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Paranoia is a dystopian science-fiction tabletop role-playing game originally designed and written by Greg Costikyan , Dan Gelber , and Eric Goldberg , and first published in by West End Games.
Since the game has been published under license by Mongoose Publishing. The game is set in a dystopian future city which is controlled by an artificial intelligence construct called The Computer also known as 'Friend Computer' , and where information including the game rules are restricted by color-coded security clearance.
Player characters are initially enforcers of The Computer's authority known as 'Troubleshooters', mainly for the fact that they shoot trouble , and will be given missions to seek out and eliminate threats to The Computer's control. The player characters are also part of prohibited underground movements which means that the players' characters are usually included among the aforementioned 'security threats' , and will have secret objectives including theft from and murder of other player characters.
Several editions of the game have been published since the original version, and the franchise has spawned several spin-offs, novels and comic books based on the game. A crowdfunding at Kickstarter for a new edition was successfully funded.
Delivery to backers began in March Paranoia is a humorous role-playing game set in a dystopian future similar to Nineteen Eighty-Four , Brave New World , Logan's Run , and THX ; however, the tone of the game is rife with black humor , frequently tongue-in-cheek rather than dark and heavy.
Most of the game's humor is derived from the players' usually futile attempts to complete their assignment while simultaneously adhering to The Computer's arbitrary, contradictory and often nonsensical security directives. The game's main setting is an immense, futuristic city called Alpha Complex. Alpha Complex is controlled by The Computer, a civil service AI construct a literal realization of the " Influencing Machine " that some schizophrenics fear.
The Computer serves as the game's principal antagonist , and fears a number of threats to its 'perfect' society, such as The Outdoors, mutants , and secret societies especially Communists.
To deal with these threats, The Computer employs Troubleshooters , whose job is to go out, find trouble, and shoot it. Player characters are usually Troubleshooters, although later game supplements have allowed the players to take on other roles, such as High-Programmers of Alpha Complex.
The player characters frequently receive mission instructions from the Computer that are incomprehensible, self-contradictory, or obviously fatal if adhered to, and side-missions such as Mandatory Bonus Duties that conflict with the main mission. They are issued equipment that is uniformly dangerous, faulty, or "experimental" i. Additionally, each player character is generally an unregistered mutant and a secret society member which are both termination offenses in Alpha Complex , and has a hidden agenda separate from the group's goals, often involving stealing from or killing teammates.
Thus, missions often turn into a comedy of errors, as everyone on the team seeks to double-cross everyone else while keeping their own secrets. The game's manual encourages suspicion between players, offering several tips on how to make the gameplay as paranoid as possible. Every player's character is assigned six clones, known as a six-pack , which are used to replace the preceding clone upon his or her death.
The game lacks a conventional health system; most wounds the player characters can suffer are assumed to be fatal. As a result, Paranoia allows characters to be routinely killed, yet the player can continue instead of leaving the game. This easy spending of clones tends to lead to frequent firefights, gruesome slapstick, and the horrible yet humorous demise of most if not all of the player character's clone family.
Additional clones can be purchased if one gains sufficient favour with the Computer. The Paranoia rulebook is unusual in a number of ways; demonstrating any knowledge of the rules is forbidden, and most of the rulebook is written in an easy, conversational tone that often makes fun of the players and their characters, while occasionally taking digs at other notable role-playing games.
Paranoia features a security clearance system based on colors of the visible spectrum which heavily restricts what the players can and cannot legally do; everything from corridors to food and equipment have security restrictions.
The lowest rating is Infrared, but the lowest playable security clearance is Red; the game usually begins with the characters having just been promoted to Red grade. Interfering with anything which is above that player's clearance carries significant risk.
Within the game, Infrared-clearance citizens live dull lives of mindless drudgery and are heavily medicated, while higher clearance characters may be allowed to demote or even summarily execute those of a lower rank and those with Ultraviolet clearance are almost completely unrestricted and have a great deal of access to The Computer; they are the only citizens that may legally access and modify the Computer's programming, and thus Ultraviolet citizens are also referred to as "High Programmers".
Security clearance is not related to competence but is instead the result of The Computer's often insane and unjustified calculus of trust concerning a citizen. In the game, secret societies tend to be based on sketchy and spurious knowledge of historical matters. For example, previous editions included societies such as the "Seal Club" that idolizes the Outdoors but is unsure what plants and animals actually look like. In keeping with the theme of paranoia, many secret societies have spies or double agents in each other's organizations.
The actual societies which would be encountered in a game depends on the play style; some societies are more suited for more light-hearted games Zap-style, or the lighter end of Classic , whereas others represent a more serious threat to Alpha Complex and are therefore more suitable for Straight or the more dark sort of Classic games. Five editions have been published. Three of these were published by West End Games - the 1st, 2nd, and "Fifth" Editions - whereas the later two editions Paranoia XP and the 25th Anniversary editions were published by Mongoose Publishing.
