etherial: an idealized black vortex on a red field (shield)
[personal profile] etherial
A number of friends have expressed an interest in going to Pennsic this year. While http://www.pennsicwar.org/penn44/geninfo.html has a lot of great info, I thought I'd organize my own thoughts on some of the concepts involved. Besides the items on the packing lists, there are three big-ticket items you need for a trip to Pennsic: Time, Money, and an Encampment.

Time
Obviously any vacation will take time, but I wanted to talk a little about what the general Pennsic schedule is like. First up is Zero Night. This is the Friday night when - historically - everyone camps on the Battlefiled and parties because they have to be up at 9 AM on Saturday to setup their Land and have nothing to do until then. The Land Office has made some changes this year, and it's a little unclear how that will affect things, but I suspect the Zero Night That Was is now over, which is probably for the best -- it was a huge hassle for everyone involved. There will probably still be parties (I know I'm throwing one), but they will no longer be on top of each other.

Land Grab (or Peace Week) is what follows, and it is the most relaxing vacation I've ever taken. We set up camp, sit around the fire drinking, take day trips to visit [livejournal.com profile] rosinavs' family, etc. The first battles, the first classes, the first parties, the first performances, all of these things happen toward the end of Peace Week. Opening Ceremonies is on Saturday, this is when the battle lines are drawn and sides are declared. It is the largest gathering of pomp and circumstance in the Known World.

War Week is the most action-packed vacation I've ever taken. There's so much to do, it is all happening at once, and all of it is in walking distance -- which means that even though my day is packed from 8 AM to 10 PM, I still have time to sit and read a book. This is also the most important time to volunteer. Pennsic is run by volunteers and if everyone simply volunteered 8 hours of their time, then everything will be setup on time and organized.

Finally is teardown. Most groups start organizing camp in preparation Thursdayish and do the full teardown Friday or Saturday. There is a penalty for failing to leave your campsite clean and empty by noon Sunday, and most groups are pretty good about doing just that.

To drive to Pennsic from Massachusetts, some people take the Northern Route, which is I-90 to I-79, which has the advantage of being mostly straight with well-lit rest areas. Others take the Southern Route, which is Is 90-84-81-80-79, which is hypothetically shorter. And others fly.

Money
[livejournal.com profile] rosinavs and I spend about $700 each for Pennsic. I know people who do it for less. According to legend, you can show up with a sleeping bag and a case of homemade mead and everything will work out. Our budget is roughly as follows:
Site Fee - $170
Camp Fee - $200 (see Encampment)
Hotel & Transportation Costs - $230
Booze, Entertainment, and Souveniers - $100

One obvious way to save money at Pennsic is to not stay in any hotels: it's a camping trip and some people happily camp on the way down and back. Another obvious way to save money is to skip Peace Week: the price drops $40 at 0:00 on the middle Friday. Two years ago, [livejournal.com profile] rosinavs couldn't get Peace Week off and flew down. She spent half an hour knitting Thursday Night waiting for the price to drop. If you further need to save money, you can work while at Pennsic. Digging ditches, taking care of children, cooking and serving, toting and hauling, or simply working for one of the many merchants. People can work their desk jobs remotely via Mystic Mail - Pennsic's own internet cafe - or via the McDonald's just offsite.

Note that there is no day rate for Pennsic. The simple truth is that a lot of cool stuff happens overnight and the people who own Cooper's Lake Campground (the Coopers, natch) don't feel it would be profitable or enforceable. Also, the relatively high cost to enter helps deter hooligans from coming onsite and messing with your stuff.

Encampment
The land distribution system of Pennsic is a unique artifact of its history. The entire campground is broken down into 100 or so blocks of varying size, the borders of which are determined by site features like forests, rivers, roads, etc. Everyone who attends gets approximately 250 ft2 of land to pitch their tent. If you preregister, you have the option of registering with a group, commonly known as an Encampment. Currently, there is plenty of land available at Pennsic, so Encampments usually get land in whichever block they request (which is usually the block they were in the year before). Encampments send a Land Agent to Land Grab to sign the paperwork on how to subdivide the block, though these days most of the negotiation happens in advance.

Encampments are a great way to maximize the utility of your space and your stuff and spend time with good people. Note that you don't necessarily want to share an encampment with your best friend or with your mother. Choosing an Encampment is a lot more like choosing a roommate: You want someone who will handle their fair share of the tasks and with whom you will not get into a shouting match with when it's 100 degrees out and you're pissed off at them. Encampments usually require some form of monetary contribution to handle the purchase and storage of camp equipment as well as using some portion of each person's land to handle communal infrastructure and green space. In the event your encampment needs or wants more space than the aforementioned 250 ft2/person, you will need to register some Ghosts. Ghosts are people who - hypothetically - might show up to Pennsic but in reality probably won't because you registered them only for their land. DO NOT REGISTER CHILDREN AS GHOSTS. Note that you must have a paid preregistration in order to register land with an encampment.

Another important determining factor for your encampment is food. Many people have incompatible food restrictions or preferences or simply differing opinions as to how important communal dining is. Some encampments simply provide you with kitchen space to cook your meal, while others have catered parties with free-flowing alcohol and pantry tents.

People who do not preregister with a group are referred to as "Singles Campers" and when they arrive onsite, they choose a plot of whatever land is still available and that will be where they pitch their tent.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eenamae.livejournal.com
This is interesting. Thanks for the write-up!

