Old gamer rants about new edition destroying everything good


OK, after trying it out I'm not impressed with the new edition Paranoia rules. They have some good ideas, but badly done. I'm staying with the old XP rules when I run games for friends and at conventions.

Now, to start with we did need a new edition. The goals of simplifying Paranoia and making it easier for new players are admirable. I agree that Paranoia XP, even split into Troubleshooter / Internal Security / High Programmer, was too complicated and needed to be streamlined. What I was hoping for was something back to the level of the old 2nd edition rules. (Still fondly remembered by many gamers I know, even though the books themselves have long since fallen apart.) That's not what the new edition is.

For me, there are three really bad decisions in the new edition:

* Changing the attribute scale and dice mechanism

* Doing away with Perversity Point modifiers

* Doing away with Outdoors

1. By far the worst is changing the attribute scale and dice resolution mechanism. In previous editions the scale is from 1 to 20. To resolve a problem you roll a single D20, and if it's less than your attribute/skill, good. Greater than, not so good. 20 is bad. This is really simple and easy to learn, and doesn't get in the way of experienced players. The scale is linear, not some kind of curve. 20 sided dice are not quite as readily available as 6 sided, but they're not exactly hard to find. And you just need to roll one of them.

We have this really simple mechanism, familiar to existing players and easy to learn for new. And I base this opinion on a couple of decades running Paranoia games for my regular roleplaying group, for friends of my regular group who wanted to try Paranoia out, and for complete strangers at RPG conventions. And the new edition throws it away.

This is what I find so infuriating about the new edition. I like the simplification of the character design and sheet. But it would have worked just as well with the old attribute scale.

And now we have dice pools. If your attribute + skill + modifiers is N, roll N dice. Count the number of 5s and 6s as successes, 1s are failures. Unless N is negative, in which case any roll not a 5 or 6 is a failure.

This is not simple. A surprising number of people haven't played Shadowrun. Really.

Oh yeah, there's this extra dice that you roll, and if you roll a 6 The Computer will intervene. Unless you're in a dead zone, in which case, um, something else maybe? And the loss of Moxie railroads players into "losing it" through no choice of their own: you can't choose not to roll the Computer dice.

And of course there's the zero dice singularity. The rules explain what to do if your attribute, skill, and modifiers are a positive number. Or a negative number. But zero isn't covered! Seriously, how on earth did these rules get as far as being printed without someone asking that question?

I'm sure someone will argue that dice pools are success counts are more flexibile or something. In my opinion, if you think dice mechanisms are important in Paranoia, you're Doing It Wrong.

(If I say that dice mechanisms aren't important, why not change? Because complexity and confusion do matter, and that's what the new mechanisms create.)

2. On to the next bad decision, doing away with Perversity Points. (PPs from now on.)

In my opinion, PPs are one of the great roleplaying innovations. In XP they are easy to explain and easy to use. Players get to decide whether they want to improve their own chances or nobble someone else, and to what degree. They can be as creative as they like. PPs simplify the rules by doing away with heaps of modifier tables.

The new edition replaces this wonderful game mechanic with cards and spending Moxie points.

Again, I think the cards are a good idea. The unlimited flexibilty of PPs can be daunting to players. Cards give inspiration, ideas that the player might not have thought of otherwise. But I see no reason why cards (and Moxie points) could not have been combined with the existing PP mechanism. Cards could have a PP value but with restricted area of application, and players could choose between a small number of PPs with unlimited use or a larger number of cards.

3. And finally, why get rid of the Outdoors?

Previous editions of Paranoia were sometimes criticized for sending Troubleshooters into the Outdoors too often. I've always found that such adventures are a really good way to introduce Paranoia to new players because it simplifies the game.

Outdoors is traditionally portrayed as a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Players already know how this works, thanks to decades of bad sci-fi books / TV / film. This allows them to concentrate on their characters and the basic mechanisms of the game. They can learn how to betray each other without being overloaded with information about service groups and universal surveillance and color clearances ... After a trip or two Outdoors, players are much better prepared for life in Alpha Complex itself.

The new edition declares that Outdoors is unknown and nobody in Alpha Complex knows about it. Maybe this could have been justified, but it only lasted until the publication of Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues. In which - spoiler alert for those who haven't bought it - the Troubleshooters are sent Outdoors into a post-apocalyptic wilderness.

If the very first published adventure has to break one of the core game assumptions, that's bad design in my opinion.

I'll end this rant now before I get started on the Action Order DYNAMO...
There has been some feedback, here and there on the new Paranoia game, but not an awful lot and I guess criticisms like these should be discussed.

To answer the first question, yes, we probably did need a new edition. Mongoose as a company needs to make revenue from their license, while fans tend to forget games if new editions aren't released periodically. Paranoia XP was released in 2004, with the 25th Anniversary titles (Troubleshooters, etc) were released in 2009. Nothing really had been done since and so, if the game line was to continue, they needed to do something with it. It's a tricky thing to decide whether to stick with a game that has already accumulated lots of supplements, or whether to try and risk doing something new with it. Paranoia, in particular, is a tricky game because it tends to get played for one shots and so supplements don't tend to sell as well as with games like Traveller. Mongoose took a risk, most likely because a rehash of what had gone on before probably wouldn't have been worth the print run in terms of real sales and revenue - although this is conjecture from my perspective, of course.

