Written by Frank Welter
(Francis of Dol Amroth)
Every year across the country, hundreds of individuals are introduced to Dagorhir. These individuals very often see more experienced players at demo days, very often held at their local college or university. Something very similar was my own first encounter with a game which I have now been involved in for ten years almost to the day. A friend told me about Dagorhir. As I was working toward a BA in history, it was a natural go-to. I attended a practice at my local university, and the rest is history. Three different jobs, a Masters Degree, and a wealth of experiences and friends have been made as I have advanced my life both inside and outside of Dagorhir.
Sometimes, though not always, there will be an existing club or group for Dagorhir already in place on campus. Very often, however, there will be no organized group for Dagorhir at the school, which means that a large number of students and non-students are missing out on an activity which may very well become a decades-long hobby for them.
Over the years, I have been told multiple times how a student or group of students wish to start a Dagorhir club at their college or university, but have no idea of where to begin. They do not know about how to go about getting university approval, building a membership base, and all of the other bits and pieces which are involved in creating a lasting club at their school. That is the purpose of this entry.
I have a wealth of experience regarding this precise topic. I was not only the president of my university Dagorhir club, but I was, along with several others, a founding member of the club. In the first year, we built up a base of thirty members. Prior to this, I was president for another university club, which boasted over 500 members. Since then, I have been involved in teaching, have served as an officer for my Dagorhir chapter, and as an officer of my unit within that chapter.
I would like to end this introduction by stating that these are my own experiences, and what has worked at my local university may not work at yours. Rules may be different. The attitude may not be the same. Be sure to check with your university regarding specific policies and guidelines.
Part I: Establishing Your Club
Yourself and a group of other Dagorhir enthusiasts at your school wish to start a Dagorhir club. Where to begin? First and foremost, you need to see if this sort of club is even allowed at your university. Some universities are less inclined to allow what is perceived as a violent and very physical game. Very often, there is an office of campus activities which handles school organizations and their establishment. Be sure to look this up.
Once you have determined that you can establish a Dagorhir club, your next step is to write a constitution. Your constitution should include, at minimum, the following:
- A mission or goal. What is the purpose of your club? Is it to have fun? Promote Dagorhir? Have a reason to be.
- Establish membership. Who counts as a member of the club? Do members pay dues? What rights, obligations, powers, and protections do members have as a result of being a member?
- How to remove members and officers. If a player, even an officer, is out of line, establish a policy for removing them from your club.
- A code of conduct. My own university had a ‘fill in the blank’ for this. Your university may have this as well. It is very often an anti-discrimination and harassment policy.
- A list of officers and their duties, as well as when officers are elected every year.
- Establish when club meetings will be held. This may or may not be separate from practices.
- How members may bring issues, policy changes, etc, to the club to vote upon.
- How members and officers may amend the constitution.
Once a constitution is established, it should be easily accessible to everybody who is involved with your club, both members and non-members. Very often, a Dagorhir club will have a Facebook or other social media page. This is an excellent location to post your club constitution, and also has the benefit of being an easy gathering place to communicate things such as meeting, build days, practice days and times, etc.
Part II: Funding Your Club
Whether we like it or not, Dagorhir costs money. Starting out as a new player or as a new club, it does not need to be a lot of money. Loaner gear, indoor space, and replacing equipment does cost money, however. As a club, you need to be aware that the gear does break down, and you will need to have a plan in place for how to raise funds in order to maintain your equipment, and ensure that those who come after you are left in a good position.
In my own experience, our university gave funding to clubs and organizations. How much they gave depended on a wide variety of circumstances. If your school has budget and funding hearings, this can go a long way toward funding your club. When you go to this meeting, bring some gear. Bring garb. Talk about what Dagorhir is, and how fun it is. Talk about how it is a social, physical game. A lot of Dagorhir players, myself included, are or were socially awkward, and may not always be physically fit. Dagorhir is a great place for these people to be social and be physical, when they might not otherwise be. Groups such as Dagorhir help retain students, which is what the school wants to hear. Talk about how your gear breaks down over time, and how it needs to be replaced every couple years. Give them a solid budget for what you want to build, and what the costs will be.
Another way to raise money include establishing membership dues. This is a very clear-cut way of defining who is and who is not a member. Have they paid their dues for the year? Then they are a member. Dues is an easy way to raise funds and, if the club is large enough, very often meets the financial needs of the club. In my own experience, we gave each dues-paying member a belt favor, and a discount on build sessions, which will be discussed later on.
