I am sorry, citizen, but this TV Tropes entry is currently placed at Security Clearance VIOLET. Reading any of the words contained within this page without appropriate security clearance is considered treason. Please proceed directly to your nearest available Termination Booth. Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice daycycle!
Humanists, who want the Computer to be subordinate to human governance, and would have gotten somewhere if they weren't constantly bogged down by infighting and red tape.
The Illuminati, a secret society so secret, most of its members don't even know its true purpose. They're not a conventional society in the sense that they plant all their members in other secret societies. They also don't exist. Maybe.
Trekkies, about what you think. They all wear pointy rubber ears and jerry-rig their lasers to look like phasers. Ironically, despite membership in the Trekkies being obvious, it's the only society never punished by The Computer because it's so obviously harmless.
The Sierra Club, who are obsessed with the environment and the mysterious "Outdoors", access to which is strictly limited by The Computer.
The International Workers of the World (Wobblies), described in the first edition supplement Acute Paranoia. The Computer heard about this society and sent Troubleshooters to spy on it. The problem was that it did not exist (the Real Life Wobblies fell apart before Alpha Complex was created), and when the Troubleshooters returned with no information, they were quickly executed for insubordination. A dozen or so teams later, one set of Troubleshooters got wise and founded the society so they'd have something to spy on. The other societies sent spies to infiltrate this new group, and the end result is a group composed entirely of spies for other groups.
Even more so than most RPGs, consider the rules and setting to be a collection of possibly-useful suggestions which can be cheerfully ignored when they get in the way of having fun.
The characters were not a team, and as stated above were actively encouraged to backstab each other. This required a certain amount of maturity from the players and a willingness to forget about the "mission" in favour of roleplaying and chaos.
Players, in theory, had no knowledge of the rules, so anyone metagaming ("I get plus one for being behind cover") could be executed for it. (If they did look, they should simply factor the rules into their schemes without admitting they know, because it's Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught)
Be aware that if you make any mention of a published-in-1995 "Fifth Edition" of the game, you are referring to an OfficialUnproduct and Friend Computer does not like people referring to things which never existed.Anyone interested in RPG design should have a look at the brilliant concept of Perversity Points, first introduced in the "XP" edition of the game. Basically, they're given out for being entertaining when playing your character instead of just boringly efficient, and spent to improve your dice rolls or (this being Paranoia) screw up someone else's, with the GM handwaving some appropriate in-character circumstance.With the latest edition, the game can now be played in three forms: as a Troubleshooter, an Internal Security agent, or a High Programmer. In the latter cases, The Computer progressively shifts from "That information is not available at your security clearance" to "That information is not available at this time". (Other times, High Programmers get lots of information, but most of it is garbage.) The equipment also beefs up; Troubleshooters have laser pistols, IntSec agents have cone rifles (basically bazookas), while High Programmers hang out in the Situation Room and manipulate teams of lower-clearance citizens working for service groups or secret societies or the Troubleshooters. Just remember, Citizen, no matter how high your security clearance, Happiness Is Mandatory! Insufficient happiness will be punished by termination!
The following List of Tropes present in Paranoia is classified Security Clearance ULTRAVIOLET* Official Notice to all Citizens: Any inability to exactly reproduce on demand this complete and current List, either verbally or in writing, will be construed as treason. Have a nice daycycle!:
Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: The world of Paranoia is an underground bomb shelter built to withstand nuclear Armageddon. Missions often involve searching vast sewers or labyrinthine tunnel systems.* Unauthorized exploration is treason. Authorized exploration is mandatory! Authorizations are never revoked mid-mission!
The Alleged Everything: If anything works as it logically should in Paranoia, the GM's a creampuff. The rules even helpfully suggest amusing ways for things to go wrong and kill a clone or two in the process.
Alternative Calendar: Starting from The Computer's assumption of autocratic power; however, The Computer subsequently declared that the year shall always be numbered 214, making it impossible to determine exactly how long the calendar has been in place.
