The Pre-History of Dagorhir

(from the Dagorhir Battlegames national site)

A madman named Bryan Weise saw the movie “Robin and Marion” while he was reading “Lord of the Rings.” Bryan had never heard of “medieval re-enactment,” “Live Action Role Playing,” or “Dungeons and Dragons.” But he wanted to find a way to capture that spirit of adventure that could only come from wielding a sword or bow.

In 1977, he ran ads on Maryland’s underground radio station WGTB that said, “Anyone wanting to fight in Hobbit Wars with padded weapons call Bryan at the following number.” Bryan became Aratar Anfinhir the Stormbringer. For the first two years, all battles were woods battles; most included a camp-out the night before. Many battles in the first three years included rain or snow, giving power to Aratar’s moniker of “Storm Bringer.”

As the group began to grow, a madman Elvish scholar named Celemir suggested the name Dagorhir: “Battle Lords.”

All weapons were thick lumps of couch-padding foam duct-taped to sticks. The first prototype of modern Dagorhir weapons (a shaped “blade” of closed-cell foam glued to a fiberglass rod) showed up in 1978. It was in this time that rocks were invented by a madman named Edwin of the Danes, who asked, “What do we do with the scraps of leftover foam? Can we wrap ’em with tape and say they’re rocks that only kill you if they hit you in the head?”

The Ancient History of Dagorhir

(from the Dagorhir Battlegames national site)

Aratar found he couldn’t do it all himself, so he formed the Council of Seven to help organize events, check weapons, and disseminate information. Remember that this was in the days before e-mail, before the World Wide Web, before voice mail. When answering machines were a rarity – every member had to be called and given the information for every event.

Dagorhir placed ads in bookstores, and recruited while performing staged fights at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in 1979. That year also saw the first field battles and unit battles in Dagorhir history.

First flyer for Gwynedd in 1981 or 1982

First flyer for Gwynedd in 1981 or 1982

Dagorhir survived an attempt to splinter it by a disgruntled and power-hungry member. (Some time later, this same disgruntled former Dagorhir moved to Texas and started a group based on Dagorhir rules. Eventually, they kicked him out too, so we should regard Amtgard as our long-lost siblings.)

At the Maryland Renaissance Festival, Dagorhir caught the eye of the “PM Magazine” TV show, who asked to do a feature about us. Dagorhir holds the record for most canceled PM Magazine shoots – every time they would schedule to film us, “Storm Bringer” would pummel the event with rain or snow. Finally, we had clear weather (although with two inches of snow on the ground) for the filming.

PM Magazine aired the Dagorhir segment on Washington, DC, TV in early 1981.and Dagorhir membership took off. More than 70 fighters showing up for the next battle, and attendance reached levels of more than 200 fighters by 1983. Aratar retired as President of Dagorhir late in 1983.

Events Leading Up To Ragnarok and the Current Era

(from the Dagorhir Battlegames national site)

Later, PM Magazine re-broadcast their piece on Dagorhir. But this time they showed it NATIONALLY. It was seen by a madman sitting in a cave in Illinois, who said, “Wow! I’ve gotta do this!” He contacted Dagorhir, got a bunch of handbooks, became Beowulf the Dreamer (and later Sir Geoffrey of Bright Hills), and founded Dagorhir Middle Earth around 1984.

Beowulf got into a bragging match with the then-president of the (then-unnamed) founding Dagorhir Tribe, a madman named Graymael. It started off something like this:

Bey: “I know you Washington Dagorhir think you’re tough. But you’ve never seen anything like us. You couldn’t HANDLE us if you ever had to fight Middle Earth! We send people flying through the air. Grown men weep when they see us coming.”
Gray: “No way! We’d kick your collective ass!”
Bey: “Oh yeah?”
Gray: “Yeah!”
Bey: “I’m in Illinois. You’re in Maryland. What’s halfway between the two?”
Gray: “Uh.Ohio?”
Bey: “Then it’s settled. We’ll fight in Ohio.”

Thus began planning for the first Dagorhir Tribal War. A madman named Dominus noted that, “When we die we go to Valhalla. We call our Tribal Law Meeting Althyng. Our Great War should be Ragnarok.”

And so it was.

Unbeknownst to either the original Dagorhir Tribe or to Middle Earth, a madman named Falcon had moved West from Maryland to Cleveland, Ohio, in the early 1980’s, taking with him his padded weapons and Dagorhir handbook. Falcon founded the lost Tribe of Dagorhir Pent Wyvvern.

