SOUTH PORTLAND – A few rules before whaling on someone with a foam sword, as offered by John Larson III, a very tall man dressed as a pirate, standing in a sunny parking lot by the Turnpike:

Sign a waiver.

Stay inside the 25-by-25-foot ring.

Hit as lightly as possible.

“You get hit in the arm, stop using the arm. You get hit in the chest? Well, the other guy wins.”

On Friday, PortCon Maine: Revenge of the Pirates, a wildly eclectic gaming and anime convention, teemed with fake fighting, cartoons, rounds of gaming, video dancing and a guy dressed in a black leotard named Cat Dancer. (The man danced everywhere. In a feather mask, flapping huge red wings.)

In its fifth year, organizers expected 1,500 people for the three-day event that runs through Sunday. Hundreds milled about on opening day, half dressed in costume. It took two hours for the line of people waiting to get inside the Sheraton Hotel to thin.

Most people hopped from room to room, taking in movies, a vendors’ area, an artists’ alley of Web comic artists and video games.

John Scribner of Portland had his camera out, interviewing attendees for a documentary he’ll eventually put on Google Video.

“It’s a subculture you don’t normally see,” he said. “There’s a guy in there who spent over $2,000 on his Warhammer set (a miniatures game) that’s just run of the mill here.”

Liz Messer of Lewiston came for the second year in a row as Sakuma Ryuuichi, a character from the cartoon “Gravitation.” She had a bunny tied to her head; it was dressed as Kumagoro.

“I am having loads of fun. I am randomly running around and tackling people,” she said.

One of the organizers and founders, Ryan York, said people came from as far away as Texas for the event. Each day is scheduled, hour by hour, with different activities and games. It cost $30 a ticket for all three days, $20 for a one-day pass.

In the video game room, Beth Yount kept pace with a ParaParaParadise dance machine. The goal: mime the anime character’s quick moves. The machine has motion-detectors to keep score of accuracy.

“I love it because it’s dancing and has fun Eurobeat music,” said the Sanford woman. “I lost 20 pounds when I first started playing.”

Outside, in the newly opened fighting area – the game is known as Boffa – Teva Tit of Portland stepped up as the first woman of the day to play. She planned to go toe-to-toe with her fiancé, Nicholas Scola of Kennebunk.

She’s 5 feet 1 inch. He’s 6 feet 8 inches. He wasn’t worried about the height advantage.

“I know she’s going to let loose on me,” Scola said. He took one of the provided shields with him into the ring.

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