ASHLAND — After the first snowfall of the year on Sunday afternoon, a bundled up Colton Snyder arrives at the pavilion in Ashland Community Park to play in the snow. He does not intend to sled, make a snowman or throw snowballs. Instead, he is there to fight.
As of 1 p.m., Snyder becomes Redyn Notlock from the barony of Falcon Tor in the Kingdom of Tal Dagore. A man dressed like a Viking named Mordru Bearkin soon meets him. The two then pull padded bats and start swinging and hacking at each other.
Welcome to the live action role-playing game known as Amtgard.
Regardless of weather conditions, from 1 to 5 p.m. every Sunday, Snyder and his fellow Falcon Tor members spar with each other, using padded “swords” fashioned from bamboo, PVC piping or fishing rods. To cope with the cold, they previously wrapped the pavilion in cellophane and even brought along a heater.
Charles Snow, whose persona of Beldin is the baron of Falcon Tor, said even if it is sleeting or snowing, he still loves to go out every Sunday to practice. It relieves stress for him, and he has not missed a session in his 18 months of being one of the 30 to 40 members of the group.
“I look forward to it every week,” he said.
Falcon Tor’s Josh Hill, whose character’s name is Ghesh, has demonstrated more devotion than most.
During his first sparring session with the live action role-playing boffer group, he suffered a shot right below the belt to the groin.
“First day, first hit,” he said, “Boom! It dropped me in the middle of the field.”
Although it is not considered a common occurrence in a sport designed to imitate medieval combat without the fatal risk, it still counts as a kill shot according to the rules of the game.
Despite the rough experiences, Hill continued with Falcon Tor.
And not even last Sunday’s frigid cold and biting wind chill could deter Hill and his wife, Sabrina, from dressing like it is the year 1010 and braving the elements to participate in Falcon Tor’s weekly scheduled practice. When the pair arrived at the pavilion, he grinned while hoisting his sword.
“It is impressive to see it,” Snow said in regard to his members’ zeal in spite of the adverse conditions. “Those are the kind of people you want to have in your park.”
Snow also thinks his daughter is the kind of person he wants to participate in Falcon Tor. Although she is too young to spar herself, he still takes the 3-year old Adara to some of the sessions in order for her to become familiar with the game and its rules.
“She certainly wants to get a weapon and hit people with it,” he said, regarding his daughter’s attitude to the whole game.
There are people Snow wants to keep out of his barony. They are another group of boffers that belongs to the Rising Winds Kingdom. Snow’s Falcon Tor is a member of the Tal Dagore Kingdom, which is currently is in the midst of fighting a war of independence against Rising Winds.
In this ongoing conflict, battles consist of “raids” in which a kingdom will attack, with overwhelming numbers, another kingdom using the established rules of the Amtgard game.
“We’ll all get in cars, drive to one of their parks and obliterate their park,” Snow said.
In fact, Saturday, Falcon Tor went on such a raid in Mexico, Mo. The attack was not only designed to strike a blow against Rising Winds, but to create a recruitment opportunity for potential new members.