Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why


Ideas for Tournaments

Progressive Melee

The first round is one-on-one. The winner becomes the captain of the team which consists of himself and the guy he just beat. The next round is two on two, and each captain picks up another couple of guys. The next is four on four, etc., until there are just two big teams. The great advantage of this tournament is that it's advantageous to be matched with someone really good, because if you win or lose, you still win. Everyone in the tournament gets to fight in every round, too, and it's a good mixer, as people who might not know each other well enough to volunteer to be on the same melee team will get to fight together. I first saw this done at the Old Atenveldt Reunion in A.S. XX. I don't know whose invention it is.

The Line Tourney

This is a round robin tournament run in the least time possible. It requires a very good lists clerk and at least one marshal for each two fighters.

The fighters form two lines facing each other. Leave sufficient room between pairs for the fight to occur. If there's an odd number, one fighter just starts without an opponent. They say he's 'in the bubble'. All fights begin simultaneously. After most are completed, the clerk walks the length of the line recording the wins (and losses if required.[1] ) Then comes the re-pairing. The fighters in one line move down one opponent, away from 'the bubble' if one exists. This will cause a bubble to form on the other end of the line. (Even-numbered lists will have a bubble at each end of the line one round, and no bubble at all the next. Odd-numbered lists will have the bubble change ends on every round.) A fighter in the bubble will step into the moving line thus facing the person he was just standing beside. After the next round, the fighters in the other line move in the opposite direction than the first line did, thus causing an overall clockwise (or counter-clockwise) rotation. This re-pairing continues until every fighter has fought every other fighter. Any one fighter will complete 1/2 of the circuit over the duration of the tournament. Any fighter dropping out of the tournament creates a hole which remains unfilled and must be tracked. (Opponents of holes are always victorious.)

In al-Barran, the largest line tourney we have run resulted in a 40+ entrant round-robin completed in less than two hours.

(Line tournament information furnished by Master Gunwaldt Gulbjorn)

Plunder Tournaments

Each entrant brings a prize, for which a minimum and/or maximum worth might be set; it's up to the sponsoring group. There are different ways to redistribute these prizes:

  1. The winner of each bout wins the prize his opponent brought in the the first round. In subsequent rounds each victor gets one prize from those his opponent has. This way only people defeated in the first round go away empty-handed. If you were to decide to have each loser having to turn over all the prizes he has, you might as well just stick it all in a pile and give it all to the winner, unless you insert a pass-or-play feature, where a guy can quit to keep the plunder he has rather than risk staying in.
  2. All the prizes can be turned in at sign-up, and then the whole tournament fought in such a way that the fighters can be ranked in order, from first down. In the case of equal status, the fighters could be ranked randomly, or by precedence (or reverse precedence) or in the order they went out. Then the winner chooses first from all the prizes, second place chooses next, etc. In such an arrangement it's fine if the range of value of prizes is from $1 to $100 - it wouldn't matter. The prizes won't be chosen in order of their actual value, anyway, and even the "losers" win.
  3. A variation on the one above: The winner picks three prizes, second place picks two, anyone else who won at least one fight picks, and the remaining prizes go to the lists officers, heralds, and marshals who did the most work (let someone put them in order by time served or randomly). If there aren't going to be enough prizes, let the winner just get one, etc. Don't advertise exactly what you'll do until you know how many people are in the tournament.
  4. Plunder in melee tournaments should be something people could ante up as a group and use or split out as a group, and could be distributed in the ways listed above. In a five-man melee a team could bring five sticks of rattan, or five matching (or similar) books, five bottles of something to drink (Mead, Gatorade, whatever), five packages of baked goods, site fees for the next big event, subscriptions/renewals for the local newsletter, the ever-popular duct tape, silver dollars, goblets or tankards, plates or bowls, kingdom ensigns, or something with significance or use in the local area.

Prize Tournaments

Prizes over a certain large dollar amount [2] are discouraged by the Society, because of tax problems. If an individual wins so much money from the SCA, Inc., the corporation has to report it to the IRS, with all proper paperwork, etc., so it's best to keep prizes relatively inexpensive.

It's possible to get prizes donated, but if the person is planning to use it as a tax deduction, then it's SCA property and once again from the Society (see tax problem above), so having very expensive prizes donated is still a problem. If a merchant wants to donate something and then call it "advertising" on his tax form, then make clear that the merchant has furnished the prize directly.

Standard-practice prize tournament is three prizes, first is a knife or a helm or a banner, second is a goblet or a piece of jewelry, and third is duct tape or a newsletter subscription. I'm not saying those are always the prizes, but if you offered those prizes no one would rush to a pay phone to call and tell the folks back home. These are all useful things, and should continue to be given away, but you might put the imaginations of your local people to work and come up with some newer, memorable prizes. Even the same old prizes can be more exciting if you give the winners a choice of which one. Someone may come in first who already has three knives, two helms, a banner and six goblets - what he might really need is a renewal of the newsletter, and if he chooses that then the second place winner mighy get the knife he's always wanted. Don't put a guy in the position of wishing he'd come in second or third because that's the prize he'd rather have. The very best first-prize of all might be first pick of the prizes.



[1] You won't generally care about losses, but if you're figuring your round robin where losses are counted, or if double kills are to be counted as a loss for each, you'll need the information.

[2] I don't know what it is, and if I told you it would change anyway. If your group needs to know, ask the kingdom treasurer, who should have the latest figures, or the corporate treasurer.

Copyright © by Sandra Dodd, 1991
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