Satanic demons, sorcerers who cast magic spells and fire-breathing dragons are among the images brought to mind at the mention of fantasy and adventure games. But the people who are hooked on these games insist there's more to them than playing make believe.
"The fun is in the mental challenge of it. It takes you away from the mundane and the boring. It's very therapeutic," said Nick Atlas, 21, who designs fantasy role-playing games for the Avalon Hill Game Co. in Baltimore.
Mr. Atlas is one of about 100 exhibitors at the 17th annual National Gaming Convention and Exposition this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center.
Game inventors and manufacturers come to the convention each year to promote and sell their games and to introduce new ones. Convention-goers play board games, compete in tournaments and learn to play games from the people who designed them.
Greg Porter, who designs war and adventure games for a company in Richmond, Va., said he comes to conventions mainly to sell games, but also to see old friends and learn to play other people's games.
"The industry is fairly close-knit. We do this as a way to get sales, to generate extra income, but also to have fun. We would come here anyway," said Mr. Porter.
Fantasy and role-playing games grew out of the game Dungeons and Dragons, known to its fans as "D and D," that became popular in late 1960s and early 1970s, said Mr. Atlas. "It's grown and changed . . . and now it's much more sophisticated. But it isn't as complex as people think."
Although most of the players at the convention yesterday were young men, there also were women, children and middle-aged men.
Sam Levy, 11, of Columbia, said he likes fantasy games more than traditional board games or video games "because they're a lot more complex. You have to think about them more. I like how they're so challenging."
Perry Skaggs, 26, who is visiting Baltimore from Arkansas, agreed: "You're escaping from the real world for adventures and fun, rather than just rolling the dice. Instead of putting a piece on the board, you're putting yourself on the board . . . Instead of
watching [the movie] Robin Hood, you can be Robin Hood."
Julian Levy, 42, said that he and Sam enjoy the games for several reasons. "We usually play historical games. You get to go back in time and say, 'what if.' The games take a lot of thought. You just sort of get sucked into them."