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The Burning Lands Doesn't Suck
[11/21/2002] [Randall]

Anyone who reads e-Samurai knows that we like to make fun of the BLBOD and Aramithris. Sometimes, this is in good, political cartoon style fun, as when we ran the Which BLBOD Member Are You? Quiz where everyone managed to get to be Kurse. Other times, it’s a full-fledged rant where we’re telling you that the BLBOD made a big mistake that’s going to hurt the game. And Aramithris is such a slander-machine that it’s always fun to plug something he says into a post, because it’s hilarious in the same way a Tourette’s kid shouting foul words is hilarious. For example:

Very few friends out there, the club we love often dominated by ego bags. It sucks for a 20 year veteran. Is Jetara jewish, I meant no slight if he is.
That never stops being funny, does it?

Anyway, we regularly give the Burning Lands a hard time out here at the Electric Samurai. At first, there was genuine effort to get input from Burning Landers in the articles and the forums, but it seems that the BLBOD Politburo Chairman declared the e-Samurai to be yelling and not caring so that fell flat… after awhile, what with the misdirection campaign launched by the BLBOD to confuse the kingdoms on the Wetlands issue, and the constant harassment and slander our editors were subjected to by Aramithris, we really couldn’t help but give ‘em some patented E-Sam Luv, could we?

At the end of the day, though, being an e-Samurai is about being honest, so it’s time to give the Burning Lands the credit they deserve. Listen carefully as I tell you that the Burning Lands doesn’t suck.

I know that sounds like a surprising thing to say… and it would have felt odd for me to say it, once upon a time. My newbie days were full of anti-Burning Lands propoganda as Dragonspine made its push for kingdom status, and it’s hard to escape that kind of upbringing. We were taught that El Paso sucked, Aramithris sucked, and they were evil people who hated us. Despite that, I’ve made an effort to seek reapproachment with the Burning Lands. I don’t hate them – I don’t hate anyone – and I actually have a soft spot for the oldest kingdom. Hell, I was once a subject of the Burning Lands, before Dragonspine hit the big time... it's one of two kingdoms I've ever been a part of. It’s hard to be a nostalgic history-head and not love the Burning Lands, so join me in casting aside your prejudices as I tell you why they ain’t that bad.

First, any good kingdom is the result of its people. Now, I’m not entirely sure about any of the people outside of El Paso, since they don’t really count for kingdom considerations out there, but I hear they’re either really freaky or really nice. There’s the “Duchy” of the Crystalline Confederacy, which is a group of weird shires in southern California made up of 6th-grade kids and adults who play something almost completely, but not entirely, unlike Amtgard. Then there’s that Croatian thing that Sir Ivar made up one day during a meeting of the BLBOD, but he assured the board that the group “existed” and had “a lot of members” and "spoke Croatian", so they got made a principality or a kingdom or whatever. And then there’s the group that e-Samurai’s own jewishjedi belongs to out in Pennsylvania. They seem all right, and even got an award during the recent Burning Lands court after King Aramithris had a bit too much to drink, which worked out well because Lord Kahl really deserved it.

But no, I’m going to focus on the good people who play in El Paso, because they are the ones who really are the Burning Lands. After ignoring anyone in Archon or anyone with a white belt (which amounts to the same thing), you have a lot of younger Amtgarders who started the game recently and are fighting hard to keep up with the hard-hitting Burning Lands. These people are great, and most of ‘em have formed a company called Esydra, which is quite possibly the best new company in all of Amtgard. Led by Kurse, who returned to Amtgard after years in the wilderness and is back to winning tournaments again, these guys are a lot of fun to hang out with. They play Amtgard for the love of the game, and you can see it in everything they do. Whether it’s Kurse handing out his burritos to anyone who is hungry, or Kaede giving it his all in the tourneys even after getting his fingers busted, or their choir boys announcing during court that “there is no love without Sol Kanar”, these guys have what it takes to make Amtgard good. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.

We also shouldn't forget that the Burning Lands is where the Golden Lions, the Saracens, and Claw were all born. These companies claim as their members some of Amtgard's brightest and best, even if they no longer have roots in El Paso.

And, ya know, I like to give the Burning Lands Circle of Knights a hard time, but Archon really does have great people in it. Even Aramithris has his good days – he and Verana, for example, are two of the best shot-calling reeves I’ve ever seen in Amtgard. I know that people will be called on their shots when I fight in the Burning Lands Crown Quals and that makes it fun. Add in Sir Bolt and all the good he does for new groups via the BLBOD, and you have people who really work hard for their kingdom and for Amtgard.

Speaking of Crown Quals, the Burning Lands still has what it takes when it comes to the Arts and Sciences. Some of the best artisans in Amtgard live in El Paso and make some very nice things indeed. There’s new garb every court – well, let’s be accurate here and say new kickass, jaw-dropping garb that would leave an Iron Mountains guardsman feeling jealous -- and lots of good swords, armor, chains, and… well, pretty much everything. Sir Raphael is one of the most talented artisans in the Burning Lands, when he isn’t kicking Dragonspine kids at Renfaire. And Squire Mezzie, who seems to be the beneficiary of some BLBOD law that says she must always be referred to as Squire Mezzie, is an excellent artisan trapped in a potential flame knight’s body. She’s always helping run events, but if you look carefully, you can see the amazing belt favors she made for the new guildmasters this reign.

While the cultural side of Amtgard hasn’t declined in the Burning Lands, El Paso is no longer the place to look to find the best fighters. Diminished attendance and shot standards that intimidate newbies help keep it this way, but there are still shining stars in the first kingdom. Kurse is hitting his stride and Kaede has impressed sword knights as far away as the Iron Mountains and the Emerald Hills. Dragonspine’s Sir Deathstalker still rules the southwest as the best fighter for almost five hundred miles, but there are people in the Burning Lands fighting hard every week to make that change.

Feasts have also suffered. Of course, there were already jokes about Burning Lands feasts back when I started Amtgard in 1992 – like the stories of the cooks ordering pizza because they didn’t want to eat their own food – but the feasts I attended as a newbie were at least as much fun as Dragonspine’s, and that was back when Dragonspine was famous for its feasts. These days, the Burning Lands doesn’t have feasts. Feasts are merely parties at Aramithris’s house, except for the traditional coronation at the Las Cruces Renfaire – and that’s not a feast, either, so much as it’s a cooler with store-bought sandwiches in it. Real kingdoms should have feasts to celebrate new kings and queens, and perhaps with the revitalization of spirit the Burning Lands is seeing, they’ll soon have feasts once again.

Clan is a different matter. People say that it’s an also-ran or a has-been event, and they complain about the lack of facilities and the poor administration, but this is still the event to be at ever year. It’s as much today as it was when I was a wide-eyed newbie at 10th year… in fact, I’d say it’s more fun. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: go to Clan.

The Burning Lands is very much like the old Byzantine Empire… a kingdom that remembers its glory days when its fighters ruled the world, but still potent and in a period of resurgence – full of politics and memories, but also full of hope. After years of jokes about there being just enough people in El Paso to fill out a board of directors, the numbers have gone up and stayed up. Say what you will about King Aramithris and the BLBOD that he directs, but his reign built upon the good works of Dame Verana and made the Burning Lands into a kingdom worthy of respect. With Kurse taking the throne this winter, things can only get better.

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