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Descriptions for Field Division Directions

Following the 2021 rules change, SENA A5F1b now says that that changing the direction of partition lines is considered a Substantial Change, as is the difference between divided and undivided fields.

As a result, when using the Complex Search form to do conflict checking for fielded armory, we can add a second line for the field that matches anything with a similar direction.

For example, when looking for conflicts for armory blazoned “Per fess argent and vert, [anything]”, we would typically start a complex search with a criteria line for “PFESS:pl:argent:~and vert”. I believe that in this case we can safely add a second criteria line for “PFESS|FIELD DIV.-BARRY|NO”, which will still match per-fess items with other colors, or barry items, or fieldless items, but will exclude items which have solid fields, or per-pale fields, or bendy, etc.

That search should give us:

  • the maximum score for an identical per-fess field with the same line type and tinctures;
  • one less than the maximum for any per-fess or barry field;
  • one less than the maximum for any fieldless item;
  • two less than the maximum (and thus safely ignored) for any other type of field.

I’ve only been experimenting with this technique for a few weeks, and I’m not yet confident that I’ve figured out all of the potential hitches in it, but in my tests, this seems to cut down the number of items which have to be checked by hand (at times significantly), without ever excluding from consideration any items that might actually conflict.

If you want to give it a try, here’s a list of headings you can add as a second line for the field in a complex search when conflict-checking:

  • Per Bend Sinister or Bendy Sinister: PBS|FIELD DIV.-BENDY*3|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Per Chevron Inverted or Chevronelly Inverted: PCI|FIELD DIV.-CHEVRONELLY|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Quarterly: QLY|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Lozengy or Other Grid-like Tilings: FIELD DIV.-LOZENGY OR FUSILY|FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO
  • Party of Six, Orly, Others Not Mentioned Above: FIELD DIV.9OTHER|NO

I’ve included the catch-all FIELD DIV.9OTHER type for all of these because items with that heading might also need hand-checking; for example, “party of six” is coded as FIELD DIV.9OTHER, and it’s not clear how much difference we would find between that and “checky.”

Sadly there isn’t a compact way to search for undivided fields, so if you want to add a line for those you need to mash a whole bunch of tinctures and treatments together; I think this might cover most of the relevant options, but I worry that I’ve missed a couple of salient choices:


If you give this a try, I’d love to know how it works out for you. I’m particularly interested in hearing of any potential traps, in which using this technique might exclude a legitimate conflict from consideration.

JSON Data for the Traceable Art

As part of my effort to facilitate the development of a successor to the current, somewhat jury-rigged system used to publish the Traceable Heraldic Art collection, I’ve been working on exporting the current data in a format that could be imported by someone developing a successor system.

You can now retrieve nearly all of the textual content of the collection via a series of JSON data files which are automatically rebuilt each time the site is updated. Continue reading “JSON Data for the Traceable Art”

Seeking A Technical Collaborator or Successor for the Traceable Heraldic Art

As we approach the fifth anniversary of my Traceable Heraldic Art project, and given how terribly overcommitted I am with numerous projects underway, I wanted to let folks know that if someone with a strong software-development background was interested in developing the next generation of the system that hosts that collection, I’d be open to collaboration and eventually turning it over to someone else to run.

This recent blog post lays out some of the background on how the current system works and what I hope might some day replace it, and links to the source code and data files I use to build and update the site. A successor system might be coded very differently, but I would hope that it would still support the current functionality and enable the development of new capabilities, so it seems likely to be of similar complexity.

This doesn’t mean I am about to abandon the project, but I have spent somewhere about four thousand hours on it already, and would like to free up some time to work on other things. If you’re a combination web-development nerd and armorial-art nerd, and you’re interested in spending years of your life improving and maintaining a much-valued community resource, drop me a line!

An Idiosyncratic System for Publishing the Traceable Heraldic Art

[Note: The below is a lightly-edited revision of an email message I sent to a contributor to the Traceable Heraldic Art collection who asked about the technology used to update the web site. It’s somewhat rambling and may not be of interest to most, but I figured it was worth putting it in the public record. — Mathghamhain]

In hindsight it would have been sensible to tackle the creation of the online Traceable Heraldic Art collection as a web database project, but for historical reasons that’s not at all how it’s architected. Continue reading “An Idiosyncratic System for Publishing the Traceable Heraldic Art”

On Belling the Cat

[Note: this post is not specifically related to heraldry, but I’ve included it here because it is very much concerned with the question of developing web-based tools and addresses issues that frequently arise in the discussion of digital heraldic resources. — Mathghamhain]

Someone recently commented that it was a shame that the SCA didn’t have a tool on its main website that allowed people to enter their zip code and get links to their their closest local branches — instead newcomers need to use a two-step process of using the SCA’s site to find a kingdom based on state, province, or country, then using that kingdom’s search tools to find their local group — surely it would be more welcoming to simplify that process? And might the fact that such an integrated tool doesn’t exist reveal that the SCA doesn’t care about newcomers?

