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Conventions of Combat

These rules apply to ALL armored fighters in a combat archery environment.


“Combatants” are ALL fighting participants on the field.  Armored fighters, Combat Archers, Siege crews, etc are all included. 

“Missiles” include Combat Archery ammunition (arrows and bolts), Siege ammunition (ballista bolts, rocks, etc), and Throwing Weapons (axes, javelins, etc). 

The rules are annotated as follows:

  • (MK) indicates a direct quote from the Middle Kingdom Armored Combat Handbook
  • (~MK) is a slight rewording or partial quote from the Middle Kingdom Armored Combat Handbook
  • (Soc) indicates a direct quote from the Society Armored Combat Handbook
  • (~Soc) is a slight rewording or partial quote from the Society Armored Combat Handbook 


All combatants are engaged with all missile and siege weapons regardless of the direction they are facing.  (MK)  

  • This means that combat archers can shoot any combatant at any time within scenario and safety limitations. 

An armored combatant must go through a normal process of gaining engagement before they can strike a combat archer.  Combat archers who are a part of a group or line are just like any other combatant in terms of engagement.  (MK)    

Armored Combatants are not allowed to deliberately hit the bow/crossbow of a Combat Archer.  (MK) 

Grasping an opponent’s bow/crossbow is prohibited. (~Soc)

Target Areas

The valid target areas for Combat Archery are the same as the valid target areas for thrusting tips.  (MK)

  • In the Middle Kingdom, all areas of the head except the face and neck are proof against thrust.  (MK)
  • All other target areas are the same as usual. 

Turning the head or deliberately putting the top of the head forward to avoid a face thrust or missile contact – otherwise known as “target substitution” by Middle Kingdom standards – is not considered the same as ducking or dodging a blow.  This technique is prohibited.  (MK) 

Combat Archers can NOT intentionally target a combatant’s back.  (MK)    

  • If a combatant turns after a missile is in flight (causing a hit to the back), the strike should be taken as good.  (MK)  

Combatants cannot intentionally turn their backs on missiles in flight to negate the effect of being hit.  (MK) 

Combatants are not allowed to advance upon Combat Archers or Siege weapon positions with their backs turned to avoid being killed by missiles. 

Calibration & Blocking

Owing to safety limits placed on combat archery equipment and the low mass of the ammunition, arrows and bolts strike with less force than a hand-held weapon.  They need not strike with the same force as hand-held weapons for the strikes to be considered killing blows.  (Soc)

Arrows and crossbow bolts can be blocked by shields/pavises, and armored combat weapons. They can NOT be blocked by bows, crossbows, or any CA ammunition.  (MK) 

Minimum Firing Distance

There is NO minimum distance at which a combat archer shooting a bow or crossbow may release their ammunition.

Arrows or bolts must completely clear the limb or prod before they strike their target to be considered good.  (~Soc) 


During a Hold, an archer must un-nock the arrow from their bow or remove the bolt from their crossbow.  (~Soc) 

A crossbow may remain cocked.  (Soc) 

An archer may nock an arrow or place a bolt in their crossbow when the “ON YOUR GUARD” or equivalent (such as “make ready”) command is given.

Pavises & Shields

A Pavise is a freestanding shield with legs, used only during melee combat.

A combat archer may carry and use a shield or pavise: however, as long as they are carrying it, they cannot span (cock a crossbow or draw a hand bow) nor fire their weapon.  (Soc)

A pavise can be carried in a manner that does not require hand control (such as on a shoulder strap). In this case, the fighter is not allowed to actively block with it, nor can they use their own weapon, and if struck by a hand weapon, the blow is counted as if the pavise was not there.  (Soc)

Pavises must be constructed according to the rules in the current Middle Kingdom Marshal’s Handbook.  (See Armor Requirements, Shields …pavises for details.)

Switching Weapons and Using Other Weapons

In the Middle Kingdom, thrown combat weapons are considered backup weapons for Combat Archers. 

Prior to drawing or picking up a backup weapon, a bow must be laid aside; a crossbow must be placed outside the combat area or in the keeping of another combatant (or marshal) who is willing to accept it.

To use a backup weapon, the hands must be appropriately armored.  (~Soc) 

List Field Safety 

Melees with combat archery must have a buffer zone around the edges.  (~Soc) 

Combatants must remain fully armored at all times within the buffer zone.  Non-combatants (except marshals) must remain outside the buffer zone.

Despite there being a buffer zone, combat archers are responsible for their missiles and must avoid shooting towards unarmored people such as marshals and spectators unless there is sufficient distance between the archer and unarmored people. (The goal is to avoid errant or deflected arrows from exiting the buffer zone.)  (~Soc) 


All types of ammunition must be inspected individually before use.  (~Soc)  A CA Marshal at the designated inspection area must do the inspection before each battle or at the beginning of the event, as applicable.

Some events (such as Pennsic) may require inspected ammunition to be marked with paint once it has passed inspection.

Re-inspection of ammunition by a Combat Archer before re-use is ONLY allowed when the scenario permits or between battles, as determined by the Marshals.  (~Soc)  (See below for details on gleaning and the re-inspection process.)

Bows and Crossbows must be inspected by a CA Marshal before use at each event.  Some events may require an inspection sticker. 

Combat Archers are responsible for presenting Equipment and Ammunition to the CA Marshals in good condition.  Archers should check their own ammunition after use and before inspections.  PDFs for inspections can be found in Appendix B. 

Combat archers have the same armor requirements as all other armored combatants, EXCEPT that they can wear only half-gauntlets.  (~Soc) 

NOTE- As always, armor inspections must be done by an Armored Combat Marshal. 


Gleaning is the process of picking up a piece of ammunition from the field, doing a quick safety inspection, and reshooting it. 

Fiberglass-shafted ammunition may NEVER be gleaned. 

ONLY Tubular ammunition may be gleaned (and only if the scenario allows it). 

The person picking up (gleaning) the tubular ammunition MUST check three things: 

1.    Make sure the string end of the tube is round (you can fix this if necessary).

2.    Make sure the head is on tight and is undamaged (look at it, then grip it and twist/pull).

3.    Make sure nothing is in the tube by holding it with the opening down and tapping it against something firm (such as your leg).

If it passes all three safety checks, then the tubular ammunition may be shot.