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LIBERTY At convention, they're really on their game



Published: Sun, May 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A popular role-playing game is the centerpiece of a four-day convention.

By SEAN BARRON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

LIBERTY -- George Coontz was enjoying his adventure in Ravens Bluff, even though the place isn't real.

Nevertheless, it's his job to guide an elf/wizard character through the fictitious Roman city.

For eight years, he's been guiding many Dungeons & amp; Dragons characters.

Coontz and a few friends drove from Canonsburg, Pa., to the Belmont Inn and Suites to take part in Steel Valley Convention 2001, a four-day convention that draws card and board game enthusiasts and role players from all over the country. The event began Friday.

Dungeons & amp; Dragons was the game of choice for up to 150 players -- some from as far away as Georgia and Canada. Participants brought their own group or were assigned to one. Each group comprises four to seven players, Coontz said.

Last year: Last year's event at the nearby Ramada Inn drew about 60 people, said Greg Bartholomew, a local vendor. He expects closer to 200 to attend this year's convention, however, largely because of interest in the third Dungeons & amp; Dragons edition.

"It's made D & amp;D a lot simpler. There's now written rules on combat" and other modifications, he added.

Bartholomew, who runs three comic and game stores in Boardman, Warren and Youngstown, said his business has picked up since the newest edition became available. He also described what the game is like and what kind of qualities most players have.

"There are no winners or losers," he explained. "There's all different types of characters, such as fighters and wizards. You go from one story to another."

Each group has a dungeon master, who keeps the rest of the players focused on the adventure, among other duties. Characters become more powerful and gain points and other rewards as they accomplish more, Bartholomew explained.

He also said a typical player has to do a lot of reading and be able to articulate well.

"Most of the kids I've played with were in the top 10 percent of their graduating class," he said.

Weekly games: The convention resulted in part from the Youngstown State University Gaming Guild, an organization that features weekly Dungeons & amp; Dragons games for YSU students.

The game, however, has been plagued by certain misperceptions, such as an association with Satanism, said Edward Ennett, event coordinator. A few kids have taken role-playing too far, but Dungeons & amp; Dragons is mostly about teamwork, cooperation and problem solving, he said.

Players also can have drawings of their character done. For $20, Natalie Prayor, a local artist, makes the drawings based on participants' choice of eye and hair color and other considerations.

Other events include an art show highlighting local artists' works, a Japanese animation showing, and a performance by Danger Slash, who will put on a hypnotism act today.

The convention runs until 10 p.m. Monday.

barron@vindy.com




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