is generally a festival honoring Frey and Sunna, and giving thanks for a fruitful year. I was honestly surprised at the number of people who participated. Most of them were not of the Norse Heathen persuasion, but were still welcome, and it was a beautiful ceremony (held in the rain, of course). One of the things Alfrun gave thanks for was also a big reveal to the group... she and Wilhelm are pregnant again! I also used the ceremony to make a vow, that I would try and be the man my House and friends think I am. My Household made me very proud this weekend (as I posted in my last blog) and I am very thankful for them.

All in all, this event was a great success, in my view. Even with the rain, there was a decent turnout, with some people travelling a pretty good distance to attend. I hope to see more people next year... because there will be a next year.
Christophe and Ian in the Finals
photo by Jenn Hostetter

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Frolic: House Wolfhaven

This weekend was Fall Frolic here in the Northern Outpost. This is our annual Fall camping event, held at one of our local member's place. He has about 70 acres of meadows and woodland, and it is a great event site.
The majority of our House was going to be in attendance this year, with only Ger missing I wish Ger could have been there, but understand that mundane life requires its sacrifices. I look forward to the day when you can get back out and play with us regularly.
 I decided to haul out our entire Pennsic "steading"... the sheet walls with the badge and wolf's head on them, the gate posts with carved lintel piece, common tent, and banners.

The Wolfhaven "steading". Photo by Ariana
We were also going to have a few other people camping with us, and we discussed what we were planning to do for meals. Saturday lunch was going to be a potluck dayboard, and we contributed to that, as did the rest of the Shire, but we would at least have to do dinners for ourselves Friday and Saturday night. We decided to do pork on the smoker on Friday, and a barley soup and smoked chickens on Saturday night. We discussed what to bring, and each person brought their share (or more). My steward Arnbjorn, and Erland, the newest member of the House, handled pretty much all the cooking both nights... I was barely able to help at all. However, they did not cook enough just for us... we ended up feeding a good portion of the event both nights. Saturday night, there were so many people we had to add on a couple of pop up tents just to hold all the people. In addition to cooking, both helped others set up and take down, and fought in the Shire champion's tournament, and acquitted themselves well. They were checking the chickens in the smoker between rounds of the tournament.
Snorri came up with Tirzah, and it was great to see him. He was not there for most of the rest of the day, as they could only daytrip, but he fought well, and spent time after doing pickups and learning.
Alfrun came up with Wilhelm and their baby Ollie. Alfun organized and ran a Freyfaxi ceremony on Saturday evening... a Norse heathen ceremony of thanksgiving. She did a wonderful job, and it made me very glad to see how many of our friends attended and participated.
All in all... my people made me VERY proud this weekend. I have a very hardworking and friendly crew, and they share my emphasis on hospitality. I love you all, and I am immensely proud of you all right now. I hope  to someday be half the man you all seem to think I am. You make me better.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who will ransom you?

A discussion on a post Sir Rhys made on Facebook made me think of this story. I know many have heard it, but, here goes...

A number of years ago in the woods at Pennsic, I was on a banner detail (yes, the same one as in my Sophia story…). The line had pushed fairly close to the banner, and the fighting was pretty heavy. The Mid made a push for a breakthrough, and they succeeded… sort of. One man made it through. He punched through PAST the banner point, and then turned, heading for the banner. You could just see the visions of glory in his eyes as he came running at us… and then the banner guard turned as one, and he was looking at a knot of spears and polearms.
It was comical… he almost backpedaled as he came skidding to a halt, and fell flat on his back at our feet. Looking up at the points of all the weapons in his face, he stammered “Uh…. I yield.”
Everyone was ready to accept that. Being… well, me… I said “Who will ransom you.”
“Uh… what”
“If you yield to us, you are our prisoner. I will expect ransom for your release. So…  who will ransom you?”
“Uh… my lady?”
“Is your lady wealthy?” I asked.
“Not really…”
Turning to the rest of the banner guard, who are all chuckling at this point, I said “Eff it… kill him.”
They jokingly executed the guy, and then all laughing, helped him up and dusted him off. He started on his merry way, and I called out to him. He turned, and I said “Milord, you know what you just got?”
He cocked his head, and shrugged, expecting smack talk.
“You just got a story.”
He paused for a moment, and then grinned. Saluting, he walked away.

I bet that was some story…

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Last Week's Fight Practices

Had the opportunity to have a couple of fight practices this week. Our friends Godric and Cecily were visiting from New Zealand, and Sir Rhys and Jimena suggested we have a fight practice on Sunday so he could fight some different people. We had fun, though there were only a few of us. Godric fights round shield in a style I had never encountered before, so that was cool. I always like to encounter new styles... it is good for my fighting to break up the norm, and can help me kick out of a rut.
We took it fairly easy, and fought till nearly 1pm. I had a decent day, but I felt I was lagging a bit. Feels like I am right at the edge of something, and am about to make a breakthrough.
Tuesday, my family visited fight practice. This was pretty awesome for me... they know what I do, and have seen pictures, but have only seen me fight once, probably close to ten years ago. Maybe it was the desire to make a good showing, but I had a very good night. Several things really gelled, and I got a couple of things to work that I have been stalled with for a while... mainly timing issues.
Setting up a shot and counter punching was one thing, and timing hitting a moving target another. I was also working on controlling my opponent's advance against my axe, and felt I was doing pretty good with that.
Things I will be working on:

  1. Offside targeting and power. Seem to not be penetrating with my offside shots. Need to work the proper form and stop being sloppy about that.
  2. Fighting legged opponents. Yep, I still suck at that. Apparently "kick them over" is not the right answer.

