Premium Advice for Newcomers

Whether new to the forum, or completely new to the community, herein you will find the best information to-date to help you get started on the right foot with that dangerous business of going out your door.

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Udwin
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Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Udwin » Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:19 pm

It was brought to my attention recently that Jas. Townsend has debuted a new spin-off of their catalog site, called living history persona dot com. While Townsend is, of course, focused on 'the flint-lock era' of American history, after scrolling through their first article, I was not surprised to see that the advice given there is absolutely applicable to what the MERF has always been about since the earliest days of Andy: the applying of 'reenacting' methods to Tolkien's cultures (originally focused on the Dunedain rangers of Arnor/Gondor, but having since expanded in scope to include other groups - hobbits, northmen, dwarves, &c).

I know we have some new arrivals waiting in the wings (don't be afraid to introduce yourselves!), and I thought it would be worthwhile to draw attention to Townsend's new page and the advice it gives. Their how-to-get-started stages are laid out as follows:

1: Take the Leap (to decide to pursue this hobby/sport/lifestyle)
If you’ve stumbled onto the MERF, the MERS Newsletter, or one of the facebook groups, you’re halfway there already!

2: Connect (with other folks who do this)
That’s what the MERF is for! And our maps-in-progress will help, too!

3: Choose Your Character (persona)
Note that this step comes relatively early in the progression. This is for a reason! I’ve observed that it’s very common in the reenacting community for a first-timer go straight from ‘Taking the Leap’ to ‘Taking out a loan’ to pay for all the STUFF that they think is needed and have bought. Oftentimes, once they settle in and decide on a persona, it turns out that much of that STUFF was superfluous. By picking a persona first, it helps one slow down and be more discerning in what kind of STUFF(‘kit’) one needs (whether that kit be bought or made is a whole ‘nother issue. Suffice to say that learning to craft your own kit well, using period-correct materials/methods, will boost your authenticity immeasurably).

When deciding on a character/persona to pursue, it is important that it be based on a type/class of person during a specific time (late Third Age for most of us) and place (a region of Middle-earth!). It is also highly recommended to start with something simple, common, and generic. It may not be flashy and elite, but it’s authentic. The nice thing about doing Tolkien is that we also have choice of races (Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Orcs (I suppose), &c., and areas to draw from.

4. Research. (why are you running away? Come back!)
“Research and discovery are two of the things that make living history so rewarding and fun! For the avid reenactor or interpreter…research is a never-ending process. It’s what makes reenacting such an exciting journey.One reason research is so important, especially for the beginner, is that it allows one to proceed with confidence. The more research that’s gathered to support one’s persona or historical interpretation, the more confidence one portrays.”

Researching Tolkien’s world is easier than one would think, especially since the MERWiki features the ‘Middle-earth Cultural Resource Database’ for anyone to use. This is where we have winnowed out the juicy details that make Middle-earth feel so alive. We’ve even curated the items by category, race, region, &c!
At this point, it’s worth underlining the different kinds of sources that one’s research is based on:
Primary sources are ‘first-hand’ accounts—so, those that are presented (via Tolkien’s framing device) as coming from the five volumes of the Red Book of Westmarch.
Secondary sources are those that come from other scholars who have researched, analyzed, and commented on the primary sources—things like Hammond and Scull’s Reader’s Companion, or Robert Foster’s The Complete Guide to Middle-earth.
There is a fiddly in-between category unique (I believe) to Tolkien, which let’s call primary-secondary sources. These are things like John Rateliff's History of The Hobbit and the History of Middle-Earth series, which collect JRR’s Red Book draft writings but have been edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. In some cases they may conflict with the published works; other times they may include details that didn’t make it into the published texts but do not conflict.
Tertiary sources are those which are based upon the research of primary and secondary sources; things like the MERole-playing game or LOTROnline fall into this category. These can be very useful in ‘fleshing out’ or ‘filling in the blank spots on the map’, but it should be remembered that they are largely extrapolations.

