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Thing I Learned Over Thanksgiving Vacation
[12/08/2004] [Glen]

Well, this Thanksgiving I made my annual trek back to Spokane to visit my family and I had a great time as always. I once managed to combine my trip with an Amtgard event (Pac War 5) and this time was determined to get some more Amtgard time in. Like any good e-Samurai regular, I decided to write an article about my trip.

With this goal in mind, I shipped up some spare foam, golf shafts, and fun noodle to my parent's place. The first thing I learned is that shipping medium shields, even if they're light foam, is expensive. Shipping sword-stuff is also expensive. Still, $60 to play Amtgard is worth it, and the plan was to leave the gear at my parentís house for future visits to Spokane.

I flew in Tuesday, spent a few days with family and friends, and then Saturday rolled around: game day. We packed up the truck, got dressed up, and then had to stop to pose for pictures. My wife learned that even conservative, retired, Catholic parents can be accepting and enthusiastic about Amtgard, though hell would freeze over before they ever played. I already knew that, but I'm glad someone learned something.

Arriving on the field, we stopped to gear up. A light sprinkling of snow had fallen that morning, and the temperature hovered at around 30 degree Fahrenheit. I immediately learned that UnderArmor Cold Gear is the greatest invention since UnderArmor Heat Gear. It kept even my Floridian wife warm for a while in the chilly air.

A gentleman named Garth saw us gearing over and came to introduce himself, thereby ensuring that his was the only name I'd remember three days later. I taught 450 different students one year, and the name-storing spot in my brain is permanently burnt out. I'm atrocious with names.

The day started with some ditching. I was thrilled. Ten seconds after stepping on the ditch field, I learned two different things: In all the years I've played Amtgard, I've never fought on an icy and slippery field, and being on one without cleats really cramped my style. I hadn't realized how much I relied on footwork until I had none.

The second thing I learned is that I'd never fought with more than two layers of clothing on, and when I say two layers I'm counting my underwear. The added restriction of UnderArmor also put a small kink in my game. Winter Amtgard is much different from Florida Amtgard. My wife, being a native Floridian, quickly numbed up with the cold. Like a true Amtgarder, she ditched anyway. I think it would be interesting to try playing Amtgard in three or four feet of snow, but I think the odds of my wife going for that are just below zero to one.

I also learned that I hate using new gear. I put together two swords and two shields over the course of the evening and that morning. I somehow managed to strap the shield at a different point than my normal shield, and I spent six or so ditches fiddling with the straps. I never did end up happy with it. I also erred on the side of caution making my swords, so the pommels were bigger and firmer than Iím fond of. Iím apparently very picky about my gear, which is something I hadnít realized before.

The question I'm sure everyone is dying to hear the answer to is: can Stormhaven fight? Well, it's hard to say what I learned on that issue. If their style was as cramped by the weather as much as mine, they have a couple people who are solid fighters and would be considered well above average at most parks. If I was seeing their 'A' game, then I'd say that their best fighters fall into the "average for a good group" to the "above average for a good group" range. They definitely didn't suck like people at isolated parks do, where you step on the field and hear comments like, "Wow, you swing so fast". Anyone with that conception can forget it. I did get told by someone that I swing too hard, though. I didn't have the heart to tell him I swing like an eight-year-old cancer patient.

Regardless of the level of their fighting skills, they do have great social skills. Everyone was very nice and pleasant. It was easy to talk and joke with the people I ditched with. Everyone in Stormhaven seemed very friendly, and if they ever make it down to a Neverwinter event Iíll cheerfully buy them a few beers. I imagine their group will continue to grow if theyíre always so open to new players.

They played one battle game, a mutual-annihilation/capture the flag battle game. There was another that was supposed to start up later, but we left before seeing if that one materialized. Stormhaven has some great terrain for battle games, with hills, trees, and wide open fields. It would be fun to play a variant of a castle battle on the northern of the two hills they used as bases. However, for some reason I couldnít fathom, they insisted on starting 23 miles apart, necessitating a long walk before you could get down to the serious business of killing people.

There were about twelve people a side, give or take a few. I figured we were going to be crushed, since they had both archers and the better wizard, and the fighting talent and armor seemed to my visitorís eyes to be about even. Some people keep talking about how devastating archery is in the Pacific Northwest: I didnít see it. One of the archers was a pretty good shot, but they werenít any more effective than I see them anywhere else in Amtgard. Terrain really determined who won that game. One base was far more defensible than the other, and the team with that base won each round.

After the battle game, there was more ditching, and then my wife and I had to leave to go get ready for a dinner party. Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to Stormhaven. I found the populace friendly and open. The fighting was about on par with what Iíd find in any mid-sized group that didnít have any of the kingdomís top fighters living there, and there was lots of it. The battle game was made interesting by the terrain as well as the players. I plan to return again in the summer.

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