|This article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2010)|
Amtgard was created by Jim Haren Jr, also known as Peter LaGrue, in El Paso, Texas in 1983. Taking pieces from the rulebooks of both Emarthnguarth and Dagorhir (both of which he had played previously), he advertised in the newspaper for an event known as "Attila the Hun's Birthday Brawl." Though only a few people showed that first day, it was a hit, and soon the game spread throughout the state and then the country. The largest concentrations of Amtgard chapters are in Texas and the Central United States, but groups are found throughout the United States as well as in Canada, Croatia, Japan, Finland, Germany, Korea, and Russia.
Contrary to urban legend, Amtgard is neither a Scandinavian word for "the middle ground," nor an acronym for the founding members. Amtgard is named after two very good friends of Peter La Grue's from his Emarthnguarth days, Matthew and Katy Amt, who now participate in Roman Legion recreations on the east coast.
Amtgard has given birth to a few splinter groups, notably the High Fantasy Society.
Character creation in Amtgard is class-based; that is, players choose an archetype with pre-established abilities, similar to systems used by Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. For instance, one player might play an Assassin, and another, a Warrior. Players can increase the abilities of their characters by going up in level; a player's level is determined by the length of game time they have played that particular class and by the passing of a guild test given by the head of the guild their class belongs to. Advancement in a class is not tied to a specific character. Players may play different classes at different times, and levels have no relation to in-character deaths.
The primary focus of the rules of the game is combat. The abilities of the classes are generally related to combat. Non-combat oriented talents and attributes are often left up to the imagination and actual capabilities of the players or rules specified in a scenario.
Amtgard combat is resolved with actual physical fighting, though there are some rules in place to enhance safety. The weapons are boffer weapons (with less emphasis on realism and more emphasis on safety) but a player's physical ability, rather than game-based attributes as with other LARPs, determines the outcome allowing for a more realistic experience. Injuries are quite rare due to the stringent attention paid to safety. Contact is limited between fighters and non-weapon tactics like grappling or shield bashing are strictly prohibited. The basic combat rules are nearly identical to Dagorhir with a "limb loss" system based on hit location, in contrast to games such as NERO that are hit-point based. A hit from a weapon does not decrease a "hit point" total, but instead disables the location struck. A blow to the arm or leg disables the limb and a blow to the torso kills the player's character. Any combination of 2 limb shots also kills the player's character. Two limb shots to the same arm is also considered a death, while multiple shots to the same leg have no effect after the first shot. Amtgard fighting tends to be fast and precise, focusing more on accuracy than on power.
Like many boffer LARPs, and unlike Dagorhir, Amtgard uses magic spells. Magic, another important aspect of Amtgard, is handled primarily either by audible incantations or by thrown "spell balls", small, safely-padded, brightly colored projectiles. Although only a few classes are able to cast magic, the power of magic on the battlefield is significant enough to limit the number of spellcasters in relation to other non-spell casting classes in most battlegames.
Amtgard also utilizes armor for a number of classes. Armor grants a specific number of points to each hit-location covered that will negate some hits, similarly to a hit points system. Regular weapon hits to covered locations remove a single point of armor, however, several classes, spells and creatures are able to remove additional points per blow. For example, a 6th level Warrior in full-plate mail might have 7 points of armor in the torso area, but a magically enhanced sword might remove 2 or more points with each successful hit. Magical armor functions in much the same way, although certain kinds can grant a form of invulnerability, limiting all damage to a single point at a time. As armor in Amtgard is not physically functional, realism and aesthetics are encouraged with armor in Amtgard, in order to enhance atmosphere and balance the substantial benefits offered by armor. Non-period, modern-looking materials and shoddy construction can reduce the protection granted by the armor.
Battlegames range from one-on-one tournaments to team battles of forty or fifty people to mass warfare with hundreds of players. The largest "grand melees" are held at the major annual events and can incorporate hundreds of members from chapters all over the world. Conversely, scripted "quests" can involve just a dozen or two participants, and may involve puzzles as well as combat. The ditch battle, or trench battle, is a simple form battle that involves weapon use only, not full class play.
Unlike many other fantasy roleplaying games, Amtgard has no established "backstory" to its world. The setting encourages and incorporates elements of historical Europe and Asia as well as the high and low fantasy genres.
Amtgard has a cultural side as well, emphasizing various cultural fairs and competitions as well as various forms of creative expression. Amtgarders often create their own garb and equipment.
Two important structures in Amtgard culture are the Fighting Company and the Household, both voluntary memberships. A Fighting Company is essentially a military structure, much like a "clan" in any multi-player video game, whereas a Household is devoted to some cultural or personal goals, such as the arts, benevolence, common interests, etc. Both generally place a high value on contributing to the club as a whole, and often have a specific mission statement.