Definitely need to replace my damn gauntlets too... got a fingernail dinged a bit. Thinking of the Bokolo "Cat's Ass" gauntlets... they aren't perfect, but they are damn protective.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pennsic 42: The Gnome

One of our typical ways to spend an evening while at Pennsic is to head on down to the Coldwood/Freehold encampment and hang out with our friends there. Just sitting by the fire, chatting, having a beverage or two... it's a great way to relax and really unwind.
One night this Pennsic, I indulged in a few more beverages than usual, as did Asgar. When Dalla, Arnbjorn and I decided to head home, Asgar decided to head along with us and continue his night over the hill at some party or other. We resolved to walk as far as the merchant area with him before heading up to the Highlands and going to bed.
As we were walking up the street, we came upon a party that had spilled into the street right near the Dark Moon camp. There were people on both sides of the street, and a small knot in the middle who were all very boisterous (and more than a little drunk). Into the middle of this we strolled. The ringleader walked up to me, and said "To pass... you must either skip... or thumb wrestle the gnome!"
I was not intimidated by this challenge, and said boldly "Show me your gnome!!!"
The gnome came forth. He was obviously on steroids... either that or had been cross bred with a mountain gorilla. Not your happy little Travelocity gnome, this... he was huge, and looked spoiling tor a good solid thumb breaking.
"I... SHALL SKIP!!!" I announced.
And skip I did... I skipped like a boss down the gauntlet of party goers, stopping at the end of the crowd to thunderous applause.
Asgar came next... though his skipping took on a bit more of a bawdy tone... a bit more shimmy and pelvic thrust than your standard skip. While he was doing this, the man running the show came up to Dalla and repeated... "Will you skip... or thumb wrestle the gnome!"
Dalla tentatively said, "Um,...skip??"
I intervened... running up, I said "Wait! Wait! I have an idea!!!"
Dalla took off like a shot, running down the road at top speed.
She didn't just run... as she ran, she was crying "Run! Run faster!!!" She continued till she realized that she was well beyond the end of the party, and there were a couple of women looking at her oddly. She collected herself, and said to them...
"You haven't met the gnome."
And then she walked on.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pennsic 42- what we did in week 1

So the initial plan was to type up blog posts while at Pennsic to post when we made our town runs. This lasted precisely one post, so I will do my best to sum up Pennsic, and maybe tell some Pennsic stories over the next little while. This post is just a summary of what we found to keep ourselves busy and not bored the first week.
We went to Pennsic this year without a lot of commitments. Usually we have scheduled things that we have to do, such as classes to teach or people we have promised to help out. We decided to do some different things this year. I committed to help Baron Erik of Munitions Grade Arms move his rattan stock from the freight yard to the Pennsic site, and Arnbjorn and Dalla said they would do it as well. We went on Monday for that, and moved 2 tons of rattan from a tractor trailer to his trailer, then from his trailer into the racks at Pennsic. This was actually far more fun than it sounds... it was very physical, the bales of rattan were something close to 75-100lbs each... but it was a nice switch from working at a desk all day. We were rewarded with three staves of rattan each for our efforts, which was generous for a few hours work.
I had decided I would not be putting in as many hours at marshal's point this year as I did last year. Sir Stephen was marshal in charge last year, and to help him as much as possible, I spent a good chunk of nearly every day down there (though not as much as he or Aiden did). This year I ended up helping the Battlefield staff more... Sulla and Syr Silverthorn were the two primaries there, and we did fun things like move hay bales and put up posts and ropes marking the battlefield. They are almost always short of hands, so they were vary appreciative. Both are fun to work with as well, which makes a difference.
I did end up working marshal's point a decent bit. Duchess Tessa from Aethelmearc was running point this year, and is good to work with.I put in several half days there inspecting, and marshaled the field battles on the first Monday of War Week.
We also helped set up East Kingdom Royal encampment, which was cool. We went and unloaded the Kingdom trailer, and then set up the entrance pavilion, wind walls, etc. Much fun was had, there was a crew of pretty cool people working, and it went pretty well, with only a couple of hiccups. All in all, a fun experience.
I did some pickup fighting week one as well. I ended up fighting a guy from Sweden named Sven who was a fun fight. I noticed the white belt, and that he was a Duke... what I did not realize at the time was that he was also the King of Drachenwald. Needless to say, he did not suck, and was a fun fight.
Aside from these things, we mainly used the first week to relax. We played some medieval games, and visited friends. Hanging out in the Freehold/Coldwood encampment was our regular nightly thing, and we got to spend some time with Gunvar when she came over to visit us, which was also nice. All in all, first week was very relaxing, and we went into War Week rested and ready.
Arnbjorn and I playing Game of the Goose

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pennsic 42 Zero Night/Land Grab

We arrived fairly early for “Zero Night”... the opening night before land grab of Pennsic 42. Our goal was to get here in daylight so we could set upp a temporary shelter and meet up with some of hthe rest of our block mates and try to get negotiations started for block setup. Turned out that nobody else from our block was arriving that night, but we decided to go and have a look at the block ourselves.
We were very glad we did.
As soon as we stepped on the block, it felt off. We soon saw why... during the recent Jeep jamboree the Coopers had at the site, someone had put a Jeep trail right through the back of our block. The entire space inside the tree line... where most of us camp... was affected. Much of the ground had the topsoil stripped away, some of it exposing the tree roots. Our end had a mud pit (where our common area usually went) and a big pile of dirt (where my tent usually went). We were pissed.
I decided to take a walk down to Land office and see what was going on. I had taken a few photos with my phone, and showed Land 2 (Dagmar). She was surprised... the Coopers had mentioned a “project” in the B blocks, but not what the project was. Land had no idea the extent of the damage. She headed for the War Room to see what was being done, and I went back to the battlefield, where all the parking/camping is for Zero Night. Within a half hour, I had a promise of a backhoe on our block before land grab in the morning.
There was a storm threatening... severe looking thunderstorms... so we decided to forego the shelter and just sleep in our vehicles. We slept on top of the trunks in the back of the Jeep, which seemed like a good idea, but was not so comfortable as we hoped initially. Needless to say, we did not sleep well. And of course... the storms never arrived.
The next morning, I was out at the block first thing. By 0630, a backhoe was onsite, and began filling and smoothing. Our block mates began trickling in, and we started figuring out how we would deal with the situation. Basically... we just camped our normal places. By this point, they had brought out a roller, and some fill, and the land was looking smoother, though still mud covered. We shared the space we had last year with a relative newcomer to the block, Band Camp. There was a bit of drama there, but... oh well. We are at Pennsic, and we will have a good time if it kills me. Or anyone else, of that matter. ;)

Being just the three of us, Camp was set up very quickly, with the exception of the shower, which will go in today. We walked to the new on demand hot water showers where the old solar showers were on Low Road, and they are quite excellent. Then we had dinner, played Game of the Goose for a while, and turned in fairly early. It was so nice to be sleeping in our bed in our second home. We went to sleep easily, smiling.
I am typing this Sunday morning, as I wait for Dalla at church in Slippery Rock. I hope to post it from the Giant Eagle when we stop on our way back to camp... I will need to see if they have propane camp stoves, as we forgot ours. If that's the worst thing we forgot, I will call it a win. :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekend fight practice 7/13/13- a brief post

