Take An Adventure In Dystopia With West End Game's Original Paranoia
  • Take An Adventure In Dystopia With West End Game's Original Paranoia


    Today we're going to get a little paranoid with the West End Games original edition of Paranoia.


    I've always been a Dungeons & Dragons player, and because of that I did not grow up playing Paranoia. In fact, I have only recently played it with a group of relatively newer RPG players. This review is from the perspective of a new player, with no experience playing Paranoia.

    Paranoia was designed and written by Eric Goldberg (the mind behind DragonQuest and Commando), Dan Gelber and Greg Costikyan (a prolific game designer, who did The Price of Freedom among many others). The game enjoyed a steady run with plenty of supplements. Not to mention, it's a joy to play—especially for the first time.

    The first thing that caught my attention was the classic feel of the artwork. It's not overly cartoony and provides context for the story. I like the simplicity of the illustrations and the how most of them depict one character aiming a weapon at another. It fits the context of the story well.

    I got hold of a copy of the 1984 Player Handbook. Upon opening the book, I was greeted with the warning: "Security Clearance RED: Knowledge or possession of the contents by any citizen of Security Clearance INFRARED constitutes treason, and is punishable by summary execution."

    Well, that's not terrifying at all. The next few pages are a welcome from an entity known as The Computer. The Computer loves and trusts me. I am devoted in service to The Computer. The Computer is generous. The Computer is assigning missions to my brothers in service and me, within The Complex.

    This game is going to be fun. The cyberpunk flavor of the text really draws the player into the story, which is quite simple. The world—destroyed by some sort of cataclysm—is now protected/run by a network of deranged, insane computers. The players are troubleshooters working for the computers, who are assigned various missions with the overall goal of protecting the last refuge of humanity—the Alpha Complex.

    The book lays out the basic elements of the game within the first few pages. Security clearances are based on the ROY G. BIV colors of the rainbow model and control transport and movement in the Alpha Complex. Service groups cover various responsibilities to the complex. There are guidelines for secret societies, traitors, living in the complex and—my personal favorite—mutant powers.

    The gameplay instructions are straightforward, including examples and rules for more advanced players. I like this, as it makes the game a bit more accessible to newer players and drastically lowers the bar for entry into the series. There's the obligatory dice info and a glossary—not much in this section, but incredibly straightforward.

    Character creation is fun. The player determines their mutant abilities, secret societies, equipment and skills—the usual RPG stuff. While this is all straightforward, there's a surprise at the end of the chapter: every player character has six lives. That's right; each PC in Paranoia is a member of a clone family. If something horrible should happen to Clone Number One (your current PC), then Number Two is activated and so on, until all six clones are horribly dead. The Computer takes care of its people.

    The bookkeeping section is interesting and covers the five types of points PCs earn in the game. These are, once again, straightforward. Secret Society Points help determine a player's status within a secret society. Skill points help PCs learn new skills, Credits are in-game money, Commendation points are XP, treason points are like counter-XP. If the treason points become higher than the commendation points, then The Computer will try to eliminate your character.

    Ultimately, Paranoia doesn't take itself too seriously and is a blast to play. I especially like how much the game emphasizes keeping the players in the dark about everything. I only got the chance to play a short game, but it has piqued my interest in playing another session and eventually checking out some of the later editions and supplements for the game.

    Contributed by David J. Buck
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. Eis's Avatar
      Eis -
      One of my gaming group's favorite role playing stories is from a Paranoia game that I GM'ed way back in the late 80s. In the game of course you all have mutant powers and technically are all traitors....the Computer is always going on and on about "commie mutant traitors" and searching them out etc. Well it is possible to have your mutant power registered with the Computer and thus be able to use it openly. My friend Scott was the only one in the group who was thus registered in our game. The party had gone to the briefing for their mission and were marched into a big intimidating room with drains in the floor that had suspicious red stains leading to them (gulp). Scott had a brilliant idea....he had heard that the computer and the other higher ups loved troubleshooters who really licked their boots....bootlicking is a very important part of the game. So before the briefing began Scott clears his throat and steps up in front of everyone and addresses the room. "First of all, I would like to thank the great Computer for allowing me.....an admitted commie mutant traitor...."

      I stop him there...


      pause...


      I look at the rest of the group...."what are you going to do when you hear that opening?"

      The five other troubleshooters AND the Vulture guards AND various bots who were present AND some other random civil servants could not draw weaponry and fire fast enough....poor Scott's character was reduced to one smoking boot

      sure you're a traitor, and you have admitted to the Computer that you're a mutant....but you don't blurt out a confession about being everything that is verboten....not in Alpha Complex lol
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      Quote Originally Posted by TrippyHippy View Post
      They had plenty of messy issues with RuneQuest, admittedly, but their stewardship of Judge Dredd was fine (what was wrong with it?), it's just that they couldn't find the market they wanted for it in the last few years.

      I am looking forward to what the upcoming Judge Dredd rpg looks like though.
      No, their two attempts at dredd both sucked. d20 is just not a good system for anything even vaguely realistic nor for anything modern.

      The Traveller version was a really poor adaptation, too - giving an average of 4-5 skills per term plus 1-2 feat-like abilities, and having set the starting age for judges alone at 12-ish.
      Normals get the book standard 2-4 per term and no feat-like ones. It failed to keep the simplicity needed.

      As for the new one... what I've seen of WOIN gives me no confidence. I've got my GW edition, and I still like it.
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      Quote Originally Posted by aramis erak View Post
      No, their two attempts at dredd both sucked. d20 is just not a good system for anything even vaguely realistic nor for anything modern.

      The Traveller version was a really poor adaptation, too - giving an average of 4-5 skills per term plus 1-2 feat-like abilities, and having set the starting age for judges alone at 12-ish.
      Normals get the book standard 2-4 per term and no feat-like ones. It failed to keep the simplicity needed.

      As for the new one... what I've seen of WOIN gives me no confidence. I've got my GW edition, and I still like it.
      Well, you have your own criteria of system to use, but even if a system isn't to your taste it doesn't mean that the product is poor or that others can't enjoy it - and the starting age for Judges was not '12ish' (I've no idea how you made that up from!). I've played Judge Dredd in multiple versions too, and the Mongoose products were fine.

      They were better than T5 at least.
    1. stargazera5's Avatar
      stargazera5 -
      For those who are interested, it's also available at a significant discount, at The Bundle of Holding.
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