Safe, authentic, entertaining battles.

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Safe, authentic, entertaining battles.

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sat May 24, 2008 7:38 pm

I would like to be more active in making the battles I take part in more entertaining and authentic, while still keeping myself and those around me safe. I had this in mind when I posted about what we know of 15th century battles (from the sharp end).
I don't see why living history should stop in the camp, and I find the battles at present rather dull, and often having no relation to what we know of the real battle.
The Tewkesbury event is an ideal example of this as it revolves around a parley (which didn't happen), a artillery duel (in which one side totally outclassed the other-which may have been the reason for the Lancastrain charge into the left flank) and three pushes with breaks in between for "champions" to fight and such oddities before the losing side gets slaughtered (okay that bit does tie in).
I have suggested to D.R. at the Woodvilles things like mass panic and running away, throwing down tools and refusing to fight and just walking off. Oh and is there a rule that everyone must fight to the death?


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Postby StaffordCleggy » Sat May 24, 2008 8:09 pm

Marcus, all those things have been tried at various times with varying results.
Parleys have to happen because the commanders need real-time input (i.e. being reminded what is supposed to happen next!!) that, without radio comms will not be possible.
As for the running away bit, we've done it several times. When you are working with one or two groups it's easy enough for a given proportion of the losing side to down tools & leg it.
However, at the bigger bashes (Tewks, Blore, Bosworth etc.) no matter what the organising minds want to happen, what actually tends to happen is individuals on the losing side want to 'die gloriously' rather than be seen to leg it. It seems to me that they want their money's worth so to speak, rather than put on an entertaining but factual account of the battle.

As for the 'battle of champions' that's just because people want to be seen to show off their individual 'skills' as an ego massager.
I'm no swordsman, yet i've seen so-called champions waving lumps of metal around that would make tinky-winky curl up in embarrassment!

Simply put, too many ego's deciding to do what they want rather than what they are told.
Plus of course, there is the old 'getting carried away' with the scrap & suddenly finding out that the blokes who are supposed to be decimating you are lying in a heap on the grass, & you going 'oh, that's not supposed to happen...'


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Postby Phil the Grips » Sat May 24, 2008 8:21 pm

Which is why I mostly say to do away with the concept of portraying a battle and replace it with a tourney or garrisosn training practice.

It explains everyone fighting 'til they fall over rather than running when overwhelmed, blunted swords, relatively low numbers of participants, low or no horse and people getting up again at the end- even small numbers of artillery bring present (yet noone falling over when they go BOOM!) as well as people watching from the sidelines to be entertained.


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Postby zauberdachs » Sat May 24, 2008 8:47 pm

Go for it Marcus! Anything to spice up the tired old format would be appreciated.

Where would you start? Possibly with a smaller event...


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Postby Allan Harley » Tue May 27, 2008 11:13 am

There are a number of new formats and ideas that are being tried - but people have to buy into the ideas - otherwise organisers are wasting their time.
Running away - great idea - volunteers for Windsor, Bosworth, Blore, Kenilworth please - put your body where your mouth is

Parleys - essential, even with simple instructions and a known battle people get it wrong - sorry if it spoils your "historical" fun but for organiser and H&S they are a necessary evil

Zauberdachs - Do I know you or have I seen you at anything bar Tewkesbury? And how many events/skirmishes/battles have you organised?

Over the last few years the standard 3 push and one side all dies for most events has changed dramatically - but if more people want changes then volunteer or get your captain to do so - for being casualties, for running away, for helping clear wounded.

As to champions - what they should be is skirmishers covering archers, or arrow colectors, advanced scouts - but as stated by others, red mist and hero concept rushes to their brain and its suddenly "how much of a sword god am I?"

Finally - do away with battles and stick to garrisons and tourneys - high ideals - please check your records for those groups who attend a mix of events and you will find that the attendance goes up for those events where their is a recognised battle.

Also check visitor attendance figures for events - we are going to have a garrison - visitors in their hundreds, we will be staging a battle - vistors in the thousands.

