Amtgard Online Presence

Key Platforms
In this article I will go over the basics for setting up your online presence in Amtgard. There are three main sites for your online presence in Amtgard, The Online Record Keeper (The ORK), the Amtgard Wiki (Amtwiki) and Facebook. Everyone who has played at least one day has an ORK profile. While it is not the most glorious or most used aspected of the online presence it is your core, it keeps the nitty gritty details of your Amtgard career in an easy to access place for everyone to view.

The Amtwiki is an important tool to situate yourself in Amtgard at large. It is a place that allows you to explain a bit more about who you are and to expand on your history with details that aren’t covered in the ORK. Then there is Facebook. Probably the most obvious place for your online presence.

The Amtgard Online Record Keeper

 
The ORK is a very important tool in Amtgard. It’s the way that we keep track of credits and awards. It’s important that your ORK profile is accurate and updated. While it is the responsibility of the various park’s Prime Ministers to keep track and maintain people’s records, it’s also the responsibility of each person to make sure their records are accurate. PM’s can make mistakes; awards can get missed and credits can be accidently entered incorrectly. When you contact a PM about a mistake make sure to be understanding and ask them politely to fix the problem the next time they get a chance. You may need to show proof of awards.
 
Aside from the credits and awards there is the option to upload a picture of yourself and your heraldry. It’s important to upload both. If you don’t have a heraldry, that’s fine, I didn’t have one for most of my Amtgard career but you should think about creating one. It will make things look more professional. In the meantime, if you don’t have a heraldry, upload a blank white image to your heraldry spot. It looks much more nicer on your profile than the default blank image.
 
You can also create profile pages for you fighting company and households. You can do that by going to you profile page and clicking on admin. Once there look for the tab “Player Operations”, click it; the drop down list will have the option to create households and companies. Once created you can write a description of the organization as well as upload an image. On top of that you can add your members. Once a member has been added it will automatically show up on their ORK page.

The Amtwiki

 
The Amtwiki involves a lot more work than the ORK but once you learn the basics it’s pretty simple. Here you can list your background and history in as much detail as you’d like. I won’t go into the specifics of how to set up your profile but you can use mine as an example. Once you learn to set up your own profile you can easily help set up profiles for your friends.
 
If you look at mine you can see that I have several sections for information, this will vary from person to person. You might not have a belted line or belong to a company or household so you don’t need to have those sections. It’s possible that you might only have your Biography to fill out and that’s okay. The longer you play Amtgard the more likely you’ll be able to fill out the other sections.
 
Your biography can include just about anything you’d like to add. At a minimum I would suggest adding your starting park, the various parks you’ve played at since you started and your current home park. You can work in any other information you might think is important to who you are. I tend to think that this page should be something of a biography focusing on you and what you’ve done in Amtgard than any kind of role-play centric piece.
 
You of course also want to add a picture to your page. I suggest a proper profile picture, one where you are easily identifiable. I don’t suggest adding a group picture for your page. The point of your Amtwiki page is you and you should be the central figure.
 
When filling out your Notable Achievements section leave it brief and in a bullet point format. If you want to expand upon those achievements use the biography section. The same goes for the Position section, simply list them in order. If there is anything you did in those positions that you’d like to talk about, use the biography section.
 
If you are part of a beltline you don’t actually type in your beltline. What you do is create a template for the belted line and then insert that template. It will auto populate with that information. Chances are that unless you are starting your own beltline that your beltline has already been created, you just need to find it. If you need to create a Knightly belt line template that’s a bit beyond the scope of this article. If you need help, please message me and I’ll do what I can to help.
 
You will also want to include links to your ORK Profile as well as a Facebook page (more on that later). To link your ORK you’ll need your ORK number. To find your number go to your ORK profile and look at the web address. The number at the end of the address is your ORK number. For example mine is 13081.
 
On top of the visual details there are a few technical background details you need to add to your page which you don’t see unless you look at the edit view; these are categories. It situates your page in the greater fabric of the Amtwiki. Such as adding which kingdom and park you belong to so you can be able to see your name in the various lists which are automatically populated when you tag a page with a category. If you look at the editable view of my page you’ll see at the bottom that I’m in 8 different categories, Blackspire People, Flame Knights, Blackspire Knights, Single Belted Knights, Knights of Amtgard, Knighted in 2014, Members of House Gravy, Silver Moon People. At the very least you will want to add the categories for your kingdom and home park.

