Combat: Combat Rules


Combat in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild

Recreation of medieval combat is a tricky undertaking for the modern enthusiast.  How is one to balance the modern need for safety with the confused, brutality that characterized much of medieval combat?  In its past, the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild has developed many answers to this question before settling on the current set of rules.

General Rules of Combat

Combat in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild shall take place under one of two agreed-upon sets of rules.  These are: the combat “of peace” and the all-out combat.  The combat “of peace” is the default set of rules followed unless otherwise specified beforehand.

Combat Marshals

A Combat Marshal is an official of the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild whose job is to ascertain the competence and safety of a fighter. Nobody may fight at an official MMCG event without having been “authorized” by a Combat Marshal. Special consideration shall be made for new members “working up” to their authorization at weekly practice.

The Combat Marshal shall authorize members to fight in three different levels. Only the first level of authorization is required in order to participate in all MMCG events. The other two levels may be pursued by members if desired.

  • General Combat Proficiency (Reflects knowledge of rules for combat “Of Peace” and the adherence to safety standards and common sense necessary to fight in the MMCG).
  • All-Out Combat Proficiency (Reflects knowledge of rules for All-Out combat and the adherence to the extra precautions necessary for fighting in the All-Out system).
  • Grappling and Disarm Proficiency (Reflects adherence to the strict safety standards required for grappling and disarm authorization).

If a member of the MMCG is observed to be regularly out of control, the Combat Marshal may (and should) require that the member in question refrain from combat activities within the MMCG until such time as they have re-authorized as a fighter.

Striking Zones

The following locations shall be areas in which is it legal to strike an opponent in any combat, whether it be the combat of peace or all out combat.


  • Torso:  This is defined as the area of your body from below your neck to just above your hipbone (in the soft area).  The tops of your shoulders (the area between your neck and the ball-joint of either arm) are considered to be part of your torso.
  • Arms:  This is defined as the area of your body from the ball-joint of your arm (the point of your shoulder) to your wrist.  Hands are not considered to be legal striking targets unless armored.
  • Legs:  This is defined as the area of your body from your hipbones to the soles of your feet.  Strikes to the groin are highly discouraged.

Good Strikes & Hit Points

A good strike is one in which the padded “striking” surface of one’s weapon has solidly (not painfully) connected with his or her opponent.  A good strike may deflect off an opponent’s weapon or shield before hitting, providing that it still connects with enough force to be a solid blow and not a skidding or bouncing scrape.

A “good strike” from an arrow or crossbow bolt is one in which the projectile hits the target with the full face of its striking surface and bounces back.  A graze from an arrow or a crossbow bolt - even if the path of the projectile is interrupted or deflected - shall not be counted as a “good strike.”

Weapons that have flats (swords, axes, daggers, and most other bladed weapons) must strike with the padded “blade” and not with the “unsharpened” flat edge in order to register a good strike.

During combat, each combatant is assumed to have three “hit points.”  Each time a combatant receives a “good strike” from any weapon, their number of hit points is decreased by one.  When a combatant has been reduced to zero hits points, he or she is dead, and must collapse to the ground in an inglorious, boneless heap.

Instant Kills

Once in a while, a fighter will score a spectacularly lucky strike.  A good, solid stab to the chest right in the location of the heart, or a nice, solid strike to the muscles just below the neck would almost certainly kill an assailant.

Therefore, if a combatant takes a sufficiently “killing” blow - within the bounds of common sense - then he or she should acknowledge instant death.  This is a special situation, and should be observed when appropriate.

Combat Archery

Archers were an important part of any medieval army, though some nations favored their use more than others.  As such, combat archery plays an important part in the battles of Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild.

As much as any other part of medieval combat re-creation, archery can be dangerous if not handled properly.  Therefore, special arrows must be built for combat, so that their impact is no more than a sword-strike or a blow from a mace.  For this reason also, no bows with a draw-weight of over 35 pounds may be used in combat in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild. 

For information about combat arrow construction, see the weapons construction page.


Armor in the medieval era was what often separated the common conscripts and reserves from the landed knights and nobility going to war.  It was, in its construction, a constant trade-off between protection and mobility and comfort.

Armor in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild can be classified as either light or heavy:   “soft,” or “hard.”  Each type of armor provides protection to a specific part of the body.  A strike to an unarmored part of the body even on an otherwise armored opponent shall be counted normally.

Because we intend to recreate as close an approximation to actual armor as possible, armor must be made of similar materials as would have been used in our time scope. Because of this, all armors must be made in a fashion similar to that of actual Medieval peices and with comparable materials; i.e. thin leather, plastic and aluminum and the like will not count as armor during combat. Suggested materials include: steel, brass, heavy leather, boiled leather and heavily quilted fabric. If in doubt as to whether a material is acceptable, ask.

