Goodness of Paranoia: me, the GM or the game?

edited November 2007 in Story Games
In the game X taught me Y-thread Giorgios said:
Paranoia taught me just how hilarious it can be to play your character and the game straight. Especially in a comedy game.
For me Paranoia was also a bit of a eureka moment, but of what precisely I am not totally sure. The few sessions we played showed that I could have a lot of fun by playing one of those dicy games, straight out of the box and the fun was really in what was prescribed by the game. I have had a huge amount of fun, clearly more than with Paranoia playing games as Orpheus and Fading Suns. But then, we really played Paranoia. When we have heaps of fun with Orpheus and FS we basically meet and have a lot of really engaging fantasies around themes which happens to be found in books with those specific names on the covers.

Paranoia is, in spite of the rather large book, very narrow in scope and I would never play it every week, that would get really tiresome.

But. Is this a common Paranoia experience (we played the XP version, BTW) or was just because our sharp and sinister GM at the time?

Comments

  • I love Paranoia. It's probably my favourite game.

    With the "sharp and sinister GM thing": I think it's important to understand* that that's all prescribed by the rules. The GM-player power relationship is completely integral to Paranoia. As the GM, you're given examples, throughout the book, of how to manipulate your players (in fun). So it's all in the system.

    (Actually, I think we miss a lot of that in indie games, because we like things more egalitarian. But that's another story.)

    Graham

    * That sounds patronising. Sorry. Wasn't meant to be.
  • Posted By: sven
    Is this a common Paranoia experience (we played the XP version, BTW) or was just because our sharp and sinister GM at the time?
    I'm not sure what you mean. What exactly was your Paranoia XP experience other than fun?

    One thing I've noticed is that Paranoia is often thought of as that "zany pseudo-RPG", "thinly disguised GM tyranny" or "silly puns and random character killing". Which is of course a legitimate way of playing Paranoia, but sadly requires you to drop a great deal of what makes Paranoia a great game.

    I like to think of Paranoia as a spiritual predecessor to Shab-al-Hiri Roach. (Or maybe Roach is the less formal version of Paranoia.) If your experience was all about mostly inept political manoeuvering, shifting blame, acting like utter bastards under a veil of civilty and sweating blood as you try to stay afloat (or alive), then our Paranoia games have been similar.
  • Posted By: GeorgiosIf your experience was all about mostly inept political manoeuvering, shifting blame, acting like utter bastards under a veil of civilty and sweating blood as you try to stay afloat (or alive), then our Paranoia games have been similar.
    Yes! Blackadder on really f'd-up drugs. With a side dish of Marx Brothers, and a dash of Terry Gilliam.
  • I played paranoia for the first time last week. It was a lot of fun (although I developed a most un-paranoiac attachment to my PC, which added a tinge of desperation to the political manouvering). My one frustration was with the sheer volume of secret communication, which often slowed the game to a crawl, even with most of the players using IM to communicate via laptops rather than conventional note-passing. Is there a way to have good paranoia without the secrecy? If not, then that might just be a major sticking point for me.
  • Posted By: Graham WWith the "sharp and sinister GM thing": I think it's important to understand* that that's all prescribed by the rules. The GM-player power relationship is completely integral to Paranoia. As the GM, you're given examples, throughout the book, of how to manipulate your players (in fun). So it's all in the system.
    I havne't read the book, but I had also realized that the GM manipulation it was part a part of the system. But in other trad games, like WoD there are other such rules in the system, but it seems like they seldom lead to anything really useful. Probably because they are incoherent.
    Posted By: GeorgiosI'm not sure what you mean. What exactlywasyour Paranoia XP experience other than fun?
    Well it was very fun. The reason for the fun was the flow of the game and feeling of there always being a tangent for me to follow. This feeling of constant tangent, and of being at every moment engaged in the game I otherwise mostly get in friform games (and when I se friform I mean Jeep form or something rather close to it) and in some larps (if they are really good). (For example I felt this yesterday, when I for the first time in two years GM:ed a friform game. Amazing fun. AP in a day or two.) In friform games, though I can reach this about clearly more serious issues than in Paranoia. We create really fun/good and improvised stories in Paranoia, but there aren't really any interesting issues.

    The question I originally tried to formulate was if it was just a coincident that it happened with Paranoia rather than with another game. Based on Graham's answer I would say that probably it wasn't a coincidence. Probably it is just a good game that fits me. I will read the book. (Yesterday I moved temporarily to the city where my old GM lives, so I can probably borrow his book.)
  • Posted By: sven
    I havne't read the book, but I had also realized that the GM manipulation it was part a part of the system.
    It might just be me, but I'm a little wary of calling what a GM does in Paranoia 'manipulation'. Mostly because it reads to me as if there is something cagey, dishonest and malicious about it. I don't think that's true. Sure, the Alpha Complex is a twisted, dark and insane place. The higher-ranking NPCs are often conniving, two-faced scumbags. The player characters are regularly - if not constantly - in the dark about things and have to act on false, incomplete or incoherent information.

    But the players should know all this. They should be aware of it. That's what makes Paranoia fun and funny. They don't need to know what is actually going on, but as a fellow player at the gametable the GM should be open when there's obviously something that the characters need to know, but aren't allowed to. The GM advice in the rulebook recommends clearly switching between Alpha Complex and GM personas for that reason.

    GMing Paranoia isn't about pulling a fast one on the players, but about the Alpha Complex playing a trick on the characters.
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