|Themed Reigns For Stick-Jocks And Flurbs
It is a common misconception that a themed reign is purely a role-player's activity. Certainly commonalities do exist that would forgive such a mistake, and it would be quite easy to tip the balances of such a reign in favor of the so-called “flurbs.” However, a well-planned and thought-out themed reign is, really, a communal activity capable of bringing many of the activities we enjoy in Amtgard together for shared enjoyment.
Forget story threads. Forget quests. Forget battle games with added rules and complexity. Not only is all that stuff “icing on the cake” but, like actual icing on an actual cake, too much of it will make you feel sick. All a themed reign needs… all it really is… is a theme. Pretty obvious, huh?
In its simplest form, a themed reign provides unity for six months. A shared vision for garbers and crafters and perhaps even a chance for our more martial members to try out a culturally specific combat style for a while. No one, really, has to do or act in any way than they normally do but rather focus their actions and skills in specific ways for a while. Honing some skills or broadening others.
A Norse reign, for example, would see the court garbed in traditional/fantastic Viking designs. Orders featuring vibrant knot work and runic fonts. Tournaments that focus on, say, axe and shield or spear. Whereas a swashbuckling reign would swing toward a King and his Musketeers and single sword (or other fencing-type styles) tournaments.
Chapters capable of such could even offer an arts and sciences competition geared only toward entries keeping with the theme. Amtgard fancies itself as a somewhat educational society. This is a good way to showcase that side of ourselves.
An Extra Layer
Sometimes a little more will be desired. It remains pretty simple, really. Following the examples above: The King during a Norse reign might refer to the guard as “jarls” and “huskarls”. A swashbuckling Monarch might fancy themselves as a "pirate lord" and the guard their "crew." Call your basic game of “capture the flag” “Geats vs. Danes” or “Musketeers vs. the Cardinal’s Guard” (and, yes, you can play Barbarian during a Musketeer reign, note Gerard Depardieu as “Porthos” in The Man in the Iron Mask). It’s just business as usual with a few name changes.
Taking It Up A Notch
If your group is so inclined, quests and unusual battle games can be excellent additions if used sparingly (I would suggest no more than one unique scenario in a month unless your population is really into it). You want these activities to be special events that enhance the enjoyment of Amtgard, not pesky annoyances that grow old and detract from it. Sticking to my examples: Raids by giants or “ship to ship” pirate battles have solid histories of fine results.
The Plot Sickens
Allow me also to take a moment here to discuss storylines. Don’t avoid them, but handle with care. Stories are easily the pitfall of unsuccessful themed reigns. Three reasons usually cause this:
1.) Scripting in any way sucks. For it to work you need to limit who’s involved which leads to…
2.) Not enough involvement by the people. This is Amtgard. Stick-jock or not, the people, by and large, want to fight not watch the court play-act. This quickly leads to…
3.) Nobody cares.
Unless you have a small group, Beowulf simply won’t work (one really cool guy is adored by everyone else). However Eaters of the Dead (or 13th Warrior, if you prefer movies) offers almost the same story with a broader cast and large numbers of effectual attackers and defender. Same for our swashbucklers. The Three Musketeers is great for a handful, but leaves too many out.
However, “secret intrigues” can be played out on a grand scale. Let the rivalry between the King and the Prime Minister (a Machiavellian “Cardinal Richelieu” type) be played out by the people. Both could recruit supporters throughout the reign. Each side gains points when they defeat members of the opposition in battle games or even the ditch. Keep a score board. Team pride is a powerful tool.
The possibilities in Amtgard are limitless. Don’t feel you have to upset the balance of your park to enjoy them. Sometimes a minor six-month make-over is all it takes to bring everyone together. Keep the role-play crowd under control and on task. And do not neglect to give your fighters a fight first and a story second and they won’t be bothered by whatever premise you attach to it as long as it has an ass that can be kicked.
Good luck, and for goodness’ sake, have fun.
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