Summer Guide 2014 Sports & Recreation: Get medieval on it

Every weekend is an opportunity for fantasy role-playing wars in the park

photo by Wes Davis

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, Marcus and Teresa Bergman decided to spice up their marriage with a little role-play action. Six years ago, the couple visited a park in Fair Oaks and acted out their fantasy with a dozen other strangers for nearly an hour—in broad daylight, no less. Unbridled by shame, the crowd grappled, thrusted and cried out with delight. After it was all over, everyone went home, soiled, sweaty and deeply satisfied.

Get your mind out of the dungeon.

The Bergmans belong to an international recreation club that blends a resurgent interest in medieval fantasy (thanks, Game of Thrones!) with elaborately rendered combat scenes. Imagine a Renaissance fair descending into violence, or a Civil War re-enactment with spells, and you’ll get the idea. (Or go rent Role Models.)

Amtgard is the official organization under which most of these fantasy “boffer” groups operate. There are something like 500 known “kingdoms” across the United States and in Canada and Croatia, with no fewer than 16 at parks around California, including two in Sacramento.

The Bergmans branched off from the Duchy of Thor’s Refuge (formerly the Shire of Falcon’s Reach) in November 2013, after things got too “political” under Fair Oaks rule, says Marcus, a.k.a. Collin the Red MacAbee. The red-bearded job-seeking math teacher and proud geek now reigns over the the Freehold of Mistyvale at Howe Community Park (2201 Cottage Way), which has less direct contact with the Amtgard bureaucracy, and also less meddling. “It’s a small group, but building,” he says.

An average of 16 people meet up on Saturdays at 11 a.m. to wage fake battles that can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the mission. There are last-team-standing annihilation quests, control quests and one-on-one bear-pit warm-ups.

“We’re trying to start a storyline at our park that would last throughout my [six-month] reign as sheriff,” Marcus says. A “sheriff,” by the way, is what a monarch of a freehold is called.

One of his identities is that of a 214-year-old barbarian dwarf who once toiled in a forge, but now knifes javelins at his enemies as a level-six warrior. His character calls for a helmet, metal armor and bushy beard, which the 5-foot-11 Marcus already sports. He chuckles. “I’m a big dwarf,” he says. “I look the part even when I’m not trying to.”

Teresa is on her way to becoming a serpent knight because of her affinity for art, science and garb making. She says she fell for “the action and adrenaline rush of the game,” which, she contends, appeals to everyone from “stick jocks” to less aggro, artsy types. Knighthood is the goal of most participants, says Marcus, but there are also weapons- and war-master titles, as well as other awards.

Between weekend battles and midweek gatherings with their freehold friends, the Bergmans have taken on the task of mapping all 500-odd kingdoms in the world. They’re also making retirement plans to visit each and every one of these faraway lands, which Marcus estimates would take 10 years.

Sounds like the perfect hero’s quest.