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An SCA reality-check

Posted on 2013.08.06 at 12:12
At the risk of offending some people’s sensibilities, I’m afraid I’m going to go off on a bit of an SCA-related rant. It may burst some bubbles. It may offend some people (although that is not the intent). But hopefully, more than anything, it will give some people a few things to think about. Ready?

Sometimes peerage just SUCKS.

No, I don’t mean that the Order of the (fill in the blank) sucks. Rather, sometimes actually being a peer sucks. Why? Because a bed of roses has thorns.

Yes, the SCA is a game. It is a hobby that can take up as much or as little time as you choose. And it has a system of rank and recognition – peerage being the highest. But peerage isn’t simply a title and a rank. It comes with responsibility. And that is something that a number of people just don’t get. You can’t just walk around as Sir such-n-such or Mistress such-n-such on fair-weather days, but decide to go duck and cover when the storm brews – at least not if you care one bit about your reputation and the respect of those who stick it out through the dark times. The suckiest part of peerage is, whether for good or bad, a very important part. Peers need to do the dirty work. And no, that isn’t pleasant.

What do I mean by dirty work? I mean that sometimes a peer is the one who needs to grab somebody by the earlobe, drag them out from the back of court and quietly chew them out because they have just done something incredibly rude or disrespectful. Sometimes, it means having to stand up in a roomful of people and fight back the tears as you tell them that you do not support a candidate, even though that candidate is your best friend – because you know in your heart that your friend just isn’t there yet. Sometimes it means gritting your teeth and casting a “Yes” vote on a candidate who deserves the accolade, even though you can’t stand to have that person anywhere near you. Sometimes, it means having to make a very public protest against the perceived powers-that-be if they are about to steer the Kingdom off of a cliff. And always, it means sounding the alarm when you see a threat on the horizon.

In Caid’s history, I think back to a particularly dark period of time years ago. A number of people found the political climate of the Kingdom unpleasant. So they voted with their feet. Perhaps some of them believed that to be the most visible and active method of protest? But in any case, it turned out to be the wrong thing. Why? Because as the “Staff” of the Kingdom effectively left, it allowed a despot to throw out tradition and ride roughshod. And who is there to safeguard tradition if not the people who have time invested in it? Despite the fact that the Board finally removed said member-formerly-known-as-Duke, Caid has never fully recovered. Mostly, it has. But not fully. And I say now as I said then – he only got away with bad behavior because people let him.

This sort of a thing is not isolated to Caid. Heck, if anything, Caid has been blissfully free of the drama and trauma I have seen in other kingdoms where the loud-mouth-bully generally wins simply because the peers just don’t want to go up against him. And to be honest, I don’t have any sympathy when things go bad. Having stuck around myself through some incredibly ugly and personal situations that would easily have sent most people packing their bags, I believe that peerage means having the balls to do what needs to be done. The peers are, by design, the backbone of the society. That isn’t just some sort of lip-service to make it sound like the peers are oh-so-great. Rather, it is a job responsibility. It really is. And the success of the Kingdom, and of the SCA as a whole, relies heavily upon the continuity of the peerage taking an active role in keeping things on track – not just when things are happy and cheery, but when things seem dire or nasty or personal or political.

So where am I going with this rambling rant? Simple. If you find yourself aspiring someday to become a peer, take a moment to really consider what it means. It isn’t just about you getting your fifteen minutes of fame, a cool ceremony, and a faux title that is used only on the weekend. It is a very real responsibility within this game. And if you aren’t ready to take on that responsibility, think twice before you decide to take on the accolade.


