[Ansteorra] Re: Ansteorra digest, Vol 1 #294 - 18 msgs

Gormlaith4444 at aol.com Gormlaith4444 at aol.com
Tue Jan 1 11:38:48 PST 2002

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Greetings to my Kingdom,

I do not usually do this, however, I would like to join the "newbie"
discussion.  I remember when I joined the SCA.  I had a very wide range of
experiences from down right disgusted, sometimes embarrassed and intimidated,
to heart warming because of the kindness and consideration of others.
Because these are some of my most vivid memories, I have often thought, the
"newbie" experience could be a lot different.  And yes, it can very hard to
approach nobility, even as an established member, sometimes I find it is very
difficult.  They can be an elusive and exclusive part of the Society.  In due
respect, the behavior may not be the intent, and there are many nobles I have
met who are quite friendly and open.  In all fairness to nobility, I can
understand the necessity for distance sometimes.  When you are nobility,
rather in mundane life or Dream life, distance can be a very quiet friend.

Being new in the SCA is like walking into a different country and culture.
There is not only a new language to be acquired and understood, there are new
signs symbols, rules, awards, and titles.  There are written laws and
suggestions to follow, however, like all cultures there are the "unwritten
laws" to learn as well.  The written policies and laws can be overwhelmingly
confusing, but the "unwritten social laws" that have to be learned can be
even worse.  It makes so that a person can easily become fearful of saying or
doing anything "wrong."

New members often have to learn to run this course as if blind folded.  I
know that is what I felt like I did.  The shire I came into, god knows I love
them, was very cliquish and sometimes downright unfriendly.  Don't get me
wrong, I have made life long friends within the folds of my home shire, and
they can be a very friendly bunch.  However, when I tried to join years ago,
it was difficult, and friendliness came only after persistence on my part.
While unfriendly cliques were on one hand, the other hand held household.
There I found, a competition for household members, which can be a problem in
itself if left unchecked.  So perhaps you can understand when sometimes I
felt rejected, and at others I felt pulled in several different directions.

The household problem was resolved within the shire by an "unwritten law"
that didn't work unless everyone abided by it.  The shire members and
households met the challenge and abided by this little rule of "newbies were
off limits to households for a year."  This helped take the pressure off of
new folks coming in.  I thought it was a great solution and still do,
although I am not sure if they still abide by the unwritten rule or if it is
still even necessary.

I have a few suggestions to help the Society assimilate new members.  One,
all members "including nobility," might help out by volunteering to become a
mentor.  Perhaps people who have been in the Society for 3 years or more
would be the best candidates.  Mentors could be available to new folks for
questions, helping them to understand the rules and culture of this wondrous
game we play.

Mentors can help with damage control as well.  We loose many new members due
to the fact there are not many folks willing to run damage control.  Even
though I had a strong desire to play, I was discouraged many many times by
thoughtless individuals, and sometimes by the nastiness of politics or
rumors.  Sometimes I just got worn out and needed a break.  I would leave for
a while, but always came back.  Many new folks leave and never come back.  I
believe this is one of the greatest concerns that faces the Society
concerning memberships.  People become discouraged for what ever reason, and
quit playing.  New comers are especially venerable to this.  If mentors were
in place to do some damage control and smooth over ruffled feathers, we might
not loose so many new comers. Unfamiliar rules and culture can cause
misunderstands, mentors can help to shed light on these kinds of situations.

New comer involvement is one of the strongest tools we have in helping people
become interested in playing and sticking around to play some more.  However,
it can be very difficult for a new comer to be brave enough to stick their
necks out and be the ones to always pursue Society involvement.  I remember a
few times being brave enough to stick my neck out and I got it cut off.  It
discouraged me from wanting to try again. (The ugly truth is, due to a
sometimes competitive environment, the discouragement was intentional.
Mentors could be helpful in these situations; and we all know these
experiences are out there, and they happen to even novice members.)While it
might be logical to say that new folks should come up to people and say "hi
my name is...."  It is not reality.  Many new comers hang back (often
intimidated) and "get the feel of things" before they truly make a decision
to play or not play.  They are quiet folks, but they could also be strong and
responsible members if given an opportunity to be guided through the maze of
new comer experiences.  A mentor can do that.  Sometimes, it takes someone
else to take the initiative, even though we are all very busy people.  Yes,
there are those new folks that don't need any coaxing at all, and we love
them for it.  But that is really only a portion of potential new members.
The facts are, we loose people, and I think we should look at "why" we loose
them.  What are WE doing to discourage them?

This does not mean new comers should be overwhelmed with work and
responsibility, more than anything that can burn folks out and run them off.
Mentors can help new folks keep from biting off more than they can chew.
Mentors can help new players become involved in an interest rather it be
fighting, dancing, A&S, etc.  Guild involvement could be a great tool in
helping new people become involved in a fun way, and most important, have a
reason to stay involved.  Guilds might be a great source to look for possible
mentors.  Cooperation use mentors to acclimate new employees, why not use the
same strategy to increase our own Society's membership and active

Hospitallers can use activity list as a tool to help keep new folks involved.
 An email, phone call, or hand out at group gatherings.  Yes, I know we have
web sites that people can bring up and look at.  I have those sites
bookmarked too, but with my busy schedule, I simply don't look at them that
often.  Besides, how much more "personal" it would be to get a message from
the Hospitaller listing the months activities such as guild meetings, revels,
work weekends, group meetings, fighter practices, etc.  I would like to have
a monthly list like this, and I am an established member moving in from
another shire.

What about a quick questionnaire or interview of new people who have been
around for a year or so?  Wouldn't it be nice to hear from new members what
we did right to help keep them around?  What valuable information that would

A last note of experience.  I am no longer in my home shire.  I have moved.
The new position I have taken is demanding.  Unfortunately, I have not had
much time for the Society as yet.  But that is not the only excuse I have for
not becoming involved with my new group.  I am not, nor I have I ever been,
one that feels comfortable going up to people and becoming involved.  It's
just the way I am, more importantly, it is the way a lot of people are.  Even
though I have been in the SCA since 1986, I still don't feel comfortable
going up to new people I don't know and getting involved all over again with
a new group of people.  It makes me uncomfortable.  Even though I am familiar
with the SCA culture, every group has their own unique culture, sub groups
and cliques.  Maybe I should not be this way, but I am, and there are many
more like me out there.  I was very involved in my previous shire, held
offices including seneschal, however, I do not feel comfortable learning new
cliques, new households, etc.  Guess you could say I am a bit shy or
withdrawn at first.  Considering this, can it be understood that the Society
looses well established members as well as new members.  Since I have been
here, in my new home, there has been only 2 people who have actually shown
any interest in my participation.  It would be nice to have a mentor
available here to help become established and involved in a new group and I
am a long standing paid member.  What I am trying to say is, sometimes, it
takes a little more than just "hi, welcome, heres some information for you to
read," to get people involved and stay involved.

Thank you for allowing me to put forth my two pence.
In Service to The Dream,
Lady Viviana

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