A third option for bringing in funds is for officers to make and sell gear. Before our club was formally established, and we needed funding to keep things rolling, this was exactly what I did. We had a number of players who wanted to fight, but had no desire to make their gear. This is fine, and it presented an opportunity to raise cash for the club. Basic swords and shields can be made for little money, and can be sold for twice or three times their cost to produce. Once you have been reimbursed, this influx of cash can be a great boon to your new club.
Finally, try to raise funds in a way that is fun. Pie the officers. When I was president, the ice bucket challenge was popular. Let players do something similar, and donate money to the club.
In the beginning, try to have enough loaner gear for five players. You are not trying to equip every person who shows up on the first day of the school year. Every year, we have about forty new players try out Dagorhir. Over the course of the year, this whittles down to five or ten who stick around. You are only trying to equip a handful of players at a time because, after three or four practices, it’s time to talk to them about building their own gear, which we will go into more depth on later on. Five swords and five shields is enough for any club, especially one just getting started. Especially in the beginning, lean on veteran players to bring along additional gear. This is how the club grows, and it will require everybody to make it a success.
Part III: Establishing and Maintaining Your Player Base
At last. You’ve written your constitution. You have some money to get things rolling. Now you want to get some players. More importantly, you want to keep them around for years to come. Many students who play at school will return home and either join their local Dagorhir chapter, or may even establish a local group. Whatever the case, you want these players to have a positive experience. This means they are more likely to stay with the club during their time as a student.
My university had a wide variety of opportunities to recruit players. Each semester, there was a day where the school clubs could set up shop and talk to students. There were also various conventions, family days, and other events which gave us an opportunity to draw in players. I highly encourage you to look into this at your own school. It is easy, and almost always free.
When you practice, do so in a space that is within easy view of a place where college students gather. Our practice location is within eyeshot of our student union. Students could see us, could walk by, and could ask what we were about.
This does, however, lead me to one of the largest issues which Dagorhir clubs encounter. Harassment. People who walk or drive by and heckle or shout at players. In this regard, I remind you that, as a student organization, you are allowed to call the police on these individuals. This sort of behavior will drive off your players, will create an environment which is not enjoyable, and will ultimately not lead to success for your club.
When new players wish to participate, ensure that they sign a waiver. Very often, your school will have a waiver which players must sign every school year. Make sure you keep these somewhere, and keep them safe. Check IDs before players sign. A waiver signed by a minor, without the consent of their parent or guardian, is not valid, and can get your club into trouble.
Once the waiver has been signed, go over the rules with the new player. Tell them a little about Dagorhir. Tell them about the hit zones, different weapon types, and some basic rules such as hand on weapon, tapping swords to denote the start of combat, etc. Ask them if they have any questions. Point out experienced players who can help them out if they have questions or issues. When you start a new battle scenario, explain it to them. Remember, they are new players, and they know nothing about the game.
Hopefully, these new players will continue to attend. After three or four practices, it will be pretty obvious that they are interested in Dagorhir. With a limited supply of loaner gear, it is important to get them their own gear, garb, etc. This not only frees up loaner gear for newer players, but it also gives these players incentives to continue coming out. They have their own gear. They have skin in the game now. Getting players their own gear will get them to come out more often.
Our club has several build days every semester. For a nominal fee, which usually covered cost of the materials, plus a couple dollars toward the club, you would be able to build a basic blue, a shield, and a tunic. These items not only allow the player to have their own gear, but it also allows them to attend local events and campouts, where garb is a requirement.
If you live in a northern state, you know quite well that the weather gets cold. As part of your budget hearing, and in order to maintain your membership integrity, find a way to get indoor space during the winter. Players will find other things to fill up that time slot that Dagorhir once occupied, if you are not in session for several months. Our university had very inexpensive rental space for school clubs, amounting to about thirty dollars per month. This was, I assure you, a life saver to both the club and to my fingers and toes.
Above all, be friendly. These are young adults who are curious about the game which you and I play. A bad experience early on will likely scare them away from the game forever. Be welcoming and inviting, but also set boundaries. This applies to both new and old players. This is not a space to be wild and crazy and break the rules. Be the player that you would want a new player to see.
Remember, too, that you are not just teaching new players, but you are making the next generation. These are the players who will run the club once you are gone. Mentor new players, and take promising ones under your wing. These will be your next group of officers, and you want to leave them in a good spot to keep things going.
Keep in mind that, while Dagorhir is a ton of fun, and can be more than a little silly, you are a representative now. You are establishing a club that will be the face of Dagorhir at your school. Be sure to look and act the part. Word travels quickly on a campus. If administration decides they dislike you, it can be a long time before a new Dagorhir group can be established.
Finally, do have fun. It is a school club. There are rules. There will be stress. You will also make new friends, create experiences, and form memories for yourself and for other players. It will be fun. If it was not fun, I would not still be playing ten years later.