Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do
Ælflæd of Duckford
Once at a mundane party (hot-tub, poker, burgers, music video party)
a new knight and I got into a discussion about campaigning for peerage.
I'm against it, and he saw no problem with campaigning. The discussion
became animated and interesting, and his wife (the hostess) came by and
said that we should talk about something else. We kind of laughed, and
she went back out to the poker game, while we kept up the debate. It was
a heated but friendly argument, and we started drawing spectators, and
asking for their opinions, so the next time the hostess appeared we had
taken over the whole living room with what she didn't want discussed.
She told us it was a mundane party and this wasn't an appropriate time
and place for a discussion of that nature. Well, she was the hostess
and the new knight did have to answer to her later on, so we quit (nearly).
What we did softly ask each other is "What is an appropriate time
I went home wishing we could've finished the discussion for the benefit
of the people who had come in to listen and ask questions. This was the
sort of discussion non-peers rarely get in on, and it was going really
well for a while there. "The proper place and time" was a puzzle. At an
event when we're supposed to be doing medieval-type things is certainly
not the time - that's worse than a hot-tub party. Peers can talk about
some of it in circles, but that does non-peers no good. On the way to
and from events is good, but even my big van only carries eight, tops,
and usually eight who've already heard the others' arguments before. It
was kind of like what might be discussed at a vigil, but at a vigil there
aren't more than three or four people in at once, sometimes fewer, and
they tend more toward short discussions than long.
Later that week it hit me that there was no proper place and
time and we were going to have to invent one. Although Outlands' peers
nearly all have vigils, I was admitted to two peerage orders in Atenveldt
and had no opportunity to even ask a single question. I decided to have
a vigil. I called my discussion partner, and he thought it would work,
so I called those people I thought could really add the most and I advertised
it in the local newsletter like this:
Discussion Group at AElflaed's
In the days when I became a peer, there were not even vigils for
knights, let alone pelicans and laurels. I was jerked unceremoniously
into the ranks of the peerage without a clue as to what was expected
of me. Nowadays just prior to becoming peers, the candidates have
a full evening (or two) of concentrated discussion of philosophy and
issues, where they ask questions of peers and answer questions peers
come to put to them, and sometimes where they discuss peerage with
non-peers who have come to wish them well in their new status.
Having participated in several other people's vigils I have been
variously impressed-ranging from awed to frustrated-by the conversations
which crop up there. Often the discussions are limited to things which
apply to or will not offend or upset the particular candidate whose
peerage is nigh.
Is all this leading up to something? Naturally. I'm having a belated
vigil at which peerage issues can, should, must be discussed-a
party at which only philosophical SCA issues are appropriate
conversation, and other conversations must move discreetly to the
side. Since I'm not a new peer, nor a shy one, people need not be
cautious and careful with their opinions. We can have verbal rough-and-tumble.
(Sensitive psyches beware!)
Three kinds of people are welcome to come: 1) peers, 2) the seriously
interested, and 3) the mildly curious. If you don't care anything
in the world about SCA peerage, you'd hate this party. If your idealism
is intact, venture not into this den of cynicism. Should your vistas
be clear and calm, pick ye not these nits!
Some questions for consideration:
- Should actively campaigning for peerage count against a person?
- Should laurels and pelicans take apprentices/proteges as knights
- Should a laurel or pelican back down some from strong SCA participation
to give non-peers a chance to shine?
- Is it harder to get into one peerage than another? (The Outlands
tries to keep them more equal than in the past - are we succeeding?)
- Do non-peers know what peers are doing (and vice versa)?
- Shouldn't everyone go home and get some sleep so they can make
it to the newcomers' college by noon?
Think up your own questions or issues; pick your discussion partner(s);
Keep arguments philosophical and hypothetical (when possible) and
not personal or particular. Nothing decided or agreed to will be binding
on anything or anybody. People are allowed and encouraged to change
their minds. Those convinced are not committed to remaining convinced.
