Amtgard and Cultural Pillars

Authors Note: I wanted to make a note that this is an opinion based persuasive article. It’s not to be taken as a fact but as an opinion to be discussed and debated. However I do have a degree in History, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and I’ve done my best to keep this concept in tune with my understanding of culture on both the macro and micro level. I

This is the first in a series of articles discussing Amtgard from a cultural perspective.

It’s hard to define the culture of Amtgard but Amtgard certainly has a culture onto itself. There are a few ways that we maintain our culture, the rulebook and the awards standard is one way, the Amtgwiki is another way, but I’d argue the main way we maintain our culture is through Cultural Pillars.

The Culture of One.

Before getting into my definition of Cultural Pillars it’s important to discuss how I’ve come to understand culture and how it is expressed. The definition of culture is commonly understood as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group”, but how is that formed and how is it expressed?

Each person is made up of their own experiences and how a person interprets their experiences is what makes up their culture of one. When a person tries to explain a concept to another person and they come to a mutual acceptance it then becomes a culture of two and, if a third person is introduced, it becomes a culture of three and so on. Eventually as ideas are expressed, exchanged and accepted by more people it turns into the larger concept we understand as culture.

In this way I’m able to express what I mean when creating and maintaining a culture in small groups and organizations. Going forward it’s important that you understand this when I talk about the accumulation and transmission of culture.

What are Cultural Pillars?

What are Cultural Pillars? If you a familiar with the idea of Institutional Knowledge , the principal is similar. Cultural Pillars are people who are active, have a longer than average history in the organization, and are able to condense their experiences into sharable experiences to be digested by others in the organization.

In essence they just have more exposure to the culture of Amtgard so they are able to transmit more concepts and explain why things are they way they are. Not to say that is a defense of the way things are, they just have a better understanding of this. Tradition for the sake of tradition is not a good excuse for toxic traits.

What Do Cultural Pillars Do?

A Cultural Pillar is able to use their experience to influence how the culture of the organization is expressed and possibly influence the direction of the organization. More often than not their experiences are used as a guide. The newer generations in the organization can choose to go the direction a Cultural Pillar expresses, or not.

These are not usually overt actions done by the Cultural Pillar. It’s just an affect of them being active in the organization and sharing their opinion and experiences but they can take overt actions as well.

For example an overt action would be to run for Monarch and try and correct things they think are not going as they should. This isn’t a judgment, many people run for office for this reason, but their experiences will effect their reign and thus it is an over action aimed at expressing their cultural knowledge.

Why Are Cultural Pillars Important?

Cultural Pillars are important in Amtgard because outside of Amtgard’s rulebook and Awards Standards we have very little written experiences to draw from. In Amtgard we rely on people’s long term understanding of what a different award level means. This bar, refined by the culture of one’s group, is often expressed by Cultural Pillars in the organization.

In the same vain events can be maintained by Cultural Pillars. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have an event called Pacific War (Pac War), traditionally there are tournaments, a big war and jugging. Nothing is written down saying this, but that is what the event has become. This is maintained by the understanding of those people who have been around long enough to see it as a trend and to support that notion, i.e., the Cultural Pillars in our area are helping to maintain the Pacific War event culture.

Who Are Cultural Pillars?

Anyone can become a Cultural Pillar, it just takes time and social acknowledgment of your experiences. There are different levels of knowledge, based on experience and time. Typically the longer your in the game the more experiences you’ll have to share, but that is not always the case.

One might naturally think Knights when you think Cultural Pillars, but that is not always the case. Most knights are Cultural Pillars or at least were Cultural Pillars in their past. You can be a Knight and not be a Cultural Pillar and you can be Cultural Pillar and not be a knight.

That veteran at your park who travels to your daily park and maybe some campouts and KLEs may be a Cultural Pillar in their own right. They might not have done any offices or pushed any service or arts, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a Cultural Pillar

People like that have a lot to share too, they usually known the game well, they have seen a lot of park days, lots of games, they might have noticed trends with different groups of people. Maybe they can explain why ditching is important to maintain even if at the current time people only have the mind for battle games (a topic for another article).

