Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tiptoeing through the minefield, or: On Hunting Rhinos

After my last blog post, I was talking with Countess Marguerite, and she brought up a very good point... that is, she pointedly asked a very good question.
She asked how a fighters wordfame was damaged by rhinohiding, and said “What meaningful in-game impact does a rhinohider experience?”
I really can't answer that. They aren't necessarily shunned, they may still advance. Sure, a reputation can damage your chances at an award, but not necessarily stop you from getting it. Some people may choose to avoid them, or not fight them... but not everybody. The person may not even know there is a problem. Our culture (at least in the region of the SCA world that I am familiar with) has always put forward the belief that only the person in the helmet can call the shots. There is no active marshaling unless the combatants request it (which I have NEVER seen done). So how do you deal with someone who seems to be a rhino?

Opinions on how to deal with a person who is blowing off shots varies. I would like to say I've never had someone blow off a shot, there are only people whom I have not hit with a good shot at the time. Is that the case in reality? I dunno. I’m not the hardest hitting guy out there, but there have been a few times where I've smacked somebody and went... "huh. Really? OK...."
There is also a school of thought that they are not blowing off your shot, rather they are giving you permission to hit them harder. This can be problematic... how hard should I need to hit someone? We’re all supposed to be taking the same calibration of shot. Armour should not matter, as every fighter out there was supposed to be taught how to take and receive a good blow, and that should include what calibration is good.

Everybody misses shots. This is a fact. I have. You have. My take on it is, if I hit you and you later go “OW!” and find a bruise, and come to me and say “I missed a good shot you threw...”  No you didn't. Because right then, in that moment, it didn't make you say "good." Shots like that are not the problem. A pattern of behavior is when it becomes a problem. If you are repeatedly getting struck cleanly and not taking the shot, then there is a problem. And if there is a problem, you need to be spoken to about it. 

When I say spoken to, I do not mean confronted on the field. I do not mean called out. Spoken to in a non-confrontational manner, and not judged, but counseled by a friend. It will not necessarily be considered by some to be a prudent or popular decision... but I feel if we do not talk to people who exhibit this behavior, we are doing them, and our whole Society, a disservice. Allowing it to continue may damage the experience not only for that fighter, but other fighters coming up. If they see shot shrugging and rhinoing happening, and nothing being done about it, it increases the likelihood that they will do it as well. I know when I played football, teaching players to cheat and get away with it was commonplace. Call it gaming the system if you want, but cheating is cheating. Nobody wants to be known as a cheat. So please... let's make this the society of honor that it is supposed to be.

"But it's not hitting hard enough! I'm not blowing off the shot, I'm just not being struck with sufficient force"
Maybe. I'm not saying you are blowing off shots. This conversation is not about wrongdoing... it is about the PERCEPTION of wrongdoing. Your behavior on the field is a reflection not just on you, but on whatever House you are a part of, whoever your Peer is. Keep that in mind. I am talking to you to help keep you from damaging your reputation.

Sometimes you cannot speak to the individual. Maybe you don't know them well enough, maybe they intimidate you. In this case, talk to their peer if they have one. Talk to a friend whose opinion they respect, or a mentor, or maybe their local marshal. It won't necessarily be an easy conversation. I have been on both sides of it (been the local marshal people came to, and been the one to approach a local marshal), and it's just as difficult being on either side of that conversation. Your discussion might focus on their armour, or on other people's perception of how shots are landing. I've seen both. But having the issue not be addressed can hurt them in the long run.

Judging combat from an outside perspective becomes even more problematic at the upper levels... it is faster, and far more nuanced. This sounds like a bullshit excuse, but it's true... I've seen fights where it looked like somebody got lit up, but just by playing the angles, or distance, or physics, shots have no power. On the flip side of that... I've seen a knight put a crease in another knight's helmet, and the fight continue. How do you deal with blatant bad behavior by someone in a position of authority, or with sufficiently elevated station to make them harder to approach? Well that one I don't have a good answer to. I can only hope that their peers take them to task for it. It's all well and good for some to say "Well, they only have as much station or power in our game as you let them have. It's just a game!!". Well, that doesn't necessarily make it easier when we are IN that game. At least not for me.  

What does all this mean? Hel if I know. Basically what it boils down to is, for fighters... hit solid. Take clean. And if somebody wants to talk to you about it... listen. 

1 comment:

  1. Olaf, the part I would mention to you and any one else observing a fight. Any time armour gets dented most of the force of the shot goes into the the material being moved and so a shot that dents the armour may not feel good at all. You are right this is a thorny subject and you have treated it well. Nicely done. thank you.