SCA Group Creation 101
or, "Hey, who do we play with?"
So you want to create a new SCA branch, and you have no idea how to go
about it. Don't panic -- there is quite a bit to do, but none
of it is rocket science. There are several elements you'll have to
keep in mind, most importantly:
This guide isn't comprehensive, and isn't intended to be. Instead,
it's a look at the realities of the process, and some pointers for how
to get started. Take it as a collection of tips, and use it along
with the information you will get from other folks.
Reality-checking whether this is actually a good idea;
Making nice with the people around you;
Having some patience with the process.
(Also, while this talks mostly about the creation of Shires, which are
the most common type of new group, most of this advice holds true for Colleges,
Cantons, and other variant sorts of branches.)
Note that this is only talking in broad generalities. You should
definitely talk to your Kingdom Seneschal, as described below, for
information about the process in your Kingdom.
Step 1: Reality-Checking
Okay, this isn't an easy question, but it has to be asked first: are you
sure this is a good idea?
There are good and bad reasons to create a new branch. Let's take
a look at the most common scenarios:
- I'm already in a branch, but I mostly play with my friends, and we
want a group for ourselves.
- If this is the case, then you really don't want a new branch.
A formal SCA group is geographically-based; it has to include everyone
who lives within its borders. What you really want is a household.
There are usually few rules on the creation of households; they have little
formal power, but they don't have much paperwork either, and you can include
whoever you like. They are usually the right answer for groups of
- Well, I technically live within a big Barony (or Shire), but
the population center is an hour away, and we feel kinda isolated.
- This is a borderline case. You really should go talk with the
folks in the Barony about it; sometimes, nothing more is needed than improving
the communication between the center and the border marches of the group.
In other cases, the sensible course of action is a Canton, which
is sort of like a Shire that is subordinate to a Barony. This would
allow you to still be part of the Barony, but have a distinct identity
for your area within it. Creating a Canton is similar to creating
a Shire, but generally easier, since you have help from the Barony.
In yet other cases, when it's a group of friends who all live in one town,
the right way to go is a household (see the previous paragraph).
And yes, sometimes, the right answer is to break a new Shire off from the
existing Barony or Shire.
In this case, be aware that you have to tread particularly carefully.
People tend to get -- well, kind of territorial about their territory,
and if you come up to them and just say "we're going to take a bunch of
land away from you", that may not be well-received. You will need
to work closely with the existing group, and make sure they understand
that this isn't anything personal: you just have a group that is too far
away to feel that it is part of the existing branch. It can be done
successfully, but be wary of politics and be prepared for some very
- I've looked around, and I don't seem to be within any existing SCA
- Okay -- in this case, you're probably right that a new branch is the
way to go. Keep reading...
There are some other aspects of reality-checking that you'll need to
think about upfront. In particular, do you have the necessary critical
mass, or do you at least feel that you'll be able to gather it? You
will need at least five paid members, and a healthy Shire should usually
have at least ten active participants. Are some of these people willing
to be officers? Bear in mind that being a branch entails some paperwork.
(Not a huge amount, but what there is can be pretty important; you can't
Also, you should have your feet under you before you try to create
a new branch. You can read everything available about the SCA, but it
still won't give you the feel of how things are done. I strongly
recommend that, if you're new, you travel to a few events before
trying to set up a branch yourself.
Assuming you've gotten past this section and it still seems like the
right path, we move on to...
Step 2: Getting the Ball Rolling
The next thing to do, pretty much before anything else, is contact your
The Kingdom Seneschal is the person in charge of running the day-to-day
affairs of the Kingdom. You can find his or her contact information
in your kingdom newsletter. (You are a paid member, right?
If not, I strongly recommend getting a membership ASAP. While opinions
vary about whether every SCA participant needs to be a member, major officers
absolutely have to be. And you should be a subscribing member, so
you get the Kingdom newsletter.) A list of Kingdom Seneschal email
addresses can also be found in the
The Kingdom Seneschal is important in a couple of respects. First
of all, he or she can tell you about the rules peculiar to your kingdom
for creating new groups. The broad outline is pretty consistent around
the SCA, but the details can vary a fair bit, so ask the Seneschal for
the real meat of the process. Second, the Kingdom Seneschal is, ultimately,
your advocate in this process. Once you have your act together, and
are ready to become official, it will be the Kingdom Seneschal (and maybe
the Royalty) who will make the recommendation to the Board to make you
a real group. So be nice to your Kingdom Seneschal -- they're generally
overworked, a bit underappreciated, and quite important to all this.
