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  Mechanic #040 - Paranoia

Category: Mmorpg
Posted: 06/17/07

An online game based on the Paranoia pen and paper RPG, where information about your friends is the difference between life and death.


The setting is a distopic future where mankind has given up its destiny to an all powerful computer. Players live in a world where their every need is met - or more rather, controlled. They are at the complete mercy of the computer and are sent on routine missions to do things like repair things or hunt mice through the air vents. The problem is, the computer is rather insane and more than a little paranoid. If the computer so much as suspects you for anything, it'll probably vaporize you on the spot. Life expectancy is not high since the computer ALWAYS suspects somebody of something.

The game is simple in theory. You play a citizen and you are sent on missions by the all powerful computer. Of course, nearly all of them have a catch and are more or less a death trap. Work together with your fellow players to have even a fighting chance of survival.

  Secret Societies

To make matters more interesting, there are four secret societies that a player may belong to. Each one is focused on overthrowing the computer and taking over the known human world for themselves. For each mission, each society will have a sub-mission - espionage, sabotage, assassination, you know, cool stuff. But if you get caught by the computer, it's curtains.

The twist is that everybody else on the mission will likewise be members of secret societies as well (or not, you don't know). For all you know, their true mission might be to make sure you don't come back alive. You won't even know if the guy standing next to you is in the same secret society as you - unless you ask him, of course, for which he can report you if you are wrong.

  Information Gathering

Okay, none of that was gameplay and more than a little bit of a bastardization of the Paranoia pen and paper game, but here's where the gameplay mechanics come in.  

Something Suspicious?
Clone 78a [uses the computer].

Clone Q32 says, "Hello, friend. [Would you like to buy a watch?]"

Clone AFK is wearing:
Red overalls.
A workman's shirt.
[An unusual pin]

Clone THX-1138 says, "[Clone AFK was seen at the life support computer]

The way it works is that certain types of information are highlighted. When somebody says something strange, does something strange, wears something strange, or just acts outside the ordinary at all. This information may be important or it may not be. Simply being strange is enough to note, not to suspect.

Each play is given a sort of notepad in which they are able to keep track of other players - similar to a friends list, but for suspected friends. You can add a player to the list simply by clicking the unusual information. That info will be added to the list under his name. You can share information with other players as a rumor (which you can make up, of course).

At any time, you may "accuse" another player. Each type of accusation requires certain types of suspicious information. For instance, if you want to accuse a player of being a member of the Black Turtlenecks, you'll need to have some info that links the player to the BTs. If you want to accuse a player of sabotage, you'll need to specify exactly what sort of sabotage and some clues linking the accused to it. For instance, if you accuse someone of sabotaging the weather system, you'll need three or four suspicious actions involving weather system machinery.  

An Accusation
Clone 78a accuses Clone AFK of sabotaging the life support system for Pod 43.23.54.

Clone AFK:

  • [used computer terminal 34].
  • wore [an unusual pin].
  • was seen [loitering around Pod 43.23.54].
  • was seen [asking about Pod 43.23.54]
  • During an accusation, it is up to the player to decide which four or five suspicious activities to use. The computer will decide how paranoid that makes it, and may end up destroying the accused. If it is not enough, the computer may decide that you are trying to frame the accused and that you are a member of a secret society and disintegrate you instead - so tread wisely. A successful accusation will increase your security level, which nets you a better life while increasing the risk you become a target of assassination.

    Rumors are worth less when accusing somebody. They are easier to defend against and may end up making you look bad. However, if you can disprove a rumor, that becomes suspicious information, like Clone X [told a false rumor about Clone G].


    When a player is accused, he is taken to a room where trial is held against him. Each piece of evidence is presented to him one at a time, and he can counter the evidence. He may provide an excuse, blame somebody else, and stuff like that. Some evidence is more difficult to excuse than others, so it's good to also have suspicious behavior on the accuser, to turn the blame back agaisnt him instead.

    If one loses the trial, there are also options available. Depending on the significance of the accusation, perhaps an apology and prostrating in front of the computer can get you away with a simple demotion. Or one can name names - tell the computer the names of other members of your secret society (you can lie, of course). Since you have probably been inducted into the society be another player, you should have quite a nice list of evidence against them, even if the society meetings is done anonymously.

    Naming names will get you excused from the secret society and at the top of the assassination list (you know somebody is out to get you, you just don't know who... yet).


    To sum up, the purpose of the game is to complete missions without getting caught, catching or framing others, and generally trying to be a complete bastard and not get caught doing it.

    The examples in this entry have all been text, but information gathering could also be done visually by using a camera to take pictures of suspicious activity. Of course, since you can also use the camera to take pictures of sensitive machinery, using a camera is suspicious too. So take pictures of things happening without somebody else taking a picture of you taking those pictures.



    Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.