Rapier Tourney Ideas

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by Tivar Moondragon

"A Night on the Town" Tourney

Scenario #1. Street Brawl. All fighters are divided into two teams. The field is laid out as a large market square, maybe with a fountain (made of hay bales) in the middle. The objective is to kill at least one person from the opposing side, then get off the field alive.

Scenario #2. The Dark Alley. The fighter is presumed to be escaping from the market brawl, and has ducked down a dark alley. The field is laid out as a long skinny rectangle, or maybe an L shape. Halfway down, he encounters a group of two to four ruffians, who try to rob him. The objective is to get to the other end of the alley alive; the fighter doesn't have to kill all the atackers. He is armed with his usual weapons, the ruffians only have daggers.

Scenario #3. Tavern Fight. Our Hero has survived the dark alley and stopped in a tavern to catch his breath. While there, a fighter from the other side in Round 1 recognizes him and a fight ensues. The field should be fairly small, with hay bale tables and chairs scattered around. This is also a good place for things like foam-and-duct-tape boffer plates, food, wine bottles and mugs. The objective is to kill the other fighter so you can get back to your drinking.

Scenario #4. Strangers in the Night. Our Hero has retired for the evening with an agreeable companion. Sometime during the night, either the companion's jealous lover kicks in the door and attacks Our Hero, or the companion, for whatever reason (poor performance, insufficient pay, whatever...) attacks Our Hero (and he won't know where the attack is coming from until it happens.) The field should be bedroom-sized, with a hay bale bed and there should be a clearly marked door and window in the room. The fighter's objective is to make it out of the room alive. Weapons should be sheathed and laid aside before getting into bed, but both the fighter and companion must be in full armor.

Scenario #5. Duel at Dawn. The remaining fighters meet up at dawn for a formal duel. If there are more than two survivors at this point, this round can be done as a series of individual single-elimination bouts, two teams then the winning team is re-divided until you get a final winner, or an every man for himself melee.

General conditions:

1. Fighters must start the tourney carrying whatever weapons they wish to use for the day. If a weapon is dropped, and not recovered before the fighter leaves the field, that weapon is considered "lost". Fighters may, however, glean dropped weapons from the field. For example, Joe Pointjock starts the day carying rapier, dagger and buckler. He loses the dagger in the second round, but picks up a second rapier in the third round. Thus he can enter the fourth round with case and buckler.

2. All bouts must start with weapons sheathed, cloaks worn, bucklers hanging from belts. Weapons may not be drawn until "lay on" is called. After all, we're not looking for trouble, are we?

3. Wounds are retained through the following round. Thus if a fighter loses an arm in the first round, he can only fight one-handed in the second round, but can use both hands again in the third round. (You can have fun putting pre-marked "bloody" bandages on wounded fighters.)

4. We usually run this as a single elimination--you have to survive each round to continue into the next one. Fighters who've been killed get to be the attackers in scenarios 2 and 4. Alternatively, if there aren't many fighters, you can treat it as a round robin, where everybody participates in every round and you keep track of wins and losses (remember that in scenarios 2 and 4, only the fighter's win/loss needs to be recorded, not his attackers.) In this case, use fighters who've not been fighting recently--say, the ones who are paired last to play the attackers for the first few bouts in the alleyway, then use the ones who've already gone through the alleyway to be the attackers for the later fighters (and can be other folks in the tavern in scenario 3.)

Ransom Tourney

I'm basing this on a practice that was described in Alan Young's Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments, where anything that fell to the ground during a tournament could be claimed by the heralds--who were probably functioning more like SCA marshals at that point--and must be ransomed back by the fighter. (Young describes an interesting situation once, when Henry Mackwilliam was thrown to the ground along with his horse, and the heralds claimed both the horse and his armor for ransom.)

At the beginning of the tournament, you are given three to five "ransom ribbons." If you lose a bout, you must surrender your sword to your opponent. If you wish to continue, you must ransom it back with one of those ribbons.

Possible variations to deal with loss of limbs: 1. If you lose an arm, you must ransom it back, too. Otherwise, you can only fight single-blade for the rest of the tournament. (This would probably require a couple more ransom ribbons.) 2. If you lose an off-hand weapon, you must ransom that weapon back. Otherwise you can't use that type of off-hand weapon for the rest of the tournament. (So if I lose my dagger in round one I could still use buckler or cloak in round two, but would have to ransom my dagger if I wanted to continue using it.) 3. If you lose an off-hand weapon, your opponent has the option of capturing it for ransom as well, but doesn't have to. 4. If you lose an arm, then you lose that weapon for the duration of the bout. (So if I take Robin's sword arm, he has the choice of continuing to fight with a dagger or yielding. But if he beats me with the dagger, then he can reclaim his sword and I must now ransom mine.)

