SILVERWING'S LAWS
Disclaimers & Notices: Okay, the title is a misnomer. Only some of these are original. I am the compiler, not the author. Additions, corrections, attributions are all welcome. I've tried to identify the author (or, at least, my source) when possible. Among these, "Tibor" is Baron Tibor of Rock Valley, "Robin" is Master Robin of Gilwell, and "SaK" is, of course, myself.

I have recently received some correspondence questioning the truth or suitablity of some of these observations. I therefore offer this general response. This is a collection of utterances that I thought were cool or wise or amusing at the time, which have a variable degree of connection or relevance to the SCA experience. They may be used as a jumping-off point for musing about the SCA, but are not intended to be a definitive/profound/seminal work of philosophy. Any complaints about any of this stuff will be met with derision. Feel free to start your own page. Okay?


Before quoting, please read the copyright notice at the bottom of the page.


Silverwing's Definition of the SCA's Purpose: Law No. Zero
"The SCA exists to provide an enjoyable group environment favorable to the amateur practice of, dissemination of information about, and consequent preservation of, diverse worthwhile aspects of Medieval and Renaissance culture."

THE LAWS
  1. There is only one rule in the SCA: "Thou shalt not be tacky". All the rest is commentary. Barak Raz

  2. Gresham's Law applies to the SCA: Bad medievalism drives out the good. SaK & Thos. Gresham

  3. Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.

    [This is known as Hanlon's Razor. It has been attributed to Napoleon, (but see http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/Hanlon's-Razor.html). Jerome of McKenna (Jerry Pournelle) adds that "there are degrees of incompetence". Thanks to Clark Meyers and to The Jargon File for info on this.]

  4. The number of sauces at the feast is directly proportional to the length of your dags times the cost of the material. Alexandre sur le Mer

  5. The media will always interview the worst-dressed person at the event. If they can't find the worst-dressed person, they will interview the least-dressed person. Unknown

  6. What we want most from our kings is plenty to talk about, and that's what our system gives us. Sir Lars Vilhjalmsson

    [Added by Tibor: The fullest version of this is ""What do we want from our kings? What does our system give us? I believe we want *variety*, with a common quality of dangerousness, and that's what we get. Rather than a simple choice between adequate and inadequate administrators, we get flamboyance and austerity, heroic genius and valiant hopelessness, simple brutes and poets, know-it-alls and never-knew-its. Mostly, we get plenty to talk about, which is what we want most. And we have defenses for most administrative disasters".

  7. If you say you're it, and no one else says they're it, and everyone thinks you're it, then you're it. (The Virtual Warrant Principle) SaK

  8. A jerk wearing a crown and five medallions is still a jerk. A noble man need not be a nobleman. SaK

  9. The problem with "The Dream" is not "Dream". It's "The". Adelicia of Gilwell & Robin of Gilwell

    This is not the Dream. This is what I do on weekends to have some fun. The Dream involves 4 sets of identical twins, 2 gallons of Cool Whip, 5 quarts of chocolate syrup, 2-1/4 pounds of strawberries, satin sheets, a magnum of champagne, a trapeze, and a python.
    Sfi Mordecai ben Yosef Yitzhak

  10. The reason the SCA functions the way it does is because its laws are written by computer programmers.
    (The reason the USA functions the way it does may be because its computer programs are written by lawyers.) SaK

  11. The probability that you forgot to pack something is directly proportional to the distance of the event times the necessity of the item. SaK

  12. There are only 25 faces in the SCA. It's okay,
    I don't remember your name either. Elspeth Keyfe of Neddingham

  13. In the East, if the King says to dig a ditch, Curia must discuss and approve it. In the West, if the King says to dig a ditch, it takes 4 months to find a shovel. Alexander Listkeeper

  14. Art imitates life; life imitates art. SaK

    (The best re-creations in the SCA are the ones we don't even consciously try to create.)

