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Thirteen Kingdoms in Twelve Months: Golden Plains
[05/10/2010] [Randall]

A few months back, Smiley and a few guys from Dark Oasis visited the park at Dragonspine proper to swing some sticks. They had some stories about how well their park was doing - it had been made a county, whatever that means - and invited all of us to come visit. This wasn't the first time the guys from Dark Oasis have made the drive to Las Cruces, and Hobbs is only a five hour drive away, so it seemed to me that Dark Oasis would be an ideal choice when it came time to pick a Golden Plains park to hit up. I roped Francis into visiting his old stomping grounds, packed Xion into the car, and away we went. Five hours and lunch at a 50s-style diner later, we arrived at City Park.

So, Hobbs smells. While driving up, I talked to Francis - who is from Hobbs, and who played in Dark Oasis in the 90s - and mentioned that I knew nothing about Hobbs except that Phocion had lived there as a kid and the city smelled. Francis responded that it smelled like money. When we arrived, I called home to talk to Azrael, and told her Hobbs smelled. She asked if it smelled like money. Then today, my friend Bill asked me if Hobbs still smells like money. It turns out that's something all the locals say about their little oil town. Money apparently smells like sulfur. Who knew? In any case, despite it being humid and occasionally warm, I quickly stopped noticing the smell.

The park itself is very nice and easy to find, since it was just a couple of turns from the highway. It was overcast when we arrived just before 1 PM, and everything was quite green, giving it a cool, comfortable feeling. Although the park is flat and somewhat smaller than other parks I've visited, it's got a lot of trees and plenty of seating space, plus a neat pavilion to use as a staging area. After I guessed incorrectly which side of the park they'd play at and we garbed up and got ready to start sparring, I saw some people who looked suspiciously like confused Saracens getting out of cars near the pavilion, so we headed over there and introduced ourselves. I don't know if they were Saracens or not, since they had red and black garb but also had crosses on their chests. They could have been Martians for all I cared so long as they liked to ditch - and they did like to ditch.

Ditching started up early once we had six people, and it was nice to play at a ditch field with quick resets. I found the skill level to be welcoming but not boring - ideal for newbies but also fun for higher-end fighters. It wasn't what I expected, since I generally figure other parks will take shots less light than we do in Dragonspine and use lots of longswords. There was nary a longsword in sight and the shot-taking was at least as clean and polite as back home. There was a lot of high crossing but not a lot of leg shots, giving it an interesting not-newbie-but-not-expert vibe. I got to fight Monkey a bunch early in the day, and the fought someone named Roach who had a lot of spring in him and seemed to enjoy our single sword contests. That ditching went on until the sun came out from behind the clouds, which made the humidity less fun, so I asked if we could move over to under the shade of one of the enormous trees to fight there instead. There were a bit over a dozen people fighting by this point.

That ditching was a little different because it was in a more confined space. The trees and their shade formed a natural choke point that kept the opposing lines tight. A few more fighters had arrived by then, but it felt like a lot more because of how close the combat had become. I got to do some fun shield work, and again got a good sense of the fighting based on the response - impressed by one-on-many spin work, capable enough to stab me when I left an opening, but polite enough to say nice things about it even when I only wounded one person instead of killing two or three. My usual ditch conversation felt very out of place here, and I struggled a bit finding ways to keep the ditch rallied and moving without coming off like an asshole. It was just a great combination of good fighting and positive attitudes. In the middle, I went off to get my ankle brace and met Roo, who might have been the local monarch, and who was hanging around taking pictures. I also met someone named Ran Wrap - his name being part of a setup to a joke that I've heard Whitewolf tell for years - so that was mildly surreal. Eventually, we had about twenty people ditching, which slowly petered down to about six as people got ready for the battlegame. At that point, Xion and I finally left the ditch to go get our class gear as well. Being first on the ditch and last off was hard because the fighters in Dark Oasis seem to like ditching as much as I do.

I played bard in the battlegame, and after pushing back and disrupting the other team with a few verbals in the first two runs, I very quickly became a target. That meant a lot of arrows and flankers heading my way. The battlegame itself was a modified shatter battle, with 150 death counts and some special rules allowing the teams to try to summon an Angel of Death monster - played by someone they just called Jim (Wu Gem Fu, I believe) - to fight for them. Our team, which had, among other people, the entire Dragonspine contingent plus Roach and one of the Saracen ditch fans, summoned the monster several times and won the first several engagements, and it seemed to be going very well. I got killed somewhere near the out-of-bounds area. . . since we do so many speed battles in Dragonspine, I had forgotten how long even a 150 count could be. Eventually, I got shattered out, and ended up hanging out while the game wound down. I wasn't paying attention to what was going on - there was a wonderful conversation about some sort of girl roadtrip that I ended up listening in on, and that I promised I wouldn't mention on e-Samurai - but the game went on for quite a while longer, until the returning fighters meandered over and told me that our team had lost. It was fun, and everyone playing seemed to really get into it - a charming and interesting battlegame.

After that, Xion and I sparred a bit and attracted a few people interested in sparring with us. Most people were done by this point, but we fought with one of the maybe-Saracens, and then it turned into me, Xion and Monkey doing some fighting to wind down the day. I should've been done as well, but didn't want to quit fighting while I had any energy left at all, so I ended up getting stabbed by Monkey a bunch before it was time to finally go. That gave us another half hour or more of fighting at the end of the day, and left me with lots of happy, achy feelings today.

Even though it was Mother's Day, Dark Oasis had what seemed like a bit shy of twenty-five people at their park. They're enthusiastic ditchers, with enough of a variety of skill level that the field would be accessible to newbies. In fact, a few people wandered up to watch and were given loaner swords so they could play, and they fit in fine. They're also enthusiastic battlegamers, which is wonderful to see at other parks. I am not sure what I expected, but this good-sized park with standard weapon combinations, decent ditching, good shot-taking, and enthusiastic participation in the entire day's worth of Amtgard gave the field a young and happy feeling - happy Amtgard, the way it should be played.

Francis, Xion and I finally left at about 5:45 PM to head home. Along with playing in Dragonspine proper the day before, we got more than our fair share of good Amtgard in this weekend. Dark Oasis is simply a wonderful park full of wonderful people, modern in attitude and very welcoming of visitors. They represent the Kingdom of the Golden Plains very well.

Next stop will probably be the Iron Mountains by way of 'Rakis.

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