‘Battle Lords’

Kelly Pickerel

Experience medieval combat, history, fantasy

Freshman computer science major Joe Cagle and senior marketing major Pat Schneider combat each other during a Medieval combat session. The group practices Fridays and Saturdays at the Student Center. SAM TWAREK | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Just because they attack with foam weapons doesn’t make these fighters any less respectable.

“We’re not dorks,” said Ben Altemus, founder of Kent State Medieval Fighting Club. “Okay, we’re dorks, but it is actually a good form of exercise. We’re not out there reciting magic. We’re practicing a masked martial art.”

Altemus, sophomore general studies major, started the group last year and received positive feedback. The group currently has about 20 members and became an official university club last semester.

The Kingdom of Rotharin, as this local club is often referred to, participates in battles and feasts within the Northeast Ohio group, Einherjar. Both are included in the larger, national assembly, Dagorhir.

The idea of a medieval fighting club first came about in 1977. A group of Maryland college students started a role-playing, combat-style game based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

According to the national group’s Web site, “Dagorhir” is derived from Tolkien’s Sindarin Elven language and translates as “Battle Lords.”

Dagorhir combines full-contact combat with historical and fantasy elements.

Altemus said trying to make the battles as accurate as possible is important, but the group’s main concern is safety.

“Real swords hurt, so how can we make this safe?” Altemus said, adding the players fight with soft, foam weapons instead of the real thing.

Watch the group practice as leader Ben Altemus explains the fighting. JORDAN NOVELLY | DAILY KENT STATER

According to the national group’s Web site, there are many rules that make up the game. For example, different colored weapons can only be used in certain ways – blue weapons can only be used on the arms and legs, while white “rocks” can only affect the head.

Combined with shields and armor, weaponry can be confusing at first.

“It’s like when you’re on a big campus for the first time,” said member Cortnee Gaj, sophomore education major, “but then you walk around, and it gets easier.”

The point of the game is to kill the opponent. Depending on the weapon being used, a kill can be established with one swift blow or a few hits to a player’s limbs, according to the Web site.

Fights are set up in a bracket system. Specific prizes aren’t usually awarded to the winners – bragging rights is the real prize.

“We play for the honor of winning,” Altemus said.

Although most members fight in combat, some members are heralds who act as referees and some of the females are seamstresses and help cook food for feasts.

At the club’s feasts, players eat traditional foods – potato chips won’t be found on their tables.

“We try to make things as (within the time) period as possible,” said Kathryn Newill, senior archeology major. “We’re also college kids, so we want to make things as cheap as possible.” Stews, chicken, fruit and vegetables are easy-to-make, historically correct meals.

Altemus said the club is trying to get a spot at this year’s FlashFest. There, they will try to bring more awareness to the group.

In addition, a week-long, national event in the summer is held in Cambridge, Ohio. During this week, the annual war, Ragnarok, brings combatants from across the United States together.

“You get to meet people from all over the country,” Altemus said. “It’s a good social experience.”

The players practice from 4 to 7 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in Room 310 of the Student Center.

Altemus encourages anyone who’s interested in joining the group to contact him through the club’s Facebook group or to show up at any of its practices.

Contact news correspondent Kelly Pickerel at [email protected].