I'm in a group now, headed by a very (very) capable DM. We've been playing a very solid, very serious D&D campaign in an awesome setting entirely of his creation. However, some of the players have been longing for more humor – something we don't get unless I (and I do seem to be the only one) roll a natural 1. The group has spoken, and we've decided to let me take a whack at being the GM for a one-off humor-oriented game. What I can't decide is which game.

On the one hand, I have Tales From the Floating Vagabond. In fact, I was such a huge fan of it, that not only do I have the original game, but I have all of its add-ons. (My earlier question was more for the others in the group than me.) On the other hand, I have Paranoia.

I have GMed Floating Vagabond – but not since I was a teenager (almost 20 years ago), and I'm not certain I did it justice at the time. I have never GMed Paranoia. I have read Paranoia XP, and want to build a campaign around "my vision" of Alpha Complex, but I worry about having never done such a thing and the players not necessarily being used to backstabbing within their ranks.

What are some pros and cons of TFtFV versus Paranoia for a group of players who are somewhat new, and more importantly, are looking for humor?

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I consider all the "instead of Paranoia and Floating Vagabond" answers bad and wanting to answer a more general question which the OP is not asking. Go ask that one instead as a general sys-rec; this is a more focused (and therefore better IMO) two-game compare. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jun 27 '12 at 5:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ And now I will delete all the OT answers! (Well... OK, I'll have mercy on ones with upvotes.) Perhaps if someone asked "good system for a one-shot humor game" they could be migrated. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 27 '12 at 21:01

(Classic) Paranoia is tremendous fun with the right group and only requires minimal preparation. You've done it well if characters have died a few times before the mission begins - this is one reason not to bother with a complex mission. 'Deliver a package' is all you need; often the more innocuous the mission seems the more paranoid the characters become. Particularly when you stress the need for some heavy weaponry at PLC and/or R&D.

Pros: I can't comment on the other system, but Paranoia should be fundamentally easy to learn. I played with 2E employing 'Dramatic Tactical Combat' which I hope is still in XP. And if not, it basically means that if someone describes something awesome, make it happen. (Of course, anything so awesome is a total give away of a commie mutant traitor...) Things tend to balance themselves in Alpha Complex.

Cons: You can get distracted by the rules of the game. I recommend no rules at the table once the game starts. The GM should rule appropriately and fairly (unless a player bribes him or her with Skittles). Have some silly fun.

Good luck either way, and hopefully you have a great one shot of Paranoia if you try it this way.


I own but have never run Floating Vagabond, but I've done a lot of Paranoia and I've never seen it take past the first kill for people to "get it" and jump in with both feet. Including a lot of convention games with first-timers that have gone great. I remember fondly one Owlcon where we had a big Paranoia game and one player who was a bit of a... twerp, not in an aggressive sense but a twerp nonetheless, and the first time the Computer asked us who the traitor in the group was, all seven of the rest of us immediately pointed at him with no hesitation, and he was so taken aback by it that he didn't point at anyone himself! That's the Paranoia equivalent of a royal flush right there.

If you're pretty much just getting a one-shot humor break from Epic Serious Campaign (tm), I think the heavy carnage added to the humor is more cathartic; players who have been playing games where you have to be careful all the time, where whatever you even say to other PCs and what people you kill vs don't kill are all weighty decisions - blasting the crackers out of everyone and everything is good medicine.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've seen people who find it quite unfun. It's not that they don't get it - it's that they don't think that style of play is fun nor funny. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Feb 23 '16 at 3:10

I have to chime in with a game that nobody has mentioned yet: Og, Unearthed Edition. It is summed up best by these words from the back of the book:

You are a caveman. You know those cavemen who invented fire, the wheel and civilization? You're not that kind of caveman.

The level of hilarity achieved in games of Og is vastly out of proportion to the amount of effort involved in running the game. Character creation is practically instantaneous.

