The Four Best Role-playing Games for Newbies That Are Not Dungeons and Dragon

By Juan Vasquez

A set of role-playing dice. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Role-playing games are perennial go-to for their fans because they let players contribute to the creation of a dynamic world of characters. That versatility is why Dungeons and Dragons has been around for over forty years and still remains a juggernaut in the gaming industry. Despite its popularity and iconic recognition, Dungeons and Dragons isn’t everyone’s flagon of mead. Although it is seen as a mainstream game, many players are thrown off by the game’s myriad of fantasy tropes. So, for those new to the hobby, who want something other than the typical “Lord of the Rings” style fantasy realm, here are four less daunting role-playing games.

Shadowrun Fifth Edition

While it does contain a few (read: a drek-ton of) fantasy elements, Shadowrun’s fifth edition, released in 2013, also takes elements from cyberpunk culture and urban fantasy. Players create and take control of shadow runners, mercenaries and criminals who work on behalf of organized crime groups, corporations, and political associations.

An upside to the game is that players are not bound to a rigid class system, but rather free to create their character as they see fit, from their skill specializations to specific languages. However, this leads to one of Shadowrun’s biggest downsides. The game makes you micromanage EVERYTHING, from your character’s spells and cyberware to each individual bullet they carry. Add this to a steep learning curve and college textbook sized rulebooks and you have one of the most complex RPGs in existence. But who expects running the shadows to be easy?

Golden Sky Stories

Released in 2013, and often referred to as “Hayao Miyazaki: The Roleplaying Game,” Golden Sky Stories lets players take control of spirits and animals in a friendly, non-violent world where humans and nature spirits live side by side. A huge plus is its simplicity, family friendly content, and light-hearted tone, which all make it a good choice for family game night. Its anime style artwork would also make it appealing to the otaku crowd. But while some might be drawn to its completely non-violent approach to conflict resolution, those who like combat might want more bloodthirsty, ravenous murder hobos.

Kuro

A Cubicle 7 production released in 2015, Kuro is a cyberpunk horror role-playing game that takes place in a futuristic Japan. Players are just ordinary citizens who are caught up in nightmarish situations and must find a way to survive, or else die trying.

Kuro’s biggest strength is the vast scope of perils available, ranging from Ju-on with cybernetic powers to mundane serial killers. You could tell a ton of dark, chilling tales with Kuro. Which leads to the game’s downside: while it does not specifically say so in the book, Kuro is meant for a mature audience, as rape, murder, child abuse, incest, and suicide (among others) are all themes depicted in the game.

Talislanta

Now a decade old, and free to download online, Talislanta’s current fifth edition is not your typical fantasy game. In its rich and vivid variety of settings, most typical fantasy races have either been completely turned on their heads or omitted outright. For example: there are NO elves. Character creation is also simple: players just pick a race, class and skills. The game even includes dozens of pre-made characters to choose from. However, Talislanta’s setting may seem a bit bizarre or overly complex. In particular, some characters are better suited for combat than others, which may frustrate players when they encounter combat situations their characters are not equipped to handle.

Street Renamed to Honor Rap Pioneer Scott La Rock

By Leonel Henriquez

 

Street sign at Jerome Avenue and Kingsbridge Road, honoring DJ Scott La Rock. Photo by Leonel Henriquez.

On May 19, Jerome Avenue at the corner of Kingsbridge Road was renamed DJ Scott La Rock Boulevard in honor of the icon, Scott La Rock aka Scott Monroe Sterling. Sterling was the founder of the rap group Boogie Down Productions along with legendary MC KRS-One. The street is by the historic Kingsbridge Armory where he once worked as a social worker, helping the homeless. The renaming took place almost exactly three decades after the rapper’s death. Scott La Rock died on August 27, 1987.  At only 25 years old, he was shot and killed as he intervened to resolve a dispute on University Avenue.