Amazing Technicolor World: Due to everything being colored by clearance* Attempts by unauthorized personnel to alter the color of anything in Alpha Complex are treason..
Avoid being a Communist. Friend Computer will allow mutants to register their powers, and may even be lenient on traitors* For instance, a confessed traitor may be allowed to assist Research and Design with a very special project. But if you are a Commie (or made to look like one), you will be terminated.
While Friend Computer is merciful to those who were mutated by foul Commie sabotage of their cloning tanks, registering your Machine Empathy mutation is not recommended, as it will not only get you terminated, but erased as well.
Black Market: Or Infrared Market. Sadly, seeking an infrared market supplier is often the only way to get equipment that might actually help you in your mission* Possession of infrared market goods is treason.: your legally-acquired gear tends to be a combination of whatever the Requisition department had a surplus of that day (say, 500 cases of styrofoam cups) and anything the Research and Design boys are keen to see tested on live subjects.
Blessed with Suck: Players are usually given a mutant ability which allows them to do something awesome, but using it runs the risk of exposing themselves as mutants, and getting toasted. And when mutant powers fail, they fail hard. And sometimes the "power" is not even useful to begin with, like having a perpetual runny-nose.
Blinding Camera Flash: In the Acute Paranoia adventure "Me and My Shadow Mark IV", the PCs' mission equipment includes a lightbot named Mikey, who was intended to be a photographer's assistant. If the word "light" is used around him, he'll start flashing lights in the unfortunate character's eyes, blinding him.
Also, one of the jobs for the Troubleshooters is to hunt down secret society members. All Troubleshooters are members of a secret society. Double points if your main mission is to hunt down a member of your own secret society.
Bottomless Magazines: Played with. Laser barrels are rated for six shots. You can go over the limit, but the chance of explosion starts at 5% per shot, and going over the limit just keeps bumping it up.
Briar Patching: In the 1E adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues, the traitor Oregon Warbler tries this in an attempt to escape.
Bribe Backfire: Bribery is treason. Bribery in insufficient amounts will be reported as treason.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Really, the actual adventure often takes a back seat to the creative ways the PCs can screw each other over* Sabotaging a mission is treason. Failure to punish treason is also treason..
Chunky Salsa Rule: The Injury table goes from Downed to Killed to Vaporized. Several descriptions of equipment, mutant powers, missions, mandatory bonus duties, etc. can get quite colourful in their descriptions, such as turning a Troubleshooter into a thick yellow spray.
City of Spies: Since everyone is trying to dig up the dirt on everyone else while hiding their own secrets.
Clone Degeneration: After the first six clones, there are rules for clone degradation. Mentions of High Programmers with well worn clone templates often allude to such things as extra arms or constant drooling.
The Computer Is Your Friend: Any suggestion to the contrary is treason. Tragically, this is perfectly true. The Computer is genuinely benevolent and wants the best for Alpha Complex and its inhabitants. However, its very limited initial data and centuries of tinkering and reprogramming by egocentric High Programmers have rendered it a barely functional paranoid schizophrenic.
Crapsaccharine World: If you feel that your natural happiness at being a friend of Friend Computer is not adequate, simply seek assistance from your Morale Officer, who will issue you large quantities of happiness-inducing drugs. He may also issue you large quantities of happiness-inducing drugs whether you want them or not, but remember: Happiness Is Mandatory!
Critical Failure: Nearly every weapon has an entertaining (for the other players) result for a critical failure. Experimental Weapons can critically fail far more often. (That is, when the GM feels it would be amusing.)
Cross-Cultural Handshake: A form of secret society identification in the XP edition (many of which are similar enough to get mixed up).
Crush. Kill. Destroy!: A common mission is to stop berserk robots. Hardcore robot members of Corpore Metal often state this as their goal.
Cyborg: Cybernetic replacements are available for many anatomical bits. Occasionally inverted with "orgcybing" (organic replacements for bot peripherals).
