Amtgard is a great game, you get to hit people with foam swords, shoot them with arrows and throw spell balls. While a good ditch can carry a day there are also many people who come to the field for the battle games. A good Reeve cab make for a great day of fighting but a bad one can turn an otherwise fun day into a frustrating one.
I’ve been running games since 1999 and over the years I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share. These are some of the areas that I’ve seen cause problems for people who run battlegames.
#5 Not Knowing the rules
All games are built on rules, Amtgard is no different. Rules are important, if you don’t know the rules you can’t run a game. They should be familiar with the basics, classes, the different states, spell ball durations, verbal durations, the difference between per life and refresh, how armor works, spell targeting, how spells affect people and equipment but the not necessarily the details of each ability. Now if they have the whole book memorized, including the minutia that’s great, it can only help them! However if they don’t have all the spells memorized it’s important that they at least know where to look, being able to quickly reference on the fly is key.
Overcorrecting: There is no such thing as knowing the rules to much; however, they shouldn’t be over zealous with the application of the rules. If someone makes a minor mistake, it doesn’t cause an argument and doesn’t affect the outcome of the game there is no need to call a hold, reset the game and fix the mistake. The best way to handle this is to take the person aside, tell them what they did that was wrong and make sure they do it correctly in the future.
#4 Not Knowing How to Balance
Balance is key, a Reeve might know the rules but that doesn’t mean the game will be fun. They have to be able to feel the mood of the players and make adjustments as needed. The important aspect is to make sure the majority of people are having a fun time.
It’s important that they know the players. A key to making the game fun is giving all sides a fighting chance. It’s no fun if one side gets smashed. It’s important if you are running a battle game to balance the teams. The best method is for the Reeve to build the teams; they must make sure they balance for fighter skill, ranged ability, armor and magic. It sounds simple but that’s not always the case. A good example is armor. There are often people who have physical armor but the Reeve also needs to take into account magical armor. If there is a druid they should ask how much armor enchantments they’ve taken. That can drastically change the outcome of the game.
This concept doesn’t end at team creation; they must feel comfortable at making changes mid game. If as the game is played it becomes obvious that one side has a large advantage then it’s okay to rebalance teams.
Overcorrection: Balancing teams is tricky business; it can be easy to overcorrect. This is especially troublesome when the Reeve has to rebalance the teams after game play has already started. It’s possible that they could send over to many of the wrong people to the other side, causing them to have to rebalance the game once again. It’s no fun if the game has to be constantly rebalanced.
#3 Lack of Preparation
Being prepared isn’t about knowing the rules; it’s about the Reeve knowing the game they are running. A Reeve needs to know the scenario they would like to run and know it well. Depending on the game they’re running this can be easy or extremely difficult.
If the game is a basic capture the flag there isn’t too much to prepare for. They must set up bases and have a flag, know the death count and how long a team must hold a flag and what score they need to win as well as at what point they will call a refresh.
Preparation gets a lot more complicated when the Reeve is running a quest. Not only do they need the basic items such as monster write ups, monster garb, quest objects and volunteers for NPCs, they also need to make sure they have clear objectives, know what the obstacles are for those objectives and well thought-out plans for how those objectives are to be achieved. Not to mention they need to create the framework for the game itself, what is the death count? Will there be quest abilities, how will those affect play, how will you administrate them? There is a lot to plan for and if they don’t the game will fail.
On top of the basic preparations the Reeve also needs to plan for the freedom that quests allow.
For example I played in a quest ran by a group of people who had gained a reputation for running quests full of role-play. I went into the quest assuming that I would be able to achieve some objectives through role-play. I actively chose to not derail the game by trying to role-play rather than just steam rolling the monsters. Turns out that the quest was really just a kill quest, talk to X NPC, go kill X monster, get item, move to next kill quest. They didn’t account for someone who wanted to role-play through a scenario. This caused the game to stagnate as the NPC’s weren’t sure what to do. It was assumed that every player would attack the monster without trying to talk to them first. This lead to the Reeve just saying “kill everything” and broke the flow of the game. In effect I broke their game by role playing through a quest that was supposed to be full of role play.
Overcorrecting: Planning is important but a Reeve can also over plan. A Reeve should account for many difference scenarios but not everything should be assumed. For example, if you have a physical wall that is teen feet tall you shouldn’t plan around something actually scaling it. Can it happen, sure, but it probably won’t. A Reeve shouldn’t get bogged down in details but they should know the scenario well enough that they can make quick and informed decisions. If the players find a creative way to circumvent your well laid plans then they should be reward, not punished.
#2 Not Knowing Your Group
What’s the point of running a role-play quest when everyone wants to just fight, there isn’t. That’s why it’s important to know your group. If a Reeve runs a game no one wants to play then it won’t be fun.
Look, this doesn’t mean a Reeve can’t run a quest if most people want to fight, it just means that the Reeve needs to take that in to account. A bounty based quest is perfectly acceptable. A Reeve shouldn’t be running a quest where you have to talk to monsters to get some vital bits of information when every player is going to want to murder smash him before he opens his mouth. It won’t be fun for anyone, PCs, NPCs or the Reeve.
Overcorrecting: A Reeve can’t plan a game taking into account everyone’s likes and dislikes. A Reeve shouldn’t make a game that plays to the strength of an individual person. If you have one player who likes nothing more than to role-play and would rather talk his way through everything, you shouldn’t make a quest that focuses just on talking. Perhaps that should be an option at key places, but the game shouldn’t be centered on this one person’s play style.
#1 Not Keeping To A Schedule
Schedules are important, every Reeve should have one and stick to it. It’s a simple concept but without it there is anarchy! If a Reeve says a game starts at 1pm then they should be ready to run it at 1pm. If they aren’t then the players will be made to wait and grow agitated. Worse, if a Reeve becomes known for running their games late then when they are actually on time more than likely the players won’t be. It will be pure anarchy and no one will have any fun.
If the Reeve doesn’t keep to a schedule it can cause a whole day to become derailed. A large kingdom event is a great example. There are lots of things going on, more than just games. There could be Circle of Steel and Circle of Monarch meetings, feasts, court and maybe even an althing. If the Reeve running a game doesn’t stick to the schedule it can throw off the whole day.
People pay attention to consistency, if a Reeve constantly runs things on time, then people will be more likely to be on time. If the Reeve constantly runs games late then people will assume everything will be late and nothing will be started on time.
Even if there is no set schedule a Reeve should call for games in time increments. For example, when I am running a game I announce that the game will start in 15 minutes. When I say that people know I will start the game in 15 minutes. I make a point to start the timer on my phone to make sure I keep to that time frame.
Overcorrecting: Schedules are important, but not every schedule is as important as others. It’s important to know when you should stick to a schedule and when you can be flexible. On the major events there is little room for flexibility but on a general practice day there usually is. For example, if the schedule calls for a battle game at 2pm but at 2pm there is a great ditch going and everyone is having fun then it’s okay to push the game back. However when you do, make sure you announce the new time and stick to it. This should be an exception rather than a rule.