I'm not coming up with a way to work leg hits into this ransom concept, but we can probably run it in standard SCA fashion: it's the fighter's choice to yield or continue to fight from the ground.

I'm also presuming that fighters will have one "official" sword for the duration of the tournament, even if it happens to change size or shape between bouts. In other words, I can't lose my Del Tin to Robin in the first round and then go on to lose my schlager to Alaric in the second round and lose my backup Del Tin to Edward in the third round--if I lose a bout, I've got to ransom my sword back to continue into the next round.

Thinking about it further, if I lost an arm but still won with single rapier, it'd be kind of silly to have to ransom my dagger back. If I was defeated straight-out with no loss of arms, then I'd only need to ransom my sword. You'd only need to ransom your secondary if you lost it and then lost the bout, and only if we specifically included that in the rules.

Calvinball Tournament

This is fun for a "Tiny Tourney" at fighter practice, and can be done on either the armored or rapier field. It's basic one-on-one combat, but the fighters can call out a special rule (or rules) if they wish. For example, "Calvin says you have to fight from your knees." Other rules we had included no head shots, only head shots, no thrusting, sing the Lumberjack Song while fighting, fight like a zombie, and perhaps the silliest: no single weapons (I think the fighter intended to say no single-handed weapons--he had a spear, his opponent has sword and shield--but that's not what came out.) It turned into a pseudo-boxing match for a few moments before the fighters decided that wasn't getting anywhere and started over. As the marshal, the two rules I emphasized were 1. Keep it safe, and 2. Don't be stupid. The fighters had a lot of fun with this format.

Combat Chess

I've done a few combat-chess games over the years. We made up a set of tabards to identify the pieces, and used either lots of brightly-colored cheap yarn or (in one case) a dry line chalk machine such as is used for marking out sports fields, to mark out the playing board.

If the pieces are going to be fighting, each square needs to be at least 10 x 10 feet, so you'll probably want a long tape measure, too. There also needs to be a "gentlemen's agreement" between the players to keep the game fast and aggressive (recalling one game, where the player on the opposite side spent five or ten minutes contemplating each move, to get the most strategic advantage, and some of the players got so bored they were having a picnic on their squares.)

In the first such game, we had a rule that stepping out of the square was an atuomatic loss for that fighter, but this quickly led to one fighter simply pushing his opponent out of the square, rather than defeating him; it works better to call Hold and reset the fighters, or have the marshals physically block the fighters from moving further back. We also found that after a combat round, it worked best for the losing player to make the next move.

Zombie Tournament

For the past several years, the Barony of Bryn Gwlad has held a Zombie Tourney at the Fighter Practice before Halloween. It was started after Sir Gaston ran across a line in a period fealty oath, saying "our liege man, against every creature, living or dead..." which suggests that our medieval predecessors considered the walking dead to be a possibility.

The tournament is a "snowball" format: in the first round, the fighters will be paired up like usual; A and B fight, and, say, B loses. He's now a zombie, and A's minion. In the next round A and B will fight C and D. The winning team captain now has three zombie minions, and they go on to face other teams of four in the next round. This continues until there is an overall winner.

The basic rules:

1. Humans fight as normal. Zombies can be wounded/dismembered by blows to the arm or leg, but can only be killed by a blow to the head.

2. Zombies are not the brightest creatures; they may be undead but they're certainly brain dead --they tend to follow orders from their Zombie Master explicitly, but mindlessly.

3. These are "slow" zombies--they shamble and lurch around, not move at full combat speed.

4. Zombies are typically armed with some kind of blunt instrument: single sword or mace on the armored field, and boffers on the rapier field.

5. Double kills will be refought until there is a clear winner--we don't want rogue zombies terrorizing the neighborhood.

This tourney generally ends with a grand boffer melee between the armored and rapier zombie teams, so you'll want lots of boffers available. I even used some pool noodles and old clothes to make a set of boffer arms and legs for the tourney.

(NOTE: This page from moondragon.info/wiki replicated with the authorization of Aethelyn Moondragon, 05/11/21. It is taken from a Wayback Machine imaging of Tivar's website dated August 15, 2020.)