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Election Patterns
[01/09/2006] [Randall]

This article discusses a political trend unique to the Kingdom of Dragonspine and gets into the nitty-gritty details of the history of the kingdom. It is hoped that the trends explored below are interesting despite being specific to one park, but this is still a lengthy article with a very narrow focus. You have been warned.

In the fifteen years that Dragonspine has existed, two general patterns have emerged regarding how the populace selects the monarch. The first pattern, which ran from 1992 until 1995, saw the regency as the path to becoming king. The second pattern, which started in 1995 and arguably lasted until the present day, saw the position of champion as the way to ascend to the throne. In this essay, I will demonstrate how these patterns manifested and their impact on the kingdom. I will also demonstrate and explain the two exceptions to the patterns – aberrations and second terms.

It should be noted that this article is a combination of research, guess-work, and opinion. Reasonable people may differ on why things happened the way they did. Amtgard is not a literate culture; despite having newsletters and websites, we have no historian class that documents events for posterity. Instead, we have oral histories handed down around campfires at large gatherings and in living rooms after a day at the park. This means you are reading the opinions of one author with an imperfect memory, not definitive history.

Dragonspine’s formative years are not indicative of any pattern of succession. Alaeric served as the first baron, followed by Stelyos and then Alaeric again as a pro-tem monarch. Cheshire followed, then Quicksilver. None of these people held offices that suggested they would be the next baron, but it was with Quicksilver’s term that the young barony finally had a full slate of officers. One could call the two years prior to that as not representing any trend but rather a barony muddling itself together. We therefore start our begats in 1992 with Quicksilver’s regent, Solmoriah.

Solmoriah, called Crosser today, was the last baron. His regent, Egil, went on to become the first duke. It was after Egil’s reign that the first aberration emerged; Quicksilver was his regent but did not become duchess next. Her reign was delayed six months by the aberration of Greywalker being elected duke. This aberration interrupted the natural course of events and resulted from internal divisions in the duchy with Saracens on one side and the nucleus of the future Wardancers on the other. Greywalker’s victory with Jetara as his champion and Weilok as his Prime Minister demonstrates the temporary ascendancy of his side.

Quicksilver was duchess next, and was followed by the first ‘skip’ – Egil ran for king and won, thus representing the first second term and the first demonstration of the rule that a second term in office interrupts the system but does not represent an aberration in it. Rather, it either delays the natural successor or bumps them out of the succession entirely. In this case, it was a bump because Egil’s regent Alaeric became king next, thus representing three years of the system functioning.

Two factors emerged in Alaeric’s reign that changed the system of succession from one that favored regents to one that favored champions. Alaeric’s regent was the underage Aaron Strongbow, who fell out of favor with Alaeric’s camp before being removed from office. This left the position of regent empty for the first time in over three years. At the same time, the incipient revolution that Greywalker’s reign as duke presaged coalesced around Champion Stefan. The youth of the regent, his removal from office, and the vitality of the new faction ended the old way and ushered in the new. It was therefore Stefan, and not the regent, who became king next.

Another trend that may have contributed to the change was the way Amtgard itself was evolving. Fighting was becoming international and polished and started taking over the primary position in the game that was held by role-play and battlegames. In Dragonspine in particular, Stefan’s reign coincided with a dramatic increase in the skill of the kingdom’s warriors. Every one of Dragonspine’s sword knights emerged in the years between 1994 and 1999. This emphasis on combat no doubt had a powerful impact on the prestige and importance of the position of champion.

This is certainly speculation. It is easier to show that the system existed than it is to explain why, something that will be borne out as we examine the eighteen reigns after Stefan’s. Nevertheless, the theory on why the successor changed from regent to champion is plausible and makes sense when we look at the similar turmoil that brought the new way to a messy end.

Furthermore, Stefan’s reign marks the start of an idea – that of the champion as the natural successor – but it does not mark the beginning of the system in action. That does not happen until a year later. Phocion was Stefan’s regent, an obvious choice for someone seeking to become king next as Phocion did. The champion, on the other hand, was T’Sarith, who was removed from office. Had Phocion been Stefan’s successful champion rather than his placeholder regent, perhaps he would have come into office next. Things happened differently, but Phocion would still become the focal point of the transition that Stefan started.

