This is just a reminder that the mini-gaming convention I'm holding at 3 Trolls Games And Puzzles begins in just seven days! I've fleshed out the scheduled events a bit, but don't let that fool you - games should break out spontaneously whenever folks like. Here's what we have so far:

Friday evening The Hardest Arkham Horror game you've ever been in
Saturday day 3rd Reich
Saturday evening Blades in The Dark one-off scenario
Sunday morning Advanced Civilization
Sunday evening Large scale D&D session (a regular at the club, so this is more of a spectacle than something newcomers should do

In addition, I'm hoping the miniatures players will run some Bolt Action, Konflict '47, Warhammer 40K and Check Your Six as time allows. And of course, I'm hoping to play a bunch of shorter games myself.

We'll kick things off Friday at 14:00. We'll go until the last game ends on Sunday night.
Today I got a guided tour of the new Arms & Armor exhibit at the Chicago Institute Of Art from the associate curator for Arms and Armor, Jonathon Tavares, who is a friend of the Chicago Swordplay Guild. With the demise of the Higgins, Jonathon claimed this collection was probably the 3rd largest in the country.

If I understand things correctly, the presentation of the collection was designed by Jonathon, and is stunningly well done. It starts with several paintings and sculptures with ecclesiastical themes, moving on to secular ones, and ending up with several rooms of magnificent arms and armor from the Viking Age through the Late Renaissance.

Jonathon talked about practically every piece we walked by. His knowledge of what he has is encyclopedic. He talked about the individual pieces, their origins, history, construction, materials, why he put them on public display, and some of the ongoing projects to recreate techniques of construction using the raw materials the armorers had available to them - down to ore from the mines they got their iron and silver from.

I generally don't take pictures of things, because (a) it distracts from my actual viewing of the piece; (b) the person who did it for the book/postcard/print in the gift shop will do a much better job; (c) I'd rather just go back and look at it again. But this time I did take one picture, of a painting depicting St. George and the Dragon. St. George is in armor which was done in silver leaf, and has tarnished to black over time. My plan, when I get home, is to photoshop the armor back to some version of silver, and then show the results in a side by side comparison. Don't know when I'll get to it though - probably not before October sometime, I imagine.

I also learned that Dr. Helmut Nickel, former curator for arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, is still alive. Jonathon says he's 96 now, and so doesn't get out much. I met him once, when Patri arranged for him to come to Boston to give a talk to the SCAdians here. He brought examples. It was glorious. I didn't realize what a wonderful thing I'd attended until years later.

And now, I'm spending one last quiet night recovering at Rick and Libby's place, thinking "There's no place like home".

The Finale

Sep. 17th, 2017 09:43 pm
It was a great last day. I've loved the whole thing. I'm coming back in two years (next year we're cruising the Eastern Med.) I can recommend this event to anyone with a serious interest in European weapons fighting. While HEMA uses its own rules set to play the game they play, the classes all have adaptability to varying rules sets in mind, even when that wasn't built in explicitly, so far as I can tell.

9:30 Armizare Free Expression: Working across the System. Greg Mele may well be the finest martial arts teacher I've ever encountered - and I say that even though I'm not really a Fiore guy. He is certainly a far better teacher than I am. In this class, he didn't teach plays or techniques, though both were in the class - he taught ideas, and used the techniques to explicate them. It was a tour-de-force, and I'm glad I got to see it.

13:00 Pole Arm fighting in the Leichtenauer Tradition. This was pretty much the class that I came to WMAW for, and it didn't disappoint. Even though Christian Tobler gave a very basic class, I got to practice a thing I'd seen in passing and never gave enough credit to.

There are generally two pole arm grips people use - thumbs in the same direction for distance work and powerful oberhau's, and thumbs pointing at each other for close work. Ideally, you'd like to switch between the two.

The problem is that in gauntlets, it's generally difficult to do so, and transitioning from one to the other really can only happen when you are not at hazard. But having one or the other grip telegraphs your intention. It's basically why I always try to fight in close - I pretty much always use a thumbs pointing at each other grip. It's a weakness, and at my age, weaknesses magnify.

