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Gamers share playing skills at Tampa convention

TAMPA - Kristie Schweyer tells her fellow players gathered around a hand-drawn map that they should look for treasure somewhere in the room.
"There's a number of gold pieces scattered around the chamber," Schweyer said.
There could also be monsters, booby traps and other perils she devised to test the strategies of the players who joined her medieval role-playing game.
"I've always lived in my imagination," Schweyer, 39, said about the appeal of modern fantasy board games that have evolved since Dungeons & Dragons was created more than 30 years ago.
"I really like the interaction. It's a great chance to socialize."
Meeting other players and sharing with them worlds they created from scratch is what drew about 100 people Saturday to the Salty Bay Con at the Holiday Inn Express, 4750 North Dale Mabry Highway.
The convention continues today at 10 a.m.
Although Tampa hosts comic book and Japanese animation conventions annually, the Salty Bay Con is the first event dedicated solely to role-playing and board games, organizers said.
And in a society where people are constantly plugged into the Internet or playing online video games, interacting with people face to face is a refreshing change, convention goers said.
"It's sitting around a table with your friends, sharing experiences and sharing stories," said organizer Eloy Lasanta.
Dominick Trascritti, an engineer by day and a gaming enthusiast since the 1970s, said he enjoys "seeing the gears turn in people's heads" as they try to solve problems or get out of sticky situations.
"I can sit down with a group of people I don't know, play some of my favorite games with them and get to know them," Trascritti, 51, said. "Then I like seeing them go, 'Oh my God, a bug bear is going to eat me! What do I do?'"
Lasanta, 34, said he and four other people created the Salty Bay Con so dozens of gamers can meet in a space big enough to accommodate them. The convention's name is a play on "salty bacon," Lasanta's favorite food.
"We're just trying to establish roots and get our name out there," he said.
The biggest draw Saturday was Pathfinder, which has supplanted Dungeons & Dragons as the premier fantasy role-playing game, organizers said.
Players use dice rolls to create avatars that specialize in a particular skill, such as magic, sword fighting or archery. Game masters then guide those players through adventures of their own creation or use scenarios sold by Paizo Publishing, the creators of Pathfinder.
In Schweyer's group, several players were checking the abilities and statistics of their avatars on iPads while rolling dice and moving miniatures that represented their characters on a hand-drawn map. Schweyer, a game master, described the scenery, which was an expansive chamber held up by pillars.
Around the ballroom, others were involved in historical simulation games that used dioramas and recreated battles such as Waterloo. Another group was playing a fantasy card game while a few played a science fiction game called "Space Hulk."
Games based on the popular television shows "Battlestar Galactica" and "Game of Thrones" were also on the convention's schedule Saturday.
Schweyer said fantasy role-playing games used to have a stigma that has since evaporated with the popularity of films like "The Lord of the Rings."
"People used to think we just all stayed in basements, summoning spirits," she said. "And that no girls played."
Trascritti said more women have become gaming enthusiasts.
"My wife is over there," he said, "and one of my daughters is over there. It's breaking into the mainstream."
IF YOU GO
What: The Salty Bay Con, Tampa Bay's Gaming Convention
Where: Holiday Inn Express, 4750 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa
When: Starts 10 a.m. today Sunday and ends at 4 p.m.
Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for children
For information, visit www.saltybaycon.com
[email protected]
(813) 259-7920
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