Light Armor

“Soft” or “light” armor is defined as any type of body defense which flexes under pressure.  This includes, but is not limited to mail (commonly called chain-mail), jacks, brigandines, splinted armor and heavy or boiled leather.  Soft armor makes up the bulk of armor worn by all but the richest soldiers during the Middle Ages.  It is also cheaper and easier to make. 

Light armor shall negate the first “good strike” received on that area of the body.  For this reason, a lightly armored combatant must remember where he or she has been hit.  A strike to an arm covered with boiled leather shall be ignored the first time, but shall be acknowledged the second time that the same arm is stricken.

Heavy Armor

“Hard” or “heavy” armor is defined as any type of body defense which does not flex under pressure.  This includes, but is not limited to plate armor, splinted armor over boiled leather, and some types of lamellar defenses. 

Heavy armor shall negate the first two “good strikes” received on that area of the body.  For this reason, a heavily armored combatant must take great care to remember where he or she has been hit.  A strike to an arm covered in plate steel shall be ignored the first two times, but shall be acknowledged the third time the same arm is stricken.

All-Out Combat

“All-out” combat is a more intense, more realistic version of the combat “of peace” rules.  To participate in all out combat, one is required to wear the following pieces of equipment as a minimum:


  • A padded fencing mask, probably modified by the addition of extra padding on the top of the head inside.
  • Padded gloves.  These can be broomball gloves, light hockey gloves or some other type of glove which provides padded protection to the back of the hand and all the fingers.


Elbow and knee pads are recommended gear, as well as a sp orts cup.  These last items, however, are a matter of personal preference rather than a requirement.

All-out combat allows strikes to any area of the body, and counts each strike as a single “good strike” as long as it adheres to the “good strike” requirements listed above in the combat “of peace” rules.

Mighty Strikes vs. Good Strikes

In addition to good strikes, “all-out” combat allows for the use of “mighty strikes.”  A mighty strike shall be defined as any blow to a legal striking area that is sufficiently hard to “remove” a limb (or, if taken to the torso or head, of similar power).  Such strikes shall be counted as instant death to the receiver.

Mighty strikes should be utilized with extreme caution, as the possibility exists for real injury to occur.  Both combatants should agree beforehand on whether they wish to accept mighty strikes during the duel, and it should generally be done when both combatants are wearing some sort of armor.

As of this revision of the rules, bows and crossbows shall not be capable of delivering “mighty strikes.”

A “mighty strike” differs from an “instant kill” listed in the Combat of Peace rules in that it need not be to a vital area as a normal “instant kill” shot must.

Grappling and Disarms

Grappling and disarms are a huge part of medieval combat, and many examples can be seen in contemporary sources that medieval fencing masters considered it to be a staple of their craft.

In all-out combat, combatants may agree to make use of grappling and disarms.  While neither of these actions deals any damage to either combatant as far as “hit points” are concerned, they can certainly turn the course of a battle or a duel.

Because of the potential for true injury, grappling and disarms must be separately authorized by the Combat Marshal. No grappling or disarms will be allowed even in all-out combat unless the Combat Marshal has authorized the fighters as safe.

Both grappling and disarms should be pursued in the safest manner possible.  Use as much or more caution in grappling and disarming as for utilization of mighty strikes, as the potential for true injury exists.

Armor in All-Out Combat

When fighting in “all-out” combat, light armor stricken by a mighty blow shall be “destroyed” for all intents and purposes.  The mighty blow shall deal one point damage to the receiver, but not be acknowledged as instant death.  By this reckoning, it would take no more than three mighty blows to “kill” a lightly armored opponent.

When fighting in “all-out” combat, heavy armor stricken by a mighty blow shall be “destroyed” for intents and purposes.  The mighty blow shall, however, deal no damage to the actual combatant.  The next strike on that same area, however, shall deal normal damage, and if that strike is a mighty strike, then the receiver shall acknowledge instant death.

Final Word

The re-creation of medieval combat, whether it be one-on-one dueling or larger-scale melees, is an inherently dangerous business.  Although the rules provided have been devised while keeping both safety and the energy and intensity of medieval combat in mind, accidents do happen.  Therefore, it is paramount that all combatants use control and common sense while engaging in combat in the Mercenaries Medieval Combat Guild.

The rules are meant to be sensible guidelines to encourage safety and realism.  When the rules interfere with common sense, safety and the illusion that we strive to create when participating in mock-combat, then it is time to use your best judgment rather than the rules.

And, as always, when anybody at all shouts “hold!” every combatant upon the field shall stop their fight instantly.





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