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There isn’t anything as wonderful in Amtgard as your first big event. For me, it was Clan, and not just any Clan – it was 10th Year. It was back in 1993 and I was sixteen, with barely six months of Amtgard under my belt. Back then, it was all about Sleepy Grass, Saracens, and Knights and Squires vs. the World. The Duchy of Dragonspine and the Pirates, which amounted to more or less the same thing in those days, camped as a group just before the small quest field at the end of the long campground. In the morning, we had dawn patrol. In the evening, we had campfires with flames so high they lit up the sky. We’d walk up and down the trail in the middle of the night to the sounds of happy, drunken ditching. It was a pure, magical event that I remember as clear as if it were yesterday.
By the time my second Clan rolled around, times had changed slightly. It was still at Sleepy Grass, but Dragonspine had become a kingdom and I was its Prime Minister. We drove out to the site with Astrean and Iagan and camped in a cabin. All I remember from that event is sunburn and sore feet from walking around collecting sign-ins. It was a lot of fun, to be sure, but it wasn’t the same. There’s nothing quite like your first Clan.
Except, perhaps, your second “first Clan.” After not playing Amtgard for five years, I went to Clan 18. It was held at the new campground, with the rocky path winding its way around the muddy parking lot and down into the valley. The smell of campfires, the long trail up to the Lion’s hill, and the night-time roar of generators mingling with the sounds of celebrating drums all reminded me of why I love this game so much. I was happily ignorant of the politics of the day and glad to be at the event I had missed for all those years. It was pure.
Then things changed. Many people left Clan 19 with an uneasy feeling. The price, although understandably the fault of the Forest Service, was alarming. The schedule of events was a joke. Services such as generators and the water buffalo became controversial disasters as they were handled – badly -- by the Burning Lands Board of Directors. The event was still fun, but all these factors contributed to the general sentiment that maybe Clan wasn’t worth attending anymore. The effort to encourage people to boycott Clan altogether went into full gear.
I’m here to tell you that Clan is worth attending. Clan may be poorly-run, but everyone at Clan 19 had fun in spite of the BLBOD. Massive ditches that weren’t on the schedule covered the valley floor. People made their own fun, sat around their own campfires, and did their own thing. It was fun because we were all out camping in the wilderness surrounded by hundreds of Amtgarders from all over the country, and not because of anything the BLBOD did or did not plan.
Boycotting an event the BLBOD loses money on because you dislike them isn’t worth it. Letting your fun be ruined by half a dozen people who rarely leave their company encampment isn’t worth it, either. I’ll tell you what is – having the opportunity to walk from campfire to campfire, meeting new people from far-away places who still see Amtgard as something honest and good. These people don't care that the BLBOD seems intent on mismanaging Clan into oblivion. These people don't care that the site is primitive and that it rains all the time. These people go to other events because they're well-run and fun, but they go to Clan because it's legendary.
Go and see the purity and magic for yourself, because there's something golden in those mountains. And if you’ve been before, make the 20th Clan your first Clan all over again. The hopes and dreams of your youth await you there.
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