You have the ability to help change the way things are done and the displays on the field. But some of us are already trying to do this - from a customer


On behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council & Rufford Abbey Country Park.

A big thank you for a very colourful and lively event. From our side it was a good event to run. From your (re-enactors) side it was well organised, and ran very smoothly, a credit to the War of the Roses Federation and the other groups involved. The total turnout of all the groups was superb, (even if it did mean we had a temporary lack of firewood and portable loos!) this made the group activities all the more realistic and convincing. The size and scope of the living history site was spectacular with many visitors spending a lot of time enjoying the living history activities and displays there.

The arena displays and commentaries were also very good and the battles well scripted, and looking quite violent too! ( Speaking as a re-enactor myself, it was good to see the realism added too by the taking of casualties as well. ) It was obvious the audience were kept interested and entertained a lot at the arena, with much excitement from them especially during the demonstrations on the damage longbows can inflict on advancing foot soldiers, and the finale of part two of the Battle of Worksop.

I gather many of you like Rufford and our site here, so thank you for that. I also understand you all had a good and friendly time together as well. So a good event all round. Once again thank you.
[/quote]


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Postby Cat » Tue May 27, 2008 11:45 am

I'll happily volunteer to run away, Allan, as I am slightly broken this year, and it is a great chance to still take part but to ham it up and leave the field early for good reason. I'm fairly sure that I'm not the only one. Bring it up at commander's, at your events.

Thinking about what I just said there, the event that we have just come home from (Pirates at Lulworth) had a large number of opportunities for cameo roles on the field- I was translator between the Barbary Corsairs and the Excise/militia, and my mistranslations caused the scrap to kick off...although I wasn't actively fighting (much), I was still very much part of the action.

The Thomas Stanleys are also looking into 'voluntary dead', who get killed throughout the battle, get pulled to the edges out of peoples' way, and who stay 'dead' until the end.


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Postby Jim » Tue May 27, 2008 11:53 am

I've always thought it a good idea to have everyone draw lots to see who dies and when. For instance, if you have three pushes, you could have bits of paper with the numbers 1 to 3 on, which people could pull out of a hat to see when they have to pop their clogs. It's a fair way of doing things, methinks. You could even do it with dice....roll a die, if you get 1-2, you pop in the first push, 3-4 is the second, 5-6 is the last. Or maybe 1 is the first, 2-3 is the second, 4-5 is the last and if you roll a 6 you survive. That way less people die in the first push and one in six people live to tell the tale. Doing this before the battle would also be an interesting diversion for the troops as they gamble for their lives! What do you think?


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Postby Phil the Grips » Tue May 27, 2008 12:06 pm

It's been done with bangstick societies- both dice rolling and, my favourite, coloured cartridges.

You get issued with a number of cartridges, a percentage of which are marked differently, and when you pull out a marked one you "die" in the next volley :)


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Postby Nigel » Tue May 27, 2008 12:10 pm

It relies upon honesty though Phil


There’s a country in Europe where they treat their ex soldiers with pride no waits for medical treatment after injuries received during service, no amensia from the government. Cant for the life of me recall where it is but I know exactly where it is not.

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Postby narvek » Tue May 27, 2008 12:24 pm

Nigel wrote:It relies upon honesty though Phil


As everything in re-enactment... :roll:


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Postby Jim » Tue May 27, 2008 12:43 pm

I would hate for us to abandon a good idea on the basis that it wouldn't work due to reenactors being basically dishonest.

I do like the coloured cartridge idea for the people who go bang, that's very neat.

I think if the dice rolling was done in front of the whole group, people would be unlikely to cheat by outliving their roll on the field, as they'd get a pretty bad rep for doing so, in the same way you get a bad rep for being "indestructible" and not taking your hits on the field.

I guess problems could come though if someone rolls a 6 and then gets masses of hits which he shrugs off because he's scripted not to die.

