Well, 2014 presents us with Paranoia‘s 30th anniversary, and the suggestion of something to look forward to. Seems like only yesterday that Paranoia XP appeared to celebrate the 20th anniversary, and I toiled amongst the Traitor Recycling Studio producing some rather interesting, exciting and dangerous supplements.
Alas, the various volumes produced a decade ago have now become rather hard to come by – requiring a root around the local game store or in the hallowed eaves of eBay. Not that’s acquired any great value (as of yet), just that you can’t currently pick them up without a root around.
As often happens, the world has moved on since Paranoia XP hit the shelves. Specifically, the face of gaming has continued to spin around and around. Yes, we still have some of the mainstays and a lot of classic – or renaissance – materials going around, but we have many threads of commonality going on that make many games a more collaborative experience. I’m not talking outright story games, but those where the gamemaster fiat balances against player agency.
Players no longer create characters and play games with dice alone. Players have the opportunity to guide and influence the story both mechanically and verbally. Reading through Whitehack last night – a recent acquisition from Lulu – I found myself quite pleased with the way that system combines the numbers of traditional D&D with the Aspect / Trait mechanics I would associated with Fate. It does away with the need for piles of skills, feats and other facets common to current D&D/Pathfinder, and uses simple attribute associated aspects instead.
I like that.
I like the sense that story embraces and entwines the characters and their setting. I guess it always did, but somehow writing it down and associated it with the numbers make it different. Before, you might have called it colour, that additional detail around a character that offered depth. Now, that insight goes a step further. The League of Shadows once had little more impact that a name and occasional guest appearance in the hands of a wily GM. With Aspect-driven play, the League of Shadows might represent a lifestyle, an ethical code, a conspiracy, organisations rotten to the core, an affiliation, and a set of skills.
What would the Aspect ‘Runs with the Sierra Club‘ mean, or ‘16th Degree Acolyte of the Illuminati‘? How about ‘Armed Forces Greenhorn‘ or ‘PL&C Office Whipping Boy without Portfolio‘?
After reading Fate Core, I did put together a Paranoia character sheet and tinkered with some ideas, but didn’t get much further. The top level skills of Paranoia XP – like Wetware and Management – translate straight across as Skills, while Stunts would handle mutations (whatever they are!?). Reading through Green Ronin‘s Fate Freeport Companion, I found a certain inspiration in the way they got the themes of a D&D-style game across, with spells and everything, with the immense simplicity of a dialled down Fate Core game set-up.
I think that would work for Paranoia. Or some variation thereof.
I think aspect-driven play would work very well for visible signs of Tension and high security. I’m not sure just yet how best to handle the invisible signs… perhaps face down index cards? The Fate Core system already has the potential for non-player characters or locations possessing Aspects no accessible from the outset of an encounter. Character need to find a way to wheedle out the details to take advantage of them. No reason the same thing can’t apply for a Paranoia game.
I look forward to seeing what 2014 might hold for Paranoia. In the meantime, I might entertain myself with some tinkering in the bowels of Alpha Complex. I think you’ll find it’s the prerogative of an ULTRAVIOLET-Clearance citizen to do that sort of thing for the (not so) common good.
By the way, has anyone told Friend Computer that an extra digit seems to have crept into Year 214 this year?