Ben Baron
benbaron at 2013-08-06 19:29 (UTC) (Link)

What he said

What he said.
Drew Huntsman
Drew Huntsman at 2013-08-06 19:33 (UTC) (Link)

Re: What he said

I wish more of the current and past peers were on the same page as this...
Susan Torkelson
Susan Torkelson at 2013-08-06 20:01 (UTC) (Link)

Re: What he said

And well-said!
BerkeSpaz at 2013-08-06 19:37 (UTC) (Link)

true story

Thank you for this post. This is what a peer should do, this is why becoming a peer is such a big responsibility. There are those that see the wrong happening and are not in a position do do anything about it, and usually they will speak with a peer about it. As a peer you are expected to step forward and fight for what is right, it is your job. I have seen a few peers receive the accolade for minimal service with high up friends, these are not the peers I would trust to make the right moves. I look to peers who will fight the good fight, stand up for what's right no matter the fall out. With power comes great responsibility.
florentinescot at 2013-08-06 20:01 (UTC) (Link)
well said!
A Lady of Trakai
luscious_purple at 2013-08-06 20:05 (UTC) (Link)
I definitely agree. I'm not a peer, but if I ever get to that point, I hope I'd be at least half the leader of the peers I know now.
3fgburner at 2013-08-06 20:05 (UTC) (Link)
Of course, sometimes that can mean that the despot in question has the BoD bust you back down from Peer to peasant. Happened to a friend of mine.
isabeau_lark at 2013-08-06 20:27 (UTC) (Link)
I hope you don't mind me jumping in. Master Liam commented on this post on FB, which is how I saw it.

I could not agree more and I wish that more peers thought as you do. I try to think that way now and hope that some day I will be worthy of the responsibility.

Thank you for both your service and for speaking up.
The Last One Out
peligrosaroja at 2013-08-06 20:44 (UTC) (Link)
Hear hear! Hope you don't object, but this is going to go viral, at least Society-wide. Needs to be heard.
Cochran Holly
Cochran Holly at 2013-08-06 21:52 (UTC) (Link)

Well Said

Well said, and thank you for doing so. Some of us peers burn out from carrying that load, and need to take a break for our own sanity. I know, because I am one of those.
~Aidan Cocrinn
Julia H. West
Julia H. West at 2013-08-06 23:30 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well Said

I, too, as both a peer and a kingdom officer, handled so much of that kind of drama and trauma that it burnt me out. I still enjoy "visiting" with the SCA from time to time, but it is no longer my life like it was when I was younger. I say "Hurrah!" to those who can deal with this kind of stress and stay in The Game, but for those of us who are introverted paper-pushers who like to help behind the scenes, please don't judge us too harshly!
Linda Miku
Linda Miku at 2013-08-07 02:25 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well Said

And we are the poorer for the loss of our quiet ones who strive so hard. We can say it's the job/it's the family/it's the kids that have them fall aside, but when the drama and trauma is non-stop, rationalization goes only so far.
Linda Miku
(Deleted comment)
yew_hall at 2013-08-07 00:26 (UTC) (Link)

I wholeheartedly agree!

I've been in almost all those situations myself. They were not fun, but they are part of the responsibility that goes with the honor. I would add that when you become a Peer, your words carry more weight, so you must be even more careful with them. And that it is the duty of a Peer to advise the Crown, even (especially?) when They don't want to hear it. And that people treat you differently with your regalia on and without it; sad but true. So, thank you for sharing your well-considered words!
Baroness Ygraine of Kellswood
Laurel and Pelican, East Kingdom
gingerspark at 2013-08-07 00:49 (UTC) (Link)
Hear Hear!
svan_1004 at 2013-08-07 01:07 (UTC) (Link)
We Bump Back.
slamson at 2013-08-07 01:28 (UTC) (Link)


Well-said, Giuseppe! This can be said for any office fom the seneschal on up, but officers come and go; peerage is a lifetime commitment.
(Anonymous) at 2013-08-07 01:34 (UTC) (Link)

In a Perfect World.

