In 1968, I became infected with a bug. No, not a social disease, smartass. It wasn’t a flu, or a virus, or a bacteria, although some consider it a plague. It was campaign politics.

I had watched eight years earlier as a young, vigorous Irish Catholic senator from Boston had run for, and ultimately won the presidency. It had piqued my interest in such things, no doubt fueled by the fact that I was a part-Irish Catholic kid, who had been born in Boston, and my mother (an Italian Catholic who grew up in Boston) was for him.

I found out during this time that she had actually met Kennedy when he ran for congress; this, coupled with the fact that she had briefly dated Chuck Conners in college (The Rifleman was one of my favorite TV shows), pretty much solidified my opinion that my mother was goddamn cool.

My father, another Bostonian who had a nodding acquaintance with Lutheranism, was for Nixon. This wasn’t the Watergate Nixon; this was the Nixon who had been Vice President to Ike, a pretty well liked President and former winner of The War, so my father’s lapse in judgment was excusable. His parents were (probably) Republicans as well. His father had been raised in a Catholic orphanage which had beaten all of that out of his system. His mother was a rather more devote protestant who once told me that electing Kennedy would mean having the Pope run America. Again, being a part-Italian Catholic, it seemed to me that that would be just fine. I only learned about Pius XII later.

My first blush with political theater would turn into an intense attraction for the drama, fervor and foolishness of campaigns for political office. For me, politics was a roller coaster ride. Between the Kennedy assassination, Johnson announcing his intention not to run again (which he did on my 17th birthday), politics was a constant on the evening news every day, and we only had 3 network channels; this was before Fox (yes, it was a magical time).

The big push for me came in high school. My favorite teacher was politically active; he had our local state senator, Steny Hoyer, come to our class and talk about the political process. This would have been less strange if it had been civics class instead of algebra, but Hoyer was an interesting speaker and only a few years older than us. He was later elected to congress and became, and still is, the Minority Whip.

I got semi-involved in political appearances for Joe Tydings, whom I knew nothing about, except he championed a bill for no-knock entry and wrote an article about gun control published in Playboy magazine. Tydings lost re-election in ’70 when eastern shore conservatives turned out to vote for Republican J. Glenn Beall Jr., with a campaign slogan of “Playboy Joe must go!”. Republicans always come up with the clever names and sayings; too bad they don’t spend some of that creativity on fixing problems.

I joined the nascent Young Democrats club at school, and then it was election time. The main contenders were in the presidential race: Hubert H. Humprey, Johnson’s VP versus the comeback kid Richard Nixon (later to become the go-away guy). This alone would have been enough to get things going, but there was more. In addition to the presidential election, Maryland was voting for a congressman. Hervey Machen, running for his third term, would also go down to defeat along with Humphrey. Machen lost to the Republican Larry Hogan. Hogan is notable for being the only Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to vote for the impeachment of Nixon in 1974. His son is the current governor of Maryland (remind me to tell you a funny story about me and his son sometime).

Part of the attraction of campaigns was the stuff: posters, signs, big and small, buttons. I still like Humphrey’s campaign button:


Humphrey’s campaign song was a re-write of Step To The Rear (Let A Winner Lead the Way) from the Broadway musical How Now, Dow Jones. Catchy tune, you can find it on line if you look (and care).

Nixon’s button said “Nixon’s the One”. He was one, all right. His theme was the Song of the Volga Boatmen, or something.


Humphrey and Nixon were competing (sorta) with George Wallace, who got just under ten million votes (over 13% of the total) and earned 46 electoral votes (it was the last time a 3rd party candidate for president won any state; Wallace won 5). His supporters were…special. I recall we were handing out election material at a traffic stop and I offered some to some folks in a pick-up truck. The driver had a big smile on his face and said with an accent from waaay further south than Maryland “We’re for Wallace!” (he pronounced it “Wow-lace”). I pivoted to the congressional campaign, to which he smilingly replied “We’re for Wowlace!”. I thanked him and they drove on to the cross-burning, or wherever they were headed.

