Civil Strife for Fun & Profit


The major appeal of the SCA is its "otherness" where people can play out their medieval fantasy life. In the most romantic sense, it is a mortal Valhalla where all cultures and ages (within certain limits) mingle.
In recent years, much of the original sense of wonder and decorum has gone out of the SCA. Perhaps it is now too much of an "organisation"--it is taking on an aspect of a costumed social club. Much of the pomp and circumstance has fled. Observe the dramatic failure of Parliament, where our own Prince was shouted down, and people were appalled by Terrence of Halliday's declaration that as King, HIS WORD IS LAW!
Rather than reminding people of their failures/anachronisms ("What manner of beast is this 'howitzer'?"), which only gets one branded as obnoxious, the answer is to instead lead by example. There are at least two ways to accomplish this:

  1. To reinstitute and elaborate the inherent pomp and pageantry of Revel and Tourney.
  2. A (no doubt) small, self-selected corps of individuals who make use of the SCA to "showcase" their knowledge, talents, and accomplishments.
Three "Paragons of the Graces" that come to mind are the barons of Adiantum and Lions Gate, and the Viscount Gendy. Edward is especially noteworthy for his sense of theatre. And theatre it is, for we are all playing fantasy roles. Some never enter fully into the fantasy. Many, if not most, are committed to the concept and their roles; yet many take both too seriously. "And for your service to the crown . .  ." cartoon

The SCA is both fun and educational. The very nature of events is festive and romantic; plagues, filth, and starving peasants are ignored. Cinderella becomes Queen. Revels and Tourneys by rights are pageants. Authentic manners, dress, and skills provide the backdrop to the fantasy.
Yet those who take their roles, their skills and duties, or the knowledge too seriously are to be feared. It is neither real in an everyday living or functioning manner (although many would like to believe that it could be) nor is it purely academic in scope. Taking the alternative lifestyle and reality of the SCA too seriously (and that includes power-tripping) results in hard feelings, factionalism, and rumour-mongering.
Pretty soon, between beer bashes and backbiting, the fun is lost.
Because the SCA is composed of diverse and strong-willed individual(ist)s playing make-believe by consensus, the following


scenario is designed to re-involve the participants in the alternate reality of their chosen existence.
Not everyone will want to play, of course. T


In the near future, a "fun" reign should be established and implemented to re-create the original role of the SCA--Fantasy, Pomp, and Circumstance.
*NOTE* In order to carry out this scheme in a spirit of fun and to prevent misunderstanding, those ideas adopted by the Prince must be disseminated to all Officers and Populace as well as Kingdom and California Officers. Once all are made aware of the nature of the reign, they will hopefully play along.
And if they can't take a joke,
swive 'em.
The incoming Prince King, having survived his coronation, issues the rules of his tenure (to an assembled Parliament? The Populace?)

  1. The Prince's word is Law.
  2. Therefore, all future tourneys, and most especially Coronet tourneys, are hereby cancelled. (ALLOW TEN MINUTES FOR NOISE TO SUBSIDE). In their place will exist civil strife, wars, and quests.
Details are read by a Herald. (Strife & Pageant I)
Throughout the 12th to 15th centuries, tourneys were periodically banned and in some cases participants were excommunicated. In this created situation, tourneys would continue under several guises:
  1. Wars
  2. Quests
  3. Tourneys in open defiance of the edict. By virtue of the decree we now have "theme" events.
1 and 3 provide the basis for fights between the Insurrectionists and the Royalists. Both encourage extravagant melees. (An Tir war rules?) Perhaps the best example of 1 is the Baron Sir Fred Memorial (particularly as chronicled in RUNESTONE #2 or 3). Wars can also serve as especially good fundraisers--prisoners are taken, exchanged, and ransomed; armour may be ransomed separately if desired.
Historically, many tourneys degenerated into melees. When squires saw their masters losing, they leapt into the fray. The other knight's retainers reacted in kind. Extrapolate for effect. 3 is also an excellent theme for a Coronet--if the Royalists win, the edict is continued next reign; if the insurrectionists win, the ban is lifted and new rules added next reign if desired. 2 may serve as a tourney, an obstacle course, or a scavenger hunt. Or a combination.

Eventually, by popular demand (and to stop further rebellion) tourneys are reinstated, but with a major difference: they become as of old. Instead of fightfest and beer bash, they are (approximately) 1/3 fighting, 1/3 bardic, arts & crafts, and 1/3 feast and revel.
Tourneys were meant as Pageant, and more than fighting prowess was shown off--in many cases they were full-fledged fairs. By emphasizing more than fighting, fighters are more likely to fulfill the qualities inherent in knighthood (and Sergeant-at-Arms). The proposal of a skills "decathlon" for the future selection of rulers might also stand a better chance of being implemented.
Another suggestion is that the loser in the final round of the Coronet win both the Silver Rose and the title of Princess' Champion.
Civil Strife serves as an outlet for both conspiracy and internecine war. Barony wars on barony, factions (Royalist versus Insurrectionist?) plot and war within and between baronies. There could even exist opportunities for tax collectors and robber barons. The artificiality-cum-reality is exploited.
Arguments and insults can form the basis (theme) of the next event. Tourneys can be built around (supposed) feuds. The two "antagonists" invite the other fighters to participate. (Remember the Love & Beauty vs Pestilence and Disease melees?) The challenge can be settled on the field of honour, in the bardic circle, etc. Now we start to get spectacle!
Plotting should be diverted from personalities and cliques to situational and artificial differences.
Handled properly, SCA politics and conflicts encourage role-playing. Obviously, things could get too boisterous in some quarters if care were not exercised, but on the whole the game seems worth the risk. Guidelines would need to be established, but we began within guidelines.
The Marshallate has taken the first step in adding pageantry to tourneys and fightingin their announcements and stave work. They will, one hopes, infect the fighters in terms of conduct, challenges, etc.
Here especially should the rule apply. Heralds announce events and activities, not merely remind/repeat/tell. Embellish the style. This is one of the best and most traditional examples of Pageantry.



Whether we are nonprofit, educational, (etc., etc..) or fraternal is a moot point. Whether we stagnate and grow inward--a closed society, if you will--is not. One key is education, both within and without the group. This includes persona development, public demonstrations--and public notice of select events--and the University of Ithra. A second, and related, item is new membership.
Greeting Newcomers:
I would wager that most of those in the SCA became involved through the attentions of someone who was already a member. Because of like interest and encouragement, they joined.
*Treat newcomers as visitors from afar, not "aliens" to be ignored. Remember, you were once a Mundane yourself.
*Talk to them if they look interested: explain what's going on, who's who.
*Gold Key should loan them a costume, even just a tabard, if they want to be involved NOW (to hell with the next four weeks of out-of-town events, they're interested today.)
Over the years the SCA has become progressively more mundane in its medieval outlook. The attempt of this article and assorted conspiracies is to restore the original fantasy experience.


Return to Society Page, or Ravensgard.

webmaster at