|Keeping it Fresh
[06/30/2004] [Luke Wyngarde]
One of the most common complaints from long-time Amtgardians is that regular local days are just no fun anymore. Following years of Ditching and Questing, the luster and wonder of by-gone days has vanished. Players become jaded and bored, attendance wanes and (in many cases) a chapter falls off the face of Amtgardia. When players are bored, internal bickering and strife soon follow. It behooves every Monarch, Champion, and would-be Smith to keep things as interesting as possible. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, which will be discussed below.
I. The Populace: An Untapped Source
One method of keeping it fresh is to alternate battlegame-planning duties to members of the Populace. While there will be the occasional dud (“Hey, let’s fight three Extra-Planar Entities in a Lava Field!”), by and large the populace is invariably capable of many great ideas. Set a schedule at the start of the reign and ask for volunteers. Remind the volunteers in Court as their turns approach. This allows the more experienced players the chance to challenge new players with the battlegames of yesteryear, and allows newer player the chance to ‘see-how-it-is-done’ and innovate. This is also a prime chance for Monarchs to award this type of behavior, in hopes more players will strive to emulate it.
II. The Importance of Continuity
Amtgard is a world within a world, with a life all it’s own. As such, it has it¹s own personalities, institutions, and geography. One sure way to keep an interested populace is to develop their persona’s place in that world. The best way to do that is to have a point of reference for players built into the very parks and populaces themselves. How would you, the mundane, feel if every time you drove to work the roads had different names? Or if your boss had a different face? Pretty weird, huh?
Why should your Shire be any different? Give names to local landmarks. When a local is granted a Title, select a parcel of land and let him/her stake a claim to it as “family lands.” Make a set of characters who are not personas per se, but rather roles to be played during Quests and Battlegames. Some examples:
1. Xenon has just served two terms as Baron of Bubblebrook and has been Lorded by the King for his services to the club. When next Lord Xenon meets at his park, he claims a piece of land as “Xenon’s Keep”. Xenon now has a land to defend, and may have his friends and cohorts serve as bodyguards. When a battlegame or role-playing scenario causes players to cross Xenon’s land, the new Lord may be kind to trespassers or demand homage from all who use his roads. This also opens the door for many other battlegames, as other Nobles come to covet Xenon’s land, or Goblin Hordes attempt to claim it for themselves.
2. At Stormwall, there are several man-made hills and other structures scattered throughout the park. The populace has given each a name over years of gaming. Bald Hill, Stand-Off Hill, White Bridge, Farbridge, and others have a long tradition of use as landmarks and locations for encounters during Quests.
3. During a Quest, the Questors are in serious need of help after being decimated by a Dragon. One of the ladies sitting on the sidelines is not a combat participant, but remarks on how beat up the players are. The Reeve asks the lady to be a noncombat Healer to help the players out. The Reeve gives the lady a clue to share with players who befriend her. Thus, Miko the Old Lady of the Woods is born. Miko returns during other Quests, because the populace remembers the name and knows that the Old Lady of the Woods will help them. Not only does this encourage participation by the color but it also provides for a recurring character for players to identify.
III. Making the Most of What You Have
Almost every chapter in Amtgardia plays at a public park. This is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because we have to share the facilities with the Mundanes, and must always consider their delicate sensibilities. A blessing because from those Mundanes come the future generations of Amtgardians. The reason we choose these parks is simple: there are features that provide a place for us to play. It is essential for game planners to cultivate their surroundings for use during play. Discussed below are a few common elements of public parks, the hazards they represent and what Amtgarding might be done with them:
1. Open fields are best if freed of debris and are relatively flat. Hours of Ditching and sparring, as well as many of the games presented herein, are suitable for open fields.
2. Wooded areas provide a great haven for battlegames. Nearly any battlegame can be adapted to a woodland environment. Players and reeves alike must constantly be on the lookout for ground hazards and overhead perils (sharp branches, spiders, etc.), but generally the forest is the most prime real estate for battlegaming.
3. Hills and other terrain, so long at it is not physically hazardous, make fine additions to any Amt-park. Castle Seiges are best conducted on a hill or other defensible area. Caution is of primary importance in all fighting, but particularly in high-altitude or potentially precarious situations. Remember Murphy’s Law when planning games in places like this: anything that has a possibility of going wrong, probably will.
4. Playground equipment, especially the heavy-duty wooden constructions, make excellent places upon which to play (after all, that’s why they were built!) The biggest concerns, though, are the frailty of any such structure and the children who play upon them. While most intelligent people get out of the way of two dozen sword-wielding screaming Amtgardians, small children have the opposite reaction. They are drawn to our antics like moths to flame, and should be a primary concern for all players. No one wants to have his or her child trampled by a berserk Barbarian! If there are Mundanes watching and appearing to wait to use the playground, vacate immediately. Don¹t ever hesitate or resist the will of small children (or their parents!) who want to slide. Chances are they will be gone in twenty minutes and the fighting can resume where you left off. Never make excuses or chase Mundanes away, not only is it bad public relations, but such indiscretions are more than enough cause for park or law enforcement officials to have us removed from the park permanently!
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