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The Meaning of the Office of Knighthood
[12/17/2012] [Michael]

Once, I had a squire (since knighted and retired). He used to say that Amtgard knighthood was both an award and an office. I strongly agree with that view. As an award, it’s the same as the many other awards we hand each other, and (when it works) it serves as an incentive to strive for excellence. As an office, it’s much more complex. And it’s that which I intend to analyze here.

For me, the best way to analyze it is to write what I consider to be the duties of the ‘office’ of knighthood. I believe there are three categories of duty, and that all three are important. The three categories I see are service, mentorship and maintenance. There is overlap in the three duties as some parts of being a good knight fulfill more than one. On the other hand, there are also some actions which support one category and go against another. These are the hard choices.

I see service to Amtgard as a vital part of knighthood. All fifteen corporas contain language about knighthood having character requirements for elevation. Different people have different ideas about what character means in this context, and I am loath to get too far into that morass since some of parts of character are obvious and others deeply individual. Still, virtually all Amtgarders agree that part of knightly character is devotion and service to the organization. A knight must be visible doing just that.

I have often phrased it as, “Earn your knighthood every day.” This serves two vital purposes. First, it makes the game better by the actual service. If Joe Sword Knight teaches new players the basics in a friendly way and those newbies stay and become the next generation of fighters, then his park and the game are materially improved. If Sally Flame Knight runs an amazing inter-kingdom event which makes sure the 200+ attendees have an amazing time and go home happy, then the value is clear. However, service as a knight has another vital purpose. It serves as inspiration. The value in our awards system is entirely in how well it motivates players to strive for excellence. How well it does that is greatly affected by the reputation of knights and knighthood. When knights are lazy or retire as soon as they get their belts, it contributes greatly to a loss of effectiveness in the awards system.

Mentorship is related to service, and it’s also a key part of knighthood for me. The most obvious example is taking and working with squires, but mentorship extends beyond that. An Amtgard knight who is living up to the duties of the office (in my view) needs to act as a mentor to members of his park, his company, and his kingdom. Of course, it’s not acceptable to force mentoring on someone. Not all newbies want to learn to fight or to make A&S or even how Amtgard works, but many do, and it’s part of the duties of the office of knighthood to teach them. Of course, squires offer an even better chance to do this. Every knight has his own way of dealing with squires and it’s not my place to say who does it better than who. I can, however, say that the ability to form long-term friendships out of relationships that begin as mentoring has enriched my Amtgard career markedly.

Another key part of mentorship is involving people directly in your projects. If Kevin Serpent Knight is engaged in a company tunic project, he can use that as an opportunity to teach tunic making and appliqué to interested newer company members. If Lisa Crown Knight is interested in running for duchess, she can ticket up with a newer player as regent and help teach that person both jobs. This is another place where the value of the actual mentorship is considerable, but the value of the inspiration is also vital. If our words about knightly character mean anything, how well we teach and share our skills is key.

Finally, maintenance is about not only continuing to act as a knight but also about giving the monarchs good advice on future knighthoods via the Circle of Knights. In many ways, this is the hardest part. Rejecting candidates as not yet ready will inevitably cause them to be frustrated and their friends likewise. As much as Circle of Knights meetings are supposed to be private, they rarely are and it takes courage to annoy a friend for the good of the game. While it’s hard enough to vote no on a candidate time after time, it can be even harder to see a candidate’s legitimate improvement fairly after you have voted no. We all deserve second chances, and so many Amtgarders have learned to be better contributors to our game that I don’t think you can ever consider a no vote permanent. Maintenance is also completely about setting an inspirational example. If you are a warlord, you shouldn’t cheat, and you should fight hard. As a Sword Knight, you also should teach fighting, treat new players well, and be generally courteous and affable.

Of course, all Amtgarders should do those things. It’s just civilized human behavior. Still, it is especially incumbent on knights, who not only carry their own reputations, but also carry part of the reputation of the whole game.

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