Player's Guide Index
The Contract is a tabletop roleplaying game in which Players control ambitious experts (known as Contractors) who are approached by mysterious entities (known as Harbingers) and offered an intriguing proposition: participate in a series of deadly missions for an opportunity to awaken their latent supernatural Powers. The Contractors who survive are forged into some of the most fearsome and influential beings in existence.
- Solving Absenteeism: The Contract is friendly towards inconsistent groups and nomadic Players. Players can play and progress their favorite characters regardless of who shows up on a given night.
- Rotating GMs: The responsibility of the Game Master (GM) rotates between sessions as desired, preventing burnout.
- Useful Tools: The Contract's website offers an extensive selection of tools to make learning and playing The Contract easy.
- Unique Characters: Contractors are highly individual, unique, and may attain almost any Powers imaginable. Despite this, the Powers system ensures they remain balanced.
- Interesting Action: The Contract is realistic and gritty, but light on number crunching. Advancement grants tools that enable novel tactics rather than simple dice bonuses.
Content Warning and Player Safety
Players largely determine the play experience and content of The Contract.
That said, The Contract's system allows violence and includes lasting injuries, trauma, and death. Furthermore, because The Contract encourages outside the box problem solving and features genuinely high stakes, certain Players and Characters may choose to go to extremes to accomplish their goals, using murder, kidnapping, torture, or other distasteful tactics.
These elements can be tuned up or down depending on the group's preference, and it's important that all Players agree on a tone and content limits before they play.
We recommend employing one or more RPG Safety Tools when playing with new people or if you don't understand why such tools are useful.
When you sit down to play The Contract, you either assume the role of the GameMaster (GM), or a Player controlling a Contractor or a Ringer.
The GameMaster (GM)
Each time you play The Contract, one person is designated as the Game Master (GM). Instead of playing a Contractor, they act as a referee, controlling the world and the non-player characters (NPCs). When your group participates in one of the Harbingers' Contracts, the GM runs a prepared Scenario that outlines challenging situations for the Contractors to navigate.
After a Contract, the GM decides which of the surviving Contractors succeeded and which ones failed. Those who succeed are granted a Gift that awakens their supernatural Powers. GMs are given rewards for running Contracts that they can use to enhance their own Contractors.
The GameMaster's Manual contains ample guidance on how to act as the GM.
Players create and play characters known as Contractors: ambitious, competent individuals who willingly risk their lives on Contracts in exchange for power. In general, all Player Characters in The Contract are Contractors.
A Contractor's capabilities and weaknesses are represented through a variety of stats which are assigned numerical values at Character Creation. Their Attributes (Brawn, Intelligence, Wits, Charisma, Dexterity, Perception) and Abilities (Science, Firearms, and Athletics to name a few) are used when rolling dice to determine whether or not they succeed any risky actions they attempt.
Behavior and morality is determined primarily by a Contractor's Character Concept rather than any concrete stats, but each Contractor does have a set of Limits which represent lines that they prefer not to cross, and which can lead to significant penalties if they do cross those lines.
Contractors almost always start out as mundane humans with no supernatural abilities. Certain Assets and Liabilities may allow Contractors to begin their first Contract with a paranormal history or ancestry, or even as an inhuman creature, subject to the approval of their World's Leader.
Players often maintain several Contractors, but they can never play more than one in the same Contract or Side Game. No two Contractors owned by the same Player may ever meet or communicate with each other.
As they complete Contracts and grow in power, Contractors can be identified by their Contractor Status, which tells you how many victories they have achieved: less than 10 is a Novice, 10-25 is Seasoned, and 25 or more wins is a Veteran Contractor.
Players may also opt to play a Contract as an NPC Ringer instead of one of their Contractors. This is usually because the Scenario has been spoiled for them, possibly because they already played in it.
Ringers can be any NPC in the Contract: an antagonist, a character central to the plot, or even an non-player Contractor. However, not every scenario needs or has room for a Ringer. Ringer characters should be important enough to the Scenario that they need someone other than the GM to handle their roleplaying.
All Ringers have some Objective that they must fufill. This Objective may be to help or hinder the Contractors, to die horribly to monsters, or anything else.
Players who wish to play Ringers should discuss their role and Objective with the GM before the Contract begins.
At the end of the Contract, Players who played Ringers are given Experience to spend on one of their Contractors. They recieve 4 Experience if they achieved their Objective and 2 Experience otherwise. Ringers do not receive Gifts or Improvements.
Contracts are the Harbingers' deadly missions. They act as the primary unit of play in The Contract. In order to play a Contract, you need one GM and at least two Players.
Before it begins, the GM declares which Contractor Status is permitted: Novice (0-10 Gifts), Seasoned (11-24 Gifts), or Veteran (25+ Gifts), and the Players select which of their eligible Contractors to bring.
The GM runs a Scenario where the Players' chosen Contractors are approached by a Harbinger (or one of their messengers), invited to participate in a Contract, briefed on their objective, and set loose to accomplish their task. At the end of the Contract, the GM declares which of the surviving Contractors succeeded and which ones failed. All participants, including the GM, are rewarded in some way.
Participation in a Contract is always voluntary, both for Players and in-character for Contractors. However, once a Contractor accepts the Harbinger's invite, they may be locked in.
Ideally, Contracts are concluded in one play session, but they may be split into multiple sessions if needed. While a Contract is active, Players cannot change their Contractors, and the GM cannot rotate with another GM.
In some cases, a Contract may be part of a Cycle, or a series of Scenarios which take place one after the other with no Downtime, similar to a more traditional roleplaying campaign. As such, Experience cannot be spent between the Contracts of a Cycle.
All Players should be told ahead of time if a Contract is part of a Cycle and how many Contracts long that Cycle is.
If the events of a Contract are considered undesirably unfair or damaging, it may be declared Void.
Any Contract that is voided never occurred. No Rewards are granted. Perhaps it was all a bad dream. Instead of voiding Contracts that introduce undesirable elements into a Setting, World Leaders often opt to simply declare that the Contract's events happened in a similar-looking parallel dimension.
Voiding a Contract should generally be avoided when possible, but it is available as an option if problems cannot be otherwise resolved.
Contracts may be Voided by the following means:
- World Leaders can declare any Contracts in their Worlds Void at their discretion.
- If, after the conclusion of a Contract, all Players vote unanimously to Void.
- If a Contract is split into multiple sessions, only a simple majority of the Players votes are needed to Void.
Scenarios are the primary modules of content in The Contract. GMs run Scenarios as Contracts. Think of them like the sheet music for the performance, or the recipe for the meal.
