Okay, so on Thursday night last week I hooked up with some folks in NYC to play Paranoia — the new version, done by very respectable Mongoose Publishing.
Had. A. Friggin’. Blast.
There were seven players with a very mixed gaming background and levels of familiarity with one another. Let’s sum up the players and their characters:
- Matt: the
GMCOMPUTER. A regular participant in that group’s gaming activities, Matt’s a writer and an actor and a stunning dancer. (My god, the game’s been over a week and I’m still sucking up!)
- Kate: Francine the Happiness Officer. Key Quote: “Time to be Happy!” How appropriate — Kate’s the kind of person who hears you got a speeding ticket and says “but isn’t it great that the traffic was so good that you COULD be speeding?” — gaming-wise, she hasn’t (to my knowledge) played a lot of mainstream RPGs, since the group often plays homebrew systems. That said, she’s been gaming quite awhile with this group. She likes to explore the setting of a game, and generally likes reading background material more than the crunchy rules bits. Character Died: Twice. Both times, shot in the head, leaving her headless body to flop down on top of some other player.
- Keeley: Slade, the Leader. Key Quote: “Holy Computer!” Keeley’s the resident member of nerdnyc, and aside from gaming alot of mainstream stuff, he had the most exposure to hippy indie games like Dogs and Mortal Coil and such in this group. He was also the only person in the group who’d actually PLAYED Paranoia before — him playing the leader was a Very Good Thing. Keeley groks the crunchy rules in systems, but we’ve also talked a lot about getting some more of those “narrativist hippy” games a try — something he’s been really jonesing over. He’s been playing with this group for … well, a long time. Character Died: Just Once, I think, when Tom CLNCY dropped a boomerang-grenade, though he was pretty badly mutilated by the end. 🙂
- Timothy: Sally, the Hygiene Officer. Key quote: “That sounds like Treason… SHOW ME YOUR TEETH!” Timothy has, I think, lots of gaming experience, and he’s very familiar with this group. In Forge-speak, he’s very gamist — working the rules- and situation-angles to best advantage. Nothing at all wrong with that, but if you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that I’ve listed three members of a regular group who focus, respectively, on three pretty different aspects of a game. It’s really interesting. Character Died: Thrice. First time, he was inside the experimental power armor when, ironically, it went into the fatal self-cleaning mode. Second time was the boomerang-grenade or “doody bomb.” Third time, he was shot during debriefing when the Computer declared he was a traitor for not returning with said power armor.
- Colin: Tom CLNCY, Communications Officer and budding ‘art director’. Key quote: “Lick my balls. LICK MY BALLS!” If I understand things correctly, Colin got involved in this group when he starting room with the group’s regular GM (who’s out of town at the moment), so I’m not sure as to his gaming background, but he’s newer to the group than the rest, I believe. He was pretty quiet for much of the game, interjecting here and there, with the notable exception of shouting the above Key Quote like it was some kind of Secret Handshake as soon as we met anyone who might understand him. (Amusing, since the actual phrase was “suck my nuts” — graffiti sprayed on the walls by a rogue cleaning ‘bot.) Character Died: Twice. First, killed when he use the unlabeled boomerang grenade. Second, shot by Bruce after the computer declared he was traitor for being unhappy with the performance of said grenade.
- Jen: Bruce WYN, Loyalty Officer. Key Quote: “I’m still shooting him.” Jen had never gamed before at all, evah. She’s a geek with a good pedigree, however, and while she was fairly quiet throughout the game, it turned out that she’d been using notes to the GM to do TONS of stuff all session — when everything was said and done, she was the only Troubleshooter who (a) didn’t die at LEAST once and (b) got promoted, despite (c) pretty good circumstantial evidence that she was both a Commie AND a Mutant.
- Me: Sue, equipment guy. Key Quote: “Umm… yeah, sure I know how to do that.” Sue was basically an ultra-red, no-clearance, forklift operator who’d been mistaken for a tech-guy and drafted into the Troubleshooters, and was now too scared of punishment to tell anyone there was a mistake. He was the ‘gear guy’ with the WORST tech scores in the group… but he was a hell of a bullshit artist. 🙂 Character Died: Once. The Happiness Officer ‘helped’ him experiment with the experimental power armor (that the Leader had him wear after it self-cleaned the Hygiene Officer to death) and fired off the jet pack while we were standing in a room with a really low, really solid ceiling.
