Back from war… Pennsic War that is

J.M. Aucoin . Fencing, SCA 2134 No Comments

It’s been several days since I got back from Pennsic 43, and I’m just now getting a real chance to sit down and write about. Car trouble on the way back, a weekend of Boston Comic Con, and then a date night with the fiancee meant I’ve been a busy boy since returning back to Boston.

End of July, however, I packed my fencing gear and headed down to Slipperyrock, PA for Pennsic, a huge SCA event where thousands of folks get together, camp, fight, fence, fire arrows, practice arts & sciences, and a whole range of other fun and historically nerdy activities. This was my second Pennsic. My first was Pennsic 40 and wasn’t the greatest of experiences for a few reasons. But fellow fencers have been bugging me to return since then, promising to redeem the event for me.

And they totally did.

I camped with a bunch of my fellow fencer friends, borrowing a French Double Bell Wedge tent, and promptly raised my unit’s standard to fly in the breeze. Not gonna lie, it’s really cool to have your own flag flying high over camp. We also had it flying at the big melees during the week, too. It was one of only two standards flying on our side during the battles… which is cool but also a bummer because flags are awesome. I’m hoping more fencing units will make their own silk banners and fly them at Pennsic.


The Carolingian Caliver Company standard at camp

One of the big highlights for me was the Rapier Champs event. This was my first time being named to the Champs team (for non-SCA readers, it’s kinda like an All-Star team), and I was also named co-captain of the melee squad for the Champs event. Alas, we lost the melee portion, but tied the Rapier Champs point overall. My squad fought hard and I’m proud of the way they all conducted themselves in what’s a very competitive and coveted event.

Getting my Champs tabard and favor

Getting my Champs tabard and favor

I’m not sure what the favors for being on the Champs team were like in past years, but the ones we got this year were boss. Mail and metal scales to make the appearance of a mermaid’s tail. A very cool and creative design. I love it. It also makes cool noises when I walk, like the sound of spurs… for someone who’s going for the Musketeer/cavalier look, this was on target for me.


East Kingdom Rapier Champs favor

And one more pic from the Champs battle for ya. Me with two of my friends (and also fellow Champs), Lupold and Sorcha.

A motley crew!

A motley crew!

The rest of the week went well. I got a lot of fencing in, doing plenty of pick-ups with as many faces I didn’t recognize as I possibly could. I also tried doing as many tournaments as I possibly could for similar reasons. The chances of fighting someone I don’t know is much higher and I know I’ll probably get their best in the tourney. Two tournaments stood out as my favorite by far, however:

1. By the Book Tourney. This was a smaller tournament in which the fencers have to fight in a period style/manual.  I’ve been studying Capo Ferro for the past couple of years, so I ran with that. I did pretty well, tying for second place in my pool. It was cool to see other fencers who aren’t just fighting with whatever works, but are trying to fight with the weapons in a way much closer to how folks would’ve done it in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and doing it well. It was also fun to see how different period styles stack up against each other. A lot of that has to do with the person behind the sword, but each style from different masters have their own strengths and quirks, and, if nothing else, it was fun to see play out.

I’ll definitely be doing that tournament again.

2. Known World Baronial Championship Tourney. This was open to all baronial fencing champs to partake, and I was one of them. This was a different type of tournament. It was mostly just pick-ups with other fencing champs, and then being interviewed by the barons on hand to watch, and then a feature fight for their entertainment. It was very much a low key “tournament”, focused more on fun and less on W & Ls. In fact, wins and losses meant diddly, and it was cool to be in an event where you could relax, get some good fights in, and talk to folks.

I did not win, but I did get a lot of good feedback from people who were part of, or overheard the deliberations. Very cool event. Lots of fun. If I’m ever baronial champ again, I’ll definitely do this event.


Me during the Siege of La Rochelle

And, of course, the larger melees were a blast. Our side was outnumbered by a rough estimate of 70 people (which is kinda a lot), but it meant that I knew I’d get to cross blades with plenty of folks. And I did. As for my Caliver fencing unit, they handled themselves beautifully. They took orders well, fought hard, and seemed to have a good time. They definitely handled themselves with the utmost grace on the field, and I got some pleasant feedback from folks on how well the group did. Always a plus.

It did rain a fair amount during the week. Nothing major, in my opinion, but enough to make the woods super muddy and unusable for fencing. At least the rain allowed me to use my long boots, wide-brim hat, and long wool cassock for its intended purposes of keeping me warm and dry… not that I want it to be the case all the time, but it was kinda fun for a little bit to use that stuff that way.

Rain, rain, rain

Rain, rain, rain


I swear my historical garb is better suited for the rain than my modern clothing is.



And I also got to help fire one of the guns to start the morning battle. Super cool. I’ve never loaded or fired a black powder weapon before and, not gonna lie, I was a little worried I’d screw up somehow. But it went well. Even this tiny breach-loaded cannon packs a powerful boom when fired. I can only imagine what the bigger guns must’ve sounded like. Holy smokes.

(no pun intended)

A bonus to the week was I was able to sell a handful of copies of Jake Hawking & the Bounty Hunters to my fellow swashbuckling lovers and fencers. I hope they enjoy the stories.

I’ll recap Boston Comic Con later.

J.M. Aucoin

Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. I write swashbucklers & historical adventure novels.

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