Paranoia (1984)

Paranoia is a humorous dystopian roleplaying game that came out, sublimely, in 1984. You live in a futuristic city called Alpha Complex that is ruled by The Computer. The Computer is your friend. Information is regulated by color-coded security clearances. Ostensibly, you are a Troubleshooter, an enforcer for The Computer (who is your friend), solving problems and neutralizing threats to Alpha Complex’s security.

It gets more complicated. Every character is a member of a secret society that is in some way trying to subvert the rule of The Computer (which is rude, because The Computer is your friend). This makes your character a threat to the security that you’re trying to protect. Worse, everyone else in the party likely belongs to a separate secret society, with their own set of goals. Unlike most RPGs, theft and murder among the party are inevitable in Paranoia. Which is OK, because your character is part of a six-pack of clones, so a little death isn’t something to be concerned about.

The Computer is to be obeyed at all times, even if its orders are incomprehensible, arbitrary or outright deadly. Further, demonstrating knowledge of the rules of the game is forbidden (most of the books in the box set are above your security clearance, Troubleshooter).

It’s all very funny, competitive and gruesome, clearly anticipating the post-apocalyptic black humor of the Fallout series.

Couple thoughts on the art work. James Holloway does all of it, which is impressive, because there is a ton of it. I don’t usually dig Holloway’s D&D art (I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, but it has something to do with his line work), but I love his Paranoia work. He’s better suited for dystopias, I guess. Anyway, my favorite thing about the box set is how the covers are all watching each other, a nice visual trick that plays into the game’s themes.

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