All Scenarios in The Contract follow the same basic structure. A group of characters are rounded up and presented with a deadly task which they must then attempt to complete for a chance to awaken their Powers.
Discovering and writing Scenarios are the two primary ways of obtaining content to play in The Contract. Playing the occasional online Contract can help you find content for your in-person group. There is a full section on writing your own Scenarios in the GameMaster's Manual.
Stock Scenarios are Scenarios written by The Contract's developers to get new play groups started. Here is a list of Stock Scenarios and how to add them to your Scenario Gallery:
- Mushroom Hunt - is avilable to all Players for free, registered or not. Note: because Players may view Mushroom Hunt when logged-out, GMs can't rely on the website to determine if a Player is spoiled on it.
- Sanctuary - Create a World
- Passing the Hours - Play a Contractor in a Contract
- Beware the Assassin - GM a Contract
- Monster Hunter Island - Lose a Contractor in a Contract
- Finally, the Scenario used in the How to Play guide, See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Smell no Evil is available to all users but should not be run because it is spoiled in the tutorial.
You can also discover Stock Scenarios by playing in them.
Any time you Play in a Contract, you "discover" it, and it is added to your Scenario Gallery.
Discovering a Scenario has the following benefits:
- You may view the Scenario's write-up and notes from GMs about their experience running it.
- You may run the Scenario as a Contract for any group of Players who haven't been spoiled on it.
- You may read any Journals written about it.
Players are not allowed to play their Contractors in Contracts where they know the details of the Scenario. When you know the details of a Scenario, it is considered "spoiled." Depending on the specifics of the Scenario, they may still have the option to play an NPC Ringer.
Any Scenario you have played in a Contract is considered spoiled, but unlocked stock Scenarios are not considered spoiled until you read their writeups.
You may not read any Journals that contains spoilers for a Scenario you have not been spoiled on.
Rewards and Advancement
When a Contractor accepts their first invitation to participate in a Contract, they are Imbued by the sponsoring Harbinger. Imbuing alters how Contractors learn, allowing them to develop their abilities at an incredible rate, but only after participating in a Contract. If they do not participate in any Contracts, they will likely stagnate, regardless of their efforts.
You may earn Experience for your Contractors by:
- 2 Exp - Attending and failing a Contract.
- 4 Exp - Attending and claiming victory in a Contract.
- 4 Exp - Running a Contract as the GM.
- 4 Exp - Playing an NPC Ringer that fulfills their major purpose during a Contract.
- 1 Exp - Writing an in-character Journal at least 250 words long, describing either a Contract or the events of a Downtime between two Contracts.
The cost to increase a trait by one level is as follows:
- Attributes: current rating x4 Exp
- Abilities: 2 Exp for the first rank , then current rating x2 Exp
- Source: current rating x2 Exp
Experience may also be used to:
- Purchase an Asset: rating x3 Exp. Requires World Leader approval.
- Remove a Liability: rating x3 Exp. Requires World Leader approval.
- Treat a Trauma with therapy: 3 Exp.
Contractors who do not have access to a means of training a particular Ability or other trait cannot spend Experience to advance it. For example, a Contractor in prison cannot train the Firearms Ability, and a Contractor living in a cave in the wilderness may have trouble accessing therapy to treat their Traumas.
Gifts and Improvements
Improvements are like Gifts, but they can only be used to improve existing Powers.
Contractors are limited to a number of Improvements equal to half their number of Gifts rounded down. For example, if your Contractor has won 7 games and received 7 Gifts, you may only invest 3 Improvements into that particular Contractor.
- Victory: A Contractor that claims Victory in a Contract gains one Gift.
- Charon Coins: If a Contractor dies during a Contract, their controlling Player is given a Coin of Charon. A coin may be spent when creating a new Contractor to grant them a single Gift before they've been invited to their first Contract.
- Gifted: At Character Creation, Contractors may start with a single Gift by taking the Gifted Asset. This is restricted and requires World Leader approval.
- As GM, you may earn a maximum of one Improvement per Contract you run. You choose which of your Contractors recieves the Improvement.
- The Golden Ratio: If you GM a Contract in which at least one Contractor dies and at least one Contractor wins, you have achieved the Golden Ratio, and recieve one Improvement.
- Into The Fold: Running any Player's first Contract grants the GM an Improvement even if they did not achieve the Golden Ratio. A Contract is considered a Player's first if it was the first one entered into the website.
- Writing Game Journals: A Contractor earns an Improvement for every 4 Journal they write.
- Newbie: 0-3 Victories
- Novice: 4-10 Victories
- Seasoned: 11-25 Victories
- Veteran: 26 + Victories.
Newbie and Novice Contractors can play in Contracts together, as can Seasoned and Veteran Contractors. Veteran Contractors are the only type of Contractor that can play in Solo Contracts.
Contractors may continue to participate in Contracts as long as they'd like, but when a beloved and accomplished Character's story starts to lose direction, Players sometimes feel that it is time to take the next step and retire them.
Some retired Contractors continue to pursue their goals as Harbingers. Once used as a Harbinger, a Contractor may never again be played in a Contract.
One month of in-character time passes between Contracts. This is called Downtime.
They are also free to take initiative and do anything they'd like. This includes but is not limited to: pursuing their goals, dealing with law enforcement, doubling back to the scene of a Contract to take care of unfinished business, and tracking down other Contractors to trade with (or murder).
Any roleplay that occurs outside of a Contract is called a Side Game.
Unlike the Harbingers' Games, Side Games do not have any predefined structure. No Experience, Gifts, or Improvements can be awarded to any of the participants. They do not need to be recorded or tracked. Simple conversations between Contractors may not even require a GM, but any time Dice are to be rolled, a GM should be present. Some Downtime actions, such as assaulting a government agency or running for President, may require substantial GM prep and/or many Side Games to resolve.
Occasionally, a Contractor will finish a Contract in a position that requires a Side Game to resolve. Being arrested is a common example. In these cases, the GM may declare that the Character in question is "locked" and cannot perform other Downtime activities until a Side Game is completed.
Contractors may write in their Journals for bonus Experience and Power Improvements. Writing an in-character journal at least 250 words long for a Contract, or for the Downtime between two games, rewards 1 Experience point. Every four Contract Journals (but not Downtime Journals) awards a Power Improvement instead.
To write in your Contractor's Journal, go to the character sheet of a Contractor who has participated in at least one Contract and follow the green link at the top or in the biography section of the sheet.
The Contract does not have one specific setting - instead, playgroups create Worlds that can encompass a wide variety of different possible settings. However, there are some elements which are shared between all Worlds, and which, along with the Powers system, allow Contractors to be portable and to travel between Worlds.
