DURING the week, Brianna Farnham is a customer service officer for Australia Post.
But come late Friday afternoon, the “extremely nice” Farnham steps out from behind the post office counter and turns into Vidrun, a take-no-prisoners Viking who strides onto the battlefield, smiting enemies with her sword, and deafening them with her battle cry that is “a pterodactyl kind of screech”.
Farnham is a keen participant in a game called Swordcraft.
“It is a live-action, role-play game, or LARP,” explains Farnham.
“It’s kind of like a step up from Dungeons and Dragons.”
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Swordcraft has caught on internationally as “an interactive and immersive sport”, Farnham says, including in Newcastle.
Each Friday at 5.30pm, a dozen or more enthusiasts meet at Waratah Oval and change into costumes and fantasy characters, ready to do battle with foam rubber weapons and wild imaginations.
As the Swordcraft Newcastle group says on its Facebook page, “Have you ever wanted to fight in a medieval battle, live stories like Warhammer, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones? Then Swordcraft is the place for you!”
Brianna Farnham was introduced to Swordcraft about a year ago by a friend she played Dungeons and Dragons with. Farnham was looking for something more than rolling the dice and relying on chance.
Farnham found what she was looking for on Waratah Oval, and in her role as Vidrun. She loves the physical nature of the games, and the sheer fun of playing a character.
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“You’ve got to have a laugh when you’re role playing,” Farnham says.
In the Newcastle chapter, participants range in age from 15 to 65, and they enter battle from all walks of life, from real estate agents and electricians to DJs.
Andrew Reimer is a tyre service outlet manager during the week, as well as being a car enthusiast.
But in the world of Swordcraft, Andrew Reimer is Sir Pete Mitchell, mercenary-turned-pirate.
A friend introduced Reimer to Swordcraft about two and a half years ago, soon after the Newcastle chapter had begun. He had reservations when he first heard about it.
“I thought, ‘That’s like super nerdy’, but then I went and had a go and it was actually super fun,” Reimer says.
“I was a big video gamer before I started playing, and I’ve barely done that since I started playing Swordcraft.”
The participants emphasise there are rules and a referee, and story lines to be followed. The more experienced Swordcrafters tutor the new participants in safe ways to do battle. They say injuries are rare.
“There’s a technique to how we hit each other,” Reimer says. “We’re very, very cautious about injuring each other.
“Our number one rule is be good to each other.”
Brianna Farnham says while Swordcrafters fight for bragging rights and prizes, including for the title of best role-play death (“we’re extremely bad actors”), simply participating has brought a far richer reward for her.
“I think it makes you more confident, more outgoing,” she says.
On the Swordcraft battleground, Reimer is in a band of pirates called Rovers of the Black Skull. Off the field, the “pirates” have become good friends, meeting for dinner each week.
“We’re standing by each other,” he says.
Brianna Farnham says Swordcraft creates a community among its participants, and taking part stokes “child-like wonder”.
And if you think it sounds as though Swordcraft is a bunch of adults behaving like children, well …
“That’s exactly what I’m doing! What’s your problem? Everybody wants to be a child,” Farnham declares.
“You work really hard all week, and you know that on Friday night, you get to be someone magical!”