But there's a solution to the problem - instead of gripping the pole arm with your leading hand at all, you can let the shaft sit along the palm of your hand. It is easy to shift from this to either of the other two grips, and so if you take that initial neutral grip, you can make your entering move without your opponent having a preview of whether you're going to come fight in or out.

I've done that in practice now, and I'm going to try to do it in tournament at the next convenient opportunity. If I like it as much as I do now, I am going to incorporate it into my teaching.

Monday morning I get a private tour of the armor collection at the Chicago Art Institute, sponsored/arranged for by the Chicago Sword Guild. I expect it to be grand.

Tuesday I get to come home again. I love traveling, but I love coming home just as much.


Sep. 16th, 2017 07:15 pm
So running on fumes for the past couple of weeks finally caught up with me, and today ended up being a very laid-back day for me. Just as well, given the intensity of yesterday.

9am: lecture of the flexibility of historical fencing swords. Daniel Jaquet presented some findings from studying the physical properties of three "fencing swords" (swords specifically used for practice) in Zurich.

11:00 Armored combat clinic and monitored sparring. Mostly I hung out with Bob Charette and talked about differences between HEMA and SCA combat, and we both talked to some people about some finer points of poleax fighting.

12:45 Wrestling techniques for armored opponents. Daniel demonstrated several of his reconstructions from a German fight book about wrestling techniques in armor. I think he's still in an early stage with a lot of this stuff - he has a couple of techniques down cold, and thinks some of the other techniques are fanciful. This is a sort of well known place reconstructors end up in when they have had the first insight into their material, but haven't worked through enough to understand beyond the first flush yet. Sort of like archeologists calling unidentified items religious artifacts. I think it sort of ends up being a placeholder.

Anyway, I got some insight into throwing people around in armor, but it was during this class that I sort of shut down for the rest of the day. I ended up auditing

15:00 Monte's Two Handed Sword - The Levata. So there was this early 16th century guy who published a hodgepodge of instructions on fighting. Like many fencing masters of his time, he thought two-handed sword fighting was the basis for everything else, and so used those techniques, which he called the Levata, as the foundation for a lot of his instructions on a variety of forms. This class went through some of them. I was I'd had some gas left, because they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

I'm skipping the feast and entertainment tonight, in the hopes of being back up to form tomorrow. The premier HEMA pole arm guy is teaching a pole arm class, and he knows stuff I do not. That's got to change, at least in small part.

Day 2

Sep. 15th, 2017 09:51 pm
Today I took two longer classes

9:00 Bruchius and the Dutch Rapier Tradition. I gather this wasn't what was actually taught - the instructor decided to talk about Dutch rapier fighting as it relates to tempo. There was still a ton of information I got. Amongst other things, I got some info on why Thomas Of Effingham holds his rapier the way he does. :)

It also turned out most of the class was above my pay grade. The first half of the class was introductory rapier techniques, reminiscent of techniques Quinn has briefly shown me. I was terrible at them. Apparently, trying to finesse your way through a guard so you can poke a person isn't all that much like knocking them into next week with a poleax. Who knew? Someday I may get good at that - it is certainly my intent. Today was not that day. I bowed out at the half-way point when they started doing much more advanced stuff, and went and audited (since I didn't have equipment) the Spanish sword and buckler class.

13:00 Persian War Wrestling. I did somewhat better in this class. :) Though it was still a bit problematical, for reasons I'll go into below. The instructor was quite expert, and of a very serious nature. He wanted us to know that this wasn't a class where the partners are cooperative to get to the right result, but really wanted us to resist and try to frustrate our opponents at every turn.

I have no formal background in wrestling at all, but have picked up a thing or two over the years - there's a reason why in my heyday charging opponents all bounced off me. This is important for later.

What the instructor stressed was: (a) you need to get close to your opponent, putting your body on theirs a lot; (b) you can't just charge in, but have to frustrate their guard first; (c) you need to mix up which part of the body you go for, so your opponent doesn't know a priori if you're planning on lifting him up or throwing them down. He then started on a variety of techniques of breaking through guards. I learned a lot in a short period of time.

