Choosing Pennsic A&S War Point Champions

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“How are the Champions for the Arts and Sciences War Point at Pennsic War chosen?”

A reply from the Minister:

Thank you for asking! It makes sense that people would want to know how it works. Unless you’ve asked someone involved it would look like a bit of a mystery.

As I have committed to transparency in this office, I’ll try my best to answer now. I hope this reply helps people understand how it has been working so far. (Of course, all this may change next year! We’ll do our best to keep people informed then too.)

Now, we’ve only held this A&S War Point twice. This year will be the third time. We do not have a lot of history to say, “This is the way things are”.

Each year the War Point rules have been different. And each year the Champions have been chosen in a different way.

So it would be easy to be confused and not know the process.

Before I go too far, let me remind you. This is a War Point.

The Crown and other principals of the War first decide the whole process through negotiation. The Crown then decides on how process is handled in the East. They are fitting this into all of the war point negotiations and scheduling for the war.

And it may help to know what has happened in the past.

The first year the Champions were chosen directly by the Crown.

The second year the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Minister provided a set of proposed individuals to the Crown. The Crown then decided on the Champions.

This year, the Crown named an Arts and Sciences War Point General, Meisterin Agatha Wanderer (Rachel Case). That General then consulted with other individuals, including the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Minister, and provided a set of proposed individuals to the Crown. The Crown then decided on the Champions.

It is also the East’s custom that the King’s Champion and the Queen’s Champion are by design considered part of the Pennsic A&S War Point Team. Note there, that the Crown for Pennsic is not the Crown who chooses these Champions. The Pennsic Crown gives input while they are Heirs but it is not their decision. The Arts and Sciences War Point General and the Crown will consult with the Champions about their participation at the War.

Yes, okay. So that’s technically how it happens.

There’s more. I will not leave you hanging! For the most part I’ll focus on this year’s process.

So you may also be asking yourself, “Why this team?”

To understand how the individuals are chosen it is important to know the rules of the competition.

This year the War Point entries must be anonymous, may not be food or a performance, and must be a newly created item not previously entered. There can be no more than two Laurels. The winning side is then determined by a popularity contest of all the people attending the War.

That makes for a difficult challenge for the General. Right?

Prospective Champions are given a hard task. You’re asking these people to make something completely new. You’re asking them to make that new thing in less than four months. You’re asking them to keep it anonymous as they work on their entry.

You’re also looking for prospective Champions that appeal to all of the people at Pennsic.

Let that settle in for a moment. Everyone at Pennsic.

And these people only view these entries for a few moments. Few people actually take the time to carefully review each entry and consider the research and skill these artisans put into their works.

That means we’re now in the challenging position of finding entries that can appeal to everyone voting and capture a win vote within a very short amount of time from a populace not usually trained in artistic evaluation.

So add that to the hard task these prospective Champions face. They have already been asked to enter brand new work anonymously. We’re also asking them to accept being judged by a popularity vote by all of Pennsic after only a short review time. It means that their hard work is likely going to be seen by hundreds of people who never know their name or be able to praise them for a job well done.

But here’s the difference from Pennsic A&S Champions and other A&S activities like King’s and Queen’s A&S Champion.

At Pennsic? You’re not there for yourself. You’re not showing as an individual. And your personal renown is not your first goal.

Your first goal as a Pennsic A&S War Point Champion is helping the East Kingdom to win Pennsic War.

It is an unfortunate circumstance that competitions like this do not necessarily recognize the most interesting or complex arts and research that we do in the SCA. We know that.

Negotiations are hard. Pennsic has a long history. And this is only the third year that we have this A&S War Point as part of the war. There is both room for change and improvement. You have to be “in the room where it happens”. We should be happy that the arts and sciences are at least represented with a war point. That’s already an improvement.

We have lots of amazing artists and researchers making incredible works and publishing really interesting finds that would never be right for this kind of competition. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with what they are doing. It just means that what they are doing is not matching up to what the competitions is asking for of entries.

You may have also asked yourself, “Why not take volunteers? Why are there not tryouts?”

The Arts and Sciences War Point is not quite like other War Points. You may be thinking about how the fighting teams have been chosen from regional practices or tryouts. That’s good for them because they are directly fighting against other people. Who wins is directly decided between the combatants. Further, these people will be working together. They need to get used to training together and working as a team.

There’s another difference. The fighters have a good expectation about how their war points will work and what the rules may be. It can change, of course, but they have history to work off of as a starting point.

For the Arts and Sciences War Point we simply don’t know. We don’t have a history. We can make requests and recommendations to the different Crowns each year but it is still a growth process and we are learning what works best for the War.

Because of timing with negotiations, it has been hard for us to manage scheduling something like tryouts or a competition. The Kingdom calendar is already very packed. Asking for more space to fit in another event or to add something to an existing event has not worked out yet.

Instead, the proposed Champions have been artists that are actively producing work, have been known to do well-researched and skilled items, and are available to attend Pennsic. The proposed Champions are also representing different regions of the Kingdom and different arts of our community.

They are not only people who are entering competitions. They are not only people who score well at Kingdom A&S, or show well at Laurels’ Prize Tourney, or win Baronial Championships. Those people are considered of course. Artisans who show their work through blogs, on social media, or donate work to Crown and Kingdom are also considered.

This is all a lot? Right?

The A&S General has a hard job. The artisans have a hard job. I think that they are going to be successful this year and that the East is going to represent the arts and sciences wonderfully.

Want to help? Visit the A&S War Point. Spend real time looking at the entries. Vote for the entries that show great skill and exceptional research.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.