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I am designing a Paranoia one-shot with pre-generated characters. I'd like to make at least one of the characters belong to the Communist secret society. However, that group is so universally hated in the game-world that it might be too big a disadvantage.

For example, the mutant power Machine Empathy is so hated by the computer that characters identified with the trait have all of their clones destroyed. On the other hand, it is a very powerful ability so that the reward might balance the risk.

In contrast it seems that assigning a character to a Communist secret society could have a large negative impact on the character without any compensating reward. Is there a way to balance this out within the game mechanics?

For clarity - I am running a classic game, XP version.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which edition of Paranoia will you be playing? It may not make a difference, but it also might, if it affects answers that refer to mechanics that differ between editions. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 21 '18 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hum. Good question actually, I answered based on 5e \$\endgroup\$ – Pingcode Jun 21 '18 at 23:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the Communist Propaganda skill exist in XP? The ability to cause others to be treasonous without their consent is certainly a power of sorts. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jun 22 '18 at 14:17
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On the contrary - the Communist secret society in Paranoia is no better nor worse than any other secret society. (In 2e, at least, there are no meaningful mechanical differences)

The key here lies in the fact that nobody in Alpha Complex actually knows what a Communist is, least of all the communists themselves. In fact, the only reason they even exist is because Friend Computer is always raving about 'communists' and they figured anything Friend Computer hates that badly must be good! In reality they haven't gotten further than drinking borscht and Che Guevara T-shirts.

They're the enemies of everyone else but only because they're not members of their respective secret societies. Everyone also hates each other for the same reason. Enemies are there to be backstabbed, 'allies' are there to be double-backstabbed. That's Paranoia for you, no matter the version.


More directly, while there are lines in the secret society write-ups about who likes who and who hates who, in practice this isn't a distinction you need to worry about - these allegiances are for the secret societies themselves, not the troubleshooters. What this should inform is what kind of secret society objective the troubleshooter gets assigned - in the case of the communists, lashing out at just about anything at random in the name of smashing the state.

Balance wise this makes the commie for your one shot a handy wild card for any gaps in your one-shot - the communists tell them to do it to advance some nebulous scheme to oppose Friend Computer, be it trying to turn two troubleshooters who have a few too many reasons to be friendly against each other, or smash something when the scene looks a little too stable, and so on. Outside of this there's not much you need to do with a commie character to keep them balanced - they're not otherwise worse off than any of the other secret societies, since all secret societies are treasonous anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Exactly this! In practice, communists aren't any more hated than any other secret society. All secret societies are equally treasonous, and all treason is punished by summary execution. Any claim that some treasonous activities are more equal than others is treason. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 22 '18 at 12:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Isn’t Paranoia 5th Edition the one that became an “un-product”? The OP was asking about Paranoia XP. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge Jun 22 '18 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes - but that hadn't been clarified earlier. Will need to make a second pass \$\endgroup\$ – Pingcode Jun 22 '18 at 13:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ And apparently I was misremembering 2e. Bah. \$\endgroup\$ – Pingcode Jun 22 '18 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KieranMullen There's two mitigating factors - one, you'll note that the FCCP still can't act openly above Infrared, and two, notice all the writeups are in the restricted section: a troubleshooter who betrays knowledge of Friend Computer's tolerance is guilty of treason! \$\endgroup\$ – Pingcode Jun 23 '18 at 0:51
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Secret Society and Mutant Power only matter if the player makes them matter. Balance isn't really a problem, since Paranoia is almost exclusively a one-shot or a short run of sessions.

More importantly, while there might be player knowledge that replacement clones have the same Secret Society and Mutant Power, it's not character knowledge. The next clone is an entirely new, treason-free citizen as far as the Computer is concerned. The troubleshooters will need to establish facts about the replacements before executing them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The querent seems to be under the impression the communist player may have no clones though, which could be disruptive inside of even a single session. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 22 '18 at 15:58

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