Maybe a system of coloured tags might mitigate that. Draw a tag from a bag and wear it on your armour for all to see...Red dies first, then yellow, then green. White never dies. That way, you can't cheat because if you remain standing after you should have dropped, people will see that by looking at your tag. It would also eliminate the aforementioned problem, as those fighting people with white tags would know not to deliver killshots to them. I guess that's about as close to the coloured cartridge system as you can get with sword-swingers. It would also allow close control over how many people die at each point in the battle, and how many survive at the end. By making it random, you'd give newbies as much of a chance to live as the more senior guys.

How about that?


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Postby Allan Harley » Tue May 27, 2008 1:10 pm

Already considering teh idea of unit commanders drawing from a bag with numbered balls - the numbers on it will be how many who
1: Die
2: Casualties/Run away

Thoughts :idea:


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Postby narvek » Tue May 27, 2008 1:14 pm

Well, we usually do it by the scenerio. If is some part of army beaing beaten, they drop dead one after another. When some group or formation walks over them, they're revived.

My own opinion: When I get hit in the way that would harm me, I drop and play wounded/dead. Then I wait for my mates to take me off the danger, heel me, by bounding some bandages and so on, then I stand up again and fight like wounded. If I've been killed, they simply put me up and I'll fight unseen by MOPs.


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Postby Ayliffe's Steve » Tue May 27, 2008 1:16 pm

Prior arrangment works in theory but I can imagine it getting forgotten on the battlefield.

I do not like the idea of having it chosen by random though because you could end up with people repeatedly getting killed first which would suck.

I can imagine the tag system working but it would look a bit odd and some groups may not be keen to wear if it they feel it interferes with their livery.

All of these ideas may have problems with units who have standing orders not to die or to take hits.


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Postby Jim » Tue May 27, 2008 1:33 pm

Ayliffe's Steve wrote:Prior arrangment works in theory but I can imagine it getting forgotten on the battlefield.


Once it becomes an ingrained part of battle reenactment, I think that would become moot.


I do not like the idea of having it chosen by random though because you could end up with people repeatedly getting killed first which would suck.


The beauty of randomness is that over time it is statistically even - the chances of you only ever drawing first-round-death tags are very small indeed and even if you did, I'm sure kind-hearted chums would be good enough to swap with you.


I can imagine the tag system working but it would look a bit odd and some groups may not be keen to wear if it they feel it interferes with their livery.


I'm sure any group would be happy to wear a tag if they realized it meant a fairer, more entertaining battle. If they're that worried about their livery that they won't wear a tag, maybe they need to re-examine their priorities? Entertaining the crowd must always come second (after safety), authenticity comes third.

All of these ideas may have problems with units who have standing orders not to die or to take hits.


Do such units have a place on the battlefield? A unit which consistently ignored their tags would surely p*ss everyone else off and probably not be invited back.

Maybe we should put this to the vote. Poll anyone?


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Postby Type16 » Tue May 27, 2008 2:35 pm

Cat wrote:-
The Thomas Stanleys are also looking into 'voluntary dead', who get killed throughout the battle, get pulled to the edges out of peoples' way, and who stay 'dead' until the end.


Sounds good :D

Following on from Bodelwyddan's April event, already in planning stage for 4/2009 ! Thinking along similar lines.

I have a good stock of stage blood & professional cas sim, so am considering wounded littered (I mean carried :roll: ) to sidelines & medically worked upon by the fair ladies of the camps -- in public view. Some of them are gross! ( quick edditing -- I mean the sims not the women ) Lots more in planning -- but will keep that to myself at the moment :wink:

Main thing is, as we well know, that whatever goes on has to be good viewing for the MOPS, and seriously interesting for the re-enactors concerned. Perhaps (but taking into account necessary H&S ) more scope for enabling a bit of flexibility in battle plans. Easy to say & manage for the smaller gigs, but big bashes have to be tightly managed.

Then back to my bug bear. If I can see & the MOPS can see a hit of 'value' that would kill / maim, why do some fighters still not respect them -- knowing full well that a hit was scored ?? :(


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Postby Man from Coventry » Tue May 27, 2008 2:41 pm

Our period is also a little more complicated than the later musket periods, in that our casualties are derived from both "real" close quarter fighting and missile fire, both "real" (arrows) and imaginary (gunfire). Later periods i.e napoleonic tend to have more "imaginary" fire.

