Live Action Role Players take to the battlefield in medieval reality

AmtgardeIrving resident Joshua Herron yelled over the sounds of war.

“Fireball, Fireball, Fireball!” he said.

He raised his voice to make sure his enchantments were heard over those of others. For them, this is a battleground in the world of Amtgard and he attempts to slay the oncoming attackers. Herron’s men eventually pushed through as the day’s battle at Veterans Park came to a close.

Herron is only one of the thousands of global participants in the game of Amtgard, a medieval role-playing game where players choose between traits and abilities for their own characters. Equipped with foam weaponry and medieval garb, the group gathers in Arlington every week to form story lines and games within the community of 30 players.

How to play

The people of Mourningwood Glen gather every Saturday in their kingdom, or Veterans Park, between noon and 1 p.m.

Players use handcrafted foam-layered shields, swords, throwing weapons, spears and arrows. Unique weapons are crafted by players but must meet specific guidelines.

The rules of fighting in Amtgard are honor based. Each person has to agree that a hit makes contact. Each limb can normally take one hit of damage before it is rendered useless by game rules. Two severed limbs or one stab to the torso counts as a death.

“Always be throwing to kill the opponent, not knock the sword out of the way,” said Alvarado resident Will Curtis, also known as “Siegfried Wulfe.”

Magic is also played in a few forms — healing, defensive and offensive. Offensive magic is normally identified by uniquely colored sacs. “Buffing” and “debuffing” spells, which increase and decrease a targets attributes, are normally long incantations.

Herron, also known as “Eniad,” is a magical character. Players like him carry a satchel with spell balls inside. For example, when it’s time for them to cast an offensive spell, they cry, “Lightning bolt!” and toss spells at opponents.

Rules state that children younger than 14 must have special permission to play, but the park is open to all who want to participate.

“We just want to make sure they have a basic understanding of the rules before we throw them out there,” Arlington resident Forrest Harden said.

Players spend the day sparring, ditching or participating in battle games created by the baron, the leader of the group. Sparring is the combat most players participate in and is normally done individually or in groups.

Ditching is a game type where players divide into two teams on opposite sides of the field and converge in group battle. The fighting lasts until one side is eliminated with the first fallen combatant going to the opposing side.

Battle games have specific rules and are set up with scenarios and objectives dependent on a current story line. Last week, one of the scenarios involved the majority of the players rushing a group of fighters for a capture the fort-like objective. Death in these games is temporary and a certain number of lives are given, usually five. Upon death, players must either leave the field to respawn or wait for a player to revive them.

History/Hierarchy

Amtgard originated in 1983 in El Paso, Texas. The game then spread across the country and beyond by forming international parks. Although Veterans Park is the closest community to the university, parks exist in Denton, Garland and Wichita Falls and in more than a hundred locations in the U.S. and around the world — including Croatia, Germany, Canada and Korea.

The group based in Arlington is called the barony of Mourningwood Glen, which is a part of the larger Kingdom of Emerald Hills and spans across the tri-state area. Alumnus Mykale Roys, also known as “Virgil,” began playing last fall and is the baron of the site, placing him as the leader of the park.

“Anything that needs taking care of, I do,” Roys said.

As the baron, Roys selects and sets up the day’s battle games and checks the stability of the equipment brought to the park. Over time, the foam can wear away and the core can become exposed. Although they are rare, accidents happen.

With weekly attendance and contributions to the park, players can level up their characters in certain classes. Each week awards a character one experience point and event weekends offer two or three points. These points accumulate after 17 weeks and a player is promoted to the next level.

Knights are the most decorated rank of player. Knighthood is achieved through combat, holding office, craftsmanship or service to the park. Knights have squires under them who are training for knighthood. Squires can have men at arms or players who train under them.

Garb/Equipment

Members come dressed in colorful outfits, called garb, and armed with shields, swords and other weapons constructed mainly of foam with cores of PVC piping or golf club shafts.

Weapon and armor choice are limited by class and have particular restrictions on type and size of each weapon and piece of armor. Armor gives additional resistance to damage. Some members bring iron plated or leather armor for maximum protection.

Fort Worth resident Dave Baccus, also known as “Elder Galen,” is a craftsman and merchant in Amtgard and Mourningwood Glen. He often goes to major gatherings with his woodwork, chain mail and leather work to sell his equipment to players. His start in Amtgard began with his daughter, who started playing in the Denton park while at the University of North Texas. He became further introduced to the game when the King of Emerald Hills asked a favor of him.

“One of the monarchs in the kingdom asked that I make a high table for one of the events we do at one of our specialty parks,” Baccus said. “And that was my introduction into Amtgard. Within three months, I signed up and stayed with it ever since.”

Why they play

Everyone who participates in the Live Action Role Play has a different reason. Community members, as well as university faculty and students, are among the visitors.

Roys’ mother has small vessels disease and arterial atherosclerosis, which caused him to take a break in his studies from the university.

“For me, it’s an escape from reality,” Roys said. “Reality is hard. Everyone knows that. You have stuff to pay and things to do. But when you come out here, you meet people and go crazy. Also, it’s a heck of a workout.”

Forrest Harden, also known as “Sir Kenta Redhawk,” chose his name based off of Iroquois word for forest, “Kenta.”

Harden, a former UTA student, spent six years as a military policeman before going to college. During his 16 years in Amtgard, he held the positions of baron, duke and lord of Mourningwood Glen many times.

“After college, Amtgard was pretty much all I knew,” Harden said.

Harden’s wife and children take part each week. Outside of his family at home, his brother has also been knighted and his nephew is close to being knighted within the community. In all, Harden has 12 family members who are regular LARPers.

He said Amtgard is also a history lesson for his children. He said they’ve learned about honor and chivalry in the medieval period, along with facts about how armor was worn and fights were done.

Though each park acts independent of each other, Harden said he has found a sense of community through international groups such as The Saracens.

“No matter where I go in Amtgard, I know that I’ll find a Saracen company to welcome me like a brother,” he said.

Source: The Shorthhorn

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