Then I made the mistake of wandering down the Royal Mile. Not again.
The Game: Paranoia
The Publisher: Currently Mongoose, but my version's from back when West End Games had it. Back before WEG ate itself.
Degree of Familiarity: At some point, I've owned and run every edition (except XP). I'm most familiar with 2nd ed, the One True Paranoia, so that's the one I'm doing.
Books Required: The Paranoia corebook
I love Paranoia. It's about the only game where I could GM with a water-pistol in hand and soak people to indicate my executing them. Not that I was a killer GM, I never dropped people into situations where they had no chance of escape. Rather, I was impartial. Which, given the world, is the same as being sadistic. Unfortunately, I've not run Paranoia since playing Portal; while my Friend Computer has always been influenced by ice-queen domme SHODAN, the characterisation of ditzy psycho-ex GlaDOS would fit Friend Computer better.
Paranoia, for those of you who have been living and gaming under a rock, is a satirical roleplaying game. The world has ended, and only Alpha Complex remains. Alpha Complex is the world, and the ruler of that world is the ever-benevolent Friend Computer. The Commies pulled the trigger, and Friend Computer retains a burning hatred of those dastardly Commies. To ensure that Alpha Complex remains pure, the Computer runs a society that is effectively a totalitarian communist dictatorship with a bureaucracy that puts anywhere in the real world to shame. Friend Computer sees Terry Gilliam's Brazil as being a good start. Characters are members of clone families; each character has five replacements for when they die. Not if, I hasten to add. Characters will die.
The cloning process is imperfect. Mutations occasionally creep into the gene pool. Those who have a useful mutation may be registered, identified by an obvious marking on their uniform. Everyone else is a mutant, but must keep their power secret—only registered mutants may be mutants, for another clone to be a mutant is treason against Friend Computer. Breaching the carefully-controlled network of security clearances, based on the colours of the rainbow, is treason. Secret societies flourish among everyone, but belonging to a secret society implies that Friend Computer isn't everything that you need and is thus treason.
Everyone is a member of a secret society. Everyone is a mutant. These are things that the characters must keep secret, because as far as they're aware each character is the only non-registered mutant, the only member of a secret society. Every PC is a traitor at least twice over. Treason is punished by death. Turning in traitors is rewarded with money and extra Bouncy Bubble Beverage ration. Paranoia games usually turn into bloodbaths.
Characters start as newly promoted RED clearance Troubleshooters. They're one step above INFRARED (black) clearance citizens, and at least one step below everyone else; meaning that they've got to obey the orders of everyone above them. These orders are often contradictory. Disobeying any order is treason. As Troubleshooters, the characters are expected to find trouble, and shoot it. Often, they're the cause of trouble that involves shooting. To Friend Computer, that's close enough.
Much of the game relies on quick thinking on the part of players, and the ability to spontaneously generate valid-sounding bullshit is a vital survival skill. The only greater skill is luck; after the mission briefing character proceed to R&D to collect some experimental stuff. Said experimental stuff is above the characters' security clearance, so they don't get the instructions. They are still expected to fill out a full field test report. One of the supplements included an awful lot of forms for just this purpose.
Each version of Paranoia is subtly different. 1 and 2 shared much of the same ideas, and 2 was merely a refinement of 1 (with a different system). 5 ignored the bleak totalitarianism and black humour in favour of crap puns and bad pop-culture references. The latest version, originally called Paranoia XP until Micro$oft decided that people might confuse a roleplaying game with the only usable version of BloatOS, updated the setting for a post-cold-war age, with a controlled economy and the introduction of privatised service sectors.
A name, in Paranoia, is made of a given name, a security clearance (one letter), and a sector of birth (three letters) followed by the clone number (1-6). Names can be crap puns, but clever puns should be rewarded.
I'm too knackered to come up with an amusing name, so I swipe Pep-R-MNT-1 from the book.
1d20 into each Attribute.
Mechanical Aptitude 19
How... random. I reroll Power and Moxie 18 and 12 respectively.
From here, I can calculate Damage Bonus (0), Macho Bonus (0) and Carrying Capacity (25). I also work out my Skill Bases for those stats as have them (everything other than Strength, Endurance, and Power).
I roll another d20. 9. That lands me in the Armed Forces. Fortunately, Alpha Complex really is that arbitrary. I suppose it'll give me an excuse to pick up skills in shooting people. In fact, I get special training in the following:
Vulturecraft Operation and Maintenance
Another d20, and a decision: Do I want to register my power? I roll a 9. Machine Empathy. I could register it, if I want to die painfully in a burny fire of burny death!! I'm not that dumb, so I keep the power to myself. Machine Empathy is a special power: on a successful use, robots and computers—including Friend Computer—like me and want to be my friend. Hence why just having the power is treasonous.
5 on a d20 lands me in Death Leopard. Slackers, griefers, and heavy metal wasters. Rock on.
30 points. Skill + Skill Base can go up to 12, save for those skills listed above which can go to 14.
With a high skill base, I'd be a fool not to raise some Mechanical skills. The only one that really matters is Vulturecraft Repair and Operations. 5 points. Grenades and Unarmed could do with some love, maybe 5 points each. 5 points again into Motivation (inspire the other guy to do something dumb). Finally, 10 points into Laser Weapons. If I can't talk them into behaving, I can bloody well give them some lethal encouragement. That's my 30 spent.
I get a RED laser pistol and RED reflec to start with. I also get 100 credits to represent my position as one step above the
Normally, I'd jot some personality notes here, but most Paranoia games rely on the personality (and wit) of the player more than the character. I'm thinking that Pep-R-MNT-1, despite his lack of physical prowess, proved useful enough that he was swiftly promoted sideways to range training for Armed Forces members. He shouted at recruits until they hit the target, and was quick to demonstrate when they missed. He discovered one recruit using his telekinetic powers to deflect the shots of another recruit. Thing is, his target was the favoured INFRARED of a BLUE-clearance general. Pep shot the mutant scum rather than admit that the victim was a crap shot. Displaying such a sense of duty saw him promoted to Troubleshooter, where he'll likely get into a lot of trouble by shooting—and he couldn't be happier. Well, he could. If he were team leader, he'd have a chance to use his shiny new bullhorn to remind the others of all the ways they can serve glorious Friend Computer by smashing things up and generally causing chaos.
This sheet is made up, I'd normally use a good old two-sided one to keep the treasonous info secret.
Service Group: Armed Forces
Mutant Power Machine Empathy
Secret Society: Death Leopard
Carrying Capacity 25
Damage Bonus 0
Macho Bonus 0
Skill Base 4
Primitive Melee 9
Skill Base 2
Laser Weapons 12
Skill Base 3
Skill Base 3
Mech. Apt. 19
Skill Base 5
Vulturecraft Repair and Operations 10
Carrying Capacity: 25
Damage Bonus: 0
Macho Bonus: 0
RED laser pistol
Personal Hygiene Kit
SuperGum & Solvent