While they might not be known as artisans or event runners, they probably know various level of awards, they will probably have an opinion on who runs what event best, what a good event looks like, what a bad event looks like.

This sort of cultural influence isn’t just seen in the awards and events but also in the governance of all the parks in kingdoms. Through Cultural Pillars we are able to maintain some sort of cohesiveness at the park, Kingdom and National level.

What’s Next?

I hope you have a better understanding of what I mean by Cultural Pillar. We will continue to explore the idea in future articles. The next article in the series will be about Knights and their relation to being a Cultural Pillar. My perspective might surprise you!

You can see my Tier 2 (Rock Gnomes) and 3 (Tinker Gnomes) supporters on my Patreon Supporters page as well as find out how to become a Patron yourself.

Baelnorn’s Year in Review 2021

2021 is nearly over. Time for a Year in Review post. When I migrated to Facebook nearly three years ago I did my first Year in Review post. Now as the year ends I find that I regret not continuing that tradition, so here we are, doing a Year in Review post.

I’ve thought about how to organize this blog Things have changed so much that I can’t really use the format that I used in 2019. I’ll start with talking a little bit about 2020 to help put 2021 into context, then I’ll talk about 2021 and talk about the future. Following that there will be a list of things information about the year.

Little Bit of 2020

Going into 2020 I was in a very positive place. I had moved from Facebook to my own web page in fall 2019 and I was doing weekly blogs. I was also putting out articles on a fairly regular basis. Then COVID hit.

I adapted and started doing online content. For the first month or two I went hard but then slowed down and pace myself. I stopped doing regular blogs and started streaming. Beers with Baelnorn came along, then Baelnorn and Friends and Ducal Drinks. Near the end of the year I became a Twitch Affiliate. I was on a roll.

As well as adapting to the online life, I was regularly writing and posting the rough draft of my novel Philip Clowes. I also started doing writing streams and made good progress on the short story Dark Choices.

It was a year of transition, both for my content and for Amtgard, hell, even the world. It was rough but I felt well situated going into 2021

Hard Reality of 2021

I started 2021 strong, doing my first 12 hour stream and finishing Dark Choices. I started a Shattered Kingdoms Twitch D&D Game and created a companion website Things were looking up, at least professionally.

In my personal life things were taking a turn for the worse. My mother’s health was failing and we were talking about her life in years rather than decades. It was hard. My depression is often present, but the events in February and March triggered it something fierce and I spiraled. I had some of the worst days of my life. Content slowed to a crawl.

Then in April my mother died. Content stopped.

Eventually Amtgard opened back up again, but I didn’t start doing weekly blogs again, however I did start recording video. In September I started making an effort to post YouTube Videos.

As time went on I got better, both at recording and editing video. I bought a gimbal and I started to enjoy creating again. I even started shooting an interview series which will be coming in January, LARP Chats.

Starting in fall I began dabbling in my writing streams again and rebooted Baelnorn and friends. Streaming is still a secondary though though. D&D has still not started back up, but I look forward to it. The content is there but scheduling has become dificult and I don’t have the extra energy to properly edit the video from the streams.

I recently started to publish the first novel I wrote on Kindle Vella, Baelath Chronicles. The rough draft of the novel was finished four or five years ago. I never thought I would actually publish this novel There were just to many little things that didn’t settle right with me. However, the format provided by Kindle Vella seemed perfect for the content I had. I’m excited for people to read it.

The big project of the 2021 though is the podcast, High Trek. I started a Star Trek The Next Generation podcast with my friend Riley. While not in the Balenorn sphere, it’s worth mentioning due to it being project that takes a good amount of my time. Plus it’s been a blast.

We started recording High Track back in the summer, and as of this post we have recorded 20 episodes. We have published six, the the seventh scheduled for tomorrow. It is my main priority right now, our initial analytics (20-25 lists a week) is very promising and I can’t wait to see our audience grow.

