In 1984 the Cold War was heating up. Just a year before, the Soviet Union had shot down KAL Flight 007 and President Reagan had unveiled the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka “Star Wars”). Fears of nuclear confrontation between the US and USSR were high.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was also the year in which George Orwell’s legendary dystopian novel of the same name was set. Apple Computer aired its famous 1984 Super Bowl ad, which cast the as yet unseen Macintosh computer as a power that would usher in a new era of computing. But what if computers weren’t here to help?
Enter Paranoia. Informed by Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Logan’s Run, and THX 1138, it was unlike anything that came before it. Suffused with dark humor, the game brings player characters together on missions for The Computer, the ostensibly benevolent overlord of Alpha Complex, a subterranean post-apocalyptic metropolis. Every character has a security clearance, which determines which information and resources they can access. Alpha Complex is rife with secret societies which often operate at cross-purposes. Nobody can be trusted, and if you’re not careful you may get killed enough times that you run out of clones.
Here’s how the publisher describes Paranoia:
Trust the Computer. The Computer is Your Friend!
As a Troubleshooter, you are a member of Alpha Complex’s most expendable elite force. Tasked with finding trouble and shooting it, you will be hunting mutants, terrorists, traitors, [CLASSIFIED], secret societies, renegade bots, and DAIVs, which are [REDACTED]. You’ll save Alpha Complex from its greatest threat, unless you accidentally become Alpha Complex’s greatest threat.
Three Things About Paranoia
- Trust No One: In Paranoia it is important not just to be wary of NPCs, but also of your fellow party members.
- Wake up! Time to die!: While every player character starts with several clones, that’s no guarantee of survival.
- Humor-powered: You can tune the level of humor in Paranoia from grim to slapstick, but you can’t avoid it; it’s baked into the setting and mechanics.
- “Paranoia’s latest incarnation is a streamlined, rules-light, game system with new mechanics that should be easy to follow, and additional ideas you can add or ignore at your leisure.” – Cedric Chin, RPG.net
- “It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s thoughtful, it’s paranoid and entertaining and WTF at the same time.” – Antonios S., RPG.net