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Ten Things I Learned at Sword Knight Boot Camp
[04/29/2003] [Randall]

I never thought I was going to learn anything at Sword Knight Boot Camp. This isn’t to say that I thought the event would be a waste of time; rather, the flaw is with me. I’ve never gone to events with the schedule in mind because I’ve never really cared about what was happening at events. I’m happy enough hanging out with my friends and hitting them with foam. SKBC was different, though, because I got to do both of these things while also enjoying the activities the autocrats had planned for us. And in the end, despite my best-laid plans, I learned something.

I even learned something about fighting, but that’s not what this article is about.

People are willing to travel to good events.

From the muggy swamps of the Wetlands and Neverwinter to the dusty deserts of Dragonspine, fighters from all over Amtgard made the long trek to SKBC – and for every person that made it, there was at least one more back home wishing he could’ve gone. People wanted to go to this, a new, untried event because they knew it would be good. The promises by the autocrats of good instructors, good food, and a fun, focused environment proved to be a very successful lure indeed. Many other events offer too little incentive to travel or clutter their schedule with too many random activities, but SKBC stayed focused and gave people a good reason to spend their money and vacation time.

Aramithris has been wrong about every significant Amtgard issue since 1993.

He was opposed to Dragonspine becoming a kingdom, but we were at SKBC on the kingdom’s money – which everyone thought was really cool -- and still left our coffers swelling with cash. There were even Dragonspine folks present from as far away as Tennessee, proudly wearing our kingdom belt favors. Aramithris has, over the years, threatened to yank the contracts of Dragonspine, the Celestial Kingdom, and the Wetlands over the quality of their knights, but all three kingdoms were represented by shining examples of talent, service, and honor at this event. He incoherently mocked the efforts put forth at SKBC by sword knights who have the decency to actually teach their craft, but his insults – and his sad attempt to turn a fun event where people are, as he puts it, caring and trying, into a crass political topic – completely failed to detract from the fun everyone had. In fact, he was only proved more wrong and out of touch when the instructors lived up to their promises and taught with dignity, humility and kindness. They weren’t doing this to feel special or to get attention (which is the only reason Aramithris commits libel on the AmtgardInc list anymore); no, they did it because they are knights and they wanted to help the club they love so much. The only thing they got in return was the feeling of a job well done, but for these people, that was enough.

Amtgard is full of good knights.

It’s important to say this, especially at a time when knighthood seems to be common and mundane: knights in Amtgard are good, hard-working, and talented. The rare few who give the white belt a bad name are nothing more than a statistical anomaly. The instructors at SKBC drew from the very best the Iron Mountains, the Celestial Kingdom, and the Wetlands have to offer, and some of those knights have roots going back to Dragonspine, the Mystic Seas, the Burning Lands and the Golden Plains. It’s not a regional thing; the quality of our peerage is spread throughout Amtgard.

And it’s not just talent. The character of the knights at SKBC was evident in everything they did. Camaraderie was a constant, powerful presence at campfires, food tables, and the battlefield. There was kindness in the answers given by even the most swaggering of sword knights the moment they were called upon to help. And humility was everywhere, from the politeness showed to unreasonable campers to the unassuming way in which the various people running the event went about their work. The caliber of character amongst the knights of SKBC was unparalleled.

It wasn’t just the instructors, either. The examples of knighthood from Neverwinter and the Wetlands that weren’t involved in teaching represented their respective circles very well.

It is possible to serve good food at events.

In fact, it’s not just possible -- it’s required. The food at SKBC was simple, tasty, and – most importantly – there was always enough. I was not hungry at this event, and the food brought everyone back for seconds and thirds. Lunch and dinner was served both full days the event was held, and the food ranged from high-quality stews to chilis to straight-forward burgers to burritos the size of my face. After SKBC, there is no excuse for any event anywhere in Amtgard to not serve high-quality meals that leave you full and satisfied. If you don’t get food at an event, you’ve been robbed.

Spyn lives up to the hype.