In the summer of 1985, some of the Washington Dagorhir met Falcon at the SCA’s Pennsic War in Pennsylvania. Since plans were already shaping up for Ragnarok, PW was extend an invitation to attend the war. The first Ragnarok was a weekend camping event in April of 1986.

The members of the original Dagorhir Tribe decided they needed a name to differentiate themselves from their new siblings. A madman named Shengar (formerly one of the Council of Seven) declared, “We were the first of Aratar’s children. We shall be known as the Aratari!”

And so it has been, ever since.

Ragnarok I included 80+ fighters from 5 states, including 2 from Massachusetts who had seen the PM Magazine broadcast. It was fought on Private property in Ohio, and featured the Thunderstorm of the Gods, followed by the first hot, humid day of the year (and thus, a lot of fighters nearly fainting from the heat).

Rag II fielded about 80 participants at a State Park in Ohio. The weather was more temperate. The battle featured the first-ever Ragnarok Bridge Challenge Battle (and in it, the first-ever cross-Tribal Unit, the Bridgeborn) and the famous phrase, “Dude, seven hits to the torso is DEATH!”

Ragnarok III (and IV and V) took place at a private campground in Ohio. Rag III lasted four days, and included snow, the first Ragnarok Woods Fort Battle, and the first Ragnarok Unit with members from every Tribe.

By Ragnarok IV, new Tribes began to appear, some splitting off of the original three, others springing up like new-sown wheat.

The History of The Free Company Of Gwynedd

After the legions of Rome left the mountains and rocky shores of Wales for the last time, the Kingdom of Gwynedd, the northernmost of the traditonal Celtic Kingdoms of Wales, was in utter chaos. King Owain Wyndhaven of Gwynedd was dead, killed in the Irish Wars. His son Trystan, from his home on the the Isle of Ynys Mon or Anglesey , heeded the call of his native land, and established the first Free Company of Gwynedd. He recruited warriors from all the disheartened tribes in the nearby rugged mountains and fertile valleys of this beautiful country. Many warriors who went on to great deeds of fame and renown heeded this call to battle, to fight for their families, their land and their Celtic ways.

Trystan’s first companions were his brothers, Finn and Fost Wyndhaven. Together they organized and took care of the groups of soldiers who arrived in the Fall of 4(19)82 at the dun-fort near Mount Snowdon (The White Dragon Hobby Shop). Amongst that first group were the Black Dragon’s they included Talon of Arcadia, Oron the Wolf, Dunryk of Gor, Red Sonya and Fluterflam were the members of the Black Dragon household. Also appeared another cousin, Llyr Corwyn-Wyndhaven, a fearsome warrior and battle leader. Thus also first appeared the legendary Iskendar the Grim and his companions, Balinar the Elder to forever establish the name of the proud and mysterious order of the Kinsman on the misty battlefields.

Together these men and women, Kinsmen, Knights and entire other Celtic Tribes, all equally brave and resourceful, conquered and pacified the lands of Gwynedd and surroundings. Soon thereafter, Trystan’s elder sister, Rayne Wyndhaven returned to the now-peaceful Gwynedd, and saw that it was good. She demanded that a Kingdom be established right away, with herself as the Queen. She knew full well that she would require force to hold this together, so she named Trystan as her Prince Regent and Heir, as he had a good way with the Armies, and had already won many great victories. Trystan, flushed with victory, rashly agreed to this.

The Kingdom then grew swiftly and prospered, its army winning renown wherever it fought. After some time, Queen Rayne grew more and more to perceive Trystan as a threat to her power and prestige. She invited some old acquaintances of Trystan’s, the Rangers, to visit her in Gwynedd’s White Dragon Castle, the capital and seat of the monarchy.

Trystan had shared some earlier adventures abroad with these Rangers. He had left them in peace, to heed the call of his beleagured homeland. They showed up in Gwynedd with harm in their secret hearts for Trystan. They plotted his downfall with his treacherous sister, Queen Rayne and others within the Kingdom.

Predictablly, a fierce rivalry developed, which soon came to bloody personal combat. It was perceived that Trystan had been slain by the Rangers’ leader, Faulknera. In sooth, he was only grievously wounded, and was quickly and secretly healed by a Paladin of the Kingdom, (his brother Finn). He was then secretly spirited back to his beloved Isle of Anglesey, known as Mona, Isle of the Druids, where he lived to fight another day (But that is another story…).