Waking up the morning after election day with both my candidates having lost, was sobering. Only a year later, Playboy Joe was no longer in the Senate and making scads of money in a law firm rather than crumbs of money in the US government. We still had a Democratic congress, but I personally felt lost. Being only 17, I had no concept of how much politics had changed with that election. The South, which had been a Democratic stronghold, shifted to the right, some say because of Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was the beginning of what we have here and now.

Over the years I had less to do with campaigning, altho I followed elections and political news. I recall the morning after Regan was elected I was in line at a store (probably a liquor store, and, yes, they are open early in the a.m.). The fellow ahead of me asked the clerk what she thought about the election. She grimaced a little and said she was fearful that Regan might start a war. “Well”, the guy replied, “maybe a little war is what we need to get this country back on track.” We both just stared at him as he gathered up his Red, White & Blue beer and Slim Jims and walked out. History tells us we did manage to live thru the Regan years, altho I don’t recall them as the magical time some conservatives remember.

Now another Disruptor is in the White House, after a campaign like none I’ve ever seen. This one, unlike Regan, has no experience running a government of any size, and seems to have skin so thin it cannot be measured by modern scientific instruments. I’m sure we’ll get thru it.

Sure, the next person (woman?) in office will spend their first 100 days fixing what this clown fucked up. And probably rebuilding the parts of the White House that were either Rococo’d to death, or burned down by the mob. But we’ll survive this; if there’s any entity that’s Too Big To Fail, it’s US.



Some of you know that I do a bardic performance on one of the last days of War Week at Pennsic (if you don’t know what those 3 things are, stop reading and go Google something). I say I, meaning I and my beautiful wife, who’s waaay more talented than I (wow, 4 “I”‘s in one sentence; I am self-absorbed. Ooh, 5!). The performance is not a traditional bardic where everyone performs something, neither is it a traditional performance of SCAdian songs. You won’t hear “Born on the Listfield” from me, not the least because I don’t know it and it’s not put down in writing and I’d have to listen to it more times than I’d care to (which would be more than once) to learn it. Sorry, don’t like the song, hope we can still be friends, blahblahblah.

What I do perform are songs with my own lyrics set to other people’s music. It’s a form of filk, where popular songs are given modified lyrics (think Weird Al Yankovic). There is another kind of filk where the words are completely different from the original. This is a very period practice; new lyrics published and noted “To the Tune of Lord Whositz Bransle”. It allowed folks to sing along with a new words to a known tune. They called them “broadsides”; we refer to them as “copyright infringement”.

Another kind of filk borrows heavily on the original lyrics to make the song more funny, sad, poignant, etc. (again, Weird Al). I could explain how taking well-known lyrics and making them do different things heightens the impact, but it’s really just easier for us lazy folks (less to write).

Any filk is difficult to do well. You can quickly become trite, maudlin, or, worst of all, boring. There are certain rules that I try to follow, both before and after I’ve written something:

RULE #1 — if you can’t pull off a moving, wistful, sad or nostalgic lyric, one that makes knights cry before they’re drunk, go for comedy. All mine, at least the ones I’d perform publicly, are comedy.

RULE #2 — you have to use songs people know. I’ve done filks to great songs, only to realize that no one I know remembers or ever knew the song. I did a filk to an ELO hit from the mid 80’s called “Calling America”, but almost no one knows it. This one actually violated Rules #1 & #2; it flailed widely between hokey lines like “kingdom of golden light” and lines that translated as “meh”. And nobody knows it. “Calling Atlantia” = Total Fail.

RULE #3 — don’t steal other people’s work. Okay, since filk is by definition taking others tunes, this might seem odd. The issue isn’t changing someone else’s words and using their music, it’s profiting from them. Unrecorded performance is generally okay, but recording filks or performing them and charging admission, without permission, is theft. It’s also wrong and grounds for legal action, which leads me to a corollary:

RULE #3A — don’t fuck with Disney. Seriously, Disney owns a shit-ton of songs and music and defends their copyright — vigorously. Those bastards have legions of lawyers; like Roman legions. They will black-helicopter legal SWAT commandos down on your ass and you’ll end up paying for lost revenue, defamation, and the gas for the chopper.