I would generally recommend that you contact your neighboring groups
at this point, also. They may be able to help you get going, providing
some additional experience, and maybe loan an officer occasionally to help
you start up. (For example, it can often be useful to import a nearby
Knight to help get an armored combat practice going.)
Somewhere along the line, the Kingdom Seneschal will tell you that you
are an "Incipient Shire"; basically, that means you're a group in the process
of forming. You don't really need to wait for that in order to keep
going, but it's a sign that things are progressing. Depending on the
Kingdom, they may require that some of the below steps be taken before
you can officially get listed as an Incipient Shire.
Step 3: Looking Like a Shire
It's now time to start really organizing. There are several ducks
you'll have to get in a row before you can progress to being an official
You may also want to consider running an event while you're still in this
formative stage. This isn't required, by any means, but it can be
a good way to get your feet wet. An Incipient Shire can't run an
event on its own, but it can run one under the sponsorship of a
more established branch. They deal with the official parts (appointing
a legal Autocrat, taking care of the money), while your new group supplies
the manpower and organization. If there's a nearby branch that you
are friendly with, consider trying this out.
You will need at least five paid members, as mentioned earlier. Moreover,
you have to sustain at least five members, so it's good to have more than
that. In general, a group is really healthy if it has at least 10-15
people participating more or less regularly. So odds are you want
to begin talking to the people who might be interested, and try to get
You will need a slate of officers. At the least, you need a Seneschal
(essentially the president of the branch),
a Treasurer (who shouldn't be related to the Seneschal),
and either a Marshal
(who runs armored combat) or a Minister of Arts & Sciences. More
officers are fine, but don't feel you have to go overboard, or draft unwilling
people into offices.
You will need to choose a name for the group,
and should start thinking about a device (a coat of arms). (Only the
name is required, though.) Talk
this over within the group, and consult with some heralds about it.
I generally recommend against picking a name or arms that are mainly a
cute joke; while it's fun at first, such gags often pall after a few years.
And don't get too attached to your first choice -- it's very common for
the first attempt to fail to pass through the College of Heralds, either
because it isn't really period in style, or because someone else has something
too similar. Note that the device should have a Laurel wreath somewhere
on it; this is the standard SCA way of designating branch heraldry.
And don't feel that your name has to be of the form "Shire of Foobar".
Take a dig through period place names and see what they really sound like.
Just changing the phrasing to something like "Hillshire" can make it sound
much more period than most SCA groups.
There are some limits on an Incipient group, especially before you have
warranted officers, but there's a lot that you can do in the meantime.
With the exception of combat, you can do most kinds of practices without
any need for official status. Hold some garb workshops, do dance
practices, get together and experiment with period cooking; most of this
stuff just requires interested participants and someone to run it.
See if you can import some expertise to teach you some of these topics,
or look around on the Web (there is introductory material for many arts
available off of the SCA
Arts and Sciences homepage).
Step 4: Becoming a Shire
Okay, so you've got the members, the officers, the name and device, and
you're starting to feel like a branch. What next?
Now, it's really in the hands of the Kingdom. Talk with the Kingdom
Seneschal, and say that you think you're ready for the big time.
They may want some demonstrations of activity, to have confidence that
you're real; work with them on it. You may need to produce a formal
poll or petition, to demonstrate that there is a consensus among the members
in the area that they want this group to exist. (Even if it's not
required, having a petition signed by all the local members is a good upfront
way of demonstrating unanimity of purpose.)
Once they are satisfied, the Kingdom Seneschal will buck the decision
upstairs. The ultimate approval for the new branch lies in the Board
of Directors. Usually, Board approval is a rubber stamp on the Kingdom's
opinion, but it's still an important step -- you aren't real until the
Board says that you're real, and that can take some months.
And when they do say so? Then you're a Shire. Congratulations!
The most important thing to keep in mind through all of this is
patience. The process isn't fast; it usually takes at least a
year, and 2-3 years from starting out to being approved as a full
Shire is fairly common. Don't worry about rushing this;
remember, you can do a lot while you're still Incipient. If
you're determined and organized, you'll progress through the steps
reasonably smoothly, and at the end, you'll have a new branch you can
be proud of.
For the corporate laws on SCA branches, check out the SCA Corpora.
This can be obtained from the
Member Services Office, or
found online at
the SCA Homepage. Note that the
online version is often a little out-of-date, but is still worth