If you like your dystopian future filled with a healthy dose of slapstick humor, you’ll want to consider collecting Paranoia roleplaying games. Originally published in 1984 by West End Games (and winning the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules in the process), this rollicking game of deceit, betrayal, and outright murder has been delighting players for years. Even after Mongoose Publishing took over in 2004, the game has enjoyed a loyal following and attracted the attention of game collectors. In 2007, Paranoia secured its legacy by being inducted into the prestigious Origins Awards Hall of Fame.
Taking a page from works like Orwell’s 1984 and Logan’s Run, Paranoia is set inside a futuristic city named Alpha Complex that’s controlled by an artificial intelligence known as The Computer. And while residents join secret societies–including the Illuminati, Anti-Mutants, Death Leopards, and Communists–and enjoy a life of general complacency, groups known as “troubleshooters” (usually the player-characters) are responsible for performing suicidal missions that often make little sense other than to use up each player’s supply of six clones. The rules are sparse, and any player who demonstrates a knowledge of the game’s inner workings can be immediately sentenced to death. If you’re looking for a grim roleplaying game, however, you should search elsewhere, as Paranoia is peppered with dark humor and an overall tongue-in-cheek atmosphere.
Collectible Paranoia Games
As of this writing, five editions of the Paranoia roleplaying game have been published. If you’re planning to start your Paranoia roleplaying game collection, this is where you should begin.
Paranoia First Edition (1984) – This award-winning edition was written by Dan Gelber, Eric Goldberg, and Greg Costikya and published by West End Games. During my search, I had trouble finding copies of the first edition Paranoia rules, so it’s reasonable to assume that it’s rare. I did find one used copy selling for $53, but Paranoia collectors may prefer to hold out for a mint condition version.
If you do find a first edition box set, it should include a player handbook, gamemaster handbook, adventure handbook, introductory adventure, and two 20-sided dice. First edition supplements such as Hill Sector Blues and Send in the Clones, meanwhile, can be purchased on eBay for around $15. The Orcbusters module is valued a bit higher, as it was listed at $35.
Paranoia Second Edition (1987) – Paul Murphy and Ken Rolston joined the authors of the first edition to deliver a superior product that offered streamlined rules and an even greater emphasis on life inside the always-zany Alpha Complex. The DOA Sector Travelogue was selling on eBay for $50, while adventure modules such as The Iceman Returneth and People’s Glorious Revolutionary Adventure could be had for around $20.
Paranoia “Fifth” Edition (1995) – Actually the third edition of the product, but those jokers over at West End Games were looking to deliver some sly commentary about the multiple editions released by their competitors in the role-playing market (as well as their own revisions to the second edition). Most of the original writers were not involved with this version, and both fans and critics heaped scorn upon the product. In addition to the core rulebook, only one other supplement was released, and West End Games would eventually go bankrupt before being able to correct their mistake.
Paranoia XP (2004) – Unhappy with the developments of the “Fifth” edition, the creators of Paranoia got together and purchased the rights to Paranoia from the bankrupt West End Games. They then licensed the product to Mongoose Publishing, and this resulted in Paranoia XP being released to the market in 2004.
The following year, the XP was dropped from the title at the “request” of Microsoft. Three different styles of gaming are available to players (from dystopian paranoia to out-and-out firefights), and modern developments such as the Internet, identity theft, and smartphones are both incorporated and spoofed.
The XP edition of Paranoia was the easiest to find product listings for on the Internet, but some commanded a surprisingly robust price. Paranoia: The Little RED Book was selling for $99 on Amazon, while titles such as Paranoia: Criminal Histories, Paranoia: Extreme Paranoia, and Paranoia: Flashbacks II were listed for $25 each.
The core rulebook, meanwhile, was selling on eBay for anywhere from $64.99 to $99.99. If you’re starting up a collection of Paranoia roleplaying game products, this is a convenient starting point.
25th Anniversary Edition (2009) – The XP line was cleared to make way for the release of a number of new rulebooks from Mongoose Publishing, each compatible with the previous rules and including the following titles: Paranoia: Troubleshooters, Paranoia: Internal Security, and Paranoia: High Programmers. Each core books offers a unique roleplaying experience with different types of playable characters. I found the three core books on eBay for $35 each, while a number of limited edition were being auctioned off that will certainly draw the interest of anyone searching for Paranoia collectibles.
The first of these was an edition of Paranoia: Troubleshooters, which was limited to 1,000 copies. Presented in a hardcover edition, it features a CD-ROM that includes PDF versions of previous supplements, game sound effects, a screensaver, and interviews with many of the game’s writers. When I saw it on eBay, it was listed at $80.
While I didn’t find them for sale online, a couple of other collectible 25th Anniversary products to keep an eye out for are Paranoia: High Programmers: White Washes and Paranoia: Internal Security: Blue Line. Both limited edition products had a print run of only 100 copies, so you know they’re going to fetch a nice price from collectors.