It consists of selecting a class (which, if memory serves are things like: strong caveman, fast caveman, etc..), some skills, and then, in what is decidedly the defining stroke of Og's genius, a vocabulary. Each character has a limited number of words they can use and the players can use only those words to communicate in-game.

This means you get all the players pointing and grunting to communicate with each other. And drawing. Badly. My group has several artists, and while anyone can use big crayons clasped in a fist to communicate in my games of Og, the artists have to do it with their off-hands. I have never had to deal with an ambidextrous artist, so I don't know what I'd do if the situation arose.

Scenarios are as simple as: You woke up in the cave today and you are cold / hungry / wet / in the dark / being evicted by a bear. Players will then proceed to make tons of their own fun as they slam into (and in many cases, embrace) their communication barriers.

It makes a great one-off for some wacky fun.

I know. You asked "A or B" and I answered "4". Sorry, but I couldn't pass it up. Also, I've had more fun in a single Og session than with my entire ownership experience of Floating Vagabond. YMMV.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I could suggest: make ambidextrous players draw with both hands together. \$\endgroup\$ – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jul 27 '12 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to vote against this. It's a brilliant and well-written answer... which expressly doesn't answer the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Tynam Jul 27 '12 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tynam - Yup. I understand. Thanks for attaching an explanation to the downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Jul 29 '12 at 3:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Upvoted for the final paragraph, and for introducing me to the game. I have got to look it up and play it. \$\endgroup\$ – Codes with Hammer Feb 22 '16 at 20:21

Og Unearthed Edition:

  • Pro
    • simple
    • Humor enforced by players being prohibited from using words other than those the character ca use during session
    • almost everyone grasps the "caveman and dinosaurs" setting, despite its surreality
  • Con
    • Some players frustrated by limited vocabulary
    • System is too simple for some players
    • no support publications
  • Either
    • d6 only
    • Role based, no levels. (earlier editions were class & level)


  • Pro
    • excellent adventures
  • Con
    • system convoluted
    • out of print
  • either
    • booze and drug humor
    • requires double standard set of polyhedrals


  • Pro
    • Excellent adventures, lots of them
    • lots of support from fans
  • con
    • Setting very constrained
  • either
    • well known setting
    • mission driven
    • extremely lethal setting
    • backstabbing required

Kobolds Ate My Baby

  • Pro
    • Supported System
    • Backlog of older edition materials convertable
    • simple system
    • lots of character variation
  • Con
    • Playing utter morons
    • Playing morons with SHARP teeth, Sharp knives, and brittle bones.
  • Either
    • extremely lethal
    • near-modern fantasy
    • random generation

Why I went beyond the two games you asked about

Simply put, Paranoia XP is decent, but TFFV is more fun to read than run for everyone I know whose tried, myself included. KAMB and Og, however, are much fun, not expensive, in print, and easier for players to get into.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed on the more fun to read than run. Based on great books, TFFV has great material, great writing, and a great atmosphere. But an RPG created by Avalon Hill... yeah, that never ends well. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Jul 27 '12 at 23:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey, now... Avalon Hill's versions of Runequest are pretty nice... even if the second one (known now as Rune Slayers) had nothing to do with the first one (Which was RQIII). \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Jul 28 '12 at 6:40

Based on relative character creation overhead compared to a one shot I'd go with Paranoia. I love Tales from the Floating Vagabond due to a great movie inspired Buffy ripoff PC back in the early 90s, but it takes a session to make characters.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That I'd pretty much agree with. I've begun by getting everyone copies of the info needed to make characters, and my house rules. Hopefully they'll have them made (corresponding with me via e-mail) prior to the session. :) (In other words, we made the call. :) \$\endgroup\$ – John Rudy Aug 26 '10 at 23:30

I didn't enjoy Paranoia when we did play it a few weeks ago for a one-shot. People were too cautious. I'd pick Zorceror of Zo instead. The rules are light. The humor comes via setting silliness. I read a report on the B/X Blackrazor block of a GM bringing toys wrapped in paper for the players too choose as their characters, for example.


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