Washington D.C. Memorial Wknd Visit: Baby, I am Here to Defend You…

Darkon is a full-contact medieval fantasy war gaming group, active in the Baltimore/Washington area since 1985. Every other Sunday, between 150 and 300 members gather in costume and armor to fight unchoreographed mock battles with padded weaponry.

“So are you guys going to get out there or just sit here soaking up the sun all day?”

Steve was confronting us.

I was quite content where I was sitting between Kevin and the women on the sideline, but Steve’s condescending tone raised my hackles a bit. I was going to get out there and by God, I was going to kill me some people.

..Well, hit them with my foam covered sword anyway while shouting the color of my weapon so they knew how many times I had to hit them before they were dead.

These are the rules of Darkon and I was now a knave in the Kingdom of Elidor. With my foam covered sword and my green smock, I would nobly fight for my King Alfred (Erik, actually Kevin’s cousin) defending the honor of my country and liege.

So, as stated at the entry, Darkon is a group of folks who get dressed up in costumes and make foam padded weapons and gather to beat the crap out of each other (Darkon War Gaming). Kevin’s cousin Erik (King Alfred, as he’s known to the Darkon war gamers) is well-known in the Darkon war gaming community and it was an honor to be on his side. ..

I have to admit, I thought it all quite silly when we began.

It felt like the domain of children from the 80s who never outgrew their Dungeons & Dragons dreams of yore. Or maybe had grown into them and created a whole separate reality, leaving their day jobs every other weekend to do battle under brave sounding names from bygone eras or fantasy worlds.

As Kevin and I headed out to the field – located behind a middle school playground – for our first battle, Steve pointed out the guy in the wheelchair.

“See that guy?” Steve asked. “I want you to hit him as hard as you can.”

Kevin and I were taken aback; Steve was serious.

“Look, if he gets the chance, he won’t think twice about hitting you and it’s an insult if you don’t attack him.”..

The battle began and the two sides slowly circled each other and then someone launched a frontal assault and all hell broke loose. Kevin and I hung out at the back of the pack huddling behind the guys with foam-covered shields.

But we were suddenly surrounded and the fighting was all around us. I got donked on the back of the head by some guy shouting, “Red, red, red!!!”

Mortal wound, so I sit down. I see Kevin through the forest of legs and shields. He also received a quick mortal wound and was sitting cross-legged in the grass as the battle swirled around him.

My proudest moment came in the next round when I swiped the hamstring of another new kid and got an ‘attaboy’ from Steve.

But then in the next round, as I huddled behind the guys with the shields, I was done in by a padded spear to the thoracic cavity.

And as the battle moved on, I found myself getting more and more into it. I was getting swept up by the whole scene, I was targeting the jerk with the bow and arrow who just walked the perimeter picking people off, I cursed the dork who threw a sleeping spell on me (actually, just a color-coded bean bag).

I was impressed at how immersed all of these people were in this world behind the tennis courts, and when the battle moved to the forest it became even more intense.

But that’s when we decided to leave. There was a lot more to do in Washington D.C. and this is a horrible ending for a story, but I’m tired. So I’m going to stop right now.

Sorry. Oh yeah, if you get a chance, do check out the Web site for Darkon war gaming. They made a documentary about it that looks absolutely fantastic. Darkon War Gaming


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