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Paranoia Fuel / Tabletop Games

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  • In a meta sense, any time the GM makes an obvious roll for something before saying "Okay, go ahead." As well as any time the GM asks you to make a dice roll without telling you what you're rolling for, checking their notes, nodding, and letting you carry on.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Cloaker is a monster that, when at rest, can resemble a large cloak hanging on a wall. As if that camouflage wasn't enough, it can manipulate shadows and sound to create illusions (including mirror images of itself), make itself completely invisible, lull you into a helpless torpor, and unnerve you so badly that you can do nothing but cower in fear. All this before it actually attacks...
    • Really, anything can be a monster. The ceiling? A lurker. The floor? A trapper. That treasure chest against the wall? A common mimic. The room the treasure chest is in? Greater mimic. Stalactites on the ceiling? Piercers. Stalagmites on the floor? Roper. Natural stone columns? Bi-nou. Boulders in the cave? Galeb-duhr. Smooth, ten-foot-wide stone passage? Gullet of a Tunnel Terror. Creepers growing on the wall? Assassin vine. Sheet of paper on a table? Palimpset. Pile of rags in the corner? Raggamofyn. Discarded clothing? Raiment. Patch of darkness? Shadow. Patch of wet stone? Gray ooze. Empty stretch of dungeon corridor? Might contain an Invisible Stalker, Phantom Fungus, or any other naturally-invisible monsters. Anything resembling a statue, made from any material? Could be a golem. Is it anything not listed above? Might be an animated object. Can you conclusively prove a given room is completely safe? Something could be lurking on the Ethereal Plane, watching you. The friendly NPC who sent you on the quest? Could have been replaced by a doppelganger while you weren't looking, possessed by a demon, or maybe they were a shapeshifted dragon the entire time. Even that Bag of Holding you got at the end of the adventure could really be a cursed Bag of Devouring, the mouth of an extradimensional creature that will try to eat you the next time you reach inside.
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    • According to 4th Edition's Nentir Vale setting, every single star in the night sky is actually an Eldritch Abomination that wants to eat us. Have fun on your next stargazing trip!
    • One epic level spell, demise unseen, instantly kills its target and gives control of the corpse to the caster that exact moment, with whoever was around to see it none the wiser. Your teammate could well be dead, and have been dead for days already, under control of a powerful necromancer who may have used him to steer you right where he wants you to be.
    • The citizens of Purple Rocks in the Forgotten Realms worship the kraken Slarkrethel, and sacrifice their young to him. the 5e Sword Coast Adventuring Guide contains a first hand description written by a seafarer that visited the islands. The citizens were apparently friendly and helpful, but they couldn't shake the feeling that there was something uncanny with them. Only after leaving the islands did they realize that they hadn't seen a single child or woman there.
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    • Planescape: Portals. Sigil, the city of Portals, the main setting for the game, is lousy with them. Any enclosed area (arch, doorway, barrel opening, two broomsticks leaning on each other) can be a portal. Portals can lead anywhere, from next door to Hell to a parallel dimension consisting entirely of chocolate. There is no rhyme or reason whatsoever to what portal leads where, the keys that activate the portals can be literally anything, and there's nothing to say that a portal uses the same key to open from the other side. For example, walking through your front door on your way to the supermarket might be perfectly harmless, but coming home and walking through the same door carrying a loaf of bread and twelve apples while whistling "Hail To The Chief" might see you landed on an endless plane of black obsidian with no way to get home.
  • Indie RPG Exquisite Replicas is about an alien reality somehow stealing away things and even people, and replacing them with perfect replicas. Nobody knows why the invaders are doing this, or how, or what the replicated things and people might someday end up doing - if anything. Only the player characters are able to sense the difference and it drives them almost mad with revulsion, especially when someone close to them is taken and replaced. Or the player characters might be mad and hallucinating, and destroying things and killing people for no reason. The idea is based on a real mental disorder called the Capgras delusion, where someone becomes convinced that a close friend or family member has been replaced with an identical impostor.
  • Paranoia, fittingly enough. You never know when or how your compatriots will try to betray you, on top of the Big Brother Is Watching You setting.
  • Unknown Armies, as fitting any game about occult conspiracy, is up to its gills in this. Case in point, fast food workers are magically poisoning you to bend you to their needs.
  • Warhammer 40,000 contains a Horde of Alien Locusts that eat galaxies and are slowly but inexorably making their way here.
    • Which often home in on signals from scouts that have been established on the target already. Lictors you don't see coming, but they just kill you. Genestealers, on the other hand, implant a tiny "seed" in your body that makes you think you've barely escaped a fight with the 'nids with only minor wounds, so you're completely unaware of being infected.
    • Chaos cultists and any other form of subversive anythings are absolutely the in-universe paranoia fuel. Anything that looks like a human but secretly wants to do anything other than die for the Emperor's glory is to be hunted down and destroyed. Hence the various flavors of Inquisitors who would absolutely LOVE to talk about all those disloyal thoughts you've been having...
    • Just because we haven't discovered the Warp yet doesn't mean we're not going to.
    • Ever heard of Noise Marines? If their 'music' ever starts to sound even remotely tolerable to you, your friends will have to kill you, because it means you're falling to Chaos.
    • The Alpha legion are infiltration and sabotage specialists, so much so that one Alpha Legionnaire once managed to cause an entire planet to fall without setting foot on it, as the extreme paranoia set off by news of his arrival did the work for him.
    • There are many demonic entities capable of complete invisibility and silence, able to hide their existence from all but the most sensitive observers. They could be anywhere, at any time, ready to slash you into bits to please their God.
    • Also, you could be (and probably are) serving Tzeench and not even know it.
  • The New World of Darkness has a good number of examples of this:
    • Every thing that exists has a spirit that embodies its core concepts... and this spirit is often a greedy little bastard that just wants power. So, don't be upset if it forces its way into your body, forcibly merges with your soul, and decides to go for a ride...
    • There exists a world that is to our world what matter is to anti-matter. Things from that world fall through every so often, eating people's memories and sense of self, just plain eating people, or cutting large chunks from the timeline so that you may have never existed.
    • That bench you're sitting on? That rock in the park? That mysterious bit of "modern art" that spontaneously appeared in the square? They could all be ravaging monsters, driven to dormancy by the weight of human observation. At least, until the right kind of person walks by, at which point they'll come alive and won't care who gets in the way as long as they can get a bite...
    • In Changeling: The Lost, The Fair Folk abduct humans regularly and take them off to Faerie to serve the life of a slave in a dimension of beautiful madness. Sometimes, these slaves escape... but the Gentry have fashioned copies to take their place, which seem like perfect imitations except for the one thing they always miss. So, if your big brother doesn't seem to have that spark he once did, it might not be your brother at all...

