Gamer Nation
Filed under: Tabletop


Imagine, If you will, something similar to, but much larger than, a Vault-Tec vault. Instead of an Overseer, this vault is operated under the watchful eye of a benevolent computer. That’s Alpha Complex; The happiest complex on the planet! Alpha Complex is the setting for my favorite tabletop RPG, PARANOIA. Paranoia just had an update, but I still prefer the old Paranoia XP edition, so I’m gonna talk about that one!

A Shining City Deep Beneath a Continent

“Alpha Complex! Alpha Complex! Beautiful and bright! This is a society wholly united under one banner against the common foe! The Commie traitors think they’ve got the upper hand after the nuclear war, they think we’re on the backfoot! But we’ll show THEM! We’ve got [DELETED]!”

-Hans-R-GER, Shortly before being shot down by commie traitors in defense of a power plant

The Complex is an, er… complex place… From each citizen according to society’s needs, to each according to society’s needs! It’s a stratified place… Full of happiness, leasure, hard labor, high culture, with law & order above all! The citizens are all ranked by Friend Computer, the  benevolent dictator of the complex. FC uses the ROYGBIV portions of the Electromagnetic spectrum as the gradient for each citizens security clearance.. The following are some examples from each rung of the ladder.

INFRARED:The Drones. 80% of the complex. They live in communal barracks but have no responsibility once the shift has ended. They tend to live in a drug-induced happy mellow bliss. Generally well treated by Friend Computer due to being considered the critical foundation of complex life.

Common Jobs: Line Assemblers, FoodVat scrubbers, Live Targets for R&D, Reactor Shielding.

RED: The bottom of the top 20%, RED and up are “Trusted” citizens. Drug regimens are reduced. Surveillance is significantly increased… All PCs begin as RED (IR is no fun!). No more barracks life, share a room with 4 others! At least public transit is close…

Common Jobs: Assistant Supervisors, Troubleshooters (PCs!), Supply Clerks, Army Grunts.

ORANGE: This entire clearance consists almost entirely of petty front-line supervisors. May as well be RED, but theyre just a LITTLE better…. Living conditions improve, you’re down to one roommate instead of 4…

Common Jobs: Supervisors, Troubleshooter Supervisors, Technicians, Corporals, Vidstars.

YELLOW: This is the top of the bottom, YELLOW is the world of the middle manager. Living conditions improve. You’ve got a room all to yourself! With a Terminal screen! Ah Luxe!

Common Jobs: Divisional Managers, Troubleshooter Dispatchers, Sergeants, Jr. Engineers.

GREEN:The gulf from YELLOW to GREEN is vast. Making GREEN is the Alpha Complex equivalent to graduating from harvard law with your PhD. GREEN is where life gets more stable… Living conditions improve drastically. Forget rooms, GREENS live in honest-to-goodness apartments! GREENs represent the crucial line between the Executive (BIV) and the Production (ROY) sides of life. The top conceptualizes, the GREENs delegate!

Common Jobs:  Branch/Plant Managers, IntSec GREEN Goons, High-sec Janitors, Lieutenants.

BLUE: BLUE is where you stop doing and start ordering. BLUE is the Junior executive suite, it’s also the common clearance for most IntSec officers. BLUE is where the luxury really kicks in. Forget an apartment, try a whole multi-room home in a prestigious and safe subsector, near many amenities!

Common Jobs: Junior Executives, Internal Security Officers, Captains/Majors, Troubleshooter Commanders.

INDIGO: INDIGO is the world of the underbosses, the guys with a direct line to the top. INDIGO is a rank nobody wants, most INDIGOs are aspiring VIOLETS just waiting for their chance at the top… Forget a house, how about your own private corridor??

Common Jobs: Senior Executive Presidents, Internal Security Captains, Colonels, UV Servants.

VIOLET: Effectively the top of the totem pole, VIOLETS are the CEOs, Directors, Generals, and Chiefs of staff. VIOLETs try ever so hard to keep the frothing INDIGO hordes beneath them. Chances at an ULTRAVIOLET spot are rate, there are only [DELETED] known routes to the rank of High-Programmer, and [CENSORED] of them are easy… Corridor? Oh you mean my guesthouse! VIOLETs are given whole subsectors to themselves!

Common Jobs: Company Directors, IntSec Chiefs, Generals, Butlers for UVs.

