Combat + Safety Rules

Our goal with our rules for armor and combat is to create a simple and fluid combat system that does not require major split-second math and is safe for all players. We desire to give the most realistic combat experience with the understanding that we are using foam weapons and nobody is really dying.   

How Does Combat work?

We can best describe the medieval-style combat used at Hearthlands as “full speed, medium impact.” By this we mean we put no restrictions on how fast you can move or fight. However the purpose is not to bludgeon your opponent to death. Combat is about communication; you are doing your best to communicate that you have hit your opponent. So just because you have a clear shot at someone's unarmored back, does not mean you swing as hard as you can. Just hit them hard enough to let them know they have been hit. When it comes to taking hits, any hit counts, no matter how light or hard. If you are wearing armor and do not feel it but see yourself get hit, it still counts.

Safety First

If you see a potential safety issue or injury, shout “Safety! Safety! Safety!” and all players in the vicinity immediately cease combat or gameplay and look for and listen to whomever shouted.

Reasons to shout safety include but are not limited to:

  • Minor injury that does not require medical attention
  • Broken weapon or armor
  • Hazardous terrain
  • Fire

If you see a significant injury or illness, shout “EMT!” All players in the vicinity should immediately cease combat or gameplay and look for and listen to whomever shouted. In addition, players should make way for medical personnel to arrive.

Centrally located on-site EMTs will be on standby and will handle any injuries. Besides providing basic first-aid until paramedics arrive, players should not attempt help unless asked by the medical staff. Let the professionals do their thing.

Please view the White Horse Experience Emergency Response Plan here for further safety precautions.

Weapon Regulations

Weapon Categories

  • One-handed: sword (total sword length less than 36”), dagger, one-handed axe, staff* all do 1 damage
  • Two-handed: sword (total sword length greater than 36” and wielded with two hands), poleaxe, polearm (spears, etc.) all do 2 damage**  
  • Arrows from bows do 3 damage

* Staffs do no armor damage amd only count as hits to unarmored locations. Hits with the non-blade portion of a polearm count as staff hits.

**All two-handed weapons must be wielded with two hands to deliver 2 damage.

***Throwing any weapons is not allowed.

Allowed Weapons

All weapons and shields must be made by a professional manufacturer. No home-made, boffer, or modified (except cosmetically with paint) weapons allowed. Weapons must be of the foam-latex or foam injection-molded type. Companies like Epic Armoury and Calimacil are the noted quality leaders in the industry. Hearthguard favor swords, axes, spears, and bows.

There is no specific length limit to swords. However they must match the historical aesthetic, and you must be able to wield them effectively with one hand.

Hearthgaurd use round shields and round shields only. We favor shields 60cm and larger for optimal use in the shieldwall.

All bows should be medieval-type or period appropriate longbows. The max allowable draw-weight is 35# @28”. No modern, compound, recurve, horse bows, or crossbows allowed.

All arrows must be the IDV “low speed” or flat sponge-tipped type. Removable/modular/screw-on arrowheads are not allowed. All arrowheads must be permanently affixed to the shaft.

All weapons must be visually approved through our costume approval process before the event and will be safety inspected before and throughout the event.

Combat Rules

  • Do only strike hard enough to communicate that you have hit your opponent.
  • Do allow your opponent time to recover if struck in the head.
  • Do give your opponent the benefit of the doubt.
  • Do call “Safety! Safety! Safety!” if you see a safety hazard or issue.
  • Do move out of the way when you are killed so you are not stepped on.
  • Do not strike at the head or groin.
  • Do not grab opponents’ weapons
  • Do not physically hit or strike your opponent with your hands, feet, or body.
  • Do not use your shield to strike or “bash” an opponent.
  • Do not take out real anger in the game.
  • Do not throw weapons or take other player weapons (except arrows after they have been shot).
  • Do not engage in combat in a building or in or near tents.

Archery Rules

Archery is a lot of fun at Hearthlands, and the ability to strike down your foes at range can be a substantial asset! Here are some guidelines to make sure it is done safely.

