Rules of Heraldry

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I. Armorial Content

I. 1. Identification Requirement – Elements must be recognizable solely from their appearance.


Any charge, line of partition, or field treatment used in Talossan armory must be identifiable, in and of itself, without labels or excessive explanation.


Charges not used in traditional armory may be used in Talossan armory if they are readily distinguishable from other charges that are already in use. But intrusively modern charges, such as aircraft or telephones, should be discouraged.


I. 2. Reconstruction Requirement – Elements must be reconstructible in a recognizable form from a competent blazon.


Any element used in Talossan armory must be describable in standard heraldic terms so that a competent heraldic artist can reproduce the armory solely from the blazon. Elements that cannot be described in such a way that the depiction of the armory will remain consistent may not be used.


I. 3. Marshalling – Armory that appears to marshall independent arms is not to be used, except to indicate actual descent from armigerous parents. In particular, the field divisions quarterly and per pale may only be used in ways that ensure that marshalling is not suggested.


I. 3. a. Such fields may be used with identical charges over the entire field, or with complex lines of partition or charges overall.


I. 3. b. Such fields may not be used if any single portion of the field might appear to be an independent piece of armory. No section of the field may contain an ordinary that terminates at the edge of that section, or more than one charge unless those charges are part of a group over the whole field. Charged sections must all contain charges of the same type to avoid the appearance of being different from each other.


I. 4. Offensive Armory – Vulgarity and obscenity are not permitted.


I. 4. a. Vulgarity – Pornographic or scatological items or designs, obscene images, sexually explicit material, toilet humor, etc. are not to be used.


I. 4. b. Offensive Religious Symbolism – Magical or religious symbolism that is excessive or mocks the beliefs of others may not be used.


Magical or religious symbolism is not usually inherently offensive, but may offend by context. Both devotees and opponents of a particular religion may be offended by an excessive display of the symbols of that religion, for example, a Calvary cross surrounded by four Paschal Lambs and surmounted by a crown of thorns and a whip. Similarly, although a Paschal Lamb is a standard heraldic charge, dismembering the lamb and surmounting it by a pentacle creates an offensive context.


I. 4. c. Stereotypical Designs Allusions to derogatory ethnic, racial, or sexual stereotypes are not to be used. This is true whether the stereotype is inherent in the usage or created by context, like placing a Moor’s head within an orle of watermelons.


I. 4. d. Offensive Political Symbolism Symbols specifically associated with social or political movements or events that are reasonably considered offensive to a particular race, religion, or ethnic group are not to be used. In particular, the fylfot (or cross gammadion) is prohibited as a charge in Talossan heraldry.


I. 5. Reserved Charges – Armory that contains elements reserved to certain ranks, positions, or territorial entities is considered presumptuous and may not be used. For instance, the field Azure semy-de-lys or is restricted to French royalty. The field Per fess vert and gules is restricted to armory of the Talossan nation.


I. 6. Insignia, trademarks, etc. – Overt allusions to modern insignia, trademarks, and the like are prohibited.


Examples might include using a bend within a bordure gules to parody the international "No Entry" sign, variations on the geometric Peace sign, and so forth.


==II. Armorial Style==


II. 1. Simplicity – Armory should be simple and unified in design.


II. 1. a. Complexity Rule – Armory must use a limited number of tinctures and types of charges.


As the number of tinctures involved in a device increases, the number of types of charge should decrease. As the number of types increases, the number of tinctures should decrease. In no case should the number of different tinctures or types of charges be so great as to eliminate the visual impact of any single design element. As a rule, the total of the number of tinctures plus the number of types of charges (the “complexity metric”) should not exceed eight. (A line of partition counts for one “complexity point”, unless a charge follows the line. For instance, Per fess or and argent, three widgets sable and Per fess or and argent, on a fess sable a widget argent both have complexity of 5 – three tinctures, fess, and widget.)


But exceptions to this rule may be allowed, if the overall visual effect is one of artistic unity rather than of over-complexity.


II. 1. b. The Slot-machine Rule – No single charge group may contain more than two types of charge. (This rule is named after the apocryphal On a fess argent a cherry gules and a bell proper and a billet fesswise sable charged with the characters BAR argent.)


II. 1. c. The Sword-and-Dagger Rule – Within a single charge group, all charges of the same general type must be of exactly the same type. That is, Vert, two crosses crosslet and a cross flory argent would not be permitted; nor would Per fess argent and azure, two lobsters and two crawfish counterchanged, nor Gules, in saltire a sword and a dagger or. Exceptions may be made for charges whose appearance differs greatly, as Vert, a palm tree and a pine tree in fess or.


II. 2. Balance – Armory should arrange all elements coherently in a balanced design.


The primary elements of any armory should generally be arranged in a static and balanced design, such as a single charge in the center of the field or three identical charges on an escutcheon. More complex designs frequently include a central focal point around which other charges are placed, like a chevron between three charges, but the design remains static and balanced. Designs that are unbalanced, or that create an impression of motion, are less desirable, but may be allowed if the overall impression is one of beauty and artistic unity.


II. 3. Depth – Armory may not employ depth of field as a design element.


II. 3. i. Perspective – Charges may only be drawn in perspective if they are so depicted in traditional armory.


A pair of dice may be drawn in perspective since they are routinely drawn that way in traditional armory to show the pips. A bear, dolphin, or castle must not be drawn in three dimensions, but should appear only in its standard, flat heraldic form.


