Amtgard offers swords-and-sorcery–styled play
Medieval combat sport provides fun, community, and skills
Michelle Insalaco’s introduction to Amtgard, the fantasy role-playing sport, happened in a “roundabout way.” As a former member of the cosplay community, dressing up as characters from video games, comic books, and movies came naturally to her. However, while she eventually left the community around 2012, she still had an interest in the hobby.
According to Insalaco, during the summer of 2018 she discovered Amtgard on Facebook and first participated in a promotional activity with the local chapter near the end of July. Now, having attended nearly every local event since, the twenty-three-year-old is hooked. “I love it all,” she says, noting, “everyone really cares for each other.”
For Joe Clauser, that sense of community is one of the three key components of the sport, with the other two focused on keeping the sport fun and a resource for members. “We’re a very inclusive culture,” says the thirty-one-year-old technician. “It’s a very supportive group, and we try to tackle problems head-on.”
Insalaco echoes Clauser’s comments, mentioning how Amtgard allowed her to build up a new social circle after college. “Being friends with all these different people from different backgrounds has been wonderful.”
According to the organization’s national website, Amtgard was founded in 1983 in El Paso, Texas. The sport has since then expanded worldwide, with 300 chapters in the United States and Canada alone. The mode of play for members of Amtgard involves a “Medieval-based boffer combat system,” where foam-padded replicas of weapons from the Middle Ages are used in mock combat, according to the group’s website.
However, there are other ways of engaging in the sport.
Amtgard also possesses what are called the “four pillars” of the sport, which offer ways to learn new skills. These include sword play, role-play, arts and sciences, and leadership. These can range anywhere from cooking to crafting materials used in the game, from chainmail for costumes to weapon construction.
Clauser has picked up a new skill or two since joining a year ago. “I didn’t know how to woodwork,” he says, but “now I’m decent at it.”
Aside from learning new skills, members can also create their own alter-ego to play as, something that isn’t a requirement but can add to the fun and foster more involvement for individuals during the game.
“It just kind of gives you a break from day-to-day life,” says Insalaco, who plays as an assassin.
As a result, many of the local members of Syrindale, the Rochester-based chapter, are “huge into role-playing,” given their backgrounds in playing video or board games like Dungeons and Dragons. This allows members to “dabble in everything,” says Clauser.
There are even awards available for participants, with additional benefits for paying members.
“There’s a huge award, recognition culture,” Clauser says, adding how there are “knighthood paths” and leadership positions available to members in addition to general awards. Participants who pay $5 every six months can vote for specific leaders in each chapter, or park. Those elected typically serve for six months and can be reelected unless serving as a monarch, the highest level of leadership for the organization. Clauser himself was elected as leader of Syrindale after participating in the group for a little over a year and is currently serving as a duke.
For people interested in joining, Clauser recommends attending one of their regular sessions at the Genesee Valley Park, every Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. At the park, people can battle, practice their techniques, or talk theory.
As a result, there are plenty of opportunities for people to enjoy themselves, according to Clauser.
“It’s just a lot of fun.”
Patrick Harney is a freelance reporter who covers the economy, real estate development, and local events in Monroe and Ontario Counties. Follow his work on Twitter at: @patrickharneyw1.