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GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 2
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 1
Frag Beta Capsule Review (4/14/01)
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Convention Report: Pennsic 2001
by Owen Fletchyr (Colin Adams)
photos by Lady Constantina von Ravenna

Ahhhh, ten days at Pennsic, the biggest event for the Society for Creative Anachronism, (or SCA) that there is. It is held in western Pennsylvania, and this year had over 12,000 people in attendance, all in completely medieval clothing. Many camps had enormous gates around them, some entire wooden buildings, but most were canvas pavilions. A sea of these pavilions stretched like a small city for miles through winding paths in the oaks and lakes. But the camp, while impressive, was not what was so exceptional. I came for the parties... and the WAR!!

pavilion The Siege at Pennsic, Year of Our Lord 2001
For those of you who don't know, the SCA holds events all over the US as well as the world, most of them centered around heavy armored martial combat. Unlike a Renaissance Faire, these events are not a commercial show for the public, but for people who love to recreate the best parts of medieval culture. The fighting is done with heavy rattan swords, a sort of solid bamboo that doesn't break to shards, but is heavy as oak. Just imagine someone laying into you with a shovel handle, and not just with their arm, but with martial-art style force from within that dents metal and bruises through it. There are required parts of armor, like for the joints, that get inspected before every war, so few get hurt, surely less than football. You know you are dead when you get a heavy blow in chest or head, and trust me, you know, and in the honorable, chivalry based society of the SCA, nobody really abuses that. You fall down dead when you know you are beaten, or when that sickly smash in the back of your kidneys makes your legs go weak, and bile rises to the back of your mouth as you feebly mutter "good," then crumple to your face.

battleThe fighting this year at Pennsic was amazing, with some 4,500 armored soldiers on the field. The open field battles were like something out of Braveheart, with thousands of men clashing in a sea of shields and helmets until only a few remained. There were siege engines like catapults, trebuchets, and a ton of ballistas (like a giant crossbow that shoots a javelin). The Castle, a permanent wooden structure, is about 80 yards wide, 10 to 30 feet tall, with turrets and crenelations, towers and a sally port with a horrible killing pocket, an oak and iron gate, two tall towers above the gate, and four banners flying high. When we laid siege to it, we had sappers, battering rams, siege towers for archers, and a movable ramp to run up over the wall with. Hard to describe it, but when we finally got through, it was cinematic, hundreds of men swarming in through the sides and gates. I climbed over the ten foot section of wall with a boost and rolled into the castle shield first, hacking my way up to the tall tower. As men poured over the ramp, I was in the tower with five others, killing the crossbowmen and archers and then hacking down to others from above. We lowered the banner to half mast and went on killing. It was amazing.

battle"And now, we drink!"
The parties at night were epic too. We went to about four a night or so, walking on sore Viking feet for miles through the night across the dimly torch-lit encampment of 12,000 people, winding through woods, fields, and the lake area. There was the Hell party, which one entered through a gate with the word "hell" flaming above. Upon daring to enter, one found a huge devil with hooves, whippings, some bizarre glowing drink, and a wet chemise booth next to the bar. We bribed our way in past a line of hundreds of people, and why not? You should be able to bribe your way into hell.

The variety of parties was as staggering as the drinks served therein. There was the Mardi Gras party, complete with beads for bartering a flash of just about anything; the Kamikaze party at the castle, which we were late for; this exclusive cigar and scotch soiree; the disco party; the men-without-pants party, at which to enter, men wore only their long tunics and had to run the "gauntlet" of women who did what they wished. On top of a huge hill was an entire Viking period gated camp, with an appropriately rowdy party. There was the Bardicci party, a group who every year makes an entire renaissance Italian villa complete with arches and ivy growing up the columns, carpets and candelabras, a full bar of homemade meads, a chapel and a priest, and exotic sweet delights that looked like bowls of fruit, all of which was edible, and a model of the villa in white gingerbread.

Our kingdom (Kingdom of the West) had the Iron Bartender party, like the Japanese game show Iron Chef, where the Queen spun the wheel, and six bartenders had to make a drink with the mystery ingredient like gummy worms, creme de menthe, chocolate syrup, or instant oatmeal. Not exactly a period set of ingredients, but period is for the day, the parties are to drink off the day of battle.

We found a bar run by a bunch of paratroopers for the marines, called the Black Rose. It was an invitation only full bar, for free (as everything is at Pennsic) which had every bottle a regular bar had, Guinness and Killians Red and other beers on tap (real bar taps), a wooden bar top, complete with brass foot rail, and a charming Scottish bartender named Gabriel. They went through over five kegs of Guinness alone.

castle If you got the craving for breakfast at 2 am as one is prone to have after drinking car bombs at the Black Rose, behind them was the IHOP, or Icelandic house of pancakes, with pancakes, sausage, spicy potatoes, and the whole deal, also for free. There was the lobster feast for royalty, a Cajun feast for all comers, a chili feast at midnight at one camp, parties at royal encampments for all the Kingdoms in the known world. And these are just some of the parties I made it to.

castle It took about four days to recover from it all, another three to heal from all of the bruises, but the epic scale of the battles will be in my mind for years. I have lay siege to a well fortified castle, and held it too. I have hacked and hacked my way through a sea of thousands of men, to stay standing in the end. And I bribed my way into Hell and saw lady Eliska in a wet chemise... oh yeah.


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