I've read some of the questions and answers on paranoia here, but I seem to be missing some kind of key element to play. I ran Robot IMANA-665-C and I didn't seem to be able to get the players to start turning on each other and begin the betrayals.

I could swear I was doing everything right: I gave out Perversity Points. I had characters that were spying on others, and characters with treasonous mutant powers, and characters with conflicting secret societies. And yet, we seemed to have completed the mission with everyone getting a reward at the end and no one dying. So, really my question boils down to:

As a GM, how do I promote players to take violent / betraying actions?

I seem to have missed the boat, and I feel like I am doing a dis-service to my players by not having more manipulation. As a note: My group is brand new to Paranoia and I am brand new to GMing it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I love this question. I've never heard of Paranoia until now, but now I have to check it out. \$\endgroup\$
    – asteri
    Sep 28, 2013 at 0:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ What makes it paranoia is that everyone really is out to get you. Make betraying each other the only realistic way to survive a mission. They'll catch on pretty quick. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Sep 30, 2013 at 8:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the suggestions. I'll have to try them out at the next session. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2013 at 2:53

6 Answers 6

  • Flat out tell them (as GM) that the best debriefing possible, after the mission has inevitably failed, is to blame the failure (likely, multiple failures) on the treasons of dead teammates who aren't there to defend themselves.
  • Have a secret society order one PC to kill another, or to frame then kill them. If they don't do it, have their own secret society go after the now-former member. Hell, have each PC ordered to kill one other (different) PC.
  • Have them walk in on a secret society meeting that one of the PCs belong to. When the society tries to murder them all (except the member), convince them to help. Last time I tried this, the society handed the PC a cone rifle and told them to help out.
  • Put them in a dangerous situation where they can use each other as body shields. It can be as simple as: You turn the corner and find two groups of traitors shooting at each other and now they're firing on you.
  • Have them help another PC and then take the rap when it turns out to be the wrong thing. (It's always the wrong thing.)
  • Mandatory Bonus Duties are a good way for them to mess with each other. Make sure the Equipment Guy checks out everyone's equipment so that, when it inevitably fails, blame happens.
  • Are any of them secretly Internal Security? Toss a few in there (of course, they don't know each other are IntSec). Give them orders to turn in a few traitors before suspicions comes down on their heads.
  • Watch another troubleshooter team take care of some intra-team issues and get richly rewarded (say, with a piece of real fruit).
  • Reward when it does happen. I usually like to give each PC a treasonous item. Make them vaguely useful or extremely useful but obviously treasonous, and then have the killer find the item (via note) on the body.
  • In general, kill them, kill them, kill them until they're worried about what to do next.
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    \$\begingroup\$ My previous DM tried to force a few scenes like this which left the group rather put off by Paranoia. That is not to say the suggestions are bad but some are a little heavy handed as it pushes the players further into a Player VS DM mind set which you want to avoid. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2013 at 23:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ When I ran my own game I found a more subtle way without changing the mission too much was to inform the troubleshooters (specifically the Team Leader and Loyalty Officer if Mandatory Bonus Duties are in use) during the briefing that a commie mole has been traced to the group and failure to identify the traitor by mission end will result in the whole group been terminated for the safety of Alpha Complex. Of course those who found and identified the mole would be rewarded and could even earn promotion for a week. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29, 2013 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DancingKobold I agree that there's a time for subtlety, but that's for after they've started killing each other. The question is about jumpstarting violence and paranoia. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Sep 30, 2013 at 0:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is very comprehensive and gives lots of good examples. I'm going to have to pepper my next mission with some of these. I hope they work. :) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2013 at 2:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CodeswithHammer There was no actual Commies within the players of the group but it certainly caused them to start suspecting one another, until they decided to pin it on the briefing officer who was actually a Commie much to their surprise. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2014 at 14:31

"You have completed your mission, but failed to identify, report, or execute any traitors who may have been on your team. The only logical explanation is that you are all traitors, collaborating in a conspiracy against The Computer. This debriefing chamber will now be filled with toxic gas. Thank you, and have a nice day."

