Three of ‘em close in. “Hey! I need some people over here!” shouts the one separated from his group. His allies are busy slaying other adversaries. “Guys!” he calls again.
“Goodbye Karl!” laughs a compatriot.
On both sides of the clash, all are parrying strikes, making the killing blow, casting spells, or sailing arrows at each other smack dab in the middle of Eau Claire’s Owen Park on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.
The game is Amtgard, a live-action role-playing (LARP) game. Two chapters (called realms) of this social and recreational fantasy game have cropped up in the Chippewa Valley, with Eau Claire being its newest addition. Imagine it like a pen and paper RPG, such as Dungeons & Dragons, but there is no basement table to gather around – you’re outdoors trying to swing a sword at someone hiding behind a forearm-braced shield. The role playing is good fun and exercise, and it hasn’t gotten to the local players’ heads.
“It’s nerdy, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Karl Jakober, who leads the Menomonie players. “It’s basically D&D without the dice and (with) foam weapons.” The Eau Claire Amtgard realm started a month ago, hungry for new members to join.
I took the chance to engage in a duel and experience Amtgard first-hand, taking a seasoned player on with foam swords. The rules are: No head shots allowed. One hit on the arm means you have lost its use, and one hit on a leg means you fight on your knees for the rest of the match. Your opponent meets his end when you deal one strike to the torso, two strikes to the same arm, or one strike to each arm or to each leg. I “lost a leg” early on, but while vulnerable on the ground I managed to keep him away until I inadvertently nicked his offhand. After another minute of back and forth fighting, he came in for a high blow, which I deflected and impulsively used the inertia to jab the sword against his torso, winning the match. Hey, I was surprised, too.