Harbingers are as powerful as they need to be to accomplish these goals and aren't required to have pre-established stats or Powers. Their interactions with Contractors are generally minimal and standoffish. They cannot attack Contractors unless attacked first. They will never directly solve a Contractor's problems (though they may sometimes cause them).
- A Harbinger cannot attack a Contractor unless attacked first.
- A Harbinger cannot force any Novice Contractor to go on a Contract, and rarely forces Seasoned / Veteran Contractors, as there may be consequences.
- Harbingers don't pay in advance
- Harbingers rarely make specific promises about payment (e.g. specific Powers)
- Harbingers never directly solve a Contractor's problems, though they may provide tools for the Contractor to solve them themselves.
- Harbingers can directly cause problems for Contractors.
- Harbingers may use messengers to deliver their invitations (though rarely for a brand new Contractor).
- Harbingers must provide transportation to the location of a Contract for 0-5 Victory Novice Contractors that are unable to transport themselves (outsiders, anachronisms, etc).
The Powers That Be
Contracts are organized by a shadowy conspiracy known simply as The Powers That Be. Even their direct servants, the powerful Harbingers, can only guess at their true identities or purpose.
What is known is that they reward a rare few, and reward them well. How they select candidates is as large a mystery as why. Some think the Contractors are being prepared for an imminent apocalypse. Others believe the "Masters" are merely sadists.
A World is a group of Contractors who share a setting.
World Leaders act as the head GM for their Worlds, settling disputes, approving Powers, and generally preventing shenanigans. They are empowered to edit the Character Sheets of the Contractors in their World, record or void Contracts, and define their World's setting.
Some Worlds opt to use a tribunal of the three most experienced GMs instead of a single World Leader.
Creating a World
Creating a World is as easy as filling out the form! You can create as many as you'd like.
Each World has its own private parallel dimension in The Contract's collective multiverse. The World has complete authority to build, change, and destroy their own Setting however they wish.
Shades of "modern day but with supernatural elements," tend to work best, but if you want the Contracts in your World to take place in Feudal Japan, a futuristic science-fiction city, or the world populated by anthropomorphic animals, make it so!
Traveling to other Worlds
Contractors live their lives in their home World's Setting, but Harbingers from other Worlds may invite them to join Contracts in their Worlds. If the Contractor accepts, they are transported to the Harbinger's World to participate in the Contract and are returned to their home World when the Contract concludes. Contractors may earn Gifts (or die) while visiting another World.
A Contractor visiting another World is only guaranteed to have access to their base stats and Powers. GMs may strip them of any Equipment or special abilities that they have obtained through any means other than Rewards from Games. If your Contractor happened to find a spellbook that allows them to cast fireballs during a Downtime, they may not have access to it while traveling to another World.
Customizing Your Setting
The Setting and World-Building Guide both contains information about the default Setting - known as The Illumination - as well as provides resources to customize the Setting for your World in a number of different ways.
When a Contractor attempts an action where the outcome is risky or unsure, the GM will call for a roll to help them determine what happens.
The GM names one Attribute, one Ability, and a Difficulty (a number between 2 and 9, with 6 being the most common, that represents how complex or tricky the action is). The Player rolls a number of ten-sided dice (d10s) equal to the sum of their Contractor's ratings in the named Attribute and Ability. The number of dice rolled is called the Dice Pool. The value used to determine whether an action succeeds or not is called the Outcome.
The Outcome starts out at 0. Each die that lands on a number equal to or greater than the Difficulty gives +1 to the Outcome. A die showing '1' is called a "botch" and subtracts 1 from the Outcome. A die showing a '10' is called a "double" and gives +2 instead of +1 to the Outcome (some D10s may be numbered from 0 to 9 instead of 1 to 10; in this case, 0s are counted as 10s).
Based on the total Outcome, the action will either succeed or fail:
|<0||A botch. Something goes horribly wrong.|
|0||The attempt fails.|
|1-3||The attempt is partially successful or is successful but has a complication.|
|4-5||A complete success, things go as planned.|
|6+||An exceptional success. The action is performed with grace or has an additional, positive effect.|
The specific details of how the action occurs are up to the GM to determine, but most rolls should follow the above scale, unless a different mechanic is specifically described, such as for Contested Actions, or for a number of Powers.
Player: "I climb the ivy-covered wall to the third-floor balcony."
GM: "Roll Dexterity plus Athletics, Difficulty 6"
The Player looks at their burglar's Character sheet and adds their rating in Dexterity (4) and Athletics (3) for a total Dice Pool of 7. They roll 7 10-sided dice:
2, 6, 0, 8, 1, 5, 7
(0 +1 +2 +1 -1 +0 +1) = 4
The Outcome is 4, a complete success. The GM declares that they make their way up the ivy, snapping a few twigs and leaves along the way before pulling themselves up onto the balcony.
An Outcome of 6 or greater would have resulted in a particularly quick climb that did not leave any trace. An Outcome of 1, 2 or 3 would have resulted in making it to the balcony, but might have caused substantial damage to the ivy or made enough noise to catch the attention of someone inside the mansion.
A failure (Outcome of 0) might mean that they can't figure out how to get a grip on the ivy without destroying it. A Botch (-1) would probably have resulted in them making it nearly to the balcony, then falling painfully to the ground.
When two characters enter into a contest of skill (e.g. sneaking past a guard, parrying a sword attack, or competing in a race), the action is considered Contested. This happens often in Combat.
In Contested Actions, both parties make a roll. The defender's Outcome is subtracted from the attacker's, reducing it to a minimum of 0. Because of this, ties go to the defender. For Contested Actions, any resulting Outcome greater than 0 is considered a complete success.
Each character may have a different roll. For example, sneaking past a guard would be Dexterity + Stealth versus Perception + Alertness. The default Difficulty for contested actions is 6, but this can be modified by the GM as normal, often resulting in Difficulties that are different for each participant. For example, if it is very dark or noisy, the Guard might be asked to roll their Perception + Alertness check at Difficulty 7 or 8.
For example, if you are attempting to sneak down an alley but do not have any Stealth, you may roll only Dexterity, but the Difficulty will be 7 rather than 6.
Difficulty can be increased or decreased by situational factors at the GM's discretion. For instance, investigating a dark room with your cell phone's flashlight would be rolled at +1 Difficulty. Swimming to stay afloat with a life vest would be -2 Difficulty (though a swimming race might be at a higher difficulty instead).
The final, modified Difficulty cannot be reduced below 4. If the Difficulty of a roll would ever rise above 9, instead, the Difficulty stays at 9 and your total Dice Pool is reduced by the overage. For example, a Difficulty 12 roll with 6 dice would be rolled as a Difficulty 9 roll with 3 dice.
