Testing the Amtgard Waters  

Posted by Don in , , , , , , , ,

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!

Our First Event: Samhain 2010 Part 2  

Posted by Don in , , ,

Even with the unseasonably warm October we were having it got downright chilly overnight and anything not covered (i.e. my face) got pretty cold.  We begrudgingly got out from under the warm sleeping bad and quickly got dressed and joined the Uruk crew for breakfast.  Crow, one of the youngest at the event at 18, was already going nuts on the stove making bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes for anyone who took him up on the offer.  The kid had a pretty infectious enthusiasm and kept us entertained through the event.

In the middle of breakfast this bellowing echoes out through the camp about weapons check and registering at troll.  (We'd been unable to register the night before because they were closed when we arrived)  Geryn's got a set of lungs on him and was good at keeping everyone informed of the when activities started, and generally ran a tight ship.  I dropped my swords off feeling pretty confident they'd pass check and they easily passed.  Grabbed our chompy skull tokens, finished eating, and it was time to head up to the field.

I wasn't sure what to expect when we headed up to the field but it looked like most other sporting events you see played on a Saturday, with supporters parked to the side of a soccer-sized field lined with equipment.  Only the participants are dressed in tunics and leather armor, and some of the supporters garbed up as well.

I picked up a breastplate with pauldrons and a pair of greaves that Breeder was selling, so I got to go into my first event armored up.  I understand most veteran fighters suggest that newbs not fight with armor so they can get used to taking hits, but it made the event that much better to hit the field wearing armor.  There's just nothing like it.  I got my armor checked out and approved, and Kain was even nice enough to adjust the back lacing to fit me a little better.

The Heralds started us off with rotating teams of 6, 8, and 10 against the field as people started showing up.  Almost immediately I was rushed by two red wielders and knocked backwards, breaking one of my thumbnails in the fall.  I'll admit that shook me up and for a second I wondered if I was ready for the level of contact Bel encourages.  I taped up the thumb so the nail wouldn't snag on anything and headed back out, though, and started getting into the flow of things.

I'll be the first to admit I'm a pretty rough fighter.  I've read about general concepts in martial arts and MMA, and even a little fencing, but I had no real practice other than the 4 or 5 practices we had the chance to get out to before the event.  I died.  Often.  But I was having a blast.  Going up against the varied fighting styles on the field gave me a chance to die in nearly every conceivable way, from being double legged by a spear, hit with an arrow, red-axed to the back, to the cheap death at the call of "Cutthroat!"  We broke for a quick lunch, headed to camp for sandwiches, and then returned to the fields for the rest of the day.

By far my favorite time fighting was during the scenario battle.  A square was roped off in blue rope in the middle of the field to represent water.  No armored fighters could go through and everyone else had to kneel their way through it.  There were narrow bridges to either side of the water, with voids on the outer edges you couldn't cross.  We played capture the flag with the field marked out like this and it's what probably hooked me on the game for good.  I had been fighting florentine up to this point because we haven't had the materials or time to make shields yet but Ceowulf was nice enough to let me borrow his amazing plastidip shield for the battle.  There's not much that compares to standing in a narrow shield line on a bridge with spears bristling above and in front of you, edging closer to the other side to try to break a hole through for your teammates.

By this point I had gotten over my earlier fear and shield-pushed my way into the other lines, typically dying but disrupting things enough that our guys were able to take the bridge.  I'd head back to respawn, wait for 4 other guys, then we'd head out and do it again.  At one point I ran across the field in full gear to do the same with the flag guards, shield-pushing, dying, and helping our side get a capture in the process.  I think that's what sticks with me.  Even though I wasn't a great fighter one on one I was still useful to my teammates.  Breaking shield lines, finding holes and flanking the enemy, I always tried to find some way to help.

After the scenario battle was done the group split with the Uruk-Hai holding a tournament or test, I didn't quite catch what it was, while the rest of us played zombie.  A few fighters groaned at the announcement but being new to all of this, I even had fun playing that for a bit.  I was pretty exhausted by this point and took over baby-duty and gave Autumn a chance to fight.  Most of her time was spent in the no-armor, single-blue ditching they had towards then end and she had the chance to meet some people while out fighting.  From my vantage point, and from all the pictures I grabbed, she didn't seem to do too bad.

The fighting started to wind down and so we headed back to camp to change garb for the feast.  Before we changed the Uruk-Hai gathered to initiate a new member, Cougar, into their ranks.  We caught it all on video and I was very impressed with how he held his own against guys twice his size.  Serious respect for Cougar.

We donned our feast garb and made a quick circuit around camp getting pictures of tents and banners while there was still light.  We made our way to the pavilion set up for dinner where Bacchus explained his many and varied collection of fedoras, and sat chatting with folks until dinner was served.  Somehow Popeye's Chicken seemed fitting for Samhain in Aquilonia and it ended up being delicious.

We eventually made our way back to the Uruk-Hai campfire again and sat chatting and laughing until we couldn't stay awake any longer.  We were woken up before dawn by some folks still laughing and chatting around the fire.  I feel bad because we shushed them and later found out from Eunuch that there are typically quiet camp areas for fighters with children.  Sorry for interrupting the revelry, Uruks, we'll be sure to set up in an area better suited for our needs next time.

The last day was mostly pulling up stakes and hugging folks goodbye.  I think what I took away from the event was how kind nearly everyone was.  Geryn for cutting us some slack on jeans because we'd been fighting less than a month, Loptr and Breeder for becoming fast friends, Kain for helping with my new armor and even offering chocolate milk, Jonesy for feeling like she need to hug me after a solid headshot, Ceowulf for letting me borrow his shield,  Alyrae for spending time giving Autumn pointers on the sidelines, Crow, Eunuch, and Fork for the great conversations, the Forsaken guys for being patient in their rules explanation to a newb, and the Barad-Dun guys for being great teammates during the bridge battle.

There will certainly be more events in our future.