But now for the problem bits. We get to the end of the indoor part of the session, and he asks for a couple of volunteers. Naturally I go up. Another guy, 6'5" or so, and very fit, is the other volunteer, and asks him to demo the first technique we learned. He does. It doesn't work. That is he can go through the motions of the technique, and sort of get to the desired position to throw me, but in doing so, he didn't actually restrict me, and is therefore unable to throw me to the ground. We talk a bit about why that happened, and then the instructor has a third volunteer come up to demonstrate the second technique.

Same thing. Doesn't work. The guy sort of executes the move, but I frustrate him enough that he doesn't control me at all when the time comes for the throw. We go through the same rigamarole again.

The instructor decides to do the third technique himself. This time it partially works. He displaces me, and I'm not free of action, but I am in a solid stance, so he can't actually throw me directly. However, if he wanted to, he was in a position to punch my kidneys very hard, and the way for me to get out of that was to go to the ground, which I did.

He then did the submission move, but I managed to get an arm up to fend things off, so I was in a place of distress, but not yet helpless. His counter to that was, interestingly, to roll back and forth across my chest so I expelled all the air in my lungs, and then I was done.

But here's the thing. I'm pretty sure that rather than just hold him off like I did, I could have thrown him off me and recovered. Maybe he was prepared for that, but I decided not to try that, and here's why:

The problem was the situation. (a) he was teaching basic techniques. The thing about basic technique is that if the sport is fair and interesting, it can be countered. If the first easy thing was guaranteed to work, it wouldn't be much of a sport. (b) The instructor could, in fact, have seriously injured me anytime he wanted to. But of course, he'd never do that. By setting up a situation where I was supposed to resist to my utmost, we escalated to the point where he'd either have to do some other technique or do something more drastic than was reasonable for the setting we were in.

I face this problem teaching historical poleax sometime. Since I do a lot of set play teaching, we often get to a point where one of the partners can do something to frustrate their partner - but the point is to teach the technique. The technique isn't flawed because there's a way to frustrate it - if someone does, you switch over to Plan B. The point is to get a lot of different techniques into the repertoire.

So the bottom line is I did learn a lot, I wasn't all that happy with how I behaved during the demos, and I also wasn't all that happy with not seeing some better way to navigate through the situation. It's a teaching moment I don't have a good answer for, and I wish I did.

Day 1

Sep. 14th, 2017 07:38 pm
10:30 Abrizare class with daggers and rapiers. This was grappling with weapons. The dagger stuff was reasonably easy, the rapier arm lock was a big trickier. It was all a lot of fun, and I'm going to be interested in the results of the Midrealm wresting-while-fighting experiment - it seems like a pretty dangerous thing to incorporate into a full-contact sport, because it would be awfully easy to break bones. Still, with a modicum of care, it is both a lot of fun, and brings people to closer contact with judicial combat.

13:00 Drills for Armored combat. This was HEMA-style armored combat, and so these were all drills meant to get at the unarmored bits of fully armored people - armpit, palm, eyeslot, and other creases in the armor. It was all half-swording drills, which were fascinating.

At the end was a drill that I may try to see if it'll fly in the cut and thust practices. Basically, it's build your own set play. Partners start in a defensive position, in or out of range. The leader makes some sort of entering play against that which the follower doesn't respond to. Reset, and do it again, until the leader is happy with their entering move. Then do it again, except now the follower responds with both a defense and attack. Keep doing that until the responder is happy with what they have, and then the leader adds segment 3, responder segment 4, etc. until the logic of the situation requires a break. That drill really supercharged my learning how to half-sword.

14:30 Montante class. A Montante is a Spanish great sword. No, that's not right. Well, it's right, but its not descriptive. A Montante is an impossibly large weapon. It's a level 120 Horde weapon from World Of Warcraft. Its a weapon large and heavy enough that even Flieg would approve of it. It isn't meant for single combat, it's made to clear streets in a riot, to knock a Ritter off his horse, to stove in the side of a pike formation. It is a weapon best wielded by Demi-gods.