Dice Pool Modifiers
For Example, if turning into a werewolf gives you +1 dice to Brawn rolls and a different bonus that gives you +3 dice to Brawl attacks, if you roll to bite someone, it would be Brawn + Brawl + 3 dice (the higher of the two bonuses).
See the Dice Probability Calculator for more information about probabilities and how GM discretion should be used when making rolls.
The Character Sheet
When creating a Contractor, Players fill out a Character Sheet that describes their Contractor's capabilities and characteristics. New Contractors are given 150 Experience points to spend purchasing Attributes, Abilities, Assets, and Liabilities. Their costs are the same as for Advancement.
Note that the Create Character page does these calculations for you, so you do not have to know the Advancement costs before creating a Contractor.
Any unused Experience is saved and can be spent as normal during any Downtime.
Each Contractor should have a clearly defined Character Concept which informs both how they behave as well as the Powers they end up using. When creating a Contractor, try to come up with: an Ambition, or a driving goal that gives them a reason for risking their life on Contracts; an Archetype, or what profession or characteristics define them; and a Paradigm, or the source of their supernatural abilities.
World Leaders are responsible for approving Contractors created in their Worlds. For Contractors attending a Contract in another World, the GM may allow or disallow their attendance at the start of a Contract at their discretion.
Overview of Character Sheet elements
- Characters have Attributes and Abilities to describe their raw capabilities and special training. Almost all rolls are made by combining an Attribute with an Ability. Attributes affect many other systems as well, especially in Combat.
- A Contractor's Powers are their lifeblood. They are simultaneously the reward for succeeding as a Contractor and also their greatest tools to achieve victory. Each Contractor's Powers are a unique expression of their inner potential, and no two Powers are quite alike. Most true Character Advancement comes via Powers rather than stat increases.
- Assets and Liabilities detail important aspects of the Contractor's person or background that may have an impact on their performance in Contracts. Assets include things like access to wealth or restricted weapons, a talent for rationalizing their actions, or being downright gorgeous. On the other hand, things like a missing limb, an unfamiliarity with modern society, or simply being too darn trusting count as Liabilities.
- Limits are the lines a Contractor has a hard time crossing. Torturing and murdering people are two common examples. If violated, Contractors risk developing lasting traumas.
- Traumas and Battle Scars represent the long-term mental and physical tolls of a Contractor's experience on Contracts. They are acquired primarily by crossing Limits and suffering terrible Injuries. Both can be removed through various means, though there is often a price.
- Body and Mind track the physical and mental fortitude of a Character and are similar to "Health" in other systems. Their capacities are derived from the Character's Attributes. Injuries, Traumatic experiences, and Exertion deplete Body and Mind, which in turn will cause Dice Penalties. Death occurs when Body is fully depleted.
Attributes have major gameplay implications. The number of dice a player rolls when one of their Contractors attempts an action is determined by adding their rating in one Attribute and one Ability. Furthermore, most Attributes have secondary mechanical benefits.
If Powers or an in-game effect ever cause an Attribute's rating to drop to 0, the Contractor becomes Incapacitated until that Attribute rating is restored back to at least 1. Note that an effect that reads "-1 dice to Brawn rolls" is not the same as "reduces Brawn by 1." The former only affects rolls.
The Attributes of humans are rated on a scale of one to five, with two being average and five being world-class.
1. Very poor
2. Average or a bit below average
3. Above average
Brawn represents a character's overall strength and stamina. Athletes, bodybuilders, boxers, and similar sorts of people tend to have high ratings in Brawn. Children, the elderly, and nerds tend to have a lower rating.
Brawn is often paired with these Abilities: Brawl, Melee, Athletics.
Mechanics Affected by Brawn
- A character's rating in Body (physical fortitude) is equal to 5 + (Brawn / 2, rounded up).
- Brawn affects Encumbrance. A character may carry up to (15 * Brawn rating) pounds without being encumbered. Characters suffer a -1 dice and movement penalty per 15 pounds they carry over their limit.
- Brawn acts as Armor against standard unarmed (Brawl) attacks.
- Brawn affects sprinting speed. In each round of Combat, after a character has used their free movement, they may move an additional 5 feet and incur a -1 penalty a number of times up to their Brawn rating.
Dexterity represents a character's overall speed, precision, and flexibility. Circus performers, pickpockets, and athletes are likely to have a high Dexterity, while klutzes, sedentary, or elderly people likely have a low rating.
Dexterity is often paired with these Abilities: Firearms, Athletics, Legerdemain, Stealth.
Mechanics Affected by Dexterity
- In each round of Combat, a character may take "free" movement on their Initiative before or after their Action. They may travel (5 + 5 * Dexterity rating) feet during this free movement without incurring a dice penalty.
- A character's overall movement speed is often determined by Dexterity.
- At the start of combat, a character's dice pool for their Initiative roll is calculated by adding their Wits and Dexterity. (This is the only roll that is a combination of two Attributes).
Perception represents a character's overall awareness and attention to detail. Investigators, survivalists, police officers, and thieves often have high ratings, while office workers, bookworms, and absent-minded people have a lower rating.
Perception is often paired with these Abilities: Investigation, Alertness, and almost any other Ability when used to notice some domain-specific detail.
Mechanics Affected by Perception
- Perception does not directly affect any mechanics, but it is rolled often.
Charisma represents a character's overall social aptitude and intuition about people. Detectives, politicians, actors, and attractive people tend to have high ratings. Shut-ins, misanthropes, and people on the autism spectrum tend to have lower ratings.
Charisma is not 100% analogous to how likable a character is. Some people with a great understanding of others simply don't want to be charming and approachable, even though they could.
When GMing, if a given action could fall under Charisma or another Attribute, you should require the player to roll Charisma.
Charisma is often paired with these Abilities: Investigation, Influence, Subterfuge, Animals, Performance.
Mechanics Affected by Charisma
Intelligence represents a character's overall capability to form new connections, remember details, and draw upon their knowledge. Professors, mathematicians, and innovators have high ratings. Petty criminals, suckers, and long-term addicts have lower ratings.
Intelligence is often paired with these Abilities: Occult, Academics, Computer, Science, Medicine.
Mechanics Affected by Intelligence
- A character's rating in Mind is equal to their Intelligence + Charisma + 1, with a maximum of 9.
- If a player forgets a detail, the GM refers to their character's Intelligence when making a determination of whether or not their Character remembers it.
Wits represents a character's speed of thought, reflexes, resourcefulness, decisiveness, and capability to act under pressure. Soldiers, professional gamers, and jet pilots have high ratings. Philosophers, the easily distracted, and those unaccustomed to emergencies have lower ratings.
