Paranoia is obviously descended from dystopian works such as 1984 and Logan's Run with black comedy that I have sometimes heard is inspired by Monty Python's Flying Circus. For a long time I had thought that Paranoia was directly inspired by the film Brazil being that it mixed a dystopian future with black humor, but I realized recently that Paranoia was first released in 1984 with Brazil being released the following year, so it couldn't have been an inspiration.

Which works inspired which aspects of the Paranoia setting? I'd especially like to see citations from the creators, if they exist.

I realize that Paranoia has been around for over 25 years. If certain works have influenced different editions over time, I'd like to know that too.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Of course, one thing to consider is the edition being discussed; Paranoia has evolved a good deal throughout the years-the first edition was perhaps a little less like Brazil than some of the more recent ones, while "Fifth edition" by WEG is not even Paranoia as most modern roleplayers know it. XP and Second Edition both have variations in play/setting, so there's something to be said for the notion that Paranoia can actually be inspired by almost anything. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ If certain works have influenced it over time, I'd like to know that too. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 0:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KyleWilley Fifth edition? Please turn in your personal effects to PLC and report to the Reeducation Facility in RIP Sector immediately, citizen. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Apr 29, 2013 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey, I did put quotes around it to delineate its treasonous nature. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 1:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Knowing and deciding what is treasonous and how to delineate it is above even your Security Clearance, Citizen Kylew-I-LEY-5. Please report for termination. \$\endgroup\$
    – Xabei
    Apr 29, 2013 at 10:29

2 Answers 2


Back cover of Paranoia Second Edition

Imagine a world designed by Kafka, Stalin, Orwell, Huxley, Sartre and the Marx Brothers

Bibliography and Resources from Paranoia (2004/XP), page 243


  • Stanislaw Lem, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1973)
  • George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)
  • Franz Kafka, The Trial (1937) and many other works
  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1962)
  • Philip K. Dick, The Penultimate Truth (1964) and nearly everything else
  • Yevgeny Zamiatin, We (1921-22)
  • Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, the Illuminatus! trilogy: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan (1988)

Movies and TV

  • Brazil, Terry Gilliam (1985)
  • THX-1138, George Lucas (1971)
  • The Prisoner, TV series (1967)
  • Equilibrium, Kurt Wimmer (2002)
  • Logan's Run, Michael Anderson (1976); TV series (1977-78)
  • A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick (1969)
  • Soylent Green, Richard Fleischer (1973)
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the bibliography indicate works that inspired Paranoia or is it more of a "further reading"? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2013 at 5:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The page is titled Design Notes / Bibliography, and includes a Notes and resources section which is the history of Paranoia up until now. It also includes a Resources sidebar—"These sources, among many, are particularly helpful for cultivating a characteristically paranoid atmosphere in your games"—which is what I posted, although I left out the Online section of websites. I imagine it's a hybrid of inspiration and resources. The notes also call out My Life With Master as a design influence on Paranoia XP. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Apr 29, 2013 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ While the book doesn't mention it, I'd also like to suggest 'Duck Soup' as a classic Marx Brothers movie, and a good idea of how little you are cared about in Paranoia. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Oct 6, 2014 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suspect Harlan Ellison's short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream also had some influence. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27, 2016 at 14:41

Paranoia XP also has influences on page 54.

Classic influences: Robert Sheckley; Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; articles from The Onion; the comic strip Dilbert (for insight into bureaucracy and mismanagement); movies: Logan’s Run, Ghostbusters, The Running Man, Office Space, the Marx Brothers; TV: Max Headroom, Red Dwarf, Futurama, Sealab 2021.

Straight influences: Franz Kafka; George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs Found in a Bathtub; movies: THX- 1138, Dr. Strangelove, Brazil, Equilibrium, Soylent Green; TV: the BBC-TV series The Office and the best episodes of the 1960s TV series The Prisoner.

Zap influences: Nearly every other roleplaying game, in a negative way. Other roleplaying games exhort players to work together heroically for the good of all. When these newbie players hit Alpha Complex, a liberating adrenaline rush of pure anarchy gives them twitchy laser fingers. Many groups eventually gravitate to one of the other styles.


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