Amtgard Rules of Play.

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Pooping Freely and Staying Happy
[09/11/2006] [Okami Cio Cio]

Once upon a time there was a lovely pack of dogs. There were dogs of all types, sizes and shapes living together in a great big pack. One of the dogs wanted all the other dogs to poop the same way he did. He was so adamant in how all dogs should poop that it affected everything he did. He couldn’t share a bone with any other dogs without trying to convince them to poop his way. He started to fight against the dogs that wouldn’t poop his way. The dogs that he had convinced to poop like him would all gang up on any dog pooping the “wrong” way and try to run them off or force them to poop “correctly.”

However many of the dogs thought that they should be free to poop how they wanted. They were more interested in working together, playing together and enjoying the life of their large happy pack. The pooping issue (as it was becoming known) caused tension and strife. Newer or younger dogs would avoid the pack, which was sad, as they wanted more pack mates, to replace the old dying dogs, and get more puppies with.

All along the free poopers outnumbered the controlled poopers. However it took some time for the free poopers to realize that they were allowing themselves to be dominated by the minority. They took a stand, fighting against the pooping laws, chipping away at them one by one and encouraging everyone to poop freely.

Sure, that meant that sometimes there was a little more shit around. However they also found that it wasn’t so bad and they were able to work around it. The free poopers decided to be as nice as they could to the controlled pooper. They just wouldn’t poop his way. The controlled pooper started keeping to himself. Pooping at home or on his own.

Now all the dogs were pretty happy, and found that without the controlled pooper yelling at them, things went smoother. They tried to engage him. “Come and play,” they’d say. The controlled pooper would come, but get mad at their wild pooping ways and leave quickly. He couldn’t get over that they were having fun without using his pooping style. It made him mad, that they couldn’t see the wisdom of his pooping agenda.

Eventually the controlled pooper left the pack, stopping by now and then to see what they were doing. They were happy together, working on their hunting, playing and breeding. They dealt with shit when they had to and life was grand.

This is (kinda) the story of Querna Tema. Currently we have very little drama. Partially because we’ve gone through the stages of team building, known as “forming, storming, norming and adjourning.” But also because of specific philosophy and style of interaction. Which got me thinking, “why does my Duchy have so little political upheaval?”

1. We don’t let controlled poopers get us down.

Sure, at first we got a little frustrated or even mad. However, folks that try to enforce their “one true wayism” on us find that we’re more interested in playing and having fun. We allow for all folk’s input, enjoy diverse ideas, but don’t let someone with a lot of harsh attitude get us down. We encourage joviality and at the end of the day, we let shitty behavior roll off our backs.

2. We all eat together.

We have lots of feasts, we go to BWW after fighter practice on Thursdays, and we have post revels somewhat frequently, as well as camping events during the summer. Sometimes, we all just go to a local restaurant after an event. It’s that gathering together as normal people that re-enforces unity. It also helps us feel like we’re all in this together.

3. We see a day at Amtgard as a social outing as much as it is exercise or a game.

In fact, many of our group are there to bullshit with pals more than to play. The game and fighting are fun, but the telling friends about how tough the workweek was, or how proud we are of our kid’s grades is more important. While we have a good number of folks that are dedicated to bettering their skills in the game, we celebrate their lives as much as their next order of the warrior.

4. We welcome all comers.

It’s hard to do, however we do our best not to ostracize anyone. That doesn’t mean that people don’t select out. The folks that are so unable to get along with a large group, or who are searching for a group to dominate find themselves disappointed pretty quickly and go their own way. We’ve had a few, and they’ve found other things to do. If you’re a total dork, or a complete asshole, that’s okay. You join QT, you’re our dork, you’re our asshole. We’ll treat you like family.

5. We encourage people to find their own level.

Not everyone who joins is going to be a 3 time a week Amtgarder. Many of our players are “casual.” Once in awhile they show up. We try to welcome them back happily and enjoy the time we have with them. Kinda like having a mistress who’s got three of four other sugar daddies to keep her busy, we try to allow that not everyone has the same commitment to the game and “that’s Oh-kay.”