Sorry to post as "anonymous." I came to this forum from a Facebook post, and don't have an account here. I find the anonymity suits me in this case. Why? Because I am going to give it another try, this society of ours, and don't want the future wholly polluted with the past.
I am a multiple peer. I used to believe as you did. To me, Peers were the architects of the society and were responsible for the soundness of its architecture. This is in part why I was awarded two peerages. However, our group had NO respect for Peers. I am the first Peer made in our group, and also hold the 4th peerage awarded.
What made me leave the Society for six years? An ugliness so fraught that hammering at it again and again would destroy a Barony I conceived and built, a kingdom program in its infancy that required an over-the-top (even by SCA standards) investment of money, resources and time by its participants including my young daughter, defying the word of a corrupt and jealous officer whose kingdom superior chose to disregard his behavior and accept his word (even though an Olympic Athlete in a closely related discipline uses the site and judged the site he reported as unsuitable for our use, and found it eminently safe as did a former Olympic athlete in the same very similar discipline) because that kingdom superior was busy dying of cancer. This local officer's own family and the current and upcoming crown begged me to continue fighting against the unfair treatment, but in a cost analysis I found that the human, societal and personal costs were just too high.
In retrospect I believe we ask too much of our Peers, or at least did so in this situation. Crap like I experienced in our pseudo-society has a real time effect on everyone involved, via health, via mental health, via real-world reputation and finances. these are the costs of an award and prestige driven society. There are times and places where this hierarchal society is
rewarding, fun, and satisfying. Like real life both now and in our period of study however, there are those who discover that the quickest way to the top is to take dishonest and/or disreputable short cuts, disregarding the human cost in favor or results. Some times this rocket ride to the top can be averted, and sometimes you have to give them the fuel they've earned with their ill deeds and let them catapult out of orbit.
In my time away I have experienced the many other re-enactment societies on offer and greatly enjoyed those without the awards hierarchy. I am going to try again without any regard for future accomplishment, my aim to simply enjoy myself. Before my peerages and my husband's, I used to do that.
Cynical?  Moi?
joeguppy at 2013-08-07 02:17 (UTC) (Link)

Re: In a Perfect World.

Hi there anonymous,

I'm very sorry that you had to go through that situation. And yes, in many ways it highlights my point - the job of peerage is not always a joy. It isn't always pretty. And sometimes it means having to deal with people who are being boneheads.

I agree that sometimes too much is expected of the peers. And again, who needs to step forward to give the reality check? You guessed it - the peers. The fact is, real world matters do take precedence. The SCA is a game - no question about it. And when it comes down to it, real world matters are far more important than dressing up in long-ago-out-of-fashion clothing and doing an event. But IF one is going to participate in the SCA and IF one is going to accept the accolade of a peerage, that means following through with the good and the bad and not just leaving when the going gets tough. I totally understand if a peer backs away because real-world matters have taken over, or if the peer has just moved on to other matters of life or hobbies. But it makes me nuts to see when someone sticks around for the glitz, but ducks away when there is a crisis.
Astrid-Nanci LeClair Nedweski
Astrid-Nanci LeClair Nedweski at 2013-08-07 02:00 (UTC) (Link)
I whole heartedly agree with you - thank you for putting your thoughts to "paper"!

While the SCA is a game, who we are as people both in and out of the SCA defines us - ALL Peers are supposed to be shields of the week, listening to everyone - even those we might not care for all that much. Everyone's words, if spoken from the heart, are important and deserve to be heard. Sadly, too often, people are ignored ... from all stations. Sometimes a Peer's words hold a lot of weight... and sometimes the words are ignored. We all, no matter what level we play, need to voice our honest opinions as well as listen to the opinions of others.

Viscountess Astrid - Midrealm
aishabintjamil at 2013-08-07 02:50 (UTC) (Link)
Well said. I'm saving this to add to the collection of things I show future proteges when we're discussing whether they should make that commitment or not.
Turk Chieftain
turkchief at 2013-08-07 03:16 (UTC) (Link)
Yup. Absolutely Yup. Spot on.
Christian Dor
Christian Dor at 2013-08-07 10:11 (UTC) (Link)


It's not a job that is for everyone. In fact, if a person is not passionate about it, it is not for them as they will soon burn out. Too often I see people expect others to be working toward membership in those working circles (peerages plus those lower rank circles that manages a particular activity within their kingdom) whether they are suited for the JOB or not.

