In the world of monarchs, battle games and quests, Kenai live action role players are moving up.
The group of live-action role players, commonly called LARPers, is the Barony of Frozen Coast, part of the Amtgard organization’s statewide Principality of Northreach. The Kenai chapter is poised to move up a rung to be classified as a larger group due to its growing participation. The next level is a Duchy, which the chapters in Anchorage and Fairbanks currently possess.
Kenai LARPers young and old meet weekly at the Kenai Municipal Park to participate in battle games and quests, said member Melody Whitehouse, of Kenai.
During battle games or quests, LARPers use the open and wooded areas of the park to carry out games, battles or scenarios while dressed in costume and carrying foam swords and other fake weapons that are safe for game play. For example, a battle might take the form of a capture-the-flag-like game, where two teams a3re pitted against each other with a goal of winning something.
Whitehouse, 21, has already been part of the group for three years, saying she became hooked after a college friend invited her and another friend to watch the LARPers in action.
“I went over there to see what it’s all about, and I realized I knew like half the people that were there from various places,” Whitehouse said.
The friendly atmosphere of the Barony of Frozen Coast is one of the main reasons Whitehouse has stayed on with the group, she said. Sometimes, when chapters grow, personalities can clash and issues can arise, but this is rarely the case with the Kenai chapter, she said.
Whitehouse has friends in other state chapters of Amtgard, and said even they notice a difference when it comes to the local group.
“Everyone likes coming down to Kenai and playing here when they can,” she said.
Most Sunday sessions are spent in battle games or quests, Whitehouse said. While battle games tend to pit one team against another, quests have more of a storyline to them and involve killing monsters and collecting “loot,” she said. The loot can be used to barter for additional weapons and use of objects that will be helpful in a quest.
The more thorough the storyline of the game, the more enjoyable and realistic it is for everyone involved, Whitehouse said.
David Brighton, who has been part of the LARPing group for about two years, used to serve as its prime minister, or treasurer and secretary. He first discovered the chapter during a demonstration at Kenai’s Independence Day celebration, he said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Brighton said. “You know, it’s a game that a bunch of people can get out and play and just have a good time.”
Beyond a source of fun and an avenue for meeting new people, Brighton uses the LARPing chapter as a way to spend time with family.
“My son and I do it together, and that’s one thing I really enjoy doing with my son,” he said.
Conner Christofferson is the Kenai chapter’s champion, or the member who is in charge of creating and organizing the battle games and quests. Lately, Christofferson has been adding more detailed storylines and motivations to the battle games.
“Having a storyline actually gives people a reason to fight each other,” he said.
Christofferson has always been interested in fantasy and also in physical contests, he said, ever since he was a kid dueling his brother with willow sticks. It wasn’t until he “graduated” from dinosaurs to dragons and was invited to watch the LARPers by an old coworker that his current involvement with the group began to take shape.
“I figured, heck, I got some free time. Let’s go see what’s up,” Christofferson said.
Unlike the other top positions in the chapter, which are elected every six months, the champion has to fight former champions to be inducted, Christofferson said. Champions from all the state’s chapters can come to test the hopeful applicant, he said.
Christofferson agreed that the combination of comradery and physical exertion is what keeps players coming back for more.
“It’s good exercise, for one, and you get the joy of just beating someone to the ground without getting arrested,” he said.
Brighton said the chapter is open and always interested in welcoming new members. The group meets at the Kenai Municipal Park at 1 p.m. each Sunday, he said. There are also practice sessions and Monday meetings at the Pack Rat in Soldotna, he said.