  15. No plan survives contact with the enemy. Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, via Robin

  16. He is most to be feared who has nothing at stake. Public domain

  17. It is better to have the Pope's ear than the King's crown. SaK

    (If you want to effect real change, work with the system. The crown will change within 6 months.)

    I later found this Welsh proverb: Gwell car yn y llys nag aur ar fys (Better a friend in the Court than gold on thy finger).

  18. Though it be a law of Nature, there will always be someone to dispute it. SaK

    Corrollary: No matter what you post, you're going to piss off someone. Just try to make sure it's someone who needs to be pissed off. Goedjn/Azelin/Ralph/Pete Rose

  19. Name magic works in the SCA. SaK

    (You know someone has become a friend when they use your mundane name and you don't feel vaguely offended.)

  20. Never expect the king to ask his herald first. SaK

  21. Never believe the schedule in the Pre-Pennsic booklet. SaK

  22. We can, therefore we do. We do, therefore we have always done. We have always done, therefore we must always do. We must always do, therefore an officer must oversee the doing. There is an officer, therefore we must report. We must report, else we will lose our tax status. (The Cascading Bureacracy Meme) SaK

  23. Anything a king gives twice is an Order. SaK

    (If the king gives me a dead halibut, he has given me a dead halibut. If, next week, he gives you one, we are now Companions of the Halibut and I'm the principal.)

  24. SCA legislation is always reactive, never prospective. SaK

  25. Semper litteris mandate (Always get it in writing). Official motto of the SCA College of Arms

    (Yes, Laurel's crown says "Non Scripta Non Est" {If not written, it doesn't exist}. But I recall this version from Karina's Precedents, and it's on the West Kingdom's CoH seal.)


    #25-A (Corollary):
    If written, it will get lost. Wolfgang vom Bruch via Ingeborg Thorulfsdottir

  26. All that is needful to be respected is that one behave both
    respectfully and respectably. Galen of Bristol

  27. To gain face, give face; to lose face, try to save face or take face away. Frydherik Eysenkopf

  28. No one who is facing the audience should be surprised at court. Daniel of Lincoln (modified)

  29. The Prime Rule of Pennsic: It's your vacation, stupid! [SaK, with thanks to the Clinton campaign....]


    29A (Corollary) The 2nd Rule of Pennsic: It's everyone else's vacation, too. Someone's got to make it happen.

  30. Always assume that the Crown can. SaK

  31. Backwards compatability means never being able to say 'Ooops, we goofed'". IBM via Tibor

  32. Beneath the calm, professional exterior of the SCA, lurk all the subtle, interpersonal dynamics of a nursery school at recess. Adapted from Gary Trudeau, via Corun MacAnndra & Tibor

  33. Courtesy includes Justice, for Justice is Courtesy to Truth. SaK

  34. No, it isn't fair. Neither were the Middle Ages. SaK

    (And once you accept that, life in the SCA gets a lot easier and makes much more sense.)

  35. Don't let the Best be the enemy of the Good. "Cariadoc's Maxim", Cariadoc of the Bow

    [Tibor tells me that Voltaire said "The Best Is The Enemy Of The Good"]

    This also comes to mind:

    "Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in"

    Hey, I'll take any excuse to quote Leonard Cohen

  36. "You Rule Because They Believe".
    [Engraved on the inner surface of the crown of the King of Caid.]

  37. Solving problems is easier if you haven't picked your solution
    before you start. Azelin Cola of Wishford a/k/a Ralph the Carter

  38. The three hardest things to say are "I'm sorry", "I was wrong", and "I don't know". Tibor

  39. When in doubt, assume that any group of three or more people includes someone who is cranky for the moment, and could interpret your actions in the worst possible context. Anton Winteroak

  40. If given a blank canvas a SCAthian will go out and LEARN how to make paint. Kimmer Bayleaf

  41. Justin's Rules of Good Bureaucracy:

    Don't make a Law if a Policy will do.
    Don't make a Policy if Custom suffices decently well.
    And don't try to change Custom if things aren't broken in the first place. Justin du Couer

    This is not meant to imply that the SCA actually adheres to these policies, of course....

