IS THE SCA A LARP?
Well, yes, no and maybe.
Yes, the SCA is a LARP, because we take on the role of a medieval person at events, trying to understand what it was like to eat medieval food, shoot a longbow, wear medieval clothing, put on armor and fight in a tournament, ride a horse, and more.
No, the SCA isn’t a LARP because we aren’t pretending to be someone imaginary. We do pick a medieval name, and put on medieval clothing, but we don’t pretend to be a blacksmith, the king’s herald, or the greatest archer in the kingdom – we are who we are, and if we learn blacksmithing, or take the job of a herald, or practice archery, we are representing ourselves and the skills we learn, not a character that can be set aside. We have no game system, no predetermined story line, and everyone is involved in our shared experience.
Maybe, the SCA is a LARP because we do take on roles in our society, like herald, baron, archery champion – but they are jobs with responsibilities, that are earned rather than arbitrarily picked. But they are roles we play – a herald will serve the king and queen and make announcements, proclamations, and possibly even serve in a court, a baron is responsible for making the people in his barony feel welcome and appreciated, and an archery champion might be expected to compete in a special archery contest against other kingdoms.
There are lots of people who say we are a re-enactment group (which is true for some people), a living history group (also true for some people), an experimental archeology group, a LARP, or a shared costume party — all of these are true to some degree.
Can I be a knight?
Yes … but not right away. People who join the SCA are assumed to be untitled nobility or gentry, because we are recreating a gathering of nobles at tournaments or wars or feasts. All our titles, like Lord, or Baroness, or knight, are bestowed by the royalty after you have achieved a certain level of skill or contribution. To be a knight, for example, you have to show a certain amount of skill in armored combat, act in a chivalrous manner, be a pillar of the community, and finally be recognized by the king and queen, all of which will take time.
IF you want to be a knight, or a baroness, a seneschal, a scribe, or any other role in our society, the best thing you can do is ask someone who already has that role what is entailed – it will be challenging and you will learn a great deal.
do I need to be a paid member?
No, you don’t need a membership to start participating — just show up!
A membership will get you a reduced fee for getting into an event, a subscription to our monthly newlsetter, and it will let you hold official volunteer positions, but for your first event or two, see if you like our group before you spend any money.
The SCA doesn’t need to cost you a great deal of money to participate, and we’re happy to have you try it out and you can decide when it’s worth getting a membership.
what group do i belong to?
Whatever group you want. Here’s a LIST of all the groups in Ontario, and whichever one is convenient for you to attend, or has activities that interest you can be where you belong.
If you aren’t sure where to belong, feel free to email the Kingdom Chatelaine (official newcomer liaison for Ontario) and they’ll help match you up with a group.
WHo can help me get involved?
The best way to get involved in the SCA is have someone there to answer your questions and help you get involved. Just like the buddy system in swimming, we don’t want to leave you to sink.
You have all sorts of choices for a mentor or guide — your local (or nearby) baron and baroness are there to make sure everyone feels welcome. They are the folks wearing the gold coronets with six pearls or stones on them at events. You can also find their contact information and pictures (so you know what they look like) HERE.
You can also talk to your local seneschal (chairperson) or if your group has one, your local chatellaine (newcomer liaison).
These people can make you feel welcome, introduce you to people with similar interests, and are fun people who have been involved in our club for years.
Is the sca on social media?
You can google ‘Pennsic’ or ‘Crown Tourney’ on Youtube to see event activities, you can find kingdom, barony, shire, or special interest groups on Facebook, or Twitter, or even Reddit.
A good place to start is our official kingdom (or Ontario-wide) Facebook group HERE. There’s a lot of activity about upcoming events, local gatherings, or Ontario-wide notifications.
One word of warning — there are all sorts of people with different interests and activity levels in the SCA on social media, and sometimes it’s hard as a new person to keep up with everything that’s going on. Some people who might comment on your post haven’t been out to an event in years (but wish they could), or could be almost as new as you. Take everything with a grain of salt on social media, and remember the real fun is in person at an event.
what events or meetings should I attend?
As much or as little as you want.
There are people in the SCA who attend 1-2 events a year, and they are a part of our club as much as anyone else.
There are others that attend 2-3 fight practices or meetings a week, plus attend 3-4 events a month, sometimes travelling to the US or far away to experience events in other kingdoms.
Odds are, your interest and free time will put you somewhere in between those activity levels — participate as much as you are comfortable doing.
Culture and Customs
What is a PErsona?
When you join the SCA, and attend one of our events, we are trying to create a medieval atmosphere. So one of the things we do is take on a role of a medieval person — choose a name, design personal heraldry, decide what kind of medieval clothing you would like to wear and so on.
You might just choose a simple medieval name — use your first name and your local SCA chapter name (so Chris WIlkinson might be Christopher of Greyfells) … or you might be interested in Mongolian culture and choose Yegedei Sacchin. You also might choose a place and time you are interested in, such as 13th century Novgorod, or even a craft you would like to learn, such as a English shoemaker from the time of the Tudors. While you aren’t making up a fictional character, you are building what we call a persona — a medieval person that you might have liked to have been. You can put as much or as little effort into it as you want to.
Your persona is not supposed to be a hard and fast rule that limits your interests. You might decide that even though you are interested in portraying an Icelandic person from the 13th century, that you might want to own a Mongol outfit — or there might be a themed 14th century tournament event and you want to make a set of clothing that fits in — try whatever you like!
How do I pick a name?
Just look at a medieval book, or Google a time and place in the middle ages or renaissance that you are interested in — just don’t pick a name that’s offensive, or someone famous. Most local groups have a volunteer position called a herald, who is there to help people pick names and heraldry, ask them for help, or find one at a local event.
do I have to pick a name or persona from Europe?
