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Nobody Sluffs
[12/20/2004] [Randall]

A few weeks back, I was brainstorming a few ideas for articles for the e-Samurai. Some of ‘em got handed off to other people (this could be you!), others got written, and a few just sat there while I contemplated them. One in particular germinated longer than I would have liked. It was the idea about sluffing.

See, I had this theory. People don’t sluff, at least not most of the time. On the other hand, everyone says everyone else sluffs. This got me thinking, and while I was thinking, two things happened. One was a series of complaints on sluffing in my own kingdom, and the other was a long thread on shot-taking in the forums. Like any good e-Samurai, I was happy to see good discussion and people speaking up . . . but it would’ve been nice to have posted the article you’re about to see when it was still timely.

So. . . to give you the very best in article enjoyment, I’m going to get into the head of the sluffer. I’ll just go ahead and present to you my article as though all that discussion and forum posting never happened.

What does it mean to sluff? The term is a corruption of ‘slough’, which means ‘a hole filled with mud’ and ‘a state of moral degradation’. Both of these work nicely, but for our purposes slough means ‘to shrug off or shed’, the way a snake sheds its skin. Basically, if you sluff a shot in Amtgard, it means you’re illegally disregarding a valid hit on your person. This is also called ‘shrugging’, ‘blowing off shots’, or ‘atomic clock’.

Just about everyone who participates in Amtgard is certain that someone has sluffed them at some point or another. And if you poll a park, you’ll probably find that everyone there has someone who thinks they’re not taking their shots. In other words, everyone sluffs.

The truth is much different. The truth is that what you think is a valid shot may have been disregarded for a variety of reasons.

The most common sluffers are the newest members. These are people who either don’t know what a valid shot is yet, or don’t realize that they have to adjudicate their own shots fairly. Most people react to newbie sluffers with excessive violence – “Let’s see if he feels this!” – which is, of course, a wonderful recruiting technique and a great way to retain new members. This isn’t necessary. Most of the time, the newbie just needs to have shot-taking explained to him.

Perception is another problem. Let’s face it. Our swords are very light, very fast, and often it’s hard to see exactly what happened. What may look like a legal shot may only have clipped a shield, tagged garb, or landed firmly on a hand-guard. Almost every complaint in every tournament I’ve ever seen has been about fractions of a inch. If that’s all it takes to differentiate the sluffers from the honest folk, we may as well just start flipping coins to determine winners.

It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Almost all of those ‘nearly there’ or ‘questionable’ shots are just that – nearly there or questionable.

Perception gets even more difficult because you might actually have hit your foe . . . on the wrist. Or on the foot. Or in the face. Or on the leg, and then drew-cut them up to the hip. Then, when they keep their arm, leg, health, or life, you think they sluffed you, when the truth is you just saw the shot wrong.

A person’s personal clock – how close shots must be for them to call it a simo – is a big culprit as well. There’s not a fighter here who hasn’t valiantly killing his enemy only to die in turn, and then look on amazed as the enemy ran off unscathed. This is probably cause for more accusations of shot-sluffing than anything else. Once again, the truth is normally a lot different. Most of the time, they just think your shot was late and they hit you first. In shot-in-motion kingdoms, this might mean their clock is wound a little tight, but it doesn’t necessarily make them a cheater. If could mean your shot was actually late. It happens.

Of course, those first three scenarios never actually happen. We all know the real reason people don’t take shots is because they don’t feel them. That means we need to get our illegal swords and hit them hard enough so that they do feel them.

Aren’t you glad you play this game?

But people do feel them. Our swords are soft, but they aren’t that soft. More often than not, it’s not that you didn’t hit them hard enough. It’s that you didn’t hit them at all and just think you did. Or your shot was late. Or they’re a newbie and don’t know what a legal shot is. There’s many, many reasons why your shot may not have been valid, and it’s hardness is seldom one of them. A shot doesn’t have to be hard. It just has to be precise. Work on that and you’ll improve both your own skills and the game in general.

In a similar vein, sometimes folks do feel your shots but don’t think they are hard enough. They might come from another park where light shots are disregarded. This isn’t sluffing, but it is being discourteous. The proper thing for a guest to do is use your land’s standards when visiting. This may be hard to enforce, but it’s generally not a problem. Visitors always go home.

A final problem – and one that will hopefully die when 7th Edition is approved – is that of atomic clock vs. shot in motion. This is basically an extreme case of your foe saying his shot landed first. Once again, the solution always seems to be to hit harder, when the smart thing would be to hit faster.

That all said, it’s entirely possible that you’re facing an honest-to-goodness sluffer. They might have their reasons for cheating. Maybe they want to win a tournament. Maybe they used to be good but can’t compete in the modern day. Maybe they don’t think you’re good enough to beat them. Maybe they do it because they can. Maybe they’re a lone holdout who thinks you modern kids take shots way too light. Whatever the reason, it’s cheating, plain and simple. The solution isn’t to hurt them by swinging harder, because they won’t get it and you’ll just wind up hurting someone else. The solution is to either be good enough that their cheating doesn’t matter, or ensure that reeves will do their jobs.

While neither solution is particularly easy, we’re fortunate in that most people don’t fall into that last category. A true sluffer is rare.

So the next time you think someone isn’t taking your shots, consider the many other factors that could be at work. Each problem has a right solution and a wrong solution. The wrong solution is almost always to hit harder. If that’s what you’re doing, stop. Think about all the ways the person could not be sluffing you. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Often, that’s all it takes to realize that almost nobody really sluffs.

Oh, and one more thing. This article isn’t late. You have to take it. Sluffer.

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