So You Want to be a Master Smith?
by Luke Wyngarde
This article was originally printed on The Electric Samurai
Well, good luck. In my opinion, that title is the truest spirit of Amtgard. Not to belittle the accomplishments of others, but the Smith is the foundation upon which all Amtgard is built. Without people to run battlegames, cook Feasts, hold Quests, make flyers and (most importantly) host Events, this club would be a sorry place, indeed.
As mentioned elsewhere, the most important aspect of Amtgard is the camping event (or just "Event"). The Events are those special weekends when we leave the cares of the real world behind, pack our bags and pitch a tent in the woods (or field, or ravine, or whatever). To most players, this involves sitting under a tree, drinking a cold one, socializing or battling it out with old friends on the ditch field for untold hours at time. A Quest is held, or maybe a Warskill Tourney, and fun is had by all. Then, late Saturday, someone yells "Court is getting ready to start". The good garb comes out, the game-faces vanish, and the Feast line forms around the serving area. Food is served and the populace talks freely while an auctioneer sells the wares of the Kingdom to the interested. Eventually the politicians have a seat and the awards begin. Court ends, the party begins. And so it goes.
But there are people working, too, though most might never pay them any attention.
These people are the Smiths. And they are the reason you are having such a good time, believe it or not. Someone called and reserved the campsite so you would have a place to pitch your tent. Someone else made the advertising flyers so your old friends would know how to get here. Probably four or five folks pitched in to cook feast and four or five more to help serve the goodies to everyone. Then there's the auctioneer, working the crowd to earn some cash for the Kingdom. And the Reeves, Questmaster or Listmistress who helped the battlegame run smoothly at the expense of their own game time. Finally, there are all the "little people" who help make an Event work: gate guards, the clean-up crew, volunteer Monsters and roaming Security.
See, it ain't all sitting in the shade and ditching. And you still want to be a Master Smith? Well, okay, here's how to start:
Prologue: Know What You're Up Against
My first and best advice is don't go into this cold. Go to a few Events and ask to help out. See what is working and what isn't. Learn from the experience of others and try not to relive their mistakes. Plenty of things will go wrong, especially if you're new to this kind of thing, but head a few of the easy ones off at the pass.
Step One: Volunteering
Raise your hand! Get noticed! Bug the Monarchy! Shout "000! 000! 000! Pick me!" Be sure to have an idea in mind when you DO get called upon. Often, Monarchs will ask for a written "bid" or synopsis. Even better, because then you can collect your thoughts on paper before committing to anything.
Step Two: The Cast of Characters
So the King said you could host Midreign? Lucky you! Now you're an Autocrat! The first thing you have to do is get a volunteer for EVERYTHING! Don't even for one second think you can do it all by yourself, because unless you are Superman or can exist in eight different places at once without food or sleep, then you will need help. A few of the more important positions are detailed below:
Autocrat: That's you, the one responsible for maintaining sanity amid the storm. The primary functions of the Autocrat are to make the schedule of events, organize the volunteers and acquire and maintain the site.
Questocrat: A good battlegame can save an otherwise mediocre event. The Questocrat is in charge of the Quest or other battlegames held during the event.
Listmistress: Like a Questocrat for Tournaments, the Listmistress/master is in charge of running a Tourney, either Warskill or Cultural.
Feastocrat: Other than the Autocrat, this Feastocrat is the most important post at an event. A good feast will be remembered for years to come, and a poor feast will be the source of scorn and ridicule. Good luck with this one. My best advice is get the assistance of someone who has done this before and get their advice (if not their supervision or assistance!)
Secureocrat: Banner-thieves beware, the Deputies are watching you! The Secureocrat and his deputies are a roving visual deterrent to thieves, vandals and other troublemakers.
Trashocrat: While this sounds like a dubious honor, the Trashocrat (along with the Autocrat, remember you're responsible for the site! ) is responsible for cleaning up the site and making sure whoever owns the land will not think we're a bunch of littering vandals.
Courtocrat: Often this is the Monarch, or perhaps the Court Herald. The Courtocrat makes the schedule for events during Court, which includes awards, knighting or squiring ceremonies, Out-of-Kingdom business, any auctions or performances, etc.
Gateocrat: Responsible for managing the Gate Guards and collecting funds from those guards. The Gateocrat and the Autocrat should be the ONLY people to handle the drop box until the funds are turned over to the Monarch or Prime Minister.
Kidocrat: Some Events might require a special safe-zone for the children of active Amtgardians. The Kidocrat can arrange arts-and-crafts projects, special games or a Kid's Quest to occupy the attention of our youngest members of the Populace. It is good form to require any parent whose children stay in the Kid Zone volunteer some time or materials to this Crat.
