You’re Not Paranoid if Everyone Really Is Out to Get You

WARNING: If you’re attending Gary Con V and intend to sign up for one of my Paranoia games, STOP. READING. NOW.

Seriously, this session basically served as a playtest for the adventure I’ll be running at Gary Con V. You’ll see it in the event catalog as DGS Presents: Paranoia – Clones in SPAAAAACE! (I may have the number of As and !s wrong).

Also, if you’re are not security clearance Blue or higher, reading the previous two paragraphs, except the words “Warning”, “Stop”, “Reading,” and “Now” constitutes treason. Please report to the nearest suicide booth for summary execution.

As with many missions, this one started with an alert coming to the Troubleshooters as they went about their pointless lives. They were summoned to Mission Briefing Room 45C1ENCE. Immediately. Naturally, being loyal citizens of The Computer, the complied. Our Troubleshooters for this misadventure were Wand-R-BRA, Schwartz-R-NLD, and Docked-R-HOO. True, it was a lighter team than normal, but The Computer was confident they would be able to succeed. The Troubleshooters were surprised to find the mission briefing was being conducted by The Computer itself:

Welcome, Troubleshooters! You have been selected to volunteer [VOLUNTEERING IS MANDATORY] to establish the First Alpha Complex Lunar Annex. This exciting mission will secure your place as Heroes of Alpha Complex [use of titles not authorized]. Please report to R&D for training and mission details. Alpha Complex Scienticians will provide you with your equipment and your Mandatory Bonus Duty Assignments. Have a pleasant day!

No one died during the mission briefing, so they proceeded to R&D. The lead scientician introduced them to the most valuable piece of equipment, the heavily-modified Flybot H4L-9000. (I described it as a VW-microbus welded to a quad-arrangement of semi-truck cargo carriers). They were given experimental equipment (testing new equipment is fun and not at all dangerous, probably): Communist Detection Spray, a Clone-Portable Quantum Tunneling Device Prototype, aka Portal Gun, a Cone Pistol (one-handed cone rifle), and a Chrono Gun. In addition, the R&D Scientician informed them the cargo carriers contained everything they needed to establish a base colony on the surface of the moon, as well as additional weapons, should they encounter any natives or Commie Mutant Traitors.

Since I waited a week again, I’ve forgotten several details, so I’ll sum up: They were barely out of Earth’s atmosphere when someone was accused of treason and an explosive weapon was fire, blowing out the windows of the flybot. Naturally, at least one clone was blown out into space. The other two died shortly afterwards of asphyxiation, since a voice-operated interface cannot be operated without air to transmit the command of “re-pressurize” once the window shutters closed. Additional clones in the cargo area were activated and several more died in the week that followed as they flew to the moon. Once they landed, the Big Green Button that activated the colony was pressed and it inflated quite well. The troubleshooters even found some spacesuits to protect them from the hard vacuum of the lunar surface. They discovered another colony on the moon, however, one flying the Hammer & Sickle of the Commie flag! Preparations were made to wipe out the rival colony when Schwartz-R-NLD-2 had the brilliant idea of shooting a relatively flat surface of the moon with the Portal Gun, then shooting the top of the Commie Dome, suffocating all within (if I am not mistaken, that player had not played Portal 2). Poor Docked-R-HOO was on clone 5 by then. But they were victorious…and stuck on the moon. Perhaps next year, we will revisit the Troubleshooters at the First Alpha Complex Lunar Annex.

Ah, good old Paranoia. Always good for a few laughs when D&D just ain’t cuttin’ it or too many people fail to show up for the game. I prefer the 2nd edition of the game to any versions that came before or after. It’s a very simple d20-below-target-number resolution system and that’s just about it. That’s all it needs. Paranoia isn’t about DPS builds or skill monkeys: it’s about surviving in a world where EVERYONE is out to get you, including the GM. If the GM plays his/her cards right, he/she doesn’t even need to do anything. Just put the players in absurd situations & dangerous environments and let them kill each other with impunity. It’s quite simple, really. In all, 3 players, 6 deaths. That’s a 200% mortality rate! Actually, that’s pretty low by Paranoia standards. I’m confident when I run it at Gary Con V with a full table of 6 players, I’ll boost that number up to 350% – 400%.

Now, on to my 2013 plans. I intend to wrap up my D&D 4E Eberron game within the next 4-6 sessions (give or take, depending on how long it takes the PCs to get through the challenges before them…e.g. depending on how much gaming we actually do as opposed to sitting around the table BSing). 4E as a system never really floated my boat, and my latest attempt to run with it just isn’t doing it for me. In retrospect, I could’ve just gone with the Pathfinder Basic Set for my new player (my wife) and I think things would have progressed just as well as far as her learning the system goes. Game prep has not been terribly enjoyable, even with the tools WotC provides on their website and the type of fantasy 4E encourages just isn’t my cup of tea. That’s not a judgement on the quality of D&D 4E, it’s just a statement of preference. Also, there was a time when I greatly enjoyed game prep and could spend hours and hours perfecting encounters and writing detailed environments and that time has not returned to my life. I was single then with no other activities requesting portions of my time.

After the 4E campaign is wrapped up, I plan to  start a Pathfinder Adventure Path campaign, using the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path. I summed up this game to my players in two words: Goblin. Pirates. It was met with some enthusiasm by those who attended the Paranoia game. Those who did not are either hearing about this for the first time by reading this blog post or will hear about it at the next game, this coming Friday. I have not decided if I’m going to jump right into Pathfinder or spend a few sessions with another game as a palate cleanser, as it were. A few one-offs along with a group character generation session might do us good.

Group character generation is interesting. I know there are a lot of players who don’t like this as it involves a lot of sitting around not playing, but I think it’s very valuable. Even with e-mail, I’ve seen groups composed of Fytor the Fighter, Fietor the Fighter, Figh’tor the Fighter, and Roger the Shrubber, despite the players supposedly conferring with one another over e-mail about how to create a balanced group (the group balance thing is one reason I’m starting to like rules-light non-D&D games more than D&D). I’ve also been trying to encourage my players to think of the relationships between their characters. How does Character A know Character B? How do Characters C & D know A & B? It helps prevent groups composed of Lone Wolf Anti-Social Loners from having to adventure together when there is no logical reason for them to even have a beer together. It prevents situations like goodly knights finding themselves in the same group as a decidedly neutral worshipper of the god of murder/assassins.

The above is parody and not meant to be a transcript from an actual play session. It’s just the type of thing that I’ve heard of happening when characters are created in a vacuum and the players still want to play together despite their characters not really having any reason to hang out together, but they do so anyway because it’s people playing a game. I believe the term is “verisimilitude.” Of course, if all the PC Pirates are going to be Pathfinder Goblins, that’s a whole different brand of anarchy and mayhem. Golarian will never be the same.

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