5: Build Your Outer Person (gearing up)
Now we come to the point where one should start looking towards the ‘kit’ that will be acquired to actualize the researched persona.
“Our advice to you again is to resist the urge to purchase everything you think you need. Ask your group or mentor if they may have any spare clothing or equipment you can use as you launch your historical interpretation. Once you explore the possibilities further, you may discover that there’s a different persona, activity, or even group that interests you more or is more compatible with your lifestyle.”

6. Do it!
Once you’ve acquired (bought or crafted) your basic kit, now’s the time to start getting out there—in the fields, in the forests; do some woods-walking (or wandering!) in your kit, attend a regional moot, and never “be intimidated by the experience or knowledge of others. View them instead as resources.” Ask lots of questions!

7. Build your ‘inner person’
Building your persona goes beyond outward appearances. As you advance in your character development and dive deeper into your research, pay attention to how the person you portray lived and what he or she did. Start asking regarding why they did what they did. Learning the mindset of an historical person is the most challenging aspect of research.”

This is the point at which you could start focusing on the nitty-gritty details or skills of your chosen vocation—studying woodslore/bushcraft to build your knowledge and confidence and better embody a Dunedain ranger persona, for example. As I portray both a riverside Bucklander Hobbit and Beorning Man, one persona-applicable skill I’ve focused on developing has been period-appropriate boatbuilding.

8. Perfect & Polish
The great thing about this hobby/sport/lifestyle is that each and every one of us is always in a state of constant development—no matter your experience, there is always room for improvement that we may better portray a Middle-earth persona!

Townsend's page also includes a selection of some basic 'starter' personas for men and women; a M-e verion I think would be fantastic to pair with the Cultural Database and possibly somehow incorporate into the MERWiki revamp! (although I guess that's what the Complete Kits section is for)
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
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Greg
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Greg » Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:51 pm

Excellent thoughts, Udwin. Absolutely excellent. *pinned*
Now the sword shall come from under the cloak.
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Ringulf
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Ringulf » Wed Aug 10, 2016 12:50 pm

Yes thank you indeed Udwin! And thank you Greg for pinning it!
You know I was tempted, due to my longevity here, to scroll past this to what I may have perceived as more "applicable to me".
...I was saved by the fact that there are certain authors on this site that I read no matter what the title, because I just don't want to miss what they say. Udwin is one of them. This is such basic and useful information and it was delivered just the way I like it in order to apply it to myself.
It really doesn't matter were you are in the process, I learn things every day from reading or re-reading the posts here.
My own interpretation of a third age Dwarven wanderer, has been challenged and sharpened often since my first conception. A Dwarf, Hobbit or Elf can be particularly challenging due to the fantasy technology and non-human cultures and lifestyle. To know how far this can apply for realism sake, I have had to pull myself back many times from tertiary sources and try to find real world historical references to base some of the more fantastic areas of kit and culture. That said it is one of the things I love most about my chosen persona. He is not me and yet I get to be him from time to time.
Look at this post now and then to measure your progress, I am sure it will help you, no matter where you are in your journey, to gain focus and perspective. :mrgreen:
I am Ringulf the Dwarven Ranger, I craft leather, wood, metal, and clay,
I throw axes, seaxes, and pointy sticks, And I fire my bow through the day.
Come be my ally, lift up your mead! We’ll search out our foes and the Eagles we'll feed!
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jbook
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby jbook » Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:53 pm

Excellent advice.

I think back on my reenacting career and it's funny to compare photos from 5 years ago to now. It's shocking sometimes.

I think it's important to realize that part of the fun of this is to look in the mirror and say, what can I do better?

One of the biggest things for me was really allowing myself to be taught and shown by others. But it was also important for me to know what I wanted to get out of it. When I looked around and saw people really doing "hardcore" or sometimes called "progressive" stuff, I longed for it. Groups like (in Rev War) Augusta County Militia, (in Civil War) The Hairy Nations Boys, (in Medieval) The Company of Saynt George. All of them were so inspiring and doing things that most mainstream event goers weren't even thinking about. There were events I wanted to attend, but if I wanted to attend I was going to have to make some changes in order to make the cut.

