Marshalling (HowTo)

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The roles of a marshal are many and varied. They must be cheerleaders and referees, watchers of safety and keepers of fun, interpreters of rules and encouragers of individuality. They must be empathetic enough to know when a stranger is unhappy while at the same time being impartial enough to tell their best friend to go home. Marshals need to be athletic enough to keep up with the action and steady enough to remain calm. They need to know enough about the fighting to spot those who break the rules without being so conservative that they restrict new ways to fight within the rules. Marshals need to be all of these things and more.


Responsibility With Power

Marshals are the single most powerful individuals on the field. They can do anything from calling someone dead to calling someone alive. They call battles and hits, allow and restrict weapons. A marshal is like a god when it comes to what happens on the field, their power is restricted only by their responsibilities. It is these responsibilities which set a true marshal apart from just a spectator in yellow.

All marshals should own their own yellow tabard. This is to identify them when they are acting as a marshal. It should only be worn while actively marshaling. Marshals should NEVER act as a marshal without their tabard, nor should they ever act as anything else when wearing it. The tabard removes a person from their persona or character and places them into the category of Marshal. While wearing this tabard a person stops being part of any unit, stops being a friend, and becomes the law.

The rules are very important to marshals and should be known by every marshal. There are lots of rules and it is not always easy to remember all of them so it is not uncommon for marshals to have a rules copy for reference. When in doubt of a rule, a marshal should ask another marshal, look the rule up, or make an on the spot ruling. If the on the spot ruling is incorrect the marshal should apologize at a later time. Marshals should constantly test each other on the rules to keep up to date with current rules and interpretations.

The position of marshal is not just something which can be chosen at will. With all the power that comes with the position there is a balancing of responsibility. People who wish to be marshals must know that there are going to be times when they must act as marshals. If only one marshal is present then that marshal must act as a marshal and not fight. If there are not enough people acting as marshals then those marshals who are fighting must step up and act themselves.

The Ratio

A good ratio of marshals to fighters is 10:1. It is difficult enough for one marshal to watch two fighters accurately, to watch more than 10 is impossible. There should be 2 marshals at 11 fighters, 3 marshals at 21 fighters, and so on. If there are two marshals out of 12 total participants then there should be 10 fighters and two marshals. This is part of the responsibility which comes with the position, giving up fighting time to act as a marshal.

Marshals should take the time to think about who is currently marshaling and which marshals are fighting. They should rotate out so that everyone gets a chance to fight.

Marshal Hierarchy

There are five classifications of marshals. There are line marshals, field marshals, battle marshals, head marshals/event marshals, and weapon checkers.

Weapon checker Weapon Checkers are a special type of marshal. Though all marshals should have a basic understanding of weapon construction rules and safety, not all marshals are expected or able to check weapons. Weapon checkers are also not necessarily marshals in the classic sense in that they may never act as a marshal on the field. A weapon checker must be trained in the construction rules of weapons and how to test them. They are the people who classify, test, and fail or pass every piece of equipment which goes onto the field. They need to be open minded enough to allow variation and safety conscious enough to fail gear.

Line Marshal These marshals are most often found on the edges of the field. In addition to the general responsibilities of a marshal they are concerned mostly with keeping the fighters away from the field edge, away from dangerous obstacles, and clearing the dead off of the field.

Field Marshal Field marshals are the ones in the middle of the fight. They are calling hits, watching fighters for safety, calling deaths and holds. They need to be agile enough to get out of the way and aware enough to see where the fight is moving to.

Battle Marshal There is only one battle marshal. This is the marshal which explains the rules for the next battle and calls the battle. Once this is done the Battle Marshal reverts to a normal field marshal. It is the Battle Marshal’s responsibility to make sure that all other marshals on the field know what is going on next and are ready for the call to fight.

Event Marshal/ Head marshal The event/head marshal is the final say on all things involving marshals. They can, but should not, overrule any other marshals’ call. Only when the call is absolutely wrong should it be overruled. The head/event marshal is responsible for setting schedules for the marshals, setting up battle outlines, and generally organizing all of the other marshals. The event/head marshal answers only to the head of the organization and/or the permit holder of the battle site. Should either of these be involved in any altercation then the head/event marshal is sovereign. If the head/event marshal is fighting when altercation happens, his power of decision passes to the battle marshal.

