I’d like to take a few moments to talk about the differences between masterhood and knighthood. The following is just my take on the two awards and their meaning, other people might have differing opinions and that’s alright. The basis for both of these awards is the award ladder system. This system is very much Amtgard, no other LARP that I’m aware of has something like it. Since it is ours we should embrace it. I’d like to highlight some of the nuances that separate the two highest (non-noble) awards in our game and the mindset I think should be taken when thinking about the two awards.
The pinnacle of the skill based award system is the Masterhood and for me is a worthy goal in and of itself. When it’s given it is an acknowledgment that a person has mastered one of the paths of Amtgard. It’s a very important milestone in an Amtgard career. What it should not be seen as is a stepping stone to a Knighthood. In fact it’s okay to become a master with no intention of becoming a knight.
While it is true that a person needs to have a masterhood to be a knight, it’s not true that every person who has achieved masterhood should be a knight. Knighthood should be viewed as a separate entity than masterhood, which I don’t always think is the case. I, myself, am guilty of this when I was younger. I thought of masterhood as a stepping stone and I robed myself of something great. When I finally achieved masterhood, I didn’t celebrate what it meant and what it meant was that I had achieved mastery in a craft. What I saw it as was a major key to becoming a knight.
Masterhood is a wonderful achievement that means a lot, it’s less quantifiable than the 1st through 10th award. Similar to knighthood, masterhood has an ineffable quality to it. A master has gone above and beyond the typical award work and have shown that they have mastered their path; it is an acknowledgment of their skill. It’s the capstone to a long and difficult path.
Knighthood is a whole other beast, it is an acknowledgment of a person’s character. Unlike with masterhood there are continued expectations with knighthood. A person is expected to be a teacher. A person is expected to be a good example, a role model. A person is expected to be a leader in their field. A person is expected to continue to serve the club and to make it better by their service. All of those things are not expected of a master.
A person who has achieved masterhood doesn’t have any expectations. They could stop doing what earned them their masterhood and nothing will have changed. It will be a shame that they have stopped doing something that made the game better in some way, but as a group we don’t have a requirement that beholds them to continue their work. They also aren’t expected to teach what they have learned. While most people will often still teach what they have learned, there isn’t the same sort of expectation as if they were a knight. They also aren’t expected to be a role model. There are no continued cultural expectations.
As we have seen, there are some stark differences between the two. As noted in this essay and in the awards standardization, masterhood is the recognition of skill and knighthood is the recognition of character. That is really the basis for the separation. The recognition of someone’s skill is a celebratory achievement but as I mentioned, doesn’t always get celebrated for the right reasons.
I earned my Master Rose and then I was made a Knight of the Flame, but that didn’t mean that the other masterhoods, even in the same belt path, have become meaningless. As of the time of my writing this I’m working on the Smith path. I really want to achieve my Master Smith. Will that mean that I will get a second belt, no, of course not, but it will mean that I’ve mastered yet another path in our game. Unlike the first time when I achieved my Master Rose I will be able to fully experience the joy that is to be acknowledged for achieving a mastery in a path.
It’s not that a person shouldn’t strive for Knighthood, if becoming a knight is something a person wants to become, then by all means, strive to become a knight. Just realize that Masterhood and Knighthood are two different things and require different mindsets. The point is that Masterhood is important, it’s a pinnacle of skill and should be recognized as such and not relegated to a stepping stone in an award system.