II. 3. ii. Layer Limit – Designs may not be excessively layered.


All charges should be placed either directly on the field or entirely on other charges that lie directly on the field. (A charge overall is considered for purposes of this rule to lie directly on the field.) As a kind of exception to this rule, a charge may be placed on a fimbriated charge, but not if it is itself fimbriated. (That is, Gules, on a cross vert fimbriated argent a cross fillet or is legal if a bit gaudy, but Gules, on a cross vert fimbriated argent a cross fillet azure fimbriated argent is too layered to be permitted.)


II. 4. Contrast – All armory must have sufficient contrast to allow each element of the design to be clearly identifiable at a distance.


Each tincture used in Talossan armory may be depicted in a variety of shades, but contrast is determined by the traditional heraldic categorization of tinctures as colors (dark) and metals (light). The colors are azure, gules, sable, vert, and purpure (blue, red, black, green, and purple). The metals are argent and or (white/silver and yellow/gold).


For purposes of contrast, ermined furs or field treatments on a background of a color are treated as colors, while ermined furs or field treatments on a background of a metal are treated as metals. Furs equally divided of light and dark pieces, such as vair, are classed with other evenly divided elements, such as paly, per bend, or lozengy.


The use of purpure should be mildly discouraged. The use of sanguine or tenné in arms, except by special permission, is prohibited; but they may be used in badges.

Bleu-céleste may be used on flags, but not on armorial devices as such.


II. 4. a. Contrasting Tinctures – Good contrast exists between:


  1. A metal and a color;
  2. An element equally divided of a color and a metal, and any other element as long as identifiability is maintained;
  3. A color and a charge, blazoned as proper, that is predominantly light;
  4. A metal and a charge, blazoned as proper, that is predominantly dark.

II. 4. b. Contrast of Field with Charges – The field must have good contrast with every charge placed directly on it and with charges placed overall.


For example, a pale vair between two owls or might be placed on a field gules, but not a field ermine because the owls would not have good contrast. Similarly, a field vert with a fess or contrasts with a wolf rampant overall that is argent or ermine, but not a wolf that is gules or sable.


II. 4. c. Contrast of Charge with Surmounting Charge – A charge must have good contrast with any charge placed wholly on it.


For example, a tree placed on a pale azure could be or, argent, or ermine, but could not be pean or proper.


II. 4. d. Contrast of divided elements


  1. Elements evenly divided into two parts, or into four parts per saltire or quarterly may use any two tinctures or furs. For example, a field quarterly could be composed of azure and gules, argent and or, or and ermine, or vert and vairy gules and argent.
  2. Elements evenly divided into multiple parts of two different tinctures must have good contrast between their parts. For example, checky argent and gules is acceptable, but checky azure and gules is not.
  3. Elements evenly divided in three tinctures must have good contrast between two of their parts.

II. 5. Identifiability – Elements must be used in a design so as to preserve their individual identifiability.


Identifiable elements may be rendered unidentifiable by significant reduction in size, marginal contrast, excessive counterchanging, voiding, or fimbriation, or by being obscured by other elements of the design. For instance, a complex line of partition could be difficult to recognize between two parts of the field that do not have good contrast if most of the line is also covered by charges. A complex divided field could obscure the identity of charges counterchanged.


II. 5. a. Complex voiding or fimbriation Voiding and fimbriation may only be used with simple geometric charges.


II. 6. Pictorial Design – Overly pictorial designs are prohibited.


Design elements should not be combined to create a picture of a scene or landscape. For example, Per fess azure and vert semy of roses argent, a bull pascuant and issuant from chief a demi-sun or is overly pictorial, although no individual element is at all objectionable.


II. 7. Natural Depiction – Excessively naturalistic use of otherwise acceptable charges is strongly discouraged.


Excessively natural designs include those that depict animate objects in unheraldic postures, use several charges in their natural forms when heraldic equivalents exist, or the overuse of proper. Proper is allowed for natural flora and fauna (and other objects) when there is a widely understood default coloration for the charge so specified. It should not be used otherwise. An elephant, a brown bear, or a tree could each be proper; a female American kestrel, a garden rose, or an Arctic fox in winter phase, could not.


II. 8. Excessive Counterchanging – Counterchanging, while attractive and interesting to the modern eye, can easily be very much overused. Restraint is urged.


II. 9. Fieldless Style – Fieldless armory must form a self-contained design.


A fieldless design must have all its elements conjoined, like the three feathers issuing from a crown used by the Heir Apparent to the throne of England. Since there is no field in such a design, it may not use charges that rely on the edges of the field to define their shape, such as bordures and orles, nor to cut off their ends, such as ordinaries or charges throughout.


III. Armorial Coolness

III. 1. Talossan Law of Coolness - Notwithstanding other rules, any armory that makes the Heralds say “Wow, cool!” will be looked on with vast indulgence.


III. 2. Blanc Wolf’s Law of Blazon – When synonymous blazons are available, the Talossan herald will pick the coolest words.


Hence, a badger will be referred to as a brock, a roundel sable as a gunstone or an ogress, bats as reremice, and so on. Cool (and correct) plurals will be used – crosses crosslet, fleurs-de-lys, and so on. Abaised will be preferred to abased. Seeblatter, pizzled, miniver, dextrocheres, goutty d’eau, and a thousand other cool terms will all earn extra points.


III. 3. The "Heralds never make puns — they cant!" Rule - Canting arms are inherently cool.


IV. Armorial Difference

A piece of armory may not be too similar to other pieces of armory.


[ To be expanded and illustrated. ]

Laws of Heraldry

[ Not available ]