Cyanide to adapt pen-and-paper RPG Paranoia to PC


As much as I’ve been enjoying the recent flood of great PC RPGs, it’s a little exhausting seeing traditional high fantasy or boilerplate space-adventure tropes used as their foundation. Good news, then, that Cyanide (they of board game adaptations such as Blood Bowl and gobliny stealth series Styx) are working with Dublin-based studio Black Shamrock (Of Orcs And Men) to adapt the darkly comedic world of Paranoia to PC.

Details on the adaptation are thin now, although considering how different Paranoia is compared to almost any other tabletop RPG, I’m left wondering how Cyanide and co are going to handle the quirks of the setting.

For those unfamiliar with Paranoia, you’re missing out on a great time, assuming you can round up a few friends at the table. Paranoia is a pen & paper RPG for people who’d rather have a short, stupid and funny adventures unconcerned with long-term survival. Players step into the role of expendable cloned ‘troubleshooters’, assigned improbably hard missions to complete by the The Computer, AI overlord of Alpha Complex, a dystopian sealed city ala Fallout’s vaults, but much larger.

Being expendable, each player has a stock of backup clones; extra lives, in effect. The result is that that self-sacrifice (or just immense stupidity) is rewarded, so long as you can roleplay your confused clone arriving at the scene only to wonder why your previous body is now scattered across three different sectors. You’re highly encouraged to undermine your own party, accuse them of disloyalty to the city and come up with ‘evidence’ to prove yourself the hero of the day while painting the rest of your party as traitors, all while trying to complete secret objectives.

This, of course, means that adapting the tabletop version to PC is going to be an incredibly difficult undertaking. This isn’t Dungeons & Dragons, where victory is frequently defined as surviving an obstacle course of encounters and counting your loot and experience points afterwards. Victory in Paranoia is frequently claimed through multiple deaths, backstabbing your friends and usually suffering some ironic comeuppance yourself.

If Cyanide and Black Shamrock can pull this one off, I’ll be overjoyed, especially considering their somewhat wonky output over the past few years. To do Paranoia justice, they’ll have to think outside the box, as more than almost any other RPG setting (Call of Cthulhu included), Paranoia is a game where player life is cheap, and catastrophic, hilarious failure is not just an acceptable but often encouraged outcome.

The digital adaptation of Paranoia is still so far off that there’s no target release date window, but you can check out the recent Kickstarter-funded re-release of the tabletop game over at Mongoose Publishing here.


  1. Paradukes says:

    I can see them capturing the setting quite well, but I can’t see how they’ll capture the atmosphere…

    For anyone curious about how this sort of thing can play out, the Geek & Sundry crew ran a game of this: link to

  2. quietone says:

    Happiness is mandatory.

    I do hope they can pull this out. Some of my best memories with pen-and-paper RPGs come from playing this with friends.

  3. Ribonizer says:

    Why? More importantly, How?

    I’m highly skeptical, Paranoia is built on GM/Player interactions. The GM messing with their player’s heads, players messing with each other, hell, even players trying to manipulate the GM.

    All I can expect is a CRPG with humour, that’ll be closer to Fallout, and while it might be fun, it won’t be much of a paranoia game.

    • ogopogo says:

      I’d like to see it as something like Streets of Rogue, but in 3D. Playing that has reminded me a little of Alpha Complex.

      When assembling a team for multiplayer one person could play “The Computer” and basically be an invisible hand of guidance/mayhem — sort of like that DM mode from the early 00s Neverwinter, or like the AI director from L4D but with human guidance. It could be done.

    • Evan_ says:

      But isn’t that the same with -all- the tabletop RPGs and the various gaming subgenres that have “RPG” in it?

    • ohminus says:

      Citizen, are you implying that you will not be happy playing this game?

      • Merus says:

        Computer, I think they’re saying that no lesser computer could possibly be as good as you.

        Which is such an obvious suck-up that they’re definitely trying to hide their subversive tendencies, and I happen to have knowledge of their traitorous browser history.

  4. Neurotic says:

    Classic PnP. I used to play this back in the ’80s, when it was still West End Games publishing it. Brilliant fun. Fup me, we did have some good laughs with this. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.

  5. Lars Westergren says:

    Nice! So we have this, Werewolf, Mutant: Year Zero, Call of Cthulhu, Vampyr, and probably lots of others I’ve forgotten about. Lots of intriguing RPG mixes coming, many from smaller European studios. I hope they have the writing and the polish to carry the original settings.

    • kud13 says:

      Spiders have that trailer for “Greedfall”

      Those guys have to put out a hit eventually, right?

      • Ignorant Texan says:

        I keep buying their games hoping what you say will eventually be true.

        After all, with all the shit they’ve produced, there has to be a pony in there somewhere. Right?

