February 19, 2004 - New York, NY - For Immediate Release
The Computer says that failure to feature this announcement prominently is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Thank you for your cooperation.
Mongoose Publishing of Swindon, Wilts., UK (www.mongoosepublishing.com) announced today agreement with the creators of the fondly remembered tabletop roleplaying game Paranoia, to develop and publish a new edition of the game, Paranoia XP. The new version will be written and produced by legendary game designers Allen Varney and Aaron Allston, with participation by Paranoia's original co-designer Greg Costikyan.
. I'm so happy.
I'm sorry, but that is incorrect. 2 + 2 = 5.1412444413697. Please recalibrate all your equipment accordingly.
To add to Milens excellent description of what may be the best Role-Playing Game ever produced...Paranoia! suffered from one key weakness which (in retrospect) I'm not sure could ever have been engineered out of the game without ruining it. Namely, more than any other RPG, Paranoia! required a GM who approached superhuman in his or her abilities. For a Paranoia! game to really come close to the sheer insanity, comedy and general mayhem that could be had, the GM needed to be a combination of Monty Python, Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover, wrapped up in one. For best results, you would need to add a dash of Monty Hall as well as generous spicings of the Marquis de Sade and the emcee of the Gong Show as well. Properly done, Paranoia! should evoke the strong feeling that one has fallen through a rift into a version of the City from Logan's Run, albeit one that has apparently been repopulated with the cast of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the crew of the Red Dwarf.
Congratulations, Citizen! You have been promoted to the status of Troubleshooter! The Computer is your friend. You will help your friend the Computer. You will be given a laser; as a Troubleshooter, you will be expected to find Trouble and shoot it.
One of the reason John M. Ford's Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues was (and remains) so popular is that Ford, a certifiable nut, went out of his way to seed the module with preformed bits of loony which could be presented almost verbatim by the GM and would add perfectly to the particular character of a Paranoia! game. Examples included a "pre-mission briefing" which required all party members to utilize a hand scanner for entry to the room. However, after the second member used it, the machine would malfunction, refusing to release the party member's hand. Luckily, there was a large red button labelled "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY" just above the hand-scanner; a good GM would ensure that eventually the most suspicious and devious players would push the thing out of desperation. Immediately, a repair crew would materialize, to the players' collective relief. However, after a few minutes of confusion, they would remove the module from the wall and hand it to the unfortunate who was still stuck in its' grasp, and issue him or her a receipt for it and warn him/her that it wasn't to be damaged, and then vanish.
That player was then forced to play that segment of the mission with the scanner locked to his or her hand, whch of course was his or her 'primary' hand, with all accuracy and strength penalties that would accrue.
The best part would be when the party returned to the briefing room later in the adventure. The scanner would be there, reinstalled into the wall, still requiring everyone to use it in order to enter; however, instead of the red button, a case would be visible which read "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS." It would contain a hatchet.
I was fortunate enough, when I was playing this game, to be playing with a friend who was just the proper type of certifiable loony. He spent a week preparing to GM us on YCBBB, and reaching this point in the adventure, we found out why - he had been wandering around the table as he described our unfortunate player's hand getting stuck, and as he told us about Repair removing the unit, he reached around from behind the player and handcuffed a large broken external Apple II hard drive to the player's wrist. He then professed complete ignorance as to the location of the key to said handcuffs until the unit was removed from the character's wrist later in the game. The player spent five hours - including lunch break - with this thing locked to his wrist. When it was unlocked, the GM made sure (a couple of hours later) to ask for it back - and to ask for the receipt.
When we all 'entered' the briefing room, the Computer hit our characters with a 'bright interrogation light' - prompting our GM to withdraw a hidden Police spotlight he'd plugged in and secreted under the table. He GM'ed the remainder of the briefing room scene while pointing a 150,000 Cd handheld spotlight at us from a range of perhaps five feet.
My character was designated the Tool Guy. I was given a toolbox, as well as a password to open the toolbox to prevent the Commies from stealing my tools. The GM passed me a slip of paper with the 'password', which consisted of a humorously garbled paragraph of Shakespeare. I laughed and handed it back. Later in the adventure, I found the need for my tools, and told him that "I open the toolbox."
"What's the password?"
"The phrase you gave me."
"Oh, you bastard."
"Sorry, that's not it. The toolbox doesn't open."
And this was just the beginning.