You would not want a situation where someone with a white tag, i.e doesn't die, gets clearly hammered in full view of the crowd and will not go down as he's 'not supposed to die'. People have to take their hits, likewise with archery exchanges, if someone is clearly struck with an arrow, particularly in little armour they should go down or act as if they have been iinjured.

Notwithstanding the above I think there is alot to be said for such system to decide imaginary i.e gunfire casualties and who flees the field. As despite numerous attempts to get people to be casualties voluntarily/ individual groupos to co-ordinate this, this hasn't happened even when the script is specifically written to facilitate this, (with the exception of a few groups such as the Bucks (Blore) & Beauforts (Rufford).

Blore is a noticeable example of this, where there is a specific stage when alot of casualties are taken (the abortive Lancastrian first attack) there is then a deliberately designed lull where the casualties can formally be recovered (to live and fight again in the later stages). No-one loses out on the fighting as they can be recovered and fight again. Although a few people do go down during the attack, as the blocks fall back the field is then miraculously swept clear of casualties.

The script has remained the same for the last 3 years, is walked through in advance every year and is posted in diagram form in the farm buildings so this can hardly be down to the group captains not knowing what to do.

Given that many events now have both a morning and afternoon scrap on both days there is the opportunity for everyone to have a good scrap and die occassionally.


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Postby narvek » Tue May 27, 2008 2:53 pm

What is problem with all the tags/random death/ and so on is the thing, that you automaticaly say that everyone has to die/be hit. Why? I know some our guys have not been hit in the last event (which was about 1200+ fighters). So why should they die?

I prefer honest (yes problem with dishonest guys) and responsible system. I know how good my armour is, I know how strong the hit was. So, if I think the hit was not enough to wound me, I'm not wounded.

I don't like really like the idea of tags/colors/random death becouse it could end in: "I hit you, die!" No, I'm supposed to die later on, ya know!"
or: "Still 4 hit points left" and that's no-no on teh battlefield.


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Postby Ghost » Tue May 27, 2008 3:18 pm

Quote I have a good stock of stage blood & professional cas sim, so am considering wounded littered (I mean carried :roll: ) to sidelines & medically worked upon by the fair ladies of the camps -- in public view.

We did something similiar at Lincoln but piece of advice don't use food dye as the blood stain on linen bandages - we managed to dye Andreas head red - laugh we did - sorry mate


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Postby Man from Coventry » Tue May 27, 2008 3:21 pm

The problem is that whilst I agree this is the way it should work
a) in practice it does not work, people don't always take their hits, particularly from arrows and we would been having this debate if people did.
b) some casualties have to be from imaginary fire where (thankfully) no real hit is incurred.
c) to be interesting displays battles have to be scripted to a degree (MOPs get bored after 5 mins of the same thing) and if re-enacting a historical battle it needs to go the right way. So one side may have to take more casualties then they should at a given point based purely on taking hits.
d) as we know the fighting is fake no-one has a sensible sense of self preservation that they would have done in real life and runs away.

So I would support a limited application of the lots or tagging system, in conjunction with individuals taking their hits.


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Postby Ghost » Tue May 27, 2008 3:51 pm

The other way to possibly make this work, be fairer and ultimately more entertaing for participants and public alike is to move away from the single full scale battle and toward two or even three shorter "engagements spread throughout the day/afternnon - you could splitting the battle into phases or even re-enacti more than one battle in a day - if you are having 4 or 6 fights a weekend there is plenty of oppurtunity to fight but to also play a corpse for one - if they are shorter then at least someone doesn't have to lie dead for over an hour after being hit in the first arrow barrage

we had two fights at Lincoln and Rufford and as Allan says it will be tried at Windsor, Bosworth, Kenilworth and Blore

granted it is unlikey to work at some events like tewkesbury - or maybe it could - how about doing barnet at 11 pm / mid day and tewkesbury at 3.00pm)


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Postby Jim » Tue May 27, 2008 4:20 pm

narvek wrote:What is problem with all the tags/random death/ and so on is the thing, that you automaticaly say that everyone has to die/be hit. Why? I know some our guys have not been hit in the last event (which was about 1200+ fighters). So why should they die?