We had a weekend fight practice this weekend out at Jeremiah's place... the same site we hold Fall Frolic. It was to be the last weekend practice before Pennsic, and a chance for Arnbjorn and us to do a bit of a dry run with our Pennsic setup... tents and dining fly.
The turnout was a bit smaller than I expected, but we still had nine fighter (I believe) who showed up. I think that was actually about as many as we had for last Fall Frolic. :)
We fought in the woods by the fort wall we have constructed there. It was hot and humid, and the shade was a great thing. Also... it's good practice for the woods battle at Pennsic.
There was a lot of teaching and discussion... trading tips and seeking out advice on different styles. Towards the end, we did a small bear pit, winner remaining in to fight, until we all tired. We stopped before exhaustion, which was good as we still had tents to break down, and some had obligations for the afternoon.
All in all it was a nice, laid back day. Snorri and Tirzah came and hung out with us for a while afterwards, which was nice. I wish he lived closer, as I would like to be able to work with him more. (also, he is relatively tolerable to have around...)
We discussed what folks need to work on... I won't detail it here, but if anybody who was there wants a breakdown, message me for my view (for what it's worth).
Now... packing for Pennsic. Leaving in T-4 days.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fighting with an axe: What Olaf does.

So this will come as a surprise to folks... but I sometimes fight axe. I know... SHOCKING! But, it's true (though there are those who would question the characterization of what I do as "fighting")
I have been asked to do a follow up to my blog on making an axe about fighting with one, so here goes.
To begin, let's discuss what an axe in our game is and what it isn't.
First off... it's not a real axe. It will not have the same destructive power that it's real life steel inspiration has. It will not break a shield. It will not cleave a leg to the femur. As we are fighting our friends... this is a good thing. The weight and balance will never be quite the same, nor the way it moves. It can be similar... I have taken pains to try and get my axe to be close in weight and size... but it will never be steel.
It is not a standard SCA unpadded polearm or glaive. There is a very defined edge... when you hit flat, you REALLY hit flat. The balance is different... there is more weight at the tip (there is more weight, period) and it does not swing or recover the same. It is generally considered to be slower, and due to the head there may be issues with people taking shots from it.
No on to what it is. It IS the best approximation of a Dane axe that I have found in our game to date. Maybe there will be a game changing technology in the future... but right now, this is what works.
It is lighter than you expect. My axe is 3.5-4lbs... and that is actually within about half a pound of the steel axe it was based on. The heaviest period Dane axe I can think of was close to five pounds... and that was really the upper limit.
It is FASTER than you expect. If you use good mechanics, and let the weight aid you instead of fighting it, you will find the axe to be responsive and fluid.
OK, so you have read my post about making one and have your shiny new axe. You take it out to play. What next? Well... start by just swinging it about a bit. No really... find yourself some space and let the axe move. Wide sweeping cuts and short chops, strikes from short distance and from a high guard. See how it responds when you change direction mid cut, and when you try and pull it back from a strike.
What you will find is that when an axe starts to move, it likes to keep moving. You can guide it... turn it in it's path, change the angle at which it strikes... but pulling it back is a bit of a losing game.
I capitalize on the axe's  love of continued movement to cut through and continue through an arc. If I miss a blow, I can shorten the arc I am swinging through, pass in front of the target, and continue through the circle, coming back into a guard ready to strike again.
Changing the angle that a shot come in, like with any weapon, is very important. The fact that the axe striking surface is six inches in front of the haft of the weapon can make that even more crucial... a shot that would have been blocked if it were a glaive will connect with an axe if you alter the angle slightly. I use the placement of the back hand to change the angle easily, firing a shot to set up a block, then firing a follow up but changing the angle slightly.
Use the intimidation factor if you can. Not everybody will be wary of the axe, but starting with a high guard and menacing them with a strung down cut, firing a couple of stiff shots into their guard, can make them flinch or move when you want them to. Using that high guard can also be a good way to set them up for a strike with the butt spike of the axe, if you use one.
Below is a video of me fighting with Erland at one of our practices. You can see some of the things I talk about at various points.

From the rules of the list section IV on use of weapons and shields: 
D. A shield or weapon may be used to displace, deflect, or immobilize an opponent’s shield or weapon, so long as such use does not endanger the safety of the combatants. A shield or haft may be safely placed against the opponent's body to restrict his ability to strike or defend.

Do not neglect the haft of your weapon. It is the only shield you have, use it well. Try and redirect bows with it instead of static blocking, and fire shots from each block you make if you can. You can defend with your axe... but it is primarily a tool for offense.
You are not permitted to strike with the haft, but it still can be used to your advantage in a fight. You can strike another weapon or a shield with it, though care should be taken not to strike your opponent. And while you cannot strike the body or arms, you can place the haft of your weapon on your opponent to manipulate them. Use that to turn them, push them aside as they close, or to manipulate the arm as they strike or recover. Put them where you need them, and then strike. Be aware... people may object to this practice in some places. Some people may object STRONGLY. Check the rules of the list in your Kingdom. Check with senior marshal's about tradition on practices like these. It is legal at society... but you may end up pissing in somebody's cheerio's, and it's your call how you deal with that.

I know this isn't alot, but... there is only a certain amount that is going to work for you. You need to fight it to get it. I dedicated a year to the axe... from one Pennsic to the next, I fought the axe as my primary weapon at EVERY practice for the year. It was the first weapon I picked up every practice, and while I did fight with others, the axe was my main focus. It showed. So if you're serious about it... practice. And practice against every weapons form, not just other axes or swordsmen... against two weapon, sword and shield. Be prepared for resistance. It's an inferior weapon, it's slow, you are handicapping yourself, it's not really an effective weapon for your game... these are all things that folks far better at the game will tell you )and have told me). It is up to you to play your game. If you don't like people telling you it's an ineffective weapons form... prove them wrong.

There are lots of people better at this than I. One of these is Duke Eikbrandr of the Middle Kingdom. Here is a link to his class on fighting axe. You will see many similar things to what i have talked about, and some other things I am still trying to work in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

This weekend's demo

We did a demo this weekend at a semi-local medieval/fantasy faire called Krebashia Kingdom. I was, quite frankly, not looking forward to it. It really didn't seem all that interesting to me, and participation from our group was going to be fairly low, due to real life getting in the way. But, we had committed, and went out Saturday with eight of us, and set up.
I have no idea what I was explaining,
but it must have been intense...
Photo by David Monahan
The Faire is a production of the Ekrub Players. They are a small group dedicated to bringing the performing arts to communities in a family friendly atmosphere. They were very eager hosts, although the event schedule was a bit jumbled. This was largely due to trying to work around the weather, which was rainy at the beginning. That aside... it ended up being a very fun day. We fought in between jousting by Paragon Jousters and a comedy/fantasy sword fighting troupe called Steadfast Steel. The ground was soft, and a bit sandy, but we have fought on worse. I think we gave them a pretty good show... folks seemed to enjoy it, and a reasonable number stuck around to ask questions after.

