A device is the SCA term for the symbol of a person or group. It is also known as a shield of arms. This is what people paint onto their shields or sew into their clothing (or weave into their maille, etc). Devices are a big part of heraldry.
The SCA has some standards for devices, and maintains a registry of charges. If you plan to register your device, you'd do well to consult a Herald before you get too bogged down in ideas. It's fine to work on the registration process on your own, but you will have to submit it to the College of Heralds for approval.
What makes a good device
- As few colours as possible
- As few charges as possible
- Every charge should be from pre-17th-century heraldry (sorry guys, no Loony Toons characters)
- A style that was used in pre-17th-century heraldry
- Repetition or mirror-imaging of a charge
- High contrast
Registering your device in the SCA
The process to register a device in the SCA has gotten the reputation of being a mystical labyrinth, but this is not the case. Remember that heralds want your device to be registered. The more you work with them, the better chance it will pass.
- Decide you want a device - How much time someone puts into this process varies. Depending on the interests and experience of the submitter (you), this can range from asking a herald to give them something with a blue lion on it, to undertaking a lengthly research project into an exact design appropriate for their persona. Either way, it is not a bad idea to thumb through some heraldry books or web pages to get an idea of what you might like.
- Consultation - Most areas require that you make at least some contact with your local herald. Whether you work extensively with the herald to design your arms or just hand them the paperwork depends on the submitter. Ways to find a local herald are:
- Contact the herald of your nearest SCA group.
- Many large events and some small ones have heraldic consultation tables.
- If you do not live in an area that has access to the above options, go online, and contact your Kingdom herald. He/she will put you in contact with a warranted herald-at-large who can help you.
- Don't forget the name - The SCA requires you to submit a name along with the device. This requires a separate set of forms and documentation than the device. At the bear minimum, it can be <first name> of <group>. For example, Sabine of Carolingia. Name submissions usually require documentation.
- Submit your device - Fill out the paperwork, compile the documentation, make the required number of copies, and submit payment of fees. Remember that heralds handle a lot of paperwork and correcting problems takes time. If you are careful about sending the right stuff the first time, there will not be delays or possible administrative bounces later on.
- Kingdom review - Once submitted, your device is passed to your Kingdom heralds. The heralds review it for style, adherence to SCA heraldry rules, and check it against conflict. If there is a problem, the device is rejected. The submitter is then notified of the problem and why it was rejected. If the device is ok, then it is passed onto the College of Arms.
- Society review - After Kingdom review, the device is passed to the College of Arms. Here the device is checked again for style and conflict issues. Ideally, if handled well at Kingdom, most devices that reach Society level should have no problems with them.
- Registration! - The whole registration process usually takes 6 months to a year, depending on where you live and when you submit. Once your name and device are registered, they are solely your property until the end of time. Remember that you always can change or register a new name and device, though there are limits to the number of pieces of armory one person can have.