Don't be disappointed if the discussions are not quite as serious
as at a "real" vigil, and don't get nervous if they're wilder or rougher.
CLOTHING: SCA garb
FOOD: bring something to share-mundane or modern foods which are
inappropriate for events (bring something you've missed before at
[appeared in the June 1989 "Baronial Shaft," the newsletter of al-Barran
We had it in costume, by candlelight, and out in the back yard there
was food and drink, so if people wanted to take a break from the discussion
there was a place to go. Of course, there was no break from the discussion
out there, but it was less intense, and people could laugh and be rude
a little better than they could inside, where the peers were trying to
impress the non-peers a little ("and vice versa," one of my non-peer proofreaders
The following month this ran in the newsletters:
Over 25 people came to the discussion group/vigil last month. The answers
to all the questions turned out to be "yes, but maybe no." In other
words, and as would be expected, the problems of the world were not
solved, but people had a good time and learned why other people felt
the way they did about a thing or two. Here are some of the quotes that
came out of the evening. Some might make sense only to those who were
there, and others might not make sense to anybody.
... Then you have triple peers who make stuff, do stuff and
hit stuff. [Starfire]
I didn't expect [thanks for autocrating Midwinter], because I was dealing
with al-Barran. [Kathryn]
Being a peer puts you in a higher tax bracket. [Leah Kasmira.]
Party 'til you're Peers. [actually a misquote, but a good one] 
[Of knighthood:] Isn't there a defined career path? Aren't there certain
gates you have to hit? [Robert]
If you force them to dance long enough they'll learn to enjoy it. [Koris]
Everyone's a candidate. [Gunwaldt, in an earlier discussion, quoted
[On people who are offended by newcomers not using their highest titles:]
If you use "lord" or "lady" you're safe from everyone except jerks.
You're never safe from jerks. [AElflaed]
[Nearly unquotable:] On why knights always wear their belts, a chorus
of answers came up- "To keep our pants up," "To keep our tunics down,"
and one accidently mixed them up and said "So we can keep our pants
[Worst math of the evening:] If we make 10 knights, are eight of them
average, two good and one bad? [Koris, caught by Bertrand]
[In response to "That's my opinon about the whole thing."] Any
opinion's better than none. [Beau, to AElflaed]
[July 1989 "Baronial Shaft"]
It worked out so well there were two more sessions before the end of
the year, at other peers' homes. Since then we've expanded the range of
topics and have taken to calling the meetings "philosophy practice." It's
a good opportunity to throw an idea out to ten or twenty people and see
what they do to it. Non-peers have had a chance to ask direct questions
of peers which might be considered rude in other circumstances, and peers
are able to defend their beliefs to members of other peerage orders at
some leisure. Peers' circles will never last several hours, so discussing
fine details of issues is a luxury, even for the peers.
If there are issues going around your area which could be discussed dispassionately
and without names, this is a good kind of forum. It's not a meeting, it's
a party. Anyone who wants out of the discussion can just go into another
room. You do need a moderator to stop the discussion or re-direct it if
someone's about to get hurt or angry, but enough informality to interrupt
and ask questions is good. Each group has a different style of interaction,
so you would have to work out what's most comfortable for your local people.
If it doesn't work at all where you are, let me know when you're coming
to Albuquerque and we'll work one up just for you.
What are some advantages of discussing peerage issues in large, mixed
- People who are interested in long-term SCA commitment learn more quickly
what people's likes, dislikes, expectations, and peeves are.
- As in brainstorming, having many people in a discussion at once polishes
and develops ideas at such a rate that people can have their minds changed
twice in an hour. It's not like the slow thinking with an occasional
flash that people do on their own. It's like a festival of flashes.
- A person with no opinions can try some other people's.
- A person with opinions can test them against opposing theories.
- A half-baked theory can be put forth for examination.
