Pterodactyl Hunt Returns After Year-Long Break

The days leading up to the Pterodactyl Hunt were uncertain. Would the year of isolated learning leave attendance at an all time low? Would the busy Garnet Weekend schedule detract from this Swarthmore tradition? Despite the fears, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, the night of the hunt, Kohlberg 115 was filled with Swatties eager to fight monsters and pterodactyls. 

The Pterodactyl Hunt, a live action role-playing (LARP) game, is one of Swarthmore’s oldest traditions. Organized every year by Psi Phi (pronounced “sci-fi”), this event allows students to partake in a fight as hunters against monsters and pterodactyls. Hunters wear trash bags to signify their position while monsters and pterodactyls wear unique costumes to show the different types of creatures they are.

The night started with Psi Phi members putting on enthusiastic pirate accents and demonstrating the logistics of the Pterodactyl Hunt. Psi Phi members were in full costume as pirates, livening the room with short interjections to their detailed presentation — “you need a license to hunt a pterodactyl… obviously!” It wasn’t long before the crowd of Swatties was cheering along with them. 

In an interview with The Phoenix, Seth Jeter ’25 shared his experiences attending his first Pterodactyl Hunt.

 “I liked the way the hunt was really able to capture the fantasy type of atmosphere that you might see in video games,” he said. “A lot of people, particularly on the enemy side, were very into character. It was very impressive.”

Although the Pterodactyl Hunt takes place every year, COVID-19 restrictions at Swarthmore prevented Psi Phi from organizing it during the Fall 2020 semester. 

“We could not find a way to do a virtual hunt, so unfortunately last year we had to cancel it,” said Shar Daniels ’22, a leader of Psi Phi. 

This encouraged the club to advertise consistently to keep attendance up in the Fall 2021 semester. 

Daniels described how the absence of the Pterodactyl Hunt last year complicated the hunt this year. In an interview with The Phoenix, they shared their advertising strategy to try to spread the word about the hunt to students who have never experienced one before.

“The biggest way people hear about this event is through word of mouth, so we worried people would not be aware of the Pterodactyl Hunt,” said Daniels. “We did as much publicity as we could. I’m sure many students saw us tabling at Sharples trying to get the word out. We posted on Facebook, had fliers, and made banners.”

From its quests and puzzles to a detailed map, the hunt’s complexity definitely appeals to Swatties. First time pterodactyl hunter Ava Pressman ’25 shared her experience. 

“It was a lot more planned and thought-out than I was expecting. There were people in costumes and people were giving out swords … it was really well executed. The people offered me a sword and I didn’t want to say no … It’s my first year, I need to branch out and do crazy things I normally would not do,” said Pressman. 

When asked about their favorite parts of the hunt, Jeter and Pressman pointed out similar aspects of the game. 

“Well, something I thought that I wasn’t going to enjoy very much but was actually quite fun was the quest you had to do in order to sort of get better armor … it kind of simulated an actual role playing game … I’m generally into role playing games,” said Jeter.

Pressman was equally impressed with the role playing aspect of the hunt, saying “all the people who were the organizers of it … were very much in character and were talking in these pirate-y accents. It was cool and funny to engage with them as their alter personas.” 

After many months of isolation due to the pandemic, the leaders of Psi Phi understood the importance of bringing this decade-old tradition back. 

“Any kind of shared experience that brings a lot of joy is a good way to bond with your peers, and I would say the Pterodactyl Hunt is absolutely that,” said Daniels. 

1 Comment

  1. Pterodactyl hunt did not begin with Psi Phi — It was created in the mid 1980’s by SWIL (the Swarthmore Warders of Imaginative Literature). It was very much more counter cultural and anarchic than anything that Psi Phi would have sponsored.

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