Roderick's Blog


July 12, 2008:

I am no longer recommending that a half tennis ball be put on the end of a pool noodle tip for a ballista bolt.  This half tennis ball was added to make the bolts hit harder, but it's my opinion that they hit too hard.  Taking the half tennis ball off softens the blow a little, but the bolts still hit plenty hard.  An advantage to taking the half tennis ball off is that you lighten the bolt by over an ounce.  You won't be near the weight limit of 16 ounces.  I've tested a bolt with no half tennis ball on it by shooting a cinder block wall 10 times at 10 yards distance.  The tip was still in good condition and the bolt was still usable.

Several complaints were made at Midrealm events this summer that the ballistae were hitting too hard.  These complaints were made about ballistae which shoot a maximum of 70 to 80 yards.  These complaints were made mostly about hits at less than 40 yards range, but one was at 45 yards.  We may need to power down the ballistae by reducing the maximum allowable range to 60 yards.  This would make them less powerful and they wouldn't hit as hard at close range.

Most ballistae can be powered down quite easily.  For the torsion powered ballistae, the tightness of the rope can be reduced.  For most of the Doc Mo ballistae, just take the backer out.  The only ballistae I know of in this kingdom which can't power down are the Varg ballistas which don't use a backer.  However, I had the engineer who made them, Bodvar, shot at close range by his own ballistae.  After that, we discussed structural changes that could be made.  These won't be done before Pennsic, but they could be done by next year.  Until then, they can replace the bowstring with twisted nylon cord which should reduce their range to 55 yards.

I don't know if any events in the Midrealm where a ballista needs to be able to shoot more them 60 yards.  At Pennsic, the full 80 yards range can be useful, but depends on the design of the scenario.  No complaints have been heard outside the Midrealm except for the Woods battle at Pennsic last year.  I don't know if this is a society wide problem  Some siege marshals think it isn't.  If you have an opinion on this, fee free to email me:


Sept. 19, 2007: My Pennsic report will be on Road Report page, but here I want to list the lessons learned from Pennsic XXXVI.  These are lessons with an eye to running siege as siege marshal in charge which I may do in a couple of years.


1) Don't be responsible for inspecting both siege engines and combat archery.  Master Jean Paul, Midrealm Chief of Artillery, did both and he certainly deserves his peerage.  However, this is a lot of work and is best split between two deputies.  The East Kingdom has had separate deputies for siege and combat archery for 5 years now.  If I become Chief of Artillery this fall, the first thing I will do is recommend a separate office for combat archery.  I'm willing to help with the CA inspections, but don't want to be responsible for them if I'm also responsibe for siege.
2) Don't command and marshal.  Jean Paul commanded the Midrealm siege engines as well as running inspections and it was an epic effort.  He succeeded in both although he missed at least one commander's meeting because he was inspecting siege engines.  Even so, this Pennsic went a little smoother than the previous two.  However, please forgive me if I have humbler aspirations.  If I'm running siege at Pennsic in two years, I won't be commanding.
3) Get Doc Mo.  I put the the Shadowclan ballistae together this year and helped organize them on the battlefield.  This took up a lot of my time and energy.  I definately want Doc Mo to do those things in two years.  He can also help in many other ways.
4) Even if a side doesn't have siege engines on it, they still need a siege marshal.  I realized this after the woods battle.  A siege marshal on the other side could have checked for injuries and advised fighters on the rules.
5) At least one siege marshal should attend the marshal's court.  We're usually on the battle field inspecting ballista bolts after the battle.  However, siege activity could come up at the marshal's court and at least one siege marshal should be there. 

Sept. 19, 2007: My back healed in time for Pennsic.  I missed a week of work after the injury, but by taking it easy I was able to recover quickly.  After 3 weeks I could walk regularly again.  I was able to move to a new apartment with a little help.  By Pennic, six weeks after the injury, I was able to move ballistae around again. 

My doctor put me on a muscle relaxant plus Aleve.  The injury was a muscle problem, not a bone problem.

June 11, 2007:  Injured my back yesterday.  This isn't the first time; I've dealt with back problems for over 20 years.  This time it's bad.  I had to take a sick day today and since my company has combination sick day/vacation days, every sick day I take is one less vacation day I get.

