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Sword fights and sleeping dragons

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Kenneth Morrison (left) and Jon East (right) sparring before a game of ditch. Photo by Anthony Ramos

Amtgard, more commonly known as live action role playing, is a very in-depth game that would put Dungeons & Dragons to shame. 

LARP is an acronym for Live Action Role Play and you can typically find a group of players known as the Seven Sleeping Dragons at Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo, Calif. on Saturdays around 1 p.m. 

LARPing, in its simplest form, consists of two groups/teams starting on either side and battling until everyone on one side is dead. This is a battle game known as “ditch” which states that there are no classes, armor, projectiles, and siege, while shields are unbreakable. 

People are killed after receiving two wounds or a direct hit anywhere on the torso. If you receive a hit anywhere between your wrist and shoulder, or ankle and waist, that is a wound and you also lose the use of the limb that was struck.

There are eight different classes, with each one having some sort of weakness or strength against an opposing class. You can also rank up within each class the more you play, which in turn will add new skills or abilities to your arsenal.

There are also a variety of weapons ranging from a bow and arrow, to five-foot long spears, or even spell balls and enchantments. This game is heavily based on creativity yet has a very balanced system to ensure fairness and safety for all players. 

Before participating in combat you are required to sign a waiver and must be at least 14 years of age, unless a legal guardian is present and you have filled out an additional waiver. You are also required to wear some sort of clothing that resembles your character; this is known as “garb.” There is a whole rulebook that explicitly states these rules along with a multitude of others. 

LARPing is considered a contact sport due to all of the combat involved, and requires more energy than you may anticipate. It’s surprisingly physical and tiring when you’re running around fighting for your Amtgard life.

“I try to come out every week not only is it good exercise but it’s also a great way to relieve stress,” said Kenneth Morrison, a local resident. “Where else can you go and hit people with fake swords and not get in trouble?”

Amtgard has also been around for quite a while. It was founded in El Paso, Texas in 1983 and has continued to spread all over the world with thriving communities. These communities of players are known as “parks” and meet on at least a bi-weekly basis.

There are also a number of events where hundreds of people gather all over the U.S. One of the more well-known events is Castlemania, which will be held in Colmesneil, Texas from April 11-14. This is a weekend long Amtgard event where they hold different battle games and competitions while providing food and camping amenities. In addition, if you’re interested in finding a park in your local community there is an atlas where you can search for one.

Next time you drive by a park and see what looks like nerds in costumes sword fighting, remember they’re in “garb” and they’re playing a game that’s been around for over 30 years. Go check it out; you might make some friends and find a new hobby.