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.

The Group Fund and the Community

I’d like to talk about group involvement surrounding a park’s money and the individual contributions of their members. Some people, when they get in office and have the personal funds, feel like they need to spend personal money to make their park great. For example they want to buy relics or spend a bunch of money on loaner weapons. While the sentiment is excellent, that isn’t always the best approach for the long term health of a park. By spending their own money and doing all the hard work themselves will create an expectation of this great environment, an expectation that’s been created without the people putting in any of their own effort into creating and maintaining it.
In essence they will have a great park that they have no personal investment in and that is the problem. My suggestion would be for people to alter their approach. Not only should people be leading by example but also by participation. It’s important to get as many people involved with what someone wants to do, to make the group feel like they are contributing to the greater good.
A large part of community involvement is the use of group funds. The more things you spend the group money on the more people feel like it’s something they have personally spent, even if they haven’t paid dues in a year. The process still makes them feel involved. At the very minimum group gear should be maintained by the group fund. The key is to try and build up the group funds to be able to do all the things you’d like to do, which can be difficult. This can be done through dues, fundraisers and donations.
In many cases donations are not the best idea, fundraisers are better at creating a sense of community. Donations are fine and they are helpful but if a person is donating something other than money, such as a meal, then that donation could just as easily be turned into a group fundraiser. It’s all about perspective.
For example if you want to donate a meal you could make a post beforehand talking about it and saying something like “Potluck time! I’ll be bringing “insert items here”. Everyone feel free to bring what they can. If you can’t bring food but want to help, money is always welcome. All proceeds will go to the park coffers!” You turned what would have been a free feast into a group event that invites people to be involved and possibly even encourages people to help build up the park’s coffers.
The key is to get other people involved before the event if at all possible. If you end up being the only person who brings any food then what you originally wanted to do is still happening. However it made it look like you were organizing a group event and not just donating a free meal. This creates the feeling of a group activity even if it turns out not to be one.
Now let’s say there is something really cool that someone wants to have happen at the park but the park doesn’t have enough money to cover it but they are willing to fit the bill, what should they do? I wouldn’t suggest paying for it all out of hand like they are willing. What I would suggest is asking for some amount of the cost to be paid for by the holding and they can cover the rest. This does a few different things. One it means that this awesome thing they want to have happen will be brought before the althing and there will be a public discussion about it, raising awareness and helping get the word out.
Two, it will give people a chance to offer their own money or give some alternative options they might not have consider. They might find that once they do a cost break down at the althing their might be others who are willing to help pay for the awesome thing as well. If that’s the case, it’s nearly as good in creating group involvement as obtaining holding funds, plus it would save them money.
Three, it once again gets the community involved so they feel invested in this awesome thing they want to do. This will give the community some sense of ownership in their awesome thing and create a greater sense of community involvement.
And lastly talking about it in person, at an althing, is more effective than talking about it on Facebook. There is an ineffable quality that online interactions just can’t match. Furthermore, having it at an althing brings a level of officiality to the process that will make people who may have ignored the online conversation pay attention to this awesome thing you’re trying to make happen.
The goal is to have the group be the center of activity as much as possible. While it often takes a person to stand up and lead, it’s important for the growth of the community for those people to involve the community as much as possible. They shouldn’t be shouldering the responsibility completely, especially financially. The group as a whole should be contributing to the good of the community as much as possible and using the group fund for projects is one way to involve the community.

You’re a Knight, Now What?

This article is a personal perspective of what changes when you become a knight and what you do after you become one. I want to be clear I don’t speak for all knights, I’m speaking from my own perspective based on my own experiences. I am sure there are other valid perspectives. What this article will cover is my own journey from before knighthood to the struggles you encounter once you become a knight and how I’m choosing to overcome them.