  42. The SCA is pretty lax at enforcing its regulations, and cannot do more than slap on the wrist. But becoming a social outcast makes the game no fun. The penalty for violations of custom, while less precise, are fiercer.Tibor

    Or, to put it another way: "Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment." Mark Twain

  43. The most important thing is a cool mug or goblet. Without a mug or goblet, you end up with a paper cup or a modern bottle or an aluminum can in your hand and you are a SLOB. Add a cool mug or goblet and immediately you, too, are cool. Duke Finvarr de Taahe

  44. No matter how great your triumphs in the SCA, 99.9993% of the planet couldn't care less. Unknown, but inspired by "Laszlo's Chinese Relativity Axiom"

  45. Never hand someone a dagger unless you're sure where he's
    going to throw it. Adapted from Kathryn M. Drennan

  46. The fact that I'm neutral means I'm not on your side. Saleem ibn-Alefan

  47. Every weekend, we gather hundreds of people together, none of whom have had enough sleep. "Robin's Unified Theory" of SCA Dynamics

  48. No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't
    be run away from. Charles Schultz via Linus van Pelt and Robin

  49. It's the inherent right of all to make dern fools of ourselfs.
    It ain't held by official types alone. So don't mess with it. Walt Kelly via Porky Pine & Robin

  50. It's not enough to be involved; you have to be committed. Think of a plate of ham & eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed. Martina Navratilova via Robin

  51. As long as we would rather have wearable shoes than perfect theories about shoes, academic standards are the wrong measure for our work. The measure of a paper is not the measure of a shoe. Robin of Gilwell

  52. All that is neccessary for tacky to triumph is that class acts
    should do nothing. Azelin Cola of Wishford

  53. Re-creation necessarily implies research before the craftwork starts. If you haven't done the research, you can create, but you cannot possibly RE-create. Arval d'Espas Nord

  54. Arguing with a herald is like wrestling with a pig. First you get really dirty and muddy, and then, after a while, you begin to realize the pig is enjoying himself. Ernst Nuss von Kitzingen

  55. Only Pennsic is worth the level of inconvenience that only Pennsic requires.Tibor

  56. If you think you're going to need it on the field,
    but can't figure out how to carry it, you don't need it. (Ivan's Fighter Rule #8) Sir Ivan Ulricsson

  57. Never annoy a bard, for their memories are long,
    and your name scans to "Greensleeves". Fiana of Clare and many others

  58. Stomping (or attempting to stomp) on disagreements as soon as they crop up is so counterproductive and dysfunctional as to differ
    from an active evil only in intent. Azelin Cola of Wishford

  59. There is no niche in the SCA so small that it is safe from some dweeb installing a megalithic bureaucracy to regulate it as a favor to the society.Marcus de la Foret

    (a)There will eventually be a monarch who will reward this dweeb with a peerage for installing this atrocity. This will gladden the hearts of dweebs and send them in search of their own niche to bless. Marcus de la Foret

  60. It is one thing to have both a belt and suspenders to keep your pants from falling off. It's another thing to wear suspenders because you have a belt. Azelin Cola of Wishford


    SCA law includes mundane law by definition. If it's prohibited by mundane law, you don't need to repeat the prohibition in SCAdian law.

  61. Ends do not justify means, but means sometimes justify ends.
    (Kali's Proto-Maxim) Kali Harlansson of Gotland

  62. Nasty politics is like water and air: it seeks its own level, and it fills available space. SaK


    If you have the inclinations and the personalities, you don't need a real reason for politics. If you don't have a baron to elect, you'll fight over who should be the 2nd assistant deputy to the cantonal sub-warden of the plumbers' guild.

