Following the fun we had playing Citadels and Munchkin the week before, and also following the chaos that most of the RPG’s I had run began to descend into; I decided to run a session of Paranoia. This was Second Ed. as my copy of the new Mongoose one hadn’t arrived. The players were Ben C, Charlotte H, James H and Richard ? (Matthew ? was on holiday; a pity as I think it would have been right up his street).
Paranoia, for those new to it, was the game that turned the basic concept of RPG’ing (teamwork, loyalty, explore and get the treasure etc.) on it’s head. Paranoia is set in an underground complex called Alpha Complex, controlled by a well-meaning but deranged Computer [Serve the Computer. The Computer is your Friend.] The Computer wants you to be happy and so employs teams of Troubleshooters to go out, find trouble, and shoot it. The main object is to survive; usually at the expense of others. Of course, they have the same goal. Imagine a film of 1984 made by the Marx Brothers and you’ll get something of the idea. I pregenned the Troubleshooters so I could arrange a secret mission for each one, gave them a brief overview of what they knew of their world (i.e.: basically nothing) and they started in a red-painted room with a button and a blank panel on the wall.
Of course, someone pressed the button and the panel lit up, counting down from 60….59….58….57… A search for doors proved futile so they cowered in the corner of the room. When the counter reached zero a slip of paper slid out of a slot beneath the screen. On it were instructions to report to the Equipment Room. A panel slid open, revealing a corridor. A conveyor belt took them through a series of chemical sprays that first dissolved all their clothing to sludge, then dissolved the sludge to another kind of sludge, then baked it hard with infrared lamps and finally sprayed them with jets of warm water., before depositing them in a room containing some red clearance jumpsuits, reflec armour and laser pistols with red barrels.
Richard used an unauthorised colour (blue, way above his security clearance) to write on his PID (Personal Information Document = Character sheet) and was questioned by his Friend, the Computer. Appearing to be deaf, he was restrained whilst the Personal Hygiene Auditory Exploratory Cleaning Module cleaned out his ears. He survived with only a few bubbles down the nose. The briefing screen ordered them to report to the Equipment Room to collect mission equipment; again Richard said he couldn’t hear properly. The PHAECM came into use again but this time….ah well, his head exploded.
Shortly after, his replacement clone arrived out of the corridor and, with Ben finally elected Team Leader they set off along another corridor; emerging onto a balcony part way up on the edge of a huge warehouse about five miles across by four miles deep. Some argu…. discussion ensued about what to do next; it was then they discovered they were standing on rail tracks, with a huge cargobot rumbling towards them. They ran off down the tracks; but Charlotte resolutely stood her ground; stating that she liked ‘bots (? – news to me!) The cargobot got to within a few feet, then with a “Warning! Warning! Activate anti-Vermin Removal System”, lasered her into little pieces, then carried on. (Memo: in Paranoia, if something looks like it might carry weapons; it probably does).
Further on, the others had reached a platform off the tracks and the ‘bot rumbled past. Charlottes replacement clone arrived by flybot carryall and they all examined the platform. A control panel with a dial, some levers and a large button. Some fiddling around led to the platform rapidly heading downwards at terminal velocity. Pressing the button applied the emergency brakes, resulting in them slamming into the floor of the platform. James tried to climb over the edge of it; when it began to move again he tried to climb back, landed on the control panel and yet again they were heading floorwards at high speed. This time, they got it to stop at the level of the Equipment Room, to be met by Muzz-Y-HED and fined for being late.
Whilst being outfitted (all carrying two backpacks each!), Ben asked if could write on the back of his PID as there wasn’t enough room on the front. Not a good idea. He was awarded some Treason Points for questioning the design of the PID which was done by CPU Service Group under Computer Directive B1123/24/678/B.2. Maybe Richard really was deaf, because shortly afterwards, he asked the same question, with the same results. They also got their Mission Briefing: - go to Room A – here and take item from it to Room B.
With the jackobot leading the way, they headed off to Room A. The ‘bot tried to take a shortcut through a Blue corridor; obviously they had all learnt by now as they all refused to follow and the ‘bot had to be ordered back. Going the long way, after about 10 miles they reached some food vats ( a long hall; they were on a catwalk with bubbling vats criss-crossed by pipes – a cross between Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a sewage plant). Realising that the ‘bot could not cross the pipes; Ben ordered it to go back and meet them on the other side. Charlotte did not want to sent the ‘bot away; accusations of being a treasonous Commie ‘bot lover flew, and first Ben, then Richard shot her; she fell into the food vat, where she quickly dissolved, (quite amusing as Charlotte had made this up; it wasn’t in her pre-generated character).
Eventually getting across a slippery pipe to a balcony on the other side, they found a Cruncheetyme Algae Chip Dispenser and got some food ( the kids broke here to get some food and a drink; they ALL came back with ready salted crisps – a Red packet, cleared for their security level, and Mars bars, again red and black. Surely they didn’t think that their Friend the Computer would penalise them for eating Salt ‘n’ Vinegar (Green) or Cheese ‘n’ Onion (Blue))? Charlotte’s new clone met them and eventually they arrived at Room A, along with the jackobot.. They found that the object was a large metal thing that practically filled the room. Despairing at this, Richard appeared to express a deathwish, The Computer showed concern that Richard was unhappy and suggested he took a Happiness Pill. This put a slight smile on his face. Ben took two of them and got such a beaming grin that his head cracked in two. His new clone arrived by elevator shortly afterwards.
Charlottes and Richard were sent to find Room B; they found it on the level below, directly below Room A. Charlotte had some fun trying to get the lift to work to get back; at one point she was heading upwards at escape velocity; then downwards, then sideways etc. Finally she pressed the button for Level 42 and got back to Room A. There was discussion going on about cutting through the floor when the game was called due to time.
Thus ended the game. It was great fun and produced a lot of laughs. Paranoia is true free-form improvisational theatre; other that the basic mission and the starting room and corridor, everything else was improvised and extrapolated from what was being said and done at the time. Also, at one point, the game of Power Grid on the next table was disrupted by Matt laughing at what was going on.
Yesterday, my copy of the new Mongoose printing arrived. Still reading it, but it has been totally revised to bring it up to date with the 21st Century. Alpha Complex is now an economy and you can even sell stuff on C-Bay! The game system has been overhauled and streamlined and looks good. I’ll be running some games in the summer. Ben loved it and said it was the best RPG session he’d played..