Given my natural personality (some would say “jocular”; some, “jovial”, others, “asshole”), I stay away from mournful tunes. As I said, pretty much all my stuff is humorous, or at least attempts to be. Following Rule #2 is tougher. Being “of an age”, I know and love songs that many don’t know (I mean come on: I saw the Beatles live in concert). Songs that I know well enough to filk often were made hits by bands nobody’s heard of.

Recently, I premiered a filk to Elvis Presley’s “Little Sister”, called “Little Mistress”. I introduced it by saying, “this one’s based on an Elvis song”. Someone in the audience said, “Elvis who?”. Fuckin’ millennials.

I’ve also had the reverse experience. I did a number several years ago to Foster the People’s “Pumped-Up Kicks”. It was received well, but I was told afterwards that a lot of folks had to go find the original ’cause they didn’t know it. Fuckin’ Gen X’ers.

I have a file of failed filks, based on songs nobody knows that will never hear the light of day. They don’t work, and a lot of the humor is lost without everyone knowing the tune, especially since much of the funny is in changing the lyrics just a little, like my version of Puddle of Mud’s hit, “She Fuckin’ Banished Me”.

If I’m going to put this much thought and effort into these gems, ya’ll are going to have to meet me partway. I’m old and, while not exactly set in my ways, I am most familiar with the music from the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s (I’ve heard about music from the early 80’s, but as a result of the celebration of my first divorce, I have no memory of anything from that era. If any of ya’ll know of my whereabouts from ’79 to ’84, let me know. Just to keep my records straight). While I have, as mentioned, filked more current music, you should have a passing familiarity with the music of my youth, since, with the exception of my versions of “Bust A Move” and “MIB’s”, I don’t do rap. I also don’t twerk, but that’s dance and a different post.

All that being said, I humbly suggest that, for full enjoyment of my little ditties (get that musical reference? No? My point.), you need to become familiar with the hits of following, given in no particular order, except for the first two:
Elvis Presley
The Beatles
(Seriously, if you don’t know these two, you are a music barbarian and should be appropriately ashamed. They’re online; go and be amazed)
Gordon Lightfoot
Harry Chapin
Kenny Rogers
Johnny Cash
Willie Nelson
Tom Petty
The Eagles
various Country/Western performers (Toby Keith, Kristofferson, and Tom T. Hall)
Foghat (that’s an in-joke you’re excused from getting [but I can totally see “Slow Ride” becoming Cooper’s “Lakeside”])

In closing, support our filking bards, expand your musical acquaintances (’cause good music really didn’t just begin when you were 10, nor stop when you hit 25), and while you’re up, get me another beer. Please.


[Note: this is the last of the original BBAR posts. Some of the items will be unknown to rapier fighters authorized after the ’90’s. I’d tell you to Google them, but even Google knows not these things. You’ll have to find an old Atlantian Provost and make them explain. Be prepared to listen to loooong boring stories. Also, bring alcohol.]