  63. As surely as the poor will always be with us,
    they will always have the stupid in tow.Marcus de la Foret

  64. What does a peerage cost? If you are doing it for a peerage, then you can't afford it. If you are doing it for fun, then in the end the peerage is free. Nazir, from Calontir, via Tibor

  65. Authenticity is like a two-lane highway. If someone is going slower than you, they're a slug. If they are going faster than you, they're a maniac! Thaddeus the Brown, via Avery from the Middle Kingdom

  66. It's hard to have fun where there is none, but it's easy to have fun where there is some. Tibor

  67. You can usually win a war before it starts if you have the power to define the terms. Unknown

  68. Any Sovereign or Consort who tries to hold any other
    office will be declared ipso facto insane. Daniel de Lincolia

  69. Elisheva's Rules of Pennsic:

    (a)No matter what the project - no matter how simple and inane - when preparing for Pennsic allow at least twice as much time as you think the project needs.
    (b) No matter how many times you've sewn something before, it will not come out right the week before you leave for Pennsic.Elisheva bat-Yehuda

  70. It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.Jimmy Williams, via Countess Iseult on the Rialto

  71. If we reduced our Peerages to a quantifiable list of goals and metrics, we'd get ONLY those things.

    (We'd lose, or cease to recognize things that don't fit the list. Worse, we'd give relentless social climbers and belt notchers the tools they require to meritlessly grasp our highest awards and honors.)Tibor

  72. Some people say great power gives great responsibility. This is nonsense. "Responsibility" means you have to take the blame for your own mistakes. "Power" means you can make someone else take the blame for your mistakes.Cerebus the Aardwark, via Frithiof, from Nordmark

  73. Whatever you find when you first encounter the SCA is something you percieve as having always existed, even it was invented a couple days before. Yosef Alaric

  74. In a vast and incompetent bureaucracy like the SCA, it is easier to gain forgiveness than to obtain permission. An anonymous former campmaster of Pentwyvern, via Gladius the Alchemist

  75. Going to Coronation for the fighting is like going to church for the tapioca pudding. SaK

  76. You can't legislate having a clue. Catrin o'Rhyd For

  77. No one likes a smart-ass, and no one works with a hard-ass. Tibor

    The fact that we're a volunteer-based organization means that if you're a taskmaster, you're just going to get marginalized to the point of irrelevance.

  78. It is good to have a good life: it's a shame we cannnot have more than one at a time. Tibor

    It's annoying when the real world cuts into your SCA fun; doubly so when it's real-world fun cutting into your SCA fun.

  79. The opposite of "extreme" is "extreme". Unknown

    Creativity vs. Authenticity? Process vs. Product? Any philosophy can be taken too far.

  80. Advice to peers: Be careful; you may be the only history book someone else will ever read. I wish I could remember...

  81. Fealty doesn't mean following the King when he decides to gallop over a cliff. It means holding him back. SaK

    Robin of Gilwell reminds me that Baldassare Castiglione said it earlier, and better, in the Book of the Courtier:
    "You ought to obey your lord in all things profitable or honorable to him, not in those that will bring him harm and shame. Thus, if he should command you to do some deed of treachery, not only are you not bound to do it, but you are bound not to do it-both for your own sake and in order not to minister to the shame of your lord."

  82. The officer of arms in the registration queue deals with the most fragile commodity in the SCA, the creative ego. Thus anything short of enthusiastic and immediate acceptance of the design generally is taken as a personal affront. Cathal (James Pratt)

  83. A persona is no substitute for a personality. Linnet Kestrel

  84. Before peerage: chop wood, carry water. After peerage: chop wood, carry water. Modified from Tibor

  85. If you can only do it in a three-piece suit, it probably isn't worth doing. Kwellend-Njall Kolskeggsson

  86. Don't sit on the beer cooler. Col. Jenna, Calontir

  87. The degree to which someone is wary of their own culture is proportional to the degree to which I respect them. Karl Faustus von Aachen

  88. Any SCA argument that revolves around our middle name is bunk. Tibor

  89. Courtesy is owed, Respect is earned, Love is given. Freya Manslayer

  90. We are modern people with egalitarian instincts deliberately creating a society that combines feel-good communalism with hierarchical, exclusionary elitism. It should not be surprising that it leads to the occasional cognitive dissonance. Tangwystl verch Morgan Glasvryn

