I broke in my boxed copy of the new Paranoia the other night and it all went horribly wrong in exactly the right way. I think the reason for that might be my players. We were using the stock characters from the book and they were played by:
Norman: Player is quite familiar with RPGs in general, having played and GMd a little in his time. Has some familiarity with Paranoia as a concept but hadn't, to my knowledge, played a game before.
Cathy: Player has played in plenty of RPGs and is definitely familiar with the concept of Paranoia but again, no actual experience playing the game.
Mei: Player has played Paranoia before, I'm pretty sure, definitely very familiar with the concept and an experienced RPG player.
Solomon: Never played an RPG. Never heard of Paranoia. Not much of a gamer, just here for the social aspect. This player is very much the key to what went down.
So we started with the intro mission right out of the book. If you don't want spoilers for the book you might want to look away now. Everything went pretty much to plan as the players got themselves dressed and worked their way down to Technical Services with the scrub bot.
Wassname the Not Dead was duly dispatched at the cost of a standard issue broom handle, now broken in half. The players were suddenly a scant few XP away from Red clearance, something which Mei immediately noticed. I think it was at this point, possibly before, that Solomon accused Mei of sociopathy in the computer's hearing. Interested, the computer asked for evidence. The only evidence of Mei's sociopathy was on her character sheet and, unable to provide any in-world evidence, Solomon managed to earn himself a treason star immediately.
A quick trip to PLC and our infrareds are off to HOY sector with the incredibly obnoxious Roz. I really wanted the players to dislike her so I made her deliberately obtuse and unhelpful, lazy, expecting them to do all the work. I don't entirely remember how Solomon got his second treason star, but I remember (and intended) it being Roz's fault.
It was when we reached the red clearance corridor that things really broke down. Asking Roz for guidance she simply told them they have to go down the corridor and to 'get their asses moving'.
They do and Roz immediately, and vocally, betrays them all to the computer. Treason stars all round, Solomon especially is now at three.
Arguments and accusations begin to fly between the players with Roz only stoking things and provoking until Solomon simply snaps. Our newbie decides it's time to make his own fun and stabs Roz with the broken broom handle end. As he lifeless clone sank beneath the viscous surface of the red desert topping, Mei reported Solomon's betrayal to the computer and I closed the book. Solomon received all five stars and was ordered to return for mandatory clone recycling. There was no way these players were getting out of this corridor.
What followed was an amazing bit of inter-player combat and treachery. Solomon took to his heals, running at top speed (which waist-deep in desert topping was not a high speed) having stolen Mei's med kit.
Cathy, seeing the fifth star and an XP bounty appear on Solomon, fired her grappling gun at him. As a result she was dragged forward as he was dragged backwards as the gun struggled to drag them together in the RDT.
Norman announced the bounty with his loud hailer, bringing a pair of nearby troubleshooters running and gunning.
Mei begins to put on her best damsel in distress impression to get the troubleshooters on her side, still banking on coming out of this as the loyal clone who reported the traitor in the first place.
The newly christened 'notorious traitor Solomon' grappled with Cathy, wrapping what was left of the grappling gun cable around her neck and proceeded to try and drown her even as Roz's replacement clone appeared and tried to wrestle a gun from one of the troubleshooters (getting punched in the face for her trouble).
Meanwhile Solomon is negotiating with Norman to side with him, realizing that getting away on his own might be tricky. At the same time the computer is subvocalising to Norman that, given that he is the best positioned to take down the notorious traitor Solomon, he will receive bonus XP as a work incentive.
Solomon stops trying to drown Cathy (now maimed) and instead uses her as a thrown weapon to take down Mei. Due to a wonderful bit of card play by Mei the throw misses. The RDT topping has had a bad effect on the grappling gun and the cable gives out unexpectedly, deflecting the throw into Norman. Meanwhile Norman throws the Megaphone in the same instant. It misses Mei as well, instead hitting Roz.
Norman, informed in no uncertain terms that throwing a megaphone at his superior is the opposite of the computer's request, learns that the incentive XP offer will be revoked and replaced with a bounty on his own head if he does not act immediately to take down the notorious traitor Solomon.
He does. Using the last bit of cable sticking out of Solomon he trips him. This lead to the moment of 'Ah, but I'm wearing Body Armor'
'And what does it say on the card?'
'Oh fuck you'
The notorious traitor's body armor fails at that moment, impeding his movement and ability to escape sinking beneath the desert with his victim.
As he sinks, very, very slowly, he hears the computer announce the results of the carnage. Norman is rewarded his XP for dealing with a notorious traitor, Mei is rewarded XP for reporting him in the first place.
Roz on the other hand is penalised for failing to control the infrareds assigned to her.
Penalised for damage to a grappling gun issued to her.
Penalised for damage to a megaphone issued to her.
Penalised for loss of a medkit issued to her, stolen by a notorious traitor.
Penalised for loss of body armour issued to her, stolen by a notorious traitor.
Penalised for damage to body armour issued to her (even if it had already been stolen).
Unceremoniously, Roz is demoted to infrared to the cheers of all others present.
And, after the game, we explained to Solomon that yes, Paranoia is a game about turning the players against each other. No, he didn't ruin anything he did exactly the right thing. Just... a bit more dramatically than expected.
...and that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you play Paranoia!!
Great report, written in the spirit of the game too.