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.