  91. Never chase tigers unless you know what you are going to do when you catch them. Tom Gervasi via David Calafrancesco

  92. The young man knows the rules; the old man knows the exceptions. Oliver Wendell Holmes

  93. The Society we've created and is maintained by SCA Inc. runs on 'Three Lies' without which it could not operate:
    a) people from roughly a millenium and thousands upon thousands of square miles can easily gather in one place
    b) they all speak the same language, or can all understand each other
    c) the place where they gather is in an "open market town" in which one must be chivalrous and treat everyone equally. Aleksandr the Traveller

  94. Having a standard policy for isolated occurrences is just a way to go wrong with confidence.Azelin Cola/Ralph the Carter/Goedjn

  95. People can be classified as frogs or toads. A frog has a microscopic chance to become a prince, but a toad is a toad forever. Tibor

  96. The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of themselves to themselves. Crag Duggan

  97. Pity creates beggars, mercy creates brothers. Crag Duggan

  98. Nothing in the SCA is done by a set formula unless the formula is, "Wing it!" Ernst Nuss von Kitzingen

  99. Tivar's Rule #5: There will always be some people who can do some things that you just *can't*. Don't worry about it, work on your basics and have some double-stuff Oreos. Tivar Moondragon

  100. The problem with "you play your way, I'll play mine" is that while my "authentic" play doesn't keep you from your "fun" play, your "fun" play does make it extremely difficult for me to do my authentic play. Eleanor fitzPatrick

    A very similar observation, by Robin:
    The essential fact about the SCA is that we don't kick people out for having different goals or different levels of commitment to our varous goals. That makes it a great place to do what you want to do, but a horrible place to try to escape the things other people want to do.

  101. You're an oldtimer when the things you used to strive for are taken for granted. Andrew Blackwood MacBaine the Purple

  102. The first duty of all honest men is to reiterate the obvious. George Orwell via Franz Joder von Joderhuebel

  103. Ymchwil, nid dogfeniad (Research, not documentation). Tangwystl verch Morgant Glasvryn

    See also her "Three Sayings About Documentation"

  104. What some of us see as Problems Inherent in the System, others see as an exciting part of the game ("It's not a bug--it's a feature!")Rufina Cambrensis

  105. It's important, when picking on your friends, that people that don't know you, know that you are friends...Master Ekkehart of Oakenwood

  106. It's not always the SCA that's different. Sometimes it's you. Goedjn, a/k/a/ Ralph the Carter

  107. Make sure the damsel WANTS to be rescued (before charging in and making a fool of yourself). Elspeth Keyfe of Neddingham

  108. "Zero Tolerance" is what you call intolerance when you're in favor of it. Goedjn, a/k/a/ Ralph the Carter

  109. Saying that you're "swearing fealty" to the people is kind of like saying you're "marrying" the entire school district.Goedjn, a/k/a/ Ralph the Carter

  110. The opposite of "you must not desire an award" is not: "you must desire an award", it is: "you may desire an award".Goedjn, a/k/a/ Ralph the Carter


If you liked this list, check out the "SCA Tips" list maintained by Raibeart mac Cormaic.
And check out Samuron's Laws of Court Heraldry.
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Send them to me.

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This compilation is Copyright (c) 1996-2007 Steven H. Mesnick. Permission is granted, however, to quote from or to reproduce this document in official or unofficial SCA publications, with full attribution. That means you don't have to ask me as long as you say you got it from me and include who I got it from. Even if you're going to publish the whole thing in your SCA newsletter, it's okay; although I'd consider it a courtesy if you dropped me a line to say so. What you can't do is change anything, or fail to say who you got it from, or fail to say who I got stuff from. If you're going to quote or publish in a non-SCA publication, then all bets are off: you have to ask me. If you do need to reach me, you can do so here.