Monday, June 8, 2015

We lost a great Paranoia GM

I got an email yesterday saying that one of my long-time friends, Ed, had passed away. But this is a gaming blog, not a personal blog. So by way of memorial, let me tell you about what an awesome Paranoia GM Ed was.

Remember when I posted about wanting to play the game you imagined, and how that could clash with the game the the GM was imagining?

With Ed behind the "Ignorance and Fear, Fear and Ignorance" emblazoned Paranoia GMs screen, that was not an issue. Not for a second. Ed's grasp on what Paranoia could be and was, was second to none. It was exactly the game you'd see in Jim Halloway's illustrations and in the game books.

I'd practically memorized the books from reading them so many times, hoping to play.

All that got me was more ignorance and more fear.

Playing with Ed behind the screen felt like playing with the Computer itself behind the screen. He was cheerful and happy, eager to have you enjoy the game, and cruelly logically "fair" as you'd squirm and die.

Ed was the kind of GM who'd give you a big red button not to press, and wait until you pressed it. He'd give you the terrible choice of R&D weaponry or not taking R&D weaponry - knowing if you did, it would kill you, but if you didn't, the adventure and the R&D weaponry of your fellow Troubleshooters would do for you. He'd give you a task you couldn't complete without getting past a door you weren't cleared for. He'd give you all the rope you asked for and let you hang your own six clones with it, one after another, laughing heartily with you as they died.

Every decision was horrible, was wrong, and was indefensible in the eyes of the computer. But they only seemed unfair in the sense of Paranoia, not because the GM was being unfair. You knew there was a way to explain your actions, but that your explanation wasn't going to win Ed over just because you'd cowed the GM. Oh no. You would have to have airtight explanations of your traitorous actions to even have a chance at getting him boxed into a place he couldn't justify an execution. You could argue for support and leniency, and you'd sometimes get it, but it wouldn't save you in the end.

You wouldn't necessarily end every mission with a TPK. But you might end it wondering how it was you didn't manage to die six times.

Yet the game was fun. Just fun. You didn't feel frustration, not matter how much your hapless PC was frustrated (Paranoia speak for "repeatedly killed while failing.")

It was good stuff. It's been years since he was up for gaming, or healthy enough to even entertain the idea of even a one-shot. But I enjoyed all the gaming I did with him. Online (endless hours of Mechwarrior as part of Clan Godzilla, mostly fighting each other instead of other clans), by mail (PBMs, I mean), and in person, gaming with him was always fun. I'll miss that chagrined chuckle and sigh of his when we'd once again all team up to take him out because he was too dangerous to let live in a multiplayer game. And I'll remember those Paranoia days.


  1. Sorry about losing your friend Peter.

    1. Same here. You've done a nice job of memorializing that component of who he was...and it sounds pretty great. I always wanted to play Paranoia, and it sounds like you found a great GM with which to do it.

    2. Thanks guys (and Michael, too, and the people who commented on G+). He was a good friend who, thinking about it, I've known for a surprisingly long time. But we got in some great gaming together, which is kind of the point. Never under-value experiences shared with friends, even if they're mostly your friends killing off your Paranoia clones. :)

  2. I am sorry for your loss.

  3. Kudos for capturing and displaying so profoundly the perfect way to GM a game of Paranoia, and - by extension - of any other game system. I don't know either of you, but could not help but be transported into the world filled with your memories of the game table. I doubt a more fitting tribute would possible. My deepest sympathies on your loss.


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