- If the group is diverse enough it can be a laboratory for how an idea
or project might do in real life. A new way to run a tournament can
be discussed, or issues about local traditions. Rather than experiment
with changing traditions "in the field" (in real life), you could put
it out verbally and see how the group thinks they would react. (A little
applied role playing, if you will.)
Who should and shouldn't be there? Don't try to force anyone to participate.
Some people really don't enjoy teaching or verbal sparring at all, and
would find the whole thing torture. Very new newcomers probably would
do better to wait a year or so until they have some questions or complaints.
If they see backstage too soon, they might not enjoy the play any more.
(See the section on "Becoming
the Source/Illusion" in the chapter called Considerations.)
If a newcomer really wants to come you might tell him he might
not enjoy it, and not to let it depress him, but if you absolutely forbid
him to come, that'll spoil his game faster than letting him hear whatever
discussion might ensue. If he's warned and politely discouraged, you did
your bit. If the group is all peers, you miss an opportunity for education.
A mixed group is ideal, with a balance of experience, interests and politics.
If you can't get a large mixed group together, even a group of three or
four who pretty much agree on things can polish up some ideas together.
What if people get really angry and out of hand? If they're normally
very friendly and you know they'll still love each other in the morning,
you might let it go a while unless there are impressionable newcomers
who will be scarred by witnessing a duke and a countess turning red and
beginning to insult each others' moral fiber. The best way to cut tempers
is with humor. One of your quick wits should say something gently hilarious
and while the others are laughing, take over the conversation so the hot
spots can cool. This sort of interruption is an act of mercy sometimes.
There should always be a host/ess or moderator whose job it is to make
sure the discussion stays more or less productive and on track, but I
don't recommend making it a formal meeting or debate. The person should
function more as a marshal (concerned with rules and safety) than a chairman
(concerned with time limits and technicalities).
What is all this really good for? It's good for improving the
level of thinking in the individuals who participate and in the group
they interact with. It's good for turning vague ideas into plans and convictions.
An idea you have all by yourself at home can't be a conviction; ideas
have to be tried out, and turned over and prodded. You have to take your
idea with you everywhere and test it on people and situations, and if
it holds up it can become a conviction—a strong, proven idea with some
importance to you. Which do you think shows more depth of character -
a person with thirty ideas or a person with one or two convictions
What can go wrong? Riots and destruction of property spring to mind,
but I always think big.  People's feelings can be hurt. People can
come away from an unfinished discussion thinking none of the old timers
there have any better idea about it than the newbies, so if a discussion
is to be dropped midway, someone should make a comment along the lines
of "There are people here who've thought this out and know how they feel
about it, and you might ask them later if you're still interested, but
let's talk about [whatever] for a while." People who are very stubborn
and don't want to have their beliefs challenged will probably just not
show up, but if anyone does show up and become extremely defensive, another
individual might direct them to the refreshment table, show them some
scrolls, use gentle distraction and humor to get the biochemistry calmed
down, and maybe by then the subject will have changed.
Don't let the discussions become attacks on individuals.
If enough people know who you're talking about, even if you haven't named
names, either drop it or pull back and discuss it in more general terms.
Some of the ideas in this book were tried and proven at discussions like
those described above. Some ideas I used to have were rejected there,
and some ideas I would never have come up with on my own were planted
to mix with mine.
 Someone said something that sounded like that but wasn't, and it
was repeated in this way as a play on the infamous quote of a king of
Atenveldt who said from the throne in an extremely public place "Party
'til you Puke."
 See the section on autocratting to learn
how to put negative thinking to work for you!
Considerations · Etiquette
Royalty · Being an Officer · Seneschal · Heraldry and Heralding ·
Arts and Sciences · Chronicler · Treasurer · Chirurgeons · Autocrat · Welcoming Newcomers · Peerage · Language Use · Last-But-Not-Least Ideas
Contents and Search · Preface and credits