2022 And Beyond

As the year comes to a close I find that I am optimistic about content for 2022. I’d like to continue my upward trend and slowly introduce and refine the content I have. Streaming is something I’m interested in tackling again.

By the end of next year I’d like to be doing weekly writing streams and monthly Baelnorn and Friends. I’d like to retool and relaunch Beers with Baelnorn, and add in some beer tasting streams.

As to YouTube, I’d like to continue producing and improving the quality of fight videos, but my big push will be to start creating more narrative content.

I have one project in the works, but it requires a team and building that team has been difficult. I will probably try to take on smaller projects, ones that require less people, and try and excersize the narrative muscle in less ambitious ways.

I’m looking forward to continuing High Trek. We’ll finish our first season in 2022 and we have some fun special episodes planned for our in between season content.

Something I tried to do over the last two years and failed miserably at, is creating a community on my Discord. It’s another thing I would like to tackle in 2022. I would like to see it be a place for Amtgard learning, as well as for discussing LARP, Writing, and table top role playing games.

Cautiously Optimistic

While the last two years has seen a trend downward in webpage numbers, I still feel good about where I’m situated. Between the podcast and YouTube audience I think there has been a net positive in my overall growth over the past two years.

While things are looking positive, I’m being careful not to add to much to the mix to quickly. I’m still dealing with my mother’s estate and that is not an easy thing to manage. Not to mention my never ending financial struggle. There have been moments over the last year where homelessness was a serious concern.

Then there is my mental health. I also still battle with depression and anxiety. It’s currently managed but unforeseen situations can always trigger more intense episodes.

I am cautiously optimistic and look forward to producing more content for everyone to enjoy!

Achievements of 2021

The following is a list of things I’ve achieved over 2021

Twitch in 2021

  • First 12 Hour Stream
  • Rebooted Baelnorn and Friends

YouTube in 2021

  • Doubled Views to 5k.
  • Watch Hours Stayed the same as 2021, approx. 145 hours.
  • Added 45 Subscribers about the same as 2021 year.
  • Produced more videos and improved quality
  • Recorded LARP Chats

Writing

  • Finished and Published Dark Choices
  • 30-40 pages extra on Philip Novel
  • Started producing content on Kindle Vella

Revenue Generation Attempts

  • Patreon 2021, hit $50 for a month, meeting first goal, ads from website were removed
  • Patreon ended the year at $35
  • Overall downward trend.
  • Added Ko-Fi.

You can see my Tier 2 (Rock Gnomes) and 3 (Tinker Gnomes) supporters on my Patreon Supporters page as well as find out how to become a Patron yourself.

My Last Two Weeks

I was unable to go to Amtgard this weekend. A storm on Saturday knocked down powerlines at Silvermoon’s park, closing it. Then on Sunday there was Blackspires’s Weapon Master Tournament which I was unable to attend due to previous obligations. It was all very disappointing.

By all I’ve heard Sunday was a great day. Some people came down from Northern Lights and I was disappointed I missed them. Two of which placed in in the tournament. If my sources are correct Shayden won with Devry taking second. Third place was Critias.

It sounded like there was a good breadth of competition in the tournament and it was an overall fun experience. I would have liked to have seen Shayden and Devry, Given they live up in Washington I’m not able to see either of them that often.

I did do an Amtgard adjacent activity though. On Saturday (December 11th) I did Baelnorn and Friends for December. A chat show where I gather some of my LARP friends and we talk about LARP and other nerdy things. If you missed it I’ve started putting up the unedited video on my YouTUbe. You can find it HERE.

The first 4 minutes of the video is before we really get started. It’s making me think I’ll need to at least do a little bit of editing if I want to post them and not cringe a little when I do so. I have a lot going on so I’m not sure if I can add editing another things to the mix (the last third of the blog talks about my projects)

Las Vegas Update

I survived Leas Vegas, barely. I was there for 5 days and 4 nights. It was one long party full of full of several good memories. I even managed to record some of it.