Quenn Rayne wasted no time in naming Faulknera as Prince Regent of Gwynedd, and investing him with all of Trystan’s lands, titles and wealth (thinking him dead). This angered his Clan, the Wyndhavens, as well as others. The Kingdom then inexplicably went into a slow decline, as soldiers deserted, peasants emigrated in the night and the morale of the Armies had begun to seriously wane. Military defeats were eventually suffered and land and cattle were lost to neighboring Tribes of Celts and to other, more sinister enemies.

Then one morning, Prince Faulknera woke up dead. His corpse was spirited away by his loyal Rangers, and he and they were never heard from again in Aratari lands, or elsewhere. Queen Rayne was then left to run the Kingdom with her Knights and Kinsmen as best she may. But it was not to last…

The story is told, that one fine Spring day, Her Majesty Rayne was leaning out of a tower window to pluck a rose from the vine growing there. She leaned out too far to pick a particularly perfect flower, and fell to her death on the cobblestones below. Rumours of a black arrow shot from nowhere circulated, but no proof of this was ever found.

The Kingdom was then suddenly again like a ship in a storm without a rudder, at the mercy of capricious fate and of her enemies. The once magnificent Army all but disbanded and returned to their manors and farms. Word of this reached the rocky shores of Anglesey, and Trystan and The Free Company, returned to restore order with bold deeds and swift action. Romes’ Legions had returned, and were menacing the borders as were the monstrous and deadly Apollians. The Army was recalled and refurbished. Many many boastful beers later, great victories were won on all borders and the Kingsom restored beyond its former glory.

Such was made possible by the sacrifice and contributions of: Thorvaldd the Red, the brothers Mordok, Handryk, Thorock and Helgun ap Kerrigan, Lorick the Grand-Bard, Hobbitt, the renowned Half-Orc and his Braddok Boys, Ragnar, Gunter and Balynar the Younger of the House of the Red and Arabus and his Vikings, among others.

Trystan’s older brother, Finn Wyndhaven, was named as the new King of Gwynedd, and order and peace was restored once again to the Land. Trystan was invested as the kingdom’s first Dux Bellorum, and his other titles and lands were restored to him. Thorsborg was established by Thorvaldd and the Ap Kerrigans, and was home to many a fine Kensman thereafter. The valleys gave up abundant yields of grain and cattle, and the land prospered. King Finn begat a son, Owen, whom he named as his heir. He was fostered by Trystan, and the boy was trained in the arts of war and statecraft by the now veteran Kensmen and Knights of the Realm, a matter itself the subject of several tales.

Much of the history of Gwynedd from this time on remains unwritten, including:

  • The Succession Crisis and the Presumption of Mordekai the Foul of House Haldane
  • The Coming of Christianity, the Reign of King Owen and the Birth of his Progeny
  • The Succession of King Lorrymar, the Plot of Trystan, and the Tragic Death of Sir Schattenengel at the
  • Hands of His Brother, Zwei.
  • The Reign of King Lorrymar
  • The Golden Age and Return of Factionalism
  • King Lorrymar’s Abdication and Self-Exile; The Reign of King Cerrydan
  • The Reign of King Druss

Religion in Gwynedd

Though Christianity is the official state religion of Gwynedd, all faiths are granted tolerance within the realm by Act of King Owen in conjunction with His Royal Council. The two dominant religions within Gwynedd are Roman Catholicism and Celtic/Norse Paganism.

Although The Great Houses of Gwynedd tend to fall along religious lines, these are trends and not rules. Christians may be members of ‘Pagan’ households, and vise versa. Still, each household can be categorized as being predominantly Christian or predominantly Pagan.

Predominantly Christian Households: Houses Wyndhaven and Callahan

Predominantly Pagan Households: Houses Haldane, Tyr, Red, and Diamond Dog

Likewise, the warrior traditions of the kingdom also fall along religious lines, with Christians embarking on the path to knighthood and Pagans filling the ranks of the Kensmen. Though Pagan knights exist from early in the kingdom’s history, non-Christians are no longer permitted to incept as knights by proclamation of King Owen and the Royal Council. There are no formal rules banning Christians from becoming Kensmen. Still, only a tiny minority of Kensmen are Christian.