Medicrat: Larger events should always try and have a First Aid Tent, preferably staffed by licensed medical personnel. Barring that, a well-stocked First Aid Kit and cellular phone for medical emergencies should be the responsibility of this Crat.
Step Three: The Planning Phase
Okay, you've got the site and most of your volunteers know what is expected of them. The next thing to do is get everyone together for lunch or dinner to discuss the plans. I call this the "Six P" Phase, "Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance". Make lists of supplies and other materials that might be needed and check off things as they are acquired. If you can get the Monarch and/or Prime Minister to attend one of these planning sessions, so much the better. It's also a good idea to make a budget at this time and try to stick to it. PM's hate it when budget runs over cost. Also, keep track of every single receipt for every single thing you purchase for the event. That way, you can get reimbursed for any personal funds you might spend.
Step Four: The Event Itself
Get to the site early and settle up with the site owners, if applicable. Set up the guard booth and begin the sign-in sheets. Begin troubleshooting now, don't wait until five minutes before Feast to realize there are no spoons or plates. Above all, and I speak from personal experience, DON'T PANIC! Keep your cool and delegate, delegate, delegate. If you get stumped on something, or a medical or criminal emergency crops up, consult with the Monarch (or other, respectable "Old Timers") and make calm, rational decisions.
Step Five: Afterwards
Take a bow! You survived and everyone had fun, even if it did rain all weekend and the mosquitoes the size of a Volkswagen invaded Court. Be sure to help the Trashocrat with clean up, and be sure to check in with the site owners before leaving.
Types of Events
Coronations and Midreigns
These events are held twice a year in each Kingdom. Coronation (also called Endreign) is when the Monarchical Reign changes (every six months). Midreign is just what it sounds like, it is the mid-point in the reign and is the customary time for getting the Populace together for an Event. Both of these Events are weekend long camp-outs and require all the planning discussed above.
Qualifying Tourneys (Quals)
Arguably the most important event in every Kingdom, the Qualifying Tourney is held to decide who is worthy to run the kingdom for the next six months. Quals are rarely held during a camp-out (although it has been done). As a one-day event, you probably won't have to prepare a feast or secure a campsite, but you will need a site suitable for a large warskill tourney. The Quals site should also provide suitable cover for the Arts and Science Tourney. Running water and shade are also highly prized at a Quals. If your kingdom also holds it's election at Quals, be sure your Prime Minister and his helpers have a place and plenty of time to count the ballots in good light.
The most important positions at Quals are the Listmasters who will run the Warskill and A&S portions of the event. If your kingdom also requires a Statesmanship competition, you will need a Listmaster for that, too. Generally, a Quals will consist of 4-8 Warskill Events and 6-10 A&S categories. Start recruiting judges and reeves the moment a date is set. Check your Kingdom Corpora for details about Quals and do your best to abide by the guidelines presented there.
Collegium is a one-day event dedicated to furthering the Arts & Sciences of Amtgard. Of primary importance is acquiring quality instructors to teach the various classes. This is where the Masters of the Kingdom come in most handy. Who better to teach Basic Garbing than a Master Garber? Secondly, make sure your site has separate rooms, ample electricity and a nearby field for ditching (you think you're going to keep stickjocks from trying out their new sword? Get real!)
Suggestions for classes include: Basic Garbing (or How to Sew a Sword Cover), Leatherworking for Armorers, Shield Construction and Covering, Beadwork for Beginners, Safe Weapon Construction, Folk Songs, Heraldry and pretty much any topic that your populace might find interesting and for which you can find a teacher.
Yikes! Believe it or not, this is probably the most difficult event to host successfully. Sure it's a one-day event, sure most Kingdoms don't serve feast, but this is the one event that more people will complain about than any other. I dare say it is impossible to host a Relic Quest that will completely escape all negative attention. Why? Because people hate to lose and there just aren't enough Relics to go around. Someone will walk away with three and a hundred will walk away angry. A few helpful tips to make things run as smoothly as possible are detailed below:
1. Keep new ideas out of Relic Quest. It'll be tough enough having everyone adhering to the Official Handbook Rules without adding three more pages of new rules.
2. In the event you just have to innovate, make enough copies of the new rules for every single player and reeve to have a copy. Confusion will still occur, but this might head a few problems off quickly.
3. Make the storyline or concept as simple as possible. The fewer facts that have to be remembered, the happier your players will be.
4. Try and keep teams as equal as possible. No one wants to have their two-man team squashed by fifty.
5. Tailor combat or physical encounters to the "average" Amtgardian, not just super-stickjocks or athletes. In a similar vein, any puzzles or brain-teasers should be crafted so that a 14-year-old and a 60-year-old have the same chance of success.
I'll end with the same thought I began with: Good luck! While no article can hope to cover every possibility, hopefully you can glean a few parcels of useful information from this one. Happy Smithing!