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Are two troubleshooters (+ me as GM) really enough for Paranoia? I believe the rules do not forbid this, but would you recommend this? Have you experienced playing Paranoia in a rather small group? Was it fun?

Having never played Paranoia, I am somewhat worried that the "I want to kill the other PC, he is treasonous!" idea is not working well with just two PCs. But maybe I am wrong? Maybe Paranoia is still lots of fun even without a massive "PC killing PC"?

So I am both looking for tips for a small (and new …) group as well as for stories of small Paranoia evenings.Yes, I read How do I run Paranoia for just one player? and although it gives some ideas, I believe this question is still worth posting. I also read What is some good advice for starting Paranoia with a new group?, so instead of general tips for a new group I would prefer specific tips for a small group.

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2 Answers 2

The game of Paranoia—no matter how many players—is an excuse for them to pretend to do something other than murder each other.

In my experience, with two players they just end up murdering each other, which might be fun for them for the first hour but is not very interesting for me as a GM. You need a gimmick to make murdering each other difficult or at least require effort. For example, you could throw in an NPC—something or someone they have to guard or that can watch and report on them, etc.—so they have to at least be subtle. In the past I've used a bot that they had to deliver, escort mission-style, but you could also use a higher Clearance citizen.

With more than two players, the other players are what make it difficult (or easy, if you can convince them to help or look the other way). I don't run Paranoia if I can't get at least three players.

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Half (if not more!) of the fun of Paranoia is double-dealing, backstabbing, and playing your colleagues off against each other. When you've only got two Troubleshooters you lose a lot of those dynamics as they've only really got one another to backstab, and you pretty much always know who is working against you (as opposed to having more players, when you know only most of the them are currently out to get you, and those who aren't will just be out to get you later on ;) )

You could turn the premise sideways, and run a game where the two players are part of a larger group with NPCs, and are constantly working together to drop everyone else in it. That would replicate much of the usual feel of the game at the narrative level, although they'll still be missing out on the exquisite feeling that can only happen when you've caused the person sitting next to you to have their next clone activated.

You could combine the two, and have a mix of working together and backstabbing one another. That would give more of the normal game feel, but I think would still miss out on "which players are out to get me" as you simply don't get the same feeling of vicious rivalry-camaraderie when it's an NPC.

One player is a whole different game, two can get repetitive after a while, three tends to turn into a rotation, but four starts bringing the real feel of "wondering which direction the next knife will come from and how many there'll be" about it. That's not to say you can't play with a small group, but it does mean you'll have to adapt the game a little.

So, yes, you can still have fun - it'll just be a different kind of fun to the default expectations of the game.

One thing worth considering - Paranoia's relatively simple mechanics lend it to playing via IRC (or any online chat, really) more than most RPGs (and in some ways make it even easier than being around the table, as it lends to far more whispers between players without having to leave the room or pass notes) - you may want to consider running an online game so you can get more players.

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I like the idea of an IRC game and this site seems to be designed for that idea (although the last forum post was written in 2013 …). Thanks (also for your "include NPCs" ideas. –  Keba Mar 12 at 12:44
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While an online game of Paranoia has the advantage of /whispers as efficient means of private communication, I find that note-passing increases the suspicion in the game, and is often hilarious. Things like the GM handing one player a note which reads "Do not reveal what's on this card to anyone else" put everybody else on high-alert when they know the GM told the player something, but they have no idea what. –  Brian S Mar 12 at 13:43
    
@BrianS - point well taken. Just for that the next time I play I'm going to be passing such notes as "I'm just off to get a glass of water, pass this back if you would like one too." :) –  Matt Thomason Mar 12 at 14:16
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In my experience, Paranoia needs a minimum of four players: One to be backstabbed, one to do the backstabbing, one to be framed for it, and one as a reserve against the team size dropping due to backstabbing. The roles are, of course, switched around frequently. –  GMJoe Apr 24 at 4:43

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