1)Why can't you register children as ghosts?

2)Do you have pictures?

3)Did you ever buy that amazing tent you were thinking of buying? What does your camp set up look like?

4)When you say "you can work at Pennsic" to save money, how does that work- does Pennsic the organization pay you to dig a ditch, or do the people who need work done pay you directly?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] etherial.livejournal.com
1) Well, you can. Children get in for $20 and still get the full land allotment, so it's just plain rude to register children whom you have no intention of bringing. If you're gonna spend money for more land, you should at least be spending it full freight.

2) I have broken the lens on every camera I've gotten in the last couple of years, but there are a few pictures floating around. On facebook, for example, there are several of me at Pennsic. Sadly, Google Street View no longer shows the images of Pennsic they recorded several years ago.

3) We did! It's 14 feet by 18 feet with walls six feet high. It's roughly house-shaped and is bigger than our living room. The walls hang from the roof, so we orient the "doors" wherever they'll be most convenient based on the shape of our encampment. We usually put the bed a little off-center, with the bins for clothing and equipment storing behind it and a little sitting area in front.

The encampment I stay in is called Camp Crook'd Cat; we usually choose land in Block E02 with frontage on the road called The Strand. Our block is roughly squarish and our encampment is usually deeper than it is wide. It's usually identifiable by the large 3 x 3 x 5 foot construction of brick and mud that is our earth oven. Every day we bake fresh bread in it, unless we're baking pies or roasting onion-spiced beef rolls or something. The rest of our frontage has little flags of our camp emblem: Argent, Per Saltire, a cat rampant Azure and a shepherd's crook Azure, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a cat that has been impaled on a shepherd's crook. What's actually supposed to be is a cat that is being guided by the shepherd's crook.

The earth oven sits on a firebox, aka a pile of dirt that has been shaped and leveled, which makes for easier cooking. Behind the firebox is a GP-Medium US Army Surplus tent, which serves as our cooking and dining tent. Back behind the GP-Medium is the sink we share with our neighboring encampment, Clan Kerr. The sink water runs off into a sump pit that we dig that supplies the dirt for the firebox and earth oven. The rest of the encampment is usually just everyone else's tents, though last year someone brought a hammock for the children to fight over.

There are propane-heated showers on the far side of the block, so we have that taken care of for basic hygiene. The Coopers supply Pennsic with portapotties, which certainly sounds gross, but they get cleaned twice a day so they tend to be cleaner than most public bathroom facilities unless someone on your block is throwing a wild party.

4) Well, the Coopers do pay people to work the cash register, work in the camp store, and check for site medallions at the entrances, but the SCA doesn't pay anyone for any labor ever, it's all volunteer (it's actually in our governing documents). Individual campers, however, are free to pay people to do work, so some enterprising young people will just wander around site with a shovel looking for people who need a hand.

You can also advertise in the Pennsic Independent, a biased propaganda newsrag whose chief virtues lie in the facts that it prints schedule changes, battle results, and has no competition. Oh, and children are allowed to sell copies of PI for profit, but they have to be accompanied by an adult because Pennsic is sadly not free of our country's pervasive culture of over-parenting.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-20 01:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eenamae.livejournal.com
Thanks! That sounds pretty cool.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] white-and-nrdy.livejournal.com
This is great! I'd be interested in putting this (or a revised version, if you prefer) into the Milestone. How would you feel about that?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] etherial.livejournal.com

That would be great. Let's give it a little more time for people to comment and then you can show me your edits.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-19 09:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] white-and-nrdy.livejournal.com
Sounds good - thanks! I have too many LARP plots to finish this week, so I won't be cramming on the a Milestone until next week anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-20 12:34 am (UTC)
siderea: (The Charmer)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Some encampments simply provide you with kitchen space to cook your meal, while others have catered parties with free-flowing alcohol and pantry tents.

Some encampments provide no cooking space or food accommodations at all; indeed it was because of the history of Carolingian baronial encampments being amenity-free zones that we founded Crook'd Cat.

Many camps are effectively theme camps with a communal activity. Crook'd Cat is organized around food and cooking (or was last time I saw it in action). But far more common are fighter camps, where the group is a fighting unit. These are sometimes also geopolitical groups, e.g. Calontir. Some camps host particular events, or build particular structures (e.g. Casa Bardicci, Stairhenge).

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-20 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] etherial.livejournal.com
Yes, those are definitely things I'd want to expand upon in later publication. I wanted to avoid editorializing the different encampment styles, so I just offered two examples (they happen to be based on encampments that are right next to each other).

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-29 08:36 pm (UTC)
jducoeur: (device)
From: [personal profile] jducoeur
Some encampments provide no cooking space or food accommodations at all; indeed it was because of the history of Carolingian baronial encampments being amenity-free zones that we founded Crook'd Cat.

And pushing the history yet further back: Carolingia never developed a habit of having a meal plan largely because the Carolingian Encampment was originally defined as "the space behind the Sated Tyger" -- the Sated Tyger being Pennsic's original tavern, run by Marian and Johann. (Roughly where EK Royal now is, and vastly more authentic than anything you can find nowadays.) Since we basically owned the best eatery on site, we never bothered to do anything else.

When the Sated Tyger shut down (sadly), we never collectively got our act together enough for a meal plan. (Which probably contributed to its gradual disintegration into a bunch of separate encampments...)

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