Recently there was a bunch of pump up online for the East Kingdom crown Tourney. That’s an SCA thing for those not in the know. As I saw people trying to inspire fighters to both show up and further to be examples of the SCA’s Chivalric Values, I began to meditate on how I find crown to be one of the worst things the SCA does. It could, and sometimes is, a true example of the nobility the SCA wishes to portray…but I think for the most part it not only falls far short, but is the antithesis to the Dream.
Of course I’m barely 5 years into this game and half of them I’ve spent most of my time trying a different recreation of the tourney sport, so maybe, hell likely, my opinions are flawed by a lack of understanding. Things may not be this way or perhaps they were and are in the process of changing. This space however is where I work through my thoughts and this is one I’ve been working through for all 5 years. Figured it was time I tried to put words to thoughts, see if cementing them in pixels will crystalize my views into some sort of organized argument. We’ll see.
First off I want to address the odd dual nature of the SCA game. Due to the fact it is our opponents who acknowledge our victory as the only condition of winning every fight in the SCA is not only a test of prowess but a test of morality as well. Or to butcher a Nissan Maxima quote, the blessing and the curse of the game is that every fight you get to decide what type of man you are. In the end, I don’t believe one can cheat by not acknowledging blows in the SCA. It is a feature of the game that the receiver of the blow is the only judge, so if they say it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough. That doesn’t stop them from being too cowardly to accept a loss or from being a dick who ruins everyone’s fun. It just means, in my mind they aren’t cheating.
I wanted to acknowledge this, because one of the main complaints with how the SCA selects its king, is that anyone with sufficient pain tolerance and enough lack of shame, can simply numb their way to a crown. This is not one of my objections. That is part of the game in my head and as much as I find that be a vile(might be a bit overstated but I like the poetry of the word) act it is also what makes it so noble when a fighter takes a blow that looks questionable to the outside or demands that an opponent not take something light. It is the blessing and the curse of the game and removing it would remove the chance for fighters to show their virtue.
No, My problems are that tourney in and of itself works against the philosophy of the SCA as I understand it. Obsteninably the tournament is not to receive power and renown for yourself, but to fight as an expression of devotion and honor of your consort, to use you deeds a poem to their worth. The SCA is supposed to be a dedication to the victorian misunderstanding of the chivalric traditions and fighters who are striving to be a knight are meant to be forthright and dedicated to service. The tourneys themselves, especially crown, are meant not to be just fighters having fun swinging stick, but a spectacle for the populace. And yet….
I know many a fighter, if not the majority of fighters I know, who enter crown to be king. Oh for sure they wish to make a queen and to have the kingdom see the worth of their consort and sing the praises of the would be monarch…but that is at best an equal consideration as being king themselves and more likely a secondary goal. And why wouldn’t be? Humans respond to incentives and being a king is a huge incentive.
Of course this could be another example of the curse and blessing where we can see the lust and greed for minute amounts of power be displayed against the gallantry and humility of simply wanting to serve a worthy consort. However there is no good way to separate or acknowledge the difference? How are we to tell? And further is it really worth having the two ideals at odds?
Why not a tourney that exist to make a queen and nothing more? The fighter receives no official recognition and is remembered only in word and song. The deed of the thing is the reward they receive. That and seeing their chosen elevated to queen. This would solve one of my other problems as well. The east kingdom summer chivalric tourney tour.
Unofficial word is that to be knighted in the east, one must make certain tournaments, win or place in a number of them consistently. Come tourney season the squire who wishes to trade his belt from red to white must hit Birka, Rattan Champions, Crown, and at least one more. They must perform well in these tourneys. And if the would be knight is not a would not be king? Well they can enter crown…but then they are told before the tournament to only enter if they feel they could serve the kingdom well and desire that responsibility. So the right thing to do is obviously to step out. But then they have one less chance to show their skill….and what of the top level fighters, either belted or no, that wish to fight the highest caliber the kingdom has to offer. In general that has been crown that brings them together. So to get a worthy fight they have to enter a tourney whose prize they don’t want?
Worse than both those though to me, is that we grant a person real political power, just because of how well they swing a stick. Not just the ability to pass our awards, as to me that is just in game power and shouldn’t really negatively affect anyone’s fun. However the king can banish people and that will seriously fuck up someone’s enjoyment. There is nothing in how we choose kings to make sure this power is wielded wisely. It’s just how much of a very specific skill they have.
When I first joined I was told that it was because you wouldn’t want to follow someone who couldn’t fight into war, which I can kinda see…but then why is the selection a singles tourney and not a melee where each claimant has to raise and field an army? In addition to their skill at arms we would test their political skills(ability to get men) and their ability as a commander(ability to lead men). I know of course we will never see any of these and am not making suggestions as if the Society should abandon what has largely worked for decades for my sensibilities. Even if I had political power and influence(I am the least of the least in that game) I know tradition is almost impossible to change. Perhaps though wiser heads can either make something of these ideas or explain to me the things I’m missing.
In particular, I’d like to see a change to make the event more crowd focused. I’ve seen far too many 5 minute stare downs, while fighters hide behind giant shields.While I can’t see the maneuvering they are making, I am aware they are seeking and probing for openings…but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable to the average spectator. I was told part of crown is to win not only the tourney but to win the populace. Some courageous charge seems far more likely to do that then a 15 minute fight that only 2 blows are thrown in. I’ve also been told not to yell and shout at them as if this were a football game on at the pub. Is this not a display for consumption? Shouldn’t we encourage the crowd to wave penats with the colors of thier chosen combatant like scarves? Sing songs of praise like a soccer club fan base? Would this not bring the non rattan types deeper into the proceedings? Don’t we want inclusion?
Again…I’m not certain that any of my complaints actually hold water….but when I think of crown I can’t help but think that it has a chance to be the shining moment of the SCA…and I rarely find it to be so, and often see it to be much much less.