You know how you use different moves when you are fighting half a dozen people, and aren't just worried about one? Those are the moves we practiced. I keep thinking, somehow I've got to be able to use this stuff in an SCA melee to bust up a line, but I don't think I could get a weapon passed that could do what we did today - and that's counting that I have an in with the Earl Marshal. :)

After the Montante class, I was done. By done, I mean no longer able to lift my arms up, and wondering why it is people think expending the energy to walk is a good idea - so I skipped the last class of the day, which is too bad since it was Persian spear technique, and I gather the guy who teaches it really knows his stuff.

The hotel I'm staying at has a pool with a jacuzzi. I may have to go buy swim trunks.

Tomorrow is another day.
Am I going to get CBS All-Access for the sake of one show somewhat related to the primary show of my youth?

Yes. Yes I am.

And the sheep goes "Baa".
Tomorrow, I'm heading off to Chicago, both to visit friends there, and to attend the Western Martial Arts Workshop. It occurs to me that making this my first Historical European Martial Arts event is probably something like making Pennsic one's first SCA event - the baptism by fire will make whether I am for these folks crystal clear.

I have a good feeling about this. No, really, I do.
I am running a gaming weekend at 3 Trolls Games And Puzzles 29 September-1 October. Doors open for gaming at noon on Friday, and close when the last person leaves Sunday night. There are over 600 games for play in the store, and you can bring your own as well. There will be free food and drink all weekend, door prizes, and events throughout the weekend.

Currently, I have few scheduled events in mind:

Friday evening: Legends Of The Five Rings demo, Command & Colors Epic Battle scenario
Saturday daytime: 3rd Reich
Saturday evening: Blades In The Dark scenario
Sunday: Advanced Civilization

Plus, Sunday afternoon will have 3 Trolls usual Largest D&D session you've ever seen.

If you have something you'd like to GM or demo, let me know and I'll arrange a time with you. But really, I expect games will break out all weekend long and go well into the night.

There's a hotel about a mile away: The Radisson Chelmsford

I think it should be a happening weekend, and I hope you can join us for some of the fun.
So my fb feed is crammed full of articles going around about how we in the North are smart for our choices, and the people in Texas are idiots. You ptobably know of one, and if you don't - lucky you. There are certainly plenty out there.

A common theme is "how could they have been so stupid?"

I have a partial answer.

They can have been so stupid because we like to heat our homes in winter, and think nothing of driving 50 miles a day the rest of the time. They were complete idiots because we've used petroleum based products in agriculture for decades now. They were utter morons because we use plastic as if it were mana from heaven. They were astounding nincompoops because we like clothes made out of cotton, food with sugar in it, and dinner that includes beef. They were mind-numbing imbeciles because we like to trade with the rest of the world.

In short, part of the answer is they did what they did because we do what we do. The seeds of their current catastrophe were germinated by the flowering of our lifestyle.

I dug up some numbers. In 2012, the GDP of the Houston are was $489B USD. Its been going up since then. Current estimates are the total damages of Harvey will be about $180B USD. That's half a year of output.

Maybe they're not so stupid after all. When one counts up the costs of something, its generally also a good idea to count up the benefits.
I had an interesting hand playing poker last night that both turned out well and had positive effects for my metagame at the table for a couple of hours.

I had been playing $1/$2 for a couple of hours, and my table image was my usual tightest guy at the table. I was in the small blind with 75o, there are 3 limpers and the button had raised to 10. That left him with a stack size of 40.

He had done this a few times now, and so stealing, or at least raising light was certainly a possibility here. I decided to reraise to 30.