One thing that I found interesting was the difference in questions at this demo versus all the others I've been to. Most of our demo's have been at public events like our town wide Summerfest, and on the college campus. At the Faire, people were already interested in the medieval aspect of it, and weren't being sold on the concept. It resulted in a very different dynamic. Yes, there were those who were from the fantasy side of it... but they still had the interest in all things involving swords and playing dressup. :) We had people who already did blacksmithing and brewing and costuming, and would be good ready made additions to the Society as a whole.
All in all, it was a very successful demo. We steered some people towards the Coldwood group, and gave contact information for the Society and the Northern Outpost specifically to a bunch more. Next year I think we will try and get people from Coldwood there... the location is actually closer to their Shire, and would be a good opportunity for them as well.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Opening of the Inne at Coldwood

This weekend was the 25th opening of the Inne at Coldwood. It was, as usual, a blast.
I went up on Firday night, which was a first for me. Usually we roll in on Saturday morning and stay overnight. This time Dalla had to work Saturday morning, and wouldn't arrive till just before feast, so I took Friday off and went up alone. Arnbjorn, Twiggy, and Chris Li arrived at the same time, and we got set up. It was my first event in the new tent (which is awesome) and the first using our Panther breakdown bed. Having the bed makes SUCH a difference... can't wait to use it for the two weeks of Pennsic. At first I was worried about how much space it took up... then Dalla pointed out... you can store things under it dummy!
Friday night was a very chill, laid back atmosphere. Sat in the Inne with Kit and a bunch of others and talked, drank mead, and generally relaxed and enjoyed myself. As dusk fell, the fire pit in front of the Inne was lit, and Many migrated out there. Had more mead, and a fine cigar with the Baroness. I told a couple stories, and actually performed a song by the campfire. After the song, I chatted with Maeve, telling her what was probably far than she ever wanted to hear about Norse mythology. :) Before I knew it, it was well after midnight, and I turned in. Remember what I said about the bed? SUCH a good night's sleep!
Saturday was the main day of the event. Fighting was going by mid-day, with a couple of tourneys, then we moved into the woods and fought there for the rest of the day. mainly woods melee fighting, but some pickups afterwards. Had some good fights, and worked with a couple of people on spear and axe stuff.
Feast was in the evening, and Dalla made it there with time to spare. I helped a little bit finishing the feast prep (not as much as some past years, and not NEARLY as much as the main fest folks... they bust ass!) and then helped serve feast. I like doing that.... feeding folks makes them smile alot. :) After the toasts at feast, Sir Stephen's squires joined together to wish him a happy fathers day with a very touching tribute. Sir Stephen holds a very dear place in my heart... he has been very helpful and supportive whenever I needed it, and basically acted, unasked, as a surrogate Peer when my own was not able to be there. He is one of the people who really represent what I envision as a Peer in the SCA.
After feast, before the partying got started, we added another member to House Wolfhaven. Erland (Emery Corbine, to those who know him outside the SCA) joined my House and my Hirð (hearth troop). He and Snorri and Arnbjorn all acquitted themselves very well during the day, and made me proud.
Family portrait... missing Ger and Alfrun. Photo by Sir Rhys.
We got going fairly early Sunday morning.... there was a brisk breeze overnight, so the canvas was pretty much dry. We got just past Plattsburgh... and it started PISSING rain, and continued to do so for the next three hours. So glad we got out when we did.
All in all, great weekend, as Coldwood always is. Thank you to everyone who I chatted with, either sitting and chatting, or even in passing. Things have been hella stressful for me lately, and I really needed it. I returned to work thoroughly rejuvenated today. I want to especially thank Maeve, who was very tolerant of me being VERY wound up and verbose, and Dwarf, for a serious conversation on Saturday evening.
I realize some of you may have never visited the Inne at Coldwood. I will do a separate post about what it is... because that deserves its own post.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A little update

I haven't posted much lately. I feel an explanation is in order.
Couple reasons. One, I suck at this. Never been able to keep a diary, never kept an updated website. I'm learning. It's a process.
Two... life is a bit nuts right now. For those who don't know, I work in a public library. Our director has resigned, and it has been a very stressful time. She will not be replaced until September, so a staff already shorthanded due to budget cuts is having to pick up slack.

Still playing SCA. Having a good time, getting ready for Pennsic. I have pre-registered and ordered our new tent. Money is VERY short right now, so I will not be making many events between now and then. I was hoping to do Panteria or Roses, but that is out. We will be hitting Coldwood and War Camp. That's it. Such is life. I look forward to seeing those of you that I can at those events.

I am actually feeling pretty good about my fighting right now. Been working with one of my House with axe, and it's actually helping some things click for me, as I break them down for me. Showing him how the angles and mechanics is showing me how they work again, and I'm finding new angles and techniques. Watching more videos, tossing in some Jeu de la Hache, and feeling the pieces slide into place. It's odd, but I feel like my fighting is right at the edge of something right now. Hopefully it's not the edge of a plateau. :)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Saturday practice in Coldwood

A bit ago, several of us spoke about organizing a joint Coldwood/Outpost practice in Coldwood, on a Saturday. Kit volunteered to host it at her house, and we announced it on both lists.
Practice started at noon, and we rolled in right about then. Ended up with Rhys, Jimena and I being the only ones who were able to go from here. Coldwood turned out well, with Kit, Snorri, Aiden, Ivar, Mike, and a transplant from Atlantia whose name I forget. Ambrosius also showed up a bit later.
It was a laid back practice... we wanted to work on skills and fundamentals, and did a good amount of that. I think we all tried to get in fights with everyone there, and discussed what was working and what wasn't.

I worked with spear a bit... Mike loves spear, and I don't completely suck at it, so I worked with him for a bit. We talked different stances, different ways to throw spear shots, and how to work as a team and against a team. I tend to not really fire to full extension with a spear, generally not having my front hand lose contact, and as such end up at a bit closer range. Dunno if it's right, but it seems to work most of the time.

