Battling at the Park: Roleplaying Group Reenacts Medieval Controversy
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Arrows flew, swords fell on each other. Some people dropped.
Good thing they were toy weapons.
You may have seen them at practice. Every Thursday evening members of the roleplaying group Shannara gather at Twin Falls City Park to spend a few hours in friendly combat. Shannara, formed in 2004, is the local realm of the national Belegarth Medieval Combat Society and has been practicing at the park since about 2008.
“If you wanted to write a book about this you could literally write a novel,” says Amelia Glenn, vice president of the local group, noting it is a world unto itself. “You could write a series. It is very complex.”
The group, which does live-action roleplaying or LARP, practices medieval combat at the park every week from mid-spring to about September, weather permitting. About a dozen people were at the park last Thursday, but that was a small group in light of the number of actual members. About 50 are signed up locally, she said.
This coming weekend, however, many hundred people from realms all over the West are expected to gather at Lake Walcott for a battle convention. Different levels of realms exist in Belegarth, some with more realistic weapons, and the convention is an opportunity for the groups to demonstrate their skills in competition.
Participants dress in costumes, wield fake weapons, and use names that best fit their character; they even create a backstory or history of their character. When on the field, combatants are known by that name.
Glenn is known as “Beast” – a name she inherited. Billy Lane goes by “Shepherd,” a name he created; and Rene Bravo, who also came up with his name, is called “Reaper.” Both are new members of the group.
“I wanted to know what this was all about,” Bravo said. “And to come out and have some fun with the boys. I like swords and science fiction.”
Lane calls himself a bit of a nerd, saying he likes to play video games, especially the ones with sword fighting. By joining Shannara – named after a fantasy series by popular author Terry Brooks – he can be involved in the action firsthand. He’s committed himself to it, having joined the group just a few weeks ago and coming to practice in costume, something Glenn says she doesn’t always see happen quickly with newbies.
He’s already learning some of its benefits. It’s a way to connect with others who have the same interest, share in a hobby that allows him to use his imagination, and it gives him plenty of exercise.
“It’s a great workout,” he said. “It’s very physical.”
Drew Jones, better known to the group as “Hephestus Iron Fist,” says roleplaying helps him to focus and become more skilled – it’s not easy sword fighting in robes – and vent feelings through the performances.
Bravo, who was at practice for the first time on Thursday, says he will be using it as a way to also better deal with his anger issues.
“It’s been fun so far,” he said. “I’m getting my butt kicked, but I’m having a good night.”
Glenn says anyone is welcome to join or watch members practice at the park. If you’d like to try it out a time or two, you’re even welcome to pick up one of the group’s fake weapons and enter the battle. You must sign a waiver, however, because even though the weapons aren’t real there have been instances of people getting hurt.
Most members become friends with each other, she said, but sometimes there are conflicts with personalities. Confronting them on the battlefield is one way to deal with those differences. Those who join usually enjoy the camaraderie and become hooked on the activities.
“Some people might think we’re a bunch of nerds,” she said. “But they can think whatever they want. We’re here for the sport. It’s something we really enjoy.”