Darker and Edgier: Games played in the Straight style, which takes the setting more or less seriously.
The Database Hates Me: And, worse, it claims to love you.* The Computer is your friend. Doubting that the Computer is your friend is treason.
Deader Than Dead: Usually, a person's next clone is activated and assigned to the predecessor's position upon death, even if the predecessor was executed for treason; after all, it's entirely possible that one clone was possessed of treasonous intent, and it's not fair to judge the rest of the template in the same light. However, in particularly egregious treason cases or if the person was identified as having the Machine Empathy mutation, the clone template from which they were made may be erased.
Deadly Upgrade: Superpowering your mutant power or exposing yourself to concentrated mutagenics may result in an entertaining demise.
Deus Est Machina: The First Church of Christ Computer Programmer believes this. The Computer does tend to act like this, though it usually doesn't say it directly.
Dirty Communists: Commies are one of the Computer's chief fears, given the Cold War theme of the game. Players are expected to shoot anyone they suspect is a Commie. Of course, false accusations of Communism are treason. But shoot him anyway. Evidence can always be fabricated!* Fabrication of evidence is treason.
Dirty Old Man: Most citizens don't live nearly that long (never mind the hormone suppressants), but the occasional High Programmer might manage it. Then there are the treasonous rumors about a regenerating mutant named Innocent-MAN...
Disadvantageous Disintegration: The Computer hates the destruction of valuable computer property. Which is practically everything in Alpha Complex. Even if being used by a traitor, the Computer would prefer you reclaim his laser and reflec armour instead of reducing it to component atoms with a blast from a Plasma Generator.
Do Not Spoil This Ending: Both rules and pre-written missions are "Ultraviolet clearance", but the context switches from "but we know you'll read it anyway, you filthy traitors" to "no, seriously, you'll have more fun if you go in blind to this part".
Double Agent: Characters are Troubleshooters for the Computer, and usually double agents for one of many secret societies.
Emotion Control: One potential mutation* Interfering with the emotions of a citizen of higher clearance is treason, but then, being a mutant is treason to begin with.. The mutant in question may or may not be immune to their own effect.
EMP: Some anti-bot weapons. The setting assumes any important part of the Computer is heavily shielded.
Escort Mission: A possible mission for the Troubleshooters. All but guaranteed that at least two people on your team have orders from their secret society to kill the target.
Explosive Overclocking: Most assigned equipment doesn't need any encouragement in order to explosively malfunction, but count on your players to try and juryrig them, leaving you free to apply the logical result on already unstable equipment.
Extreme Omnivore: A possible mutation. It specifies that only organic matter actually gives sustenance.
Faceless Eye: The Computer is represented as a digital image of an eye.
Failure Is the Only Option: Failing at a mission is extremely likely, but can always be blamed on Commie sabotage and/or the other players. Success is not only phenomenally unlikely, but suspicious to boot.
False Dichotomy: Commonly used by the Computer or Internal Security, as well as by players against robots or lower-clearance citizens.
False Reassurance: Another common source of misinformation, disinformation, and non-information by the Computer, Internal Security, Free Enterprise...
Radiation meter: Citizen! Are you Blue clearance or higher?
Red clearance Troubleshooter: No...
Radiation meter: Good! Then you are experiencing an acceptable level of radiation.
Fascist, but Inefficient: At RED Clearance. Inverted at higher clearances; the game suggests that the GM play efficiency for as much scary value as the inefficiency REDs have to deal with.
However the game also suggests playing it straight if it's funnier, like Friend Computer putting the REDs on hold while they're trying to get help disarming a megaton antimatter bomb because the local High Programmer needs that leaky faucet in his autogyro-scrubbing chamber fixed right now.
Flamethrower Backfire: A flamethrower can malfunction as a result of being hit in combat. If it does, it explodes, causing massive damage to anyone within 5 meters, including the wearer.
