The Computer is your friend. The Computer is crazy.
The Computer wants to make you happy. This will drive you crazy.
Paranoia is not a humorous roleplaying game about a distinctly Orwellian, dystopian future and living in a sealed city run by a psychotic computer. On the contrary, Alpha Complex is a utopia. Friend Computer is wise and benevolent and not at all murderous. There are no communists, mutants, traitors, or secret societies. Technology is more advanced than it has ever been in the history of civilization, and research and development does not routinely involve handing out prototype weapons which will of course never let loose a nuclear explosion if dropped. There is nothing of note outside of Alpha Complex, and all its citizens are completely happy to live inside it and never leave. Happiness is mandatory. Unhappiness is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
There are four editions.
- The original edition, by Costikyan et al., from West End Games.
- The second edition, also by Costikyan et al., from West End Games.
- Paranoia XP, by Allen Varney and also Costikyan, from Mongoose Publishing.
- Paranoia aka Paranoia Rebooted or Kickstarter Paranoia, by James Wallis and also Costikyan, Goldberg et al., from Mongoose Publishing.
There is no fifth edition released in 1995. It could not have skipped two editions as a "joke", because it didn't exist. Belief in the existence of a fifth edition is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
A planned third edition to be released by West End Games following the negativity of the fifth edition wasn't needed, and the designers didn't win back the rights to Paranoia ensuring this never happened.
Paranoia XP was rebranded as simply Paranoia in 2005, at the request of Microsoft. However, the name stuck in fan circles. This edition was followed by Paranoia 25th Anniversary Edition in 2009, however the differences between this and Paranoia XP are so minimal that only those immersed in the minutia of both editions would notice.
Following a successful Kickstarter, Mongoose have released a new edition that features cards and a Computer Dice (borrowing an idea from another West End Games property, Ghostbusters). Doubtless, this will be the most perfect version of the game yet, and reminiscing about previous versions is a result of agents working to make the populace unhappy.
If you are reading this, please report to Friend Computer for reassignment, as it is clear to Friend Computer that your schedules of fun and satisfying duties as a Troubleshooter are not filled to capacity with joy. Failure to report for reassignment is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
It should be obvious to any citizen that this document is classified level BLUE. If your clearance level is INFRARED, RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, or GREEN, please escort yourself to the nearest confession booth for immediate execution. Failure to arrive at your execution is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
Setting and rules
Players of Paranoia play Troubleshooters: agents of The Computer who find trouble and shoot it. Thankfully, due to Friend Computer's all-seeing benevolence, trouble is scarce. Citizens who become aware of trouble are asked to report it to Friend Computer, who will dispatch friendly neighborhood Troubleshooters to deal with the trouble. The existence of trouble is impossible due to Friend Computer's omniscience. Claiming that Friend Computer cannot prevent or eliminate all trouble is insubordination. Insubordination is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
As a Troubleshooter, you certainly are not a part of any secret societies, and you obviously don't have any mutations, and you have NEVER committed treason. Most certainly not! You also can rest well, knowing that your Troubleshooter allies could never plot against you OR Friend Computer! After all, they are Troubleshooters! Traitors are trouble! So if a Troubleshooter was a traitor, obviously they would have shot themselves, so they could remove their trouble from our beloved and perfect Alpha Complex. Doing otherwise is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
Troubleshooters may be given certain additional duties if they survive their first mission. These additional duties give you the mandate of assisting your party, and should not be used to backstab your entire party, unless it turns out that your entire party has committed treason. Failure to fulfill your additional duties is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Team Leader: Has the duty of commanding the party and deciding which direction to travel in when lost (and also, hilariously, decided last and therefore being too incompetent for the other duties). The Team Leader is held to an even higher standard of not being treasonous than everyone else, but in exchange, is considered more convincing when accusing others of treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Communications Officer: Equipped with additional communications and recording equipment, allowing them to open a direct line to Friend Computer from almost anywhere (unless the signals are being blocked by mutant commie traitors), thus making it very easy for them to report treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Loyalty Officer: Charged with the duty of ensuring that all members of the team are loyal to Friend Computer, Alpha Complex and have no doubts as to instructions given by Friend Computer. Doubting instructions or failing to be loyal is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Equipment Officer: In charge of maintaining the team's gear. Will also be given new experimental technology with a tendency to explode in the user's face to test before every mission. Failure to test this technology is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Hygiene Officer: Ensures the proper cleanliness of the team. Full hygiene inspections can be as long and invasive as the Hygiene Officer likes. Objecting to a hygiene inspection is insubordination. Insubordination is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Happiness Officer: Has the duty of making sure that the entire team remains happy at all times. Unhappy team members must be made happy as soon as possible via injections of happiness drugs. Happiness is mandatory. Unhappiness is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
As Troubleshooting can be a fairly lethal activity, all Troubleshooters are issued with a six-pack of additional clones. Upon the death of a Troubleshooter, Friend Computer will dispatch a clone to the Troubleshooter's former location at its earliest convenience. Troubleshooters may be rewarded with additional clones if they successfully complete a mission, and may purchase more clones with their wages. Misuse of additional clones is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
Paranoia features a security clearance system based on colors of the visible spectrum which heavily restricts what the players can and cannot do; everything from corridors to food and equipment have security restrictions. The lowest rating is Infrared, but the player characters start at security clearance Red, having already earned some of The Computer's trust by turning in a friend for treason. Treason is punishable by death.
The full order of clearances from lowest to highest is Infrared (visually represented by Black), Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, and Ultraviolet (visually represented by White). Within the game, infrared-clearance citizens live dull lives of mindless drudgery and are medicated to the point of losing all free will, and those with Ultraviolet clearance are almost completely unrestricted and have a great deal of access to The Computer; in fact, 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". Higher level citizens, especially those of Blue and above, can demote and or even
summarily execute properly re-allocate lower level citizens. Security clearance is not related to competence or even authority, though there is often a correlation; clearance is instead a measure of The Computer's trust in a citizen. If The Computer does not trust you, then it is probably because you committed treason. Treason is punishable by death.
Mutants and secret societies
There are no mutants or secret societies in Alpha Complex. However, traitorous rumours have been spread that mutants and secret societies have corrupted the cloning pods of the Complex to give most new clones the delusions that they have mutant powers and/or are members of a secret society. Acting upon these delusions is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
The only truly "metagame" mechanic in Paranoia which can be talked about without being treasonous is the Perversity Points system. Perversity Points are awarded by the Game Master for being amusing and/or inventive. Spending one perversity point allows you to add or subtract one from any dice roll, anywhere on the table. In cases where the party has split into two opposing teams (which is rare, because getting even two players to trust each other is a herculean effort, much less having it happen twice), everyone around the table might spend all of their perversity points on raising and lowering a single dice roll. This is hilarious. Not thinking this is hilarious is treason. Treason is punishable by death.
- Friend Computer is always watching. Friend Computer is always listening. All Alpha Complex citizens, no matter their security clearance, must always be aware of the price of treachery.
- Fiasco playbook for Paranoia for rolling up