The Calls

To make things easy and consistent, marshals should use similar calls. Changing calls will confuse fighters and result in chaos. The calls should be short, loud, and easy to understand.

“HOLD!!” – Is used to stop the battle. All fighters should drop to a knee and place a weapon over their head. At this point the marshals can do what is necessary for rules, safety, or clarification. This call is used by any marshal when necessary.

“CENTER” – Most often used after a hold to get fighters away from a dangerous area. Fighters need to move while keeping their relative positions to each other.

“DEAD CLEAR” – Used to get the dead out of the way. Can be done during a hold or after the battle has moved away. Fighters should rise up, place a weapon over their head, and move as instructed by the marshal.

“RESUME POSITION!!” – This is the call which follows the call hold. It instructs the fighters to return to their pervious relative positions. Should the fighters have been moved during the hold they need to stay in the same relative places. This call should be used by the battle marshal

“FIGHTERS READY!!” – Uses after the battle has been explained or after fighters have been told to resume positions. It gives the fighters a warning that battle is about to begin. This is a battle marshal call.

“MARSHALS READY!!” – This is the battle marshal’s call after fighters ready to make sure that all of the other marshals are in position. Line and field marshals should make their assent known by raising their hand in the direction of the battle marshal.

“LAY ON!!” – This is the call to start battle. Used after fighters and marshals ready, or after resume positions, to let the fighters know to start.

How To Instruct

Too often marshals do not make their instructions easy for fighters to hear or understand. Make the instructions as simple and specific as possible. Talk to all of the active marshals prior to calling the battle to make sure they each know what is going on. If there is confusion among the marshals it will be much worse for the fighters. Marshals need to talk to each other before each battle. Keep calls short, deep and loud while yelling from the diaphragm. Deep yells will be more easily heard than high pitched ones.

Where to instruct from Sound waves travel in a cone generally in the direction a person is facing. The people to either side and behind will not be able to hear instructions as well as those in front, especially if they are over about 20 feet away. The best place to give instructions is from the middle of the field, rotating 90 degrees on every repetition. Give the instructions exactly the same to north, east, west, and south. In two team battles it is possible to stand at the side of the field half way in between the teams and yell toward the middle of the field. If the marshal is far enough to the side the cone of sound will envelope both teams. In large battles it is often easier to have the field marshals and line marshals explain to groups of fighters what is going on. It is also better if ALL marshals yell the ‘lay on’ command after the battle marshal.

Edge Of The World

Often it is necessary to make an arbitrary boundary, or edge, to the field. This can be done by field lining as is done on sports fields, using a natural boundary like a ditch or road, or using some other type of marking. Brightly colored rope in long lengths can be purchased at most home improvement stores and makes a great boundary, as well as being useful for other things like bridge battles and battle circles. A warning boundary about 10 feet inside the actual edge is a good idea as it gives the fighters a bit of leeway.

Marshals must make sure that all fighters know where the boundary is prior to the battle. It is also helpful if the line marshals yell out “EDGE OF THE WORLD” as fighters approach. People have a tendency to get angry for being called dead for stepping over something they cannot see well. It is up to the battle marshal to determine exactly what the call for stepping over the edge is, but is must be consistent. In most cases if any part of the fighter’s foot is over the edge they are called dead. Line Marshals need to be very conscious of this and call people dead instantly. DO NOT call someone dead or center them if they are aware of the edge and stay close to it. Sometimes fighters will use the edge as a tactical advantage.


Marshal calls should never be argued by a fighter. A simple “WHAT?!?!” from a fighter is ok and should be answered by a repetition of the call. Anything more should be dealt with instantly by calling the fighter dead. Fighter adrenaline is high and sometimes even the coolest person can lose their temper. Keep this in mind when dealing with argumentative fighters. The basic way to deal with this should be as follows:

  • Marshal - YOU ARE HIT!
  • Fighter – WHAT?!?!
  • Marshal – YOU ARE HIT!

This should be the end of it, but sometimes is not.

  • Fighter – HE DIDN”T HIT ME!!!!!!
  • Marshal – Do not argue with a marshal, take the hit.
  • Fighter – He didn’t hit me!!!!
  • Marshal – You are dead, do not argue with a marshal.