        Joking aside, they have continued to improve. The Technomancer’s “problems” seemed more related to lack of budget, than anything else.

  6. foszae says:

    Excited because Paranoia was one of the all-time greatest games ever designed. But nervous, because it relied so much more on interesting role-playing than i would expect out of a computer game. Other RPGs could get by on atmosphere and dice-rolling, but to truly play Paranoia you had to have some madcap and gung-ho people to genuinely live the experience. Can code be sufficiently Janus-like to seed suspicion and thrust abject betrayal in you face after building trust for a couple hours? Would Deep Blue be able to strategize zany sacrifice and appropriate ass-kissing to forward the goals of its secret society? I mean, chess is just a lark compared to playing Paranoia well. Even the most advance AI in the world still seem like they’d just cop out and declare their mutant power every time, like some sort of narc.

    One of the best game universes ever, but how they pull off the actual feel of the game is going to be a hell of a challenge

  7. RobbieTrout says:

    Looking forward to this! But they’re going to have to tone down the Paranoia-ness just to maintain a storyline for long enough.

    There were later optional rulebooks geared towards running actual campaigns with continuing characters in a more coherent world, at the expense of some of the freewheeling chaos. So Cyanide might be able to build a computer version beginning from that setup. Hope so!

  8. Kefren says:

    I never had the official rulebook, just articles about it from White Dwarf and fanzines, but that didn’t stop us having a blast with some crazy adventures where I just made up rules or altered D&D on the fly. I spent ages writing up my own lists of secret societies for the players to pick from, or roll a dice to be assigned. In fact, I found them recently (after 30 years in storage!) and scanned them in for my digital record. Good times.

    • Kefren says:

      I can’t see it working well if it is just single player, but I would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

      • ohminus says:

        Always remember: Insufficient happiness will be punished by termination!

  9. Replikant says:

    How are I (that is me and my clones), mutant communists that I are, going to survive a full fledged cRPG? Not, that is how. Paranoia is all about trying to create as much hilarious chaos as possible and trying to survive the ensuing chaos. It’s more of a PnP roguelike than a classic RPG. Will be interesting to see (or rather not see if the first chapter is all infrared) the result. I am not holding my breath.

    • Replikant says:

      “trying to survive the ensuing carnage”, is what I wanted to write. This is what having to manually correct every single auto-corrected word on a non-english tablet as a non-native speaker will do to the train of thought.

  10. aircool says:

    From what I’ve seen from the recent editions of Paranoia, it’s a very different game from the original/second edition which were heavy on the role play and not the zzap-fest of the stereotype.

    As an aside, I hope they include the Tac-Nuke; its blast radius was greater than the range of the weapon that fired it.

  11. kud13 says:

    Never heard of Black Shamrock.

    I played “Of Orcs and Men” for the first time last month, and it’s got Spiders and Cyanide credited as devs.

    I felt that “Of Orcs and Men” was a decently fun game, albeit quite painfully linear due to the limited level design. I liked that it provided SOME choice in what order the player could approach its sets of perfectly linear corridor levels-and this DID have a few repercussions on the story. Unfortunately, after Act 2, they went fully linear (although Act 3 did toss one interesting curveball of character development), and then it was just a perfect beeline straight to the ending.

    I love the ideas of these mid-size “euro-jank” RPGs, but from what I know of Paranoia, I sure hope Cyanide can go outside the genre’s usual boundaries- I feel you’d need something more text-heavy rather then action heavy- smth closer to a Torment game.

  12. Standback says:

    Oh, wow. I can imagine exactly how this can work. It’ll be amazing.

    First, when you install it, you have to go through ten pages of the configuration wizard. “Choose installation directory”; “Choose auxiliary installation directory”; “Choose which of the following three system directories you aren’t really using”; “Have you ever exhibited any mutant powers? [CONFESS] [CANCEL]”; that kind of stuff. The [CANCEL] button will be above your security clearance.

    At last, you’ll get a screen reading, “Congratulations, Citizen! Please wait while we install all necessary packages. Do not turn off your computer while game is installing. Turning Friend Computer off is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Have a Nice Day.”

    Installation will take 32 hours.

    Finally, the screen will go, “Friend Computer is ready, citizen! You can now play Paranoia, on your Computer!”

    Then it’ll let you play Portal.

    • empty_other says:

      Any attempts at clicking the “report bug” button would imply that Friend Computer is imperfect and would therefor be executed.

      Anyone sharing the game on file sharing networks will be branded a communist and executed.

  13. kud13 says:

    I also want the narrator of “Stanley Parable” to do the voice of Friend Computer

  14. Grimmtooth says:


  15. MikoSquiz says:

    Paranoia in a nutshell:

    You are a “troubleshooter” whose job is to hunt down and eliminate mutants and members of secret societies, on behalf of the almighty Friend Computer. During character creation, you roll for which mutant power you have and which secret society you’re a member of.

