ANNAPOLIS, Md. – If you find yourself walking through Broadneck Park on a Sunday and see a horde of adults in medieval garb wielding swords, don’t fret. There’s little likelihood of bloodshed.
It’s just Dagorhir: a full-body-contact fantasy roleplay played with what John Paul Asija, a 27-year-old St. John’s College graduate student and the co-organizer of the budding Annapolis unit, describes as “relatively safe foam weapons.”
Asija is attempting to recruit an Annapolis-area team through interest on a local Facebook group, which now touts nearly 40 members.
When asked to describe the fantasy game, he likened it in style to lacrosse. But rather than cradling balls and scoring goals, participants get to whack each other about the arms, legs and torso with hand-fashioned foam weaponry, living out their favorite battle moments from movies like “Lord of The Rings.” Even the word “Dagorhir,” meaning “battle lords,” has Middle Earth roots.
“It’s a way to let out your inner child – to live your fantasy dreams,” Asija said.
According to the organization’s official website, Dagohrir was born 47 years ago out of a group of friends who shared interests in medieval history and the fantastical works of author J.R.R. Tolkien. The phenomenon spread across the nation and to some international locales as the group’s battles turned from weekend-long camping trips to immersive festivals attracting thousands of players. It has since expanded to include lovers of Greek and Roman history, as well.
The official site advertises more than 50 established “realms,” or organization chapters, across the country, many of which have several individual “units,” or teams, under their jurisdiction. There are several units within the Aratari Chapter that encompasses the Maryland, Virginia and Washington area – and with any luck, that number could soon rise.
Asija and his co-organizer, Tim McClennen, a 29-year-old St. John’s alum and Annapolis resident, liken it to any other team competition. “It’s every bit as intense as any sports match – like a hockey game or a basketball game. But there’s also camaraderie. It isn’t all about the fighting,” McClennen said.
He is correct. The sport that grew out of combat has evolved to become crafting-heavy, encouraging participants to make their period-appropriate feasts, costumes, weaponry, armor and other goods to match the new names and personas they don for the sake of the game. It has an all-encompassing aspect, allowing players to step into another realm and to live the full fantasy, so the use of modern-looking items is limited at official Daghorir events by rules of the game.
McClennen – new to the world of Dagorhir but well-versed in other role-playing organizations like the Society for Creative Anachronism, among others – makes a lot of period-appropriate props and costumes for the fantasy games that he participates in at the Annapolis Makerspace. He and Asia – also relatively green in the world of the game – have both adopted ancient Greek personas.
Their fledgling group, which began holding practices in March, is looking to recruit at least 12 members to have a substantial enough team to battle other units. Official Dagorhir rules mandate that players must be at least 16 to participate, but outside of that limitation, Asija would like to be as welcoming as possible.
“This is open to everybody,” he said. “Part of the mission statement is to be as inclusive as possible.”
To learn more about the Annapolis initiative including practice locations and dates, check the Annapolis Daghorir Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/232994184271816/.