ULTRAVIOLET: Trusted with access to the very source code of Friend Computer itself! The High Programmers find themselves living above the petty scrabbling of complex life. They content themselves[CENSORED], and, [ERR_MSSG_TXT], and !@%#$%#$%&&IYTEGFGB, while also taking care to avoid [DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS] and [SCRAMBLED] whilst protecting against [DELETED]  and safeguarding all citizens for the good of the complex. High programmers live as high profile a life as they please. Some are known and celebrated complex-wide, others are [DELETED FOR SECURITY REASONS]

The society of the complex may be stratified, but it is above all a meritocracy. Citizens are all born into the INFRARED underclasses. They work their way up only through selfless service to friend computer. Security Clearance represents nothing else than The Computers implicit trust in an individual as of this very nanosecond!

A Note on Naming:

Every citizen in Alpha Complex has been assigned a name at conception by friend computer. The name follows a common convention of Given-CLEARANCE-Home-#. For instance, Hans-R-GER-1 from the quote above. He is Hans, he is RED, and he was born from the cloning tanks in GER sector. That’s right, cloned! Well, not quite cloned, but randomly generated… Citizens of alpha complex are no longer born biologically, as such base drives lead to… disharmony… They are instead grown using a randomly generated biological template! Which leads to the number; Due to the general lethality of life in Alpha Complex, FC has seen fit to give each citizen 6 clone backups. Helps to keep citizens from turning over too quickly… You ARE grateful for Friend Computers benevolent generosity, aren’t you citizen?

In the Service of Friend Computer!

The Complex is run by a big interwoven bureaucracy of service groups, each operating in Friend Computers name and with its all-powerful authority behind them. These groups handle everything from mundane production of foods, and basic supplies, to high-tech research on new technology. These groups operate the infrastructure, entertain the masses, and keep everyone safe! Here we have some brief descriptions/examples

Armed Forces: AF is Defense from all threats outside the complex. Emergency defense from threats within the complex. Security forces for high-interest sites ( Power Plants, Central Comp Nodes, TransTube Stations, etc…) Riot Control, Threat assessment, Vulture Squadrons.

Central Processing Unit: CPU is paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Someone’s gotta keep track of all these armed forces requisition orders, PLC freight bills, Power Service work orders, and food distribution purchase orders! CPU is the biggest most efficient bureaucracy ever… The complex equivalent to the corporate HQ.

Housing Preservation Development & Mind Control : HPD&MC is an interesting group… Imagine Public State-Run Media, HUD, and Health/Human Services rolled into one! That’s HPD&MC. Everything from keeping INFRARED housing blocks in good working condition, to producing and broadcasting hit VidShows like “The Tela-O-MLY Show”, or “Bake That Traitor”, as well as local news, and providing medical care.

Internal Security: IntSec is the bulwark against all threats from within the complex. IntSec is constantly working to keep AF out of their business. IntSec is like if you combined Homeland Security, the elite narco squad, and FBI into one super agency with broad authority to spy as they please. In the service of Friend Computer, of course! They also handle internal patrol and CID matters.

Production, Logistics & Commisary: PLC are the agricultural & industrial powerhouse of Alpha Complex. Everything from food and toiletries to weapons-grade plutonium and ballistic missiles; They’re produced, shipped, and distributed by this massive group.

Power Services: They do what it says on the tin with this Group. PS is in charge of maintaining the power grids. From the fusion plant down to the local junction box. They also maintain the public transportation infrastructure, which puts them into frequent turf wars with the Technical Services group. Power being so critical to Complex life, PS gets a lot of latitude in their operations.

Research & Design: R&D are the science brains of The Complex. All innovation in FCs name comes from this group. New bots to boost production, and new processes. Whole new branches of physics, even! The upper limits of R&D have yet to be seen, there’s even whispers of a space agency!

Technical Services: TechServ maintains all services of the Complex that are not power or public transport. They are bot mechanics, repairmen, construction workers, and technical engineers. They’re the ones you call when things break.

Each of these service group also sub-contracts to individually specialized firms, as part of a new initiative of competition put in place by friend computer. Competition brings better service! The competition is NOT so cut-throat that you can’t even find a plumber, citizen. You are mistaken. Take these pills…


This is a good setup for the general society of Alpha Complex. In my next piece, I’ll introduce you all to where the player characters come into this whole equation! There’s also a seamy underbelly to Complex life that needs coverage, but the public info needed airing out first.

Players take on the role of Troubleshooters. Crack hit-squads called up by Friend Computer for the sole purpose of going out, finding the trouble, and shooting it. The Troubleshooters corps is an organization with its own storied history, beholden to no authority but FC! Stay tuned for part 2 where we’ll discuss The Troubleshooters, and the trouble they shoot!