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.

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.

Innovate

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.

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.