“You throw a spell ball like a GIRL!” This is yelled by the lone female on the field, as another player lobs a fabric covered ball at her, and misses. Again. Jo, whose real name is Shanette Jackson, laughs and dashes off the other direction just before the Reeve calls the end to the game of Chariots. They’d been playing for 30 minutes, and I’m not sure anyone knew who was winning at that point. I sure didn’t – but one thing was certain; everyone was having a great time.
It was, of course, the weekly meeting of our local chapter of Amtgard, a Live Action Role Play (LARP) group here on the Kenai Peninsula. They are one of five chapters in the state, and have recently been moved up to the third sized rank, a Duchy. You may have seen them during the 4th of July festivities, or playing at the 4th street playground during the summer. For now, they practice and meet at the Kenai Rec Center Gym, every Sunday, from 1-4.
Lady Aurora, (Jen Eady), was proud of the day’s turnout. There were 26 people signed in, and at least 24 of those were involved in the battle games, and almost everyone represented their personas in colorful garb. There were wizard hats, and fox tails, tunics and armor of all sorts, and all manner of cloth covered weapons. The weaponry is carefully inspected to make sure they meet safety measures, but once approved they are swung and thrown with gusto as everyone fights with their team to win the games.
It’s not just for kids, either. The Duchy of the Frozen Coast holds members from 14 up to late 30s and 40s. The current Monarch, Njal, is more commonly known as David Brighton. A teacher by day, he joined Amtgard in July of 2014 as something to do with his son. “I’d always been into medieval related activities, the history and fantasy. And it’s a great way to get in some exercise and bond with my son.”
He’s not the only one who loves the familial feel of the group. Jo exudes excitement as she talks about bringing her 8-year-old daughter to watch, and join in the various activities. “It’s a really family friendly environment, and we do a lot of volunteering in the community too. It also gets us up and moving, exercising, and just having fun with a great group of people.”
Indeed, it is all smiles as the group takes a break between games. They’d already fought zombies, and protected chariots. There were murmured spell casts, healings and respawns (coming back to ‘life’ in the game), battle cries and the random “Huzzah!” Most of all – there was laughter, and a great sense of comradery.
If you’d like to check it out for yourself, newcomers are always welcome. You must be 14 to play (with parental permission), and your first session is free. After that, it’s $5 a week, or $125 for a season pass that gets you into all local events, as well as those statewide for the year. The current champion also holds weekly Fight Practice on Thursdays at the Rec Center to help hone skills and learn rules of combat. And if that’s not enough to entice you to let your inner Barbarian free, they are gearing up for the 3rd annual Dungeon Crawl in February, where over 100 LARPers will descend on the Kenai/Soldotna area for the games.
“You don’t want to miss the Dungeon Crawl!” Lady Aurora says, brimming with excitement. “We’ll have a great venue, dim the lights and play! There are games and obstacles, objectives and monsters – and just a whole lot of fun!”
To join the group, or just find out more information, you can find them on Facebook as “The Duchy of Frozen Coast.”