In the humble wilds of Cincinnati, a local game store put together a promotional newsletter to help sell their games. A meeting of math nerds, improv actors, and social misfits became part of something as tiny in scope as it was monumental in achievement.
Having shown up late to a pick-up game of Dungeons and Dragons, one player didn't even have time to roll dice. The Dungeon Master simply declared that their character would be completely average, with 11s in every statistic and the most basic of starting gear. The character was quickly named "Genero". And a legacy began.
Joe Genero became a mascot for the modeling the rules in these strange and wonderful games. In the context of a story, what can an "average person" do? And more importantly, what did the designers of these games think that an average person could do? And why were the answers so different in so many games? Just what is "the average", anyway?
The Joe Genero cartoons cataloged all the different ways that tabletop-games modeled their average people. How fast does an average person run? How much do they weigh? How much can they lift? The answers ranged from the reasonable to the insane. Some games made a sincere effort to model the real world. Others didn't care. And far, far too many just had their numbers completely wrong.
The absurdism went further. What could an average person get away with? And how dangerous was the world? One game might let Joe throw a football past the horizon, while others wouldn't let him toss it out the window he stood next to. One game might allow him to take a dozen handgun bullets to the face before he would notice, while still another would have him killed by four squirrel bites.
What started as a simple lark became an exploration into what role-playing games actually are. How do these rules affect how we tell our stories? What do the designers think we should be doing? And why do we need all these rules in the first place?
The Love Song of J. Genero will be a zine not just about this earlier period of gaming, when "story-telling with numbers" was a side-hobby for enthusiastic amateurs communicating by letters to zine editors... but also a reflection on what has happened to bring us to the point where such games became billion-dollar franchises with hot takes on every phone.
Materials will include:
- Reprints of original Joe Genero cartoons, from the original masters
- Vintage typos and registration errors, for that bespoke veneer
- Commentary on the original cartoons: where did they come from, what these obsolete games were that you have never heard of, how they stand up today
- The rise and fall of Joe Genero: from his start in a store newsletter, to his publication in an international zine, and behind-the-scenes information on magazine publishing
- Essays from those touched by Joe: how a quick laugh at the gaming table became a springboard for web-comics, gaming journalism, self-publishing, and social diversity.
Risks and challenges
We've used bulk mailing services before, with the cute little circular stickers and the clearance for the licenses. It still works the same. We also still have working digital scanners and some of the original masters of these documents. The rest we will be reconstructing, and we'll be adding quite a few new bits for that retro charm. Many of our staff are ten- or twenty-year veterans of freelancing in the toys-and-games industry, so we are looking forward to this, our farewell reunion tour.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)