While most of the people and events in our society have chosen to focus on medieval Europe, we cover the entire globe, and the whole period up to the death of Queen Elizabeth I (about 1600). Any culture you are interested in is welcome, from Romans to Mongols, Japan to Africa, Russian or even Aztec culture.
What do the funny coloured belts mean?
By our society-wide rules and customs, no matter where you go in the SCA, you will see people wearing different coloured belts.
A white belt is reserved for knights — someone who has achieved a level of mastery in armored combat and has been recognized by the king and queen. A white baldric is worn by Masters at Arms, an equivalent rank to a knight.
By custom, red belts are reserved for squires, students of knights who are interested in armored combat and have been taken as formal students by a knight or master-at-arms.
Green belts are often worn by apprentices of a Master or Mistress of the Order of the Laurel (equivalent to a knight), who are in a formal relationship to be a student and learn an art or craft or skill.
Yellow belts are often worn by proteges of a Master or Mistress of the Order of the Pelican (equivalent to a knight), who are in a formal relationship to be a student and learn how to effectively volunteer and serve the society through holding offices or helping in various ways.
White livery collars are worn by Masters or Mistresses of the Order of Defense, who are the preeminent rapier combattants recognized by the king and queen, and their students wear red livery collars.
There are several other sets of tokens or regalia worn by various offices or are associated with specific earned titles — don’t worry too much about it to start, and try to stick with a brown or black belt for your first set of clothing.
What’s with all the group names?
OK … so North America (and all the other countries that have SCA groups, like Australia and Europe) have been divided into kingdoms which have evolved over our club’s 50+ year history. These kingdoms have their own king and queen, customs, and traditions.
Inside those kingdoms are baronies (regional groups), cantons (local chapters inside a barony), shires (independent local chapters), strongholds (independent local chapters at a military base), and colleges (independent local chapters at a university).
All our groups are given medieval names, often a play on the real place. For example, Trinovantia Nova is latin for New London, and the group is based in London. You can find a relatively recent map of the kingdom HERE.
Beyond that there are non-geographic groups such as guilds, households, camping groups, and more.
All the names are a lot to take in, and it’ll take you time to learn them all — don’t worry about it, we’ve all been there, there’s no pop quiz!
Your First Event
What should I Bring to my first event?
An attempt at medieval garb — which means, a tabard or tunic. Really, we don’t care if you don’t have medieval shoes or pants, that all comes with time. And if you don’t know how to sew, talk to your local group or the event organizer, and they can arrange loaner garb for you at an event to get you started.
If you want to stay for feast (dinner), you’ll need a cup, plate, bowl, and cutlery. If you don’t happen to have medieval feast gear, you can pick up wooden plates or bowls from the local value village or supermarket, or just bring something fairly nondescript. Sometimes there will be loaner feast gear available too.
You’ll need to bring some money for the site fee — that’s the cost to get in, which we use to pay for the rental of the hall, which is usually $10-15 per person. If you want to stay for feast, or buy lunch at the event, you will need a little more money to cover the costs. These prices are advertised on the event ads (found on the calendar link on the main page).
That’s it, that’s all you need to get started — come on out!
Who can help me at an event?
If you don’t have a local group or guide to assist you navigate at an event, talk to the people running gate (the folks who take your site fee at the door). They know who everyone is, and can point you in the right direction.
Keep in mind that the gate people have a ‘morning rush’ between about 11 and 12 as everyone shows up — either come early to beat the rush, or check in, and be patient for them to get through checking everyone in.
Aside from the gate folks, a local baron and baroness (anyone wearing a gold coronet with six pearls or stones) attending the event is sure to help you.
Can i talk to the King and Queen?
Sure you can!
They’ll be the folks whizzing around the event or sitting in the fancy thrones with the big gold crowns. All you have to do is approach, wait for them to have a break in whatever they are doing, and introduce yourself as new. They’ll be thrilled to talk with you.
Understand the king and queen have a lot of people who want to talk to them at every event, so just be patient. If there’s someone following them around, you can always talk to them as well (they are usually acting as a herald or entourage for them, so they’ll be able to tell you when a good time to introduce yourself is.
what can I try my first event?
Well, you can try archery or thrown weapons, if they are happening at the event. Often there will be loaner equipment available or someone will lend you their equipment so you can try. Just approach the range, and watch for the person running it (the marshal), and introduce yourself as new and ask if you can try it out.
If there are classes or workshops happening, you can attend those and try your hand at calligraphy, woodworking, or whatever might be happening that day. Ask the folks at the gate who you checked in with for what is scheduled.
While you can watch the armored combat or fencing at an event, it’s more exciting to try it — but you can’t just jump in on that without proving you are safe and putting together your own set of armor. Find out where your local group’s fighting or fencing practice is, and the local organizer (the marshal) will help you get started, and you could be fighting at an event within a month or two.
Lastly, there are often opportunities to get involved — there might be singing at feast, a chance to hold a spear in court, medieval games to play in the back of the hall, or more. Ask someone friendly if you can join in, they’ll be glad to involve you.
can i volunteer to help?
This is the best way to get to meet people, have something in common with the experienced folks running around, and learn how the club works. Our society and all our events completely rely on volunteers.
Just ask the people running gate, or the local baron or baroness (the folks wearing the gold coronets with six pearls or stones) how you can volunteer, and they’ll find something for you to do. Today you might be helping with the kitchen or lunch table, but it’s a step towards learning how to cook a feast for 50 people down the road.
Areas of Interest
Your Local Group
Arts & Sciences