Sunday, February 12, 2017

Paranoia session report

Last night, I dipped my GMing toe back into a classic RPG that I hadn't experienced since about 1992.

For whatever reason, I wanted to try a slightly different approach for this session.  Instead of 1984 meets the Marx Brothers, I went for 1984 meets... something else.  One of my inspirations was the first episode of Blake's 7, another was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The setting and style was dystopian and slightly absurd rather than slapstick, pun-heavy, and ridiculously gonzo.  I think I pulled it off, but time will tell.  No one outright told me the game sucked.  Actually, everyone said they had a good time.  However, one never really knows, does one?

Since this was a one-shot for several people who had never played Paranoia before, I gave it my own personal hack-job.  You can read about it here and there.

The characters were named Clyde, Plank, Sepiroth, Jerrick, and Buh.  Buh stood out the most because he was the stupidest with an Intelligence score of 2, which also made him the perfect supervisor.  That little detail may not have come about if I hadn't had each player roll 2d4 x 100 for their starting credits and weekly salary.  Buh made 700, and one of the players reasoned that he would probably in some kind of managerial position.

After familiarizing them with how things worked around Alpha Complex...  Infrared lives matter!  ...they walked to the factory where they all worked.  Making them co-workers seemed like a decent starting off point for a Paranoia adventuring troupe.

The water is brown and the food has been recycled so many times, one may as well just eat poop.  However, the speakers played tranquil music, faces always smiled, and everyone in Alpha Complex seemed comfortably numb... until a fellow citizen went crazy with a flamethrower.

Plank went to investigate to see what was the matter - after all, who could be angry and frustrated in such an amazing place as this? - but was quickly charred to a cinder.  His clone emerged minutes later, catching up with the others on their way to work.

They collectively noticed a recruitment poster on the wall.  "Become a troubleshooter!  We're looking for a few disposable citizens for security clearance red.  Risk life and limb fighting terrorists, and earn an extra 100 credits per week.  The Computer needs you!"

A couple of the PCs considered it and seemed interested in finding out more information.  They couldn't locate a recruitment office, though.  Also, they had heard horrific stories of bootcamp.  So, the idea remained just that for the time being.

While working in the factory, the PCs were approached by a citizen selling clean food and water - without all those preservatives, additives, and neuro-inhibitors.  No one seemed interested.  Without any provocation on my part, all the players kept their characters within the rigid confines of a drug-induced totalitarian state.  Even though 4 out of the 5 players had never played Paranoia, they had heard about it or researched the game enough to stay within the genre parameters

There was a mandatory coffee break, even though Alpha Complex had run out of coffee years ago.  The players did a great job of improvising further details, like everyone in the break room is drinking water, but they all have to pretend to its coffee... unless they want to be labeled a terrorist and executed.

The ground shook as another bombardment took place.  Someone or something was shelling Alpha Complex again.  A few of the PCs took damage from falling ceiling.  Then it was back to work.

And lunch time!  Just before arriving at the cafeteria, they were diverted to an alternate route because of a toxic waste spill.  A citizen was mostly melted and the floor was glowing a bright green.  I had them all make Wisdom checks and those who passed had a theory - getting close may give them mutant powers.  After all, I felt bad that only Steve's character, Sepiroth, had mutant powers.  Alas, none availed themselves of the opportunity.

The detour took them farther and farther away from every section of Alpha Complex they knew.  After 3 hours of walking they came to a dead-end, filled with dust, cobwebs, a broken monitor, and the skeleton of a citizen with blue security clearance.  Additionally, there was a section of the ceiling missing.  Looking up revealed a hatch of some kind.  Sepiroth investigated but the others were really hungry and wanted to eat.

By the time they got back to the cafeteria, the toxic waste was cleaned up and they had not only missed lunch but dinner as well.  Then, Jerrick remembered that one dude who tried to sell them clean food and water earlier in the day.

They went to where he lived.  He provided them with the good stuff for a price and wanted them to break his brother out of the detention bloc.  His brother had been locked up for distributing subversive pamphlets.

By this time, the drugs from Alpha Complex food and drink had all but wore off and the PCs were starting to think clearly for the first time in years.  The Computer was bullshit and Alpha Complex sucked!