The lead game designer - James Wallis - had a strong reputation in gaming. He used to run Hogshead Publishing which managed game lines like Warhammer Fantasy Role-play for a time, and had a series of 'New Wave' titles including the arthouse favourites, Nobilis, Puppetland and his own Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He had also promoted other games too and is well known in RPG critical and business circles. He may also be a bit of a hothead, but I'll get to that later. However, the notion of giving a humorous classic game, with the remit of redesigning in a way that captures the spirit of the original but also presents new innovations, to someone like James Wallis is not a bad one.

The major source of inspiration for the new rules most likely came from another WEG classic comedy RPG - Ghostbusters (1986). This was the original dice-pool game, and it remains a beautifully designed, easy-to-run game that honestly, hasn't really dated at all outside of presentation (black and white interior, box set). Shadowrun, Vampire et al, got their inspiration from Ghostbusters first. Ghostbusters also uses D6 dice pools with a "Ghost Die" thrown at the same time (that operates in the same way as the Computer Die, with ones replaced by an icon). I was personally enthused that Ghostbusters would be a source of inspiration, because it's an excellent system - and stronger than, certainly the original Paranoia rules (which were percentile in the 1st edition, incidentally).

The thing is, however, that the Ghostbusters rules were a lot more simple than the ones used in the new edition of Paranoia. As with Paranoia, Ghostbusters had only four stats, but with just one speciality (skill) for each - which simply added +3 dice to the pool as a universal bonus. Dice sums were totalled, rather than looking at individual dice targets, and compared to an overall difficulty number. "Brownie Points" (very similar to Perversity points) were spent to augment rolls (especially if you rolled short). In the new Paranoia system, there was an intent to have a new competitive character generation system, which had skills rated from +5 to -5, which were added to a base score for 4 Attributes (confusingly determined after skills), leaving a potential for positive/negative dicepools with individual targets of 5. I will stress that the 'zero dice singularity' situation doesn't actually occur, though. The dice pools are added to the Computer dice, which is always rolled - meaning you never have a 'zero dice pool' - you just read the computer dice alone.

I'm not especially judgmental about linear or bell curves, single die rolls vs dice pools, D20 or D6. Regardless of any personal preference, the mechanics used in Paranoia currently are more involved, or more complex, than what they could have been. In the case of Paranoia, where mechanics are generally secondary to the situation, it could be argued that this is a distraction to gameplay. Its a questionable design for the game. I do like the cards, and think that this can be built into something cool in the game play (and to note, I have fully played this game many times now) both as a way of keeping certain things secret (like mutations and secret societies) and also for the initiative play in game. The game as it is, remains playable. It's just the core mechanic could have run a lot smoother.

I will say that I sent this in as feedback for the playtest during the kickstarter. The result? Hard to say - but the game designer seemed to stall for six months having a wobbly....

Anyway, the best fix to anybody preferring previous editions is to bring them back as PDF/POD releases. This is something, I think, which is already happening. With regards to the new box, as I say, it is playable and you can have a fun time with it - so as a gamer, I am satisfied. With regards to sales, I guess this is something that Mongoose will just have to wait and see how it's going. If it were to be improved, I guess you could make a bigger box set (some have complained about that) and possibly make adjustments to the core mechanics (as stated above). However, it may not be worth the investment of a new edition for some time yet. The supplements, if popular, may carry it possibly (as they have done with Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed- I'm also critical of those rules), but wait and see.
(Started a new job just after posting, hence no reply until now.)

Thank you very much for the background info.

I fully understand the need for a commercial company to bring out new editions. But the way it is done is important. If I feel that the game mechanisms have been changed just to force me to rebuy all my supplements, I'm going to look for ways not to buy. Keeping core mechanics tells gamers they can upgrade at their own pace, and contented gamers are better publicity.

Now I'm wondering if I can hunt down a copy of this Ghostbusters game...

Yes, 1st edition had percentiles. The late and unlamented 5th edition used D10 IIRC. But for most of Paranoia's history it's been D20, so that is the only mechanism most players and GMs know.

Thanks for your interpretation of what to do on zero dice. But that we have different interpretations just shows how confusing the rules are.

I'd really like to see some great supplements too.
Thank you both for expressing your thoughts in a clear and concise manner. I've been singularly unimpressed with the new set of rules. I think I might have a set of Ghost Busters around here somewhere. :wink: Maybe it is time to take that for a spin again; or else run something like Breakers, an Apocalypse World mini game that could easily be ported in to the Paranoia setting. I really enjoy the refreshed setting for the latest version of Paranoia, so the lackluster rules are doubly annoying.
This thread is like fresh water in a desert

PARANOIA17 is only good for revival purposes but as an edition goes is rather weak.

Also dislike the copying of real world political points and pasting them into the gamebook as rules.
Muh medical care rules thooo
So dumb but its not an all bad edition.
I mean, it isn't 5th lol