Pennsic is a test of arms between the East Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom. As such there has to be some "keeping score" to determine who bests whom, right? Traditionally this has been through "war points." 37 war points to be exact. Traditionally SCA combat has been fought on an honor system. If you get hit hard enough you "die." If enough of your guys "kill" enough of their guys, you get the war point for that battle.
Over the 23 years I have been coming to war I have heard all sides complain about their opponents not taking blows, not dying even when a shot is "good." And when your opponent doesn't die there is a natural tendency to hit him and all his comrades harder. This, of course, makes everyone angry, and angry fighters hurt others and get hurt themselves.
A great deal of this is based in a desire to "win," but this year the king of the East has taken that factor out of the game. He ceded the War to the Middle at the opening ceremonies. Now some are saying that he did this in a fit of pique that the East had fewer fighters and allies than the Middle, and some are saying he did this in hopes that if the "win" isn't a factor everyone will play nicer. Some are saying that the East fighters are so angry about this that they will fight harder, and some others are saying that many East fighters will not bother to even take the field since there is nothing to fight for.
The first battles go off in about an hour. So we'll have to wait and see. As for me I think nothing much will change. Honorable fighters will still fight with honor for the joy of the test of arms. Assholes will still be assholes. The question each fighter has to ask him or herself is: which am I going to be?
Honor, courtesy, and chivalry are still hallmarks of living the dream.