FOR SALE – foil, modern spring steel, graceful “C” curve, colorful safety tip device, proven rectangular cross-section construction, total protection hand guard, exotic pinewood grip, stout chrome pommel, too many features to list. $150/obo.
Edmundo Box 163
Lost – at Pennsic XXXXII, protective cup, very distinctive gray color, need desperately.
Susan Box 179
SWM – rapier in hand, looking for that certain someone. Be the oasis in my desert of despair.
Nils Box 54
Looking to get rid of those old down-checked blades? Earn $$$! Sell them to us!
Saf-T Products Box 170
Flexi-Dagger Blades – most barely used. Only $29.95! Amazing!
Saf-T-Products Box 170
MORGANA – You were magnificent last night. Your finta in tempo to my thrust was magical. The remise was poetic; the redoublement sinful. I’ll never beat seconde again.
Jean-Louis Box 346
The Trayned Bandes of London are looking for a few good men and even better women. Learn to handle the Big Pike . Discover the joys of fine English wool in summer. Be a camp follower. Develop a taste for eel. Join now. Authenticity a plus, but not essential.
Geoffrey Box 1599
Support Group – I am attempting to form a support group for other Pict/Celt rapier fighters with Viking personas. Together we can achieve the recognition we deserve.
Thornwald O’Malleysson Box 27
Beer-stein cup hilts, $25. Flask pommels, $15. Cool plastic-mesh armor, $65. 25 ga. helms $75. Slick leather-soled boots, $10. Many other fine rapier items.
Saf-T Products Box 170
Guards Needed – Certain unnamed Monarchs of a certain unnamed western kingdom are in need of a guard unit. Ability to attend court and remain alert/awake necessary. Confidentiality assured. GOA guaranteed upon successful completion of reign.
TRM Box 578
SWCF – is there a fighter out there who’s not afraid to commit? Looking for S/D/MM who can seize upon an opening and land that thrust. Send picture, and describe armor.
Gwyynth Box 68
Adrift in a sea of ever-changing loyalties? Do you find yourself questioning the aspirations espoused by shallow purveyors of nationalism? Has the totality of your existence become a meaningless progress from one tribunal to the next? Ever feel like hitting someone? Maybe you’re ready for the Tuchux experience.
Oog Box 3
Fantasy Armor! Magic swords, spandex tights, chainmail. Elf ears and fangs! Complete your Dagohir/SCA outfit now!
Saf-T-Products Box 170
Barley Soup recipes, $15.
Grace Box 408
FOR SALE – rare collection of steins, mugs, cups, wine glasses, beads. Make great tourney prizes. $100 takes it all.
Gerlach Box 146
Rapier Babes – hot and ready for you! Live, uncensored and armored! Kinky, nasty, and polished! All major credit cards accepted!
Fred Box 6969
Got any old cups? Football, karate, any style. Will pay top dollar.
Saf-T Products Box 170
FOR SALE – Two-inch Bend Ruler. Never used. $125/obo.
Robert Box 604
Authentic golf-cart sword carriers, similar to ones in the Museum of London. Choice of colors. Special 40″ model available. Hurry while supplies last!
Saf-T Products Box 170
FOR SALE – indefensible attack, used once. $28.75/obo.
Giacomo Box 461
Protective Cups all styles. New! Many with coins already in place.
Saf-T-Products Box 170
DWCCHDM – looking for that certain someone, any age/height/weight, but prefer MRSGYNF.
Count Earl Box 224
Ve are Bjorg. You vill be assimilated. Resistance is fewtile.
Sven of Nine Box 7o’9

Rapier fighters are from Mars, Fencers are from Venus

Okay, this one needs an emphasized disclaimer. While it may appear in The Big Book of Atlantian Rapier, it is solely my own work. The opinions expressed here are mine, mine, mine. Alone. No other person in the Kingdom is responsible, nor was involved in its creation. The use of any names is nothing more than a product of my over-active imagination. So ignore Kynny.

Any relationship to Atlantians, living, dead, undead, inactive — particularly the inactive ones, they’re the most dangerous, as in “poke it with a stick and see if it’s really dead….AAAH! FUCK!” kind of dangerous — is purely co-incidental. Don’t make me come up there and/or turn this car around. You’ve been warned. Get off my lawn.
There is within the SCA rapier community (sorry, Alan, there just still isn’t a better term) a difference of philosophy as to the purpose of rapier fighting. At its most basic, there is the “sport” camp,

"I am much more poofta than you"
“I am WAY more poofta than you.”

and there is the “combat” camp.
okay it's a dagger, but still...
Big baby; you still have another eye.

Each have their proponents and detractors. However, given that a “sport” fencer almost got Atlantian rapier killed off in its crib, all while getting himself banished, AND that we were saved by a new “combat” mentality among the early leaders of the game, many Atlantians, I included, are solidly in the “combat” camp.

