I love Pennsic. How many other places on Earth, in this day and age, can you be one of thousands of armor-clad warriors straining at the bit, feel the ground tremble as you thunder towards each other on the field, and hear the deafening crash as the two mammoth armies finally make contact, flailing your weapon about with reckless abandon until the Marshals scream "HOLD!" seventeen milliseconds later?
Certainly not in Antarctica, confound it. Once again, I've missed the War. And with only three authorized fighters currently in the Southern Wastes, there's really no way to substitute for the experience. But I do get to spend a lot of time thinking about heavy-weapons fighting (or about fencing, when I don't feel like exerting myself), and I've decided that the way we do combat in the SCA just isn't very realistic.
I mean, take the whole losing-a-limb thing. You get hit in your sword arm, so you drop your shield and continue fighting with the other hand. Excuse me? I don't know if whoever came up with that rule has ever had a limb chopped off, but I have. Well, actually, I haven't, but I did slam my finger in a car door once, and believe me, it hurt! The entire universe contracted to a tiny sphere and everything else went away, just like in that episode of Star Trek, and all that was left was my angrily throbbing finger. The only action I remained capable of performing was to scream obscenities in a futile attempt to offend the pain into leaving. And that was just a smashed finger, so I can only imagine that getting an entire arm actually amputated would be at least as bad.
Switch hands and keep going? I think not! Maybe I'm just a wuss, but even discounting the pain, I'm fairly certain that the shock and blood loss would put a real damper on my fighting ability. And that's not even as ridiculous as losing a leg but continuing to hop around like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or hobbling about on your knees as your opponent kindly maneuvers to position the sun directly over his shoulder. In reality, it would be more like, "Okay, that's me done for the day. You go on and fight someone else while I lie here bleeding to death and calling for my mother, for I'm wearied wi' fightin' and I fain would lie doon. Ooh, my lips are buzzing, I wonder what that means?"
Don't agree with me? Try being on the receiving end of a "legal but discouraged" cup shot, then. I've never seen anyone take a shot in the jibblies and spring immediately back into action. No, even on those rare occasions where they were actually wearing a cup, they lie there on the ground for quite some time, writhing in agony while their erstwhile opponent apologizes by saying something like "It wasn't my fault" or "It was open, so I had to take it." And it's not like their privy members were actually cut off or anything. (On a side note, I once saw a guy get cupped during a tournament, and the Ladies' Gallery awarded him a prize for Best Death. No lie.)
Fencing, of course, is just as bad. In addition to the unrealistic treatment of battle damage, Trimaris has what's known as the "touch-kill" rule. This means that if you feel your opponent's rapier touch you with "positive force", you need to add another layer of cotton duck to your fencing doublet so that you won't have to call the blow next time - or add some Hanging Sleeves of Defense +4 that can magically stop any thrust or cut, even if the rapier came nowhere near them. Not that I'm bitter or anything. (And on another side note, "positive force" seems a bit redundant. How do you create "negative force", then? Attach a tractor beam to your epée?)
"Now hold on a minute, McGrumpypants," you might say, once you've found your way back from my digression. "During actual tournaments in period, they often fought with rebated blades, so they wouldn't actually kill or maim each other." That's true enough. And in place of an actual sword, they would sometimes use a blunted stick of wood, or le mât rebatue (literally, 'the mast rebated') as the French called it. But you certainly wouldn't have seen anyone mast-rebating in the middle of a battle! And now that I've made that horrible pun, as well as my point, I bid you au revoir.