Interview with Megiddo
Interviewed by Michael Hammer of God
This interview is part of a series: First Time Kings and Queens. By learning how others approached and reacted to the challenges of leadership, we hope to provide a little guidance for other leaders both up-and-coming and experienced.
Although a long-time member of the Wetland's from its earliest days, Megiddo took a long hiatus and did not start playing seriously until a few years ago. He has taken leadership roles at the Provincial and Kingdom levels nearly continuously, especially as Prime Minister of his home park, Mordengaard. He has served as the Kingdom Prime Minister of the Wetlands twice, and as King once. Megiddo continues to work on records-keeping functions for the Kingdom, as well as various service-oriented projects for both his own Kingdom, and his neighbors the Celestial Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Emerald Hills.
Megiddo Rex I served during the 19th Reign of the Kingdom of the Wetlands, and was the 16th Monarch by succession. He ran unopposed immediately after his second reign as Kingdom Prime Minister on the "By the Will of God" platform, and beat all other qualified contenders. He served with Princess Jiffee Mourningwood as his Regent, Sir Crom Ironwolf and Sir Elora Goldmoon as his Prime Minister in succession, and Sir Spyn'thrift N'Than as his Champion. Role-play for the reign was a Secular Crusade For Pants, and culminated in a Blue People vs. Green People Crusade battlegame.
When did you start playing Amtgard?
First, in ’95 or ‘96 sometime at Crystalmyr, Wetlands in Clear Lake, TX for about 2 years. I think Sir Kandon or Sir Tar’get remember more precisely. I took several years off and started up again in September ‘02 at Mordengaard, Wetlands in College Station, TX.
What was your first Amtgard leadership position and what did you learn from it?
Prime Minister of Mordengaard. When I started playing in ‘02, the park was at a low point (as all college parks have from time to time). I took over the PM position essentially from day one. We basically had no other officers, and it seemed that if anything had to be done, keeping track of our new players was important. I remembered as a new player from years before the drive to earn new credits and levels in my class.
I learned that you can build an Amtgard group simply by showing up regularly and caring. I would show up early, leave late, and play the whole time. I showed up without fail for something like 70+ weeks when I returned. I made an effort to spend some time speaking with all of the players every day–especially new players–and their parents when possible. I tried to make everyone feel accepted, and reduce friction to a minimum. We were averaging 50+ after several months, and I like to think that I helped in that.
What Amtgard achievements, leadership or otherwise, are you most proud of?
Hands down, my time as PM of Mordengaard. It has been a couple of years since I have spent any real time with Mordengaard, but that experience has most defined my relationship with leadership and the populace. Doing for the Wetlands and for Amtgard in general, what I felt I did for Mordengaard specifically, is a driving force behind most of my decisions in the game.
Name one Amtgarder who you consider a leadership role model and explain why.
Asking a guy with four previous Kingdom Monarchs in his company who he likes best is not particularly polite, but I will have to go with Sir Crom Ironwolf. He gives sound advice when I need it, and regularly points me to my other advisors. He’s a critical part of my (self-named) “Council of Kings”, has a quick analytical mind, and a friendly demeanor. He tends to have strong, reasoned opinions, and despite claiming conservative values, tends to give moderate, politically astute advice (in Amtgard, at least). He continually serves in leadership positions, whether formal or informal, and he never seems to tire of it. I think it’s something he puts in the Raider Ribs, but I’ll have to get the secret recipe to find out for sure. You said one, but since they deserve the recognition, I’d like to give a shout out to Sir Chewie, Sir Morgan, and Sir Jearden.
Briefly discuss an experience outside Amtgard and how it improved your abilities as an Amtgard leader.
Interestingly, I believe most of my mundane/Amtgard leadership skill transfer runs the opposite direction. It is my time in Amtgard that improves my leadership skills most. The most important single experience would be my first time managing a team of software engineers in developing an enterprise-class software application. I had half a dozen interns, only about half of whom I could trust to actually code. I had a 6-month roadmap to develop a solution to a known-difficult problem (three other teams at Compaq/HP had tried and failed with real engineers, not interns), using new technology in untried and untested ways. I was given 2 weeks to design and sell the product to management, and then I had 5 months to implement the design from spec, while simultaneously having to mold half the team into decent engineers. I was responsible for direction, planning, training, and direct management, while still having to keep up my role as lead developer. Meanwhile, I was also a full-time graduate student, taking a full load of courses. I learned to make decisive decisions, even with limited information, and how to make them stick. I learned that you can be wrong, but you can’t deny it—just admit it, correct it, and move on. I learned that making a bad decision was better than making no decision.
What qualities do you feel are most important for a kingdom monarch?