Facebook

 
Now that you’ve made sure your ORK page is accurate and your Amtwiki page is well fleshed out, it’s time turn your attention to Facebook. For some people there might not be anything you need to do different with your Facebook. It partly depends on what you want to do with your online presence. If you just want to be a guy posting in Amtgard related groups then you might choose to use your regular account without taking into account any other options. If you want to build up an online audience in a more blogger style persona then you need to think hard how you’d like to tackle Facebook. I will be doing this next section under the assumption you want to build up a more blogger like Amtgard centric presence, but even if you don’t want to, you might want to make some changes to how you deal with your Amtgard activities online There are two main ways you can tackle Facebook, a Fan Page or a second account.
 
If you like you can create a second Facebook page, one separate from your personal account. The downside to this is that you now have two Facebook pages to maintain with two separate logins. You may find that it’s annoying to have to log out of one account to log into another to check notifications and make posts. The bonus to this system is that you can create two truly separate identities.

The Fan Page System is something that the cosplay community has been using for years. It creates a place where you can post information separate from your standard feed. Unlike the Second Account option you don’t have to log into another account to post Amtgard related stuffs. It keeps all your Amtgard activities in a specific place and you can keep it off your main feed and let those who want to follow your Amtgard activities follow it on your page. You also have the added bonus of funneling new people to your new page rather than having to add Amtgarders to your Facebook account if you don’t want to. The main downside is that you can’t always post in groups using your fan page. You will still have to use your primary account. Even if you don’t want to be a blogger doing this might be something you want to look into.
 
The Fan Page is the option I went with. The years of people successfully using it in the Cosplay Community was more than enough to convince me that using a Fan Page was a good way to present myself how I’d like. It lets me focus on Amtgard content in a public way without making my main page public. You can create blog entries, articles, post pictures and albums and you can even tag your fan page in other people’s pictures of you; you don’t have to tag your main account in images! It also gives a place to send people to contact me that isn’t my main account. It lets me focus my main account on personal life things that I might not want to share with everyone in Amtgard.
 
Setting up a Fan Page is fairly simple. When on the browser version of Facebook you look to the bottom left hand column and under “Create” you click on the page option. This will bring up a few options concerning what kind of page you’d like to create. Click on the “Artist, Band or Public Figure” option and click on blogger on the drop down menu. For the name I suggest your Amtgard name without any titles. It’s more relatable if you don’t hard code your title into you name. Otherwise every time someone wants to tag your page they will have to include that title. You can change your name in the about section of the page once it’s set up.
 
At this point you can just follow the various Facebook Tips to set up your page. Your profile picture should be you in garb. In the About Section there is an area to add in your Story. Here you should write a few sentences about who you are and list your ORK profile. I also added my Amtwiki as my website.
 
You should also set up a username, you can do this in the About section of your page. You should use your name but if your name is already taken then try to come up with some sort simple variation of your name that people will recognize.
Once your page is setup you can start inviting people to like it. You also want to go back to your Amtwiki page and add in your Facebook Page address to the bottom page where your website would go.
 
You have your page but what are you going to do with it, it’s time to think about content. You can set up photo albums of your adventures or maybe your various projects. You might even want to create an album for each project and show the various steps you took in it’s creation. You might blog about your Amtgard days, or write articles to share. The sky’s the limit.

Conclusion

With your ORK, Amtwiki, and Facebook set up you have a solid foundation for your online presence. It’s up to you to take take it in the direction you’d like. You can branch out to other platforms too. For example if you take a lot of photos maybe instagram would be a good place to branch out to and of course there is also always twitter although there isn’t any central Amtgard presence on that platform.
 
You’ve put in the initial work but it’s also important to go back to your ORK and Amtwiki and keep them updated as necessary. It’s also a good idea that if you’ve learned enough to edit the Amtwiki to help keep the pages connected to yours updated. If the pages connected to your page are kept up to do it helps keep your page be updated and more relevant as well.
 
If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to post them.
 

Baelnorn’s Guide to Feast Preparation

This guide will walk you through the basics of planning a feast, from conception to completion. This guide will assume you already have the feast bid and will focus on a smaller feast, around 50 people. You will still learn enough basics that you can extrapolate for larger crowds. I’ve cooked numerous feasts from as little as ten people to as much as 375. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them.