There was some floundering, but eventually the PCs decided to go for red security clearance.  They found a small red golf cart for speedy travel and searched it.  They were hoping for some better than black uniforms.  I gave them my standard 33% chance (or 2 in 6) of discovering 1d4 red uniforms.  They found 1 and Jerrick put it on.

As the night was getting late and there wasn't too much game time left, I rushed them through basic training.  They had to survive a physical challenge, an emotional challenge, and an intellectual challenge.

The physical challenge was an obstacle course.  All participated and Buh was circling the field looking for landmines... which he found.

The emotional challenge was being strapped to a chair and lie detector while being asked personal questions, such as have you ever wet yourself at the thought of terrorist activity and have you ever had sex with your sister's clone?  That one went to Plank and in response to the questions, he kept asking, "You mean today?"  And then would answer in the negative.  I rolled for the lie detector and it couldn't detect shit, so he passed.

The intellectual challenge was a room containing a bomb set to explode in 20 seconds.  Clyde was thrown in and given an option between a red, green, and violet wire to cut.  He chose the violet, which was wrong, and little bits of him flew all over the place.

The citizen in charge of the training really wanted to get to breakfast before all the sausage and egg McPoop was gone, so he passed them all.  Also, no one questioned Jerrick's credentials, so he just remained a red.

Just before they were going to eat, Sepiroth noticed a citizen with violet security clearance rushing down the corridor.  He dropped some papers - a TPS report (with coversheet).  The report claimed that an asteroid was heading straight for Alpha Complex and it was going to hit very soon.

Then, it was back to the hatch!  The PCs escaped as a couple orange security guards fired lasers. An orange uniform was stolen, Clyde wanted to make a heroic last stand, and the rest fled into the jungle at night.  They eventually came to a rainbow-robed wizard and his barbarian companion questioning a tied-up citizen of Alpha Complex.

The battle raged for several rounds.  The wizard burned a few of the PCs with his fireball and the barbarian skewered at least one guy.  So, half the party emerged from the cloning banks back in Alpha Complex while the rest stayed in the outdoors.

For the guys back in Alpha Complex, they ran into a High Programmer who was fiddling around with some special device he was given from a citizen of a lower spectrum.  Sepiroth and Buh investigated.  The High Programmer got bored, insulted Sepiroth, and handed him the device - the device which could save Alpha Complex from certain doom!

Long story short (too late, I know) Alpha Complex was saved by Sepiroth's fiddling with buttons.  The asteroid bounced away with little time to spare.  Then, they left their underground city again.  Only to return after 3 months of learning the ways of an outdoorsman with the weird device.  The hatch was locked from the inside, so Sepiroth - having learned of its power - set the thing to detonate and stood way, way, way back.

The explosion took out 8% of Alpha Complex and killed about 97 people (out of about 1,000).  This just occurred to me, but that destructive deed made the PCs actual terrorists (even though terror wasn't their goal - they just wanted to get back inside to free people, get dates, or something).  I wonder... could The Computer have foreseen future events and modeled Alpha Complex to prevent this from occuring?

Afterwards, flailsnails, beholders, mind flayers, and all the other stuff that WotC doesn't want us to use crept into Alpha Complex.  Also, women were freed (stolen) and Jerrick - fancying himself a wizard after stealing the wizard's wand - acquired an apprentice.

That was pretty much it.  So, a nice little adventure.  I think I did Paranoia justice, even though I didn't go down the typical roads of constant pop-culture references, finding every little thing treasonous, and instigating player vs player clone annihilation.

Anyways, thanks for reading.  I'll be running Marvel Superheroes RPG (second edition) next month.


p.s.  I forgot to mention one of the more poignant encounters of the night.  Plank was bossing people around with his newfound red security clearance power.  In the cafeteria, he ordered some lowly infrared to get him something to eat.  Instead of going up to the lunch line, the black uniformed citizen offered to drop his overalls and shit right there in the corridor... because at least that way the food would be hot and fresh.

It was a weird moment that emphasized how absurdly horrible some of the living conditions were in Alpha Complex (the food, the authoritarianism, and the lack of corridor hygiene) while surprising myself with such an epic gross-out.