How dangerous could the Debriefing even be?


So, from what I've heard and from what the Gamemasters Handbook describes, the debriefing is when the Computer asks questions about what the characters did or didn't do and has stuff that they did or didn't do from all the beginning of the mission come back to bite them.
But here's an issue with that: Each clone is a legally distinct entity from the previous one. From what the Players Handbook says, clones should never be punished for what their previous clones did. And I would be very disappointed if the clone stayed alive from the beginning to the end of the mission. So, if a clone did some treason or littered or did other equally awful things and then died, then the Computer can't really punish them for that, right? And especially since the end of a mission is when it's most lethal, 90% of what the characters do is going to be entirely irrelevant to the debriefing and that seems like a bit of a waste.
Heck, even the missions in the Mission Book suffer from that as there's a good chance that most of the offenses the debriefing officer could mention had been committed by clones that are now very dead.

I'm honestly half-tempted to throw out the entire "legally distinct entity" stuff as that just lets some good treason go to waste. But before I do that, I'd like to know how other GMs handle this or maybe even find out the intention of how it's supposed to work.
While each clone is a legally distinct entity, the players frequently fail to make that distinction. And who is going to contract Friend Computer when the lines get blurred during a debriefing? Not the other Troubleshooters...

My favorite explanation is that the new clone needs to answer Friend Computer or the briefing officer. 90% of the time, the players are going to dig themselves a deeper hole. The other 10% of the time, another player will "help." Failure to answer questions properly constitutes legally distinct acts of treason and/or sabotage.

Very few players will look right into Friend Computer's monitor and say, "Yes, my prior clone was a Commie Mutant Traitor and did everything you could possibly suspect so I admit everything without fear of retaliation." If they do, well, perhaps they just made a false confession.

Debriefing should be dangerous enough to encourage players to fear it and have fun.
Zarathud said:
Failure to answer questions properly constitutes legally distinct acts of treason and/or sabotage.
Ah, that's clever, I like that! I'm still leaning towards not even having the "legally distinct" clause because my players are seasoned RPG players and could catch on fairly quickly, especially since it's in the Players Handbook.
My thought is to essentially replace it with asking myself whether the character has already been punished. If a clone acts treasonous, but dies due to unrelated circumstances, then obviously, the character has not yet been punished for their act of treason and you can bring it up in the debriefing. Clearly, if another Troubleshooter kills that clone without first reporting to Friend Computer and getting permission to kill them (or without the clone having five treason stars), that counts as "unrelated circumstances" and the killer is also acting treasonously. If the Troubleshooter is not quick enough with filling out the required forms to get that permission, thus allowing the traitor to live, that's also treason.
Or maybe it varies from sector to sector, who knows.
You want the "legally distinct" clause so that players don't overtly carry over grievances from that time their fellow Troubleshooter pressed the Down button on the lift as their Third Clone was walking on....

Let your players try arguing the "legally distinct" clause in debriefing. Friend Computer is perfect. Perfectly paranoid, and always correct (within Alpha Complex). You WANT them to try it, because then you'll be able to close with the proper note -- the entire system was against them from the start, and they should have known it all along: "Citizen, clause 912017 of HDCTDEB (which is above your security clearance) was modified by clause 932017 of the HDCTDEB if the offense involves a continuing clear and present danger to Alpha Complex. Every loyal citizen of your Security Clearance read that memo, and records show it was delivered with your last CoreTech upgrade. Perhaps you didn't do so because you were busy planning Treason. Do you have any last words?"
Zarathud said:
You want the "legally distinct" clause so that players don't overtly carry over grievances from that time their fellow Troubleshooter pressed the Down button on the lift as their Third Clone was walking on....
How does the "legally distinct" clause help against that? If clone A kills Nixitur-1, how does Nixitur-2's knowledge that he's legally distinct from Nixitur-1 help with Nixitur-2 being miffed about having gotten killed?
I suppose the legal distinction is for stuff like Secret Society membership. If Nixitur-1 is executed for being part of an especially dangerous Secret Society, Nixitur-2 would logically still be in that Secret Society. And so, all Nixiturs ever should be killed. Unless, of course, Nixitur-2 is considered to be legally distinct from Nixitur-1.

Also, I'm not entirely certain, but didn't previous versions of Paranoia get by just fine without any such clause?
I'm probably just going to be completely arbitrary with that, depending on what's amusing. If Troubleshooter A accuses his colleague B of being a Secret Society member, but evidence only shows a previous clone of B, punishing A might be funnier. Or both, even.
I would go with the standard paranoia approach;

~ You are trying to take advantage of The Rules. The Rules are not consistent and subject to arbitrary and/or random change without notice (mandatory 'need to know' about rules updates are above your security clearance)

To wit; the 'legally distinct' individual concept is clearly a patchwork of exemptions and sub-clauses. Friend Computer does not, for example, automatically assume a consistency of Secret Society Membership, but does retain your security clearance (which is fortunate, as your retained memories are far too high-clearance for an INFRARED).

Despite being a genetic duplicate at the same biological age (so far as Friend Computer is able to discern) it is not automatically assumed that genetic defects (mutant abilities) will express.

In short - every time a player appeals to this concept, it may or may not be considered a valid argument depending on which sector, service field, and specific compnode of Friend Computer is evaluating it. Allow it the first time, but drop a bag of rocks on it if people jump on the bandwagon. Don't feel the need to be consistent.
Let them be miffed. That's part of the perpetuation of the mental state of paranoia.

But will Friend Computer accept the actions of a prior clone as evidence of treason/terrorism/etc. in a debriefing? Probably not, unless it's incredibly funny. It's too easy to accuse Troubleshooter BURN-R-MAN for every explosion after being exposed as having a pyrotechnic mutant power (another good reason to hand out some new Mutant Power cards from the new edition after a clone's death).

I like to let the Troubleshooters make their accusation (along the lines of "yes, but..."), but look for where the Troubleshooter couldn't have any personal knowledge or oversteps their accusation due to the "legal distinction" between different clones. We know it's a fiction, the players know it's a fiction, but Friend Computer? That fiction matters, usually.

When prior crimes become too easy to use as evidence, debriefing becomes not fun and a player can't get out from their prior bad decisions. However, I have had a player at a convention sit back for most of the session happily taking notes and accepting his fate while obeying the dangerous orders of others. Until debriefing, when all those notes were used to tell a completely plausible tale of how the mission was continuously sabotaged by Commie Mutant Traitors who infiltrated the team and how the poor Troubleshooter heroically overcame the other Troubleshooters' many treasons to report to Friend Computer. It all fit, it was hysterical, but -- most of all -- it tied into the current Troubleshooter's "legally distinct" clone's situation at debriefing. That had to be rewarded by the termination of the rest of the team and a promotion to ORANGE clearance.
How dangerous? more than once I've seen a character avoid all the weapons fire, general mishaps and Treason points on a mission, only to run through a full Six-Pack at the de-brief.