If by “weird” we mean a game that consistently introduced unexpected encounters and nonsensical reactions, then the answer has to be PARANOIA.
For those unfamiliar with this game, you are a Troubleshooter working for Friend Computer in Alpha Complex, the sole surviving human settlement. Or maybe not – Friend Computer isn’t telling.
What we know is that there are all manner of vile threats to the Complex: Communists. Mutants. The Color Red (especially if you can only wear the color green … because you have Green clearance).
It’s a dangerous world … all the more so because your co-troubleshooters may belong to conspiracies of their own, making them as much a threat as those damn Commie traitors.
Fortunately, you have clones! If you happen to die (and you WILL die), you can decant a new clone and keep playing. Of course, that clone might have mutations or unacceptable variations from the baseline that could end up getting them killed … but hey, there’s always another clone after that!
PARANOIA was a staple of the convention scene in the 1990 and early Aughts. Its popularity seemed to fall off in the 2010s; I think that’s largely because it can be hard to run a good PARANOIA game. The conspiracies and double-crossing, combined with the weird logic of Friend Computer, can bring out the worst in gamers. Competing to see who can be the most obnoxious can get old fast. At the same time though, a good adventure can be hilarious; some of my favorite con games in college involved PARANOIA.
- This post is part of the RPG a Day 2023 event. Catch up on Nuketown’s posts via the project page and learn more about the event at its community page on Facebook.
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The cover art for the original Paranoia RPG. Credit: West End Games