Fangs and Feathers

This past weekend was wall to wall DGS activity. We had a very successful Halloween party, thanks to much help from my team of volunteers. We went with a spider and skulls theme, with many spider webs any place we could put one up. For food and drink, the host team provided a build your own sandwich bar, sodas, and chips, while attendees brought additional sides and desserts, with one of our DGS members going above and beyond and brewing us a special DGS run of his home brew beer. Our master brewer also won our costume contest having dressed up, appropriately enough, as a steampunk mad scientist/brewer.

Several attendees also brought board games, which became the primary activity of the party. We got to try out Lords of Waterdeep, a D&D themed strategy game that played like a far more complex version of Revolution or Monopoly. As the name suggests, you play Lords living in Waterdeep, and as you play the game you hire adventurers and acquire resources for completing various “quests” in exchange for victory points. Everyone got the gist of the game pretty quick and had a good time. I won. This game is likely to go on our Christmas list.

On Sunday I ran the second to last session of Mirrors. We started the game right where we left off last month, with our protagonists running for lives from a group of vampire guards while their escape was covered by a Changeling dragon. It is one of the few times I’ve actually busted out the dry erase maps and miniatures for a World of Darkness game. There was much running and sword fighting and crashing of elevators. World of Darkness isn’t exactly known for its fighting rules, but they are adequate for running a more action based scene. However, because players rarely have to actually engage the rules, I find they tend to go kind of slow. I ended up cutting the scenario down a bit to accommodate our time limits. That was okay though, because my surprise twist went over with the same dramatic oomph I had hoped for, and we ended the session with one of our PCs making a very serious moral decision. Now my players have some important choices to make that will determine not only their characters’ fates, but the fate of the NPCs they’ve been representing this whole story arc. Which is really how every good World of Darkness game should end, don’t you think?

We started Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and having a blast. It’s an interesting twist to be working for Handsome Jack instead of against him, although he is still an egotistical jerk, so the characterization is at least consistent. Also, the story is actually told as a giant flashback, so you still get to enjoy commentary from all your favorite Borderlands characters while exploring a whole new area. My only real issues are that so far, the oxygen mechanics have been just another resource to manage, and it is taking what feels like FOREVER to get our additional gun slots and to use the new Grinder system. But as an expansion on the Borderlands universe, it’s overall been good fun.

On the TV front:

This week’s Supernatural was one of my favorite episodes in recent memory. This was the Demon Dean I’d been expecting. The Shining-esque scenario was very well played out, with some great acting moments by both Jared and Jensen. It actually made me think if Constantine or Gotham do well, DC should give Jensen a shot at playing Etrigan/Jason Blood. Supernatural is on Season 10 – it can’t last forever. Or can it? This season is pretty awesome so far. Knock on wood.

Gotham continues to be brilliant. If you are not watching it, do yourself a favor and go stream the season so far. There is just something really fun about a crime procedural set in a fictional 60s universe with super villains and a young Bruce Wayne who is getting an early start on being the smartest guy in the room. The magical realism tone is very similar to Hannibal, but so far the show is way more PG-13. It is BATMAN after all.

We have also watched the pilot for Arrow and it was amazing. Between all the video game releases and RPGs and wedding attendance plans, and everything else, I’m not sure when we are going to get a chance to binge watch the rest of the season, but hopefully we can make that happen soon.

Thing I’m geeking out on this week:

The Crow. Specifically the 20th anniversary screening we will be attending next month that is being hosted by Nerds Like Us, as part of their monthly nerdy midnight film viewing series. (If you like geek flavored cinema and/or attended high school in the 90s, you should totally check them out.) I am so going to rock the Eric Draven face paint.

More specifically, getting tickets to that made me want to look up the soundtrack. I forgot how much I used to love this album. There are some favorites of mine on here: Stone Temple Pilots, NIN covering Joy Division, Violent Femmes, Rage Against the Machine, Rollins Band, Pantera, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and The Cure. This album is like early 90s non-grunge rock in a time capsule.

Extremely specifically, however, I’ve been obsessing on the track “Burn” by The Cure.

Rediscovering this song was like finding an old flannel in the back of my closet and finding out it not only still fits, but it somehow still smells of strawberry cloves (don’t judge me – it was the 90s). For me, this song is pure nostalgia in aural form. I can crank this song up on my headphones, close my eyes, and instantly I am sitting in the back of my pickup, parked on the roof of the parking garage at Fullerton College after a night class reading the latest Mercedes Lackey novel. I can smell the rain in the air, feel the brisk fall chill, and remember a time when I actually had to call people on the phone to find out who was hanging out at the Winged Heart before heading over for a late night cup of coffee and maybe a round of pool. Good times.

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On a Boat!

