Kodiak's Take on Amtgard

Amtgard is about a lot of things. It's about stupid politics, and it's about getting drunk, and it's about hanging out with people in funny clothes. It's also about a weird sport with people smacking each other. Most importantly, it's about free.

Stupid Politics

Lots of people in Amtgard don't like each other. This is difficult to ignore, because lots of people in Amtgard want to tell you about the people they don't like. But that's mostly because Amtgard is a sport which depends on honourable conduct of its players. The rest of it is because of stupid politics.

Emergency Parable

For a long time, the people of the Midnight Sun and the rest of Amtgard had a mutual antipathy. This was because a few of the people of the Midnight Sun had personal problems with a few of the people of the rest of Amtgard. Many great people left the Midnight Sun because being part of Amtgard was more important to them than staying at the park they loved. Eventually, the few people who had a problem with the rest of Amtgard developed schemes involving a new game system. These schemes helpfully removed them from the Midnight Sun, and the Midnight Sun has since reconciled with the rest of Amtgard. Since then, about 8 people have returned to the Midnight Sun from a self-imposed exile and declared how happy they are to be able to come back to this park.

This sort of thing doesn't exactly happen all the time, but there are a lot of strong personalities in Amtgard. It's easy for people to get caught up in those personalities and stop enjoying themselves. But it's also easy for someone who just wants to enjoy a weird sport to ignore all the fussbudgets. No matter how little someone likes you, it's generally very difficult for them to keep you from wading into battle with a padded stick. (This only holds if you're playing Amtgard.)

Getting Drunk

Ok, actually, Amtgard is about messing around with all sorts of drugs. In fact, compared to a lot of similar groups, Amtgard appears to be generally less impressed with alcohol. For that matter, the whole sex drugs and rock and roll thing tends to fade into the background with Amtgard. It's there, but you certainly don't have to notice.

Weird Sport

Amtgard is definitely a sport. There is an abstract winning condition based on relatively arbitrary rules. However, it also attempts to simulate a medieval fantasy battle. A good example of how it fails to do so is the "fireball" spell. In Amtgard, a wizard can hold a red ball of padding in his left hand, say "Fireball!" five times, and throw the ball at someone. If hit, that someone will generally die. This is all fine, except that Cal Ripken would make a better wizard than Merlin.

The Rules of Amtgard are confusing and ambiguous. People are always arguing over the rules, and a majority of parks completely ignore some rules. Some of the rules make no sense. Unfortunately, rules for a sport like Amtgard are incredibly difficult to write, especially since much of the confusion is difficult to resolve without pissing someone off.

Another important thing about the rules is that they are, by and large, either simple or easy to ignore. The rulebook is almost 60 pages long, but Amtgard can take a complete newbie and have them enjoying a battlegame in under 30 minutes. Few such systems can say the same.

The important thing is, there are rules, and people try to follow them. Sometimes, people manage to have fun while doing so.

Smacking Each Other

Of course, medieval fantasy battles wouldn't be any fun if no one got whacked. Amtgard uses padded weapons that are theoretically safe enough to be used against unarmoured opponents. Generally, this is true. Amtgard produces a fascinatingly small number of injuries. This is largely a result of the fact that there is little benefit to swinging as forcefully as possible. A fast swing that connects is just as good as a hard swing that connects. So most people use light weapons and don't try to injure each other.


Speaking of those padded weapons, all you need to try Amtgard out for a day is a waiver and a weapon. There is no necessary charge for anyone, and someone is always willing to lend a newbie a weapon. This compares favourably with many similar systems, which charge anyone who participates in a function, or require armour, or both. This also encourages people who are very lackadaisical about their participation. This could be good or bad, depending.

So, then.

That's my take on Amtgard. I'd be happy to give space to other people's thoughts, here, and I'm going to start by pointing out that according to the Foggy Isles, "There is NO:...NO drugs..." in Amtgard. Their page looks pretty official, so I'm going to assume that's true.

Gwynne's thoughts on Amtgard

Some pictures of the Sport and Smacking parts.

Official Amtgard Home Page

Amtgard Interkingdom Guild of Scribes