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I received the boxed starter set of Paranoia for Christmas, and find myself in the classic dilemma of tabletop players everywhere: do I want to run this game, or try to find someone else to run it, so I can actually play for once?

In Dungeons and Dragons, experience as the DM is generally very good for your abilities as a player, and experience as a player is generally very good for your skill as a DM. However, Paranoia includes a note in their rules that players should not have any understanding of how the rules actually work.

This, to me, suggests that if I run a game of Paranoia, I'll be setting myself up for a lesser experience as a player.

Am I overthinking this? Is this rule something I should worry about, or should I repeat to myself it's just a game, and I should really just relax?

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    \$\begingroup\$ <comments removed> Okay, we get it. The question is about the game Paranoia, so jokes about Friend Computer and security clearances are topical. Except that the same jokes are posted every time someone asks a rules question about Paranoia, so it’s gotten old. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 18 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm ironically reminded of Kerchoff's Principle. \$\endgroup\$ – Pharap Jan 20 at 22:32
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Know the rules while swearing up and down that you don't know the rules.

Paranoia 2nd edition has this to say about players and the rules (pg 20):

Only gamemasters are cleared to read the Ultraviolet sections. Naturally, it would be silly to sell someone a game and tell him not to read it, but there are two things we'd like you to do:

  1. Don't read the adventure! Reading it will ruin your enjoyment [...]
  2. Lots of citizens of Alpha Complex know more than they should. In fact, knowing things that it's treason for you to know is probably necessary if you're going to survive. However, citizens always do their utmost to hide their treasonous knowledge. That should be your rule. Go ahead; read the Ultraviolet sections. But any time you reveal your knowledge of their contents during play, you'll earn a treason point.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already. I love that Paranoia acknowledges and addresses this possibility. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 16 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Paranoia 2017 actually has a whole booklet of rules that are player-facing, separate from the GM-only rules booklet and the player-facng setting booklet, so it seems likely that players are still expected to read at least some of the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jan 19 at 21:27
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No, because while there is a note that players shouldn't read the rules, the joke really is that the players are not authorized to know the rules.

Its absolutely fine to read them. Just understand that if you're a player, it is not wise to inform your Friend, the Computer, that they're not following the rules.

Arguably, the game becomes more enjoyable, as now you become constantly paranoid that you might let slip you know some aspect of the rules, or that you know the technical name for that tube shaped object you've just been handed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you indicating that you have knowledge of items from the Old World? \$\endgroup\$ – Newbie12345 Jan 16 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Otherwise known as "Friend Computer (the GM) is always right and would never lie to you." Bickering with the GM over the rules is treasonous, you commie fun-hating mutant bustard. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s Jan 16 at 20:01
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For Paranoia, the rules matter a lot less than the specifics of the mission scenario. By design, the rules make it difficult to be a highly effective Troubleshooter, and the rules are loose enough that GMs aren't necessarily consistent in how they're used, even with the same GM across several missions.

It's much more important to make sure as a player that you haven't read the mission being run.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, for GM would be much more fun if the player actually read the mission, and try to interfere in any way }:) \$\endgroup\$ – BЈовић Jan 18 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BЈовић Usually there’s a twist or gimmick, and the players’ discovery and handling of it is a big part of the fun. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Jan 19 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ are you sure you played paranoia? if you did, maybe your GM was just bad :( \$\endgroup\$ – BЈовић Jan 21 at 13:22
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To preface this, I have run one game of Paranoia as DM. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a blast sending my family on a Christmas-themed mission to ultimately sentence themselves to death by vaporizing the Three Wise Men, Mary, and newborn baby Jesus:

RED citizens vaporizing YELLOW, BLUE, and ULTRA VIOLET clearance citizens?
Please report to the nearest disintegration chamber immediately.

My family had less fun than me, but only because of the seemingly arbitrary nature of the Paranoia universe and they also like games with a clear winner.

Because the DM said so

I did not know every single rule, but Paranoia is a game where knowing the rules as a player is an offense punishable by death. So this favors the DM greatly. The general feel of the rules is The DM is always right. They specifically tell you to keep your players on their toes and to make them fear the world around them. The rules favor killing the players over strictly adhering to rules. This leads to a lot of "rule bending" because, frankly, the players aren't authorized to know that a rule was broken. So really, even if you "know" all of the rules the likelihood of you or other DMs implementing all of them is very slim.

The more you know

Personally, knowing the rules of Paranoia means that as a player I would know not to get frustrated when I want to perform a simple action, but it becomes nearly impossible due to red tape, faulty equipment, or a myriad of other absurd and unexpected reasons. For me, it would be more frustrating to know nothing about the rules and have to figure them out as you go. Knowing the rules also adds another layer to secrecy to your play since you would need to be sneaky about how you implement your knowledge of the rules, which for me means more enjoyment.

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I've played and run quite a few editions of Paranoia (though I have GM'ed a lot more than I have played). [I particularly love first edition, including the skill trees. Yes, I am old.]

Paranoia is a game where not knowing everything can help with the atmosphere of fear and ignorance ... but running it is a lot of fun and playing it after you have run it loses only a little. It's somewhat akin to having some knowledge of the Monster Manual in D&D; the first time you come across a creature you know nothing about can be exciting, and you might lose that, but a canny GM is aware of the possibility and can throw in a few curve balls*, easily restoring the lack of knowledge. If you are used to separating player knowledge from character knowledge (which I assume you are no stranger to), it's even less of an issue.

* the Monster Manual is a book of suggestions, not commandments; there's no reason that these greenskin goblins have to be the exact same kind of goblins as the Monster Manual yellowskin goblins

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As others have said, the key thing is to pretend you don't know the rules. The more of the Paranoia material you read, the more this will become clear to you. So if you run a game, and then you're a player in a game, just make sure you display no knowledge of the rules at all.

But the rules aren't all that important in Paranoia anyway, as the game actively encourages players to try to cheat, and the GM to go for the outcome that's more entertaining and/or chaotic than to actually follow the rules. The rules, really, are a rough guide to how the world works and a useful fallback for when the GM doesn't really know what the best outcome should be. That's when you start looking up effect and damage tables and figuring out what kind of damage that overpowered laser tank shot actually did.

The veteran players already know that the really important thing to know is how long before the overpowered laser tank explodes.

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