Alaeric beat Phocion in an election and became king, thus affirming the rule that a monarch seeking a second term represents a natural continuation of the system. Both men ran for king again and Phocion prevailed the second time. He is therefore the last person to come into office as the former (in his case, delayed) regent and the starting point for a long string of champion successors. He took the old path to the crown, but affirmed the new one that Stefan represented.

Phocion’s successor was to be his champion Tristan, but Tristan’s defeat by Hawkthorne represents the first aberration in the system of champion as successor. Tristan’s supporters alleged impropriety on the part of the Prime Minister who conducted the election, claiming that dues were accepted the day of the election from people who then voted, something that is illegal in Dragonspine. In a close and controversial election with a turnout nearly twice that of any election in the kingdom’s history, this interrupted what should have occurred – Tristan as king. This election therefore fits the system of champions as successors. Phocion, who was to be Tristan’s champion but served under the new king, was elected to a second term and thus reinforced the system. As champion, he was the natural successor. As a former king seeking a second term, he was doubly so.

After that, a brief period of aberration emerged to challenge the new system. A year went by with two people who fit no system on the throne. King Ironpaw hadn’t held office for seven reigns and his successor Weilok hadn’t for ten. Ironpaw took the place that should have been Tristan’s, who, stung from the apparent shenanigans during his last attempt for the throne, declined to seek further office. Ironpaw’s champion was Quicksilver, but she did not run for monarch either. Indulging in speculation, it might be wondered if Quicksilver would have run had the popular Lyvyndyr not been a candidate for queen. Lyvyndyr subsequently dropped out of the election at the last minute, clearing the way for Weilok to win. In these contexts, the absence of a King Tristan and a Queen Quicksilver makes sense. It could be argued that, under normal circumstances, both would have been historical fact, thus further proving the system of succession.

Things returned to normal after Weilok’s reign. Champion Kurshan became king, followed by his champion Feral. Kurshan enjoyed a second reign, something that forced Feral’s champion to be delayed six months before becoming King Malachi. That delay meant Kurshan’s second champion Kyran also had to wait six months before running for king. He narrowly lost that election to Randall. That election represents an aberration as well, but Kyran was king next and the system endured. Randall was king again after Kyran, but this reign fits the rule rather than breaking it because it was a former king seeking a second term that delayed the natural succession of Alucard, Kyran’s champion.

During Randall’s second reign, too many absences meant the champion was removed from office, the first time such a thing had occurred since the system of champions as successors began. That champion was Shadow. It’s possible that a successful term as champion might have put him in a position to run for king. He did not run however, and nor did the previous champion Alucard, who was not granted a title for his service and may have been briefly uninterested in running for office as a result. With the absence of a clear candidate, the kingdom was open to suggestions and Phywren was elected, thus representing the fourth period of aberration. Alucard went on to become king next – interestingly defeating the immediate former champion, Whitewolf.

So far, all aberrations represented an event that shouldn’t have occurred disrupting the natural flow of events. A possibly shady election derailed Tristan and discouraged him from running again. A popular candidate entering and then withdrawing from the election derailed Quicksilver. An insurgent emerging from a half-decade hiatus stopped Kyran. A field cleared of an obvious heir resulted in Phywren being king. Without all of these events, a case could be made that the obvious candidates would have won and proved the system correct. They are therefore exceptions that prove the rule.

Alucard was the first and only king of Dragonspine to enjoy back-to-back reigns. His year as king still followed the rules of the system since he was a king seeking a second term. He was followed again by Randall, another former king. By the end of this eighteen month period, there were several champions waiting in the wings, but none of them were seen as potential monarchs. Phywren would have made the most sense, but his reign as king was lackluster and he quit Amtgard before completing his term as Alucard’s champion. Kie was inexperienced and had his sights set on becoming regent instead. T’Sarith did not have widespread support among the populace and was also eyeing regent. Finally, the clear and popular candidate to succeed Randall was his regent Ironpaw. Had Ironpaw become king, he would have been a pivotal figure; as a former king, seeking a second term would mark him as the last monarch in the period of champion successors. As regent during Randall’s third and last term in office, with several regents in the wings wanting to become monarch and no credible champions left, he would have represented a return to the days of the regent, and not the champion, being next in line to the throne.