Fought with Snorri a bit, which I like to do. He fights too high... center of gravity above where it should be for good balance. We talked about it, and discussed possible fixes. I find that breaking things down to football technique works best, as we share that background. Optimally, I'd like to have him doing footwork (agility)drills and slow pell work with me... the agility drills would help with cardio and I think would help get his center of gravity back where it needs to be.

Fought with Ivar, which I have not really done before. Ivar has a bit of a tendency to rely on strength rather than mechanics, which will wok in the short run, but will result in him tiring faster. Also talked about the hind brain taking over... at one point, I saw him kind of leave his own eyes, and whatever animal lives in the back of his mind take over. We discussed harnessing the energy that gives you without letting it drive.

Kit and I fought a few different times, with my sword and shield, and with my axe. She is a bit intimidated by the axe, and we were discussing why. She got lit up by an unexpected shot from it one time, and it probably goes back to that. I do use the intimidation factor with the axe sometimes, but I tried to help her get by it. Kit is doing well as a fighter, her biggest issue is self image. She sees every mistake and flaw, and focuses on those, to the detriment of what she is doing right. We talked about that, but I know it's a hard thing to get past.

Not much to say about the Atlantian transplant, as I didn't fight hum much. Seemed a little reliant on upper body strength rather than technique, but I also don't know how long he's been in armour. Seems to want to get in close and brawl a bit, but he's going to have trouble with it without a bit more polish on the body mechanics of throwing close in shots.

Jimena is back in armour after a while out due to life. Was good to fight her again... her style is very different than most I'm used to, and I get to play with some fun angles. She also has the ability to pick out technique flaws and problems, even ones she can't necessarily do. She can see the problem and suggest corrections well.

Scrapped with Rhys, which I always like doing. He's a fun fight with varied technique, and I feel like he brings out a good fight in me. Rhys is an amalgam of styles, and combines raw power to immobilize or displace your defense with good targeting on combinations. I fought him two stick against his shield deliberately, as it's something I'm trying to work on. He was nice enough to let me flail about like an idiot trying to get the left side of my body to obey me.

Fought Aiden a few times... sword and shield, axe, and two stick. He has a solid defense, and a reactive offense, and is always a tough fight. We didn't fight alot, but mainly worked on things. He made a good suggestion for training my left hand sword that I'm going to use, suggested to him by Karl Von Sussen... put my right hand sword inverted, and not strike with it... just use it to block a bit and fire with my left hand. i had been trying to do left hand sword and shield, which I will still work on, but this closer duplicated the feel of trying to fight two stick while making me concentrate on the left.

Only fought Jaime a couple f times, so I have no real input there...

Had some excellent food after... thanks again Kit for hosting, and for feeding us.

So overall, I need to work on several things. I intend to work my agility drills for footwork and cardio. I'd like to get a pell to work on, and do more slow work on it. Left hand needs work... alot of it. That will be pell work... basically, my body is so wired to fire with the right hand, it's still doing that potion when I throw with the left. Practice.
Also... I need to work on fighting fighters who are legged. I suck at it, and find that I avoid firing leg shots because I don't want to fight people on their knees. I need to either get someone to just let me practice this, or start legging people more. :)
It all comes down to practice. Because it's one thing to know it... it's another thing to do it.
"Training and education are two different things. Training gives you a skill set to perform a specific task. Education provides you with academic theory for problem-solving issues."
~ Master Sgt. Juan Lopez, USMC

Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Woods Battle

My first Pennsic woods battle was a game changing experience for me. The woods battle is one of my very favorite things in the SCA. I was born in the country, and grew up running around in the woods. I am comfortable there... I understand how to move in the woods, and how to use terrain. Master Harald told me that this would be important... understanding the terrain and how to use it to your advantage can be key in a battle, and that can make the difference between winning and losing. I was about to find out how true this was.
Cannon goes off. insanity breaks out. Run teams are away to hit the flag points first. Master Harald being a big guy, and not as fast over distance, we get a bit separated from the main pack, and end up kind of on our own... a unit of maybe four of us. We made our first enemy contact with a much larger unit... about twenty wearing red tape, stepping over the remains of a unit they had just snuffed. Twenty on our for. It hardly seemed fair.
We contacted the left flank, and obliterated them. To a man.
First one called out "ENEMY RIGHT!!!"
Harald laughed and said "Thanks for telling us who you are." The fighter tried to lead a hero charge, straight at Harald, his shield up. Harald stopped the guy on his basket hilt... placed it on his shield, and kind of tossed him backwards. He ended up draped over a dead tree, and as we start to step by, he looks up at Harald and says "You know I'm not dead yet!"
Harald executed him.
We hit the unit, and just folded them up. As they opened gaps to move around trees or rocks or brush.... we hit the gaps. We folded them into the trees and made them open up... and killed as they did. We didn't rush, or really move fast. It was calm, collected, and professional. It was the start of a wonderful day.
A bit later, as we rolled through a stretch of woods, Harald got killed. It was a pretty light shot, but you could see he thought it was good. I killed him right after he threw the shot, and Harald and he started to discuss it. I knew Harald was going to take it... no sense in going off with bad blood over it... so I rolled on. What I thought was a short little stretch of fighting was actually about a twenty minute fight... I remembered almost none of it. Complete blank... I remember hitting the edge of the tree line, and then Harald getting gakked. That was it. The fighter brain just took over. That was my first experience with that...
After all this, a while later, I decided to grab a few guys and go play in the deep pines on the eastern side of the woods. I had maybe half a dozen guys join up... enough to have some fun and maybe cause some trouble, but not enough to get sucked in to guarding something boring. Most were guys I knew and was comfortable with. One was a camp mate, Andrew, whom I didn't know well, and honestly didn't have much use for. When he asked to come, I agreed, with the caveat if he didn't follow directions, I would shank him myself.
We ran for a while, jumping small units (10-12 guys) and killing reinforcements. After a while, it was just Andrew and I, and we continued to do well. We cam upon two guys, leaning against a tree. I walked up, and stood in between them... I was thinking of just killing them outright... I had engagement, and they were just staring at me. Instead, I asked politely if they would like to take their guards. They shrugged, awfully cocky, and took up guards. Then, I looked past them, and realized why they were so confident. I knew we were behind the lines... but we had ended up on a Midrealm rally point. We were looking at what, it seemed at the time, the entire army. I looked at Andrew and said "OK dude, fighting retreat! I was hoping we could make it back to our lines, where I could hear what sounded like a breakthrough coming towards us. We started backpedaling, and made it almost to our guys, when Andrew got hit. One second he was there, then gone. I had about half a second to register that, and then BAM... three spears came through the spot formerly occupied by his shield into my chest. I went down... right at the feet of our advancing troops.

