The word “role-playing” can take different meanings. Does your attire change to suit your “character”? Do you interact with others in a special way to fulfill a “role”? Do you have special “abilities” outside your normal self?
You could apply these questions to a variety of activities like reenactment, air soft, and traditional sports. For each of these, participants fill a role where they are acting and interacting differently than they would outside the game.
So what makes it “role-playing” instead of just playing a role? The difference is story. In role-playing, each character is part of a “world” where they are affected by and able to change the story of the game.
Does Dagorhir have a story?
One of the great (and odd) things about Dagorhir is that you aren’t tied into a specific time period or storyline. Dagorhir doesn’t even have a defined world other than very loosely “fantasy/medieval.” Costumes are expected to fit with this general theme, but can be from any historical or fantasy time period before the effective use of gunpowder.
You can think of Dagorhir as a Valhalla where a viking and a roman can fight to the death then go grab a pint. It’s perfectly cohesive for each to have their own backstory because they’ve been transported to a world where their history has no bearing on the present.
Does everyone role-play?
The quick answer is no, not many people role-play in the traditional sense. For most players garb is probably closer to cosplay than it is role-play since they don’t do much more past the outfit. You will, however, see units that have a garb theme that builds into their “persona” in that they add extra elements like knighthood, ranks, or themed activities.
With no game-wide storyline to build on, some players take it on themselves to write their own tale and share it with their fellow players. Some say Dagorhir events build their own storyline as you interact with different characters even without the guidance of a “game master.”
What about abilities and classes?
Abilities and classes are not part of the game, but there are a lot of common attributes that players can get depending on the scenario. Examples are doing double damage, having an unbreakable shield, etc. These just add extra complexity into the game, but are lost at the end of the scenario. Players don’t get any lasting benefits or abilities between scenarios.
What is a scenario?
Dagorhir battles can take a variety of forms. Depending on your local group, this could simply mean that each side lines up and they fight to the death, rinse, and repeat. This is one of the simplest battles, but its missing a “play” element where you can do something other than directly fighting. Other options include capture the flag, take the bridge, or any variety of objectives. Some scenarios may even include role-play elements like monsters, quests, or non-player characters (NPCs) which the player must defeat or ask for help. For a guide to different game options, see the Battle Field Guide.
If I’m not role-playing, why wear garb?
Immersion is probably the greatest goal of any LARP, feeling like you’ve been transported to another place. Garb is a small step in that direction that leads to a rich and developed theme.
While combat is a large aspect of Dagorhir, it isn’t the only one. Many participants enjoy characterization and theme building. Dagorhir events will often have battles during the day, but in the evening camps will become lively. Players can rest in their own camp or greet their many friendly neighbors as they share in the amenities that their camp offers.
Camp sites at Dagorhir events are often organized into units. These camps may be a group of nylon tents or the camp may have a special theme and decorations. Camp themes can be inspired by a historical or fantasy aspect that ties into the persona of each group. In this way the camp is not simply a decoration but a place where these characters “live.” As you explore the campground, you’ll see this building into a truly unique world that is Dagorhir.
So.. is Dagorhir a role-playing game?
Dagorhir doesn’t have a “game master” or a game-wide storyline. There’s no definition to the Dagorhir world outside of what the player’s make of it. Dagorhir is an intense full contact sport, but it is also a world filled with player characters, their inspired creations, and the legacies they have built over time. Dagorhir isn’t a role-playing game, but it is a living world that embodies the creative spirit of it’s participants.