Budget

The first thing you will need is your budget; how much you will you have to spend per person. This will often not be your decision but your input will often be sought so it’s important to have some idea what you will need. That is why it’s a good idea to have some concept of what you’d like to make. However in my experience it’s best to get a budget and to make your meal based on that, which is why I say the first thing you need is a budget.

My ideal budget is $3 per person. In my experience this gives you enough wiggle room that you can do most quality, non-fancy meals. This covers a protean, side and veggies, plus disposable plates and silverware. I frequently come in under budget at this price point, but it’s important to have that wiggle room in case something unexpected comes up.

For this example feast we’ll go with a budget of $150 or $3 per person.

See Your Site

It’s important to know the site you will be cooking at. Will you have a kitchen, what does that kitchen have? Will you need to bring your own cooking ware? Will you be cooking off site and transporting it? These are important questions you need to have answered before beginning to plan further.

For the purposes of this guide we will assume you will have a full kitchen on site with no utensils or cookware.

Where to Shop

Before you can work with your budget you need to know how much things will cost. That’s where knowing your stores come into play. I primarily use three stores, Cash and Carry, WinCo Foods and Costco.

Cash and Carry is a restaurant supply store located throughout the Western United States. If you don’t have one near your area it’s worth taking the time to see if you can find another restaurant supply store. They will more often than not have higher quality items at lower prices than any other store. You will buy the majority of your items at this store. Keep in mind that if you buy your protein here you will have to probably break it down yourself. So I usually stick to ground meats or large cuts I can butcher myself. I stay away from bone-in items. You will also buy your disposable pans here. They are cheap and often better quality than at any other place.

If you don’t have a restaurant supply store near you then Costco is probably your best bet. You will find most of what you need in bulk. Normally the only thing I buy at Costco is chicken. You can buy it deboned and unlike other grocery stores it really is deboned. Even if this costs a bit more than a place like WinCo, it’s worth the time it saves from having to debone. I once bought thighs from WInCo that were “deboned” only to find that there were bone shards and I spent the next two hours checking diced thigh meat for bone spurs.

WinCo Foods is massive and cheap grocery story in the Western United States. The key thing here is the bulk food department which is large and cheap. The primary thing I buy at WinCo is the bulk food seasonings. They have a good selection and it is factors cheaper to buy spices from the bulk food section than prepackaged spices. For example you can get all the oregano you might need for $1, while buying it in a container might cost you $3-5. I highly suggest you don’t buy your proteins at this or stores like it, they are lower quality and often not worth the savings. Also keep an eye on dry goods, sometimes they will be cheaper here than a restaurant supply store. If I need cooking utensils and mixing bowls I will often buy them here to cut down on store runs but you can also make a trip to a Dollar Store and find most of what you need.

Your Real Food Budget

Now you know your budget, your stores and your site you can start to look at your options and find your actual food budget. It’s important to make a list of non-food items you know you will need. To err on the side of caution I always round the cost of items up when I’m budgeting and buying items. Here is a sample list of what you will probably need, depending on your site amenities.

From Cash and Carry

  • Plates $15 (125 ct)
  • Flatware $16 (125 ct)
  • Disposable Sheet Pans $2 per 2 pack
  • Disposable Sheet Pan Lids $3 per 5 pack

From WinCo or Dollar Tree

  • Serving & Mixing Utensils $8
  • Grater $2
  • Mixing bowls $6

Seeing the list you might think that you don’t need the 125 plates and utensils but it’s the same price for 50 of equal quality plates at other places and that’s being generous. Plus you can always save them for another feast. The Flatware is actually 125 individual packets of forks, knives, salt and pepper packs with a napkin. That comes to a total of $52 of non-food items that automatically cuts down your budget leaving you $98 or $1.96 per person.

Congratulations you have your real budget and you can start to think about what you’d like to cook for your feast.

Meal Planning

Now that you have your real food budget you can look at your meal options. From here it’s more about your creativity and less about the numbers. You want to use as few actual food items to cut down on costs and mistakes but that doesn’t mean you have to cut down on quality, quantity or creativity. I’ve made teriyaki chicken with noodles and dumplings, hamburgers, stews, meatloaf, nut encrusted chicken and much more within this budget. All with good portions, often under budget and well received by the attendees.

