Back when I was but a wee teenaged lad, I joined an Anglo-Saxon and Viking re-enactment organisation called Regia Anglorum. These days the organisation has helped to re-create all manner of experiences, not least of which include television shows such as “Vikings”.
But back in the 1980’s, Regia Anglorum was where I cut my teeth on dressing up in early medieval gear and taking part in events where we fought Anglo-Saxon style. On a recent visit to see my parents, Dad had found an old photo of me in my gear:
I made that ringmail with my own hands. Although the materials we used were very basic and the efforts were very amateur, I learned to respect the realities of medieval warfare as I understood them.
This was a natural extension of my roleplaying hobby, a more visceral and grounded alternative to LARP. Perhaps this was where I found my interest in Dark Age history. Looking back, I realise that my desire to play in fantasy games informed by and grounded in history was deeply embedded in my memories of sludging through mud at Maldon and knocking spear and shields in training with the local Regia club.
Things have obviously developed and improved in terms of Regia Anglorum’s historicity and skill in the past 30 years, but I will be forever grateful to those young men and women who gave me a chance to step back in time and learn about history. It’s little wonder that I would happily choose this era as inspiration for my fantasy roleplaying over almost any other.