How do you conflict check a device?

Please note: This guide was written for the Rules for Submissions (RFS), the now previous version of the heraldry submissions rules. A new version for the Standards for the Evaluation of Names and Armory (SENA) will be compiled at a later date.

So you want to check a new device for conflict? It’s one of the trickiest parts of being a book herald, and a lot of otherwise expert heralds throw in the yellow-and-green towel when they even get close. I used to be like that, but people like Teceangl Bach and Giles Leabrook helped me learn, and now I’m going to help you.

First, get hold of the Rules for Submissions. This is the basis of what I’m about to describe.

The Basics

Consider a client’s device, A, which you’re comparing with an already-registered device, B. Look at section X of the RfS:

  • X.1: If A has a primary charge and B doesn’t, A and B don’t conflict.
  • X.2: If A has a primary charge and B has a substantially different primary charge, they don’t conflict, provided they are both “X.2 Simple” (see the RfS for the new definition of X.2 Simple); If they’re not X.2 Simple, you can’t use this rule. (Substantially different is Dog vs Pile, or Lion vs Fleur-de-lys, not Lion vs Tiger or Chevron Embattled vs Chevron)
  • X.3: Ignore this rule unless A and B are both branch arms. In fact, in the words of Blaise: “This is the most misunderstood rule in the RfS. Ignore this rule unless you are a certified Professional Trained Stunt Herald. This rule applies so seldom that if you think it applies, ask your kingdom submission herald before claiming that it applies.”
  • X.4: If all these fail, you need two CDs (Clear Differences). Go through the list in the RfS.

Checking

This is my simple procedure for conflict checking, once you’ve gotten to X.4 (and not before!):

  1. Any time a client comes up with a design that isn’t X.2 Simple, remind them that simple style is good style, and suggest they take a look at some real period heraldry to inspire a version that is X.2 Simple. In the words of Uberto Renaldi, Stress to them that this is not for the sake of “the heralds’ rules” but rather because it will be more medieval in style that way.  (But see Eleyne’s footnote, below, even if you achieve this goal.)
  2. Using the on-line Ordinary and your experience and the experience of other heralds and the on-line precedents (starting from the most recent and moving backwards), work out an exhaustive list of what charges are and are not substantially different from the one you’re checking. Ignore everything that falls into the “substantially different list”.
  3. You’ll be reading through all the Ordinary entries for charges that are not substantially different. Figure out, in your head, what is enough reason to discard a device. That is, what are the indicators that you have enough CDs to be clear. For example, if you’re checking FIELD, a PRIMARY then you know you can have a CD for changes to the primary, and a CD for changes to the field, and a CD for secondary charges. Similarly, if you’re checking FIELD, a PRIMARY and a SECONDARY, you have a CD for the field, the primary, and the removal of the secondary.
  4. Start with the “slightly different” primaries. For example, in checking against an uncharged, straight-line fess, check the charges and/or complex-line fesses first. You already have one CD for either charging or complex line, so for these, you only need to check the field. They’re in alphabetical order by field, so this is the quick bit. Write down any that come close. You’ll need to present these to other heralds to show you’ve done your job!
  5. Now look at the exactly-the-same primaries. Start by checking the same field; might as well get the bad news out of the way early. If you find any the same, you need to look carefully, counting secondaries and hoping. If you don’t find any the same, you know for a fact that everything is at least one CD away. Again, write down any that come close.
  6. Everything is (or should be) written in the form, FIELD, a PRIMARY… or FIELD, on a PRIMARY a TERTIARY…. If you get as far as FIELD, [on] a PRIMARY and the primary is substantially different, don’t read any further on that line; it’s clear. Move on. Similarly, if your device has no secondaries, as soon as you see “and a chief” or “a bordure”, it’s clear; move on.
  7. Read fast, but not so fast that you miss something. Each time your eye skips to a new row, you need to be certain you’ve discarded the previous row for a good and solid reason. Concentrate! If in doubt (and believe me, you’ll still be in doubt occasionally, no matter how good you get) write it down and ask someone.

That’s it; that’s my conflict checking technique. Thanks to Giles who really got me over the hump from unconfident newbie to the smug bastard I am today (one correspondent wondered if perhaps I wasn’t already a smug bastard, but Giles confirmed that in the matter of conflict checking specifically I was not overly smug when he knew me; Giles is a good man for faint praise). Anyone who’d like to comment and refine, please do; this FAQ is a work in progress, always!


A footnote on non-simple armory.  Eleyne writes:

There is a slim but possible conflict that there is a conflict which is not itself X.2 simple (remember: X.2 Simple means there are no more than two types of charge directly on the field, and no “overall” charges).

For example, consider the proposed device: Azure, a fess between three escallops argent.  This is X.2 Simple: there’s a fess and some escallops: two types on the field.  Even if the fess were charged with something else, it would still be X.2 Simple, because the “something else” is not on the field.

But there’s a theoretical conflict, with Azure, a lymphad between an escallop, an anchor and another escallop argent.  As the “registered” device (the second one) is not X.2 simple we have to count CDs:

1 CD for changing the type of the primary
no CDs for changing the type of just one of the secondaries.

So that’s a conflict!  Fortunately this sort of thing is rare, but you should keep your eye out for it anyway.  The best laid plans of mice and high-speed conflict checkers gang a-wossname on occasion.

Author: Karl Faustus von Aachen (with suggestions and corrections from Blaise de Cormeilles, Uberto Renaldi, Eleyne de Comnocke and others)

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