If the fighter does not die immediately, tell them to get off the field. If they do not, call a hold and call all marshals to you. Then a few marshals should escort the person off of the field. If the fighter is still argumentative or gets worse the marshal should tell the fighter to go home. If he does not go home the police should be called.

The Tabard

Only when wearing the yellow tabard should a person act as a marshal. When it is worn you are a marshal, when not you are a character. The tabard should be a bright yellow and plain so it is easily recognizable. This should be worn even while checking weapons. The tabard separates a person from their character and places them in the role of something in charge. The tabard should be worn over any other garb or in place of garb. There should be no decoration, unit symbols, or anything on the outside which takes away from the impartiality of being a marshal. Many fabric stores sell fabric remnants or cheap fabric at less than $1 a yard which is 48”-70” wide. Three yards can make 2-3 tabards very cheap. Cut the fabric about 24” wide and 3 yards long, fold in half, cut an 8” half circle centered along the fold for the head to go through.

The Rule Breaker

When a fighter breaks a rule it is important for a marshal to understand that the fighter may be unaware of the rule. Marshals should make the assumption that the rule breaker is unaware of wrong doing unless the marshal has personally already warned the person or has heard the person be warned by another marshal. When a person breaks the rule the marshal should call them dead if it is a grievous or dangerous rule break and then call them over, or call them over after the battle. The marshal should explain the situation and how it broke the rules to the fighter, and warn the fighter that if it happens again they will be penalized. The marshal should always warn the fighter that from this point on all marshals will be watching specifically for further rule breaks. The marshal should then inform all other marshals to be on the lookout. If a person continues to break the rules after repeated warnings, they should be removed from the field on the next infraction. If it happens again, the fighter should be suspended by the group leader for at least a month. If it still happens, the fighter should be banned.

There are many different rules in the game. Some are very specific while others are subjective. Subjective rules such as hit calibration are the ones marshals need to be more lenient on. Pull the person aside and try to get them to understand what they need to do to comply. Do this as often as possible on subjective rules. Specific rules should have no leeway at all. If a person doesn’t take a hit, pull them aside later and explain what a hit is. If a person bashes someone from behind, remove them immediately.

Subjective Rules

Any rule which is open to interpretation is considered a subjective rule. There are many of these rules in the game that marshals need to be aware of. The easiest way to understand what these rules are is through conversations with other marshals. If two marshals have differing opinions on the rule, it is most likely subjective.

Some examples include:

  • Sufficient force of hits.
  • Half throws on short range missile attacks.
  • Grappling.
  • How soft a weapon has to be.

When dealing with subjective rules, it is up to the marshal to make the distinction for the fighters. If a fighter does something which crosses the line they should be pulled away and talked to. If the line crossing is too dangerous they should be stopped immediately. It is also acceptable to talk to the fighters during combat to let them know they are approaching the line of too much. Subjective rules can be a real pain in the * since different people will have different ideas. Marshals need to take a look at the specific situation and determine how much discipline, if any, if called for.

Objective Rules

These are the rules with no room for interpretation. Weapon specifications are a great example. If the rules say the maximum length is 6”, then even the slightest amount over that fails. Objective rules are those which are explicitly stated. No leeway should be given to fighters who violate these rules. They should be immediately penalized. If the rules do not include a penalty, it is up to the marshal to give one on the spot based upon the severity of the violation. If a Zio hits Bob in the head, Zio has broken the rules and should be penalized. This could be anything from removal for an extended period of time to just a simple warning not to do it again. The difference comes from the severity of the offence. If Bob was just in the wrong place and it was an accident, give a warning. If Zio has been going after Bob’s head, boot him off the field.

When it comes to objective rules, it is necessary for the marshal to understand and know them. These rules are the basis for the game. They are put forth for specific reasons and without them the game cannot be played. It is imperative that marshals know ALL of the rules, and even more imperative to know the objective rules inside and out.


Whenever a person breaks the rules the marshal needs to impose a penalty. The simplest penalty is to call the person ‘dead’ and explain the situation later. Sometimes even this is too severe. Under no circumstances should a marshal let a rule violation go unpunished. Even a simple ‘Don’t do that again!” is often enough. Ignoring a rule violation will only encourage more violations. While calling out the rule violations and applying penalties on even the smallest of things will encourage beer game play by everyone.

