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    “Everyone’s fantasized about beating people up with a sword at some point,” jokes Joe Loeffler, another Menomonie player. A lot of “ditching” takes place during a typical practice, which is two-sided freestyle melee fighting. Class battles, however, include each class’ unique abilities, including spells, armor, archery, and healing abilities. These fights require a fidelity to Amtgard’s exhaustive official rulebook. Although necessary, it runs the risk of slowing down the action if everyone hasn’t memorized it (e.g., “How many teleports does an assassin get per life?”). Although most of the LARPers I met were melee classes, from paladin to assassin to wizard to druid, there are 13 unique classes to select from. Joe, for example, is a level two Monk. Just the thought of it ought to make gamers crave a controller.

But there are no controllers here, just an assortment of weaponry. Melee weapons are typically made of PVC pipe and a hunk of pool noodle, then wrapped with packaging tape and stylized. Shields are trash can lids, saucer sleds, or made from plywood draped in pleather or cloth. Safety is always a concern, so a weapon’s core cannot be felt in a strike.

Amtgard is divided into kingdoms (united collections of realms) on actual Earth geography. Eau Claire’s realm is Ice Haven and Menomonie’s realm is the Mithril Forest. After a quick search from an official online atlas, I found other realms in Wisconsin, including Green Bay (Crimson Circle), La Crosse (Dark Shores), and Oshkosh (Frost Lands).

If you want to join Amtgard, just show up. Realms are always accepting new members and often have extra weapons to use. Eau Claire’s Amtgard group meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at Owen Park from 4pm to sundown, and Menomonie’s group meets at Riverside Park Tuesdays and Thursdays in the summer from 1-5pm, and during the school year at 3pm.

To join the ranks, contact Eau Claire realm leader Drew Pope (559-9110) or Menomonie leader Karl Jakober (828-3145).