What you want to keep in mind is your protein, your side and a vegetable. Desserts are optional. I often don’t include them; I focus on filling people up with the main meal. Another trick is to create a meal that has a backup plan. If something goes wrong you will be able to make a secondary meal from the items you’ve purchased but that requires a bit of knowledge that you may not have developed yet but don’t worry, if you follow these steps you hopefully won’t have to do a back up meal.

For our example meal we’ll be doing meatloaf, mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Test Cook 1

Once you know what you would like to cook it’s very important to cook the meal at home. Keep in mind the facilities you have at your disposal. Will you be able to scale this up to meet a huge demand using those facilities?

Once you’ve finished cooking divide up the meal into the portions you would like to serve at the feast. Doing this will allow you to figure out how you can scale up your recipe and if you can afford all the ingredients.

If you like the meal and you think it’s within your budget then it’s time to do a second test cook but first you should find a helper.

Example Meal

The recipe I usually use is 2 pounds beef, approx half a cup shredded carrots, approx half a large shredded white onion, two eggs, one cup Italian bread crumbs, Johnny’s Season Salt, pepper and ketchup. This should feed about 6 people. This gives each person a third pound of beef.

For the sides you can make them from scratch but here is my little secret, don’t do it, instead buy quality instant mashed potatoes and the bag salad. It will save you time, most people will not notice the difference and the cost is negligible.

For the mashed potatoes you don’t want to serve it just as it’s suggested, you will want to add extra butter, maybe a little salt. You’ll want to salt to taste. You want about ½ – ¾ cup mash potatoes per plate.

The salad should be about a loose cup of salad, it fills in the empty spot between the meat and the potato.

Find a Helper

While you might be able to do the feast all by yourself, it’s a good idea to find a helper. I don’t mean a last minute kitchen helper but someone who is willing to go over the meal plan before the event. If something goes wrong at the site it helps to have someone else who knew the plan to help brainstorm away out of the problem.

 

Test Cook 2

You did a test cook to see if your recipe was tasty, within reason and to see proportion size. Now it’s time to do a second test cook to see how well the meal scales and to problem solve any perceived problems with large batch cooking. Invite over 10-15 friends and do a scaled up recipe. Make sure you invite your helper over too so they can go through the process.

What you are looking for is any possible problems in your method. Is what you are doing going to work when you cook approximately 4 times as much? What are the prep times, how much did they increase when you made the smaller batch, chances are it’s going to increase even more with more food. What are the cook times, are you going to have to do more than one cook?

What problems did you encounter that you didn’t expect, are those problems something you can correct for? If not, you might need to change your menu plans.

At this point you should be able to fix any problems. If you are unsure if your fix will work it’s time to do another test cook. If you are uncertain it’s best to be cautious, you won’t get second chances on the day of the feast.

Extrapolate Your Recipe

·        Your Recipe

·        16.60 , rounded up to 18 pounds

·        5 big white onions

·        4 pound carrots

·        18 eggs (I use liquid eggs, it’s eggs pre cracked and scrambled, saves time)

·        6 cups Italian style bread crumbs

·        3 bottles of ketchup

·        ¼ cup pepper

·        Bottle of Johnny’s Seasoning Salt

·        28- 35 cups mashed potatoes

·        2 pounds butter

·        ¼ salt.

·        1 Gallon Whole Milk

·        56 cups salad

·        2 bottles salad dressing

Now it’s time to adjust your recipe for a full 50 people. If you get a fraction round up to the nearest whole recipe increment. This means you’ll have a bit more than you need but that’s usually a good thing and it usually doesn’t cost all that much more. It’s better to have seconds than to not have enough food to feed everyone. The table to the left is an example using the meatloaf meal plan.

Purchasing Your Goods.

It’s time to buy your goods! Make sure you make a full list of everything you will need and take it with you. To help make sure you stay in budget it’s important to write down the cost of each item on your list as you place it into you cart, rounding up to the nearest whole dollar.

