Rewinding back before Samhain, at our second Belegarth practice we met a new fighter that we hadn't met the first time, Breeder. Loptr introduced him as his squire from Amtgard, and that he was currently in the middle of his reign as Duke for our area's duchy. I had picked up up a bit about Amtgard on the Bel boards; a few guys looked down on them but most begrudgingly respected their fighting ability, even thought they didn't hit as hard and didn't smash shields. Quite a few even mentioned they cross-gamed.
Loptr and Burke had talked up Amtgard fighter practice a week earlier and Breeder continued the sell, being Duke and all and wanting to recruit. They mentioned there were women fighters at Amtgard, and more fighters attending period. I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to fight full-contact Bel and I just wasn't interested in anything else. We caved and decided to come out the next night for Amtgard fighter practice at the behest of Burke, Breeder, and Loptr.
It wasn't much different from the Belegarth practices we'd attended so far, just a few new faces we hadn't met yet. (Dea, Breeder's Regent Loup, Harpy, and Tuber) The practice was nearly the same as Belegarth, only with lighter weapons. At the end of the night Breeder asked if we wanted to come help build swords for a duchy fundraiser. He convinced us by mentioning they'd have cheap foam shield blanks we could use for both Bel and Amtgard.
I verified kids were cool at the party and we showed up at Roisin and Pancake's place and jumped in, cutting foam, taping, and constructing weapons. Roisin was even cool enough to provide chili and cornbread for everyone if we hadn't had time to grab dinner yet. Harpy and Pancakes kept the kids sufficiently entertained by allowing themselves to be chased around the yard by foam-wielding children. There was a good mix of people there, young & old, "typical" LARPers, but also some folks in their late teens or early 20's that didn't fit the stereotypical image of a LARPer.
I think we ended up making 35 swords total while hanging out and chatting with the group. Some kept to themselves but most were pretty open and friendly. We had to drag the kids away at the end of the night, they were having so much fun, but I promised we could all go to park the next day. Based on my experiences it's definitely a family friendly activity. I've come to think of it almost like the Boy Scouts, only fantasy/medieval-themed. It has a sort of "meta" game where you can gain ranks and win awards in various aspects of the organization such as service, leadership, weapon and armor crafting, the arts, and fighting. You can even eventually be knighted in multiple tracks.
The next day I brought the kids with me to park and the duchy was setting up for a tournament. There was confusion on my part and I got in line to fight only to find out it was a fund raising effort. I hadn't filled out a waiver with my information for the O.R.K. so the park member keeping the bracket didn't have any information on me. I bowed out until enough fighters ran out of purchased lives that we could start ditching. (two lines fighting, winning side sends their first dead to the other side) We ditched for a while because people kept buying more lives for the last two fighters, Burke and Yoshi, mostly because it was funny to watch them get exhausted. I was also finally able to meet the great Fitz Caliston, weaponcrafter and garber extraordinaire.
And then everyone started getting ready for the battle game.
In my experience LARPing up to that point it had been straight fighting. Now people were pulling out sashes and spell balls and talking about classes. I was starting to get that "lightning bolt" feeling. Breeder told me not to worry about it and to stick with a straight fighting class like Warrior or Barbarian and I'd be fine. They couldn't find a Warrior sash so Barbarian it was. By this point Autumn and I hadn't made any garb so I was just in black jeans and long sleeve shirt. That wouldn't do for Burke and so he tossed a long rambo-style tabard on me, with Breeder's leather gothic lorica breastplate, pauldrons, and greaves. By the time they were done I didn't think I looked half bad.
They gave me a quick rundown of the barbarian class, five lives per battle before going out, and the ability to berserk for additional damage and armor once per game. Simple enough. The game was capture the flag and we had to hold both flags at the same time to get the capture. I think we had five on our side and seven or eight on theirs because we had two magic users and an archer and they didn't have either. This was a good thing, for me, because I didn't have to deal with wondering what spells were being used on me. And there were a lot, like rooting people in place, heating up weapons so they had to be dropped, as well as typical stuff like fireballs.
|Yes, that's a goblin on the far right.|
Having played CTF in Belegarth and CTF in Amtgard I'm going to have express my preference for Belegarth, mostly because of the ease of play. Bel's rules are stupid simple and it keeps the game moving. Amtgard's rules are complex, from tracking lives, to number of hits left on armor, to figuring what was just cast on you. Like I said, I'm glad I didn't have to deal with any magic aimed my way. There was still nearly the same physicality, chasing flankers and runners, and I got the same rush defending against attackers. Amtgard may eventually prove more rewarding just based on the greater variety of strategies available in class battles.
But that doesn't mean I have to like the casting mechanic of repeating your spell out loud multiple times... Lightning Bolt!