A number of slang terms have evolved within the Amtgard community, a few of the most common are as follows:
- Battlegame - Any of a number of scenarios pitting side against side or groups against monsters wherein all class abilities and powers may be used. This is commonly considered the bread and butter of the society.
- Ditch Battle / Ditch - A melee only form of in-game combat where players line up in opposing sides and engage one another. No classes, no class abilities, no projectile weapons. Only melee weapons and shields are permitted.
- Trench Battle / Trench - See Ditch Battle.
- Stick Jock - A player whose focus is mostly in fighter classes, often "ditching" and playing the game more as a sport.
- Ditch Monkey (Trench Monkey) - A player that primarily "ditches" (see Ditch Battle).
- Slougher (Sluffer) - A player that ignores the rules of combat, either knowingly or unintentionally. As in to "slough" a hit, as a reptile would slough (shed) its skin. In short - a cheater.
- Ironhide / Rhinohide - A person who ignores hits in combat, cheating (wittingly or no) to avoid taking damage. Also used as a verb as in ironhiding or to rhinohide. A subset of sluffer.
- Flurb - A person who focuses more on the roleplay and fantasy aspect of Amtgard, often not a good fighter and disliked by "Stick Jocks".
- Hate Stick - A weapon meant to educate Sluffers on the rules of combat.
- Sluff Buster - A weapon that is fully legal by Amtgard rules but has stiff foam or a stiff cap in order to force sluffers to take their hits (because they are slightly physically hurt)
Awards and honors
Amtgard has a system of awards and honors based on past contributions and accomplishments. There are incremental awards for all sorts of arts and crafts, ranging from sewing to singing to armor smithing. By achieving 10 ranks of most awards one might also attain the Masterhood for that award. As an example, someone who is very generous and works hard to benefit the province of Amtgard as a whole may gain Orders of the Rose. After attaining 10 Orders of the Rose, one is eligible to be given the title Master of the Rose. The ruling body of each sub-chapter can also create awards for specific actions or talents that aren't included in the standard selection. The inclusion of a standardized awards system that has encouraged and advanced the Arts and Sciences in Amtgard.
Amtgard's honor system includes not only awards but titles and ranks as well. Titles such as Lord/Lady, Duke/Duchess, Marquis/Marquise, and Viscount/Viscountess are titles bestowed on members in recognition for work in the game or holding offices.
The most sought after title in Amtgard is that of Knight. Knighthood in Amtgard is broken into four orders: Sword, Serpent, Crown and Rose, each with different criteria with some minor variations from Kingdom to Kingdom. A player that has been a Knight for 12 weeks may also play the class of Paladin or Anti-Paladin.
A Knight is allowed to choose members to become their pupils. Should a mutual agreement be reached, the member becomes a Squire to the Knight. Squires follow their Knights and assist them to the fullest of their abilities, on the field and off, in exchange for their tutelage. Often a Squire will assist in making garb for their Knight, as well as weapons or armor, and is usually seen assisting their Knight in combat, when they are together.
A common theme of medieval and fantasy feudalism runs through even the official level. Amtgard sub-chapters are generally organized by size, with smaller groups (called variously a "shire," "barony," "duchy," or "principality," depending on the number of active members and how long the group has been around) grouped under the larger or older chapters, called "kingdoms." Each sub-chapter is contractually bound to abide by the official Rules of Play (currently version 7.7 and version 8 is in testing) and is sponsored and supported by one of the Amtgard kingdoms. Each kingdom is a Not-For-Profit Organization registered in their state of origin.
The kingdoms, along with their primary locations, are:
- The Kingdom of Westmarch, California
- The Kingdom of the Burning Lands, El Paso, Texas, Puyallup, Washington
- The Kingdom of the Emerald Hills, Dallas, Texas
- The Celestial Kingdom, Central Texas
- The Empire of the Iron Mountains, Colorado
- The Kingdom of the Golden Plains, Amarillo, Texas
- The Kingdom of Dragonspine, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, Cottonwood, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona
- The Kingdom of the Wetlands, Southeast Texas, Louisiana
- The Kingdom of Goldenvale, Nashua, New Hampshire
- The Kingdom of Neverwinter, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia
- The Kingdom of the Rising Winds, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota
- The Kingdom of the Black Spire Washington, Oregon, Idaho
- The Kingdom of Crystal Groves, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania
- The Kingdom of Desert Winds, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming
- The Kingdom of Tal Dagore, Missouri, Illinois
- The Kingdom of Northern Lights, Washington
- Battle gaming
- Belegarth Medieval Combat Society
- Society for Creative Anachronism
Copyright References for Amtgard
- Amtgard Books of Combat and Magic (Rules of Play).
- List of Amtgard Copyrights.
- Amtgard Archives Gallery of Documents, Newsletters, and Event Flyers