Dracos and Otter

The Opinionated Seamstress on Writing Amtgard Arts & Sciences Documentation

Copyright May 2006, Liana M. Winsauer

Permission to duplicate and distribute, provided content is unaltered and the copyrigh/attribution remain attached.

Although Amtgard is based as much on fantasy as history, that doesn't mean we can't write respectable documentation for Arts & Sciences competition entries. It isn't necessary to write a multi-page dissertation, but the title/description of a piece and the category it is being entered under is not really documentation.

My opinion is that documentation should generally be a typed half-page to a page in length. As for organization, what works for one person or entry may not for another. I prefer a clear and understandable discussion to following a rigid format; every piece is unique, in makes sense that documentation style will also vary.

What information should be included in documentation? Documentation should answer all the questions a judge may have, and present any other information that is necessary for them to evaluate your entry. Look at judging criteria and articles to get an idea of what a judge may be considering when they evaluate your piece. Think about the types of things you would tell the judges about your entry if you were there to explain it. These may include:


Explain if your entry is your own original design or based on someone else's design. Specify if you used a pattern, the pattern used, and any modifications made, or if you worked exclusively from your imagination. Another important question to answer is if you worked from a kit, a pile of raw materials, or something in-between.


Background is related to originality. Was this based on an actual historical piece, or does it have an origin in a work of fantasy? Both are equally valid in Amtgard, but it can be useful information for the judges; as can explaining if your work is supposed to be an almost-exact replica, or intended to give the same general air. Finally, if your entry is based on an original, explain if you had the original on-hand to examine, worked from notes you made from an earlier examination the original, or did you have only photos, illustrations, written descriptions by others, or the like.

Complexity and Workmanship

These go hand-in-hand. I think of difficulty/complexity as the target, what you're trying to achieve, and workmanship is how well you succeed in meeting that target. In order to help the judges consider this question, it can be very helpful to explain if you're new to this Art, or if you have more experience that has helped you carry it out. Depending on the scoring method, a very complex piece with some problems in workmanship may be beaten by a simpler piece carried out impeccably.

Method of Creation or Technique/Style

Was the garb hand- or machine-sewn? Is the poem a sonnet or iambic hexameter in an Classical Greek style?

Challenges Encountered in Execution

The judges will want to know if you encountered challenges in creating your entry. Perhaps you had to alter the pattern to fit the wearer, or you were unable to find an ingredient or component that you wanted originally planned to work from. Explain any changes you made along the way from your original plan, why, and how it affected your piece.

Relevance to Amtgard:

If your entry is intended to be used in combat, explain how that affected its creation, and how the rules are met. Or is it a piece to be used for court or atmosphere only? Perhaps it is a camp accessory that you'll be using at events. Or were you creating your entry to understand or learn a historical method?

Food and Beverages

Food or Beverage documentation should include the recipe, or at the very least an ingredient list. If you were working from a historical recipe, or if you strongly modified a modern recipe, give both the original and your interpretation. If you cook without precise measurements, say so, and give approximations - other cooks will understand.

Other Details

Additional details to include in your documentation abound, and would include anything unusual that the judges should know. For example, I intentionally make the crust on my pasties (meat and vegetable turnovers) tough instead of flaky, and would explain why. Or perhaps the color combination you used in your garb is garish to modern sensibilities, but in the original historical setting it was very popular.

Don't think of writing documentation as a chore. Instead, think of it as a way to point out the fine points of your work to the judges.

Back to the Journal of Geek Studies Internet Home Page