Wits is often paired with these Abilities: Drive, Medicine, Survival, Crafts.
Mechanics Affected by Wits
Abilities represent a character's special training, honed skills, and learned knowledge.
The default Abilities are called Primary Abilities, and they are broader categories which cover most mundane actions a Contractor might take. Characters who instead want to be very good at a specific thing should consider taking a Secondary Ability.
The Create Character page has full support for primary and secondary Abilities. The Character Sheet calculates Experience costs and tracks all Experience expenditures and stat histories, including for Abilities. Abilities show additional descriptive text when tapped on or hovered over with the cursor.
A character's rank in a given Ability is rated on a scale of one to five. Possessing even a single point in an Ability indicates some competence in the field. The numerical values of an Ability's rating represent the following:
0. No special training
1. A passing familiarity or minimal formal training
2. Hobbiest or novice
3. Baseline professional
4. Leading professional
Primary Abilities are the default set of Abilities listed on the Character Sheet. When a Contractor attempts an action that requires a roll, the GM must call for a roll that utilizes one of these Abilities.
The Create Character page lists all the Primary Abilities, and you can see them all there if you prefer (hover over the Ability to see a description), but they are also listed here, along with a brief summary of how they function.
- Academics: Knowledge of math, humanities, history, linguistics, social sciences, etc... Most things you could learn in a college course which aren't covered by another Primary Ability fall here.
- Alertness: A trained vigilance of your surroundings. This is rolled frequently, as it determines your ability to notice things happening around you.
- Animals: Knowledge of animals, including identification, training, zoology, and handling.
- Athletics: Used for swimming, climbing, running, dodging, jumping, throwing, sports, etc... Any intense physical activity other than unarmed fighting or fighting with melee weapons is covered by this Ability.
- Brawl: Used for unarmed combat, grappling, and some very small weapons. Can also be rolled to dodge when engaging in close-quarters combat.
- Computer: Knowledge of technology, including general use, programming, and hacking.
- Crafts: Used for building, repairing, sculpting, tools, etc...
- Drive: Used for driving cars, motorcycles, electric scooters, etc... Does not cover advanced piloting and navigation of vehicles such as submarines or airplanes.
- Firearms: Used for guns and crossbows, or any other weapons where you aim and pull a trigger. Covers both the firing of and general knowledge of these weapons.
- Influence: Covers both persuasion, intimidation, lying, and trickery. Generally only used for interactions with NPCs, but sometimes will come up between two players as a way to avoid metagaming.
- Investigation: Covers forensics, tracking, research, etc.
- Legerdemain: Used for sleight-of-hand, lock-picking, pickpocketing, and other actions demanding manual dexterity.
- Medicine: First aid, medical care, anatomy, surgery, etc.
- Melee: Close range handheld weapons, from knives to clubs to battleaxes.
- Occult: Mythology, legends, religion, rituals, pop-culture magic, etc... This Ability represents knowledge of these topics and does not grant any actual supernatural abilities.
- Performance: Acting, singing, dancing, working a crowd, etc.
- Science: Physics, math, chemistry, biology, etc.
- Stealth: Sneaking around, hiding things, misdirection.
- Survival: Skills related to obtaining food, water, and shelter, as well as avoiding danger in natural environments.
Not all conceivable actions fit easily into one of the Primary Abilities. It is up to the GM's discretion what roll to use in such cases. If there is something a Contractor absolutely needs to be good at that isn't well-represented by a Primary Ability, consider coming up with a Secondary Ability.
Secondary Abilities are Player-defined Abilities that are more specific than Primary Abilities. To balance their reduced scope, they offer a -1 Difficulty reduction any time they are rolled in place of a Primary Ability. You can invent as many as you'd like.
Secondary Abilities must be more specific than Primary Abilities. "Being Badass" is not a valid Secondary Ability. A Secondary Ability may not grant any supernatural power.
Mechanics of Secondary Abilities
Secondary Abilities may be rolled in place of Primary Abilities in two circumstances.
1. The Secondary Ability's specialization applies. In such cases, the roll is made at -1 Difficulty. For Example, you have "Baseball" as a Secondary Ability, and you are trying to throw a small object, slide, bat, or sprint. Another example: you have the "Hacking" Secondary Ability and are trying to access someone else's account online, find a security flaw, or disable a security camera.
2. The Secondary Ability's specialization doesn't directly apply, but it implies skill in the relevant action. In such cases, if the Player decides to utilize the Secondary Ability, the roll is made at +1 Difficulty. For Example, you have the "Baseball" Secondary Ability and are jumping or catching someone who is falling from a window. With the "Hacking" Secondary Ability, perhaps you are trying to convince someone to give you their password or doing some general programming.
In these cases, the roll's dice pool is determined using the rating of the Secondary Ability instead of the Primary Ability.
It is up to GM's discretion whether or not, and how, a Secondary Ability applies to a given action.
Example Secondary Abilities
These are a few examples of Secondary Abilities. There are infinite possibilities.
- Con Artistry
- Video Games
- Electrical Engineering
- Being Pitiable
- Digital Surveillance
- Piloting Aircraft.
A normal human will usually have the following three Limits:
- Torture - If you are ever tortured, make a Trauma roll.
- Murder - Make a Trauma roll if you ever kill someone for a reason other than immediate self-defense.
- Humanity - Make a Trauma roll if you ever witness a humanitarian atrocity such as massacre, torture, extreme abuse etc.
Contractors with abnormal psychology-- such as sociopaths, zealots, or aliens-- may choose from a selection of alternative Limits or create their own. Self-created Limits are subject to GM approval and generally speaking must be at least as restrictive as the default Limits.
Examples of Alternative Limits
- Betrayal - You are extremely sensitive about being lied to or misled. Make a Trauma roll whenever you discover you've been tricked or lied to about something serious.
- Capture - If you are ever held against your will, imprisoned, or tied up, make a Trauma roll.
- Failure - You are a perfectionist or a megalomaniac and cannot tolerate major failures of any sort. Make a Truama roll every time you lose a Game or fail a task in your area of expertise.
- Injustice - Any time you allow someone (through action or inaction) to escape justice for a major crime, make a Trauma roll.
- Lifesaver - You cannot bear the guilt of taking a life. If you are ever responsible for someone else's death, either through action or inaction, make a Trauma roll.
- Monsters - Make a Trauma roll each time you see a new monstrous supernatural creature. Lovecraft, eat your heart out.
- Near-Death Experience - The frailty of your own life terrifies you. Make a Trauma roll after any near-death experience (such as being Incapacitated or hanging from a cliff by your fingertips).