Last weekend we traded gaming for family time, and went on a little mini vacation to the fabulous Queen Mary for their annual haunt – Dark Harbor. We decided to go big or go home, so we actually stayed on the Queen Mary, along with the kid and her friend. A lot of firsts in that sentence. It was the B’s first haunt, her first time having a friend along for a family trip, our first time chaperoning someone else’s kid, and our first time staying on the Queen Mary, after many moons of talking about it.

First, the ship itself was awesome. We got the family room which was very spacious, and had two real queen sized beds, a flat screen, and portholes you could actually open to let the ocean breeze in. The bathrooms are interesting – nice in an art deco motif, but the tub is super tiny, so don’t bother bringing any bubble bath with you. We had an early dinner at the Promenade cafe, which is quickly becoming one of our favorite restaurants. It’s a little expensive, but not unreasonably so, the food is tasty, and the view cannot be beat. Post Dark Harbor we explored the Isolation Ward at the far end of the ship. It is a small museum type area where they used to house ill passengers back in the day. Super spooky, and I was very surprised it was open at midnight. Nothing of a ghost nature to report, but I’m sure the Winchesters would have had something to say about those cold spots we experienced as we explored its spooky confines. Dark Harbor had plenty of fun scares already, so no real loss.

Dark Harbor was way more fun than we expected it to be. We’d grown tired of Knott’s Scary Farm awhile back, due to over aggressive monsters, long lines, and over crowding. None of those were present here, IF you manage your ticket purchase right. In our case, we sprung for the Fast Fright passes for the girls, and VIP tix for the adults. This worked out great. Outside of a brief separation at the gates due to the different ticket types, things went very smoothly. No one waited in line more than a few minutes for anything they wanted to do. The monsters had amazing costumes, and while they were interactive with the crowd, they weren’t aggressive or mean. Most seemed to be having a blast just playing their characters and some of the more elaborate monsters posed for pictures. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The mazes seemed a little sparsely populated based on my experience, but the girls had the time of their lives and went in several mazes more than once. The VIP lounge was exceptional. I would totally shell out for that again – the couches were SUPER comfy, they gave us 4 drink tickets each, which covered not just beer and wine, but also mixed cocktails. Paced out at one an hour, it was enough liquid courage to get me to brave a couple of mazes (I am terrible with jump scares), and get the cost of our upgrade back, but not enough to get in trouble. The DJ was excellent. The fire effects were amazing! I had fun just watching those from the VIP lounge, which also overlooks all the festivities. We were told by the girls that the swings (imported from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch!) were fun. We also purchased tickets to the “premium mazes”, Freak Show, and Encounters.

Encounters was actually pretty cool because it actually takes you down into the infamous inner workings of the Queen Mary, and the rudder room was SUPER SPOOKY, but Freak Show was just okay. Next time I think I would skip paying extra for those and save Encounters for a non-Dark Harbor visit (Encounters is available on the normal tour roster) Tip from me to you – If you do brave Encounters, they will have you sign a long, disconcerting waiver at the beginning of the tour/maze. Don’t be frightened away – it’s really more PG-13, and they will work with you if there are physical limitations – just ask one of the nice staff members.

Overall, we will totally be doing Dark Harbor again, and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a haunt attraction to visit this year, especially if you have kids or are not big on jump scares like me.

In other news – we did pick up Borderlands this week, but havent’ had a chance to play it. What we did have a chance to do is finally get into Arrow, which is amazing so far. DC may be a total mess in the movie division right now, but they are killing it on TV. Gotham continues to be my favorite new show. I have many high hopes for Constantine now. Supernatural got way better this week – I am liking Demon Dean and his odd bro-mance with Crowley.

Thing I am geeking out on this week :

YouTube. We’ve had a crazy schedule this week and an App enabled TV in the living room, so YouTube has been our go-to this week for bite-sized entertainment. It’s also my usual go-to for something to watch while I’m squeezing in a quick lunch at work, because technology is amazing. A few of my favorite channels:

Nerdist - Their daily nerdy news report is short, fun, and to the point.

PBS Idea Channel - Poses interesting, deep philosophical questions about pop culture in a fun hybrid of high brow learning and geeky, meme-heavy humor. Edutainment at it’s finest.

The Fine Bros/React Channel – The React series of shows are genius. Highly entertaining, and a great way to get familiar with the latest meme or hit without actually, you know, watching it.

Hit Record - Joseph Gordon Levitt’s production company posts regular requests for various art (music, stories, poems, photography, etc.) for their collaborative projects. Possibly the only channel on YouTube that actually asks you to go out and DO something creative. Plus, you might get to work with JGL. How amazing is that? I love the future we live in.

Screen Junkies - Honest Trailers is one of the best things on YouTube. Their fake trailers skewering the latest, greatest movie hits are a must watch. If you are video game fan, you should also check out Honest Game Trailers over on Smosh Games.

How It Should Have Ended - Another funny send up of blockbuster movies, but if you are a superhero movie fan, especially, you MUST check out their Superhero Cafe bits. Spot on superhero humor. Worth it just for “BECAUSE I’M BATMAN!” I swear.

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