Scott La Rock’s place in music history is cemented in the duo’s breakout album “Criminal Minded” which was released in May 1987, just months before his death. It is considered by some rap historians as the best ever, featuring such hits as “Poetry,” “South Bronx,” and the title track, “Criminal Minded.” The tracks highlighted the basic elements of rap music, a thumping bass line, an MC rapping and a DJ creating beats by cutting and scratching.

At a time when rap music was still a growing underground genre, Scott La Rock was instrumental in elevating the purity in the presentation of the music. The development of rap music was mostly regional in its early stages and the duo produced songs that depicted their pride of place and love of the Bronx, as well as songs about street awareness and social consciousness. The duo was on the verge of signing a third album deal with Warner Brothers Records at the time of La Rock’s death.

“He was ahead of his time and died before his time," said Lehman alumni MC Asti. In regards to Scott La Rock finally being recognized Asti adds, “He’d be on the Mount Rushmore of Bronx artists, a founding father, a visionary, a trend-setter.”

Bronxites’ Love-Hate Relationship with Cardi B

By Angel Mindanao

Cardi B photographed for Complex Magazine. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With over 9.4 million Instagram followers, 24-year-old Cardi B, a Bronx native and rapper on the rise, released the single “Bodak Yellow” in June, which is currently No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on R&B/Hip Hop chart. A former stripper and cast member of VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop New York,” Cardi B now performs with top artists such as Drake, Migos, and 21 Savage. Her mixtapes, “GBM Volume 1,” peaked at No. 27 and “GBM Volume 2” peaked at No. 25 on the Independent album charts. Her major label debut mixtape on Atlantic Records is due to drop in October.

As Cardi B makes her mark on the entertainment industry, many Bronxites see her as empowering women while challenging gender roles and stereotypes. But while the artist has captured the hearts of many Lehman students who share her culture with her self-made and widely recognized brand image, not everyone has been won over.

Lehman senior Anabel Ventura expressed great support for the artist. “Cardi B represents the Bronx in a positive way--loud and unapologetic; friendly and hilarious. She’s happy because she’s comfortable with her appearance.” Ventura was drawn to Cardi B’s charisma. “I just vibe with her music,” she said. “She appeals to everybody just by being herself.” Indeed, Cardi B was the star of the MTV Video Music Awards pre-show, wearing a sparkling bodysuit and matching $10,000 Yves Saint Laurent boots.

Other students, however, are more ambivalent about the entertainer, and some are downright disapproving. Jesse Mercado, a senior majoring in environmental science and minoring in music, questioned her choice of style.  “I feel like a lot of women are fighting for equality, and they don’t have to be oversexualized in order to reach the top in Hollywood,” he said. “Adele is one of the most prominent singers and she doesn’t show skin.”

Students were similarly divided over her music, which they find both provocative and entertaining. On the one hand, reflected Ashley Apparbal, senior and history major, “She gives us that relaxation on the weekends or during study breaks.” On the other hand, Apparbal said, “although her music and persona is interesting, she still has the ability to speak on sensitive topics in a rather insensitive way. ‘I don't dance now, I make money moves.’ It allows for a certain amount of hype and excitement that underscores the idea of being destined for greatness.”

In “Bodak Yellow,” for instance, Cardi B raps about being busy working and able to pay her mother’s bills, while declaring that her haters’ baby fathers want her.

Apparbal also pointed out her provocative mannerisms. She stated, “I’m still understanding that she is a little rough around the edges, so occasionally she may say some outlandish things.”

“She’s in the process of learning, just like the rest of us. You have to respect her grind.”

- Lehman senior, Anabel Ventura

Ventura defended the artist’s persona, saying, “People say she’s problematic, but that’s because she’s in the process of learning, just like the rest of us. You have to respect her grind. She once said that when she was a dancer, she invested a lot of money on clothes, makeup, etc.”

Apparbal seconded this defense. “Cardi B represents womanhood in total,” she said. “Womanhood is not limited to the remarkable and upper echelon; it extends to every shape and size and skin tone.”

Meanwhile, as the debate surrounding her continues, the rapper embraces the hate and the fame, re-branding her struggles as a woman of color with diamonds and designer clothes.