- Sin - You are a true believer with a specific religious code, defined at Character creation,. Make a Trauma roll any time you violate this code.
- Submission - You are a controlling narcissist. Make a Trauma roll if you ever go along with someone else's plan or idea, whether by force or choice.
Assets and Liabilities
Assets and Liabilities represent specific traits of a Contractor that give them advantages or disadvantages. A full list of them can be seen on the Create Character page.
Assets and Liabilities can be taken at Character Creation or later by spending Experience. However, spending Experience outside of Character Creation to purchase new Assets or remove Liabilities is restricted and subject to World Leader approval.
Through the course of play, Contractors' situations may change in a manner that matches an Asset or Liability. Say they come into a huge amount of money (Rich) or are cursed (Curse) or gain an enemy (Enemy). Contractors may have these statuses without formally taking a matching Asset or Liability by marking them down as either a Condition or a Circumstance.
Assets and Liabilities are separated into three categories:
- Physical, which represent specific physical capabilities or defects such as ambidexterity, a poor sense of hearing, or a missing leg.
- Background, which represent facts about the Character's history or backstory such as income, contacts in the criminal underworld, or having been raised by wolves.
- Mental and Emotional, which represent different facets of a Character's mental or emotional state such as the ability to rationalize their behavior, an overriding belief in the sanctity of life, a jaded outlook that leaves them resistant to emotional control, or an innate trust of others.
Additionally, some Assets and Liabilities are restricted, meaning that they can only be taken with the approval of your World's leader, even at Character creation.
Conditions and Circumstances
During the course of a Contract, Contractors may experience a variety of long-term consequences for their actions. In the case of Injury or a traumatic experience, this may leave them with a Battle Scar or a Trauma, but other situations may lead to a Contractor acquiring either Conditions or Circumstances.
Conditions are GM-assigned status effects, including supernatural curses and enchantments. Conditions will have a specific system associated with them, written by either the GMs or a World Leader. They are only guaranteed to function within the World where they were obtained; whether or not they function when a Contractor travels to a new World is entirely up to the new World's Leaders.
Circumstances describe the social status of a Contractor across the Worlds they have visited. Enemies, contacts, wealth, and legal issues are all examples of Circumstances. These are generally specific to the World where they were obtained, and do not follow Contractors when they travel, but GM's and World Leaders may choose to allow them at their discretion.
Conditions and Circumstances both have some overlap with Assets and Liabilities, however, unless the Asset or Liability was taken at Character Creation or purchased using Experience, it should be recorded as a Condition or a Circumstance rather than as an Asset or Liability.
A Contractor's Character Sheet has a space to detail their Equipment. Players manage the contents of this field and can bring anything their Contractor could reasonably gain access to.
Restricted objects such as drugs or military weapons require either the Stockpile or Arsenal Asset.
Some GMs may be charitable, but in general if your Contractor doesn't have it written in their Equipment list, they don't have it.
Carrying a small amount of gear won't typically cause any penalties, but if you bring too many things, you will become Encumbered, and your ability to move around will be restricted.
Some Contracts and circumstances may dramatically restrict a Contractor's access to their Equipment. They may be teleported to the site of a Contract in their pajamas, for example. This is entirely fair and acceptable. Powers that take the form of unique items may be stripped or stolen just as easily.
An Artifact is a supernatural item that is obtained during a Contract that was not a Gift, or was not created through the Powers system. These items are tracked separately on the Character Sheet, and are only guaranteed to function within the World in which they were obtained.
When a Contractor gets their first Power - generally after their first successful Contract - they receive a Source pool with a Capacity of 1. This Capacity can be increased by spending (current rating x 2) Experience Points. Spent Source regenerates at a rate of one point per day.
Each Contractor's Source pool may be renamed to match flavor of the source of their Powers (their paradigm). For example, a Pyromancer that fuels their Powers with their inner rage may have a Rage pool, a Vampire might have a Blood pool, etc.
Body represents a Contractor's physical fortitude and overall health. Body is depleted by being Injured, which can lead to an increased Penalty, or death in severe cases. Body is rolled when a Contractor's physical endurance is tested, such as when resisting poisons, diseases, or air deprivation.
A Contractor's rating in Body is equal to 5 + (Brawn / 2, rounded up). A moderately fit human will thus have a Body rating of 7, while hulking brutes will have 8 Body and weaklings will have 6 Body. The character sheet on The Contract website calculates this automatically.
When a Contractor's physical fortitude is tested, the GM may ask them to roll their rating in Body. The number of dice rolled in a Body roll is equal to the Character's permanent Body rating (5 + Brawn / 2, rounded up) but is reduced by their Penalty, as normal. Unless stated otherwise, the Difficulty is the standard 6.
The overall effect of a Contractor's current Injuries is summarized by depleting their Body. The amount of Body a Character has remaining is equal to the Severity of their worst Injury plus the number of other Injuries they have. A Contractor's Body will heal over time, depending on the Severity of their Injuries, but particularly brutal injuries will leave Battle Scars that do not heal.
If a Character's Body is fully depleted, they are Incapacitated - they cannot move on their own, automatically fail any Actions that requires a roll, cannot activate any Powers, and can only speak at a whisper. If they are Injured beyond Incapacitated, they die. Death should be avoided if at all possible, as there is not generally any support for resurrection in The Contract.
Injuries have Severity ratings that determine how deadly they are, how difficult they are to stabilize, and how long they take to heal. Injuries of Severity 4 or greater leave Battle Scars that linger after the Injury has healed.
Significant Injuries will degrade unless they are stabilized.
Degradation and Stabilization
Any Injury of Severity 3 (Threatening) or higher requires medical attention. Wounds that are Stabilized are treated, disinfected, and on the road to recovery. Any unstabilized Injury degrades, causing the character to accrue one Severity 1 (Minor) Injury a day until stabilized.
An Injury's Severity is equal to the amount of damage taken when it was received. For example, taking six damage grants a Severity six, Critical, Injury. Players should record each Injury their character suffers on their character sheet. The Website's Interactive Character Sheets make this easy.
The severity of an injury determines how long it takes to heal, how difficult it is to stabilize, and whether or not it will leave a Battle Scar.