This does not mean we don’t respect the “sport” camp; we don’t, but it isn’t because of that. It’s because fencing isn’t period, isn’t realistic, and generally isn’t fun; at least not as much fun as symbolically killing your friends, family, close associates and bystanders.

different culture, different armor standards, still rapier
Different culture, different armor standards, still rapier.

This difference between the two can be compared to that between the sexes. Much has been made about the differences between men and women, there was even a book or two-thousand written about it. In keeping with my desire to labor as little as possible, I just stole from them.


Observe this interaction between a rapier fighter we’ll call “Kynny”, and a fencer we’ll call “douchebag”:

Kynny: Rapier fighters get our sense of self from achievement. We tend to be task-oriented, and being self-reliant is very important to us. You put those two together, and you get people who hate to ask for directions , hate to ask for help, pretty much just plain hate. I’ll wander in a store for 15 minutes trying to find something to destroy. For us, asking for another’s opinion is an admission that we’re wussies.
Douchebag: Fencers get our sense of self from relationships. Where rapier fighters are task-oriented, we are relational-oriented. Our connections to other people are the most important thing to us. Instead of going after prizes, we tend to enjoy the connectedness to other people, especially other fencers. For us, both asking about rules and offering to help write rules is a compliment; we’re saying, “Let me build a bridge between us. I value you, and it’ll bind us. Nice outfit.”

Kynny: Rapier fighters usually focus on a goal. We want to get to the bottom line, to the end of something, usually our opponent. And their family.
Douchebag: But fencers tend to enjoy the process. Not that reaching a goal isn’t important, but we like getting there too. That’s why melees are so very different for rapier fighters and fencers; the rapier fighters want to get to their destinations and beat the living shit out of someone, and we sort of treasure the time to talk and look and maybe discuss conventions of the list along the way!

Kynny: Rapier fighters are often more logical and analytical than fencers. Like the Bard said, “the quickest way to a man’s heart is thru his chest”. Well, some Bard said it.
Douchebag: And we tend to be more intuitive than rapier fighters. This isn’t some sort of mystic claim; there was a study at Stanford University that discovered that fencers catch subliminal messages faster and more accurately than rapier fighters. Rapier fighters catch beefs from marshals, who are usually fencers and also heralds.

Kynny: This difference is evident in brain activity. Rapier fighters have some; fencers don’t.
Douchebag: Huh?

Kynny: Rapier fighters are action-oriented. When we feel hostile, our first instinct is to release it physically. And when we’re upset, the way for us to feel better is to actively smite your fucking ass.
Douchebag: Fencers are verbal. They want to discuss every exchange, did you feel that, was it tippy…
Kynny: …blahblahblah until you just want to smack them.

Compare and Contrast

We (rapier fighters) said – They (fencers) said

We – this is a combat sport
They – No one should get hurt

We – attitude helps you get into the killing mode
They – No one should even THINK about hurting someone

They – This is supposed to be fun
We – I have the best fun when I’m killing you

They – fencing is an art
We – fuck you
Of course, within the SCA, we don’t want anyone injured. But even sports involve hurts and boo-boo’s. Trying to avoid them at all costs just cheapens what we’re trying to do here.

So just remember: when re-creating a combat form that got turned into a pansy-assed Olympic after thought, go to the original and work backwards until you’re pretty sure nobody will actually die. Then, stop; you are done.

"Hallo. My name is Inigo Montoya. You almost killed my dream. Prepare to yield."
“Hallo. My name is Inigo Montoya. You almost killed my dream. Prepare to yield.”

The MoD’s

[It’s all Wistric’s fault]

photo by Sunneva de Cleia
photo by Sunneva de Cleia


    (Here come the men in black)
    It’s the MoD’s, uh, here come the MoD’s
    Here come the men in black (men in black)
    They make sure you remember

    Nah nah nah
    Poofy guys dress in black, remember that
    Just in case you ever corps-a-corps and make contact
    The title held by thee, MoD
    Means what you think you saw, you did not see
    So don’t blink or that sword is now gone
    The black suits with the big ruff on

    Walk in shadow, move in silence
    Guard against intra-kingdom violence
    Swords zoom, on the impending doom
    But then like boom black suits fill the room up
    Saw somethin’ strange, watch your back (Ooh, ooh)
    ‘Cause you never quite know where the MoD’s at

    Uh, eh
    Here come the men in black, men in black
    Society defenders (Oho oho oho)
    Here come the men in black, men in black
    They make suret you remember (Won’t let you remember)

    Ain’t no MoD’s, can I please?

