To recruit contributors to the Toothpaste Disaster report I posted this notice on March 29, 2004 to the active forums of Paranoia-Live.net:
"CODE THE COMPUTER! THE COMPUTER IS YOUR TOOL!"
You are Clearance ULTRAVIOLET, a High Programmer entrusted by The Computer with sole control of an entire sector.
Last year the Toothpaste Disaster hit your sector and almost a dozen others. Fascinated high-clearance citizens across Alpha Complex seek to know more about this notorious event. Now The Computer has created a fact-finding panel to investigate the origins, determine the causes, and implicate the traitors involved in this chaotic, mysterious, and wide-ranging disaster.
The Computer has appointed you and other High Programmers in affected sectors to this panel. Together you will prepare an alphabetical encyclopedia and glossary, Clearance ULTRAVIOLET, which the head of Internal Security will respectfully and blindly forward to The Computer.
WHAT IS IT?
"The Toothpaste Disaster" is a Classic PARANOIA Lexicon game set in Alpha Complex. Lexicon (http://www.20by20room.com/2003/11/lexicon_an_rpg.html) was designed by Neel Krishnaswami. In a Lexicon game players collaborate on an online encyclopedia or report, writing entries in alphabetical order and posting them to a Wiki, a collection of editable Web pages (http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiGettingStartedFaq).
I am now seeking players who will contribute to this online report. Extracts from the report may appear in the forthcoming PARANOIA rulebook appearing this August from Mongoose Publishing. Participating players receive no money, no contributor copies, and in fact no compensation of any kind whatever, and must give Mongoose Publishing blanket permission to use the report in any fashion. On the upside, players will be breveted to Clearance ULTRAVIOLET for the duration of the game and will be credited in the rulebook as "Toothpaste Disaster High Programmers."
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Panelists will prepare the report over 13 turns. In a turn, each contributor invents an entry starting with one of the letters available that turn, and writes 100-200 words of text for that entry. All Turn 1 entries must start with the letters A or B. Turn 2 covers C and D, and so on. Contributors post entries to the online Wiki I've set up for the game on my home page (http://paranoia.allenvarney.com). The whole world can see everyone's entries, but only approved players can post new entries.
We will run two turns a week. Deadlines are midnight Texas time each Monday and Thursday). Your first entry, which must begin with A or B, is due by midnight Friday, April 1, 2004. (NOTE: Despite the date, this is NOT an April Fool's joke!) Final entries (Turn 13, Y-Z) will be due and the game will conclude six weeks later at midnight Thursday, May 13.
At the end of the first entry you write, sign your in-game character name and make two Wiki-style citations to other entries that will (you hope!) appear later in the alphabetical report. These citations are "phantoms" -- their names exist, but their content will get filled in only on the appropriate turn. The phantom entries you cite must begin with a letter to be covered on a later turn. On each turn after the first, pick one of the phantom entries and write it, in the same way you wrote your first entry; if no phantom is available under the two letters covered that turn, create a new entry instead. Every entry you write must end with three citations: one entry already written by another player (NOT one of your own entries!) and two further unwritten "phantom" entries.
The maximum number of entries under each pair of letters equals the number of players. Therefore once you run out of empty slots, you can only cite existing phantom entries.
(On the next-to-last turn you'll cite only one phantom, and on the last turn no phantoms. Don't worry about it until you get there.)
By posting a notice on a phantom Wiki entry, you can call dibs (make a priority claim) on that phantom and write it on the appropriate future turn. You can't call dibs on a phantom you created. Don't get greedy. Etiquette dictates you shouldn't claim more than two phantoms at a time.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
We have these purposes in running this Lexicon game:
Publicity for the forthcoming PARANOIA edition.
- Content creation for the rulebook. I envision running extracts from the report at the bottom of each two-page spread in the ULTRAVIOLET (Gamemaster) section. Therefore I hope the entries will be funny and characteristic of life in Alpha Complex.
No promises, but I hope this project will serve as a "farm team" for prospective contributors to future PARANOIA supplements.
WHAT WAS THE TOOTHPASTE DISASTER?
It hasn't been defined yet. That's your job. Once you make up an entry, that becomes part of the overall picture of this intricately faceted calamity. Some legendary figures of Alpha Complex folklore may have been scandalously involved, and many secret societies and service firms definitely took part, either beforehand or in the disastrous yet lucrative aftermath.
Who sabotaged all those careful and highly classified security measures? What about that strange message sent by a mysterious Troubleshooter, apparently to an anonymous High Programmer? That Programmer couldn't have been one of you, could it? The idea seems preposterous.
WHAT POINTS SHOULD I REMEMBER?
- This is the familiar Classic style, not Straight or Zap.
- The Computer requires total candor. Nothing in your entries is deleted for security reasons. You may freely tell the truth, as you see it, among your fellow High Programmers.
- You're eager to make your views known and correct mistaken opinions, because you view your esteemed fellow Programmers as misinformed, misguided, underqualified, possibly criminal, and certainly nuts. They think the same of you, but insolent chatter from doltish lunatics is the lot of any seeker of truth.
- Quoting from Neel Krishnaswami's Lexicon rules: "Despite the fact that your peers are self-important, narrow-minded dunderheads, they are honest scholars. No matter how strained their interpretations are, their facts are accurate as historical research can make them. So if you cite an entry, you have to treat its factual content as true! (Though you can argue vociferously with the interpretation and introduce new facts that shade the interpretation.)"
WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
If you'd like to play, understand these points:
- You'll be writing a 100- to 200-word entry twice a week for six weeks, and you'll need to read each turn's entries from maybe half a dozen players.
- Before you join the game, you must explicitly give Mongoose Publishing legal permission to publish, adapt, and otherwise exploit anything you create for this report. Mongoose won't pay you anything or give you a free copy of anything. Your only compensation, aside from the esteem and envy of your peers, is credit in the PARANOIA rulebook.
Still interested? Write to me: APVarney (at) AOL.com. Put "Toothpaste Disaster" in the subject line. Expressly grant Mongoose Publishing the permission described above, and give me two brief third-person biographical notices, which I will post on the in-game Wiki pages for all to see: (1) your real name and a little bit about you, and (2) one to three sentences about your ULTRAVIOLET High Programmer. For instance:
"Hugh-U-VUU-12 earned The Computer's trust as a diligent Internal Security officer in MSF Sector. So successful was his 'Keep Your Workplace Traitor-Free' campaign that his office routinely exceeded termination quotas by 800%. The program ended only when the sector's population fell below sustainable levels and received Temporary Evacuation and Relocation to nearby sectors."
Good luck, and may you guide your erring fellow ULTRAVIOLETs to wisdom!
Allen Varney, principal PARANOIA writer
The Wiki URL:
Information about Wikis in general and directions on how to post there:
A completed Lexicon game, written for a NOBILIS campaign: