paranoia's lost secrets

In preparing to run a role-playing campaign or two, I’ve been reviewing a lot of old games that I used to enjoy. I’ve subjected myself to a lot of really lousy material, but it’s been mostly enjoyable. In fact, half the time it’s the extremely lousiness that makes it so much fun. (It is baffling to consider the likelihood that there exist people who actually like Rifts as it was written.)

One of the games I’ve been reviewing is Paranoia. Paranoia has a special place in the heart of most gamers I’ve known. It’s the game you played when you wanted to hang out and play something, but didn’t want to really play anything serious or have to worry about continuity or think about much of anything. We all played Paranoia 2nd Edition, and we all whinged about how the fifth edition was a real pile of crap. (I can’t remember anything about the difference anymore, except that 5th Edition might have assumed a post-Mega-Whoops campaign.)

I remember being excited to find a used copy of The Iceman Returneth, the supplement in which the game basiaclly came to an end. While I knew there were post-Crash supplements, I never paid them much mind. The only one I’d read at all (Acute Paranoia? Crash Course?) pretty much blew.

This past week I found a copy of two of the immediately post-Crash adventures, and they’re sort of enjoyable. They play around with time travel and the origins of the setting, and they’re about as good as most Paranoia adventures tend to be. The second one, TwilightCycle 2000 (which claims to be playable as a Twilight 2000 adventure, wuh!), bills itself as part two of the “Vulture Warriors in Dimension X” trilogy, and points forward to the next installment, “Dr. Whom and the Paranoids of Alpha.”

I can’t find any record of that supplement existing.

Now, Paranoia is a fairly popular RPG – just the sort of thing about which geeks are likely to obsess. Despite this, there is a dearth of information about it on the web. There are a few really horrible fan pages with one or two crappy homemade adventures or character sheets. There are one or two modern sites about the new “Paranoia XP” (which, incidentally, seems to be pretty well-liked). There just isn’t a definitive list of all the supplements or of a Paranoia timeline. I found an alternate timeline, designed to make Paranoia make no assumption about when the USSR fell (it didn’t, originally, anyway), and that timeline has an event labelled as “Dr. Whom,” but I don’t know whether this guy just read the same one-line reference to the missing module, or whether he actually had a copy of a now-forgotten product.

What is up, geeks? Why are you not posting incredibly detailed analyses of Paranoia timelines and plot holes, like you do with everything else? To be honest, I’m disappointed.

You know, while I’m going on about the lack of overly obsessive analysis, I might as well contribute some.

There isn’t any need to rewrite the history of Paranoia just because the USSR fell apart before the New Reckoning. As I recall, the second edition rules say that the cataclysm that sent everyone underground was a meteor strike that occurred in the far future, when all of mankind lived a utopian existence. The only reason that Commies came into play was that the Computer couldn’t get any other information on what had happened, apart from some ancient civil defense archives.

It’s not until the Vulture Warriors and the Transdimensional Collapsatron that we start hearing that the Computer was always insane and obsessed with communists. Personally, I think the canonical explanation pretty much sucks. Even if you go with it, though, the idea is that the Computer inherited the insanity of the mind after which it was modelled. Why couldn’t its creator have hated commies, even if Comintern was long gone by WWIII? Presumably he wasn’t a teenager.

Anyway, all of this nit-picking is secondary to my real concern. Why do people feel the need to “fix” speculative futures from the past? If Paranoia assumed that the US and the USSR had a nuclear exchange in 1998, why can’t that be the case? Will it really ruin the players’ experience if they learn that the fictional game in which they play fictional characters is loosely predicated on an event that is not a potential future but only a fictional contrivance?

Maybe it will. They’re role-playing dorks, after all. If they’re such dorks, though, why can’t they just publish a comprehensive timeline for me?

Written on October 4, 2005
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🏷 paranoia
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