Before Knighthood

To understand what changed for me, it’s first important know about my experience before becoming a knight. I earned my flame belt by becoming a Master Rose. Most of my service was in the kitchen cooking. Of course I did more than that, but on paper all of of my roses, with the exception of one, was because I ran a kingdom level feast. The key thing is that I was doing ever increasingly complex activities. In my region I elevated feasts to a new standard. My personal perspective is that for the last few awards you need to be innovating in some kind of way. To get my Master Rose it was suggested that I start running events, so I started running a local camping event, Winterbash. It was not the first event I ran but it was my first kingdom level camping event.
The key takeaway is that I was doing activities situated in a ladder awards system. While the steps from one level of award to the next can be ambivalent at times, especially for service the fact is there is a step. We have some idea of what it takes to go from a level 6 rose to a level 7.
Once you achieve Masterhood in your chosen path you’re essentially done. You have mastered your path, you don’t have to do anything else; you have proven yourself. At this point you can now choose to try and become a knight but, just because you’ve earned your masterhood doesn’t mean you will become a knight. There are expectations of a knight that we don’t have when it comes to masters. Masters, while they should continue their service, are not expected to continue their service in their respective fields, not like a knight and that’s the crux of it, knights are expected to continue to serve the club.

Getting Knighthood

Achieving Knighthood is a wondrous thing, you’re getting a life long achievement award but there is no guidebook telling you what that really means. After the elation from achieving this award wears off something terrible happens, or at least happened to me and a few other knights I’ve talked to, a sense of losslessness. You’ve earned this big achievement, but now what do you do? I didn’t know what to do and it was dangerous, worse yet, there was no help in sight. I had spent 15 years on one path and I finished it, from my perspective I beat the game. I no longer had the ladder system to be my Amtgard guide.
This might be why you get those people who become knights and then fall off the radar. Something that combines a sense of completion, losslessness and burnout causes them to leave the game for a time. It’s a feeling I fully understand. At this point you need to make a decision, do you give in to this horrible feeling or do you choose to overcome it. Luckily I chose to stick with it and overcome it.

Now What?

To help combat that feeling and to make yourself worthy of your new title It’s important that you set yourself a new set of goals. In reality when you achieve knighthood you haven’t beaten the game. You’ve finished one path and unlocked new challenges. Some decide they want to start in on a new belt path which is a worthy goal but it’s also important to set goals which correspond to your new station. Knighthood, from my perspective, requires a continued journey for excellence, a willingness to continue to elevate your chosen field and to be a teacher and example of a person that people strive to become like.
My first personal goal was to cook the feasts of the major interkingdom events in my region in one season. I did this to keep myself engaged in the game. It was a short term goal. I also wanted to check something off my bucket list, cooking risotto for a large group. I was happy to achieve this goal within the first year of becoming knighted. On some level it helped me convince myself that I did earn my knight belt but it was just a short term solution. I needed to think bigger, I needed a larger, ambiguous goal which was ongoing. I found that in teaching.