I injured my back while attempting to move a ballista.  My ballistae have wheels on the front axel and handles on the back axel.  They are moved by picking up the rear axel and pushing them around.  I must have moved that ballista a dozen times on Saturday, but the first time I tried to move it on Sunday, I regretted it. 

I will almost certainly miss Baronial Border War next weekend..  I won't be able to fight in the Ironwolf household championship.  I will still go to Pennsic, but I may have to spend every battle marshalling if I can't fight or move ballistae by then.

I should have stuck to safe activities like armored combat.  I've injured myself with jogging and with siege engines now. 

June11, 2007: I read three books on nutrition: "What Should I Eat", which was based on the FDA's MyPyramid, "Brain Building Nutrition", and "Toxic Relief."  All were written by Doctors or PHDs in nutrition.  All recommended the same thing: more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain bread, less protein and dairy products, no sugar or fat. Actually, sugar and fat is OK if you pay for it with exercise.  These books can be found in the Diet section of a bookstore, but they are not diet fad books.

The book on brain food said "what's good for your body is good for your brain."  So it recommended foods high in antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients.  In other words, it recommended more fruits and vegetables.  But, in addition to that, it primarily recommended cold water fish because they contain DHA which is an essential fatty acid for the brain.  Both freshwater and saltwater fish are good as long as they are not tropical.  Salmon, trout, cod, and various shell fish are all good sources of DHA.  Deep fried fish was not recommended because the breading soaks up a lot of grease.

The book on  Toxic Relief recommended juice fasting using fresh made juice from a vegetable juicer.  The author was highly religious and may have been influenced by the long tradition of fasting in Christian religion.  I have not tried juice fasting yet, but I might some day.

All three books were big on omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.  Apparently, some oils are good for you if they contain poly unsaturated fats.  Olive oil, canola oil, and most vegetable oils are good.  The bad ones are saturated oils (fat), hydrogenated oils, and corn oil.

These books are making a health food nut out of me.  I try to eat a large salad with lots of different vegetables every day.  I'm eating fish several times a week.  I'm snacking on fruits and nuts.  I'm buying whole grain bread.   I've reduced my consumption of sugar, fat, meat, and processed flour although I haven't eliminated them.    These days, there are lots of good healthy alternatives and many of them taste good.

I don't know what I'm going to do about mead and beer.

"Learning is the process of finding out for yourself the same thing that people have been trying to tell you your whole life." -- Marion Zimmer Bradley

Feb. 10, 2007: Three days ago, I was reading a book called "Brain Building Nutrition."  The book not only addresses the brain, but also the nervous system and the body functions that it interacts with.  The book says that the fatty acids found in meat, eggs, and milk can contribute to inflammation and that the fatty acids found in fish,  nuts, and vegetable oils can reduce inflammation.  Since I've had recurring tendonitis for years and currently have an inflamed ligament in my left knee, I found this information profound.

I was talking to Sir Garth at Val Day and mentioned that I was going to work more fish and nuts into my diet.  He replied "You mean more Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids?"  It occurred to me then that I may not be the only fighter dealing with inflammation problems.  I know that many others have dealt with tennis elbow and similar issues.  They probably get inflamed ligaments as well.  I said "I guess you need to know these things when you're a knight."  He attempted to make some modest noises. 

Since I couldn't fight anymore because of my knee, I went around asking people "which food has Omega-3 fatty acids?"  All the fighters named fish which is a correct answer.  I went to the grocery store today and found lots of cooking oil, margarine, nuts, and other food with healthy oils in their ingredients and the word "omega" in their name.  Well, I'm not young and immortal anymore, so I'll just have to learn more of this stuff and start eating healthy. 

It's Feb. 9, 2007,  and SiegeTheDay is finally ready to release on an unsuspecting world.  OK, the site isn't really ready, but neither is the world.  This page could use a background, but then maybe not because it's going to have a lot of writing on it.  I'm no website designer and I've seen much nicer sites elsewhere.  However, I think this site will achieve the purpose of enhancing the discussion of siege related issues and disseminating information on them.  With time I'll upgrade it as I learn more.
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