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NOT AN APPROPRIATE PLACE
Circle of Almost Monarchs
[07/18/2007] [Randall]

Before this article really gets going, I’d like to take a moment to point out the obvious: the front page of the Electric Samurai has experienced a bit of a face-lift. This wouldn’t be the first change to the front page, but it’s certainly the most dramatic – and all changes were made with the idea of making e-Samurai more of an Amtgard homepage. To this end, unnecessary features were removed, the front page was made more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use, and there are links to all kingdom websites and major online resources. The rules download is prominently displayed, and you can see everyone who is online in the forums. There are also finally, after a far-too-long six-month hiatus, new articles. And, as you can see from this, I’m writing a thing or two as well. Nobody has submitted anything new yet, so we’re working from old submissions for now – but I know some of you have something to say, and e-Samurai is the place to say it.

Structurally, the Electric Samurai is built the same way as before, with a Perl-generated front end and articles stored in plain text format on the server. This wasn’t my first idea when considering a redesign; I’d actually completed a version of the main page that used LiveJournal’s blogging software to post and display updates, while maintaining all old articles in the current archive. In the end, that wasn’t truly satisfying, and nor was having the front page draw directly from the forums. Both solutions seemed to render the front page unnecessary, which would be an unfitting retirement to a resource that has been – in my opinion – a positive force in Amtgard. And so it remains.

Now that all of this is complete, the path ahead of e-Samurai is pretty clear. The forums will continue to serve as the unofficial location for Amtgard-wide discussion, while the main page will continue to host news, articles, and anything else appropriate to Amtgard’s only opinion magazine. Along with article submissions, I’m hoping to get people to conduct a few interviews of their own in the style of The Interviewer, and maybe even get someone to do a Best of the Forums article now and then. But the path is at least clear. I know where we’re going from here.

Amtgard has undergone something of its own redesign of late, but the path ahead isn’t clear – yet.

The new rules are becoming less and less new. Guidelines laid down for clarifying and changing the rules have proven themselves to be effective, and that has had a unifying pull on the game. That unifying movement will manifest itself even more at Clan this year when the kingdoms vote on whether to adopt the proposal on standardizing Amtgard’s awards. There are other proposals in the works designed to help streamline the game, but after this Clan, what’s next? With all kingdoms using the same rules, buying into the rulebook change process, and (hopefully) adopting the same awards standards, what is the next step as twenty-four-year-old Amtgard grows up and starts taking care of itself? There are a few things Amtgard might do – implement geographic kingdom boundaries similar to the SCA, for example – but nearly every step we need to take to grow as a club requires a fundamental change in how Amtgard works.

At the moment, almost all of the authority in Amtgard rests with the kingdoms. The Circle of Monarchs has some sway, but not a lot – they can’t do much more than change the rules and approve the creation of new kingdoms. The limitation on the power of the kingdoms to act in union is a barrier to unifying our game because it means one holdout can scuttle any kingdom-wide project. There are also problems we’ll have in the future for which we currently have no coping mechanisms. What will happen when a kingdom falls apart? What if the main park in a static-crown kingdom just goes away? It’s never happened, but there have been enough close calls that it’s not unrealistic to plan for it.

There are plenty of complex solutions to these problems, but none are as elegant or as fair as this simple one: give the Circle of Monarchs the power they need to run Amtgard.

This means more than meets the eye. It means the kingdoms could (say, with a 75% vote), change corporas throughout the game when issues that affect all kingdoms are involved. It means we could institute geographic kingdom borders, while allowing the Circle of Monarchs to hear petitions by groups that want to be sponsored by someone else. It means we could let the Circle of Monarchs not just promote kingdoms, but demote them as well when necessary – or transfer authority within a static-crown kingdom if the main park dies. The Circle of Monarchs could handle an interkingdom schedule of events, thus preventing the event-creep that has been happening lately. It could serve as the game’s Supreme Court, a body capable of handling and adjudicating all manner of disputes. It’s a system that would work without being too burdened down by bureaucracy and rules. All it would really need is eleven corpora amendments giving Althing authority to the Circle of Monarchs, maybe a ratification procedure for certain decisions, probably an agenda creation process similar to the one we already use to revise the rulebook, and perhaps a nod by the BLBOD on kingdom demotion, and we’d be off.

This is bold and scary stuff, but it’s a necessary step. With all the things we’ve done lately to unify the game, we’re faced by basically the same decision the thirteen colonies grappled with over two hundred years ago: do we want to be eleven kingdoms, or do we want to be one Amtgard. If we want to be Amtgard, empowering and trusting the Circle of Monarchs is the way.

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