Decisive, competent, fair, attentive. Being able to make a firm decision, especially one that manages the technical and political aspects of the game is critical. I usually take my time on critical decisions, and I have a good pool of advisors I use for most critical decisions. In the end, I always try to make a single, clear statement of my decisions. I usually do not try to justify them, and I do not change them. I have found that actually being fair may take second fiddle in some decisions – fair is not always good for the game long-term. Attentive is key – although asking questions at the right time is often a better way of acquiring the information you need.
What factors do you consider to be key in your being elected King of Wetlands??
I like to think it was a Mandate From God. No one could run against me. In reality, I think the timing
was right, I was drunk, and a lot of the blame rests with Sir Morgan and Sir Arg, who saw all of these
things and put Jiffee and I up to it. I had just come off a year as a loud—I like to think
effective—Kingdom Prime Minister and I had the populace’s trust. I would like to note that the race was
close, if memory serves:
Broom with Coat—19
Couldn’t be bothered to vote for Monarch—5
Couldn’t be bothered to vote at all—70
In your kingdom, the king doesn’t make knights but can veto any knight the circle wants to make. What kind of candidate would you consider vetoing?
I would not veto a candidate for any reason. We have had a long tradition of CoK Knightings, and I see no particular reason for using the veto to change that tradition. If you haven’t tried the CoK in your Kingdom, you don’t know what you’re missing!
What has been your greatest challenge as the King of the Wetlands?
My local parks have been both a boon and a bane to me. I walked in with some really strong parks (Mushroom Shrine, Crimson Moon), and acquired something like a half dozen new parks. I was totally unprepared for the new parks. I’m still not sure I’ve handled them correctly, but it’s not like I got a manual for this job, either. I’ve had one park decide to quit the Kingdom, and this is an outstanding issue that I still have not properly dealt with.
What qualities do you most look for in an event autocrat?
Communication, budget, 55-gallon yard bags. Most Amtgarders will entertain themselves if left alone, so basically, I just need to know that they’ll get fed, watered, and cleaned-up after. And communication lets me know that you’re doing those things. As an important note, strong 55-gallon bags are called “yard bags” not “trash bags”.
How well did you work with your officers and which officer relationship was the most important?
I think I had an extremely good relationship with my officers—I’m not sure I could have asked for a better group. Sir Spyn is my champion, and we discussed strategy after SKBC for the new SIM-type rules. He and the other Sword Knights really made a difference in getting the Kingdom ramped up on the new rules. I have/had Sir Crom and Sir Elora for PMs, both of whom are good detail-oriented record-keepers, and followed through on the work I did as KPM. The most important relationship turned out to be with my Regent, Jiffee. She has been absolutely fantastic in her role—taking on XO responsibilities in addition to her Regent duties. She keeps me on-task and honest, makes sure I keep the Kingdom informed and prepped, and helps me with managing the Autocrats and the political side of the job.
How important is coordination with other sovereign Amtgard kingdoms, in your opinion?
At least in Texas, critical. From my perspective, good communication between EH, WL, and CK is necessary in order to manage Calendars and events. We keep tabs on each other for things like Knightings, Allthings, BOD Rulings and business. Cross-awarding (even discussing a cross-Kingdom knighting on one occasion) occurs, as well as high-impact Calendar conflicts, cross-Kingdom punishments or penalties, and park management are all managed at least between these three Kingdoms. The populations also tend to be mobile, especially between the three. I can make every major event in the three Kingdoms within 3 hours, and there is an expectation of visits. As distance increases, necessary communication decreases. However, as Amtgard in general grows, I think future Monarchs will find it increasingly important to keep in regular contact with other Kingdoms.
What has been your favorite moment as king?
Thus far, it has been awarding Red Hawk his Master Rose. It was long overdue, and he is more than deserving, one of the finest Master Roses in the game. I felt honored being the one to present it to him.
Do you have any comments or suggestions about being a first time king that you might like to share?
- First and foremost: find past Monarchs who did a good job, get their phone numbers, and get friendly. Knowing someone who has been there and can offer good advice is invaluable.
- Remember why you liked playing the game. You will doubt yourself.
- Only sign up for one reign. Decide on a second when you’ve tried it out first.
- It doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but it is a lot of stress. Know how to handle stress before you start.
- Find good Autocrats you can trust.
- If possible, get elected with a good Regent and PM. Encourage good Champions to run.
- Make your decisions final. Don’t make your decision known until after you have as much information as you reasonably can, and then be decisive and clear in formulating it.
- Keep your mouth shut unless it’s pertinent.
- You are not the ultimate agent of change. Pick a few realistic goals, and get them done. Sweeping changes take longer than 6 months, and one or two reigns will not be sufficient for most real projects.
- Know when to bend the rules, when to break the rules, and when to uphold the rules. Remember it’s what is best for the game first and fairness second.