So the basic premise of the scenario:
We were a group of fledgling troubleshooters who were being dispatched by a “blue”-security Major to take care of a rogue cleaning bot who was spraying grafitti on the walls of Alpha Complex Three. At the same time, the Major was supposed to dispatch a seasoned, veteran, bad-ass group to Gamma Sector 14 to handle a mission with 0% survivability estimates.
In short, they got our mission, and we got theirs. Bastards.
I’m honestly not sure how horrifyingly tough the opposition was — we’d already killed the Hygiene Officer once before we got to the mission (technically, he did himself by activating the self-cleaning mode), been covered in Commie Propaganda stickers during a power outage, and I’d shot three fingers off my own hand, trying to get into the power suit (yeah, on a d20, I missed my ‘tech’ roll by 16 — YOU figure out how bad my skill rating had to be in that stuff). The leader was carrying undiluted cleaning solvent that, undiluted, would eat through human flesh and GLOWED IN THE DARK… the comm officer had a box of unlabeled grenades of dubious usefulness, I was hauling around an EMP cannon on a really LONG extension cord, and I think the Loyalty Officer had what amounted to an “Ancient Tech” bowling ball — my guy was terrified of the mighty Black Orb.
It was a wonder we weren’t all dead before the tram doors opened. As it was, I think we made it about fifty meters down the first hallway of a three-level complex we were supposed to check out, before the comm officer freaked, grabbed what turned out to be a boomerang-grenade, and ganked the lot of us.
Oh yeah, and there were aliens infesting the place. They burrowed into your chest and took you over… and they looked like mop heads.
Except we were SUPPOSED to be hunting a rogue cleaning bot… so clearly we never saw these other things. All Hail the Computer.
Everyone: “All hail the Computer.”
Sue: “… the Computer.”
Right. So we wake up back in the debriefing room and we individually (mostly) meet with the Computer in the Debriefing Pod… which is basically a little room with glass walls so everyone else can see what the debriefee is doing and at whom they’re gesturing. Fun.
So the Computer finishes up, tells that last batch of us that so and so are traitors, and the debriefing room turns into a bloodbath of Tarantino-esque proportions (not helped by the fact that I got the Hygiene and Happiness officers confused and tried to shoot Kate’s character in the back of head instead of Timothy’s… luckily, I didn’t kill her, and I critted the follow-up Bootlicking roll. 🙂
In short, it was a total ball.
Perversity Points — these things are basically (as I understand it) traded in 1:1 to give you a bonus on your rolls, OR to give penalties to someone ELSE’s roll. Now, the examples that Matt-the-GM gave as to how these things could penalize someone else’s roll all generally involved your character interfering “ICly” with the other activity in some way — and in the setting of Paranoia, that totally makes sense.
Except people didn’t use them that way. Even before we started play and were just discussing the points, the examples we were coming up with were much more ‘meta-authorial’ in nature, like “I’ll spend five perversity points against your action — the floor is really slippery here.”
The best example of this in the game session itself was just before the boomerang-grenade was used. I’d dragged this sick infra-red worker back to the group, and while I was hanging onto his ankle (while wearing the power armor suit), (1) he went into convulsions as a mop-critter started to claw out of his chest and (2) Francine jet-packed my guy into the ceiling.
Now, Timothy, being the good gamist advantage-angler, wanted me (or, more accurately, the power armor) to keep hanging onto the guys ankle as my brains were being smooshed into the ceiling, so that the guy was dangling helplessly and harmlessly from the ceiling while everyone else shot the mop-critter. The GM finally opted to allow that level of authorial input/control with the expenditure of something like 20 perversity points (which is a ton — we each started with 25, and most of us were running low by then), and then allowing the group as a whole to chip in to make the total.
It was really, REALLY interesting to see that happen in the group, because (1) the players involved got what they wanted out of the result, but (2) what they wanted were actually different things. For example: Timothy contributed points to get the tactical advantage, while I chipped in solely to have input on the narrative and the storyline (no tactical advantage to me — my guy had just died and my clone wouldn’t even get there before the grenade wiped us out :), and so forth…
Anyway, that… that was really interesting.
Everyone had a ball — emails circulated in the days to follow about how much fun the game had been, with a special note from the first-time-player, thanking everyone for ‘letting the noob come along’ and recounting how she’d broke down in giggles a few days after the game, remembering Colin screaming “lick my balls!” at the sluggish infra-red janitorial staff.
Good times. 🙂