Injuries heal in parallel. Each downtime, all of your Injuries are reduced in Severity by 2 levels. If you have three Severity three (Threatening) Injuries, they will have each reduced to Severity one (Minor) Injuries after a single Downtime.
|1 - Minor||A deep cut, a small fracture, a sprain, extreme exertion. These Injuries can't be ignored, but they don't demand immediate attention. Wounds at this level may leave aesthetic scarring, though they need not be tracked as Battle Scars. When acquired as a degenerative effect from an unstabilized Injury, this represents blood loss or an infection.||N/A|
|2 - Moderate||A deep gash, a small but severe burn, muscular blunt trauma. These Injuries are easily treated and don't require a roll to stabilize.||N/A|
|3 - Threatening||A puncture, a medium sized burn, a fracture. These Injuries do not require advanced medical skills to stabilize, but they do demand attention and first aid.||Wits + Medicine Difficulty 5|
|4 - Serious||Maimed hands, punctured lung, shattered ankle. Injuries of this Severity leave permanent Battle Scars that will never fully heal, though they may be more aesthetic than debilitating.||Wits + Medicine Difficulty 6, requires first aid kit|
|5 - Severe||Lost fingers, multiple stab wounds, a nasty gunshot. Injuries of this Severity leave permanent Battle Scars that often have a large impact on performing certain tasks.||Wits + Medicine Difficulty 7, requires well-equipped first aid kit|
|6 - Critical||Critical injuries include severed limbs, multiple or severe abdominal stab wounds, body-wide injuries etc. They require advanced medical care to stabilize but can be treated by a well-equipped and well-practiced medical professional. Battle Scars can include lost limbs, loss of athletic ability, chronic pain Trauma rolls and / or significant medication).||Wits + Medicine Difficulty 8, requires equipped facilities (vet clinic, doc office)|
|7+ - Deadly||If you survive an Injury like this, it’s a miracle. Examples: being shot in the head / neck, body-wide compound fractures, severed arteries, etc. Stabilization requires advanced medical facilities and recovery requires massive rehab. These Injuries leave significant Battle Scars such as para or quadriplegia, reduced intelligence, loss of speech, or blindness.||Wits + Medicine Difficulty 8, requires advanced facilities (hospital)|
Not all Injuries heal cleanly. Battle Scars represent permanent disabilities brought on by Injuries. Some examples are a severed hand, a lost eye, or a wheezing cough. Any Injury of Severity level 4 (Serious) or higher leaves a Battle Scar.
It is up to the GM to decide how the Battle Scar will manifest, either at the time of the Injury or during treatment. Extremely good medical treatment administered promptly might prevent some battle scars from certain serious Injuries. Likewise insufficient or shoddy medical care can cause less serious Injuries to produce more severe Battle Scars. Once manifested, Battle Scars may be cured only with Powers.
A Contractor’s rating in Body is reduced by 1 for each Battle Scar after their fourth.
Example Battle Scars
The impact of a Battle Scar should generally align with the Severity of the Injury that caused it, but when the chips are down, it is in the GM's hands how Battle Scars will manifest.
Injury Severity Four (Serious) Scars
- A severe facial scar. Causes a -1 dice penalty to any social roll where it would have an impact.
- Chronic pain. The Character's Body Penalty is always one level higher than it should be. OR The Character must make a Trauma roll at the start of every Game with failure resulting in a substance addiction.
- Minor limp. Free Movement in Combat is reduced by 5 feet.
- Stiff hand. -1 dice to Legerdemain rolls.
Injury Severity Five (Severe) Scars
- Severed finger. -1 dice to all rolls using that hand.
- Moderate limp. Combat Movement is reduced by 15 feet to a minimum of 5.
- Disfiguring scar. Causes a -3 dice penalty to any social roll where it would have an impact.
- Damaged lung. -2 dice to all rolls where lung capacity is a factor. Drowning time is substantially decreased.
- Lost eye. same as the One Eye Liability.
- Sense loss. Complete loss of a non-sight sense.
- Mental disorders from head trauma or PTSD. Select from Traumas
Injury Severity Six (Critical) Scars
- Lost hand, arm, foot, or leg.
- Loss of ability to speak.
- Severe disfigurement. Includes drooling, moaning, and other unpleasantness. -4 dice to any roll where it would matter.
- Minor lasting Injury. A Severity two Injury that never heals.
Injury Severity Seven (Deadly) Scars
GMs may allow "dead" characters to speak a few final parting words to their teammates before they pass on. There is no better send-off than cradling someone in your arms and listening to their dying wish, their largest regret, or offering support as they slip from this life to the next.
It can be tempting to meta-game or justify a Contractor death away, but Harbingers consider dead characters to be losers not worth the effort, regardless of what the players want. Resurrection Powers, when allowed at all, involve hefty penalties and terrible costs.
Coins of Charon
Death on the Website
You can declare the death of any Contractor you can edit via their Character sheet. They cannot be played in any Games while dead and will appear in the Graveyard. You can void a Contractor's death from the "Edit Obituary" page on the Character Sheet. Any Contractor who has had a death Voided will have a notice appear on their sheet informing prospective GMs of the Contractor's history, to help avoid shenanigans.
A Contractor's rating in Mind is equal to Intelligence + Charisma + 1, with a maximum of 9. An average human will thus have a Mind rating of 4-6, while the enlightened will have 8-9 Mind and the especially weak-willed will have 3 Mind. The character sheet on The Contract website calculates this automatically.
Mental Damage is caused by Exertion, failing a Trauma Roll, or certain supernatural attacks. A partially depleted Mind contributes to a Character's Penalty, and a fully-drained Mind is incapacitating. If you are incapacitated from Mind damage, you receive a new Trauma.
Mind recovers at the rate of one point per night of restful sleep.
When a Contractor's mental fortitude is tested, they must roll Mind. This is one of the only three rolls in The Contract that is not made by pairing an Attribute and an Ability (the others are Body rolls and Initiative rolls).
The number of dice rolled in a Mind roll is equal to the Character's permanent Mind rating (Intelligence + Charisma, minimum of 3, maximum of 9) but is affected by their Penalty as normal. Unless stated otherwise, the Difficulty is the standard 6.
A Trauma Roll is a special kind of Mind roll, which is made if a Contractor violates any of their Limits A Trauma Roll is made at Difficulty 8. Failing a Trauma Roll causes one point of mental damage and the development of a new Trauma. Botching a Trauma roll causes two points of mental damage and two Traumas.
Traumas manifest immediately and should be chosen at the time the roll is failed.
Traumas represent long-term mental health issues such as phobias, delusions, compulsions, and other instabilities. They are caused by failing a Trauma Roll or via supernatural attack. Think of them as Battle Scars for the mind.
A Trauma Roll is triggered when a Contractor crosses one of their Limits, as well as by certain Liabilities and Powers. They must make a Mind roll at Difficulty 8, standard Penalty applies. Failure results in a new Trauma that forms immediately.
GMs and Players often work together to come up with the new Trauma, but the GM has the final say.
Due to the imbued status of Contractors, Traumas can be cured by spending 3 Experience and engaging in therapy during a Downtime. They may also be removed without an Experience cost using certain Powers.
