Things You Need to Know When Starting a Group
by Squeak! Sai Yuk
The first thing you need to do is to choose a meeting time and place. Meeting times are usually weekly, often on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. A regular meeting time will help people remember when Amtgard is and make it easier for new people to find you. Meeting places should be publicly accessible and are usually held at public parks. You may want to check park information for important rules; some areas don't allow Amtgard archery, organization meetings including non-City members, or specifically LARPs. When you have your meeting place and time, be sure to post it on the Amtgard Atlas (http://www.amtgardatlas.com) to plug into the Amtgard network and a little free publicity. Try to avoid changing your location and meeting days, because changing makes it harder for people to find you. Being consistent helps make the most of your recruitment efforts.
There are several different kinds of meetings that Amtgard may have. Primarily there is a weekly meeting for all of Amtgard to come together and battlegame and socialize. This meeting is usually held on Saturday or Sunday afternoons at a public park. Additionally there may be more informal fighter practices held at other times during the week, often during a weeknight. Meetings may be held to emphasize, practice and teach the Arts and Sciences aspect of Amtgard. These may be scheduled classes, competitions, or general project nights. Special multi-day events may be held by groups to celebrate important events, such as coronation. These events are often camping weekends with a variety of scheduled activities. Feasts, revels and courts are often held as single day events at rented or reserved space, such as park pavilions or meeting halls.
Amtgard groups elect officers to fulfill varying administrative tasks within the group. Groups that are just starting out may vary in size and needs, so you can be somewhat flexible with officers for the first few reigns. The offices of a Shire have different responsibilities:
- Sheriff - daily administration of the group
- Regent - leading the Arts and Sciences efforts of the group
- Chancellor - running sign-ins, keeping records, maintaining the treasury
- Champion - running battlegames and ensuring weapons safety
Smaller groups (less than 8) may choose to have only a Sheriff and Chancellor, since the responsibilities can be handled by few people. As the group grows, officers can be added to help with the weekly running of the group.
When you have new people show up, it's extremely important that they are greeted, get a good introduction to the game, and have access to safe loaner equipment. You may consider having a unofficial (or official) officer who acts as the contact person for new people. Newbies should get a basic introduction to the game, an overview of the combat system, some basic guidance on safe play, safe loaner gear and a business card/flier. If they are interested in fighting, the greeter should be sure to get them to sign a waiver and sign in, and then provide them with some basic combat instruction. If you can get an email address you can send them a follow up email.
There are lots of ways to publicize Amtgard, so don't be afraid to have fun with it. Wearing garb and looking great out at the park is one of the best ways to catch people's eye (especially if your park has good foot traffic). Fliers can often be posted at gaming stores, universities/colleges, hobby stores, book stores, etc. Be sure to find out posting policies before you put up your fliers, as some places require prior approval. Business cards are a great way to keep information on your group easy at hand. A small business card with "Amtgard", your group name, contact information for your group (web site, email and/or phone number), and the address for amtgardinc.com can be handed out to anybody who stops by and they have everything they need to find out more information. Business cards are available free online from several sources.
Demos can be a fun way to recruit and range from live fighting demos hosted at theaters to fan tables at conventions. Be sure to be polite and professional with your host for a good impression and an invite back. Its also important to bring your best face to demos (good garb, safe weapons, fliers, business cards, etc.), and be on your best behavior for the public.
The internet can be a great tool for getting your information out there, so you should definitely use it. There are numerous places online where you can get free web space for a park home page, as well as numerous places to get free email for your officers. Many groups choose to have a single park address that all the officers check, such as ParkName@email.com. Be sure to include all the basic information on your web page such as Date, Time and Locations of meetings, as well as an email where people can ask questions. There are many places that will host free photos if you want to put up some pictures of your group and its members. Remember that the photos you post online are the public face for your group.
It is important for all Amtgard groups to run weekly sign-in sheets to track attendance and credits for their groups. You should run these for weekly games, fighter practices, Arts and Sciences nights, and any other events you run. For combat and game related days you will need columns for players to records their real name, persona name, and class for credit. If you have lots of visitors you may want to add a column for the player's home park to help you know who is visiting and where to report visitor's credits. For non-combat activities, such as Arts and Sciences nights, real name and persona name will suffice. Some kingdoms require a column for signatures for any sign in sheet, in order to make it an official document. If in doubt, a signature column doesn't hurt.