A few points about making this play: (1) as a general rule, this hand is marginal for a bluff-reraise, since it has some value. If the original raiser had a larger stack, and came over the top, I have to fold, whereas if I call, thinking some of the limpers would call, I get a cheap pot that might make a well-hidden straight. Lots of good theoreticians and practical playes think that you should make these sorts of moves with completely worthless hands, so I'm not throwing away value when I get 4-bet. (2) The raise to 30 was calculated to deter the limpers from calling. They have to be afraid that if they call, the button will shove all in, and now I can throw in a substantial reraise on top of that, blowing them off their hands. Hands as good as JJ might well be forced to fold instead of play. It's also not particularly safe for the button to play with a light hand, since if he just calls, he's going to be getting 4-1 on my bet on the flop, which will force him to throw his remaining chips in anyway, so from his point of view, he's playing for his albeit small remaining stack; (3) this post has a poker-show feel to it, in that I'm telling you about an interesting hand. I don't do this sort of thing very often - if I did, this would switch from "making a move" to "a bad play".

Anyway, all the limpers folded, but this time the button had a real hand, so he went all in for his remaining chips. Now I was the guy getting 4-1. From my point of view, if the button has an overpair, I'm 18% to win the hand, but if he has overcards I'm 38-40%, depending on whether they're suited, so call is right here. I do so, and immediately flip over my hand to show people what I had done. A note about that: in this situation, players who made a move often keep their hands concealed and muck if they don't hit anything, not wanting to reveal exactly what sort of Crazy Ivan manuever they just made. My thinking is slightly different here - I want folks to know that I'm capable of making any bet at anytime, because it will sometimes cause people to call when I bet out with the nuts. So though I don't generally show my cards gratuitously, I pretty much always reveal when I'm all-in and there's no more action to be had on the hand.

Anyway, I get the bad news when the button flips over KK, and then he gets the worse news when I proceed to flop a gut-shot straight draw which fills in on the river. We all commiserate with the button, who decides to call it a night.

But the point of this post is not that I won that hand, which was nice for me but really just variance making itself known. The big thing here is that for the next two hours, players at the table wondered what my raises and reraises meant, and made extra mistakes accordingly. With one hand, I had achieved the Holy Grail of poker - becoming unpredictable. In their minds, I was able to have any holding in any situation, which made me very hard to play against.
Thomas of Effingham was gracious enough to give me my first cut and thrust lesson today, and I loved every minute of it.

First, let me say he knows his business much better than a novice like me can currently hope to match. While we both agree with Fiore that "fighting is fighting", he is certainly a lot more practiced and knowledgeable at his art than I am. It is one of the reasons I went to seek him out - he fights like I want to fight in the form.

However, it turns out that knowing a bit about how attacks and defenses can be made certainly helped my session be a useful one. I at least managed to counter several of the problems he presented, and he was forced to beat me on better technique alone. :)

I have a good feeling about this.
In order to make a judgement about whether a design is any good, one ought to understand how to use the thing in question. That point got driven home to me again yesterday.

I often make Turkish coffee, using an ibrik. Though they can have wooden or plastic handles, they generally have metal ones. This causes a problem, because the handle heats up along with the main pot, and now it gets too hot to hold. Bad design! - I thought.

Except yesterday, while researching using mastic in Turkish coffee, I came across the claim that one should heat up the water/coffee/spice combination at a moderate low heat. Voila! Now the handle does not heat up, and the coffee tastes more like what I'd get in a good Middle Eastern cafe. So not only are metal handles not a bad design, they're a good one, since they point towards how to actually use the ibrik, if only I'd had the wit to take the hint.

Design optimization: 1 - Intuition: 0
Our traditional 21st Century Party is this Saturday, starting at 14:00 and going until the last person leaves. It'll have all the usual things - gamies, video, food not cooked over a campfire in the rain, electric lights, the works. You are all invited to attend. The address is 12 Melville Avenue in Dorchester. I'm sure google will do at least as good a job as I would getting you here.


Aug. 15th, 2017 11:59 am
Another one in the books. This time I was the East's Earl Marshal, which means I was Marshal-3 for Pennsic. It was an interesting experience.

I got to know both Savaric and Tessa, who did good jobs. Savaric was dealt a poor hand - this was the first time he did active marshaling and management at Pennsic, and there are too many details to come into that cold. Having said that, he overcame everything and did a creditable job in difficult circumstances. He did not drown in his baptism of fire. Tessa and I will do better in the coming years for the experience this week, and that was largely due to Savaric.

