The baseball field and woodsy hills at the southeast corner of Northwest Highway and Buckner are known in certain circles not as Norbuck Park (which is what most of us 21st-century civilians call it), but as Artus Pass. Every Sunday afternoon, men, and a few women and children, gather there to eat, drink, socialize and clobber one another with well-padded swords.
They are members of Amtgard, a recreational medieval role-playing game. Regularly scheduled foam-weapon combat is its centerpiece, but members also enjoy learning about and immersing themselves in 15th century culture.
“I feel more comfortable in the medieval world than I do in my everyday life. There was honor during those times … and it’s fun exercise. I can’t afford a gym, so I come here,” says Robert Campbell — that’s his “mundane name” by the way. His park name is Torgas McGreggor. He says he is a Scottish barbarian.
“I love this culture, always have. When other kids were reading Dr. Seuss, I was reading King Arthur,” he says.
On a 100-degree day at Artus Pass, Torgas is sporting a heavy leather vest that covers his chest, back and part of his arms and bears the Emerald Hills crest. Uniformed kids coming off the nearby baseball field shoot Torgas and his friends wondering looks. He spent more than a year crafting the piece. He explains how this type of armor can keep him from being slain by the competition.
“If you aren’t wearing armor, one hit and you’re dead. With this armor, it takes three hits.”
Art is almost as big a part of Amtgard as fighting, says Campbell, who also sports a necklace made from real boar’s teeth. In his hand, he holds something that looks like a stubby bloody leg. It’s a goblin leg, he says, procured during one monster-themed war. Campbell doesn’t leave Torgas on the battlefield every week either — the character, in fact, permeates real life. Case in point: He married his wife in a medieval ceremony.
“Rather than exchange rings like most couples do, she gave me a sword, and I gave her a dagger.”
Years ago, Jorge Rodas was waiting tables at Chili’s in Casa Linda when a coworker introduced him to Amtgard. It was magical, he says.
“Another waiter took me to Garland’s Midnight Sun Park, and I was immediately hooked,” says Rodas, known at the park as “Duke Lord Squire Protector Sutra Bahuas”. Eventually, with the help of others including Campbell, Rodas helped start the Artus Pass “shire”, a subgroup of the citywide Kingdom of the Emerald Hills.
Rodas looks up from the ground where he is working on a “ship” for the afternoon’s battle. “It’s kind of like when you used to build forts when you were a kid,” he says with a smile. “I like the imagination this requires, and the ability to play.”
Most of the players are adults, some appear to be seniors, but a few are young. The youngest, Crystal Jackson (Ices), 12, is known as an assassinator.
“I’ve killed a bunch of people,” she says with a cute-as-a-button grin.
“Yeah,” her mom, Tiffany Jackson, chimes in. “The first time she played, she went straight for her father, killed him, and she’s been known as an assassin ever since.”
• Amtgard meets at 2:30 p.m. at Norbuck Park, located at Northwest Highway and Buckner. There are no dues, so if you want to play, just show up.