Masterhood and Knighthood

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.

Evaluating Sites

Are you planning a day event, or maybe a multi-day event, then you’ll need to find a site. This guide will help you create a checklist to guide you in evaluating a site. The guide covers various aspects which you might need to consider when looking at new sites, you can use it as a checklist to make sure it fulfills all of your needs.
 

What kind of event are you planning on hosting?

 
What you need to determine before you start looking at sites is what you are going to need the site for. Is there going to be a quest, a tournament, or maybe a cultural event such as a Dragon Master? What you are looking for will determine how you evaluate a site. What might work for one event might not work for another. It will also be helpful to determine your approximate attendance before you start looking at sites.
 

Is This a Day Event or Multi-Day Event?

 
It’s important to know if you are looking at a site for a single day event or for a multi-day event. While there is a lot of overlap, there are additional requirements for multi-day events which are covered in the following sections.
 

What type of fighting?

 
For most events there will be fighting; you need to determine if there is enough room to allow for the estimated attendance to ditch. Is there an open field, is it cleared enough to allow people to fight safely, is there shade incase it’s a hot day?
 

Questing?

 
If you have a quest at the event it’s important to know if the site has what you need for a successful quest. While you might be able to get away with just using a field with a few trees, it’s more than likely going to be a better quest if you have terrain which will hold the questers’ attention. A variety is desirable. Trails interspersed with open areas, which allows for a conflict are usually the best. It’s important to talk with those who are running the quest to get an idea of how they see the flow of the quest going and asking them for a wish list of what they would like to see out of a site.
 

Cooking?

 
Will there be a feast at your event? If so it’s important to know what the site has to offer in regards to food service. Will the cooking be done on site or off site? If off site, then you need to make sure that the site is close enough to the offsite kitchen to be viable.
 
If you plan on cooking on site, then it’s important to know exactly what facilities are available. Is there a kitchen or will you need to rent equipment? Some sites have grills which you can rent, but if they don’t you’ll need to look elsewhere for equipment.
 
Is there an under covered area or building for you to set out your food. It’s nice to keep food out of the rain, or in the event that it’s a sunny day, keep it properly shaded.
 

Is there running water on site?

 
This might seem like a small detail, but it’s an important one. Running water will help with you food service, even if it’s been cooked off site. You can more easily wash your hands if you have running water. It also means that people will have water available to them on hot days.
 
If it does have a kitchen, it’s important to know exactly what that entails. Does it have a regular oven and stove top or is it industrial? Does it come with cooking utensils or will you have to provide your own? You may also want to make sure you know what the cleaning requirements are.
 
If there isn’t a kitchen you should check if any of the buildings or covered areas have electricity.
 

Chairs and Tables?

 
When it comes to the feast or just for hanging out and resting, are there chairs and tables available? If so, is there an additional rental cost associated with them or are they free? The idea of chairs extends beyond just the feast hall but also to the other areas being used, are there picnic tables for people to relax?
 

Camping?

 
If this is a multi-day event will there be tent camping or does the site have cabins? If the site has cabins how many people will it hold and if they fill up is there still room for camping? Does the camping area overlap the play field, is there enough room for fighting after you set up tents? Is there electricity available to those people who need it to sleep? If there are cabins, do people need to bring their own mattresses?
 

Capacity?

 
It’s important that you also find out the capacity of the site. Will the size of the property meet your needs? Is there enough room for parking, does the capacity of the halls meet your needs? Are there enough bathrooms for the traffic you are anticipating, if not you might be able to rent port-a-potties.
 

What are the Costs?

 
Now that you’ve looked over the site and determined if it is usable you need to take into account the cost of the site. Lots of sites have different kinds of contracts. Some are a onetime fee, others you pay per person. You might also have cleaning deposits you have to deal with and/or have to purchase insurance to use the site which should be considered as part of the price of a site.
 

Is It Worth The Price?

 
Once you’ve gathered all the information, you have to compare the site costs to the amenities of the sites. Is it worth the price for what you are getting? Are you paying for something you don’t need? Can you augment a lesser site with rental equipment to tailor a site to you needs rather paying for a more expensive site that has everything ready to go?
 

Conclusion

 
Hopefully reading this guide has allowed you to create a checklist for when you are evaluating a site. There are many things you need to consider and I may not have covered all of them in this article. Even if I didn’t cover everything I hope the article got you thinking about what your site needs are and if a site will provide them.

So, You Want to be a Squire

I was never a squire but now I find myself in the position to make them. By finding myself in this situation I’ve been forced to ask myself what my expectations are for my squires. I’ve asked myself questions like, how do I find a squire, what do I look for in a squire, what are my responsibilities when it comes to taking a squire, what are my requirements for those I do squire? Those are just some of the basic and non philosophical questions that have occurred to me. At this point you might be asking yourself why you care and I’ll shine some light on to that question.
 
First of all this article will give you some insight into the squire knight relationship. I won’t just be talking about my perspective, while that will be primary, I’ll also litter in other knights’ perspectives as well. My own journey isn’t insular. Secondly this might help you decide if you want to be a squire yourself. Being a squire isn’t for everyone and it does greatly depend on the knight that you chose to peruse (more on this word choice later).
 
