So yeah, not only a new posting two weeks in a row but reviews two weeks in a row. This is by no means setting a precedent. So don’t expect another post or a review next week. I am not going to say it wont happen, but just don’t expect it ok 🙂
This review starts with the question, why 2nd edition? In part because it cleaned up some of the rules a little (unfortunately it also cleaned up one of my favorite rules in regards to weapons from the first edition) and also in part because I was lucky enough to find a copy at a used book store (Half Price Books, which really should be called, Half Price Books Unless We Have Figured Out There Is A Collectors Market And In That Case We Will Take Up The Price Until We Are Charging Whatever Out Team Saw Online Or A Price On Amazon Or Ebay, Or Maybe Higher If Someone On The Team Thinks We Can Make That Much) for slightly less than it would have cost me to get it off Amazon or Ebay. I had vowed not to do a review without a copy of the game on hand so that when I make references I can be specific.
So originally Paranoia came out from West End Games in 1984. I did not get into the game until 1985. But as soon as I read the back of the game box I was interested. Having seen Logan’s Run for the first time in 1982 and really enjoying the setting, I had thought, ‘Ya know a little sci fi comedy based in something like that cant be too bad, I will give it a shot.’ Oh gods, the insanity that I let loose. 2nd edition did not come out until 1987 but by then it was too late, I was in hook line and sinker. At the very first I did not like the way they had cleaned up 2nd edition, but I eventually came over to believing it was for the best. If you want a fairly good breakdown of the history of the game try the wiki for Paranoia, or maybe you want, like me to keep up on the latest updates regarding the newest version that is scheduled to hit the streets come late summer this year you can check it out on their Kick Starter page here. And technically while West End Games went kaput back in 1999 or so you can still get some of their games online in digital format. Anything that was not a licensed property or Paranoia that is.
So what really is the deal for Paranoia? Why is it one of the few games that keeps coming back no mater what? I really think it comes down to the setting. If you have seen Logan’s Run then you know how dark and twisted a vision of the future it is. If you don’t know about the movie then try starting with IMDB and see if you can get some of the basic ideas about the film. To give you my interpretation of things, imagine a future where the only way for humanity to survive the impending world war three was to place people into a vast covered city complex. Now then to make sure that resources were used correctly that group of people gave up a lot of their control to a computer that was supposed to help keep them safe. That computer also decides that cloning is the best way to ensure that people survive. Ok so that is how it started. Now then move forward in time say six or seven hundred years. Humans with access to the computer have been giving it conflicting updates for generations. Human wisdom is almost gone. And now just to make sure that a single type of clone will live more than a few days due to the violence inherent in the system six of the same person are decanted from the clone tanks at a time. Lets now move forward another few hundred years so that the computer in charge can get into full blown digital paranoia and all the humans in the complex can fall into a state where all of this seems so totally normal that its boring. On the back of the rule book for second edition they have a little quote “Imagine a world designed by Kafka, Stalin, Orwell, Huxley, Sartre, and the Marx Brothers.” I would have used the Three Stooges instead of the Marx Brothers but for those who read a lot that should give you another point of view on the setting.
Paranoia invites us to take a look at the most ridiculous aspects of how life is run, how complex we make things for ourselves, the extent that we let ourselves get buried in bureaucracy, and just how desperate we get for someone to blame. And to laugh our asses off about it while taking a laser pistol to everything. Imagine a place where everything you are, and nearly everything you do can get you killed for treason. Unless you get someone else to take the fall, and if you do that well then you get rewarded. Imagine a place where team work is needed to get the job done, and boot-licking is the best way to save your life. And even if you are totally incompetent you can come out on top.
Second edition of the Paranoia RPG was laid out in a way to make that sort of thing easy to do. Basically the section of the book for the players gives you a glance at the daily life of the players, the rules for rolling up a character, and none of the explanation of how it works. The game master gets all the real rules. Knowing the real rules, if you are a player, is treasonous. However if you can act like you don’t know the rules and blame another player, or their character… well you see how this is going 🙂
In regards to the game itself, while some people will see Paranoia as a beer and pretzels game (this means you take the game out for a one shot that no one takes seriously and you just have fun with it for a night to take a break from your real gaming) I actually see it as the single most challenging long term game ever created. Because it is so easy to have your character die, and it is so tempting to do really stupid things because you have back up clones, it is easy to just say ‘Fuck it’, and run with it. However if you really get into it and want to see just how far you can go you can challenge yourself in ways you never will see in another RPG.
