What Happens When 2,000 Warriors, Orcs and Elves Descend on One Pennsylvania Forest
For one week each year, Cooper’s Lake Campground transforms into a Tolkien-esque fantasyland custom-built to host the largest foam-fighting event in the world.
Photos & GIFs by Alex Thebez
Late last month, nearly 2,000 warriors from around the country journeyed to Cooper’s Lake campground to participate in one of the largest battles of their lives. On a vast open field surrounded by the dense woods of Western Pennsylvania, armies of elves, goblins, orcs, the undead, Roman legionnaires, Celtic axemen, and Norse raiders fought before a castle rampart. Some cleaved through their enemies with five foot broadswords; others fired arrows from the shadows.
This is Ragnarok, the annual weeklong “end of the world” celebration for the game Dagorhir, a style of fantasy-inspired battle gaming that has become one of the most popular events of its kind in the United States. Similar to live action role playing (LARP) games, Dagorhir draws from a pool of inspiration that includes Dungeons & Dragons, J.R.R. Tolkien, medieval swordplay, crafting, and role-playing. Attendees can take up arms in twenty-four official battles (in addition to the countless informal s…