Later that night, I was hearing stories about the woods battle from Andrew, and was amazed... whoever he's been fighting alongside sounded like a badass! I realized he was telling stories about me. Once again, this section was largely a blur... just snippets of fights and flashes of engagements... but to listen to him, I had done well. I disbelieved some of what he said, but others corroborated and filled in blanks. I learned that solid tactics and use of terrain can make or break a battle, and well coordinated attacks by pairs and triads can overwhelm anyone's defenses.

I also learned that people telling your story can make you seem like far more of a hero than you really were. :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

What to expect when you're expecting... to go to Pennsic.

My first Pennsic was Pennsic 29... August 2000. We had thought about going the year before, but decided that having the money to move into our new apartment was more important. :) We picked up a Coleman tent, Suzy madly sewed garb, and we prepared to go. We were travelling with Bob, along with our (at the time) protege brother Earnan. Bob had a large van, so we piled all our gear in, and left in the middle of the night heading south. It's about an 8 hour trip, and we were planning on arriving about breakfast time on I believe Friday of first week. It was hard to stay awake on the trip down... none of us had slept, and we had to keep poking each other awake. The rumble strip woke us a couple of times... but finally, we arrived.
Our first notion we were getting close was the smell of wood smoke coming in the van windows. Right after that, we saw it... the expanse of Pennsic stretching out before us. My first impression was of a refugee camp meeting Camelot... the mix of modern and canvas tents, the vehicles... it was amazing. Coming down Currie Road, and pulling up to the gate for the first time... the excitement was amazing. My heart was racing, and I had such a great feeling, that I was actually there! I still get that feeling, every year walking up to the tent to get my Pennsic medallion. 

What To Expect

Extreme Weather

The first night we ever spent at Pennsic was below 40*F. We started a list that year on the way home of all the things we wished we had brought - and more blankets and flannel pjs were at the top of the list. Now we use wool garb, but the idea of having warm, snuggly clothing to throw on for a chilly morning to stumble out of your tent in search of coffee or the nearest portajohn still holds true.

The first or second year we went, there were people with blisters the size of cookies on their shoulders and bright red, lobster skin. The UV index was off the charts during the daytime, and it was hard to make sure you had enough SPF on. Large-brimmed hats, veils, and other ways to shield your face and neck from the beating sun are popular at Pennsic for a reason. Bring high-SPF sunblock, other ways to shade yourself, and if you can’t remember the last time you applied sunblock... do it again. Also remember that you can sunburn through clothing.

We had a few years we couldn’t go to Pennsic because life intervened, so we missed two years of “Mud-sic” as some called it. We heard incredible stories of campsites flooded out and using scuba gear to find missing items. While we didn’t witness that level of flooding, hardly a year goes by that some of the residential side streets aren’t closed to traffic due to feet-deep mud-ruts. What will you do for footwear if everything turns to muck? Do you have one set of dry clean clothing stashed in the car just-in-case? How will you dry your clothing if it rains constantly? While there are years we haven’t used the rope & clothespins we pack, we’ve never regretted bringing them. Our campsite has trees to string a clothesline up, and our tent is tall enough to hang things inside - you might not have trees or a big tent. There are also laundry machines & dryers on site, but they fill up fast - there are other laundromats within driving distance, so it’s worthwhile to get directions in advance.

Rudimentary Bathroom Facilities 

Another thing that made our “wish we had” list quickly after our first Pennsic - a piss pot! You will need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, in the most miserable weather possible, without fail. It is a wonderful thing to know that there’s a terrible downpour right outside your door and you don’t have to go out into it. It works for us because we don’t share a tent with anyone else, and our tent is big enough that we’re never in danger of knocking it over when it’s full. I’m sure some men use soda bottles with great effectiveness - but who wants to bring a clear bottle to the portajohn in the morning to dump out? Yuck. Our pisspot works well because it’s the right capacity, has a nice sturdy lid, and it looks like just another piece of pottery. Best Pennsic purchase ever.

Despite having a pisspot, using the portajohn in the dark may still be necessary. It’s convenient to have a good clip-on flashlight so you have your hands free and can check to make sure the john is not covered in drunk vomit before you use it (which rarely happens in our neighborhood, but certainly can happen). It is *very* considerate to have a red filter on your flashlight so you don’t blind anyone else on your way - red light helps you retain your night vision. It is also handy to have those warm snuggly clothes that are easy to throw on, and shoes that are both easy to put on and are sturdy enough to protect your feet and ankles while you’re tripping over tent stakes and into sump holes in the dark - ask us about friends with twisted ankles....
Also expect to be fascinated by flush toilets at the end of two weeks... “Oh look... it swirls!!!”

Lots of Walking 

We’re in the best physical condition of the year right before, during, and after we come home from Pennsic. We’ve realized that we enjoy our time there more if we have the physical stamina to be able to have a fun-filled day and have a little energy left over to walk to visit friends, etc. at night. There is a *lot* of walking at Pennsic, sometimes uphill both ways. One end of Pennsic to the other is in the neighborhood of a mile and a half (as the drunk walks), and walking from our camp into “Pennsic Town” is about half a mile.

Even if you do a lot of walking at home, it’s probably on sidewalks and other even ground. Most of Pennsic is dirt roads, and when the roads dry out after a big storm they can leave big ruts to navigate around. Pennsic does have a (free!) bus that runs at intervals, but most of the time it’s faster to walk than wait for the bus. There are also disability services for those who have need of it.

Impact on Physical Health 
“Pennsic Plague” may sound funny, but it’s no joke. Who wants to spend their vacation in bed, sick? If you haven’t already thought about how to keep your body clean and your kitchen prep sanitary, now’s the time to start thinking about it. Pennsic provides similar challenges to other camping situations with no bathroom or kitchen facilities and limited running water access; the major difference is the number of people you’re coming into contact with in a condensed area (over 10,000) and how sweaty and dirty you & your campmates get while heavy fighting, etc. There are lots of resources on the web to help you plan, but here are some basic ideas to get you started:
1) handwashing station - this can be as simple as a bowl, jug of water, and bar of soap (portajohns only have hand sanitizer, the nearest sink is a long walk away)
2) if you’re cooking in camp, you must have a way to boil water to wash dishes - many people use paper products instead of regular dishes, but you still need to sanitize the cooking utensils and gear
3) drinking water storage - you should purchase drinking water and have it accessible at all times (there is limited access to running water), and think about ways to carry water with you as you walk around Pennsic
4) first aid kit - How will you keep a cut or wound clean and sanitary under camping conditions? There is access to medical services on site, but you really don’t want to trek down there every time you need a band-aid.
5) sex - You may think that you can go [fill in the blank] amount of time without a shower, but no. You’re wrong, for so many reasons. Safe sex means more than just using condoms - it also means thinking in advance about how to keep your body physically clean and hygienic with limited shower facilities available.