So by this point you will have noted that I have not gone into a lot of details about the rules, or been very specific about the characters and the things they can and can’t do. That is on purpose dear readers. This is one of those games that I want to pique your curiosity about and get you to find out more on your own about, and also I wanted to live up to Paranoia itself… by giving you just enough information to get you into trouble 🙂
Ready for the numbers?
Fluff – 4 This game is so full of little details, like the Termination Voucher, the Mission Report Form, the art, the bits of information that are detailed out in such a way to make it easy to play a character it is kind of nuts. The details for the game master are just as thorough. However to really get the full feel for the game I would have to suggest that there are also some supplements that you would need to have if you are planning on playing long term. The DOA Sector Travel Log, Hill Sector Blues, and Acute Paranoia. All three of these together give you more rules and more flavor so that you can really really go over the top. Without them you are not in trouble, and not short on anything you really need, but they really seal the deal. There are actually about twelve pages or so in each of those supplements that if they were in the main book I would have been telling you a five is not enough score. So really lets call this one a 4.5 in the meat of the text here, but since I like rounding lets still call it officially a 4.
Crunch – 5 Overall the rules are simple and effective. There is enough detail given so that you can teach yourself the game quickly, and then spend years finding ways to take advantage of any of the loop holes. Now if we were talking first edition I would have had to go with a three for the score because there were too many conflicting rules and some that made no sense what so ever. One of those that made no sense really but I had a blast with it is the games version of a rocket launcher originally had a firing range of 160 meters. The Tac Nuke shell had a blast radius of 200 meters. Characters top run speed is 20 meters per turn. Damage from a Tac Nuke is to destroy everything in the blast radius. Not using Computer provided equipment on a mission is treasonous. So here is the question, do you use the shell and die? Do you not use the shell and die from committing treason? Do you come up with a scapegoat to get out of your first two choices? But they went and fixed this in second edition… of all the rules to fix… sigh
Mod – 4 Giving this game a mod of four is actually a hard choice for me. With the cleanup of the rules done for second edition it is actually fairly easy to add things like more secret societies and mutant powers. It is a bit more challenging to add things like new weapons. And unless you are a form junkie please do not try to add any new forms. Time consumption really is what that one comes down to, and really how do you get professional looking forms anyway. The overall rules are not designed to be all that alter friendly, but you can do it with a little effort. The setting information though can be updated, altered and twisted with ease. And when the Paranoia team originally came out with adventures for Vulture Troopers from Dimension X they showed how well you could actually cross genre this game. So I think 4 may be a stretch, but not by much.
Fun – 5 Whether you are playing this game as a beer and pretzels shoot em up, or you are playing a longer running game I think Paranoia is a lot of fun. It is twisted and it is strange and it can reflect real life whether it intends to or not. It can also teach you a lot about gaming. One of the best things it taught me was to run ‘Live Table’ games. If you don’t know Live Table that mean that while players and GM sit at the game table anything (or should that be everything) they say is in character, or on behalf of their character. You need to get up and move away from the table if if is not something you need to say in character. Also it taught me the best ways to keep the pace up in a game. Oh and I learned how to tie a Tac Nuke shell to a scrub bot and then convince the scrub bot to go clean a place 210 meters away and then blame the commie mutant traitor on my team for destroying computer property. Yeah, that taught him not to mess with the Hygiene Officer on the mission.
Overall – 18/20 Paranoia is a hell of a good game, in a great setting. Even though there are later editions, and Paranoia XP gives you some great advice and options for going all the way into a completely serious campaign or getting so far out there that you may need to have a couple dozen pregenerated characters for a single nights gaming, I think that second edition came closest to being the perfect version of the game so far… I may see a new top version this summer though 🙂 🙂 🙂
And now if you made it this far citizen, the debriefing. You will have noted that in the reviews I tossed in a few terms that may seem off, they are from the game. I am trying to hint a little more without being treasonous you know…
Keep gaming everyone and gimme the dice, I need to make a Chutzpah and a Moxie check to see if I can get another scrub bot to do me a favor…