If you have a white tag, you don't die, that's the whole point of white tags. If you have a tag which dictates you die in the current push, and you take no hits, then you could easily just run away to the edge of the field instead of dying.

I prefer honest (yes problem with dishonest guys) and responsible system. I know how good my armour is, I know how strong the hit was. So, if I think the hit was not enough to wound me, I'm not wounded.


Yes but the whole point is that it doesn't work! It should, but it doesn't. So we need some kind of system to enforce deaths or desertions.

I don't like really like the idea of tags/colors/random death becouse it could end in: "I hit you, die!" No, I'm supposed to die later on, ya know!" or: "Still 4 hit points left" and that's no-no on teh battlefield.


But the whole point of a visible tag is that your opponent sees it and if it's not your time to die yet he will go easy and not deliver obvious killshots to you. It's really simple! :D


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Postby Allan Harley » Tue May 27, 2008 4:25 pm

The "alternative" Tewkesbury will be tried at Windsor

Those interested turn up!


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Postby Jim » Tue May 27, 2008 4:28 pm

Another advantage of the tagging system is that whilst you could make it largely random, you could ensure key players get white tags to make sure they survive according to the script. The white tag would ensure no-one goes to heavy on them or delivers mega killshots to them that they would normally have to ignore.

You could also hand out red tags to newbies or to people who just want a short scrap. Basically once you've handed out specific tags in this way, you could then have the remainder be drawn randomly. Anyone who gets really unlucky and tends to draw red all the time could be given a green or white tag to help balance things out. It's a flexible system that really can give a high degree of control. For example, if your group has a small band of skirmishers that are needed for a bit of scripted scrapping at the last push, make sure they all get green and/or white tags and that way their opponents will ensure they are believably unharmed until near the end of the battle.

This would really help avoid people giving or dealing killshots without death resulting.

Battle organizers can ensure the right percentage of each colour goes to each side according to which side wins. The losing side would probably have very few or even no white tags, the winning side might have 50% white. Red, yellow and green tags could be of similar proportions, so the losing side might have 33% red, 33% green, 33% yellow, and the winners might have 50% white, 16% green, 17% yellow, 17% red. It's entirely up the organizers depending on the script. If you don't want casualties in the first push, just don't issue any red tags.


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Postby narvek » Tue May 27, 2008 4:46 pm

Jim: yes, maybe it could work BUT it would turn the battle into child's play. When I'm on the battlefield, I portray a soldier. So I think like soldier. Which means, stick together with a rest of mates and stab, slash, massacre every guy who is on the other side.

I'll protect my mates, pull them out whe wounded and will never go into the biggest clash, cause I want to survive. Damn all the posh-tops-bloody-kings and their politics. When my formation is broken, I run like hell.

"You can't kill me, I've got a white tag." is strange. That is not a battle.

Yeah, we've got a scenerio. We go by the scenerio. Thus, when we're to be pushed, we fall back. When we're to slash our way throug enemy, (we and them know it) there is no problem, they'll let us.

So I think it just needs sane and responsible people. If someone will open his mouth on me even in the event, where i came to relax, i'll not next year.


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Postby Type16 » Tue May 27, 2008 4:55 pm

Ghost wrote:Quote I have a good stock of stage blood & professional cas sim, so am considering wounded littered (I mean carried :roll: ) to sidelines & medically worked upon by the fair ladies of the camps -- in public view.

We did something similiar at Lincoln but piece of advice don't use food dye as the blood stain on linen bandages - we managed to dye Andreas head red - laugh we did - sorry mate


Yep! Know what you mean. Even the stage blood can stain so will need to use old clothing / machine-sewn clothing for use / cutting.

Re removal from skin. I find Domestos works -- removes both :lol: Or several applications of shower gell is gentler.