A key aspect of knighthood is teaching. One expression of this is the knight squire relationship. Ideally it is a one on one mentoring relationship. This relationship helps keep you engaged in amtgard through another person’s well being. I believe you shouldn’t take more squires than you can personally attend to on a consistent basis. I’m sure each knight approaches their belted line in different ways. Many new knights have the benefit of having already been in a belted line and knowing what kind of expectations to have. I had no such luck. I am the first of my line.
On the one hand that gave me a certain amount of freedom to decide how I’d like to proceed, on the other hand I had no background from which to draw from. To help decide how I wanted to proceed I talked to friends and used them to bounce ideas off. WIthout going into the details of exactly how I approach the knight squire relationship I had a fun chance to create my own traditions to pass down my beltline. While it’s a fun experience it doesn’t really help Amtgard in general. To be a knightly teacher you should teach more than just a select few people.
Another thing I decided to do was to revitalize a household called House Gravy. It was created back in 2001 and only had two members. It focused on feasts. I wanted to take House Gravy and do something great for the game. Create a group of people who were trained in all aspects of service and willing to share that training. Within the group I set up a system of mentoring were they would receive personal one on one training with someone and would be tested along the way before they would become full members. This of course is a long term goal and will take many years to see a lot of benefit but it is just another way to teach people while helping the game.
There is of course the more traditional form of teaching, the ithra. While in my area the old style of dedicated ithra days has disappeared, replaced by contests and micro ithra events (a conversation for another article), it’s still an important way to disseminate information. Ithra classes give you a chance to take your knowledge and structure it into a new form.
The process of taking what you know and turning it into classes not only helps those who take the classes, it helps the person teaching the classes. It reaffirms how much you know and shows you areas where you might want to explore and learn more. Sitting down and thinking about what you know can inspire you to find a new view or direction you may not have previously considered. It’s a form of self reflection I highly recommend.
Articles is another way you can teach which is something, obviously, I’ve chosen to do. Writing about my experiences and my perspectives can help those going through similar things. It allows me to reach a more broad audience, expanding the affect I have on Amtgard society. On a more personal level it does the same thing as when you teach a class. It gives you a chance to self reflect.


Another thing to pursue is the innovation of the field for which you are knighted. While everyone who is trying to become a master should be bringing their own touches to the game I think knights should still be actively trying to do the same.
I believe it’s my job to find areas that could be improved. An important thing is not to do everything yourself. Choose some projects you’d like to do but also make suggestions to those who are up and coming. Not only will you probably burnout if you try to do everything yourself, you’ll possibly lose the chance to allow someone else to bring their perspective to an area. Even if you don’t find many areas to innovate and you are doing it all yourself, it’s important to keep others involved in the process so that other perspectives are given a voice.
I’ve chosen two areas where I’d like to innovate, one is in service in general. For this I’m using the revitalization of House Gravy as my vehicle to create a system to help teach others various aspects of service.
The second is in event running. Granted part of this is my pursuit of a Master Smith, but the other is seeing something I could improve upon and doing something about it. Our area didn’t have a story driven event so I chose to make a 4 day camping event where the whole thing is a single quest with multiple phases. It was a new take on the traditional camping event. Each year I try to do something new and experiment with new concepts.

Take A Step Back

I was hesitant to bring up this aspect of knighthood, especially since I don’t think it applies to all knighthoods and all situations, especially sword and serpent belts. For sword and serpent belts you specifically shouldn’t take a step back. You should be competing so that those who are coming up have a standard to beat. However for Flame and Crown belts taking a step back isn’t always a bad thing.
There are only so many kingdom level positions; there are only so many kingdom level events. If knights were the only ones doing them then no one else would have a chance to prove themselves. However I’m not advocating that knights shouldn’t take kingdom positions or run kingdom events. There is a fine balance. People still need examples of excellence to strive for.
For example one year you could run a kingdom level event and use it as a chance to teach a group of up and coming smiths and flame people. Then next year those people you were teaching could put in a bid to run an event and you could take a step back. You could do this by either co-crating or just giving advice as necessary. You need to learn to give a chance for others to prove themselves.
But it’s also important to be present. Taking a step back doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to park days and participate; you should, as often as you are able to. Part of being a knight is being there to help others when it’s needed. If you aren’t there, then it’s obviously harder to help.
There is a fine balance between doing to much and not doing enough, it’s a balance that I’m still learning myself.

Final Thoughts

In the end the story of my knighthood is a story of someone who is trying to keep themselves involved in the game in a positive and informative way. Everyone’s experience with knighthood will be different. DIfferent people in different areas have different expectations of knights.
Here are the things I’d like people to take away; be a leader, innovate, be a teacher, be present. Even if your expectations of a knight are not the same as mine it’s important for a knight to be present in the game. Their continued presence at kingdom level events and the normal practice days is crucial to being a knight. It’s hard to be an example if you are not there to be one.