In addition to these five published editions, it is known that West End Games were working on a "Third Edition" - to replace the poorly received Fifth Edition - in the late s, but their financial issues would prevent this edition from being published, except for being included in one tournament adventure.
This edition can be seen as a response to the natural development of the line towards a rules-light, fast and entertaining play style. Here, the humorous possibilities of life in a paranoid dystopia are emphasised, and the rules are simplified considerably from the first edition. Many of the supplements released for the Second edition fall into a story arc set up by new writers and line editors that was intended to freshen up the game and broaden roleplay possibilities.
While they undoubtedly did so, giving roleplayers the opportunity to transcend time and space, play in a post-apocalyptic Computerless Alpha Complex, or play in a post-post-apocalyptic Alpha Complex in which the Computer battled for control with other factions, many fans felt these new settings ran counter to the spirit of the game. In particular, many [ who? Second edition supplements can generally be divided into four eras:.
The game skipped two editions as a joke, and possibly also as a reference to the two major revisions to the game released during the lifetime of the Second Edition with the Crash Course Manual and the Paranoia Sourcebook.
It has since been declared an "un-product" cf. Almost none of the original production staff were involved, and the books in this line focused less on the dark humor and oppressive nature of Alpha, and more on cheap pop culture spoofs, such as a Vampire: The Masquerade parody.
As well as the lighter, sillier atmosphere, fans also disliked the lower production values of the new edition, in which most of the internal art consisted of extremely cartoonish and sketchy illustrations as opposed to the more detailed and thematically-appropriate Jim Holloway illustrations of previous editions. Art director Larry Catalano left West End in After they too departed, editorial control fell to—how do I put this tactfully?
Following the extremely negative reception of the Fifth Edition, West End Games began planning a new edition of the game, which would be released as the "Third Edition". Pages from this planned edition were exhibited at Gen Con in  - two years after the release of the Fifth Edition. Due to West End Games' financial problems this edition was never completed. In an interview in  Scott Palter of West End expressed hopes that the Third Edition would be published that summer; however, he also disclosed that court proceedings had been begun by the original designers in order to reclaim the rights to the game.
The designers would ultimately succeed in purchasing the rights to the game, putting an end to any possibility that the final West End Games edition would be released. A single adventure has surfaced which contained a brief summary of the third edition rules. Following the bankruptcy of West End Games, the original designers of Paranoia banded together and purchased the rights to the game from West End in order to regain control of the line.
In , Microsoft requested that the XP be removed. As such, the name was shortened to just Paranoia. This edition of the game has received a much warmer critical reception, as well as selling well. This edition also introduced three different styles of play, with some game mechanics differing between the various modes to support the specific tone being sought-after:.
Primary designer Allen Varney, in the designer's notes, explained that his aim with the new edition was to return to the game's roots whilst updating both the game system and the satirical setting to take account of twenty years of game design progress. In both the core rulebook and the Flashbacks supplement - a reprint of classic adventures originally published by West End Games - Varney was highly critical of West End Games' handling of the product line in its latter days.
In a posting on RPG. In order to distance the new edition from the less commercially and critically successful aspects of the West End Game line, and to discourage new players from wasting time and money on what he considered to be inferior products, Varney additionally used the designer's notes to declare many West End products, including the "Fifth Edition" and everything published for the 2nd Edition after The People's Glorious Revolutionary Adventure , to be "unproducts" - no longer part of the game's continuity, and not recommended for use with the new edition.
An upshot of this is that much of the poorly received metaplot established late in the West End Games line, from the Secret Society Wars to the Reboot and beyond, was disposed of. Varney has explained that this is due mainly to his distaste for the direction the metaplot took the game line in, a distaste he asserts is shared by the game's fan community.
Long-time Paranoia artist Jim Holloway , called "the master of the fun-filled illustration",  drew the cover art and much of the internal art for the game until His art for the series generally portray comedic scenarios that capture the essential "deathtrap" feeling of Alpha Complex. Paranoia XP marked his return to the line as well; he has designed every cover of the XP edition, and many books contain both his classic and new Paranoia art.
While Paranoia XP kept Communists as the big bad scapegoat in spite of the Cold War being long over, the updated edition integrates several 21st century themes into its satire. In writing the new edition, Varney, Goldberg and Costikyan reached out to and actively collaborated with Paranoia' s online fan community through an official blog and through Paranoia-Live.
Many ideas established in the Lexicon game were written into the rulebook. Later, some of the best players and writers from the game and a few other places were formally integrated as the Traitor Recycling Studio to write official Paranoia material; their first credited work was the mission supplement Crash Priority.
