Tips for Building a Better Amtgard Park
by Baronet Matthias O’ Lachon
There are dozens of ways to help form and build a park from a small shire to a great kingdom. As there seem to be new parks popping up all the time I decided to sit down and type out this list of things I have learned and observed during my time in Amtgard. I hope these tips will be helpful and aid other parks in their pursuit of the dream.
Tip 1. Strength in numbers
The first and foremost goal for any park, young or old, is to keep a steady stream of new members flowing into the park. Without this new blood coming into the park to replace those members who move or leave the game, any park is doomed to gradual decay.
Make sure your park has its regular game days in a public, visible park. While you are playing make sure there are plenty of written materials available for hand out to any passers by who seem interested. Make sure that those who are not playing in the current game are aware of any pertinent facts such as game times, locations of games and events, names of park leaders etc… In addition, it is also a good idea to make sure that those who do not regularly play but are standing by have a good basic knowledge of the rules to be able to answer any questions that passers by may have about what is going on. ALWAYS have a rulebook available for people to look at. Having take home materials like business cards or flyers on hand in the park is also fantastic. When your group is playing make sure everyone looks their best. Help younger players get Garb and equipment; maintain your own so that you look good when the public does come looking at your group. A fully garbed and equipped park is much more appealing than a bunch of people in jeans hitting each other with uncovered pieces of fun noodle.
Tip 2. Make a name for yourself
A good way to get those always-needed new players is to be proactive in the community where your park is. The park I hail from is in a smaller rural community of about 20,000, yet we have and maintain Duchy-status numbers. I bring this up as an example of how a little creative advertising of your group can bring outstanding numbers.
Movie demos are an excellent place to start. Currently it seems like a new movie that would fit into the genre we attempt to create is produced and sent out to the masses every few months. Make friends with your local theater manager. See if they will allow your group to show the movie patrons what Amtgard is. Again, bring written materials and info to those who are interested.
Another great way to get your groups name out in the public is charity work. Is there a local blood drive going on? How great is the PR if your group shows up in garb to donate blood? Put on a children’s carnival with games and prizes. Give the proceeds to the local Toys for Tots or Red Cross Fund. Many local stores such as Wal-mart are great partners in these endeavors, as they get grants for money to put back into the community for things such as this. It’s things like these that will make your group stand out and keep you from being the wierdos in the park hitting each other with foam in funny costumes like a certain credit card commercial. Instead, be seen as a legitimate part of your community so that people look forward to seeing your group and enjoy interacting with it. Soon your group will start getting invitations to local street parties, county fairs, and special events. This is where the payoff for your group will be, as people will see your park as a legitimate and important part of your community.
Tip 3. Get your name in print
Every city or town has a local newspaper. Does it have a lifestyles or human-interest section? Contact them and find out! What better way to capitalize on your local newspaper than to see if they will run an article on your group. Nothing beats free advertising and most papers love to place articles on things like Amtgard in their lifestyles section, especially if your group has been active in several community programs. (See Tip 2) In this day and age of headlines of bombings and war everyone likes a little human interest and “interesting” is a word you can definitely use to describe the average Amtgarder.
Tip 4. Raising Money for the Group
When I talk to the parks in my area, the first thing most of them say is "how can we afford to do all this?" Raising funds for your park can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. There are several sure-fire ways to make money that I have seen commonly used in my area.
Food and Drink
Players get hungry and thirsty. In most parks, these players will go and buy food at the local burger joint or a nearby gas station. The best way to keep that money in your group is to bring the burgers, hot dogs, and sodas to the park. For a small start-up fee and access to a grill, you can then sell food and drinks to your park members. In the winter, hot chocolate is a hit for cold hands. The park members were going to spend the money anyway, so why not have them spend it to help the park? On a side note, this small fundraiser also has the wonderful side-effect of making everyone want to stay and play longer as people are not leaving to eat!
It takes very little to make an Amtgard dagger or sword, even less if you use PVC. At a recent local county fair, a local park made about 60 small daggers and swords at the cost of about $50.00. They then in turn sold these small weapons to the kids and teenagers at the event. The park in turn made about $300.00 that day. This does not mean that every fundraiser of this type will be as successful, but it is food for thought. The average Amtgarder makes weapons all the time, and it would not take a moderately sized park long to make 20-30 weapons. You might be surprised at the demand for them.
Tip 5. Be a good leader
If you are the leader of the park, the group is making leaps and bounds on the back of the hard work of its members, so make sure you award and recognize those who are going beyond the call of duty. My favorite thing to tell park members when I am Monarch is "Give me an excuse to pass out awards." If the person in your eyes earned something, be sure to award it. Not only will it motivate them to continue helping, others will see it and it will motivate them as well. Listen to the recommendations of those around you as well, as they may have noticed something you did not. As the old saying goes, 100 eyes are better than two are. Most importantly, a leader should lead from the front. Do not ask your park members to do things you will not do yourself. Make them happy they voted you in as their Monarch.
Tip 6. Elder Statesman
No one person has the answer to everything. When you come to a problem that you or your park cannot seem to solve, it is time to ask those with more time and experience in the game. I once heard that the only stupid question is the one not asked, and it holds true here in Amtgard. There are dozens of websites out there that might help answer your problem, or barring that, ask the leadership of your parent kingdom. Having a problem with the leadership of your park? Ask Sir Cumfrence the Crown Knight for advice. Does it seem like your park has hit the wall as far as fighting skill goes? Ask Sir Slashemup the Sword Knight to come down for a day and do a little teaching. Amtgard is full of people who at one time or another asked the same questions you are asking now or faced the same problems you are facing. Helping others is part of what being a Knight or Monarch is. These people have put a lot of time and effort into becoming good at what they do in our game. Have them help you to learn and grow, who knows, you might even make some new friends at the same time.
These points are just a few things I have learned and observed in my years in Amtgard. If you take these points and look at them closer, you can probably think of a thousand more things I did not mention that could help your park grow. I hope this helps you and gives you a few ideas in which direction to take your park and the game in the future.
Yours in service,
Barony of the Desert Rose