From my perspective being a squire is not a status symbol but the recognition by a person that they have potential. I hope that my article will also help to demystify the squire position. It’s one of the few titles that are not earned and distributed by the monarchy. However I often hear non-squired people speak of those who are squired with some amount of reverence just because they have a squire’s belt, which I feel is a little misplaced.
 
The core of the knight squire relationship is a mentorship. That’s all it really is. It’s the knight taking the knowledge they have and distilling it into a form for one person to absorb. This is different than the normal teaching a knight is expected to do, this is more constant supervision. For me this doesn’t just mean in game stuff but extends to life as well, helping where you are needed, being a sounding board, imparting advice where it’s appropriate; helping the squire grow, both in and out of Amtgard. This is why one requirement I and other knights I’ve talked to, have for their squires is the ability to connect on a personal level. There has to be friendship potential there, even if it’s a different sort of friendship than you might typically experience.
 
You might be thinking that you want to have this more involved kind of relationship with a knight and that’s great, but how do you actually become a squire. Simply put, you ask. That’s why earlier I said chose the word pursue. Now there are two thoughts on this, some people, typically the people who are not knights, think that it’s up to the Knight to ask someone if they would like to be their squire. However from many of perspectives of the knights I’ve talked to they are more likely to take note of an individual who has decided that they want to become a squire and seek it out themselves. I’m in that camp myself. If you want to be my squire I expect you to come to me, in a rare case I might consider asking someone first, but that is very uncommon. Why is that? No one knows better if you are ready for a larger commitment to the path than you. That is not to say that a knight won’t ask someone to be a squire, it does happen and some knights do that as a primary means of gaining squires but asking never hurts.
 
Of course if you ask to be a squire that doesn’t guarantee you a spot in someone’s belted line. Typically at that point the knight will either say no, or they will talk with you more about why you want to become a squire, what your aspirations are and what the knight’s expectations are for their squires. The expectations for a squire can vary greatly but generally speaking if you become a squire you are becoming a representative of the person you are knighted to and would be expected to act in a way that doesn’t disgrace them. There are of course more specific requirements depending on the knight.
 
Using me for an example I require all of my squires to read the Book of the Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi and they are tested on what they read. This might sound like school and I guess it is, but it’s important, from my perspective, that they take the material seriously. I’ve been reading the book for nearly two decades and I find new insights every time I read it. Even if the squire’s path is not the path of the sword there are lessons to be taken concerning setting goals and overcoming difficulties. On top of that I have less specific requirements which I find are pretty common. Keep in contact with the Knight, up hold the beltline’s good reputation; have set goals and work on creating a path to achieve them.
 
For the knight’s part, they are there to help you visualize your goals and to help you create a path to achieve them. They are there to help guide you through road blocks and often times to be a safety line. The exact expression of this is different from each knight and for each situation but the generality of it is universal. Of course it’s also important for the knight to be available to the squire. In this way the mentorship could also be seen as a form of a partnership.
 
There are also some knights who will require you to take a lesser belt till you have proven that you are serious about being a squire, although admittedly they seem to be in the minority. I am one of those knights who are in the minority. Typically I will require someone to be a man at arms for an undisclosed amount of time till I think they are serious and are in it for the long haul. Once I believe they are serious I will raise them up to a squire. In the case of my current squire I made him start off as a page. He stayed a page until he had been in the game for a year then I raised him to man at arms. He was a special case, normally I wouldn’t add a person who was in the game for less than a year but he did ask to become my squire and I knew there was someone else who was gunning for him who I thought wouldn’t be a good fit, so I accepted him and he worked his butt off to eventually become my squire.
 
However, as I said, that view is in the minority. Other reasons you might not become a squire immediately is that they just don’t have a spot open. Some knights will give a person a lesser belt because they see the potential in the person but they just don’t have the time to dedicate to a person that a squire’s belt deserves. Most knights will only take so many squires as they are able to give dedicated attention to. This means that if a knight already has a few squires they might not be able to take you on at that time, but that doesn’t mean it’s pointless to ask, you never know till you do.
 
Once you become a squire the experience will be different for each knight and with each squire. As mentioned different knights have different requirements for their squires and some of those requirements might be minute and unspoken and some can be codified such as reading specific material or upholding specific standards. In general the experience will be something of a personal one as a mentorship typically is. There is a lot of give and take on both sides. Sometimes the squire might actually have to push the knight, especially if the knight is dealing with burnout, which is something long terms players will probably experience at least once. Most of the time it will be the knight helping the squire and motivating him to overcome roadblocks and plateaus.
 
There is of course the teaching aspect as well. Sometimes a knight takes a squire that has a different path to knighthood than the one the knight took, which is fine. For example own squire is going for a sword belt. You help them as much as you can but the teaching aspect of the mentorship is regulated to the background. However if the squire has the same path as the knight then the teaching aspect of the mentorship will most likely take a forefront, at least in the beginning. Eventually the squire will learn all there is to learn and at the point it’s up to the squire, with the support of their knight, to prove they can do what it takes to earn a belt themselves.
 
Hopefully I have given you some idea what it is to be a squire and given you some insight in what it requires to become one. Becoming a squire is often a simple act although situational. All you need is a bit of motivation, a knight you respect and one who hopefully has spots available.