What are you doing, citizen?


I’ve said it in posts before, sometimes when running a game I just like to kick back. That was supposed to be when I ran a D&D game, thanks to Tomb of Horrors that’s now out the window. But this is what Paranoia is now, and really it’s that sort of game.

Yet for all it’s random hijinks and mayhem, there’s a lot more work behind the scenes than for your average roleplaying game.

Let’s take a look at how setting up Paranoia works…

Before the Game

Paranoia turns the preconceived ideas for a roleplaying game on their head, and even before the players get to the table. For starters, the best way to set up the game is to have all the character sheets pre-genned. This can be seen as a turn off for some players, but there are reasons for this.

A lot of the game depends on players keeping secrets from each other while the GM uses these secrets to work against each other, even with the same player. This is more to do with secret societies than mutant powers, as well as the service groups and instructions. The best way to coordinate this is to have pre-genned characters, that way you can cover the bases you want the game to cover and more importantly you don’t have any doubling up.

My first session was with pre-genned characters, though the players did get to choose among the characters I had by viewing the non-secret side of the sheet that defined skills and service groups. Once they had chosen this, they were given a large envelope with the secret side of their character sheet. This also contained the instructions from their service group and secret societies.

Afterwards, I asked if they wanted to generate their own characters through dice rolling and they refused. They saw that I was able to manage things behind the scenes and create the conflicts much, much better when I had control of almost absolutely everything. Though it took me the better part of a week to have everything organised.

And not to mention all the form that make Paranoia so enjoyable.

Rules, what rules?

It’s a well-known fact that in Paranoia, most of the rules aren’t known to the players and with everything else the GM makes it up. When the lasers start flying, if the GM wants it to happen, it can and the rules state that. But there is a little more than that going on…

Paranoia usually has a subtext, of which I explain to the players after the session. There’s what the players are told by Friend Computer, their service groups, secret societies and various NPCs…and there’s what’s really going on. And only a few players are given facts, or some of them, to make them nice and, well, paranoid.

Most of the good Paranoia modules have this subtext, which is understandable as the game exists in a totalitarian state.

Getting to the game

Then, when you get to the actual game much of the fun is in the preparation for the excuse of a plot. Finding the mission room, filling out the various forms, visiting R&D, executing players for hilarious reasons… These can be random or thought out, but when there are conflicts involved as part of the secret stuff they can form an intricate part of the plan.

And this goes for the actual mission itself as well. It’s not a coincidence that some random NPC just so happens to be from the same secret society as you. Just as it isn’t a coincidence that so many secret society recognition signals are so similar.

So it’s Paranoia this week, and the session I will run is of such fun and will turn everything my players thought they knew about Paranoia on it’s head. There’s just so much bloody paperwork!

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~ by katanageldar on September 14, 2010.

3 Responses to “What are you doing, citizen?”

  1. I have played Paranoia when I was a kid, but the game was totally random mayhem. We were young and somehow got the idea, that Paranoia has no real point. I guess our GM was one to blame for that, but well, he was young aswell and it was the first game he ran.
    So for me Paranoia has always been an odd one. Never actually knew how it should be played nor got the idea why it is good. It was just that random stuff without a point.
    I’d like to know more about his game as I have advanced as a player and GM over all these years.

  2. […] What are you doing, citizen? from Level 1 GM (gmgeldar.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] mentioned this before, and I will say it again: every Paranoia mission has a subtext, and usually more than one. This […]

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