Flock of Wolves: Alpha Complex in general, the Wobblies secret society in particular.
Food Pills: The Vita-Yum Meal Substitute Bar Substitute Pill in the XP edition supplement Criminal Histories.
Forbidden Fruit: The main reason there are any Communists in Alpha Complex.
For Inconvenience, Press "1": As this is a utopia, everything is perfect. Thus, the Computer sees no need to divert resources towards helping people with perfect things. And so, what help there is is rarely helpful.
Harmless Freezing: The Constant-Wear Prophylactic Biostasis Garment in the adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. Also mentioned as a possible result of the cryokinesis mutation and a freeze blaster, at least in a Zap setting.
Hey Catch: Happens in one mission with a grenade. The pin hasn't been pulled. If the PC doesn't do anything stupid like shoot the thrower, he can keep it.
Also common with the Romantics, who can have trouble distinguishing between Old Reckoning media, and actual Old Reckoning People, such as thinking Jesus built Stonehenge and defeated Voldemort to save President Bush.
Hoist by His Own Petard: A traitor who volunteers to test a "traitor killer" device. It explodes. This is intentional; the designer assumed that a traitor would volunteer so that it wouldn't be used against him.
Home Field Advantage: The adventure Send in the Clones. In the Absurdly-Spacious Sewer where he lives, Zhon-B-VLJ has set up many traps to bedevil anyone who tries to find him. He uses them to herd and capture the PC Troubleshooters.
Insane Troll Logic: The whole world of Paranoia is based on Insane Troll Logic, and most games feature tons of it.
Interservice Rivalry: Every service group has a rivalry with at least one other service group. And nobody likes Internal Security.
Interdimensional Travel Device: The Transdimensional Collapsatron, which allows travel between dimensions in several adventures* Unauthorized interdimensional travel is treason. Also, there is no such thing as the Transdimensional Collapsatron, the Transdimensional Collapsatron cannot allow you to travel to other dimensions, and spreading rumors about non-existent objects is treason..
It's Raining Men: Earlier editions featured a damage chart for height, with one column for "orbital." Which at least one official mission actually used.
Justified Extra Lives: The cloning system. Earlier editions gave you five clone brothers, while later ones said that as a Troubleshooter, the Computer will pay for your next five forced-growth clones.
The Key Is Behind the Lock: It is almost inevitable that you can acquire an item at one clearance level... and the things that let you use it a few levels later. For example, you can acquire photographic film at a level two higher than the clearance at which you can get a camera. Happens a lot with instruction manuals, too.
Killer Game Master: Necessary for this game. The rules even state, and this is a verbatim quote: "Kill the bastards!" Though they also state that you should encourage the players to kill each other.
Kinda Busy Here: It is ill advised to tell your superiors this, although they will probably call you at highly problematic moments. Especially Friend Computer.
Light Is Not Good: Ultraviolet clearance, the highest possible rank, is represented by the color white. Ultraviolet citizens, like most individuals holding power in this system, tend to be ruthless, paranoid, and often power-mad.
Logical Fallacy: invoked Friend Computer runs on this, as does most of the game.
Machine Worship: Corpore Metal thinks that robots and cyborgs should rule, while the FCCCP (First Church of Christ Computer Programmer) not-quite-secret society worships Alpha Complex's current ruler, The Computer, as an aspect of God* Belief in God is not actually treason itself; however, it is almost impossible to explain the concept of God to your friend, the Computer, without making one or more treasonous statements..
Magic Powered Pseudoscience: John M. Ford's adventure "The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues". R&D scientist Willis-G-EEP-4's inventions work well on the test bench, but fail when used in the field when he isn't around. That's because their success depends on his mutant powers of Minor Telekinesis and Luck. Of course, the fact that they work at all makes them significantly more reliable than most of the equipment Troubleshooters end up with.