Paranoia! was, when played properly, capable of producing more belly laughs than a Red Dwarf marathon and destroying more friendships (at least, temporarily) than an entire series of Temptation Island. It was one of the most enjoyable bits of the RPG genre I've ever experienced. If you are going to play this game, I strongly, STRONGLY encourage you to find the craziest, most twisted-humor member of your group, lock them in the basement for a week and feed them only asparagus and LSD and then have them GM the game.
One of the best methods of producing the proper atmosphere is the copious use of note-passing. In order to properly play Paranoia!, your character will at times be forced to do things that you will wish to keep secret from the other players at the table. It's quite difficult to do this without metagaming, or giving the other players information that their characters wouldn't have. Our solutions to this problem were manifold; we declared that the GM would remain 'in character' the entire weekend, so accosting him in the john and whispering instructions was legal, as was sneaking up to him while all others were sleeping. This worked wonders at generating the requisite suspicion of other players and general hilarity as we all maneuvered to backstab each other (the Commie Mutant traitors). However, the most effective means we used was to allow any communication with the GM, at any time, to be carried out by passing private notes between a player and the GM. We actively encouraged random use of this system, which (while it slowed down play sometimes) meant that players wouldn't be able to guess when another player was undertaking dastardly deeds - the note that had just been passed might say something as innocuous as "I put on my armor." The GM would always be sure to tell the other players in the party what had happened, if it was public knowledge, and to try to do so in a manner not obviously related to the note. In this example, he would sometimes wait a couple of minutes and then note that the player in question had successfully put on his or her armor, and leave it up to the players to figure out that the player in question had used a note to take this action. Naturally, only one in perhaps ten notes was an actual 'secret action' - but it meant you could perform one nonchalantly without giving away the fact that your character was about to do something underhanded or on the DL.
This tactic, of course, means that your poor GM will eventually start to drown under a sea of scribbled notes and the need to scribble things back. In cases such as this, the game designers recommended 'judicious use of gruesome player death, unencumbered by bothersome rules or, indeed, even probable cause' to regain some breathing space.
If you have strong friendships and a good grip on the notion of low comedy, then this game may be for you.
Because I'm the Computer, that's why.
Some Random Notes on Game Mechanics
as requested by N-Wing
One of the first things you'll notice playing Paranoia! is the prevalence of references to the color spectrum. That's because this is an ingenious and handy hack by the writers which serves as a shorthand 'classification system' whenever one is needed. And believe me, it's needed often. Why? Because there are so many cases, even more than most RPGs, where objects or information must be compared against other objects or restrictions to see if they pass. Usually, you see, this is done solely by the GM, and the comparison is done with the help of stochastic props like dice (see saving throw). In Paranoia!, however, the players themselves are constantly in need of the ability to look at an object or player stat in-game and compare it (without putting it to a destructive test) with other values in their heads - usually as preparation from some dastardly maneuver or other.
So the spectrum is used. This applied to all manner of things. Some of the most fun? Security clearances, laser barrels, armor, secret information, access cards. A simple example: if you're trying to access a Blue-access area, the door will reject your Yellow Clearance ID card (Blue being higher in the spectrum - remember ROYGBIV? Same ladder, with Infrared at the bottom and Ultraviolet at the top). More fun example: You are walking down a corridor with three of your fellow Troubleshooters. All of you are wearing Yellow-grade laser armor. Due to clever ploys on your part, you have managed to fall behind the other three, right behind Troubleshooter Noyd, who has become a serious liability. Stealthily, you pull out the laser pistol you picked up when nobody was looking, and pass the GM a note - one of many. The note reads simply "I SHOOT NOYD IN THE BACK WITH THE GREEN LASER PISTOL."
The GM waits a few moments, and then informs the party that a horrible smell and sizzling erupts. When everyone (including you!) spins around to see what's going on, Troubleshooter Noyd is a crisp'n'quake on the floor. Everyone looks at everyone else in suspicion. You innocently show the others your Computer-issued laser pistol, which not only has a full charge, but has an Orange laser barrel. Obligingly, you shoot it at the wall, and an Orange beam scores a trench there. Since an Orange laser beam cannot effect Yellow armor, you're in the clear! Now to ditch that Green laser as soon as you can do so quietly...or maybe hold on to it in case another opportunity presents itself...*
Again, welcome to Paranoia!
* Yes, I've done this. Yes, it worked. :-)