:D


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Postby Man from Coventry » Tue May 27, 2008 5:35 pm

Jim: yes, maybe it could work BUT it would turn the battle into child's play. When I'm on the battlefield, I portray a soldier. So I think like soldier. Which means, stick together with a rest of mates and stab, slash, massacre every guy who is on the other side.


What we are doing is playing and putting on a performance i.e we are not really doing any of the things you suggest above (otherwise we would all be inside). With the vast majority of events we are putting on a show and without the audience there would be no event.

I'll protect my mates, pull them out whe wounded and will never go into the biggest clash, cause I want to survive. Damn all the posh-tops-bloody-kings and their politics. When my formation is broken, I run like hell.


I'm gratified to read this, but you're in a minority on this, in my experience of WOTR renactment - some 20 yrs, few people runaway. In most "real" battles the vast majority 60%+ of the losing side fled. You never get anything close to this on the re-enactment field. Invariably the vast majority fight to the death. Fine if we we're re-enacting Thermyoplae, but not most WOTR battles. If a certain proportion of the losing side ran away (perhaps through a tag system), then the grossly outnumbered remainder would inevitably lose. Correct result engineered without the need for complex "real" casualty tagging.

So I think it just needs sane and responsible people. If someone will open his mouth on me even in the event, where i came to relax, i'll not next year.


Sadly whilst most re-enactors are (relatively) sane, there aren't that many that are responsible enough to make an interesting battle work, most just want a bash and to them the show is immaterial. There are very few who go to the considerable effort of planning & co-ordinating the events to make interesting battles work. As already discussed not everyone takes their hit. Whilst commentating I've seen several tinnies take a complete toeing, but believe themselves to be invulnerable, even the 8 year olds in front of me weren't impressed.


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Postby zauberdachs » Tue May 27, 2008 7:21 pm

It's good to see some many workable ideas at the individual level however isn't the problem with the larger picture? Even if you have a fairer and better looking individual combat system if it is still three pushes and it's over, it's still not going to be hugely exciting.

From my experience, one of the best battles I've been in was Bannockburn the year that the RA did it (two or three years ago, I can't remember...). Why? We had a full walk through of the battle which meant that even though the script was a little off the three-push beaten track, it happened and the couple of hundred re-enactors did it no problem.

Every year I organise a large scale public performance with 350 volunteer performers. The show is considerably larger and more complicated than a 1 hour re-enactment and we do it with only two walk throughs.


Do not be loath, diligent reader, to winnow my chaff, and lay up the wheat in the storehouse of your memory. For truth regards not who is the speaker, nor in what manner it is spoken, but that the thing be true - Nennius, 8th century

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Cat
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Postby Cat » Tue May 27, 2008 8:17 pm

I've only heard the command 'Run for your lives!' given twice, once at Twinwoods as the powder store was torched, and once this weekend when the size of the Corsair contingent was realised by the redcoats and Excise. It does work.


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StaffordCleggy
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Postby StaffordCleggy » Tue May 27, 2008 8:24 pm

The reality is this. Until we can somehow change the perceptions of the performers (because we are NOT soldiers in any way,shape or form!) the old habits of not dieing or running will continue to exist. Perfomers NEED to get used to the idea that the 'fight' is not soley for their benefit - punters pay a lot of money to come to these events & they EXPECT their money's worth.
If we put on a bad show then simple economics will ensure we don't get that gig again.

Go down to arrows. Go down to gunfire. Run away from advancing/outflanking foot troops.

All this is simple stuff, so why is it so difficult to get these ideas into the skulls of the average medieval re-enactor? As has been stated, we can learn a lot from the later periods so lets do it.
We (Bucks) have been running away for some time now, when required & it's actually more pleasant than lying down waiting to be trodden on or having some fat git fall on you.
We have a surgeon who does the immediate 'post battle triage' show for the MOP's & it goes down very well. I'm even planning to have a side of pork inside my shirt with arrows in it for him to use his tools on (although i want an event with a shower!) although i'll try not to buy the bit with six nipples on it!

Stop thinking the 'fight' is for your benefit - it's not.

Stop trying to 'think like soldiers' (retch!) & start thinking like actors.


"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

- Anne Lamott


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