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The Art of Reeving
[12/10/2002] [Glen]

Reeve is at once both one of the most powerful and one of the least desired classes in the game of Amtgard. It is one that is often played but rarely played well. Very few people want to be reeves, and even fewer are effective reeves. Being a reeve places a tremendous burden of responsibility upon a person, requiring them to settle disputes, make instant rules decisions, keep the battle game organized, and, worst of all, catch and punish cheaters.

All of these duties carry the dual risks of the reeve being wrong and people becoming angry with the reeve. Every time a dispute is settled, someone loses. Perhaps both people lose. Worse still, the reeve could be wrong. Sometimes disputes are easily resolved, other times the answer is far from obvious. In the later situations, a reeve has several standbys to use to end a dispute without ruling either party right or wrong. The most draconian is to tell both to take a death. As an alternative, both parties could be told to go back to their Nirvana, count to fifty, and then come alive. This gives them a cool-down period without the sting of costing a life. If the game has a shared Nirvana, it also gives them a chance to talk and make nice. The mildest alternative is to simply send them back to their bases to tag in before coming alive.

Rules decisions are another area of difficulty. Being a reeve means having to instantly recall every trivial detail of a rule. Players will rarely have disputes over the more obvious rules, such as whether a fireball to the arm kills or limbs a person. Instead, questions will regard little-used spells and strange combinations of abilities. While a reeve should always carry a rulebook with an index in it, sometimes the answer is not easily found. In these cases, the reeves should not vacillate or spend time polling the players. The reeves may query the guild master of the appropriate class if they are present. Then the reeve should simply make a ruling. The ruling should generally be in favor of the weaker player or team if no other clue as to the correct answer can be found. It does not matter if the reeve is wrong as long as the answer does not impede play. Even if a player knows for a fact that the reeve is wrong, the player should wait until after the game to carefully and laboriously point this out to the reeve. Once a decision is made, a reeve should not permit arguing. The best way to avoid arguing is not to argue back if a player starts to argue with the reeve. A simple “That is my ruling. We can discuss it further after the game if you like.” is all that is required.

Keeping a battle game organized is the easiest task of a reeve. Calling lay-on, calling speed-times, calling holds, and adding late arrivals to teams are relatively simple. Both sides should be queried to see if they are ready before lay on is called, speed-times should only be called if one entire team is out of play, holds should be called only to sort out mass spell effects, remove injured players from the field, and make it safe for Mundanes to cross the area. Anything else can generally be resolved by taking the few involved players out of the game and dealing with the issue privately.

The worst task, however, is dealing with cheaters. If a reeve catches people blatantly cheating, the reeve has to do more than say "stop that". The reeve has to not only stop the cheating but punish it, showing them that cheating hurts them more than playing by the rules. Few people cheat for the rush of cheating: most cheat to gain some advantage. Take away that advantage and most will stop cheating.

The problem, of course, is that most reeves aren't willing to cause a big ruckus by calling someone a cheater. They'll get mad at the reeve. The cheaters might get mad at the reeve. People might think the reeve is wrong, or that the reeve is picking on the person. Some reeves don't want to be 'mean' to people by calling them on their cheating. Some reeves are afraid that they're wrong and the person wasn't cheating. Being a good reeve is hard. While there is no perfect solution to this problem, there are ways to mitigate it. When a reeve catches someone cheating, they should be low-key about it. In the cases where there is some ambiguity of intention, delicate phrasing should be enough to resolve the problem. “You might not have felt the shot, but…” or “It might have felt like your leg, but….” At the same time the reeve uses mollifying predicates, the reeve should be careful to state things with certainty. The words “I think” and “In my opinion” have no place in a reeve’s vocabulary. All they do is invite arguments. Judgments should be made calmly, firmly, and with great certainty.

In cases where the cheating is obvious, the cheater should be made completely aware that the reeve knows that they cheated. The circumstances should be spelled out so there is no doubts in anyone’s mind that cheating occurred. The minimum punishment should be death. In the cases of more egregious cheating, ejection from the game is warranted. If the cheating is a regular occurrence and the cheater has been caught before, the reeve should broach the matter of removing the person from play for a longer duration with the Champion and Monarch.

An example of catching more egregious cheating is the case of a druid casting eight stoneskins. There is no possible way a druid could cast more than four. The reeve should call over the people who were given stoneskins and ask them how many they were given. Then, after they leave, the reeve should find the druid and ask him how many stoneskins he cast on person A, person B, and so on. Two possible outcomes can occur: the total comes in at more than four or the druid claims that some of the people are mistaken about how many stoneskins he gave them. In the first case, the reeve can move directly on to punishment with a clear conscience. In the second, a judgment call is required. How certain is the reeve that the people were correct in knowing how many stoneskins they had? Has the druid been caught cheating before? How many people would have to be wrong for the druid to be innocent? If more than two people would have to be wrong for the druid to be innocent, the druid is probably guilty. In any case, the reeve can feel safe in punishing the druid to some degree, as the druid is responsible for making it clear what spells he is casting. If the druid somehow happens to be truly innocent and his players were lying about how many stoneskins they were given, the druid will quickly learn to avoid giving stoneskins to those cheaters for fear of the punishment it will bring. In this event, the players will police the cheaters on their own team, which is the best way for cheaters to be dealt with.

If a reeve is consistent and forceful in the reeving, they may fear that they will become disliked, or gain a reputation as hard-nosed or unpleasant. There are several ways a reeve can offset this.

Reward good behavior. If a person avoids a dispute by taking a death when they didn’t need to, a good reeve should halve their death count. A reeve should use rewards to defuse situations. For example, Joe Mage extension-curses Bob Scout four times in a row. If Bob Scout hasn’t had a chance to actually play before being quadruple cursed, a problem could arise. Giving the scout an extra life would both restore his ability to have fun and play, sooth angry feelings over being ‘cheesed’, and, incidentally, give the reeve a reputation as a fair reeve. Bob Scout will be more likely to take it lying down next time the reeve ruled against him in a dispute. The reeve should be wary, however, of the desire to placate temperamental people. A reeve should not reward poor attitude, and rewards should not be used to bribe bad players to not misbehave. If someone blows their top, they should be removed from the field. Rewards are to prevent problems, not to buy them off after they occur.

Another way to offset the ‘hard-nose’ reputation is to be consistent. If the reeve makes an active effort to be pro-active in making calls, instead of waiting for an argument to develop, players will be used to the reeve making rulings and will be less inclined to argue or become upset. Furthermore, by ruling before the situation becomes a problem, the reeve will reduce the anger and frustration on the field and make his own job more pleasant.

The third way is through demeanor. If a reeve always presents a calm, emotionless, and certain demeanor players will be less likely to argue or become upset. People tend to respond to anger with anger, and if the reeve loses his temper not only will he tend to ignite instead of quench a conflagration of tempers but he will also make a harsher decision than he should. If a reeve makes his decisions with anything other than absolute certainty he invites argument.

Reeving is not an easy task, nor a glamorous one. There is no reward for it, the reeve doesn’t get to win, and few will remember to thank the reeve. The job comes with many responsibilities, social risks, and social burdens. However, without reeves most games fall into a shambles. Reeves are necessary and required. Being a good reeve is hard, but it isn’t impossible.

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