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How to Win a Fight at a Renaissance Festival (part 1)

Willliam 'Foe' Foley restrains Space Pirate Captain Drew who is trying to show him how to win a fight at a Renaissance Festival.
(Photo by Dean Ansley of The Guy Behind the Camera)

First of all, if you have half a brain you would know that you should never, ever, plan how to win a fight at your local Renaissance Festival. It’s just a bad idea all the way around, Charlie.

Besides all of the obvious reasons for a person to avoid getting into a fight at any Renaissance Festival (broken teeth, forfeiture of Renfest Patron license, court costs), there are other less obvious reasons.

Like getting a new nickname.

You have to ask yourself: “Self, do I want my friends to call me “Rennyfest Roger” or “Jousting Jerome” or “Turkey Legges Tommy” or “King ‘Dilly-Dilly’ Danny Bucklemeyer”?

(Note: your name would have to be Danny Bucklemeyer for that last one to really work.)

If you think these are the sort of names you would like to be called by the people you know you might as well stop reading now and get to fighting, Jerome!

For those of you who have continued reading I will assume that you possess at least half a brain and could use a few of my patented pirate pointers on how to win a Renaissance Festival fight (hereafter referred to by its official industry name: “RenFight”).

For reasons that continue to defy scientists who study Renaissance Festivals*, RenFights always include 3 or more participants and so this guide will assume that you are facing off against more than one foe.

Wizards First!

Always go after the guy (or gal) who looks the most like a wizard. Wizards come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they can all be generally identified by their accouterments (which is French for ‘strange things a person will wear simply to get attention’).

Wizard haberdashery may include newsboy caps, sports jackets with patches on the elbows, eyeglasses with unnecessarily thick frames, or a wide variety of bowling shirts.

They often groom their mustaches (male and female wizards) with a paste wax that you can only order from Herefordshire, England, and may require the use of a special clipper to ensure that their sideburns are pointy (caution: NEVER confuse wizard sideburns for douchebag vampire sideburns – THEY ARE QUITE DIFFERENT!).

The best way to quickly identify a wizard is by loudly announcing that ‘Pretzel Logic was the best album that Mister Steely Dan ever produced’.

Wait for a reaction.

If none is forthcoming add “You know, the band was never the same after Michael McDonald went his own way”.

Any true wizard in the group will be unable to resist this bait.

Time to strike!

Never actually hit a wizard as they are incredibly fragile. Instead, just shout out something about double-barrel IPAs, then reach over and tap them smartly on the shoulder while looking them straight in the eye. You can say “Abracadabra!” or whatever, but that’s entirely optional.

The cool thing about wizards is that they fold up like a garden luggage** once they’ve been hit and are smart enough to stay down.

The Berserker

This one is going to be tougher. The Berserker is always primed for a battle – it’s what they live for.

You should hope that you encounter a male Berserker because, speaking in broad, unenlightened, gender-clumsy terms, men generally lack the commitment of their female counterparts.

The main weapon of a RenFight Berserker is, in fact, language; highly accusatory, salt-encrusted, finger-waggling language. Be prepared for a lot of yelling and a lot of hurt feelings (mostly yours).

It is important to know that Berserkers don’t simply express their opinions, they do so using scathing undertones, rich with unspoken implications.

Berserkers also do a whole lot of finger-pointing followed up by some form of long vitriolic blog post or negative review later in the day (I am really good at those on Yelp!).

The worst thing you can do is attempt to de-escalate an encounter with a Berserker, as this will only enrage them further.

Your only option is retreat.

Smelly Boltholes

Look for a place with a door that locks from the inside, preferably your car. If you can’t make it back to your car in time I recommend using a porta-potty.

Do not attempt to hide in a whiz rocket!!!

If you manage to find an empty porta-potty, lock the door and begin making pooping noises (I find that I make the most realistic pooping noises when I am actually pooping, so you should def try that).

It is important that you wait until security has subdued the Berserker and hauled them away (to a cooling tent for water and light snacks) before you attempt to emerge from your smelly bolthole (it is of that, which she spake).

You may not see the Berserker again that day but be prepared to read about what an awful person you are later, on Facebook, Facebook Lite, Twitter… but mostly on Live Journal.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: you probably earned their ire, being that you’re the sort of person who would read an article on how to win a fight at a Renaissance Festival.

Bottomline: you will only ever lose a fight against a Berserker, especially if it’s a lady whose name is spelled one way but inexplicably pronounced an entirely different way.

Doubly so if she posts to social media on behalf of her significant other (which may be a husband, a wife, a cat, or some form of higher marsupial).

Bottom-Bottomline: don’t piss off a Berserker if you are on Yelp!

The Jester

This will be one of your most dangerous foes because they seem so non-threatening, even as you are losing to them in battle.

Jesters almost always come from the closest neighboring state whose population is mocked by people from the state you are in, and may be identified by their low tooth-to-citizen count.

The Jester will seem friendly and funny.

This is a trap.

Do not be fooled by wide smiles, or their charming tooth-whistling pronunciations of medieval dishes like “b’tater sambwissh”, “fried cornbradd”, “okra pie”, or “row tide pie”.

You will want to buy the Jester a drink just to hear them talk!



The Jester is always drunk before they enter the gates of a kingdom (see: jester union rules).

While Jesters may be named anything from Roscoe to Mandi Jean Pinto Roscoe Taylorbottom, you should never attempt to attract a Jester’s attention by actually invoking their name because, once spoken to, they will never leave you alone.

Jesters are incredibly dangerous.

Not because of any sort of inherent fighting skill, but due to a high level of physical ineptitude. Jesters are the same sort of people whose stumblebum mishaps continually reset those “Days Since Last Accident” signs in factories.

Jesters have been known to both start and end epic RenFights simply by falling off of their jousting turnips*** or attempting to tip a minstrel with Canadian pennies.

End of Part 1

Okay, I’m tired now.

I will add a Part 2 later, if people feel it’s actually necessary to detail techniques like blustering, puffery, loud yelling, feints, bobs, boobs, squeals, or slap fighting. All of these will be integral in determining how to win a fight at a Renaissance Festival.

– – –

* much like the women who defy the scientists who study Renaissance Festivals

** we have no idea what ‘Garden Luggage’ is either. (Editor)

*** jousting turnips are no longer allowed at the Georgia, North Carolina, or Burning Mandi RennyFests


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