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Warlord: Definition and Types
This article originally appeared in AmtgardCombat.com and was written by Sir Phocion.
Beyond all the other masterhoods, companies, and awards, there is one distinction in all of Amtgard which denotes supreme individual fighting prowess: the title of Warlord. No gallantry, no chivalry, just a willingness to destroy an opponent in an efficient, consistent manner.
A Warlord may become worthy of a Sword belt by choice, but this is never a necessity. Some of the best fighters I know have never been knighted, and many of the sword belts out there have been given for field performance over tourney performance. This is a salient point, because the Warlord is a specialist, a mono e mono juggernaut with a penchant for aggressive destruction with a wide variety of weapons. A Knight of the Sword may have these qualities, but there are others that set the Knight apart from the Warlord.
Many young fighters see the title of Warlord as a stepping stone on the long road to Sword Knight, and for some it has been, but, I implore you to take a closer look at the Warlord as a complete distinction in it's own right. There are three kinds of Warlords, in my experience, and I will detail each for your general edification. I believe any Warlord that reads this will find themselves pretty closely outlined herein. There may be some blending, but only between Type II/III Warlords.
Type I: The Cheater Warlord
This Warlord is mentioned first, because it is the most often attempted and is probably the saddest way to receive the distinction. The methods of cheating your way into a Warlord are many and varied, so I will list only the most popular. You only fight with one or two weapon styles exclusively and racking up wins over a number of tournaments to reach 21 in a row. You fight in small lands and small tournaments, called "shire slumming", to build up a record of wins. You fight in an odd kingdom tourney where no outlanders or top local talent is present, such as a kingdom weapon-master that has few people in attendance. Any "Round Robin" tourney where you get to fight a bunch of newbies to bolster your wins. Shot sluffing your way to victory is also a perennial favorite, as is having your friends/company members join in on sluffing others shots, and then die to you in a pathetically easy manner, otherwise known as tanking a fight. There are many other ways to cheat your way to a Warlord, and all require a sympathetic/pathetic Monarch to award, but these are the most popular. Some you can't help, like sparse park attendance for Weapon-master, but the true Warlord knows it's not about winning, it is about winning against quality adversaries. Yes, you got your 21 by hook or by crook, you are a Cheater Warlord.
Type II: The Pure Warlord
Mentioned second, this is probably the closest in terms of "spirit" to the true fighting man. The Pure Warlord gives no quarter and expects none. You hit your opponents hard and fast, you hit them repeatedly, and you do it with brutal efficiency You hit them a few extra times (see above ref. Type I Cheater Warlord) after you think they are dead, just to make sure. You study opponents fighting styles, and you seek them out to practice against them while ditching to hone your competitive edge. You could take a sword and off hand beer into a little Open tourney and probably get to the semi-finals (finals if you don't drink the beer). You secretly (or not so secretly) hate flails, but you fight with them anyway, because it is part of the game. You are athletic, aggressive, and never give up. You take your shots, but it better be a real shot. None of that skippy crap that clips your garb or touches your kneepad. If a reeve makes a call you live with it, but you expect the same rules to apply to everyone. You don't cry when you get hit in the head, you keep on swinging. When you are fighting in a pole tournament and your opponents polearm ends up poked between your legs without hitting you, you run up that bastard while choking up on your own polearm like a dagger, because "the shaft may hurt, but it is not a legal striking surface". You are a vessel of divine retribution, an angel of foam death. You fight hard, you seek out the best competition you can find, and you love what you do. Oh, and you won 21 in a row in a real tournament. You are a Pure Warlord.
Type III: The Nice Warlord
Separated from their more viscous brother at birth, Type III (Nice) Warlords share much of the skill of their counterpart, but lack their outlook on killing. Wanting what is often referred to as the "clean run", you are often overcome by the Type I (Cheater) Warlord, because you thought your first kill shot was sufficient, and you don't generally pummel your opponents after death. You take the skim shots without expecting others to. You never use a head shot to avoid certain death, but allow your opponents to do so. If there is ever a question (and there rarely is) from the reeves, your opponent, the crowd, or mundane passers by, you take the shot. You get killed by the newbie because you gave him quarter and then he threw a totally improbable shot and killed you with it. Regardless, you are skilled, aggressive, highly tuned to your own shot taking, and your ability with a wide variety of weapons is excellent. The main thing that separates you from the Type II (Pure) Warlord is that you care about your social appearance and the feelings of your opponent. You may let them last a little longer to save face, while the Type II (Pure) Warlord will dispatch them with one ego-crushing shot. When you finally get 21, you have the respect and admiration of all who have lost to you because of your good nature. People will only ever talk about you not deserving the award behind your back, and then in hushed tones for fear of social reprisal. You are a Nice Warlord.
With these three Warlords in mind, identification can occasionally be a problem at first. A good rule of thumb is to remember that the Type II/III Warlords are the warlords that demand respect quietly: they will simply smoke you. A Type I Warlord will wave a belt favor in your face and tell you how grand they are (usually). Other indicators of the Type II/III Warlord are a cool head in battle and lots of friends from different kingdoms who are also Type II/III or Knights of the Sword. In groups, the Type II/III Warlords are usually jovial and blunt, making insightful comments on style and form of fighters between jokes and friendly banter. Type I Warlords are often found with large groups of partially garbed sycophants in tow, strutting and making a pathetic attempt to look like an alpha.
The road to Warlord takes time and dedication because it is not for the meek or the clumsy. Warlords fight well because they love the game and have innate talent that has been honed with years of practice. Warlords are the elite warriors in our melee society.
If you want to be a Warlord, be prepared to beat one repeatedly with several weapon styles, because that is what it takes to join the club. Good luck, and don't be a Type I.
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