Paranoia (game)

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(For other uses of the term "Paranoia", click here)

I am sorry, citizen, but this All The Tropes entry is currently placed at Security Clearance VIOLET. Reading any of the words contained within this page without appropriate security clearance is considered treason. Please proceed directly to your nearest available Termination Booth. Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice daycycle!

Paranoia takes many forms: A mental condition characterized by extreme and irrational suspicion. A 2004 industrial-espionage thriller by Joseph Finder. A print magazine dealing in conspiracy theories. A 2011 film starring Brad Jones. In this particular case, however, we travel to a world designed by Kafka, Stalin, Orwell, Huxley, Sartre, the Marx Brothers and that crazy old man at the airport bar at 2am...

Paranoia is a darkly humorous Tabletop Game which takes place After the End, in Alpha Complex, an underground and/or domed city run by a supercomputer known variously as The Computer and "Friend Computer". After most of the human race was wiped out by some freak accident, The Computer tried to figure out what went wrong. Unfortunately, The Computers databases had been corrupted, and after finding some Cold War propaganda, it came to the conclusion that Communists caused the disaster. Or possibly some other nebulous threat; no one is quite sure what happened any more, because what little true history of the world is left is heavily controlled.

Already bonkers, following decades of successive subversion and reprogramming by various conflicting groups (High Programmers, Secret Societies, aliens from Pluto and/or Dimension 2Q4B), "Friend Computer" has only gotten more paranoid, schizophrenic and insane. Neverthless, it still rules Alpha Complex with an iron fist, its dystopian society organized in a hierarchy of "security clearances" based on the electromagnetic spectrum (specifically Isaac Newton's version), from lowly Infrared worker drones, through Red Shirt grunts and Yellow managers, all the way up the rainbow to the Violet and Ultraviolet elite.[1]

This society is supported by swarms of robots and spies, omnipresent surveillance, and a bureaucracy so huge and convoluted no one's quite sure who's in charge of what any more.

Problems in Alpha Complex are solved by teams of Troubleshooters, whose job is to find trouble and shoot it. Threats include Traitors, Communists and other secret societies, unregistered Mutants, and Commie Mutant Traitors. This mission is complicated by the facts that Alpha Complex is a Communist state, and, thanks to years of clone breeding, overexposure to radiation and other snafus, every last one of its inhabitants is a mutant. Everyone is also a member of one or more secret societies (mostly) plotting to overthrow the order of Alpha Complex. These groups include, but are not limted to:

The PCs are (usually) Red-level Troubleshooters working for Friend Computer, grudgingly assigned useless, backfiring equipment and weapons, and dispatched on (often impossible) Suicide Missions, all while navigating the endless deathtrap which is Alpha Complex, keeping their mutant powers a secret, advancing the cause of their secret society, and trying to earn promotion to higher color grades. The over-the-top darkly satiric tone of the game ensures that Hilarity Ensues as the player characters try to juggle their responsibilities, or at least survive for a while. Player infighting is encouraged, to the point that some editions recommend that there should never be a greater danger than each other, and turnover is so high each player gets several backup clones with which to replace themselves if, or rather when they die. And after all that comes the truly dangerous part: the mission debriefing. [2] Just remember, Citizen, Happiness Is Mandatory! Insufficient happiness will be punished by termination!

Beyond the back stabbing and Giant Radioactive Mutant Cockroaches, Paranoia was quite an innovative RPG when introduced in 1984. It was either the first RPG or first widely played RPG to:

  • Adopt the videogame approach to character lives, with clone replacements each time a player died. Until Paranoia, the death of a player character was Very Serious.
  • Even more so than most RPGs, consider the rules and setting to be a collection of possibly-useful suggestions which can be cheerfully ignored when they get in the way of having fun.
  • The characters were not a team, and as stated above were actively encouraged to backstab each other. This required a certain amount of maturity from the players and a willingness to forget about the "mission" in favour of roleplaying and chaos.
  • Players, in theory, had no knowledge of the rules, so anyone metagaming ("I get plus one for being behind cover") could be executed for it. (If they did look, they should simply factor the rules into their schemes without admitting they know, because it's Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught)

Be aware that if you make any mention of a published-in-1995 "Fifth Edition" of the game, you are referring to an Official UnProduct, and Friend Computer does not like people referring to things which never existed.

Anyone interested in RPG design should have a look at the brilliant concept of Perversity Points, first introduced in the "XP" edition of the game. Basically, they're given out for being entertaining when playing your character instead of just boringly efficient, and spent to improve your dice rolls or (this being Paranoia) screw up someone else's, with the GM handwaving some appropriate in-character circumstance.

With the latest edition, the game can now be played in three forms: as a Troubleshooter, an Internal Security agent, or a High Programmer. In the latter cases, The Computer progressively shifts from "That information is not available at your security clearance" to "That information is not available at this time". (Other times, High Programmers get lots of information, but most of it is garbage.) The equipment also beefs up; Troubleshooters have laser pistols, IntSec agents have cone rifles (basically bazookas), High Programmers hang out in the Situation Room and manipulate teams of lower-clearance citizens working for service groups or secret societies or the Troubleshooters.


Paranoia (game) is the Trope Namer for:

The following List of Tropes present in Paranoia is classified Security Clearance ULTRAVIOLET:[3]

Radiation meter: Citizen! Are you Blue clearance or higher?
Red clearance Troubleshooter: No...
Radiation meter: Good! Then you are experiencing an acceptable level of radiation.


smash the computer!

Notes

  1. Rumors of the existence of Gamma clearance are treason. Report all rumors. Repetition of rumors is treason.
  2. As of the XP edition, accusations of treason are even resolved using the same dice mechanics as physical combat.
  3. Official Notice to all Citizens: Any inability to exactly reproduce on demand this complete and current List, either verbally or in writing, will be construed as treason. Have a nice daycycle!
  4. not that Alpha Complex citizens even have parents, but you get the idea