|A United, Divided Amtgard
Since the very beginning, Amtgard has grown in a haphazard and accidental way. Random colonization and short road-trips to nearby fantasy conventions were how new chapters were founded. Eventually, kingdoms sprouted up and began sending out their own colonists as people learned to love the game and then had to move on. In many cases, these colonists looked to their old kingdoms for sponsorship. In the beginning, this was a good thing and the game grew and prospered. Now that Amtgard has been around for twenty years and has kingdoms from coast to coast, it is time to examine new and more structured ways to help the game grow. The idea that receives the most attention is that of geographic kingdoms.
The idea of dividing the world of Amtgard among the kingdoms by geography is one complicated by many issues. At its core, it’s a simple suggestion: each kingdom should have sole governance over certain areas of the country. This means all chapters within a certain area belong to a certain kingdom, and any new shires that spring up are automatically a part of it as well.
In practice, however, the idea is a very complex one due to the realities of the way Amtgard has evolved, both as an organization and at the chapter level. Organizationally, there exists the problem that no one can force the kingdoms not to sponsor a chapter. Any kingdom can sponsor any shire anywhere else. This presents an impossible barrier to truly geographic kingdoms. Furthermore, Amtgard at the chapter level has spread in a somewhat chaotic fashion and many chapters exist closer to other kingdoms than their own. Pride in one’s kingdom and negative opinions of one’s neighbors mean very few of these colonies would be willing to transfer allegiance. This presents a dilemma as well, since many of these people would be willing to quit Amtgard over the matter of what kingdom they are sponsored by.
There is the question of whether or not it is even a good idea to impose geographic boundaries upon the kingdoms. There are many points for and against the idea. Our traditions and standards depend on face-to-face interaction among the people who play the game. Without this interaction, new traditions and standards evolve that are frequently at odds with the old. This trend runs the risk of dividing the game culturally even more than current divides (atomic clock vs. shot-in-motion, floating crown vs. static crown, IKBOD vs. no IKBOD, and 6.1, to name a few.) In addition, a kingdom is less valuable as a sponsor the further away it is. Having a sponsor closer to home is invaluable to a young shire in terms of providing aid, increasing attendance at events, giving guidance, and establishing a fair and achievement-based hierarchy of titles, awards, and knighthood. Without these things, a shire will atrophy and die due to neglect or misunderstanding. For the purpose of this essay, we will accept that Amtgard will benefit from geographic kingdoms and therefore seek to find ways to solve the two problems preventing them from becoming a reality.
As has been established, the first problem is that geographic kingdoms are utterly unenforceable. In order to work, all the kingdoms must band together and agree to the idea. Amtgard currently lacks the framework for this to happen. The Circle of Monarchs cannot be used, as they can only modify the rulebook – a document that does not define how parks are sponsored. Nor can the BLBOD, since the authority of that body does not define who can sponsor chapters. Any effort to establish geographic kingdoms must create a new framework for agreements among the kingdoms. There, we must borrow an idea from the real world: treaties.
A treaty must be created and signed by all the kingdoms. Since any treaty would change the way a kingdom would adopt new chapters, signing the treaty would constitute an external modification to that kingdom’s corpora. This would require a two-thirds majority vote in each kingdom’s Althing and the approval of the reigning monarch. Unlike the rulebook, which may be imposed on an unwilling kingdom if nine other kingdoms approve it at the Circle of Monarchs, this treaty would not truly be Amtgard law until every kingdom adopted it. Even so, it could exist until then as a strong guideline.
Any treaty would also have to reflect the political realities of Amtgard as it stands right now. Chapters already in existence must be given the option of staying with their home kingdom or signing on with whatever kingdom they are geographically able to join.
The treaty would also have to allow for the special situation of Amtgard’s first kingdom. The Burning Lands must have a contract with all shires, so shires that are unable or unwilling to find sponsorship with other kingdoms can become a part of the Burning Lands. This situation alone could irreparably damage the treaty since it shuts down the idea of geographic kingdoms by allowing a non-geographic one to continue to spread. However, this isn’t a problem until every kingdom has signed on, since until that happens the Burning Lands isn’t the only kingdom that can sponsor chapters anywhere.
If this idea is familiar it is because it has been done before by the IRCA. The IRCA is more of an organization and less of a treaty, but the idea of signing away rights to the club as a whole is not a new one. It is just one that has not fully matured in the twenty years Amtgard has existed.
At last, we come to the question of how the country should be divided. (This essay focuses on the United States since Amtgard is largely an American game and the problem of colonies far from home will always exist in foreign countries.) The first focus for dividing the country should be to draw geographic boundaries that follow current Amtgard political boundaries. The second step is to determine who should have sponsorship of contested areas. To illustrate how this would work, a map of the United States is provided with chapters color-coded by kingdom.
|Valley of the Silver Rains
This map was borrowed from the Amtgard Atlas and was constructed using data obtained from that site. As you can see, many kingdoms such as the Wetlands already have geographic boundaries, while others are strewn across the country. Even worse, the Valley of the Silver Rains and the Mystic Seas incestuously share the northwestern United States in a way that cannot be disentangled. Nevertheless, any treaty seeking to establish geographic kingdoms must present some guidelines, and so the following offering is presented as an imperfect, but suitably good division of territory.
