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.
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.
This Saturday we kicked off the 2014-2015 season of DGS’ Vampire Conclave. I ran the first session of Sunset Cove, which went really well. The first half of the game was mainly character generation and background, with a short role-playing session after, in which our characters all met up for the first time and explored a bit fo the city’s night life. 4 of my players are running characters that are new to the city, while one of them chose to start with trouble right out of the gate by playing the childer of the Seneshal. Lots of drama and player interaction ensued. I have a good feeling about our player mix.
Sunset Cove is my first attempt to run the new Blood & Smoke rules, which is basically the new edition of Vampire the Requiem. I am really enjoying the new rules so far. Many of the Disciplines have been rebalanced, and the character generation system is very similar to the points method we’ve been using out of the Mirrors book. There are also several other changes to the mechanics of the game that seem to be encouraging my players to think more about their characters life and unlife in a more dynamic way, with rewards for achieving goals, maintaining their masquerade, and the introduction of touchstones, which force a player to think about what actually keeps their character grounded in their humanity, rather than have it be another stat on their sheet. The book also had several exercises to use during character generation, to give the characters a richer background and explore how they all might be connected to one another. Most of them will be familiar to anyone who has done improv or taken a creative writing class, which makes sense given that the game is largely about telling a story and improving it out.
In other news, this is our first year of actually having TV shows we are trying to keep up with in real time, instead of just binge watching them after they’ve been cancelled. So far, Gotham has been off to a good start, Supernatural was kind of a snore fest, and Doctor Who makes me want to throw things at the television. We’ll see if Constantine or Hannibal prove to be a weekly treat or a disappointment. I have high hopes for Constantine, but am only cautiously optomistic about Hannibal given how uneven last season was.
You can check out David’s ode to 10 seasons of Supernatural over on Topless Robot here.
I have also been watching David play Shadow of Mordor. So far I think I made the right call of playing passenger, rather than picking up a second copy. The cut scenes and some of the NPCs have been entertaining, but the game play seems to be a mixed bag. My take away as an observer: The mechanics feel very Assassin’s Creed, which is kind of cool, but doesn’t feel very Lord of the Rings to me. A vast majority of the enemies are Orcs. Yes, I know it’s Lord of the Rings, but from an observer standpoint, it gets a little old after awhile. I would like to have seen more variety in bad guys. The main storyline seems really short, and the “open world” very tiny. As far as I can tell, there are only two main maps, with 4 “camps” of Orcs each. Fallout or Skyrim, this is not. So, I give it a “meh”, keeping in mind I’m just following along, not playing. David seems to be enjoying it alright.
Thing I am geeking out on this week:
A collection of loose pigments and nail wraps in the Borderlands color schemes and iconography. I am really loving this trend of geek-oriented brands headed by geek gals for geek gals. The orders ship on 10/14 (same day Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel drops) so you still have time to get your order in. I have plans for the Vault Hunter pigment already.