Below you can see my progression. The first is simply terrible, but as you move to the right everything starts to come together. This took several years. I wish I had been more patient in the beginning and I wish I would have SHAVED!

16143990_10157834333360538_1746899470_n.jpg
16143990_10157834333360538_1746899470_n.jpg (104.41 KiB) Viewed 12273 times


I think the step by step guide Udwin has shared is an excellent starting point. Notice though that it isn't till point number 6 that you are encouraged to go out and DO IT! I think patience is an excellent thing to learn when putting together a kit. I had a chance to attend a medieval event this fall, but the reality was I just didn't have all my gear together. I certainly could have cobbled something together and went, but it just wouldn't have felt right. So as hard as that is, realize that getting your ducks in a row before heading out into the wild can be a good thing and will be incredibly rewarding.
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Le-Loup
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Le-Loup » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:12 pm

More information here that may be helpful. http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com.au/search?q=persona
Keith.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost.

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Kortoso
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Kortoso » Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:53 pm

jbook wrote: I think it's important to realize that part of the fun of this is to look in the mirror and say, what can I do better?


That's a good point. Many of us run the risk of being paralyzed by perfectionism. I'd say, knock out something that you think is "good enough", test it, ask the opinion of your peers, and be prepared to modify or rebuild it. It's a joyful process; for "hard-core" reenactors, that process is the interesting and fun part.
There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.
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Udwin
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Udwin » Fri Feb 17, 2017 1:35 am

Just for kicks the other day, I signed up for Townsend's Getting Started in Living History 'course' (it's free). Through written and video conversations, they basically go through all of the steps I outlined in the first post ^ in Much More Detail. Even though it's obviously geared towards the Early American scene, it's still completely applicable to Middle-earth. I highly recommend it for anyone (new or old) that is even remotely interested in the sort of thing we do here. Manveruon and Taurinor (and anyone else who have 'groups' that could possibly create future MERFers), please encourage your folks to check it out!
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
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Ringulf
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Ringulf » Fri Feb 17, 2017 6:29 pm

Looks great Udwin! Ill go take a look at it. That could help my group too! :mrgreen:
I am Ringulf the Dwarven Ranger, I craft leather, wood, metal, and clay,
I throw axes, seaxes, and pointy sticks, And I fire my bow through the day.
Come be my ally, lift up your mead! We’ll search out our foes and the Eagles we'll feed!
Cinead
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Cinead » Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:30 am

I also think that while you research...you need to be developing the common skills needed.

The best, neatest, most expensive, double heading dragon fire steel on the planet is no good unless you can actually make a fire with it....so practice.

The more you know, the less you will need to carry.

Ever cooked on a camp fire? What about making a shelter?

These skills will translate into any reenactment and are fun to practice as well!
Here I stand...unbowed, unbent, unbroken.
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Kortoso
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Kortoso » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:38 pm

Cinead wrote:I also think that while you research...you need to be developing the common skills needed.

The best, neatest, most expensive, double heading dragon fire steel on the planet is no good unless you can actually make a fire with it....so practice.

The more you know, the less you will need to carry.

Ever cooked on a camp fire? What about making a shelter?

These skills will translate into any reenactment and are fun to practice as well!


Indeed, that's one thing that attracts me to this pursuit. It's much more than cosplay.
There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.
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Elendur Amloth
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Re: Premium Advice for Newcomers

Postby Elendur Amloth » Tue Aug 28, 2018 4:33 pm

I think the biggest challenge I had to overcome was patience. I wanted to get my kit together yesterday. Realize that it takes time to put together a good impression and even then you may replace things over the years - yes, years. The challenge to any newcomer in our activity is patience I think, especially in a world that is accustomed to getting everything "now". It's tempting to buy things "off the rack" but in time, you realize that's just a waste of money. Concentrate on the right materials - all natural so you don't become a torch, hand sewn if you can and you'll be all the better for it.
'I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace. Minas Anor as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens, not a mistress of many slaves.'

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