I have often made the point that it is ok to participate in the activities of the SCA just for fun and learning. No one needs to be going for a peerage to enjoy making art, fighting, or running a tourney. Also, our time as teachers is not wasted if our student does not become a Peer, White Scarf, Arc d'Or, Golden Lance, etc. So long as they learn it is a success.

We need to be careful not to run off those who choose not to become one of the leaders but just want to enjoy these activities. And we absolutely need to avoid inducting people into these orders just because they are very good at arts or fighting.
villa_sorelle at 2013-08-07 10:35 (UTC) (Link)

yes but also consider this....

We do have a responsibility not only to our game but to ourselves. Sometimes the game becomes overwhelming and we forget to take care of ourselves, which leaves us where?

In some cases, a peer needs to step back and regroup, less they suffer burn out. I think taking a hiatus (6 months/year/etc) is better than losing that peer forever.

Before everyone starts passing judgement on peers that walk away, try to remember that the game is not the only thing in our lives. Many of us have families, jobs, economic stressors, health factors, which also play a big role in how we interact with the game.

Sometimes people just have to walk away.
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur at 2013-08-07 12:06 (UTC) (Link)
Hear, hear. Sometimes, the hardest part of being a Peer is having to be the one to tell the King that he's making a serious mistake...

-- Justin du Coeur, East
ext_2102593 at 2013-08-07 14:55 (UTC) (Link)
Joe, one thing that left a VERY sour taste in my mouth about the situation you are describing and others like is was that so many peers felt like they could not do anything because they were in fealty to the Crown, who was the problem. I was incensed that "being in fealty" meant "standing by and watching people get hurt and abused because your responsibility to the Crown outweighed your responsibility to the populace." Fealty does not mean letting the Crown roll over you. It means supporting them, disagreeing with them, giving them the room to make mistakes when necessary, and stopping them cold when those mistakes cross the line from 'human error' to 'human asshat.'

Like any other generalized statement, this is not true about all of us, but the Peers of Caid behaved horribly in that situation. Some of us did everything we could to confront the problem, but most of us did not. It was a travesty.

isabeau_lark at 2013-08-07 21:27 (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you made this point regarding fealty. This is actually one of the reasons that when my brother was knighted, he swore fealty to the crown, NOT the king and queen. By being in fealty to the institution of the crown he has different responsibilities than being in fealty to a set of individuals.

The idea of fealty meaning unconditional support is also a fallacy. In my mind it's the equivalent of a parent who lets a child do whatever they want. They're not doing anyone any favors, least of all the child. To NOT step up when royalty are in the wrong, to my mind, is the breach in the vow of fealty.
nytekat at 2013-08-08 00:09 (UTC) (Link)
I like that
(Deleted comment)
Caitlin Christiana Wintour
caitlincw at 2013-08-07 15:44 (UTC) (Link)
I'M OFFENDED! Heh, just kidding -- this is a terrific post. And timely; I am trying to decide if I should confront an SCA someone about their behavior. I can confront if I have to but I don't like it, and one needs to decide if it will do more harm then good. But yes, as a peer -- and a person -- I will probably have to. So good post, thanks.


Edited at 2013-08-07 03:44 pm (UTC)
Tabitha Manners
Tabitha Manners at 2013-08-07 15:58 (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

This is inline with our dinner discussion last night about peerages in Ansteorra. I appreciate you taking the time to lay it out so clearly. It is a lesson that I think should be shared.
vt6000 at 2013-08-07 16:31 (UTC) (Link)
Never thought i would be posting in LJ again..

Joe you are right, pretty much spot on. I look at being a peer as middle management. We are the cast members at disneyland responsible to helping make the magic happen. The truth is we get to see backstage quite often and backstage just sucks sometimes. As far as the termoil in Caid when duke so and so was removed .(we all know who it is ) some peers fought back. But it was the figting back so late in the game that was the problem. The drama had happened and it was more like closing the barn door after the cow got out. I for one was a new comer to the shenanigans that happened and the abuse that had been going on for years. Wen called upon i did my part and helped correct the problem... There were peers that didn't, thats for sure. Ad there were peers that sat the fence and waited to see what the majority would do then they jumped on the band wagon ... Taking care of the problem when it happens regardless of the fallout should be the priority as a peer, because WE are responsible for making the magic happen as well as lowering the boom stick...

