The first test-run of my Paranoia adventure is now just a week away, so in addition to re-reading the rules and making sure all my notes are in order, I’ve also started taking stock of my paranoia props. Paranoia is one of those games that seems to have a strong reputation for prop use, and I hate to disappoint any players coming to my table with that expectation. The good news is that over the years I’ve accumulated a fair number of props that are easily reusable for any paranoia game, so mostly this is just a matter of taking stock of what has held up and is reusable, and what if anything custom is required for this particular adventure.
Pride of place in my collection is a series of solid colored baseball hats in the security clearance colors: black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and white. I have six red hats and fewer of each other color — usually 2-3 of the more common ones and maybe 1 each of the less common ones. I give the red ones to my players right off the bat, and will use the other hats myself as they encounter NPCs of other security clearances. I like that this establishes pretty quickly the false hope in the players that they might upgrade their own security clearance and thus earn a new hat. I mean, I’m prepared to handle that should it happen, but it tends not to.
I used to create custom badges for the mandatory bonus duties, but the new game comes with custom cards for these which happen to look exactly like security badges. So after a little searching on Amazon I found some clear plastic badge holders that fit these cards pretty well. In addition to this I also have some of the standard “Hello, My Name Is…” adhesive name badges, so between the three each player should feel really kitted out with their own customized Paranoia costume.
This leads me to my next set of props – a special something for each mandatory bonus duty. I no longer really have a complete set, so I’m debating if I want to try and fill out the list or not. Here’s each one, and what I have and what I’m thinking:
Team Leader – actually, this is the one I have no prop for and never had. Somehow, it’s amusing that the Team Leader gets absolutely nothing special. Good luck buddy!
Happiness Officer – for the happiness officer I have one of those small plastic containers with subdivided compartments for your pencils or fishing lures or whatever. I buy some nondescript candies like smarties and organize them by color. The container then has this label on it. Contrary to the label, no instructions or warnings are enclosed. In the past I’ve made a color-based table of the effects of taking any of these “pills”. The only down-side to his prop is that Paranoia players have baked into their heads that everything with a color on it is referencing a security clearance, so are hesitant to take any but the red pills.
Loyalty Officer – For the loyalty officer I like to include the most ridiculous kid’s spy toy I can find. Pictured here are what I can only describe as ear-noculars:
They actually do work. If you turn them on, the microphone picks up sound and plays it into your ears. It’s mildly useful.
Hygiene Officer – For some reason the new edition has changed this to “Science and Hygiene Officer”. Anyway, I have something very special for the Hygiene Officer. The white cardboard box they receive has the following label:
I don’t even remember where or how I found those diagrams. I was really tickled to find a 12-step procedure for washing your hands. To be extra dickish I numbered them 0-11. In retrospect, I probably should have numbered them 1-13, skipping a random number somewhere in the middle. So what’s in the box? Lots of good stuff: some combs, a large quantity of alcohol swabs, mouth wash, hand sanitizer, and a peak-flow meter. Unless you have asthma you probably have no idea what that last one is, which is totally what I’m counting on. It looks like the object on the left. The mouth-wash and hand sanitizer I have conveniently re-labeled with the images on the right:
Equipment Officer – In the past I had this ridiculously huge black duffel bag, which I packed with empty boxes and shipping tubes of various sizes, each with a unique number on it. If the player wanted to open one they had to lift this ungainly thing onto the table, take out a box, and tell me the number. I then had a chart of what all the objects were. I no longer have the boxes, but I do still have the duffel bag. I think though I may simplify this time around and just give this player the deck of equipment cards, which naturally they must draw blind from. Not as funny as a huge duffel bag I know, but I think the player should still feel pretty cool getting their own special deck of cards.
Communications and Recording Officer – This has been replaced in the new edition with Combat Officer. This makes sense as all players now have implicit recording devices built into their skulls. That said, I used to give this player an actual working tiny spy video camera. Now I’m not sure what to do for this player. I’ll have to give this one some thought.
I will have some custom props for the adventure I’m running as well, though I don’t plan to overdo it. I mean, I’m already running my prop-heavy horror game Checkpoint Zulu, and it would be nice if there was still room in the car for Adam.