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A Lack of Standards
[05/27/2003] [Randall]

We all know by now the interesting situation that occurred this weekend in the Wetlands. The facts on the ground are all pretty clear – Jearden was the autocrat for Crown Quals, and he set a standard in which all of a candidate’s entries in a particular category would be averaged to determine the score, which must be at least 3.0 to pass. While he had every legal right to do this, it meant that some of the items could be failures as long as one of them was good. The candidates knew about this weird system and most of them accepted it, which is why the next king and champion of the Wetlands made it through quals. In the system that most of Amtgard uses, they would not have qualified and would not have been allowed to run.

As it happens, Jearden was faced with several bad options after quals and chose the best of them. He had to support the results as they stood. Not only did the candidates generally agree to these standards, but overturning the results would also overturn the election and favor a guy in Jearden’s company. The resulting mess would’ve been worse than what had already happened.

The quals situation in the Wetlands is messed up, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s since come to light that the Kingdom of Neverwinter runs quals this way as a matter of course. Emerald Hills apparently has a similar system. In the case of the Wetlands, this “failure is good enough” policy was just an error of judgement, but we now know that there are at least two kingdoms who accept failure as a matter of policy. There may be more.

Amtgard has a problem with standards. This is a pretty obvious and is a result of there being twelve different kingdoms, each of them with a dozen or so parks underneath them, with each park using a different standard. The standards tend to be cut by region, too, with the Northwest, the West, the East, and the Northeast all having different ideas of what is acceptable in Amtgard. Since we have awards, offices, and titles that should mean the same thing from kingdom to kingdom, this is a problem that cannot be ignored.

First, the most timely issue is Crown Quals. From the Goldenvale “70% bad = good” system to the East’s failure scheme to the rest of Amtgard and our “it has to pass to be acceptable” way of doing things, there are different ways that you can qualify for office in each kingdom. In some cases, such as the Wetlands requiring a statecraft entry, this merely boils down to flavor and is actually a good thing for Amtgard as a whole. In others, you have a situation where Amtgard feels like a whole different country. Worse still, some kingdoms have wildly different ideas about what constitutes a good entry, and what may be barely passable in one land could garner high scores, a dragon, and pass half a dozen failed Wetlands sword entries in another. An inadequate garber could travel and walk away with a Serpent Belt. This is a problem.

This ties directly into the problem of awards. They mean different things in different kingdoms. Roses may flow like water in one place while you never see them in another. Dragons may be given for winning any category in Crown Quals (which can result in someone getting half a masterhood in one night), or they might not be given unless you win. You might walk away with three Goldenvale masterhoods – one of which you weren’t even qualified for when the evening began – or you might have to be A&S champion to even get the 10th Order. Then there’s Warlord, which you might have to get 21 wins in one land, or beat up three newbies seven times in a row in another, or you might have to get 3 wins, then 5, then 7, or you might have to win a bunch of tournaments, or you might have to be in the right company. The bar isn't lowered from kingdom to kingdom. It's curved.

And that’s not even accounting for the random awards kingdoms give. If you sing in the Wetlands, you can earn a Serpent Belt; if you do it in Goldenvale, you can earn a meaningless masterhood. If you do a lot of hard work in the Burning Lands, you can walk away a Master Lion and a Knight of the Flame . . . and then you can travel to the Wetlands and get a crown belt for the same orders. Drag that Master Lion back to Dragonspine, and you could become a Knight of the Sword if you have enough griffons. . . but if you go to Rising Winds for awhile and qualify for a fourth belt, you better hope you don’t travel again because a Master Armorer up there is meaningless in every other kingdom! There’s no rhyme or reason to this chaotic disaster – only selfish kingdoms thinking they know better. Since the awards directly affect knighthood, an international institution, there really should be more consensus.

Amtgard has a problem with standards, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We should all be giving the same awards for the same reasons and the same level of skill. Warlords in one kingdom shouldn’t be mocked for their talent because they should be able to compete on an international level – if they can’t, they shouldn’t be warlords. Knights shouldn’t have belts tossed at them because they are famous in one park – they should be known internationally for their talent and their character before anyone even considers giving them a second belt. Masterhoods shouldn’t flow from orders given for widely different reasons – a tunic that earns a dragon in one kingdom should be good enough for a dragon in all kingdoms, and someone who can walk away with half a dozen orders from one Crown Quals ought to be able to do it Amtgardwide, or something is wrong.

This is, of course, a dream. There’s no way we can realistically implement a system like this because the bureaucracy is enormous. There is something we can do, though. If the kingdoms band together, they can create a treaty that binds them to use the same standards for awards. If we at least all give the same award when someone makes a sword, and if we at least understand that a Master Lion is for one knighthood, and not three different belts in three different kingdoms, that would be a start – and with that simple step forward in the realm of cooperation, we might find ourselves with stronger awards, a commitment to standards instead of selfishness, and an Amtgard where the differences among the kingdoms are cause for celebration, not alarm.

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