|Twelve Kingdoms in Twelve Months|
Event Five: Gathering of the Clans
Event Name: Gathering of the Clans XXI
Host Kingdom: Burning Lands
Location: Near Ruidoso, NM
I skipped Gathering of the Clans for about six years running because it was losing out in the battle for my scarce time and money. There were too many other events closer to home or full of more friends. Last year, I broke that streak and went to Clan. It was a blast. The Burning Lands hosts really made it great and the broad cross-section of Amtgarders was a huge plus.
Against that backdrop, I went off to Clan this year with high hopes and great optimism. I left after work Wednesday and took a leisurely trip, which included an overnight in Raton. I pulled onto the site at about noon on Thursday. The site was beautiful, but I didn’t take too long looking at it, going straight to the ditch battles instead. The only items on the Thursday schedule were a Slaver vs. Non-slaver war that died from lack of interest and a monarch’s meeting that was postponed until the next day because there were at least two monarchs not yet on site.
Thursday night, the Green Dragons hosted me for a nice night around the fire and I bought my copy of the Best of the Emerald Hills Bards CD. (Consider this a free plug for this awesome slice of Amtgardia. If you have never attended a bardic you might not like this, but for me hearing Cabal sing the Warrior’s Song out of my car CD player was just awesome.)
Friday morning I showed up for the 6.1 rules meeting. I wasn’t too worried about it since the Iron Mountains is lucky to have a very active and useful rep on the 6.1 committee anyway. He (Sir Belgarion) was also at the meeting. Sir Garik, who was the meeting host, was almost an hour late and, in his absence, Sir Raphael filled in and it showed that he hadn’t really been expecting to lead the meeting. Lots of concerns were aired and lots of notes were taken. (Here’s hoping that Belgarion publishes his notes soon). After an hour of the meeting (which started thirty minutes late anyway) Garik arrived and we started to go over the exact same issues a second time for his benefit. At this point, since Bel was doing the real work and I was only listening fairly casually, I decided to abandon the meeting.
I would make one important comment about the Clan XXI 6.1 meeting. Since it was an open meeting held at Clan, I really expected better attendance. I know that many people are disheartened by how long the 6.1 process has been and how arbitrary the progress has seemed but if people miss the chance to air their complaints then the process only gets worse.
I still had high hopes for the 6.1 game, though. Some of us went into town figuring to be back for the game or at least to watch part of it. Even though we weren’t back until an hour after the scheduled start, there was not motion toward a battle game yet. I decided to ditch instead. After all, that’s my favorite part. The ditching on Friday afternoon was good. It was real old-style fighting. All the Burning Lands folks were swinging for the fences, since that’s the way they play the game anyway. Even the Celestial Kingdom folks don’t swing near that hard. The rest of us swung back in kind and I am sure some folks took home aches and bruises. Still, it was good hard fighting and it was a real throwback for me. I was sorry not to cross blades with Phocion, Bolt, Deathstalker, Atog, and Garik more often since those are the folks I love to fight at Clan.
After 1:30 pm (the 6.1 game was scheduled for noon) the War-o-crat finally announced that the 6.1 game would be starting. Then he polled the ditch field on whether to run the 6.1 game at all or not. Well, you all know how that vote went. Pretty soon, though, folks started coming out of the camps wondering where their battlegame was. Eventually, a 6.1 game started on its own without help from the event organizers (Thanks Sir Forest.) The lack of reeves and the lack of a final authority on rules that no one knew real well made the game confusing but it was pretty good.
The monarch's meeting on Friday evening was pretty laid back and cool. We discussed several things including the ever-present specter of awards standardization. Since King Raphael of the Burning Lands was getting ready for his own court, he did not join us but the kingdoms of RW, EH, WL, IM, GP, DS and GV were represented. I was sorry not to have the Burning Lands there since their attitude on awards standards is well known but valuable. We also discussed discipline at events. It was particularly appropriate following the issues at Rakis 2003 and taking into account the fact that one of Amtgard’s leading nobles got into fisticuffs on Wednesday night. I think the general consensus could be summed up thus: For serious threats the law should be called, but since we are all friends at Amtgard there are some things we might not call a cop for where the same behavior in mundania would result in a call to the law. Nonetheless, to ensure that all events don’t come to be war zones, people engaged in assault should be asked to leave all events, and people banned in one kingdom should generally be kept from playing anywhere. Of course, the Circle of Monarchs (especially an abbreviated circle like that one) has no right to make laws but we can try to establish cooperative policies.
The next morning, I had some fun ditching before I had to go home. I was sorry to miss Forest War and the interkingdom court, but I needed to get home. Those items were reviewed by Sir Belgarion and Squire Orlando.
Overall, clan was good. It was real good. It was strange in a way, though. It used to be Clan was an interkingdom event attendance-wise, but Burning Landers ran all the really good activities. Now, Clan is a normal kingdom event in size but the interkingdom Amtgard community runs all the best activities. I think there is room in the Amtgard calendar for a true interkingdom event - one place where everyone knows they will get the best chance of seeing whatever friends they have from all over Amtgard each year. Clan used to fill that role, but with it barely breaking over the 400 participants level, it is not so good. SCA has Pensic. We need something like that again.
I have a special thanks for Emerys Rabavas and his ex-wife Katie of the Golden Plains. They were very helpful to me when I locked my keys in the car, Thursday.
Grades (my choice of 8 broad categories)
Site location and air travel friendliness: C- (Nothing in New Mexico is close to an airport but this was ridiculous. Add to that the fact that web directions were very skimpy. At least Amtgard signage was very good.)
Site itself: C+ (Breathtaking scenery and a close knit but still diverse camping area was a plus, but lack of showers, potable water, power and lit ditching all hurt. Many port-a-johns frequently changed also helped.)
Feast: N/A F (No feast was provided as part of Clan.)
Court: C+ (Burning Lands court was short and awards were given to a few deserving members of the club. Interkingdom court was just announcements. Both were light on content but were at least short.)
Ditching: C (Ditching ran from good to bad. We had some great fighting; real old school stuff. Unfortunately we also had fights, bad attitudes and apathy.)
Battle games: B (Forest War was unbalanced but fun. 6.1 game was very much under-reeved after the ditch field got to decide to cancel the official version.)
Other planned activities: A (The Iron Man tourney was fast paced and fun and the women’s tourney was as well-run an example of that activity as I have seen.)
People and attitudes: D- (It started with some dumbo inciting a fight, proceeded with more fights and never got better. Seeing some of my favorite folks from that part of the world was great but the frequent threat of violence marred the event.)
The chance to see old friends and to revel in the tradition of Amtgard was the best part. That’s one of the joys of any event but at Clan it really was the best thing.
The complete lack of adherence to the published schedule and the general air of disorganization that surrounded the event detracted from the fun activities that were planned.
Next event: Harvest War
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