Paranoia is a roleplaying game with
a difference. Where as other RPGs encourage players to work together towards
a common goal, Paranoia encourages backstabbing, double-crossing
and bare-faced lying.
The back of the Paranoia rulebook
describes the game as follows:
Imagine a world designed by Kafka, Stalin,
Orwell, Huxley, Sartre and the Marx Brothers...
Suffice to say, Paranoia is fun.
Lots of fun. Players seem to get a real kick out of being able to pick
on each other for a change. Not surprisingly, they tend to get through
a fair number of clones in a game. It's just as well they get six!
Paranoia is a roleplaying game set
in a darkly humorous future. In Paranoia, a well-meaning but deranged
computer desperately protects the citizens of an underground warren from
all sorts of real and imagined enemies.
You play one of The Computer's elite agents.
Your job is to search out and destroy the enemies of The Computer. Your
worst fear is that The Computer will discover that you are one of these
Paranoia: A lighthearted game of
terror, death, bureaucracies, mad scientists, mutants, dangerous weapons,
and insane robots, which encourages players to lie, to cheat, and backstab
each other at every turn.
Is that fun?
This is where everybody lives. It is a
vast self-contained community. Some Games Masters set Alpha Complex underground.
Some put it above ground with a big dome over the top. Either way, its
occupants have never seen Outdoors. Knowledge of Outdoors
The Computer runs everything within
Alpha Complex. The Computer sees everything within Alpha Complex
(well, that's what It would have you believe). Everybody within Alpha Complex
works for The Computer, serves The Computer, protects The
Computer and quite often dies for The Computer. (Well,
it's sometimes said they often die because of The Computer,
but to say such a thing is treasonous. So it's not said very often.)
Though deranged, The Computer believes
it is doing the right thing. It strongly believes that Alpha Complex is
in danger of being invaded by Communists or Mutants (or even mutant commies),
and to this end it invented Troubleshooter Teams. More about these
The Computer decided that sex and
birth were very inefficient methods of creating citizens. Instead, Alpha
Complex produces all of its loyal citizens in clone vats. Six citizens
are produced at once, all identical.
When If a citizen
dies, their next clone is sent by means of a rapid replacement system.
In practice, this normally means that a replacement clone turns up within
five minutes of The Computer being notified of the death of the
Despite any evidence to the contrary, everybody
believes that a replacement clone is free of any deformities that the previous
one may have had (be this a mutation, secret society membership or knowledge
of what's really going on). To point out to The Computer that two
clones from the same batch have mutations is a bad idea unless you have
good evidence to back this claim up.
The Computer doesn't make that kind
Even though modern cloning techniques are
perfect (The Computer says so), occasionally a mutation has been
known to creep into the genetic material. Although mutations are treasonous,
Computer has been known to overlook mutations if they are reported
quickly. From time to time you may see a citizen with a yellow stripe on
their uniform. This means they are a Registered Mutant and they
have already confessed their mutation to The Computer.
Details of specific mutations are not available
at your security clearance. Should you discover that you have a mutation,
or you know of an unregistered mutant, you should report it immediately
to The Computer.
If you should hear rumours that mutations
are commonplace, you should report the citizen spreading the rumour immediately.
Rumours are treason.
The Computer believes that Communists
are its greatest threat. While it is tolerant of mutants (so long as they
register themselves) and some secret societies (certainly those ones which
believe that The Computer is doing a good job - although "tolerant"
may be too strong a word for it), It is not tolerant of Communists.
Should you discover you are a Communist,
you are advised to terminate yourself. It would be a lot less painful than
anything The Computer would have done to you.
Everybody has a security clearance. Security
clearance is based on colours of the spectrum. Citizens start out with
clearance, which is low as you can get. These citizens wear black uniforms
and are typically only allowed in Infrared areas unless specifically authorised
by a citizen of a higher clearance.
As time goes on, citizens who don't get
terminated can be promoted to a higher clearance. The nine security clearances
are Infrared, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green,
Violet and Ultraviolet. It is rumoured that there are security
clearances above Ultraviolet. Rumours are, as you should know by now, treasonous.
Not surprisingly, those citizens at the
top are reluctant to let others rise to their level. Citizens at the top
always have a close eye on those below them. Citizens at the same
level tend to compete to try to get promoted. Citizens at the bottom tend
to try to eliminate those above them (and also the competition) in order
to get promoted.
Availability of information is based on
security clearance. However, it is not unusual for vital information
to be above your security clearance level. For example, in the section
on Mutations (see above), you are told that you should report any
mutations you find. However, information on mutations is above your
current security clearance level. This presents a dilemma - if you
report a mutation, how do you explain knowing that it's a mutation?
The Computer takes security very
seriously. Citizens found possessing information or belongings above
their clearance will be reprimanded. Citizens in corridors above
their clearance will also be reprimanded. (Corridors are colour coded).
On extreme occasions, infrared citizens have been reprimanded for bleeding
a colour above their security clearance.
The Computer is a bit of a stickler
for naming conventions. Every citizen's name contains their first name,
their security clearance, the name of the sector they originated from (all
sector names are 3 letters long) and their current clone number.
Some examples are:
Teela-O-MLY-1 (the famous vidscreen
Infrared citizens leave the security clearance
letter from their name, since technically they do not have any security
clearance. (And I stands for Indigo anyway).