Example List with Prices

·        18 pounds ground beef $30

·        5 big white onions $5

·        4 pound carrots $4

·        18 eggs. (liquid eggs) $4

·        6 cups Italian style bread crumbs $4

·        3 bottles of ketchup $6

·        ¼ cup pepper $1

·        Bottle of Johnny’s Seasoning Salt $6

·        28 cups mashed potatoes $16

·        1 pound butter $4

·        ¼ cup salt. $1

·        56 cups salad $10

·        2 bottles salad dressing $6

·        Plates $15 (125 ct)

·        Flatware $16 (125 ct)

·        Disposable Sheet Pans $2 per 2 pack

·        Disposable Sheet Pan Lids $3 per 5 pack

·        Serving & Mixing Utensils $8

·        Grater $2

·        Total $149

We come in just under budget. In actuality we are probably even more under the budget because we rounded up for each of the items. The cost per person would actually go down if we were doing it for a larger crowd. If we were to do the feast for 100 people the costs come to approximately $250 bringing the cost down to $2.50 per person rather than $3.

Preparing to Leave

When you are packing up to go to site, it’s important to double check your list to make sure you have everything you need. Have a clean list and check off each item as you pack it up. This will help insure you don’t forget something at home. Make sure you keep items you need cold, cold.

On Site

You have done all the hard work; if you planned correctly it should go smoothly. It might get intense but it should be manageable. Once you’re on site, it’s all about managing your time.

To help keep on time try to make sure you keep all your items organized. When you unload into the kitchen double check your list against your items to make sure something didn’t go wrong. It’s best to know you’re missing an item at the start of the day than when you are in the middle of cooking and don’t have time to fix the mistake.

If you took advantage of your test cooks you should have a good idea what your time table should be. It’s best to err on the side of caution, it’s better to serve lukewarm food, than to be 30 minutes late. Food stays hotter longer than you might expect.

Conclusion

I hope this guide has helped you figure out how you can plan for a feast. What this didn’t cover is actually cooking the feast itself. That really depends on the items you are cooking and matters on the kitchen and the equipment available to you. It also depends on the individual’s cooking knowledge. This is something I might cover in another guide.

The key thing in feast preparation is planning. You want to plan as much as possible to make sure that the execution is as smooth as it can be. Plan for all the things you know could happen and you will be better prepared to overcome any problems that were not foreseeable.

 

Burnout in Amtgard

At its heart Amtgard is a game but for people to be able to play and enjoy the game we need individuals to step up and run the organization. At that point it’s a job. As with any job there can be burnout and it can be severe.

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about burnout in Amtgard. For those of us who take it upon ourselves to continually volunteer in the various offices and the running of events in the club it can turn what is otherwise a fun experience into a stressful, unfulfilling headache. I’ve experienced burnout several times, at different severities over my 18 years of playing.

It doesn’t happen all at once, if it happens to you at all, it is usually only happens after a few years. Eventually it becomes a chore, an activity you do more out of responsibility and habit than any kind of actual enjoyment or sense of achievement. It’s not good for the club and more importantly, it’s not good for your own well being.

Take a step back from your responsibilities. Finish your commitments to the best of your ability but don’t make any new ones, it’s time to look after yourself. Don’t worry, if you are not there to do something, someone else will step up. I know the feeling “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” but you’ll do no one any good if you push yourself to the point where you won’t be able to do the job properly. That’s the problem with burnout. You won’t be performing at your peak, you’ll be doing your worst. Most cases you only go through the motions and the results are subpar at best.

At that point it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate what you are doing. You should take a look at the last few years and try to identify at what point you started to feel this way. It’s important to identify what exactly isn’t fun anymore so you can stop doing it. It sounds simple but it isn’t always so. Try to remember what made the game fun and try to go back to doing that rather than the added responsibilities you took on.

It’s okay to take a break from Amtgard if you find that no aspect of it is fun anymore. Your own well being is more important than the organization.

A special note to those people who first found fun in volunteering, you may find enjoyment in the activities again. Maybe it’s time to take a step back from a leadership role or switch your focus to helping a new generation leaders rather than doing everything yourself.

For myself I got burnout after a stent running in a kingdom office. Aside from fighting, my original love of the game wasn’t serving in office but in cooking for others. I stepped back from kingdom and local offices and focused on volunteering to do feasts. It was a nice change of pace that kept me engaged in Amtgard. In a very real way it’s like quitting your job and finding a new one.

If you have any questions or seek any advice post in the comments below.

I was inspired to write this after reading this article by Lifehacker.com

http://lifehacker.com/5884439/burnout-is-real-how-to-identify-the-problem-and-how-to-fix-it