20 September 2019
Envision 40 costumed people aiming padded weapons at each other. Amtgard is an international non-profit specializing in live-action roleplaying, colloquially known as LARPing; Dark Moon is the Colorado Springs chapter. The group meets every Saturday, rain, shine or snow at Palmer Park.
Amtgard is patterned after Dungeons and Dragons, in that LARPers can choose classes like Druid or Goblin and use “magic” if they wish. Other local LARPing groups have different focuses, such as full-contact battle (Dagorhir), historical reenactment (the Society for Creative Anachronism) or post-apocalyptic survival (Dystopia Rising).
Participants range in age from 12 to “grandfather.” I saw men and women playing enthusiastically, with a wide range of ethnicities and body types present. Everyone wore costumes, from simple cotton tunics to elaborate leather jerkins and masks. I counted three people wearing metal armor, including a player known only as “Shield,” whose persona has not spoken a single word in his many years of regular participation.
The Regent (a volunteer and elected official who serves for six months, along with her other officers) emphasized Dark Moon’s commitment to building a friendly, inclusive community. “Being inclusive is very, very important to us, so we want everyone to feel comfortable and safe here. I mean we’re all nerds, we’ve all been outcasts at one point or another and we know how that feels, and it sucks. So, it’s very important to us to make everybody feel welcome,” she said.
The Regent, Woman-At-Arms Lady Keladry (real name Kayla Fitzgerald), oversees the Arts and Sciences, as well as the Feast held every three months. The Arts and Sciences mostly consists of crafting: costumes, weapons, accessories, etc.
Fitzgerald joined Dark Moon because of her husband, who needed an effective way to exercise for military PT tests. She has participated for four years now, although it took much encouragement for her to run for Prime Minister. “That was a year and a half ago and I haven’t been out of office since.”
Fitzgerald estimates that roughly 35% of all Dark Moon participants are college students. Two of the regular members share UCCS as their alma mater.
According to Jade Goodnough, the Monarch of the group, “It really is a very good community. We do a lot of things for a lot of different people. We have soldiers who get out of the military and they don’t know what to do with themselves.
She explained that former military members can use LARPing as an outlet for releasing energy. When they become used to combat in the military, they may find this safe, harmless activity as entertainment.
“It has a way of sucking you in, because there’s such good people, and they accept you so wholeheartedly,” said Fitzgerald. “Out here, it’s different, because you know that you’re gonna be accepted here. It makes a big difference to a lot of people, to be able to come out and not be judged for anything.”
Dark Moon participants are quite quick to welcome members from so many different walks of life, all for the sake of belonging and enjoying oneself.
“With how many different aspects of this game that we have, there’s something for everybody. There really is,” said Goodnough. Fitzgerald was more direct in inviting new participants, saying, “Yeah, come out and try it. All our welcome. Come do the thing.”
If you consider yourself to be a nerd, an outcast, as having social anxiety or a need to let out your energy, try LARPing. Amtgard will without hesitation welcome you with open axes, safe axes.