Possible Financial Stress

Pennsic has the best and most merchants available at any SCA event we’ve been to. The temptation (especially your first year) will be to BUY ALL THE THINGS. THEY ARE ALL SO SHINY AND I MUST HAVE THEM. No. Do yourself a favor and 1) set a budget for spending money before you go to Pennsic, and 2) make a list of things you’re looking for. Set your budget and stick to it so you have enough money to get home, and be prepared to break down/ have the unexpected happen.
When planning what you’re going to buy at Pennsic, prioritize things that are either only available there, and/or are better bought in person... need to be tried on, looked over, etc.

You will stand around waiting for battles to start. You will stand around waiting outside A&S tents for the previous class to finish. Waiting is practically a sport at Pennsic. Prepare to wait... have water and sunscreen with you, and maybe some snacks. This won’t just help you... it may make you some new friends. :)

Things To Think About 
  • How are you getting there? Driving, carpool, caravan? If you are taking the bus or plane, arrangements will have to be made to get to the site, and your gear may have to be sent separately. 

  • Will you be camping with a group, or single? Many shires, baronies, households and kingdoms have their own group encampments. If it’s your first time, these may be an option. It will give you a support structure, and folks to help guide you at your first Pennsic. However on the flip side... you do not have to camp with one of these groups. Make sure you are camping with people you can coexist with. You are NOT required to camp with your local group... you can camp with whomever will have you. Talk to different groups... ask how their camps are run, what fees and chores may be involved. 

  • What will you be planning for camp gear? Are you going to try and do 100% period camping, say screw it and go modern, or somewhere in between. I can not recommend canvas tentage enough... it will stay cooler in the sun, warmer in the cold, and just downright looks better. However... it is not required. If you have a tent already, you don’t have to buy a new one just to go to Pennsic. 

  • Will you be fighting? If so, you need to have an authorization before Pennsic. We do not do them at Pennsic, and no authorization card, no fighting. Some melee specific practice is also a good idea... being tossed into a crowd of 100+ fighters is an experience all its own. :) 

  • What are you eating? If you are with a group, they may have a meal plan you can buy in to. If they don’t, they may have communal kitchen facilities. If they don’t, you will either need to bring your own, or plan to eat at the food court for every meal. This is possible, but is also an added expense to figure in. Pennsic Produce, a source for fresh fruits, vegetables, and more has been a welcome addition in recent years to the food merchants. 

  • What are you wearing? Pennsic is between one and two weeks, depending on when you decide to go down. One set of clothing may have been fine for that weekend camping event you went to, but it ain’t gonna cut it for a week, much less two. You may not smell yourself, but everyone else will. You need to plan on having enough clothing to last... there are laundry facilities onsite, though cramped, and there are some offsite. Make more garb, and plan on doing laundry at some point. 

  • What are you doing? Seriously... there are hundreds of classes, dozens of battles and tournaments, more merchants than you’ll find at any other event, and parties every night. Figure out what you want to do, then start paring down... most people plan too many things, and don’t leave space for things that pop up spontaneously. You will find a last minute class you want to attend, meet someone who wants you to go to a party, or get invited to a dinner. With too much stuff planned, you will end up stressed and frustrated. With NO plan, you’ll be lost. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breakdown of my SCA armoured combat kit

I recently received and email from an individual who had saw my gear, and asked a series of questions about doing something similar. I decided to use his questions as the basis of a blog post.

I am new to SCA and would like a combat kit with a look similar to yours - conical and mail.
  1. What are you wearing under the mail?
  2. Right now, I wear a combination of plastic armour and sports gear. The body... kidneys, ribs, and spine... are covered by a set of plastic plates padded with foam. They are narrow plates hinged with webbing for flexibility. They are actually going to be replaced... they don't need to be as narrow as they are, and I think wider plates will actually function better.What are you wearing for your elbows?
    Arms are covered by a leather vambrace attached to elbow cops (actually lacrosse elbows, though they are also being replaced) and lacrosse pads on the biceps.
  3. Knees?
    Knees are protected with aluminum cops from Bokolo, mounted on mizuno wraparound knee pads. I don't wear much other leg armour... I have my football girdle with pads over the hips and tailbone, and thin padding in the leg pockets. I am thinking of upgrading here, but haven't decided with what.
    Mizuno VS-1 Kneepads
  4. Shoulders?
    Chest, shoulders, and upper back are covered by lacrosse shoulder pads. This gives me padding, as well as hard points on the shoulders.
  5. Neck?
    I have my aventail for neck protection, and wear nothing else.
  6. How is the attached aventail working for you?
    It is working well... I have taken hits to the aventail, but never had one hit my neck or throat. I am thinking of going back to wearing a gorget though, for the simple reason of setting an example for new people. I don't want someone following my example but not having as protective an aventail to get hurt.
Can you offer any advice on how to put together a kit like yours?

  • Take it one step at a time. 
  • Concentrate on getting each piece right, and make it fit. Either make it, or have it made for you. If it's made to fit, you can wear it under the tunic and maille, and have the end result look like that's all you're wearing. 
  • Linen. I can not stress this enough. I used to wear Underarmor... I switched to linen undertunics. I have not looked back. I wear linen tunics, and linen pants. They are worth the money. Linen is not terribly expensive to buy, and if you cannot sew or barter with someone for sewing, is an excellent source of inexpensive linen clothing.
  • Shop around... but ask around. You will occasionally find an amazing deal that is too good to be true. It often is. I have seen many people burned by shady vendors. Most are good, and bad ones will take advantage of that.
  • Wear your gear. Don't wear it just for tournaments, or when you want to look good... practice how you play, and be used to the armour. Maille will change how you move... if I leave mine off, I am off balance, and it just feels wrong.
What has worked?
  • Maille. Seriously. When I started out, I was repeatedly told that what I was wearing was just an encumbrance, and was useless for our game. Maille may not be the best solution to protect you from crushing blows on its own, but it does take a good deal of power out of a shot.
  • Medieval solutions. I have reinvented the wheel a ridiculous number of times.
  • Maintenance. Take care of your gear, and it will take care of you. Stuff will wear. Learn how to fix it.
What hasn't?
  • Sloth. Get off your ass and practice, and you won't be blaming the gear for fatiguing you.
  • Hockey gloves. Yes, they're legal. No, they're not smart. Yes, you may end up getting a finger popped like a hot dog in a microwave.
  • Half assed shortcuts. Yes, duct tape will hold that part on, but there comes a point at which you need to just bite the bullet and rivet a damn strap on the thing.
As always, feel free to comment, and to post your own questions.

