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[12/16/2002] [Randall]

This just in from the Emerald Hills: their populace works twenty-six times harder than Neverwinter's.

Some of you may have seen this said before in Ninja News. That's because it was there a little while ago, but grew way too large for a simple news update. Instead, it did what all rants do when they get out of control: it grew up and became an article.

Anyway, let me begin by saying that I have no problems with the idea that you should reward people for hard work. This seems like a no-brainer, but it's the first thing people fret about when you say that awards should be given according to higher standards. Simply put, there should be distinctions between saying "Thank you", orders, masterhoods, and knighthood. Each type of recognition is special, but they can all become spoiled when they're used to excess. Say thank you too much and everyone feels cheated. Give out too many orders and suddenly everyone is qualified for masterhoods. And if everyone is a master, who is average? So you see, excess is bad.

And really, it's not having too many masters, or too many awards, or too many knights that's a problem. All of these awards are grounded in the illusion that they mean something in our game. This illusion endures as long as they awards are respected. Having ten knights in a park doesn't make knighthood worse... but knighting ten people at once does raise disturbing questions about how meaningful the award really is, even if each and every person is worthy ten times over.

The Emerald Hills is definately a great kingdom with many good knights, but what I can't grasp is why there are folks who think that it's acceptable to knight three people every feast.

A few reasons for this leap to mind. Perhaps there was a backlog of candidates. Then again, I've heard that a lot of people get stamped with a masterhood and a white belt, and that hardly constitutes a backlog. Maybe the masterhood was also long overdue, too, but that's neither here nor there.

I've heard that the Emerald Hills people are just working that hard, but that gives us the farcical scenario in which they're working twenty-six times as hard as Neverwinter. One might debate that by saying that Neverwinter is too stingy, but that logic can be applied backwards, too -- maybe the Hills are too generous? One might also say that the Emerald Hills has been around longer and will have more qualified candidates... but that's a dodgy argument, since it relies on the assumption that the folks who were in Florida in the years before Neverwinter was born never did anything that would justify knighthood.

Finally, assuming everyone was qualified, there's the idea that worthy folks who have the orders should be knighted right away. This means you can get two or three belts per event, eight if you put out a newsletter. That may seem fine to some people, but I disagree. More more than one knighting in an evening diminishes knighthood, even if given with the best of intentions... hell, one knighting every event seems too much. If the populace expects a new knight each feast, the knights are approving candidates too quickly. And let us not forget that patience is a knightly virtue, and there is no flaw in spacing candidates out so as not to make knighthood seem like a rubber stamp.

I've felt uncomfortable at feasts where awards were poured on the populace and it seemed there was an average of three orders for every person present. I think the feeling was shame... and I wonder if I'd feel the same way at a triple knighting. Then again, I can think of two or three people who I'd be delighted to see knighted, and if they were all knighted in the same evening, I'd probably walk away with a feeling of euphoria. That just goes to show that it's easy to condemn knighting practices mathematically but hard to do it based on people.

On the third hand, I wouldn't vote yes to knight more than one person per event, even if I loved the people. On the fourth hand, I can see myself knighting two people at the same time as king... now that I think about it, I actually did that once. It's a confusing set of conflicting principles. As a knight, I want the belt to be meaningful, but as a king, I want to recognize people who deserve to be knights....

Screw it. I think I'm wrong, or at least I can't come up with a concise expression of how I feel -- and the other side can. There's probably a middle ground, where we can knight good people while avoiding the ugly spectacle of handing out white belts like party favors, but knighthood is too complex, and the kingdoms too unique, to lay down numbers, rules, or hard guidelines. If hearing about thirteen anonymous people getting knighted diminishes the award, then meeting a single good person with a white belt makes it stronger. And maybe each of these anonymous thirteen can be that person. In the end, our only choice is to let the good knights shine. Their quality of character, noteworthy talents, and nobility of purpose are what makes knighthood special, and that's something limits and quotas can never do.

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