There is enough video that I can coble together something for my first vblog, but I’m not sure how long it will be or how good. I learned a lot and will apply it to my next vblog project (whenever that might be).

One big thing I kind of already knew was that you should know what story you’d like to tell before you shoot. However I didn’t give the question the proper respect it deserved. I didn’t know how important it was. It helps guide your whole project.

If you don’t decide on and develop the story beforehand, you risk having to much or to little video. Plus it requires more work in post. Also f you want your video to be at least decent you’re still going to have to come up with some sort of narrative with the video you took.

With what I caught I think I figured out what I will focus on, the Tournament of Champions, which was excellent. It’s the thing I have the most video of, plus it was pretty awesome. It was also the day I managed to maintain a buzz for at least 15 hours.

My friend Dale organized most of the trip and had bought the tickets. We ended up in the front row and if I may barrow a sports term, we were near the 50 yard line. It was a great view. We were also in the Dragon section so we got to cheer for the bad guys. I finally got to put my huzzahing practice to good use outside of Amtgard. The show was decently interactive.

I can’t wait to be able to share the final product, but it will probably be a while before I finish it. I’m only at the point where I sort through video and organize it into something usable. It’s a very early stage. Sadly I have other projects I need to prioritize before I can really start to work on the vblog.

Content Creation Workload

I’m now now working on several projects which need to be released weekly or monthly. To help you understand how much work I put into my content creation here is a list of all my current projects.

1st Priority (Front Burner)

These are projects that I’m actively working on and take top priority. They are weekly and monthly content that has a deadline

  • A Weekly Podcast (www.hightrekpodcast.com). Recording, editing and promotion.
  • YouTube videos, at least weekly.
  • A weekly produced story on Kindle Vella (Baelath Chronicles).
  • Writing my novel and releasing sections monthly on my Patreon.
  • Doing Baelnorn and Friends monthly on my Twitch Channel.
  • Releasing LARP Chats (Releasing in January on an every other week schedule).

2nd Priority (Back Burner)

These are projects I’m working on but not at the expense of the 1st Priority projects. Some of them have seen more recent public releases than others, but they are all actively in the mix, even if not released on a schedule

  • Shattered Kingdoms D&D Twitch show and Website
  • Las Vegas Vblog
  • Story Driven Fighting Video Project (still looking for more fighters if you’d like to apply)
  • Building and maintaining a community on the Baelnorn Discord Server (Which is hard to get engagement),
  • Website Blogs!
  • Ducal Drinks reboot (yes, you heard it here first, I’m working up the energy to restart it)
  • Weekly Writing Streams on Twitch.

3rd Priority (Refrigerator)

These are projects that are currently on hold but are always at the back of my mind and will eventually be cycled into the 2nd or 1st priority lists. I will occasionally work on them but not at the expense of the 1st or 2nd priority projects

  • Beers with Baelnorn (I want to bring it back but it will be different than it’s previous form, not sure how yet)
  • 2nd Shattered Kingdoms D&D Twitch Show
  • Beer Tasting Twitch show and YouTube series

I’ve probably forgotten one or two projects for the 3rd Priority list, but I hope what I’ve listed gives you some idea of all the work I’m currently doing behind the scenes. If you’d like to help, financially, or otherwise, it’s always appreciated.

You can financially support me you can become a Patron on my Patreon. If monthly isn’t your thing you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi. I will literally use all money from the Ko-Fi site to buy coffee so I can work at our local coffee shop.

Just as important as financial support I’d apricate any social capital assistance you can give. Engaging in my content, or even just sharing it is pretty huge. Word of mouth is my own form of promotion I can afford.

For things like the website, YouTube and Twitch, just watching, spending time on the website, or liking and commenting on videos helps the algorithms. Plus I love hearing about you enjoying my content. It helps keep me motivated.

Thanks for reading!

You can see my Tier 2 (Rock Gnomes) and 3 (Tinker Gnomes) supporters on my Patreon Supporters page as well as find out how to become a Patron yourself.