50 Games in 50 Weeks: Paranoia

Jan 30 2012

Paranoia RPGRPG players are conditioned to view PC conflict as an absolute bad. So how can I describe the fun of an RPG that assumes players will attempt to kill each other at every session?

Paranoia is set in a 1980’s dystopia where Friend Computer directs humanity with a scented iron fist. It’s 1984 crossed with Discworld.

The player-characters are all troubleshooters (“tasked to find trouble and shoot it”), given a job by Friend Computer to resolve some minor problem. Of course, failure to comply is treason and subject to immediate death. Your job is typically to track down commies, mutants, or traitors.

Unfortunately, you’re also secretly a commie, mutant, or traitor. Or all three.

Fortunately for you and unfortunately for your comrades, they’re all probably commies, mutants, and/or traitors, and you’ll get points with Friend Computer if you expose them and eliminate them before they do the same to you.

Your character gets a large array of interesting and goofy stats, and to use them, you roll a d20 in hopes of rolling at or under your stat’s score. There’s little in the way of damage; the weapons with which Friend Computer provides you rarely leave much residue.

Our group didn’t roll much; we were too busy dealing with an unfamiliar sewer transport, a surprise loyalty test, and of course, accusing each other of treason. The GM handled most of the rolls.

I had great fun playing Paranoia, but it was a very particular kind of fun. I felt “inside the action” more than I do in a typical beer-and-pretzels game, but I wasn’t taking any of it seriously.

It’s an odd game. A memorable, weird, hilarious, crazy, fun, odd game.

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