I for one hate that part of the job but it has to be done.
Forinstance when my squire was asked to join the order i opposed it.. With a resounding not yet. He had a little more work to do on his maturity level. As pained as it made me to say that i did. And when they knighted him i was still opposed. He has after his knighting grown up nicely and become truly a knight. He grwew rapidly after his elevation.

Miss you guys hope to see you at a Pennsic one of these times.


reynardine at 2013-08-07 18:54 (UTC) (Link)
This outlines just why I don't aspire for the peerage. I don't want my hobby to become a job! I like helping out but also want the luxury of stepping away when things get too much. And that's fine.
3fgburner at 2013-09-09 03:30 (UTC) (Link)

You've nailed it.

I've got it made. Got the officers' warrants I need to do the fun stuff, and can be a totally lazy bugger when I'm not doing those. My current fighting prowess is somewhere below "Larper on Quaaludes", and I'm about as artsy as the beer-swilling stick jock that I used to be. I've already got about as many cookies as I would want or could aspire to, so I can just kick back and do what I think is fun. Keeps me under the Peerage Radar, so to speak.
stitchwhich at 2013-09-09 14:58 (UTC) (Link)
It isn't so much 'aspiring' for a peerage as just one day getting it due to what you've been doing as a matter of course. Do what you love to do, for the sake of that joy, and don't worry about striving towards an (award) goal. Unless your goal is to get better at what you are loving to do. :)
nytekat at 2013-08-08 00:06 (UTC) (Link)
I totally agree.
jilara at 2013-08-08 00:53 (UTC) (Link)
I could hope that this makes an impression on the right people, but I don't know.
It's funny, one of the things I put into place before I suspected peerage might be discussed with regard to myself was making sure trusted friends would speak up that I wouldn't take it. It's all because I take vows very seriously, and I didn't see continued extreme self-sacrifice to the SCA as a life path. As a greater officer of state, I had to deal with some very extreme and distressing things, and the years were already starting to wear on me. At the same time, I saw too many people who only regarded the peerage as a social club to advance their coolness factor. I wasn't always popular, maybe because I actually had to say "I'm sorry, your Majesty, but even you aren't allowed to park in the fire lane," and similar things. I've seen people whimper "don't recognize her, she's meean!"
I served in many capacities, over around twenty years, and still garnered a bunch of awards, but would have appreciated a simple thank-you more than any award.
A lot of the hardest workers and most most generous and accomplished never make it to the peerage, displaced by social climbers who know the right moves. I salute them, as well as all those who take peerage seriously. I wish there were more of them.

Edited at 2013-08-08 12:55 am (UTC)
the_same_andrew at 2013-08-09 16:17 (UTC) (Link)

Great post!

Great post. So applicable to life inside the Game, and outside on one's weekdays too. (Probably also true of how politics actually worked in the middle ages.)

I linked in from Facebook (not having been to an SCA event since the Eighties) but wanted to compliment you on a post well-thought and well-written.
(Anonymous) at 2013-08-10 13:35 (UTC) (Link)

From an SCA Peer...and Chronicler

Can I reprint this in our SCA Newsletter?
Cynical?  Moi?
joeguppy at 2013-08-11 17:41 (UTC) (Link)

Re: From an SCA Peer...and Chronicler

If you would like, and you believe it would help, please feel free.
Cordelia Toser
dame_cordelia at 2013-08-29 05:31 (UTC) (Link)
Well said
(Anonymous) at 2013-09-09 11:54 (UTC) (Link)

bad peers

In Trimaris, there was a peer who bitterly complained to the crowns that we did not answer his calls and was ticked off that the crown informed him we were under no obligation to. An hour later he was stripped of his Kingdom Office and three months later was banished
Cynical?  Moi?
joeguppy at 2013-09-09 14:07 (UTC) (Link)

Re: bad peers

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