Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Changing the Game

After returning home from my Pennsic Wandering Friar experiment I had various communications with a number of folks where I acknowledged my frustration with some aspects of the SCA.  While considering both my journal and those communications some thoughts were sparked in my head.  I would like to share those thoughts here.  I would like to compile a running list of ideas on ways to "change the game".  Feel free to send me your own practical, constructive and concise ideas.  Try and remember what it was like for you when you started.  Is the magic still there for you?  I'm curious to see what other people think are easy ways to improve our hobby. 
At every event/function you go to:

  • No snarking... ever.  Not in public and not in private. 

  • All forms of snarking degrade the experience of others and inhibits growth of our group. 

    Example of snarking without compliments – “You know linen is very easy to find these days.  There is really no reason to make a shirt out of faux linen which is really a non-period fabric.”

    Example of snarking wrapped compliments - I love that dress you made.  You know that the shirt isn't really from the same time period as your dress though?  It would look so much nicer if you tried to make a shirt which would match.  I love your work and look forward to seeing your future attempts.


  • Find at least one person who you have never talked to, smile, wave say hi.

  • I'm an introvert and talking to people I don't know is very stressful.  You don't have to talk to make a person feel noticed and welcome.  Smile, wave and nod your head.  That is often enough.


  • Find five people who you have either never or infrequently talk to.  Find the thing you like best about their "look" and tell them.  No constructive criticism, simply say "What you did there... love it!"

  • Don't: That dress is lovely.  Next time you should try adding some period trim.  That would really make look even nicer.

    Do:  That hat... love it.  Looks wonderful!

    While walking around at Pennsic as a mute I went up to people and tapped them on the shoulder.  Without talking it was tough, but when I pointed to an aspect of their garb and then gave them the OK and thumbs up, they knew what I meant.  A silent compliment always brought out a smile.



  • Compliment and thank your servers.  A small token of thanks means a lot to a volunteer.

  • We never think twice about tipping a waiter or waitress at a restaurant.  Even bad service warrants some sort of tip.  Why not offer a simple thank you to your server?  Even if you didn't like the food, a thank you to the server will be appreciated.


  • Compliment and thank your cooks in public.  Never publicly criticize the cooking staff.

  • I've attended great feasts and poorly managed feasts.  Nothing good can come from publicly criticizing the cooking staff.  Remember they are volunteers and usually doing the best they can.  Critiques and complaints are not often well received at the end of a day when the staff has been in the kitchen all day long working to make your meal.  Constructive criticism should be done in private and a few days after the event.


  • Thank a parent who brings small children to an event.  They are the lifeblood of the future, make sure you acknowledge it.

  • Seeing children at events has always been one of my favorite aspects of the SCA.  Managing at an event with children can be very challenging.  Let a parent know that you appreciate their effort since their children are the next generation keeping our hobby alive.


  • Even if you don't have children, participate in an occasional activity with minors.  Foster our future.

  • Children raised in the SCA will have even more insight and opportunity to make our community better in the long run.  To best foster the dream, foster their dreams.


  • Thank the water bearers

  • When you are in the heat of battle and caught up in the day's activities don't forget to say a simple thank you to those who support you.  While water bearing at Pennsic I encountered many who were gracious and thankful and for every jug of water offered.  There were others who never offered a word of thanks.  Playing the game of battle requires a lot of support staff.  Simply nodding and saying thank you at least lets your supporters feel that they are appreciated.



  • Thank the event staff who volunteered to set the stage for you fun.

  • Running an event takes a lot of work before the day begins and constantly throughout the day.  Make sure you acknowledge that effort if you want to enjoy events in the future.  Again, any constructive criticism is probably best packaged and received a few days after the event rather than the day of when everyone is worn down and tired.


  • Pay someone's gate fee if you can.  Drop the cost of a site fee at troll and secretly tell them to apply it to the next person who comes in with a minor or comes in without an SCA membership.  Leave a note "You've been a victim of a random act of kindness.  Enjoy the day"

  • If you do this don't make an effort to find out who benefited from your gift.  That may make the recipient feel awkward and beholden.  Simply enjoy knowing you made somebody's day and they may do the same to someone else someday.


  • Even if you are not an A&S type person, go look at the displays anyway.  Lack of foot traffic is very demoralizing.

  • There are many aspects of the SCA.  The more you support and foster other's areas of interest, the more they will be willing to support yours.  Walk through, smile and say nice job.  Every artist will be thankful for such a visit.


  • When a performance art is offered, attend, watch, listen and applaud.

  • It takes courage to put oneself on a stage and perform for the public.  Make sure when you see folks performing you let them know you appreciate their effort by being courteous and respectful.


  • Create your own personal token.  Leave it at displays/performances you enjoy. 

  • One of the easiest things you can probably do to make a new person's day.  A person new to the SCA who receives such a token will be more likely to be proud of what they have done and come back and try again.


  • Give tokens of thanks to those who demonstrate all that is good in the SCA.  Tell them you appreciate what you witnessed.

  • I once did something simply because it had to be done.  Somebody came up to me and paid me a nice complement and gave me a small token of their thanks.  They didn't have to do that, but I was walking on clouds for the rest of the day knowing my work was appreciated.


  • Even if you are not a fighter, pick out a newer fighter and cheer for them loudly at the day's tournament.

  • There are many things that go on at events.  Branch out and see more than your little bubble.  Even if you are not a fighter, cheering and playing along will help grow the bond between the 'factions' in our hobby.


  • When you receive an award thank the signet and thank the scribes who made it possible.  Don't critique artwork even if you don't care for the period, style or design.

  • Many hours go into the production, collection and distribution of awards.  Be thankful for what you have received.  Don't critique the artwork publicly even if you hate it.  Remember that all the efforts are volunteer and many artists see their creations as they see their own children.  You would never walk up to someone and say "Wow your child is really ugly!"  so hopefully you won't demoralize an artist by complaining about a scroll in public.     


  • Don't leave early.  Go to court and cheer for awards, even when given to those you don't know.

  • Try and remember what it was like for you when you started.  Try and remember the dream.  Foster the dream in others.  Be respectful during court because you may be sitting next so somebody who is a friend of the recipient.  When you cheer for even those you don't know you are building a future for our hobby.


  • Don't sideline an instructor's class.  This is especially important when you can see that the instructor is inexperienced.

  • Becoming a new instructor is very stressful for some, myself included.  I have attended a number of classes which got sidelined by a well-meaning experienced teacher.  Even though you mean well and are only offering what you think is helpful, you may be scaring away future teachers in the room.


  • Don't critique an instructor during class.  Do so afterwards and only in a positive manner and only if you wrap it between two compliments.

  • Try and remember what it was like for you when the dream was fresh and real and you taught your first class.  Not everyone is an extrovert, so do not get hung up on critiquing somebody so much to show them that you know more.  A new instructor may be so overwhelmed that they simply decide never to do it again.  Without teachers for the future our community will not grow.



    The following entries were added after the initial post as feedback from other SCAdians.

  • When a herald cries Oye, immediately cease your conversation and attend. .

  • The sooner everyone is quiet, the sooner the herald can deliver their announcement and everyone can get on with their activities..

  • If someone asks you a question, take time to listen to the question and answer thoughtfully and fully.

  • Compliment and thank your teachers.

  • A small gift or token for a teacher lets the instructor know that you are aware that it takes a lot of time to put a class together and that you appreciate their time.