6. We enjoy each other’s differences

We have hard-core stick jocks, artisans, role-players and computer game addicts. Our group is like a big potluck. If everyone brought Jell-O salad, we’d be totally disappointed. We need someone to bring hot-dish and someone to bring brownies and even someone to stop by the store and grab a bag of potato chips.

By celebrating those differences rather than letting them divide us, we can benefit from them. One of our most consistent attendees, dedicated officers and skilled artisans never fights due to health concerns. However, she’s out there, nearly each week supporting the group, providing organization and direction. One of our best fighters is a much less frequent attendee, however he’s also a benefit to the group, providing training for other fighters as well as knowledge about the rules. By encouraging both to do what they will and can, we all benefit.

7. We intermingle a LOT.

We have 2 large home grown fighting companies, at least 5 home grown households, folks who have membership in Amtgard groups from other areas and lots of “independents.” Though each group has it’s own focus and friendships, there’s a great deal of overlap. We’ve had members from one fighting company be monarch, while a member from another is regent, and yet a different group be PM. We all party together when we party. Very seldom does one group go off and do it’s own thing on one side of the park while the other kids are doing their thing on this side. Sure, it’s crowded to fit 40 people into a 1 bedroom apartment for post revel, but there’s more fun to share!

The co-mingling and the “inter-company” friendships make for more of that “us” mentality as well. We still get to enjoy our individuality, either through our companies or personalities, but we connect with each other and support each other. We have had “fighting company co-lympics” a contest between different companies and have no ill-will come of it.

8. We frequently have group goals.

By setting goals for the entire Duchy to take part in, (recruitment, role-play campaigns, reign long competitions) we are all able to be working toward common goals. It also helps create an “us” mentality. Even when there are not publicized goals for the Duchy, there are still many who work towards helping the group grow and seeing the group succeed in recruitment and fund-raising.

9. Our “big” personalities remember to keep humble and let others be the center of attention.

That’s hard to do. Especially when the big personality is running the show or feelin’ like they’ve gotta carry the group. However it’s vital that everyone get a chance to shine, feel special and get attention. Big personalities get hit in the head with a clue by four when they’re starting to think that they’re the most important turd in the punchbowl. Our “cool” kids spend a lot of time working, talking and interacting with newbies, folks from different companies and so on. This way other people can be encouraged to step up and run things.

I think that sums up what’s worked for us. We went through our storming time. We dealt with lots of challenging personalities. We’re trying to make Amtgard fun for everyone. Some folks couldn’t get along with everyone else and just quit. Some found other hobbies or concentrated on other interests. For the most part, the folks who want get along do, the ones that don’t want to join in with the rest of the group remain welcome to take part as they want.

Years ago, I had an SCA buddy express her many discontents with the SCA and the people in her barony. “Why keep doing it?” I asked her. “To keep the assholes from ruining it for others,” she replied.

I hope that few people really need to keep any "assholes" from ruining anything. I don’t want to be the asshole handing out the “way you must be!” dictates. I’m certainly not suggesting that we need to dictate that “all must smile and be pleasant at all times.” I would rather suggest that we can all have fun, if we all focus on the fun first and foremost, and our personal beliefs, agendas, desires and attitudes second. My friend was frustrated because she felt folks were trying to enforce their wants on her. However, I’m sure the people in question were just strong in their beliefs and felt they had the best in mind for others.

It’s valuable to be a strong person, with convictions and integrity. Those can show through in what we do, rather than what we expect others to do. If a group works together to focus on the fun, it’s much less likely that they’ll loose people to the frustrations commonly seen as “cliqueishness,” or “politics.” Sure, they’ll still have cliques and politics, ‘cause every team has ‘em. Just like with a big family, or a big pack, it’s just something to howl about, and doesn't need to cause a big dog-fight.

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