As I responded, I realized that I had written similar comments about a number of other such proposals — frequent topics of this kind of discussion in the context of the College of Arms are building new web tools for Orders of Precedence, or a central registry of all coats of arms — and of course the same issue comes up in numerous other areas — so I figured I’d clip them out and post them here (with just a bit of editing to allow them to make sense on their own) for use the next time this kind of thing comes up.

One minor challenge for the “just enter your zip code” plan is that some parts of the world don’t use zip codes, so now you are building a web tool that uses country names, zip codes, Canadian FSAs, Australian post codes, New Zealand telephone prefixes, and I’m not sure what else, with an authenticated back-end interface for the officers who manage this data in each kingdom to send you updates, and you need to staff the administration and maintenance of this tool for the next decade, keep up to date with the changes in local officers and revisions to the SCA’s overall web design, and you have zero budget aside from free hosting on the SCA’s server (and that only if you use the tools and platforms they already support).

When you say “it might be time consuming” you are answering the question about why such a thing does not already exist — it would require a lot of work from each of a lot of unpaid volunteers, which would need to be sustained over a period of years to ensure it did not fall out of date. If someone qualified wants to tackle the project, I would love to see it done, but it’s a larger project than it might seem at first glance.

Projects like this are hard to solve with grunt labor — they require technical skill, long-term dedication, and team-building. This is why we haven’t (yet!) solved this problem.

If you can recruit a talented software developer with strong communications skills who wants to devote thousands of hours to this project, I’d be excited to see the results!

And if you are an experienced technology professional who wants to volunteer a decade of their life to building this and keeping it running, please step forward — this would be a great project!

But if what you are saying is that someone else should do this work, about which you lack sufficient knowledge to be able to formulate an implementation plan or estimate the scope of effort required, consider the fable of Belling the Cat.

Conflict Checking Multiply-Divided Field-Only Armory

A couple of years ago, I posted about a technique I picked up from Marie de Blois that allows conflict-checking two- and four-part field-only armory with the O&A complex search form.

It entails running a search for the line type, plus each of the tinctures, and for the tinctures together in reverse order, and the codes for field-only and peripheral-only. Continue reading “Conflict Checking Multiply-Divided Field-Only Armory”

A Survey Of Online Armorial Clip Art Sources

[Editor’s Note: This post draws heavily on an FAQ document produced over the course of several years by multiple users in the SCA Heraldry Unofficial Chat Facebook Group. My thanks to the many people who helped create this resource. — Mathghamhain]

The SCA College of Arms does not have a master list of all registrable charges — we add new ones all the time, and we remove others that are determined to be not something found in period heraldry — but these resources can give you a good idea what’s out there, and provide ready-to-use art for those who can draw original illustrations on their own.

You can incorporate these images directly in your armorial illustrations or use them as references when drawing new original art. Continue reading “A Survey Of Online Armorial Clip Art Sources”

A Survey of Digital Tools for Armory Illustration

[Editor’s Note: This post draws heavily on a FAQ document produced over the course of several years by multiple users in the SCA Heraldry Unofficial Chat Facebook Group. My thanks to the many people who helped create this resource. — Mathghamhain]

There are a wide variety of electronic tools that can be used for illustrating armory at all stages of the process — sketching out ideas, filling out submission forms, and displaying registered designs.

Each of these programs has both strong points and limitations, and a learning curve associated with getting familiar with the user interface and feature set. There are tutorials and documentation available for each of them online, including web pages and YouTube videos. Continue reading “A Survey of Digital Tools for Armory Illustration”

Building the O-and-A Search from Source

In a recent post, I described how to install the software that drives the College of Arms’ Ordinary and Armorial on your own web site, but if you’re interested in modifying that software, you’ll need to be able to build it from source.

The O&A web search software is bundled into an open-source package named Morsulus-tools, along with the utilities that are used to manage and update the database. Continue reading “Building the O-and-A Search from Source”