Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crushing the Left Flank

So as it turns out I participate in something called MCS(Medieval Combat Sports). The games I play are Dagorhir and Belegarth. I am without a doubt, I am huge fucking geek. I know this. But I don't JUST hit people with foam swords, what I compete in is a sport through and through. There are games out there that use magic spells, character classes, levels, etc. and are much more geared towards role-playing and building generic social skills then what I do. Think of the movies "Role-Models" and "Monster Camp". These games (NERO,Markland, etc.) are for pussies and fatties. Amtgard and Darkon are sort of in-between games. Amtgard with it's mandatory character classes, use of magic and very lax weapon specs allows for both uber-LARPy wizards/bards as well as well-rounded, hard hitting fighters(most high-end Amt fighters are better then any MCS fighter, not counting SCA, EMP and the like). Darkon is a little more intense using heavier weapons, requiring all shields to have solid cores and having minimum force rules making it closer to Bel/Dag, but there is still all kinds of magic and monsterNPC classes to make LARPers cum their pants.
If Amtgard and Darkon are pimply faced teenagers listening to Black Flag and the Circle Jerks for the first time, then Bel/Dag is like a high schooler or college freshman listening to Repulsion and Siege for the first time. These games are full contact sports and allow grappling, shield bashing/edging and shield kicking. Spears, two handed weapons (swords, axes,glaives ) are effective support weapons that can bruise or knock the wind out of you. And getting shot in the face with an arrow or hit with a javelin just plain hurts. You're allowed to throw a javelin as hard as you want at someone from fifteen feet away, or stab someone in the torso as hard as you want. Keeping in mind the whole time that it's all foam and there are people everywhere with glasses and humps from years of walking around looking at their feet. This sort of brings me to the different kinds of people that participate. There are basically three categories:flurbs (role-players), stick jocks(athletes like runners, lacrosse players, rugby players, etc.) and historical buffs/re-in-actors. Not every one of us falls into only one of these categories. By default, everyone picks a "character name" or "moniker" if they'rekvlt making them a role player. Everyone is also required to wear a period costume, or "garb". We like taking as much of the mundane out as possible, medieval is the key.Pre -gun powder period. Yes we're aware China had gun powder, but not guns. And the fantasy genre is recognized so in theory things like Star Wars are doable, with thepre-requisite that all garb/armor be made of period materials. The average person falls into stick jock and flub/history buff or flurb and history buff. Personally, I play a black elf and the unit I'm in compromised of dudes playing goblins, orcs and ogres. We all hit hard and use aggressive tactics. This puts us in the flurb/stick jock category. Nonetheless people complain about us "hitting too hard" because they are pussies. And I will admit right now that stabbing someone in the torso is one of the most satisfying things you will ever do. When you can walk on the field and see the fear in the new fighters eyes when they see you, the ego boost you attain is unlike any you will find anywhere else. Wading into battle with only a 48" sword in your hands and destroying all the shields and bodies that line up to you is a way to truly appreciate how Dwight refers to Marv in "Sin City". "More at home swinging an axe into someone's face in the slaughter fields of the arenas. They would have thrown girls like Nancy at him." This is really an accurate description how it feels.
The normal flurb concerned person will focus on garb, acting out their character and will rarely enter the battle field. When they do it is usually with sub-par equipment and even worse fighting ability. Whether this be through magic use or just no effort all, they are usually not effective in combat. They can however make excellent non-coms and help out with administrative duties. The average re-enactor will have fantastic, historically accurate garb for their persona. They will usually stick to a similar weapon combo and fighting style including shield/weapon weight and design. A lot of them also make their own period camping materials such as tents, buckets and feast ware (utensils, bowls, cups).
An average stick jock is only out for fighting. They care little about looking period wearing Underarmor just below tabards with tennis shoes and Oakleys. Weapon and shield weight/construction are priority for them. The lighter, longer lasting materials are highly desired. Weapon sets vary vastly due to the desire to become knighted. This usually involves intimate knowledge of several weapons and various other skills. The average stick jock uses onmi-directional swords or clubs, and flails. Both items are light an easy to wield as there is no concern for using the striking edge as there is none.
An interesting aspect to MCS is the skills and trades on acquires. Leatherworking, metal and or leather armor crafting, sewing, embroidery, woodworking, the list goes on. Organizations like the SCA and Amtgard have programs and award system for medieval arts and sciences. They even hold tournaments awarding astonishing one of a kind prizes. Some people even take these hobbies to the career level and make museum quality replicas or even movie props. Edhellen Armory is company that started out making foam weapons and has gotten to the point where they could contract the majority of the weapons used in the "Role Models" film, and have been generally successful enough to purchase a park for MCS, re-enactment, LARPs and many other activities. Other companies offer clothes, shoes/boots, armor accessories and even weapons to MCS participants from multiple games. SCA armorers particularly make wads of cash if they are willing to invest all their time into the art. A man that invests enough time is able to craft truly unique pieces of art out of metal or leather using the same techniques of the cultures we emulate.

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