In , Varney's fellow Paranoia writer, Mongoose Publishing employee Gareth Hanrahan, took over as primary writer for the Paranoia line.
During the lifetime of the XP line Mongoose released numerous supplements and adventures for the game. Notable amongst the supplements was Extreme Paranoia , which provided ideas for scenarios based around characters of security clearances Orange to Violet, with premises differing greatly from the standard Red-clearance Troubleshooter concept but remaining thematically appropriate to the game's setting and atmosphere.
The idea of devising new and varied concepts to base Paranoia adventures and campaigns around would be revisited for the next edition of the game. In June , Mongoose Publishing announced that they would be retiring the books in the XP line to clear the way for the 25th Anniversary Edition line - revealing a new edition of the rulebook as well as two new rulebooks, one casting the players as higher-clearance Internal Security investigators and one as Ultraviolet High Programmers.
Each of the three books is an entirely self-contained and playable game: Paranoia: Troubleshooters , Paranoia: Internal Security , and Paranoia: High Programmers. The Troubleshooters volume presents a slimmed-down version of the XP rules, the most notable difference being the removal of the Service Firms and the advanced economy of the XP edition, with the focus firmly on the game's traditional premise of casting the player characters as Red-clearance Troubleshooters.
The third game, Paranoia: High Programmers , casts the player characters as the Ultraviolet-clearance elite of Alpha Complex society and focuses on the political plotting and infighting that dominates the High Programmers' lives, a premise not dissimilar to the Violet-level campaign ideas presented in Extreme Paranoia.
The Troubleshooters volume retains the play styles of the XP rulebook; however, the "Classic" playstyle is assumed by default, with "Zap" and "Straight" relegated to an appendix. The Internal Security volume includes an appendix listing three new styles tailored for the game - "Heist", "Overkill" and "Horror".
High Programmers does not specify playstyles. The most recent edition at the time of writing from Mongoose Publishing was announced through Kickstarter  October 24, In a departure from previous Mongoose editions, RED Clearance Edition utilises a d6-based dice pool system as well as using cards for equipment, mutant powers, secret societies, and combat actions.
The base game was primarily designed by James Wallis , and released in March Additional writing for the new edition was initially provided by Gareth Hanrahan , while the first major expansion, Acute PARANOIA, was written by various writers and funded through Kickstarter  in for an early release. But if you like high-tension suspense along with a slightly bent sense of humor, Paranoia is a unique and highly desirable experience. It soon found a following among gamers looking for something different in their role-playing adventures.
Still, a close inspection of the combat system revealed that it was slow moving and cumbersome. The mechanics were hard to grasp in places, making it difficult to get into the freewheeling fun. The Paranoia game has been treated to a revamp, and this time the rules are slick.
All that tricky stuff which made the combat system such a pain to run has been shelved off into optional rules. In a reader poll conducted by Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time, Paranoia was ranked 7th.. Editor Paul Pettengale commented: "For players of games where character development and campaign continuity are a priority, Paranoia is an absolute no-no.
If a character of which there are six versions - each person in Alpha Complex has six clones lives through an entire scenario then they're doing well. Hell, they're doing better than well, they're probably Jesus Christ reborn er, no offence intended, all ye Christian types.
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Infrared: You get a hearty thanks from Mongoose and the designers for supporting the all new Paranoia. Yellow: You get all the contents of the Paranoia box set, including any stretch goals, as a PDF download. In addition, you will receive a PDF download of the playtest version of the rules before the end of the year so you can influence the design of Paranoia! Violet: You get the complete Paranoia Box Set, special Ultraviolet Kickstarter Edition, with two of everything included inside - perfect for group play! In addition, you will receive a special PDF with annotations from the designers so you can see what influenced their writing. In addition, you will receive a special certificate, signed by the creators of Paranoia including original designers Dan Gelber, Greg Costikyan and Eric Goldberg! In addition, you will receive a special PDF with annotations from the designers so you can see what influenced their writing, along with a series of MP3 files in which the designer's talk about the design process.
Paranoia is a dystopian science-fiction tabletop role-playing game originally designed and written by Greg Costikyan , Dan Gelber , and Eric Goldberg , and first published in by West End Games. Since the game has been published under license by Mongoose Publishing. The game is set in a dystopian future city which is controlled by an artificial intelligence construct called The Computer also known as 'Friend Computer' , and where information including the game rules are restricted by color-coded security clearance. Player characters are initially enforcers of The Computer's authority known as 'Troubleshooters', mainly for the fact that they shoot trouble , and will be given missions to seek out and eliminate threats to The Computer's control.
The Computer is your friend. The Computer is crazy. The Computer wants to make you happy. This will drive you crazy.
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