      And it only gets worse if you're one of these copies. When your "twin" gets back from Arcadia, you have a brief, crushing moment when your identity vanishes and you're frozen by anxiety. Then you start seeing monsters on the street, things that look like men and women but aren't. And then you finally discover that these things are people who escaped from hell, and who aren't too happy about some faerie's puppet playing make believe...

      And one more twist of the knife. You want kids? You can't have them; you're a close imitation, but not so close that you can make a new life. But maybe you can... if you're lucky and you truly love the person you're trying to have kids with (oh, and you mustn't know that you're not really human — Achievements in Ignorance and all that). The pregnancy will be difficult, the mother mightn't survive, but in the end you've got a bouncy baby... but the baby is going to be a Creepy Child. If you're lucky, it'll be a Fetch-Child; seemingly socially disordered until puberty, able to sense things that normal humans can't, and stalked because of rumors that its blood is poison to The Fair Folk. If you're unlucky, it'll be a Fetch-Spawn; an Enfante Terrible with no capacity at all for morals or empathy and which cannot be restrained by anything. Lock them in a room? The door opens the moment they touch it. Bind their arms? It falls with the slightest flex. Handcuff them? It springs open in an instant. So you can't keep them in (or out), you can't reason with them, you can't "cure" them, and you live and evade pain only so long as they don't feel like torturing or killing you. And you have no way of knowing which you've had (or even if both types can actually exist in your world) until it's old enough to be able to try and kill you.
      • What about the Changelings themselves? These are humans who have been warped into half-faerie Emotion Eaters — and you can't tell them apart, unless you're very lucky. Vampires, werewolves, even mages all have some sort of tell that you can use to spot them. Changelings? Nothing works. Even other monsters are hardpressed to realise what they are...
      • Here's some more bad news for both Changelings and people - Some of the changelings never escaped, or escaped and then decided they wanted to go back. They're loyalists and they make a job of betraying Changelings, or innocent and interesting people, into hell at the behest of their masters. And you have no idea which they are, and any pacts you might make with them are just as binding as they are with any Changeling. Even worse is mortals can make a pact without realizing they've done something real. Trust no one.
    • The Hosts... especially spider hosts... Ugh! There are tiny spiritual spiders that want to colonize your body. They will likely begin by eating your brain until you are functionally non-existent. Then they move in and start colonizing...
    • Nosferatu (see Old World of Darkness below) are in the New World Of Darkness too. But it gets better: now they aren't required to be horrifically ugly. Some of them still are, that's just how it goes, but some of them look just like you or me... but when you look at them, there's something... off. Something on a deep level that makes you feel like they're only seconds away from tearing your heart out and sucking the blood from the ventricles. And then they smile, and you wonder why you felt like that...
    • The worst paranoia isn't from any of these. It's all of them as a collective. There are monsters everywhere, they pretend to be human and there's no way to defend yourself against them. Thank God for the Vigil...