Penalties should be applied based upon the severity of the action. In most cases a simple call of ‘Dead’ is enough. In some cases a more severe penalty is called for. If the violation is accidental, causes no injury, and has no potential to cause injury then a simple verbal warning is enough. If it is not accidental, causes injury, has major potential to cause injury, or is a repetitive violation then a penalty of being removed from the field is not out of line.

Calling Hits

Calling hits on fighters is the most subjective rule in the game, and therefore should be something which marshals deal with the least. Yet many fighters believe that calling hits is the primary duty of a marshal. This causes some huge problems for a marshal. There is no way a marshal can follow every fighter, every weapon, or every swing. It is also one of the most difficult things to call even when conditions are perfect.


Perspective - A short story: Once upon a time there were 3 fighters left alive toward the end of the battle. Smazil with his large ax, Jollop with 2 swords and an ‘injured’ leg, and Seeahtee running around with a javelin. There were 4 active marshals equally spaced around the battle circumference watching this as well as the rest of the ‘dead’ fighters spaced around. Smazil rushed Jollop and had just ‘killed’ him when Seeahtee threw the javelin. The javelin flew straight at Smazil and hit. EVERY marshal and ‘dead’ fighter saw Smazil get hit in the gut by Seeahtee’s javelin. EVERY one of them was beginning to applaud the beautiful javelin throw. Then Smazil looks up and charges Seeahtee. Seeahtee doe not even blink at the blown off hit and charges in. Marshals call a hold and call Smazil dead. Smazil, Seeahtee, and Jollop all question the call. It was perspective. The javelin had actually hit the haft of Smazil’s ax. The 3 fighters all saw it was not a hit. Smazil and Seeahtee saw it from the straight line of flight of the javelin. Jollop saw it from below as Smazil was standing over him.

This story points out the problem with calling hits. Perspective is king. Every person in the story other than the 3 fighters had good perspective. The marshals had perfect perspective. Everyone watching knew the javelin hit, yet it did not. When it comes to calling hits a marshal needs to understand perspective. A good angle of view may not be enough. Because of this, marshals should only call hits when they are absolutely 100% sure that there was no way their perspective could have been impaired. In other words, rarely.

Only the striking surface can score a hit – Another story: Wonka swung at Cholo. It was an obvious hit to every marshal watching. Cholo knew it was a hit and took it. Wonka’s hit was a beautiful shot to Cholo’s torso. As Cholo begins to drop to the ground ‘dead’, Wonka keeps hitting. If it was such a perfect shot, why didn’t Wonka stop? Because he knew it was not the striking surface which struck.

This story points out another hit calling problem. The question of what exactly hit where. Many times a weapon will twist or spin in such a way that the striking surface is not the part of the weapon which connects with the target. When trying to call a hit the marshal must be able to determine if the striking surface actually hit. In the above story, Wonka should have been reprimanded for hitting with a non-striking surface. If it continues to happen he should be restricted in fighting styles and weaponry.

Moving away – A third story: Jimbo was running by Zaker when Zaker swung at him. Zaker’s swing hit Jimbo’s back as Jimbo ran by. Jimbo keeps running and does not take the hit. He didn’t even try to block it.

This is another example of the difficulty of hit calling. If the target is moving with the swing the force of the hit will be reduced. This sounds to most as common sense, but many people forget this in combat. As a marshal if the target area is moving away from the swing as the swing hits, you need to give the benefit of doubt to the target. The force could have been reduced to a level which was not sufficient.

Target area hit redistribution At times weapons will seem to hit a specific area and the target will take another area. The marshal will see the person get hit in the torso while the person takes a leg. This is not unusual. It is impossible to know where the person felt the force of the hit. If the weapon hit both torso and leg, the target may have felt more on the leg which overpowered the feeling of torso.

There are so many variables in hit possibilities that there is no way to cover every possibility in text. Herealds need to remember that perspective, movement, blocking, partial blocking, parrying, weapon twisting, etc. can very much reduce what the target feels. Only when it becomes a problem brought to the marshals attention should they step in. Unless of course the marshal is convinced, then call it.

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