Pterodactyl Hunt For Dummies: An Abridged History and an Insider Cheat Sheet

To the average passerby, Psi Phi’s annual Pterodactyl Hunt is a flailing amalgam of swinging Styrofoam swords and recyclable-covered Swatties. The confusion, while greatest at the frays of the battle, isn’t restricted to observers: there’s little reason to think the event’s average participant has a much better understanding of its myriad of characters and complex killing guidelines. While there is general consensus that garbage bag-clad dashers and divers represent the elusive primordial ’dactyls, the rest of the Hunt remains shrouded in opaque mystery — much like its curiously garbed participants.

At its “inception” in 1982, the Hunt offered even more cause for consternation. Students intrigued by the Folk Dancing Club’s poster campaign, which advertised a midnight battle in the Crum, found neither direction nor ’dactyls as the clock struck twelve. Conceived as an inside joke amongst the dancers, the fictional event nevertheless captured the imagination of Psi Phi’s predecessors, the Swarthmore Wardens of Imaginative Literature (SWIL). The following year, the group organized its manpower to actualize the event, hoping to increase its visibility on campus. Today, the association between Jurassic flyers and the Science Fiction club on campus still holds strong — the Hunt is Psi Phi’s most widely attended event.

“Really, we’re more focused as a club on doing crazy and fantastical things than on science fiction, per se, although we do all enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, and we do have a library,” said Psi Phi co-president Julia Chartove ’14 in an e-mail. “So the Hunt is very much in keeping with the spirit of our club in that it’s focused on silliness and having fun.”

The Hunt has evolved more in its past 28 years on campus than the pterodactyls did in the 155 million years pre-meteor. The advent of hunting licenses (you didn’t think just anyone could slay the ’dactyls, did you?) and an assortment of monsters (Fishmongers, Vampires, and Ocres … oh my!) have kept the game at an appropriate length and interest level for the Swatties who defend our campus every fall.

Complexity, however, is still an issue. Despite its popularity, Chartove believes only two-thirds of the participants have any clue what’s going on.

So for all you brave-hearted Swatties willing to surrender your Saturdays to defend campus from its impending doom, study up and prepare for battle with this cheat sheet: your guide to the officiated mayhem of Pterodactyl Hunt 2012!

Premise: A rift in the Heavens drops a throng of bloodthirsty monsters in front of the Science Center. This year’s Norse mythology theme additionally stipulates that the invasion marks the dawn of Ragnarok (the Norse apocalypse), and that Swattie hunters are Einherjar (great warriors of the past) who have been called upon by Valkyries to defend the land.

Hunters: Hunters don white trash bags and carry a short sword and a scorecard.

Monsters: “Ordinary” monsters don black trash bags, whereas specialized monsters are more arrestingly attired. According to Chartove, “Some of them want to fight hunters. Others want to help hunters. Others are more complicated.”

Killing: A single hit on the trashbag counts as a kill (except for special monsters that may require additional hits). When hunters are killed they must drop their weapons immediately; monsters must hold their armaments above their heads. Not to worry, though — players can rejoin the fray after picking up a new weapon at their respective respawning sites in the Science quad (monsters need not wait in line to pick up new weapons).

Players may only use weapons provided by Psi Phi. Anyone using anything else to hit their opponents will be removed from the Hunt. Head hunting will also be punished.

Tip: Hunters wishing to use a life token to avoid the lines at the respawn centers may inform their killers of their decision to do so and rejoin the game.

Points and Hunting Licenses: The more monsters you kill, the more points you earn. Cash in your points at the shop to receive shields, specialized weaponry, and quest cards. Points will be tallied using hole punches. Spending 85 points earns you a hunting license, which allows you to go directly for the ’dactyls.

’Dactyl Hunting: Aside from their lethal venom (one supersquirt from these suckers and you’re out), ’dactyls are protected by two bodyguards who can rejoin the game with a touch from their churlish charges. ’Dactyls are killed when both of the yellow panels in their wings have been  knocked out. The ’dactyl slayer is awarded a heart (a glowstick) to cash in for a prize.

Quests: A recent addition to the hunt, quests allow campus pacifists to aid in the college’s defense without picking up a sword. Get hints from the Oracle about what you’re supposed to be up to. Fulfill your quest to receive points and a ’dactyl hunting license.

The Pterodactyl Hunt will begin on Saturday, October 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Science Center Quad.

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