I spent a lot of time inspecting armor and weapons. The largest weapon fail was for missing lanyards/trigger loops. The largest helmet fail was for helmets that were too small, letting me put a thrusting tip on a person's bare jaw. I hope we have something explicit about that in the next Pennsic handbook, as people seemed to think this was an acceptable situation.

I'm probably a bit too quiet while marshalling. I need to fix that. Didn't used to be true. It was probably a result of my trying to take in The Big Picture, but one shouldn't neglect the here and now to do so.

Marshal's court wasn't too difficult. Generally, one gets two kinds of cases: someone screwed up and you have to figure out how to fix it, and the intentional jerks. Fortunately, all the cases we got were from the former group, and so things were relatively simple.


I acquired a complete set of fencing gear, including a sweet 45" rapier. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the thing. I'm still studying my Agrippa, but James Klock recommended Joachim Meyer for drills I can do on my own.

I also commissioned a specialty belt for my nakers, which will make playing them much easier.


Camp was its usual fun. There was a new group on the block, and they fit in quite well.


Marshalling kept me from seeing all the people I wanted to see. I gather Patri and Britt were there for a week and a half, and I never ran into them. My bad, but I was pretty wiped out at the end of every day, and mostly went to bed early.


I played golf twice, won once, stunk up the place the second time. I fought one day. It turns out if you're from someplace that's never seen the sort of things I do, it's very hard to adequately defend what's coming. I fought one duke from someplace west of the Mississippi, and after I threw him 10' with Move #1, he got up and said "Where I come from, its customary for polearm fighters to retreat when I charge them". Welcome to the East! (Yes, I know we were in Aethelmaerc). To his credit, he figured it out pretty quickly.

One of the days I wasn't fighting, after inspecting all day, I watched some fighting. I came across to this one young guy with a poleax that went up to his nose. He took a charge from a shieldman, parried the wrap, followed the weapon back and hit the guy in the head with the hammer end. When I asked him where he learned that, he said it just seemed to be the best way.

I gave him the half hour class on fighting that way. I hope it helped. :)

We're home now. I've cleaned and packed away the tent. I'm back to doing the things I do when I'm not at Pennsic.
This is going to be my 44th Pennsic, though to be honest about it, cancer year was pretty marginal.

I have, finally, figured out how to correctly thread and efficiently use a rachet tie. Apparently, I'm a slow learner. It probably would have gone faster if I'd ever read the directions. Like Calvin, apparently I go with "Live and don't learn, that's my motto!"

Anyway, the truck is all packed. In short order, I'm going to turn off the computer and start driving to Pennsic. I hope to see many of you there.
This year's Pennsic reading is going to be The Travels Of Marco Polo. I am going to start on the middle Friday of Pennsic, and end on the final Friday. I'm going to try for 18:00 every day, but I expect that I'm not going to hit that mark as often as I have in years past - let's just go with "sometime after the fighting's over" for when.
Today I tried out my new Weed Dragon flame thrower.

It is definitely not a WWII clear-out-the-bunkers flamethrower - fortunately. It's also more than a glorified heat gun. When fully operational, it spits out approximately a one-foot blowtorch-style flame. Today I just did a small test run on some weeds growing up out of the cracks in my driveway. It looks like it killed everything, but I'm going to check on Thursday to see if there's any regrowth involved.

My tentative conclusion is that this is a very useful weeding tool, but for me, at least, it takes two people to operate: one to run the blowtorch, and one to operate the garden hose. It's another thing Meredith and I will get to do together.
So I've been having problems opening up the blister packs for the smart pills I take (basically, lithium and some other stuff). Today, I discovered that removing the thin plastic seal that covers the pop-out section makes getting the things out much easier. So apparently, the stuff works. :)


Jul. 17th, 2017 01:56 pm
I just got told my name came to the top of the waiting list for the Western Martial Arts Workshop! Chicago, here I come!
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