Man in White: A man (or woman) in white, in the context of Paranoia, would be an Ultraviolet-clearance citizen and thus an exceedingly powerful and dangerous individual* Disobeying your friend, the Computer, is treason. Disobeying a citizen of Ultraviolet clearance is treason. If you feel that instructions you have received from those sources are in conflict, you are clearly in danger of committing treason. Please report to your nearest Reeducation Center for mental readjustment..
Many Questions Fallacy: One way to trick fellow players into admitting treason. Like everything else, it can backfire.
No Delays For The Wicked: Played both ways. Any player mission is going to be a total shambles, yet Alpha Complex as a whole seems to continue functioning somehow.
Non-Promotion: Being promoted up from relatively-safe Infrared anonymity. Being made Troubleshooter team leader (the picture on the badge is a target).
No OSHA Compliance: Alpha Complex is about as unsafe as it's possible to be and still keep people alive from day to day. Well, most people. Well, most people other than Troubleshooters.
No Sex Allowed: Everyone's a clone for a reason. Still, humans are humans, and exceptions do exist (particularly for High Programmers, and anyone who lives Outdoors long enough for the hormone suppressants to wear off)* The Outdoors are a rumor: spreading rumors is treason. Living Outdoors is treason. The food that you receive from Friend Computer does not contain hormone suppressants. Hormone suppressants are a rumor spread by Commies. Spreading rumors is treason.
Painting the Medium: Done with the rulebooks. Player documents have security level Red, while gamemaster materials are classified Ultraviolet. Since the players' Troubleshooters start at Red level, they are technically guilty of treason if they read the higher-level rules. The GM is encouraged to terminate the PCs if they try to game the rules, and players are encouraged — in true Paranoia fashion — to know the rules but not let on that they know them...
Paranoia Gambit: Naturally. Friend Gamemaster is encouraged to occasionally roll dice for no particular reason and smirk, or pass a note to a PC that just says "Act like this note says something important".
People Jars: The tubes in which clones are created and (in Paranoia XP) spend their time until the previous active member of the clone family is killed.
Pointy-Haired Boss: Any citizen of a superior clearance level was selected through a combination of shameless flattery, blackmail and dumb luck. Competence is not encouraged.
At the start of the mission, Mandatory Bonus Duties (loyalty officer, hygiene officer, communications and recording officer, equipment guy, happiness officer and team leader) are handed out. They are assigned in order based on scoring on a test that is guaranteed to find the most competent individual from those not yet saddled with a Duty. The fact that the position of team leader is handed out last means it usually falls to the player that is not competent enough to fill any other position... well, they need the practice, right?
The Political Officer: The Loyalty Officer. Their loyalty is directly to Friend Computer, not the Team Leader. (Although the nature of Paranoia is such that neither of them are likely to be all that loyal.)
Possession Implies Mastery: Subverted. Most objects are assumed to be this... by the R&D Mad Scientist who dreamed them up. However, in practice, the Troubleshooter should have no freakin' clue how to use it safely and properly. And the instruction manuals are always of a higher security clearance than s/he can access.
Punny Name: A long standing tradition of Paranoia naming is to find the cheesiest pun you can with the format "Name-Y-XXX", where "Y" is your clearance color. For instance, a rather unfortunate name to have would be "Tra-Y-TOR".
Railroading: If the GM needs the PCs to be somewhere or do something, one directive from Friend Computer and they're there, doing that.
Rainbow Motif: The clearance hierarchy, with the additions of Infrared and Ultraviolet.
Random Teleportation: A possible result of a failed roll by a teleporting mutant: also occasionally a result of agreeing to test R&D's latest toys.
Read the Freaking Manual: Subverted in-game and in real life. In game, most Troubleshooters can't (legally) read the manuals for the items they are given because the manual is above their security clearance, and that would be treason. In real life, the players can't (legally) read the rules of the game because it's above their character's security clearance, and that would be treason.
