Too long; didn’t read: A short introduction about heralding a tournament in the SCA. It assumes you’ve been to events which include tourneys, and you think this looks like a fun way to spend your time.
There you are, minding your own business at an event, when a friend catches your arm and says, “Hey, you’re loud, you can herald the tournament for us!”
Field heraldry, so-called because you are on the field of combat, is enormous fun. A herald helps create the atmosphere for a tournament, and that atmosphere is part of what separates our tournaments from other combat arts. That atmosphere sticks in people’s memories of the day.
Consult with the minister of the lists (MoL) and marshals, to figure out what kind of tourney they’re running (double-elimination list, round-robin, bear pit, warlord tourney, etc.).
- When are you starting equipment inspections? Do you need this announced?
- Are you doing any weapon authorizations? Do you need this announced?
- How is the minister of the lists tracking the scores? Do the fighters report, or does the minister need an announcement?
- Is there some particular theme to the tournament that a herald can remind fighters of (individual challenges, playing roles, issuing ransoms)
- If you have two fighting fields, do the fighters simply “fill in” as soon as a list is free, or wait for a signal from the marshal?
- Where do you want the fighters to line up? You must keep line of sight clear for royals, and any gallery.
- Do you want individual salutes, or a group salute? (See Salute options)
- Who is providing water and any food?
Tip: keep water supplies away from the list table!
Ask: “How much help do you want from me?” Get a clear idea of what the marshal and MoL want from you. The goal is a smooth-running tournament, rather than a scramble.
Remember that you help run the tournament with clear communication: making it easy for the fighters to hear their calls to the field, for the list minister to hear results, for the gallery of spectators to understand the outcomes.
The marshals’ and MoLs’ look after the fighters, the rules, and any rule interpretation. Refer any questions from fighters about how to run the tourney to the marshal or list minister.
Get a list of the initial fighting order from the MoL. Ideally, these are on small index cards.
For example, for a ‘round’ of bouts, the MoL typically sorts the cards into pairs, so everyone has an opponent. Keep the pairs together! and keep the pairs in the order you received them.
When a fighter wins a bout, you usually put the winner on top as you hand them back to the MoL.
At an ordinary tournament, typically the marshal explains the tournament format to the fighters. Help the marshal gather as much information about the tournament in advance, so you can make a single announcement before helms go on heads.
Once the helms are on, the fighters’ hearing is limited, and you’ll have to repeat yourself more often.
A Crown or Coronet tournament includes a procession to introduce the participants, and either the royals or the marshal may speak to the entrants about the tournament format.
My lord and lady combatants, pray gather on the field for a few words from the marshals.
If you are running a passage at arms, intended for display, the herald can explain the format to the audience – but wait til the marshals are finished their talk.
A good practice is to announce all the fighting bouts once at the start, then go back and repeat the first three.
My lords and ladies, pray attend! I’m announcing the initial bouts for the first round.
After listing the bouts once, conventional fighting announcements are:
- Now on the field: Lord X and Master Y (they’re fighting right now)
- Now arming: Lady Z and Lord A (should be readying themselves, getting helm on)
- Now preparing to arm: Master B and Lord C (start getting ready)
If you need to call someone again:
Master B, to the field please! Master B, please report to the list field!
Keep your tone polite and patient: you’re reminding your friend to get to the field not chewing them out. Helms, and the noise and nerves of the tournament, can seriously impede hearing.
Announce these salutes in order:
Please salute the Crown of Drachenwald.
Gesture broadly towards the Crown, because the fighters can’t see much in their helms. If the crown isn’t present but a prince/ess or baron/ess is, use Please salute the representative of the Crown of Drachenwald. If no crowned head is there, gesture to the direction of TRM’s home (e.g. towards Sweden, Germany, etc.).
Please salute the one who inspires you on the field this day. or Please salute the one whose favour you bear on the field this day. or some similar phrase.
Please salute your worthy and noble opponent.
Pray heed the marshals.
Then step out of the way.
When the bout is over:
The victor, Lord Z!
If it’s a big list, or a long day, or crummy weather, you can shorten the salutes. Agree on this point with the marshals before starting.
After everyone has done the full salutes once (e.g. after the first round), simply say
Please make what salutes you may.
…and let the fighters decide.
For a very informal tourney like a bear pit, where the bouts aren’t as glamourous, lead a group salute at the beginning of the tournament, with all the fighters are on the field, then “make what salutes you may” before each bout.
- Dress for the conditions: boots, gloves, hoods or sunhats as needed. An overheated or badly chilled herald won’t have fun, and can’t concentrate.
- Pace yourself: lower your voice tone below that of your usual speaking voice, drink lots of water, sit when you can. Heralding is dry work, that takes more energy than you think. If you can, share the job with a second person and take turns.
- Because you are herald and visible, everyone will come to ask you when they’re fighting next, or who is doing well, or how many bouts are left. Be patient and answer questions as best you can. If you don’t know, just say so, but say that you’ll find out.
- Keep fighters and others from asking the MoL, who needs to concentrate on the list.
- If you have to leave (run out of time, bathroom break, whatever) get someone to fill in for you – don’t leave the MoL in the lurch.
Above all, enjoy the role – if you try it out and aren’t having fun, then don’t feel obligated the next time.
If you do enjoy it, then you’ve found something that helps build our experience of the current middle ages.