Because Amtgard is a legal entity, it is important to have waivers on file for each participant. For minors (participants under the age of 18), these waivers will need to be signed by a parent. Groups are strongly encouraged to require the parents of minors to attend a group meeting and have someone witness the signing of the waiver.
Dues are $6 for 6 months. Dues paid members have the privilege to vote in elections and Allthings, and should be provided with a copy of the rulebook. Dues are collected by the Chancellor, who maintains the treasury.
Since you're collecting all these paper records, it's good to know Amtgard has a free, online record keeping tool that will allow you to keep track of players' credits, awards, and dues paid status called the ORK. The ORK is the Online Record Keeper and can be found at http://www.amtgardrecords.com. All you have to do is email a request to the ORK and they will open a chapter entry for your group and set up your group accounts. Other popular ORK functionalities include: the ability for your populace to access their records any time, ability to print out credit lists for the park, ability to print an Amtgard "Passport" which eases credit assignment for visiting. It allows enabled player records to be transferred across chapters as players move.
You will need to pick a kingdom sponsor and sign a contract with them. Generally, it is best to join the kingdom nearest you. If you are near the heart of a kingdom, it is easy to find out whom to join. If you are further out, it may take some detective work. Many areas which once were disorganized, now have principalities sponsored by various kingdoms to help bring the area together. The Amtgard Atlas (http://www.amtgardatlas.com) shows a listing of groups by both area (mapped out by state) or by kingdom.
Once you have picked a kingdom, you should contact their officials (Monarch, Prime Minister or Board of Directors contact) and discuss paperwork with them. Most kingdoms will require a notarized contract, signed by two park members over the age of 18. Finding a notary is usually not hard; most banks have notaries available. Both signers will need to bring the contract to the notary and sign it in their presence. The notary will then sign and notarize the contract, making it an official, legal document. Most kingdoms will also require copies of your group documents such as sign-in sheets and waivers.
After everything is legal, don't forget to maintain a relationship with your kingdom contacts. It's important to check in with them and update them on what's going on in your group. This helps maintain a connection between the group and its sponsors, and will help keep the lines of communication open for both party's needs.
It is important to download and read your kingdom's Corpora. These are the bylaws of the group that govern how the group is administered and have lots of important information. This is where you will find information about officer duties and responsibilities, the election process, kingdom governing structure, and awards and honors. As your group progresses, you will want to honor members for their accomplishments. The Corpora will outline what awards are appropriate for different accomplishments, and which officers are eligible to hand them out. Not all awards can be given at a shire level, some may have to come from a kingdom or principality. If you have any questions about awards you should contact your kingdom officers.
Spending Shire Funds
Once your group has accumulated some money through dues, donations, fund raisers, etc. it is important to spend that money responsibly and appropriately. One constant cost of the shire will be photocopies of rulebooks and waivers. Because Amtgard is a not-for-profit group, it is important to keep good records of incoming and outgoing money, as well as copies of all receipts for expenditures. Copies of these records should be sent to the Prime Minister of your sponsoring kingdom on a regular basis.
Traveling and Visitors
It's a wide, wide Amtgard world out there, so it's good to know that you can visit with the rest of Amtgard. The Amtgard Atlas (http://www.amtgardatlas.com) is a great way to find out who your neighbors are. Mailing lists for kingdoms, geographic areas and other Amtgard chapters can keep you up to date on happenings in the area. Traveling builds friendships, resource networks, and helps make the Amtgard experience that much bigger. It's also a great way to pool your resources by offering inter-group events, classes and workshops. Visiting other groups and encouraging visitors will help you build a strong, well-rounded Amtgard group.
The new lands packet from Burning Lands can be found at http://www.amtgardinc.com/blpages/otherdocuments.html. It contains sample flyers, sign-ins, waivers, etc.
Remember, starting a park is work and may take some time. You may go sit out at the park with only a few people (or by yourself) a few times at the beginning, so be prepared (bring a book or needlepoint). Don't be discouraged though, once the park gets going, it's worth the effort.