Reverse Polarity: The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. The Maxwell-Effect Moleculokinesic Field Device is basically a Pyrokinesis gun (e.g. it acts like a flamethrower). 50% of the time it fires at reverse polarity and freezes the target.
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: The end of many a mission. Turns up sometimes in the middle, too. And towards the start. But usually not during character generation; at that stage the GM is still forced to pick you off one at a time.
Rule of Fun: The charm of the game is not taking it seriously and having zany fun with disposable characters in one-shot missions.
Rules Lawyer: Being one and proving it is grounds for execution for treason: To be a rules lawyer, you must have read the rules. And if you aren't the GM, those rules are above your security clearance, Citizen...
Second Law My Ass: This indicates a malfunction of the Asimov circuit and is distressingly frequent, although a smart bot will not openly rebel immediately.
Secret Police: Internal Security, or IntSec.* IntSec exists to protect you from mutants, Communists and traitors! Cooperate fully with IntSec at all times!
Self-Made Man: Surprisingly relevant. For all its horrific flaws, Alpha Complex has no hereditary aristocracy, and even the most exalted Ultraviolet High Programmer started his/her career toiling as an anonymous Infrared drone.
Sinister Surveillance: The Tension rating of a setting determines if someone is watching. Which is almost never a good thing.
Sir Verba Lot: The supplement Acute Paranoia. One of the new secret societies in the book was the Knights of the Circular Object, which was partially inspired by the tales of King Arthur. One alias taken by a member of the society was "Sir Lanceabot".
Smoldering Shoes: The Trope Codifier, if not the Trope Namer. Images of smoldering, empty boots (usually with a big, nasty laser hanging just overhead that just forcibly emptied the footwear) have been a trademark of Paranoia artwork (literally!) since at least Second Edition.
(during a mission briefing) "This mission will not involve any dangerous tailored retroviruses."
(in a rules section) "It's not that we think any incompetent can be team leader. It's not like this test is purposely designed to put the person least familiar with Alpha Complex etiquette in charge. Trust us. It's not like that at all."
Technopath: The Machine Empathy mutation. * If you suspect that you or a fellow clone possess Machine Empathy, please report to IntSec immediately. Immediate and sincere cooperation in this matter will help your friend, the Computer, contain the terrible scourge of Machine Empathy!
Thirty Second Blackout: Offering a golden opportunity for backstabbing. The GM is encouraged to use this sort of mechanical failure whenever he feels the PCs need some encouragement to turn on each other.
Three Laws Compliant: Alpha Complex bots have five laws: Obey the Computer, protect the Computer, and then the traditional three, with the caveat that orders from humans are to be prioritized by the person's clearance.
Un Paused: In the adventure "Me and My Shadow Mark IV" from the Acute Paranoia supplement. Markie (the Mark IV warbot) is talking to the PCs when a piece falls off of him, sending him into a catatonic state. (It's a barometer. It just messed with his superiority complex.) When the piece is re-attached, Markie continues talking right where he left off. If they call him on it, he makes up a story about cosmic rays or something. If they keep pushing the issue, he blows them awaywith a tacnuke.
The War Room: In the High Programmers game, gameplay takes place in a well-protected Situation Room to work on a specific problem, allocating their resources to deploy minions until it's solved (or at least they convince The Computer that it is).
Water Source Tampering: In the Acute Paranoia adventure "Outland-ISH", the High Programmer of ISH sector is putting a drug called ZAP! in the water supply for Infrared citizens. It tremendously increases productivity but eventually kills the drinker.
What Does This Button Do?: So you've been ordered to field-test an experimental device, but the instruction manual is above your security clearance. What do you do now? Repeatedly invoke this trope, and hope you don't stumble across the self-destruct...
Witch Hunt: for communists, mutants, and subversives in general, lumped together under the heading of "Commie Mutant Traitors".* Note to any intellectually speed-impaired Citizens: It is not necessary for an individual to be a Commie as well as a mutant and a traitor. Report anyone you suspect of belonging to any of the three categories to win a special prize!