It was not to be, however. Scandal halted Ironpaw’s candidacy and he was removed from the ballot. T’Sarith was the former champion and was running for regent, something which would have made him pro-tem king if he had won. He lost a confidence vote instead and Stark, the incoming champion, was approved by the voters to take over according to the rules of succession. This was an aberration, but like the ones before it was an aberration that makes sense. Ironpaw should have become king and would have fit the pattern. T’Sarith was a former champion and could also have fit the pattern, but he didn’t get elected either. Stark was a former champion in name only, as the absence of a king and regent meant he automatically stepped up as king. His reign was a paradox in that it was simultaneously an aberration and part of the pattern. It was during his reign that the system faltered.

The year and a half since Stark was king marked an end of the way things were. During this time, the people seeking the throne were aberrations or former regents. Azrael-Jade succeeded Stark, a choice that was would not have been an aberration if the results of her contest for champion a few reigns earlier had been 2-1 in her favor rather than the other way around. There were also two champions who might have sought the throne instead of Azrael. The first was Kathon, a man who would have been removed from office due to too many absences if he hadn’t showed up to his own stepping down. The second was Kie, an inexperienced leader who, rather than begin a campaign for king that he likely would have lost, asked Azrael-Jade to run instead. Azrael’s champion Finnegin had discussed running for king but was burned out by the time his term was through, so the contest to replace the queen was former regent Bear versus de facto former regent Palas, whose steady hand cooking and helping with both of the queen’s feasts made them into successes. Palas won the election, thus representing yet another aberration. Azrael’s ascension after Palas fits the pattern since she was a monarch elected to a second term, but by this point the system had been so disrupted that it is difficult to claim that any sort of pattern has endured.

As stated earlier, if Ironpaw had been elected he might have represented a return to the old ways of the regency being the path to becoming king. Ironpaw’s successor might have been Bear, the regent from the previous reign. Bear’s regent could credibly have been Azrael-Jade, who would have been queen next just as she was in reality. Her regent might have been Palas, who would not have been burned out and could have run for king next. It is not too much of a stretch to see all of that occurring, but that’s not the way it turned out. The chances of a realignment toward regent regent that was possible in 2004 had been dashed, but so had the system of champion successors.

What system exists now? Although the pattern is lately more aberration than anything else, a case could be made that it is temporary and will end with Azrael-Jade’s successor. Anatole, her champion, has expressed a desire to run for king. Another credible candidate is Phywren, a former king himself. Aidan was once floated as a candidate for king. With several possible former champions available, it is possible, even likely, that the system was disrupted rather than ended.

Just as interesting as how the pattern emerged, but not quite as lengthy to explain, is why it emerged. What seems to make the most sense is that the tradition of combat that began in the mid-90s has endured, and strong leaders are often understood to be fighters. A majority of Dragonspine’s leaders holding at least one qualification for Knight of the Sword bears this theory out. Also, people seeking to become king are often uncomfortable with jumping into the job without having prior experience, so they seek out another office first. With Prime Minister being a hard, unappreciated book-keeping position and regent being the cook and the garber, these people see champion as the place to learn the ropes.

As an aside, it is interesting to think about the irony of the situation in which Dragonspine finds itself. Amtgard once selected its leaders through force of arms. In these enlightened times in which we vote, Dragonspine sees that essentially happen half the time – an improvement of barely 50%. How enlightened are we really? Here, someone beats someone else in a fight and is confirmed as king by the people six months later. The similarity between this and the way Roman emperors succeeded one another is amusing or alarming, depending on your point of view.

Finally, although the pattern I have described isn’t perfect, there is enough evidence to make it seem more than an interesting coincidence. The early days of Dragonspine see regent as the successor almost without exception. The shift between regent and champion with Stefan and Phocion being the focal point provides us with a very clear transition point. The time since has seen a steady stream of champions becoming king – and where it breaks down in aberration, there is always a champion who should have become king and a compelling reason why they did not. The collapse of the pattern in Stark’s reign, which might not even be a true collapse but rather an extended aberration, neatly bookends the upheaval that ended the regent pattern and started the trend toward champions. There are signs that the bookend doesn’t even exist, and that the champion-as-heir pattern is a permanent fixture in the Kingdom of Dragonspine that we can expect to continue well into the future. And will knowledge that this pattern exists taint future elections? We can only wait and see.

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