And what is this "completed the mission" and "getting a reward" business? That sounds like you're being soft on this bunch of commie mutant traitors. Are you sure that you're not a traitor, too? Please report immediately to Sealed Debriefing Chamber 5325-GAS for summary debriefing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Please report for a summary termination. Have a nice day-cycle." \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Sep 30, 2013 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't possibly be a CMT, I have Ultra-Violet Clearance. :) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2013 at 2:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, you might be right. Perhaps because they are all friends / family, that I am going too easy on them. I'll try to be more crazy / paranoid in the next session. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2013 at 2:55

This looks to me like a case of expectation mismatch.

  • Did you communicate the purpose and tone of the game to your players before you started?
  • Are your players comfortable with this kind of game?
  • Do you players want to play this kind of game?

Ultimate the question to ask though is:

  • Did my players have fun playing in this style?

I looked at your description of the incident and I'm thinking, as a DM holding the cards this would be frustrating, but as a player this might be equally frustrating. If I'm not aware of the intended play style I might be kind of frustrated at what seem to be odd and arbitrary GM decisions and this computer thing is trying to screw us. Why is this game so hard?

That said, if you're players are aware of these things, then there are three options.

  • Ramp up and follow Okeefe's suggestions
  • Keep the play style the same in future sessions and see if it improves naturally as you all get used to game
  • Don't play the game anymore. No game is right for every group, it's great to try new things, but sometimes something just doesn't work. That's Ok. As the great Kenny Rogers said, "Know when to fold them"
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel like everyone was having fun. I've even pestered them about it and started making mandatory surveys after the session. But all in all, they seems satisfied with the game play. It's just that some are more willing then others to do sneaky stuff. What I'm really asking is, how I push them from being kinda sneaky to full on backstabbing. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4, 2013 at 2:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the point wax eagle is trying to make is that, some players just don't have backstabbing in them. Paranoia is a fantastic game, but it's really not for everybody. Some players just want to be heroes. That's okay. There's a game for every taste. I don't think you can push people into being treacherous if their personality is too far removed from that kind of behavior. Some people just aren't devious, even when it's just acting. I know people who suck at bluffing games because they literally cannot convincingly lie. They'd be terrible at Paranoia no matter what the GM did. \$\endgroup\$
    – MEP
    Dec 27, 2014 at 18:48

I've played 1 paranoia game. We played D&D right before, and between the DM using the "death's door" rules and D&D's own difficulty killing a character after about 8th level, we didn't get the back-stabbing thing. Until a character did something stupid, the computer saw, and ordered the clone for a summary termination. The fact that we were ordered to turn over a PC to the computer to kill and send in a non-defective clone to replace him, brought the desired hysterics. From then on, it was all sorts of back-stabby.


Have them all want the same MacGuffin

I ran into the same problem in a recent Paranoia game. The players had lots of D&D5e experience and tended to work as a party.

Until they stumbled upon The Brown Box.

Three of the six players had orders from their secret societies to get the Brown Box at all costs, while one other had instructions to destroy it. Bloodshed ensued, with a tense truce and lots of potential for betrayal. To add more potential for conflict you can have the computer state that it has plans for the MacGuffin that contradict the players' goals.


My favorite answer to this question is in the basic equipment list there's a computer loyalty card not unlike those one would get from a cafe or fast food outlet. How the card works is that after turning in a number of commie mutant scum the troubleshooter is rewarded with a free "petbot" (which of course malfunctions and kills everyone.) This serves to not only give the players a humorous goal to work towards but it also gives a short term number to the quantity of CMS that the troubleshooter has to turn in, alternatively you can use this as a tic a secret society or a personal mission for the troubleshooter to acquire as many of these "petbots" as possible. Another recommendation is to encourage either the loyalty or communication officers to turn in traitors as their direct access to the computer will induce paranoia in other players causing them to act in the correct erratic nature.


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