Amtgard Rules of Play.

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Dear Brennon and Arthon
[02/02/2004] [Brennon and Arthon]

Dear Brennon and Arthon,

Just last I week was made the first champion of the group here in my park. We are a new group just getting started, still trying to deal with the political crap that it takes to become a shire and the such. But more than that we are still dealing with starting to play the game with all the proper rules and rituals. Being the new champion, I have some responsibility to the group to be prepared and know my part, however I am a little sketchy about some of the battle games that are out there, as well as some of the unspoken rules that the champion enforces. Anyway, I think you get the idea of what I am trying to say here, so any help would be appreciated.

Your pal,
Champion Me

Dear CM,

As champion, your official duties are laid out. As you have already surmised, there are many unofficial ones as well. You're in charge of on the field safety. This goes beyond just checking weapons and extends into making sure that the players themselves are behaving in a safe manner. Watch out for common new player mistakes such as hopping on one leg while wounded and 'baseball bat' swinging. You need to also be conscious of other people’s attitudes and behavior on the field. Problem players that try and hurt others do not belong anywhere near a competitive combat game. You’re in charge of everyone’s fun. Amtgard revolves around the battlegame and you, my friend, run the battlegames. Champion is the position that makes the most impact on a park on a day-to-day basis. You’ll need a lot of common sense and patience to help guide you through your tenure.

Here are some general guidelines that I have used when I was a park champion in the past: 1) keep the peace; 2) make sure people are having fun; 3) settle rules disputes; 4) recruit side-liners; 5) teach people how to make weapons, shields and armor; 6) prep the newbies; 7) deal with troublemakers

1) Keep the peace - if you see a fight (verbal or otherwise) break it up. If tempers flare, calm the parties involved down. Do not let people argue with each other in the middle of a game. Separate them or toss them from the game if need be. This is critical. If everyone thinks it's ok to argue, that's what everyone will do on the battlefield. Save it for after the game. If it's a rules question, make a determination (even if you aren't a reeve), make it absolute until the game is done, and then look it up later. Do not brook arguments with your authority in this. You are responsible for the game running smoothly. Don't forget this.

2) Make sure people are having fun - this encompasses many things. Make sure you are playing fun battlegames (you should research different ones that will work well for your group). Make sure the sides are balanced (pick the teams yourself, if need be). Nothing sucks worse than being on a team that gets the snot pounded out of them every life. If you find yourself playing the same sort of game week in and week out, change it. Change it radically. Do not make overly complex games. Remember that when you are explaining the rules to your folks that their attention span is limited to that of a goldfish on crack - so keep it simple. If you plan on having a complex game, print out the rules to it and hand them out a week before you play it. It gives folks time to formulate intelligent questions and strategies. Some folks will want to play really tough monsters. Try not to give into this temptation unless there are a lot (30+) people on your field. Any less, and that one monster can become an irresistible force. Be a freaking jedi - keep thinking to yourself "Balance". One effective technique to keep games fresh is to use storylines. Having a series of battlegames or scenarios that form a story will really help bring together the role-playing and hardcore fighting members of your group together. It also increases interest in the games themselves, and gives people a vested interest in showing up at the park every week to see what will happen next. We recommend one or two a month in addition to your normal battlegames every week.

3) Settle rules disputes - since you are the one organizing the game, you have final say about the particulars of the game, i.e. - how long flags need to be held for, game boundaries, ...etc. Oftentimes, you will have to make actual rules calls because a reeve may not be handy. Don't worry about doing this - even if you don't know what the ruling should be (see Keeping the Peace above). Advise your folks that it is a temporary ruling that will last until the end of the game. It's not bad to carry a measuring device so that you can check spell ranges and the like. Also, many times spell casters will blur their words or not use enough repetitions in their spells. It should be a reeve's job but you may have to make the call. Be fair but firm. Arguments wait until after the game. If someone gets in your face after you've made a ruling, calmly ask them to sit out a life, or even the rest of the game. That person should not be in the position to spoil everyone else's fun.

4) Recruit side-liners - as a natural occurrence, mundane folks will occasionally stand by and watch while Amtgarders do their thing. You are in position to notice this (since you are keeping an eye on everyone) and should make sure that either you or someone else talks to them to see if they want to know more. In Amtgard, recruiting is essential and you should never pass up an opportunity to do so. As a side note, every park has a few know-it-all losers who insist on regaling mundanes with their amazing feats of derring-do. Never allow these idiots to get within five miles of a mundane. It drives them off like a skunk in a church.

5) Teach people how to make weapons, shields and armor - it is not enough that you know what constitutes 'safe' equipment. You need to know how to make safe AND effective equipment - not just well-padded garbage. If people are bringing crap-on-a-stick to your field, spend some time between games with them and tell them how to make better stuff. Be sure to explain to people why their weapons are illegal and show them the problem areas. Better yet, have them come over to your place during the week and show them (they bring the materials, of course). This will keep newbies interested in playing and provide everyone else with better competition. Everyone wins. Also, have a supply of legal, well-made loaner weapons available. This will allow your new players to fight even when their weapons break or become illegal. It will also help with your recruitment efforts by getting mundanes right off the street into the act if they wish.

6) Prep the newbies- sit down with your newbies and explain to them what counts as a valid shot and what doesn't. The rulebook is written in a way that is sort of vague and hard to understand on this area. Generally, just point out to them that a shot must stop or strike and deflect in order to count. It should have a percussive connection, a 'pop' if you will. A shot does not need to be hard, but it should be solid. Draw cuts (anything involving a saw-like or sliding motion with little force against the target) do not count. If everybody is fighting with the same ideas of what counts and what does not then everybody will be happier.

7) Deal with troublemakers - this is a tricky kind of guideline to follow because nothing I tell you here is concrete. You will have to tailor solutions for each individual. That being said, there are three basic kinds of troublemaker: 1) the perpetual cheater, 2) the rules lawyer, and 3) the thug.

With cheaters, you can call their shots all day and they will still continue to cheat if your back is turned. My advice? Pull them to the side and advise them of the problem and that their reputation is suffering with the whole group because of it. People are very sensitive to group perception and tend to give in to group peer pressure.

Rules lawyers are very competitive and really just want to win. They accomplish this by using loopholes and a variety of other 'legal' measures. It can unbalance the game and make it not fun for the rest of those playing. Just remember, you control the game. Don't allow ANYTHING that will disrupt it. See guidelines 1 and 3. Make a temporary ruling, and then deal with it after the game is done. If the rules-lawyer is constantly quibbling with you, pull him aside and explain that what you are trying to accomplish and why his actions are disruptive. These folks are normally intelligent and can be made to see the light of reason.

The thug, on the other hand, just wants things his own way and doesn't care about anyone else having any fun. These people can destroy a park because they bring nothing to the table besides their own selfish desires. They're not really subject to peer pressure and a talking-to generally just makes them laugh. Every case is different, but you might want to consider just not letting someone like this play in your park - however you have to do it. You want to keep newbies and it is the thug’s goal to put them in a hole in the ground. Better to get rid of the one thug and thus be able to expand your park.

Now keeping these guidelines in mind, remember that before you try to police others, make sure your own house is in order. Ensure your weapons and behavior are completely beyond reproach and use your authority as champion only when it's called for. You will find if you do this people will be a lot more willing to cooperate with you if you pull them or their weapons off the field and more willing to back you up when you enforce your mandates upon others.

Hope this helps,

Arthon of the Golden City & Brennon EH

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