    Do what we say, that’s the way we kick it
    D’ya know what I mean (Hmm, hmm)
    I see my noisy Wistric get wicked on ya
    We’re your first, last and only line of defense
    Against the worst scum on the field of fence

    So don’t fear us, cheer us
    If you ever get near us, don’t jeer us, just beer us
    MoD’s freezin’ up all the flack (What’s that stand for?)
    Men in black

    The Men in black (Uh, eh)
    The Men in black (Uh, eh)
    Let me see ya just parry with me
    Just parry with me (parry with me)
    Just parry with me
    Come on, let me see ya just sidestep with me
    Just sidestep with me (sidestep)
    Just sidestep with me (sidestep)
    Come on, let me see ya take a walk with me
    Just walk with me (Walk with me)
    Take a walk with me
    Come on and make your neck work
    Now thrust! (Ohh)

    Here come the Men in black, Men in black
    Society defenders (Oho oho oho)
    Here come the Men in black, Men in black
    They make sure you remember (make sure you remember)


NOTE: This is a summary of a doctoral thesis on the saints of SCAdian rapier. I’ll publish the full dissertation, all 478 pages of it, once I find a university that awards degrees in bullshit…anachronistic research.



    Codswallop – Feb. 24 – sword (and others) – patron of fencing instructors

    Polyandra – Feb. 25 – men in uncomfortable positions – patron of honorable conduct
    "Now cough."
    “Now cough.”
    DeFenestra – Mar. 31 – window – patron of defense (hurled assailant out window)
    "Yeah. Right out that window there."
    “Yeah. Right out that window there.”
    Claudemnestra – Apr. 24 – needle & thread – patron of armor makers
    "Come on, Barbie, let's sew arty."
    “Come on, Barbie/let’s sew arty.”
    Espee – Aug. 11 – wine bottle, cask, 6-pack – patron of the Academie (and drunkards)
    "Beer is proof of...wait, it'll come to me."
    “Beer is proof of…wait, it’ll come to me.”
    Hagemor the Paltry – Oct. 22 – horned horn – patron of the confused (Viking who fought with tiny little sword)
    copyright pending
    copyright pending
    Macarena – Dec. 2 – dancing woman – patron of footwork
    "y cosa buena"
    “y cosa buena”
    Urinalius Phlegmula – Dec. 8 – specimen bottle – patron of bodily fluids and Gatorade
    "Hydrate, varlet!"
    “Hydrate, varlet!”


“Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show!”

Creative Event Planning in the SCA

Let me just say it outright: SCA events are, for the most part, dull. Boring. Moribund. The reason isn’t that SCAdians are boring; it’s that the events themselves are. They suffer from a sameness that belies our self-identity as “creative”. For the most part, they follow a tried-and-true formula which doesn’t require much thought.

If you’ve been involved in the creation and planning of an SCA event, you know how it progresses. First of all, it’s done by committee. Everyone puts in their “must haves”. The list is so well-known, we can say it from memory:
– fighting (maybe rapier, definitely armored);
– archery (if the site allows for it);
– some kind of A&S thing (pretty much always a demo or competition);
– a court;
– a feast;
– some after-feast thing, usually a bardic or dancing.

These cookie-cutter events (CC events) happen every weekend throughout the Known World, and there are valid reasons for their existence:
— There’s a consistency to putting them on; everyone knows what to expect;
— They’re easy to put on; it’s the same event we did last time (every time), so problems are anticipated, and everyone knows what jobs are needed;
— They require no thought. There’s likely a handout that lists all the things needed so that even a fist-time autocrat won’t have too much trouble producing it.