Monday, April 15, 2013


In 2010, the woods battle at Pennsic changed to the new woods. This year was the first year that one of my fyrdmen Ger fought rattan at Pennsic. He had served the Eastern forces on the rapier field in past Pennsics, and began armoured combat that year. It was also the first year that I fought rapier at Pennsic... so we were both fighting heavy and rapier war points. The armoured woods was held in the morning, and the rapier woods were in the afternoon.

Part way through the armoured woods, Ger and I answered a call for aid, and found ourselves on the banner point. They asked for someone to hold the banner… there had to be a hand on it at all times, or it would be considered contested, and no points would be awarded for the count. I dropped my spear, drew my scramaseax, and told them I would hold it or die in the trying. (A flair for the dramatic is one of my weaknesses)
The fighting was very close to the banner, and it was a hotly contested point. Fighters were dropping out of the line for brief periods of rest, and I was being my usual smartass self, making jokes to entertain and keep the mood light. This was the first appearance of “The Reverand”... my caricature of a revival preacher there to “Baptise our enemies in the name of Odin and Thor and Loki”! Basically, we were trying to not get overly bored, and keep the banner detail fun.
Ger and I sang a song by The Cruxshadows called “Winterborn”… a song about a group of warriors preparing to stand and die fighting. We thought it fitting, given our duty at the time.

Right after this, a fighter comes back from the line, exhausted, and sits against the tree in front of me, at my feet. He looked up at me, and I realized it was the Prince of Atlantia. I told him to rest, that we had his back. He smiled and thanked me. At this point, one of the Atlantian warriors mentioned to him that we had sung “Winterborn”. He grinned, and said he was sorry to have missed it. His Highness asked “Have you heard 'Sophia'? It has what I consider to be the perfect knight’s oath.”

When we confessed ignorance of the song, he stood eyes bright, energized… and recited the chorus as if it were poetry, an oath to do what is right and good, no matter what, set to verse.

Do not injustice to another
Defend the weak and innocent
Let truth and honor always guide you
Let courage find a life within

Stand up when no one else is willing
Act not in hatred or in spite
Be to this world as a perfect knight
Even if it means your life

To have the heir to their Kingdom reciting this, while the battle swirled around us as we stood to our duty, was an incredibly powerful thing for me.
Ger and I in the woods photo BG.jpg
Ger and I in the rapier woods.
That afternoon in the rapier woods, I ended up standing on another banner... with another bunch of Atlantians. We held the banner at the end, and I cut it down, handing it to the Atlantian Raper commander. We marched the length of the woods, and returned it to the King of the Midrealm.

Later that night, His Highness made us welcome in his camp and shared a beer with us, introducing us to his consort, and telling her that we had stood fast by the banner and protected him during the battle. We were not asked to disarm in the Royal presence, as is custom in the East... in fact, the Prince had me show the Princess my steel scramaseax, telling her I had protected him with one just like it (a bit of an overstatement, as only one enemy got within striking range, but who am I to complain).
This is one of my most powerful Pennsic experiences.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Standards of House Wolfhaven

After my blog post about the origins of our SCA Household, I had several people ask what I meant when I stated: "We decided that members would be required to work towards a set of standards of appearance…. Clothing and gear of linen wool and silk, appropriate armour and weapons, etc.".
Dalla and I, with input from House members, wrote up a set of standards and Values for House Wolfhaven. They are the ideal that we work towards, and expect our members to strive for. Feel free to post any questions or as for clarification.
The standards are as follws:
House Wolfhaven Core Values
Excellence in All We Do; Integrity First; Service to The Dream
We view our household as a part of your journey; we do not expect that it will be the end of the journey for everyone. It is important to us to help you find the best fit for you – which may or may not include membership in our household.
House Wolfhaven Membership Standards
These are the standards for House membership that we expect people to be working towards. We understand not everybody will meet them right out of the gate… but they are goals we expect to be shared.
Standards for House members:
- Clothing of appropriate pattern and color, made from natural fibers available to your persona.
- Period shoes or unobtrusive modern footwear.
- Persona appropriate accessories, including appropriately styled belt.
- Avoid modern accessories when possible.
- Reasonable persona story.
Standards for member of the hirð:
- Basic appropriate helmet
- Modern protective gear hidden by fighting garb.
- Persona appropriate shields (rounds and kites for Viking, etc.)
- Persona appropriate weapons. No greatsword/katana for Vikings. Shaped polearms…axes or cutting spears only.
- Hockey gloves should be avoided and replaced ASAP.
I will expect progress toward an authentic looking kit appropriate to your status.

Dalla’s Additional Philosophies
- Everything you do reflects on those you associate with. The things you do in the SCA, and some of the things you do in mundane life as well, reflect on us, the rest of the household, and the SCA. When you join the household, we share in your honors and successes as well as in your shames and disappointments – and you share in ours.
- Everyone has their own life path to walk, and each path is unique. The success of others does not diminish your own successes.  Because everyone’s paths are different, it is impossible to judge how far along you are on your path in comparison to how far along others are on theirs. Trying to compare yourself and your efforts to others will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak. Because we are each unique, things which are easy for you may be difficult for another, and things which may be difficult for you may be easy for another. If you focus on competing against your own previous efforts instead of against others, you will never stop growing.
- We learn when we teach. When you teach others about a skill or subject, you will initially learn more than your students because in preparing to teach, in thinking through how to explain something, and in listening to the input from your students, you will gain more knowledge. The greatest joy a teacher can have is seeing their students outstrip the teacher’s abilities – by starting with the knowledge given by the teacher, then exceeding that knowledge through their own efforts – because then the teacher has truly inspired the student as well as inspiring learning to take place.
Wolfhaven Camp Philosophy
“Wolfhaven Camp” includes members of House Wolfhaven, but there is no obligation for members of the household to camp with us. This also works in reverse – there are people who are part of our encampment who are not members of House Wolfhaven. We choose our camp members by determining if they are compatible with our house standards/ goals/ philosophies, if they can work effectively under our leadership, and if they are compatible with the personalities of the existing camp members.