Sir Spyn Thrift, the Emperor of the Wetlands, is every bit as talented as his admirers claim. Atomic clock, shot in motion, fruity muscle in motion, madus, long swords, short swords, zulu spears, sword and shield – it doesn’t matter. If it has foam on it, he can kill you with it six ways from Sunday before you have a chance to react, and he’ll kill at least three more people before you have your sword over your head. He’s good. He’s also a good knight, and conducted himself well both on and off the field. And his class on drills was one of the most popular at the event. If this is Wetlands knighthood, then Amtgard needs more of it.

Sword and shield is alive and well.

In a game where speed is becoming more and more important, having a shield would seem to be a gradually diminishing advantage in combat, but SKBC proved that shields are still king. The sword and boarders aren’t going away. They’re getting faster. Spins, feints, fancy footwork and a zen-like connection from the arm to the shield all add up a lot of dead, cocky florentiners. Granted, a bad shieldman is still little more than a clumsy single swordsman, but a good shieldman is like magic on feet.

Granted, shields are also getting bigger, which helps. The solid-foam bases that have become popular were all over the place, and while the shields are technically the same size as a sled-shield, the flat surface area is greater. This means swords have a tougher time getting around the shield. Still, the fighters using them have to be good. Good equipment only goes so far.

Good fighters don’t come from the Southwest anymore.

Dragonspine’s warmaster and champion are good, solid warriors – and are really good when they travel to the Burning Lands to fight – but SKBC’s attendees left our kingdom pretty well smoked. I’m not bad in Dragonspine and can place in a Burning Lands’s tournament, but I was among the five worst fighters at SKBC. The speed, force, and skill displayed on the ditch field was amazing to watch and fight against. These weren’t effete tap-fighters; they were hard-swinging bad-asses that would rip apart any ditch field west of the Pecos.

And I’m not talking about the sword knights or warlords, either. The regular fighters would kick the sand out of the Southwest; the warlords would embarrass it. The standard of fighting skill in international Amtgard is very high, and until a warrior the likes of Thedro, Phocion or Deathstalker emerges that can truly compete on a interkingdom level, the Southwest has no business dropping a sword on any of our fighters. We’re good, but we have a lot of catching up to do in order to remain competitive.

Nobody is really excited about 6.1.

In fact, the consensus is that, given a choice, we’d rather just play with the rules we already have. 6.1 does have improvements, true, but the overall quality of the new rulebook doesn’t inspire a lot of devotion to getting it passed. When you consider the disgusting and blatantly political process in which 6.1 has been born and built, many people are offended by the whole idea of it. This is a shame, because there are some extremely talented and caring people working hard to make the rulebook better – and it’s unfortunate that their efforts have been perverted by the paranoid dictator of El Paso.

This isn’t to say that we don’t want a new edition to the rules. They do need to be updated. The problem is that Aramithris is doing it wrong. In his mind, he is Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the twin tablets of 6.1 and 6.12, and we are the riotous Hebrews paying homage to the golden bull of getting ourselves knighted – and because he thinks this way, he is going to keep smashing rules until he finally throws something at us that we can accept. The twelve tribes of Amtgard deserve something better. Aramithris thinks we’re at Mt. Sinai, but in truth, we’re still in bondage in Egypt.

Amtgard is about hitting things with foam.

And SKBC was Amtgard at its most pure. Foam flew and tempers didn’t. A better accolade for an event simply cannot be said – but, hey, I’m a bard, so I’ll give it a shot. We had a lot of fun about SKBC when we were on the field hitting each other with foam sticks. We enjoyed ourselves immensely when we sat in classes and heard people who’ve enjoyed this gave for a decade or more tell us how to swing foam better. And then we sat down and ate our fill of hearty sword knight food so we could have the energy to get up and swing foam some more. This is the game we play, and everything else is icing on the cake.

Some of that icing is very good indeed. Good knights, good courts, good kingdoms, hard work, good rulebooks – but as long as we’re having fun hitting each other, Amtgard will endure.

SKBC 2 will be the one event not to miss in 2004.

The autocrats and instructors worked hard to give us the best event possible, and when they were done, they asked us how to make it better. With classes for beginners, lefty and women teachers, breakfast, and even more instructors and people then there were this year, SKBC will continue to build upon its reputation as one of the best events of the year. It was, quite simple, the best new event of 2003 – and the sequel is gonna kick ass.

See ya there.

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