The problem with these justifications is that they are arguments why they’re good for those putting on the event. I’ll suggest something radical here: events are not put on for the hosts, they’re put on for the guests. Sure, we hold a decent event that gives our guests an okay time. But why not hold an amazing event, that gives them a wonderful time, one they’ll remember and talk about for years.

There are good reasons for the group putting on a creative event as well:
— It allows a group to feel a certain amount of pride in what they have wrought;
— Creative events are more work than CC events, and the group might well consider putting on fewer events a year, particularly if the creative event makes more money (most of the creative, clever events I’ve autocrated or attended had large crowds, much larger than a CC event). Fewer events means more detail for the ones we do;
— With more people attending, per-capita costs are lower, while per-person costs to the group don’t increase, as almost all of those costs are paid by the attendees (lunch, feast and those sites that charge a per-person site fee). For sites that charge a flat fee for use, more people means more revenue.

As a Society, we seem to have embraced the idea that bigger is better, at least for events. At the core of this is the belief that we hold events to make money. While every group should have a cash reserve to pay yearly bills and provide an emergency fund, once that amount is raised, there’s no good reason a group should be profiting greatly from an event. I mentioned above that creative events would draw bigger crowds, and it’s true, but a smaller event has its advantages. You won’t make as much money (if any), but can still produce an excellent event.

So how do we do this? First, throw away the cookie cutter. Ask yourself (and others) what kind of event would you like to see, to attend? Apply that to every aspect of the event.

Here’s a bit of heresy about tourneys: you don’t have to hold every kind of fighting at every event. Do some that are just armored and give the rapier fighters their own tourney later in the year. Or work it another way. We have held a Masters of Defense tourney, where fighters had to compete in both rapier and armored to win. At another event, there were 3-man teams of a rapier fighter, armored fighter and combat archer. Armored and rapier fought at the same time, in adjoining lists. Whoever won first tagged their archer, who started shooting at the opponent in the other list. There are lots of ways to limit or modify the traditional tourney.

Other parts of the event can be done differently as well. Hold feast in the middle of the day (you know, the way it was done in period). Are there logistics to work out? Sure, but probably not as many as you’d think. But everyone who’s eating feast stays after day trippers have left! Sure, now, but why can’t feast be for everyone? If you don’t serve a lunch, that cost can go toward the feast. The head cook may be able to lower the cost of the feast because of the economy of numbers: more people might mean cheaper food costs. I’m not suggesting every event could be done this way, but surely one a year could.

One way that has worked well in the past is themed events. Some of the best events I’ve attended were themed events — events that focused on a specific time and place. They can be centered around an activity, such as a pas d’armes, or be more freewheeling, like a town event. You can focus on a particular historical event, like a battle, or use an era, like the Court of Charlemagne. The easiest way to do this is to give one of your standard events a theme.

The true key to a successful themed event is to plan every activity around the theme. Tourneys, A&S, even the feast should reflect the time and place of the theme. At first blush, this sounds like it would exclude some activities; how can you have rapier at a Flemish Faire? Well, as I said above, you don’t have to have everything at every event. If rapier doesn’t go with this event’s theme, you can hold a Spanish or Elizabethan event later.

Looking deeper, however, allows you to creatively accommodate these anachronisms (see what I did there?). SCA heavy rapiers can be mounted with earlier period cross hilts; encourage fighters to switch to them (maybe even provide the swords). There are several groups that practice historical martial arts; invite them to attend and do a demonstration, or teach classes. There are ways around the apparent limits of our activities that will work, if the planners are willing to think outside the box.

None of this just happens. You have to plan it with a lot of detail. You’ll want to assign teams, or leaders of teams who’ll recruit their own henchmen. Parts or roles also need to be assigned in advance, and coordinated both before and during the event.
cyclops quest for venus

Giving potential guests notice ahead of time will go a long way to get folks in the mood. SCAdians love to dress up, and with enough time, many will create garb, accessories, and props just for your event. Pre-planning, and pre-event advertising, is vital.

