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Knighting by the Numbers
[09/30/2002] [Yoni Hamagid]

It’s been a while since someone stirred the hornets’ nest that is Amtgard knighthood. I feel like stinging someone.

The argument over knighthood usually breaks down into two camps, those who think the other guy is knighting people who aren’t qualified and those who think the other guy isn’t knighting people who are.

Often numbers are mentioned, but are rarely the point.

“You knight too many people.”
“So? You don’t knight enough.”
“Ten in one event?”
“None for three years?”

It goes on, but it’s really only about how you knight people, not how many. Numbers in these arguments are merely benchmarks, a means to tell if you’re using the correct criteria or not.

I think numbers are the only thing that matters in choosing who to knight and when. But not the numbers you think.

Knighthoods should grow with Amtgard as quickly as newbies come into it. Of course, the actual formula is very complicated. You have to take into account the attrition rate of knights leaving the game. You have to similarly take into account the attrition rate of newbies leaving the game. You have to figure for non-belted old timers finally leaving in disgust. You even have to allow for seasoned vets, belted and not, migrating to your lands from elsewhere in the Amtworld, and what effect their presence has on your balance.

You would do that if you really cared about an actual number. I don’t. I care about trends. I care about the gut reaction you have at a knighting ceremony.

If you’re sitting there and you think to yourself, “Wow, at this rate, everyone’ll have belt soon,” you’re kingdom is knighting too many people. If you look around and can’t figure out why a dozen people on the battlefield haven’t been knighted yet, not to mention the poor shmoe running feast, again, and the monarch on a third term, then your kingdom is knighting too few people. And it all comes down to newbies. Without them, Amtgard stagnates until it’s just a bunch of old farts standing around recounting glory days past. Newbies make sure that there continues to be glory days to come.

If you keep knighting people in the face of a newbie shortage, you’re not accomplishing anything. Sure worthy people get recognized, but recognized before whom? It’s the newbies who are actually impressed by a belt. I haven’t seen a knighting in the past two years that made me feel differently about a person. I either thought that’s a belt well deserved; I’m glad someone in power finally notices, or I thought someone’s been a lot more sexually active than I would have thought.

Not that the recognition itself is not important. It’s just that the cool factor of handing out knighthoods is one of Amtgard’s biggest draws and if it isn’t being used to draw in newbies, it’s just a circle of individuals giving each other’s white belts a… massage.

If, on the other hand, you’ve got newbies out the wazoo, and no one’s getting knighted, you’re doing a disservice to those newbies. They look to the knighting ceremonies to vindicate their own ambitions and desires, and if they think no one ever gets knighted, they won’t be inspired to their own greatness. Newbie attraction and retention is a very fine balance.

Therefore, not only are the number of newbies the only real arbiter of how many knights should be made, but those knights’ relationship to newbies is the only criterion I care about when choosing whom to knight.

If a fighter gets the nickname “Lord Newbie-slayer”, I don’t want to see a white belt trimmed in silver around his waist. All he does is chase away our future. I want to see sword knights made of people who take the time to train our young fighters, teach them Amtgard rules and style, and, yes, occasionally show them why they’re newbies and not sword knights, as every newbie fancies himself at some time (not herself, though, girl newbies don’t seem to have the physical arrogance of boy newbies, but I digress).

It’s ok to beat a newbie, just don’t beat a newbie.

And you can take that right down the line of knighthoods. If a serpent candidate hasn’t taken a newbie under his wing to teach the arts and sciences, that candidate is worthless to Amtgard. I’m sure there are some very pretty tunics/swords/ food/singing/trebuchet floating around, but who’s gonna wear/wield/eat/listen to/cower from ‘em?

If a monarch or other elected official didn’t have a newbie-rific reign, then they didn’t earn a crown belt. The whole point of leadership in this game is growth. If Amtgard didn’t grow under you, you’ve damaged it.

Which brings us to flame, the belt of service. One would think that everything one does in service to the game is in the name of newbie attraction. True, but to truly excel in service, one must be able to lead. Flame belts should not merely be recognition of sitting gate, picking up trash, cooking feasts, organizing events, but must also have an element of leadership. Get the newbies involved, supervise the trash pickup, manage the feast preparation, facilitate the event organization.

Amtgard is its knights and its newbies. Without one, we cannot have the other. Without the other, the one is meaningless. The task is to balance the two so that there is a steady influx of both. Otherwise, we’re just wrapping dyed bits of dead cow around each others’ waists.

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