The Kingdom of the Emerald Hills
The geographic Emerald Hills would consist of north-eastern Texas and western Oklahoma. To this we could add Kansas, an empty state that is not as far as lands the Emerald Hills has successfully governed in the past.
The Celestial Kingdom
The Celestial Kingdom, which is already mostly geographic, would consist of central and southern Texas.
The Empire of the Iron Mountains
Colorado has long been an Iron Mountains state, and to that we’d add Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Nevada. Some of this territory is vast and empty, but the idea of ceding uncolonized areas to a kingdom is one that works for the SCA and the Iron Mountains is the closest kingdom. Unoccupied North Dakota, the furthest state, is thrown in as well because it is closest to the Iron Mountain duchy in Nebraska.
The Kingdom of the Golden Plains
The Golden Plains would consist of northwest Texas. Historically, eastern New Mexico has also fallen under Golden Plains administration but that is increasingly not the case these days so we would draw the border at the New Mexico-Texas border.
The Kingdom of the Mystic Seas
Fixing the northwestern mess will never be easy, since the capital of the Mystic Seas is in one state and the rest of the kingdom is in another. However, since the treaty would not strip chapters from a kingdom without that kingdom’s permission, we can make Washington the territory of the Mystic Seas and leave Portland as a legacy holding.
The Kingdom of Dragonspine
Dragonspine is New Mexico, of course, along with Arizona. To this we add northern California, which consists of a large Dragonspine duchy and a smattering of independent shires. Las Vegas, Nevada is added to keep the kingdom geographic. Alaska is added as it only has one chapter and that chapter is Dragonspine’s.
The Kingdom of the Valley of the Silver Rains
Much like the Mystic Seas, the territorial holdings of this kingdom are a mess. If Washington falls to the Mystic Seas, then Oregon goes to VSR. We add Montana to this as it is colonized already and throw in Idaho as a largely unoccupied territory between two VSR holdings.
The Kingdom of the Wetlands
If all kingdoms were like the Wetlands, an essay on imposing geographic boundaries on Amtgard would not be necessary. The Wetlands maintains itself as eastern Texas and Louisiana. Southern Mississipi is in the Wetlands’ time zone and is also included.
The Kingdom of Goldenvale
Goldenvale’s existence as the sole eastern kingdom for a long time leaves it with scattered holdings all over the east. To clean up the geography, all of New England is Goldenvale territory, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, eastern Ohio and eastern Kentucky. Clearly, there is a need for a new kingdom in the Appalachians but that is something that will have to evolve.
The Kingdom of Neverwinter
Neverwinter is nominally Florida but has expanded lately with its sponsorship of the Principality of Winter’s Edge. Therefore, Neverwinter’s territory is Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolinia, and South Carolina.
The Kingdom of the Rising Winds
Amtgard’s newest kingdom is also one of its most wide-spread due to the massive duchy of Tal Dagore that straddles the Midwestern states. The Rising Winds would consist of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, western Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, northern Mississippi, and Minnesota. This is a vast territory but it is still largely uncolonized. These borders are also similar to those assigned to the SCA kingdom in the Midwest.
The Kingdom of the Burning Lands
This leaves us with the complicated question of what to do with the Kingdom of the Burning Lands. If we assign its territory geographically, the Burning Lands is western Texas, southern California, Pennsylvania and Maryland. If we decide that the Burning Lands occupies a special place as sponsor of new unassigned chapters, then we must assign these territories to other kingdoms: California to Dragonspine, Pennsylvania and Maryland to Goldenvale. For the treaty to work, however, all kingdoms must have geographic boundaries and so we leave the Burning Lands with these three separated, large holdings.
This assigns every state in the Union to a kingdom (except Hawaii) as well as grants several kingdoms jurisdiction over unoccupied or newly-colonized territories. These territories should one day become kingdoms and thus cut down on the size of some existing realms; most noticeably, California, Missouri, Tennessee and Maryland are the areas most in need of kingdom seats. It remains to be seen whether any of these places can produce an Amtgard land strong enough to take over government of those regions.
The idea of geographic kingdoms is a good one. It will stabilize Amtgard and prevent kingdom-hopping and internal squabbling in some chapters. It will lock in many of our finer traditions by tying shires to the kingdoms closest to home, instead of ones that are far away and unable to properly pass on the values our club holds dear. If this idea becomes a binding treaty and is enthusiastically supported on the Amtgard website and the Amtgard Atlas, it will also greatly streamline the process of founding a new shire as potential chapters won’t spend months wondering who will sponsor them. Finally, it will unite Amtgard as an organization that, even in its twentieth year, is in great need of a unifying force.
With all this in mind and with a goal clearly in front of us, it is time to devise a treaty that all kingdoms can ratify establishing geographic boundaries for the kingdoms of Amtgard.
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