Archery Dos and Don’ts

  • Do know what you are shooting at (no blind firing).
  • Do choose a specific target.
  • Do maintain minimum safe range (at least 5 yards).
  • Do use good judgment and only draw back your bow as far as needed.
  • Do return all arrows to the central arrow drop to exchange them for your own after battles.
  • Do check each arrow for safety when picking it up.
  • Don’t shoot if only “non-target areas” are exposed (head, feet, hands).
  • Don’t shoot point blank at shields or barricades when players are around as arrows can bounce back knock-first at players.
  • Don’t take arrows from other people’s quivers. However, you may pick them up off the ground.

Removable/modular/screw-on arrowheads are not allowed. All arrowheads must be permanently affixed to the shaft.

Pre-Aproved Weapons

The following are pre-approved weapons but you are not limited to them. Remember to email Leadership prior to purchase to ensure your weapons are approved for combat.

These items are pre-approved for Hearthlands, but depending on the shield you order it may require painting to ensure it falls within the approved kit.

Please be sure to submit all photos for Kit Approval to prior to arriving at the event.

Where can combat take place?

Combat may occur in the “play area” against any players or NPCs that your leaders have told you you may attack. You may always defend yourself. With that said, the following areas/situations are off limits for combat:

  • Under any roof (e.g. inside buildings or under tent canvas)
  • While someone is eating/carrying food (except for snacks during combat phases of the game)
  • Against any non-combatant player
  • While entering/exiting the restroom
  • Once “safety” or “EMT” has been called and combat is stopped for safety
  • When told to abstain by your Jarl 
  • In the out of play area (except for sparring)
  • In and around camps/tents/tent guy wires/ropes/fires

Armor + Hitpoints

Armor Basics

Armor provides localized protection. That means it only provides protection where you are wearing it. We call the level of protection that each armor provides its “hitpoints.” Armor has to be covering at least 80% of an exposed section to count as complete coverage for that section (i.e. a leather bracelet doesn’t count as a bracer, and a gorget doesn’t count as a breastplate).

Armor also stacks; that means if you are wearing a leather pauldron over chainmail, you get 4 total Hitpoints (3 for the chainmail + 1 for the leather pauldron). You can stack armor to a maximum of 4 hitpoints (or 5 hitpoints if you are wearing a helmet). Once your armor has sustained enough damage from incoming attacks, that armor is destroyed. Please note: headshots are off limits for safety reasons. Hits to the hands and feet also do not count.

While hits to the head do not count, helmets are great for both safety and aesthetic purposes. Helmets also allow you to increase your max armor hitpoints to 5. If you are not wearing a helmet, the max stacked hitpoints is 4.

Hitpoint Basics

Hits and armor hitpoints are localized, that means, for example, if you are hit in the arm, you lose the use of that limb. A hit to an unarmored torso is a kill. The loss of two limbs equates to a kill.

These are your valid hit locations:

  • Arms (Two sections: forearm, upper arm/shoulder)
  • Legs (Two sections: lower leg, upper leg/buttocks)
  • Torso (Two sections: front and back)

The following locations are not valid hit locations:

  • Head/neck
  • Feet
  • Hands

can be strapped to your arm/shoulder in combat and may be transported on your back; however they cannot be used as armor on the front or back of the body. Shields carried on a strap must be for immediate access (within 1-2 seconds). So something that requires straps, buckles, ties, knots, etc. to be loosened for use as a shield would not be allowed. If the heralds see you abusing this rule, you will be called out of the fight and required to discard your shield.

How many hitpoints worth of protection does each item provide?

+1 Hp - Leather armor (at least 6oz. leather) and padded gambesons

+2 Hp - Steel reinforced leather (usually found in the form of steel rings or splints) and splinted armor.

+3 Hp - Chainmail and scale armor (including steel/iron lamellar and steel brigandines)

+4 Hp - Steel plate armor

Once all armor has been “destroyed” or if there is no armor, a strike disables a limb or mortally wounds/disables/kills the opponent if it is the second limb or on the torso.

Being Wounded

  • If you lose a limb in combat, you must drag that leg or let the arm go limp. You cannot use a wounded limb to block incoming blows. You regain the use of the limb only when healed. You cannot use a wounded limb to block incoming blows
  • If you loose two limbs or are wounded in the torso, you are considered mortally wounded and disabled (this state is also referred to as killed or dead). You must be returned to the hospital and attended to by a healer before you are able to again participate in combat.