Chivalric knights whose swords dance with one another in the daylight, Roman phalanxes meticulously bashing into waves of barbarians, and archers slinging simmering arrows across the battlefield – the plains of Eryndor are savage, yet dazzling spectacles.
Nowhere else will one witness the fantastical brutality of two field-spanning shield walls crashing into one another. Here, wounded warriors missing arms and legs roam the battlefield as cripples, nevertheless still yearning for at least one more kill.
It is not a place for the timid.
This is Dagorhir – a sport that dates all the way back to 1977.
Although it is hard to tell by today’s standards of extravagant garb and hard-hitting weapons, the game has evolved from combatants using nothing more than Wiffle ball bats and trashcans.
The RSO Dagorhir at CMU is one of many units that wars in the realm of Eryndor. It is a cohesive collection of CMU students, alumni and local community members that wish to wage war with one another. Eryndor itself is a realm of the larger Dagorhir world.
Mount Pleasant native and five-year Dagorhir veteran Michael “Fenris Kelevra” Melagrano compared the sport’s structure to that of the NCAA.
“There are several chapters, such as Eryndor within Dagorhir and these are like NCAA Conferences,” Melagrano said. “Each of these chapters usually contain several units, which are like teams.”
The rules are simple.
In a nutshell, if one’s limb is struck, it’s gone. Losing one of each limb, successfully being attacked in the torso, or having one’s head struck by an unforeseen projectile is all it takes to be killed in action.
Kyle Hallman, CMU’s Dagorhir President, has made it a point to keep the brutal full-contact game safe, having weapons frequently inspected, leaving participants to conduct themselves with a code of honor.
If someone suffers the occasional injury, combat around the individual will typically stop.
This code goes a long way with the fighters, and Hallman explained the on-the-field justice that some typically face.
“When someone is not taking their hits, they’ve been counseled on the field and it’s obvious, they’ll get targeted,” the Traverse City junior said. “And there’s nothing more frightening than 80 guys breaking through a line to target one person every battle and you’re that guy.”
The Dagorhir RSO practices are held every Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at Rose Arena, which have many getting ready for the warrior mentality.
In addition to weekly practices that contain anywhere from 10-40 individuals, Dagorhir members participate in weekend camp outs, charity events and Ragnarok.
The week-long event known to many as Ragnarok, is chalked full of fighting, socializing and partying that occurs every year in June.
Detroit native Reggie Altis said Ragnarok is the epitome of what Dagorhir is about.
“If you’ve ever been on one side of the field of 900 looking at another side of 900 guys who’ve been getting rained on and slept in mud for five days who are still smiling,” Altis said. “Then you really know what Dagorhir is about.”
Hallman said the game has something for everyone.
“Dagorhir is everything I’ve wanted in a hobby, including things that I never knew I wanted,” Altis said. “I grew up as the kid who was both on the football team and in Quiz Bowl. (Dagorhir) has given me a post-high school outlet to be a total nerd and push people down.”
An assortment of diverse characters arrive to fight, during Dagorhir at CMU’s practices. Around 30 individuals participated in practice last weekend.
Anyone is allowed to borrow a sword and start fighting with the group. This includes everyone from half a dozen Mount Pleasant High School students casually playing for the first time, to the 49-year-old James “Kiron Shankar” Manning.
“It’s pretty fun,” the four-year Dagorhir veteran said. “I get out here and I can beat up on young people. It keeps me young and it’s a good stress reliever.”
For the inexperienced and first-time players, it can be an intimidating experience.
“It was kind of scary with everybody charging at you,” MPHS junior Megan Kramer said. “I surrendered, but it was fun and interesting, something I’ve never done before.”
Kramer’s friend and fellow classmate Brianna Zimmer agreed.
“I had fun, but I probably wouldn’t do it again,” Zimmer said. “It was a little bit intimidating I guess, and it was scary. The lady in the green dress kept chasing me and I got really scared. I still think it’s an interesting experience that everybody should try at least once.”