One big fallacy with SCA event planning is believing that if we simply give everyone a time, place and theme, they’ll make their own fun. You could create a perfect setting, a beautiful recreation of a medieval town, but if you don’t give guidance, both overt and covert, and activities, your guests will not likely make up their own adventures. Again, think like a guest and not a host. Watching the fighting is not enough; you need to have activities for non-fighters to do. A&S activities get a lot of attention, but do something beyond a display or competition. Have a project that people can participate in (we once had a series of drawn wall hangings laid out that anyone could paint during the event; once completed, they were auctioned off for the Kingdom travel fund). Have quests or contests for prizes.

Encourage merchants to attend; set up a merchant area, particularly for a town event, or make the entire event a Faire. Ask local musicians to perform. When I autocrated, I would comp those from outside the group who provided a service, and factored the comps into the event costs. Have a venue or activities for gambling. We had two rooster hand puppets made and had cock fighting for folks to bet on.
NoTT cockfighting

The real magic is in the details. If you’re having gambling or contests, get coins. Put details into the event flyer, a map of the town, the details of the quest. If certain things have to happen at certain times, not only the actors should know, but assign a coordinator to make sure it happens when and where you need.

Without question, this is a lot of work and there must be group buy-in. Moreover, everyone has to understand that being the host means the group members aren’t going to be able to “attend” the event. Their presence is to ensure their guests enjoy themselves, not them. Clearly someone has to lead, but delegation is essential, else everyone gets to watch the autocrat have a meltdown, or watch the hosts re-create a flogging. If the group cannot commit to doing the event well, it shouldn’t do it at all.

I have a couple of general ideas to get your creative juices flowing. These are broad areas to consider; within each are plenty of possibilities for events, either small, big, or huge. Feel free to use them as starting points, or come up with your own.

— Right now, Steampunk is a popular creative endeavor that is, unfortunately, too out-of-period for the SCA. I would say, however, that the original Steampunk was Leonardo da Vinci. He created futuristic inventions based on the technology of his time, designing tanks, canons, flying machines and other devices that fit perfectly within our Society timeline. An event that used da Vinci’s machines (or ones that look da Vinci-ish) would be talked about for years.
— Arthur and the Grail is the penultimate quest story. Imagine using an entire site for teams to search for that or some similar object. The teams could be pre-made, assembled at the event, or both, and could include fighters and non-fighters, with different quests that require both.

— I heard of a Black Death event, held at a two-story site. As the event progressed on the top floor, Death would arrive unseen and take his victims to the Underworld (downstairs), which it turned out was where the real party was happening. Occasionally, ghosts would wander up to living world and mess with people. Eventually everyone ended up downstairs.

— An historical battle or war, such as the Crusades, would be a perfect setting for an event that would be more like a war. Pre-assignment of commanders and recruitment of armies would get everyone talking far ahead of the event.

— My still-favorite of the events I’ve done is the sea fairing adventure. We constructed a 16th Century Spanish warship out of fabric-covered PVC and attacked a town that was ably defended by combat archers.
NOTT ship4
I always wanted to do one where two (or more) ships fought against each other. Set on a school field with bleachers, it would be like the naumachiae of the Coliseum.
The battles could be between different groups (barony vs. barony), each of which builds and fights in a ship of their design. Having done this three times, I like this one enough that I’m willing to provide consultant services for anyone who wishes to put one on.
NoTT building the ship 1

After the event, find out what your guests thought. Send out questionnaires, or build an online survey and ask attendees to submit their opinions. Use the information you get to improve that event for next time, or to plan other events.

The absolute hardest part about a creative event is knowing when it’s time to end it. An event that was creative at conception can be repeated, maybe several times (with improvements/upgrades each time). But eventually, it will just become The Quest for Attendance XXIII and will no longer be creative. Event themes have life spans; recognize when yours is up and let it go with dignity when that time comes.

As always, the views expressed here are my own. No barony, shire, college, hamlet or principality was harmed, at least not intentionally.