Everybody in Alpha Complex belongs to a
service group of some description. These determine what job the clone
did before becoming a Troubleshooter. Some Troubleshooters are full-time,
but still have strong links to the Service Group they worked for.
Other Troubleshooters are a bit like volunteer firemen - they work in the
Service Group most of the time, and do Troubleshooting when The Computer
Either way, a Troubleshooter's Service Group
will determine what skills they started out with.
The Service Groups are:
||IntSec are the police of Alpha Complex.
While some officers openly display the fact they are in IntSec, many are
undercover. Troubleshooting teams may sometimes have IntSec officers
in their midst, but they will always pretend to be from another service
||Tech Services are the people who fix things
around Alpha Complex. They tend to have good knowledge of things
electrical and mechanical, but they are unlikely to know how to reprogram
Computer (before you go getting ideas). The roles of Tech Services
and Power Services tend to overlap to some extent.
|Research & Design
||While Tech Services fix things around Alpha
Complex, it is R&D who actually invent the things in the first place.
People from R&D tend to be reasonably good at fixing some things (but
not as skilled as a Tech Services engineer), but tend to be better at doing
research and coming up with novel ideas than their Tech Services counterparts.
||Central Processing Unit look after the
day-to-day running of The Computer, and tends to be rather bureaucratic.
Only the highest members of CPU are likely to have any computer programming
skills though. Having said that, CPU engineers tend to be skilled
at using computer terminals to search for information quickly.
||Power Services look after the amenities
(water, electricity, sewage, ventilation, etc) and associated cabling and
piping within Alpha Complex. Sometimes a Power Services engineer
will know a route out of somewhere (or into somewhere) involving cabling
ducts or ventilation shafts.
||Production, Logistics and Commissary are
responsible for agricultural and industrial production, along with the
allocation of resources. Troubleshooting teams normally visit PLC
to be allocated equipment before going out on a mission.
||The army. Their job is to provide
Alpha Complex with military protection.
||Housing Preservation and Development &
Mind Control look after the running of Alpha Complex when it comes to paperwork.
The HPD part involves making sure everybody has somewhere to live (and
that they've filled out the right forms to get it). The MC part ensures
their minds are pure by providing quality vidscreen entertainment.
Think what it would be like if the bureaucrats ran all the TV stations.
That's what HPD&MC is like.
Alpha Complex is full of robots - more
commonly called bots. Some Games Masters allow players to play bot characters
instead of clone characters. Unlike clones, bots don't have security clearances
as such. While this may seem like a good thing for players, bots tend to
be treated worse than Infrareds. They also have some very strict rules
regarding obeying orders.
Your character is a troubleshooter. This
elite band of citizens (groups vary in size from 2 to 6, although groups
are sometimes bigger) are supposed to track down trouble and shoot it.
Sometimes they live up to their name and have trouble shooting. More often
they find trouble in their own ranks and end up shooting each other. It
is not unusual for an entire team to wipe itself out in a display of devoted
loyalty to The Computer. (At least, thats what The Computer
would like to believe it was).
Invariably what happens is that some or
all of the citizens belong to secret societies, who have given them instructions
which quite often contradict the orders they were given by Troubleshooter
HQ. Add some mutations to this mix (ones which would actually be useful,
but the citizens daren't use them for fear of being terminated for being
an unregistered mutant), and you start to see how silly a typical Paranoia
mission can be.
A typical mission
The Troubleshooters normally get a mission
alert first. This is a printed sheet of paper which tells them where to
report for their briefing. Sometimes the mission alert will also give a
few details of their mission. Occasionally these details may even be correct.
Once the team has found their briefing room
and briefing officer, they are given details of their mission. Missions
normally involve a report of some trouble somewhere. The Troubleshooters
normally have to go in, find the problem, find the cause, and fix it. This
quite often involves shooting.
Having been briefed, the Troubleshooters
head off to PLC (Production, Logistics and Commissary) for some equipment.
This will normally include laser barrels (since Troubleshooting teams tend
to get through a lot of these) and various other stuff which The Computer
thinks are appropriate for the mission. (Although the Troubleshooters will
often find that PLC has lumbered them with stuff they simply want to get
Next it's off to R&D (Research &
Design) for some experimental equipment. The Computer believes that
R&D is a valuable department and that they should be encouraged. While
R&D do a lot of their work in the lab, there is no substitute for field
testing. Troubleshooter teams are well suited for this sort of work since
they are facing new challenges every day anyway.
(It's rumoured that a high-clearance citizen
in the Armed Forces managed to convince The Computer that Troubleshooter
teams were better suited to R&D testing than members of the Armed Forces).
Now it's time for the Troubleshooters to
go off on their mission. Sometimes they never get this far, having managed
to lose most of their clones on the way to R&D (or sometimes while
Eventually the citizens will return from
their mission (or get wiped out). Should they return, they are debriefed.
This quite often turns into a finger-pointing session where the Troubleshooters
blame each other for various failures during the mission. Traitors are
terminated. Loyal citizens are rewarded with credits, promotion, or both.
Paranoia and The Computer logo
are registered trademarks of West
Authors of submitted items are indicated where appropriate
All other text and graphics by Steve