      On the other hand, the Vigil has the potential to make it even worse; that werewolf pack they took out? They could have been the only thing standing between your neighborhood and a bunch of irritable spirits that want to force their way into your world and wear your skin like a new set of clothes.
    • Demon: The Descent is made of Paranoia Fuel. Where other gamelines are often touted as 'personal horror', this one is touted as 'Techgnostic Espionage'. Let's see...
      • First and biggest is the God Machine, which is less an entity and more of an ecosystem, the sum of all of its Infrastructures, Occult Matrices and Outputs. That new building being erected outside? Might be an Infrastructure. That random serial killings that suddenly pop up and disappear as suddenly? Might be an Occult Matrix at work. And what is the Output of said Occult Matrix? What is the GM's goal this time? It's telling that the Conspiracy Theorists of the setting are the ones Properly Paranoid; after all, they used to build the systems.
      • The GM's agents are everywhere, and take on different forms. That restaurant owner or grave digger may be an Angel sent by the GM for its own inscrutable motives. That mortal may just be an Unwitting Pawn, or a Stigmatic who can suddenly go berserk and wail on your face. And good luck when the Knights of St. Adrian is after you - it means your cover is blown and they have powers that make them more than a match for a Demon. Demon is the first gameline where reaching 0 Karma Meter is not an automatic game over; it 'merely' forces you to go into permanent One-Winged Angel and you can still play as normal. But that also makes you stick like a sore thumb, with the GM and its agents able to see exactly where you are. If you can't get any new Cover immediately, you'll soon either be dead or suffering a Fate Worse than Death. Let that sink in: they don’t need any special mechanic for a Non-Standard Game Over, all they have to do is to just strip you of your disguise, and let nature takes its course.
      • Even the Unchained are not safe from each other. Each and everyone of them is Consummate Liar without equal, able to fool even supernatural lie detections. And if one of them is an Integrator, they will sell out the rest for their own agenda. To say they have trust issues is an understatement.
      • Not to mention that the GM's agents don't just use mortal guises to get under Demons' skin; Angels can masquerade as other parts of the demons' world. That Exile may be a standard Angel whose mission is to pretend to be an Exile; the recent Fall may have been stage-managed to serve as bait. Don't take anything at face value.
  • In the Old World of Darkness:
    • Pentex. The company that produces everything, from computer chips to duct tape, that you might come into contact with during the course of modern life — and makes sure that all of it is in some way designed to destroy your health, your sanity, or your very soul. That hamburger you're eating? It's tainted with spiritual corrosion. That movie you're watching? It's engineered to turn you callous and violent. That aspirin you just took for your headache? It's going to give you something a whole lot worse.

      Pentex also makes toys that have evil spirits inside. At night and when left alone with the kids they will come to life. Then after several "the child thinks the dolls talk to him" reports, the toy will kill the child's parents and blame it on the child. Bonus points if the child is convinced the toy is his only friend. Have fun playing now, kids!

      All these products are created by subsidiary companies, so you can't stay safe just by watching out for a Pentex logo, and none of them will (usually) do you any major harm on their own... but every little bit erodes your bodily and spiritual integrity further, and one day you will be past that crucial threshold that will allow an evil spirit to crawl inside of your skin and turn you into an insane, deformed, mutated abomination that will destroy everything you touch during your brief remaining life, and then die messily and painfully. And then, more likely than not, your tumorous body will be ground down by those industrious Pentex folks and used as an ingredient in the next batch of tainted pizza toppings...
    • From Vampire: The Masquerade, the Nosferatu: Vampires with unparalleled powers of disguise and invisibility, they take to information brokering like hideous ducks to water. And speaking of ducks, they also control and communicate with animals, and will turn them to their purpose. If your secrets are worth knowing, they will be watching you, be it electronically, through the eyes of a thousand vermin, or invisibly from the shadows.
    • The Technocracy in Mage: The Ascension. They have their hooks in nearly as many things as Pentex... and are dedicated to hiding the fact that the world isn't the orderly, static, mundane place they want everyone to believe it is — in order to try to make the world that place. Which works for you if you're part of that world, but if you see something you shouldn't, or worse yet, by chance end up being part of the supernatural world they try to suppress — especially if you turn out a Mage, who they actively oppose moreso than any other element of the supernatural, or a Changeling, who find their mere presence toxic as the antithesis of the wonder and magic the Faerie stand for — things can get very ugly, and they will find out. Oh, and remember Pentex above? The Technocracy is another thing they have their hooks in, so there's a chance that whatever they do to deal with you will wear down your resistance to becoming an unholy mutant, if it doesn't kill you outright.


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