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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell’s chapter of Dagorhir battles in a fun and friendly way

Students battle each other with foam weapons every Tuesday and Friday.

Students battle each other with foam weapons every Tuesday and Friday.
Students battle each other with foam weapons every Tuesday and Friday.

Not every club would describe themselves as appearing like a bunch of crazy idiots, yet this is exactly how Matt Steege ’17 describes Dag. Steege, a longtime member of the Dag Club serves as a leader and Master of Various Things to the club that meets regularly to battle one another to the fake death with foam swords.

“We’ve got a bunch of people with ridiculous foam weapons and we run around and hit each other like crazy idiots,” Steege said. “The rules are boiled down to that you’ve got a certain number of limbs; you can only lose a certain number of limbs and if you do, you’re out of the game for a time period,”

Grinnell Dag is one chapter of a national organization, Dagorhir, named for a “Lord of the Rings” inspired medieval re-enactment battle-game dating back to 1977. Bryan Weise, creator of the original Dagorhir, was inspired by The Lord of the Rings series, but according to the organization’s website, Dagorhir literally means “Battle Wars.”

Some chapters are more serious than others, and Steege insists that Macy House was once Dag House for a few years. Students who were active members of Dag elected to live in the house and the close proximity, as well as ideological differences about how the club should be run, created a lot of intra-organizational drama.

“From what I understand, there was a lot of emotional upheaval and factionalization,” Steege said of the era of Dag House. “It became this weird situation where something that’s inherently dumb fun became taken more seriously than it should have been. A lot of interpersonal relationships got mixed up into it in a way that wasn’t okay.”

Steege credits the Dag’s leaders during his first and second years at Grinnell for welcoming more students into the organization. The club’s appeal had narrowed during the years of Dag House because of a “clique” mentality, but now more students than ever are participating in fighting sessions.

“This past Friday, we had our first session of the year, and I’ve personally never seen a normal Tuesday or Friday session that had that many people who were participating actively,” Steege said. “It was also an almost even split [gender-wise]. Neither of those are things that would have happened seven or eight years ago, or even four years ago.”

Alongside Steege, there are many other students who make sure Dag functions. There are three Masters of Various Things, one for each color of weapons used. Each are responsible for teaching new members how to make and use either the red, blue or green weapons.

Dag’s biggest event of the year is its Field Day, which it hosts on campus in the spring. Upwards of 60 to 80 students from nearby Dag chapters travel to Grinnell for a day of fun and fighting. Many alumni attend Field Day to relive their time launching faux bows and arrows on Mac Field as well as visit with old friends and new students.

“There are people that I met here when I was a first year, and they were seniors, but I’ve seen them every year at Field Day,” Steege said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of organization, but ultimately, it’s just about people coming out, seeing each other again.”

This year, Steege is hoping to expand Dag’s horizons beyond campus. The club is considering attending larger Dag events at other campuses, but what is most important to Steege is that students are coming out and having a good time.

“We are thoroughly unpretentious; it’s actually in our rules that we’re not allowed to be pretentious. You don’t get to do this everywhere, or most places even. For me, it’s just about having a really good time with some really good folks,” he said.

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