Flavors of the Paranoia RPG


Someone mentioned this in another thread and now I"m curious.

I’ve run a somewhat goofy Paranoia game but I don’t think it got as gonzo as it’s sometimes supposed to. I’m also aware that people have done some pretty serious ones (you could do a 1984 type thing with it, I guess).

When you play Paranoia, what kind of Paranoia game do you play or are looking for? What makes it work for you?


Keep in mind that I last played Paranoia in the early 1990s…

I always played it as an action/horror/comedy, with a strong vein of political commentary.

The one Paranoia adventure I wrote was called “The King is a Commie! Long Live the King!” It involved a partly-functioning animatronic Elvis that repeated cryptic phrases and then would burst into song. Three of the Cryptic Alliances were fighting for control of it: One thought it was a god and wanted to worship it, one wanted to use it as a public figurehead to overthrow The Computer, and one thought it was a way to learn about the Before Times.

The political commentary: Some of the phrases it spoke were GHW Bush-isms, and some of the special weapons in the adventure were the “Thousand Points of Light Gun” and the “Blood For Oil Bomb.”

While I would love to re-read what the college-aged-me wrote back then, my hard-copy was destroyed in the Great Basement Flood of 1998, and I have no idea what happened to the 5-1/4" floppy disks that had the AppleWorks files… or how I would read those files if the disks still existed.


The one and only time I played Paranoia it was done as a mash up with In Nomine. It worked brilliantly - best comedy game I have even played in (and that is not normally a genre of RPG I enjoy).


Goofy, comedy was my flavor. Too much fun to be true :grinning:


I’ve only ever played it as goofy comedy but I really want to take it and play it with a Logan’s Run type setup. I just imagine that the moment you say Paranoia the tone is going to shift too much to keep the serious aspects going.


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Paranoia XP formally codified three main playstyles: Straight, Classic, and Zap.

The three flavors were elevator-pitched like this:

Straight: “Yossarian gets a job in the Ministry of Truth.”
Classic: “Laurel and Hardy get jobs with the IRS on the original starship ENTERPRISE.”
Zap: “Yosemite Sam gets a job in a factory that makes sledgehammers, nuclear warheads and glass unicorn figurines.”

Of the three, I tend to run Classic games as one-offs. I’d love to run a mini-campaign for a Straight setting, though, putting an emphasis on slow-burning infighting and bureaucratic wrangling over the usual direct escalation to traitor-zapping. One day…


I’ve currently got a Paranoia miniseries on hiatus (and converting to Fate). My goal was to run it as mostly Straight (per the XP descriptions graciously provided by @Humza_K above).

Incidentally, I Incorporated an extra Stress track, called Loyalty To The Computer, in which at full stress, they would be branded a Commie Traitor and subject to being replaced by a clone.

The feel is THX-1138 followed by Logan’s Run followed by A Boy And His Dog.


I think for me it’s somewhere between The Office, Red Dwarf and The Death of Stalin, then with the Dead Mall YouTube series aesthetic.
The Office: The mundanity and office politics of now, with all of the bureaucracy, forms and pointlessless covered hastily up with a motivational poster.
Red Dwarf: Specifically the early series with grey walls, everything looking kind of cardboard and everything malfunctioning or falling apart.
The Death of Stalin: You’re not as powerful as the characters here, but you’re as trapped in a deadly, ludicrous situation. You’re trying to betray and kill your way to just surviving and sometimes that’s enough.
Dead Malls: Listening to One Shot’s playthrough of the recent edition made me think about the aesthetic of old malls. Espectially in the current edition, the sense that everything is falling apart but we can’t admit it had me add this style. A bit of 80’s-90’s mall colouring & logos, some vapourwave. Fake plants, open areas and crumbling corners ignored by the few people wandering around. Just add more security cameras and colour-coded areas and it’s great for Alpha Complex.


Now you’ve got me contemplating a Blades hack where Stress becomes Treason, for starters.


That. Sounds. Amazing. At your convenience, would you be so kind as to tell me every single detail you can recall? :smiley:


I played the Fiasco playset once, and it was a well-written playset but didn’t play very well. My guess is that this is because Fiasco & Paranoia have fundamentally opposed play cultures. In Fiasco, you’re supposed to play generously, like you’re doing improv, whereas Paranoia, you’re supposed to screw everyone.


I’m interested in your explorations of these concepts. Keep us posted!



Ach! This thing makes me post more characters. Enjoy!


I’ve got a lot on the plate so it probably isn’t going anywhere, but there’s some interesting things that work for both.

The claustrophobic setup confined to a city. The players as members of a coordinated team. The law being oppressive and omnipresent. Small ways of acting out against Alpha Complex (i.e. Devil’s Bargains). Vices to relieve stress.

It needs a lot of creativity to make it track, but there’s probably the core of something.


When I played Paranoia in the 1980s - and I haven’t played it since, unfortunately (although the bass player in one of my favorite punk bands asked me to run a game for his group back in the 90s) - the GM ran it as gory slapstick. I think every player exhausted every clone, and the GM went out of his way to achieve a full team kill. BUT. It was funny. And ridiculous. We weren’t doing campaigns - we were doing one-shots - so it didn’t matter much and it wasn’t really frustrating as a result. Obviously, the GM’s team kill approach would have failed in a campaign setting, but for one-shots, it allowed him to get at the bloody nature of the setting and its more disastrous implications.


I just realized that there’s a Fiasco playset for Paranoia!


I found it amongst the “Fiasco resources” links from backing the current Fiasco Bundle of Holding.


I can’t remember very much I’m afraid, it was well over a decade a go as a one-shot at a holiday type RPG convention.

Firstly we played Angels and instead of having clones we just resurrected. The next thing I remember was that we were given big constraints on our characters morality/personalities (probably something in the original In Nomine - but I’ve never read it) the sort of ultra-paladin like stuff which would kill any normal game and which definitely conflicted with the other PC’s agenda and personalities. But it was a comedy game and we were encouraged to play it to the max. Then I also recall our ‘mission’ was stupidly simple but because of the character personality constraints it was stupidly hard.

It was hilarious - and I don’t remember anything else.


That sounds hilarious! Thank you for sharing. :slight_smile:


This might not be news to anyone else, but I just found out people have been coming up with other interpretations of Friend Computer to make the whole game simultaneously more serious and consequently more absurd. Someone just posted a GDoc reflecting on how to make it more like a real world AI, and from that there are links to Paranoia-as-Matrix with Troubleshooters as Agents, and Alpha Complex as actual Utopia that you have to defend, both of which look like delightfully good times. I’m looking forward to researching further.