    I’m not sure how you’d go about turning it into a game, since it’s by nature wildly chaotic, goes off the rails in about two seconds flat, and often ends up with a player character fatality rate of 600% and/or the apocalypse.

  16. ohminus says:

    Well, RPS, you can start writing the review now, will save you a lot of time. After all, you know you will be happy with the game, will you not? Just remember, Citizen, no matter how high your security clearance, Happiness Is Mandatory! Insufficient happiness will be punished by termination!

  17. costik says:

    I do not speak for Cyanide or Black Shamrock, but I’ll note some things:

    1. I spent a week in Dublin sitting with the dev team, basically trying to help them grok Paranoia and figure out the direction for the computer game.

    2. Gareth Hanrahan, who contributed materially to all three Mongoose editions of the game, and whose work I think highly of, is helping out with the writing.

    3. It’s true that Paranoia (tabletop) is very much a game that depends on player interaction. However, Paranoia succeeds by upending many of the conventions of tabletop roleplaying: players should cooperate, the GM should be an impartial arbiter, challenges should be fair. One idea behind Paranoia (PC) is that it should upend many of the conventions of the CRPG: mission objectives are reliable, subordinates on your team do what you tell them, equipment does what it says on the label, etc. So no, this cannot, and should not attempt to be “a faithful replication of the tabletop experience in a PC game” — but it can potentially be an interesting experience in its own right.

    • Admore says:

      I think you’ve got the right of it. There are things you can’t duplicate from the tabletop (like any tabletop game, really), but there are things that could be even better, especially in terms of interacting with the environment and figuring things out.

    • Admore says:

      And then I wondered if your name was in fact the one I was thinking of, so yes, no wonder you’ve got some things to offer on this particular (favorite) game. ;)

    • phlebas says:

      Playing to the medium, then? Thanks – that’s a lot more encouraging!

    • Cederic says:

      My problem is that Paranoia works at its best when it’s not chaotic malevolence, it’s when it’s deliberate maliciousness.

      E.g. painting the bottom of the chair the person briefing you is sat on, and only revealing it halfway through the briefing. Yep, briefing completed by clone AND if you play it right you get a team mate executed for vandalism and another one executed for owning an illegal paint spray.

      I can’t see a computer game offering that level of freedom, invention or utter bastardry, and that’s where the game is at its best.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Sword&Sorcery, Star Wars RPG, Pax Britannica, The Return of the Stainless Steel Rat, etc…

      Greg, I Salute you !

      Thanks for all the fish and the good times playing your great games, you’re a living legend !

  18. ColonelFailure says:


  19. phlebas says:

    Mostly hoping this does a better job than the previous attempt:
    link to

  20. pookie101 says:

    I still remember a game where I assigned a small robot to one of the players to test.. He got to the end of the mission and was questioned “Why didn’t you test it?” he told the great and wise Computer that the robot was broken and didn’t do anything.

    The Computer wanted to help the poor Trouble shooter so thought he would help him out with testing it and said “Robot.. explode”

    • CdrJameson says:

      No testing would be required as, surely, as a product of the Computer the robot would naturally be perfect. To suggest anything else would clearly be treason.

      • Someoldguy says:

        Failure to obey the orders of the Computer is also treason.

        If they can capture this dichotomy in the game, it stands some chance of success.

        • bill says:

          From what I remember, surviving the mission was generally considered treason as well, as it clearly proved that you (a) weren’t trying hard enough, and/or (b) were in league with the enemy.

          Luckily, the issue didn’t come up that often.

  21. jonahcutter says:

    It has a great strength in being developed for a video game. How it deals with fail states is baked right into the core gameplay. Failing, outright death, actually contributes to the gameplay and atmosphere. Most rpgs have to live with completely unreal save systems that basically are redos of various periods of time preceding the death. But dying in Paranoia and loading back in is actually part of the intended gameplay.

    Dark Souls smartly built its lore around dying and being reborn. But other great RPGs either come up with clunky/silly systems like Kingdom Come’s potions or just shrug their shoulders and let you save anywhere and pretend you never died, basically being able to save-step your way through the game if you wish (Witcher 3).

    The dying/saving conundrum of many computer rpgs is nonexistent in Paranoia. As far as that’s concerned, it’s perfect for a video game.

  22. bill says:

    Grrr. This was my get rich scheme from 10 years ago… make a Paranoia MMO.
    It would have been awesome and funny and nostalgia-inducing and the best MMO ever.
    It would also, coincidentally, probably have had a bit in common with the current battle-royale boom.

    I was just undone by not having the license, not having the programming skills and being lazy.