A Contractor's Mind rating is reduced by 1 for each Trauma after their fourth. A Character with 6 Mind and 7 Traumas would effectively have 3 Mind.
Good Traumas can be tricky to invent. Ideally, they are related to the situations that caused them and have a systemed gameplay impact. Usually a Trauma will specify a situation in which a Player must roll Mind to maintain control of their Contractor. Failing a Trauma's Mind roll can have extremely dangerous consequences.
Below are a few stock Trauma types that can easily be adapted.
A delusion is type of psychotic disorder, manifested as a belief that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument. A Contractor with a delusion must roll Mind in order to recognize a fact over their delusion or to make any decision based on facts rather than their delusion.
- Delusion that all politicians are lizard people and aren't actually human
- Delusion that guns are harmless
- Delusion that modern medicine is ineffective
- Delusion that you cannot be injured and/or are immortal
- Delusion that the people one kills are merely sleeping
- Delusion that you're being persecuted or treated in some other undesirable way by a person or group.
- Delusion that you're an extremely important, powerful, and/or competent person.
- Cotard's Delusion: The belief that you are already dead, do not exist, or are decaying and rotting away.
A Compulsion manifests as a specific activity or behavior which the Contractor feels compelled to do, and is frequently unable to stop themselves. When the Contractor has an opportunity to fulfill their compulsion, they must succeed a Mind roll to resist the urge.
- Compulsion to never leave equipment behind, even for a moment
- Compulsion to steal items of emotional value
- Compulsion to check rooms for listening devices before having private conversations
- Compulsion to mutilate corpses in a certain way
- Compulsion to attack people who make a joke at their expense
A type of anxiety disorder which manifests as an overwhelming fear. Phobias are always unreasonable or are a rational fear taken to an unreasonable level. When the Contractor encounters the subject of their phobia, they must succeed a Mind roll or enter a fight-or-flight response (determined by the GM).
- Phobia of swimming
- Phobia of shapeshifters
- Phobia of tight spaces (claustrophobia)
- Phobia of doctors
- Phobia of holding guns
- Phobia of heights
- Phobia of entering strange-smelling buildings
When the chips are down and the stakes have never been higher, a Contractor can Exert themselves, channeling their willpower into a single Action at the cost of their mental state.
Exertion comes at a cost. Exerting the Mind causes a single point of Mental Damage.
Uses of Exertion
- A Contractor may exert themselves to gain +1 to the Outcome of a roll AND to ignore their Penalty for the Round. Exertion cannot be used to gain +1 to the Outcome of Initiative or Trauma rolls.
- Activating most Powers requires Exertion. A point of Source may be spent in lieu of this cost, if available.
- Desperate Reaction: If you have already spent your Action for a given Round and have not Exerted yourself, you may Exert your Mind to Dodge or Defend against an incoming attack. Your next Action is performed at a -2 dice penalty.
Limits of Exertion
- A Contractor cannot Exert themselves more than once per Round in combat. That means that Exertion benefits cannot be stacked, and you cannot Exert yourself after activating a Power if you Exerted yourself to activate it.
- Whenever Exertion is used to gain +1 to an Outcome and to ignore penalties, the Player must declare that they are exerting themselves before they roll.
Penalty also affects movement in Combat. Free movement is decreased by 5 feet per point of Penalty to a minimum of 5 feet.
A Contractor's Penalty is automatically calculated by the Online Character Sheets and appears between their Mind and Body ratings. If you are using pen and paper, refer to the following tables and add the Contractor's Mind and Body penalty together to obtain their total Penalty.
The penalty from Injuries is as follows:
|Body Remaining||Physical Penalty|
|6+ - Bruised||None|
|5 - Hurt||-1 Dice|
|4 - Injured||-1 Dice|
|3 - Wounded||-2 Dice|
|2 - Mauled||-3 Dice|
|1 - Maimed||-4 Dice|
|0 - Incapacitated||Unconscious or unable to move|
|<0 - Dead||See you in the Graveyard|
|Mind Remaining||Mind Penalty|
|6+ - Distracted||None|
|5 - Rattled||-1 Dice|
|4 - Worried||-1 Dice|
|3 - Alarmed||-2 Dice|
|2 - Frantic||-3 Dice|
|1 - Delirious||-4 Dice|
|0 - Incapacitated||Reduced to a sniveling wreck, fainted, or otherwise unconscious. Can take no actions.|
Contracts almost always involve some amount of Combat, or characters committing acts of violence against other characters. The outcome of Combat is often determined less by the raw stats of those involved and more by the circumstances of the fight. Running headfirst into every encounter will result in serious Injury and Death. Contractors should strive to be creative and create other advantages such as an ambush, a numbers advantage, a setting advantage, etc. Combat has no direct reward (such as Exp), and so avoiding unnecessary combat is a wise and successful strategy.
Players do not need to fully understand these rules before playing, but GMs must know them before they GM a Game.
Some additional, optional Combat rules can be found in the Supplementary Combat Rules guide.
During combat, the real-time pace of gameplay is paused, and the action is split into Rounds, each of which is approximately three seconds long. During a given round, each character has a chance to act, taking turns in an order determined by Initiative. This turn-taking helps make sense of the chaos of Combat, but flavor-wise, these actions are all happening at roughly the same time.
Most combats resolve in two to four rounds. If your World's combats regularly last more than five rounds, GMs should re-evaluate how they are setting up encounters.
In Each Round
At the start of combat, each character rolls Initiative to determine their place in the turn order.
The result of the Initiative roll is used for the duration of Combat. Characters act in order of highest outcome to lowest outcome. Ties are broken by the characters' rating in Dexterity, then Wits, then by the GM's discretion. A negative outcome on an Initiative roll has no result other than a poor position in the turn order.
- Ambushes: A character who is ambushed or caught flat-footed automatically loses Initiative. This is usually dictated by the tactical situation rather than dice rolls. For example, if you round a corner to find guards waiting for you with rifles leveled, you've been ambushed.
- Sneak Attacks: If a character not in Combat makes an attack while undetected, it is considered a sneak attack. Generally, this requires succeeding on a contested roll of the attacker's Dexterity + Stealth versus the victim's Perception + Alertness. A successful surprise attack grants a free attack which takes place before Initiative is rolled. A surprised target cannot make a Reaction.
When it is your turn in a Combat, you may take an Action. This could be activating a Power, Attacking, dragging your unconscious friend to safety, or anything you'd like. Many Actions that do not normally require a roll will require one in Combat due to the time pressure and higher stakes. You may be able to climb a tree no-problem normally, but can you do it while the police are shooting at you?
While it is often true that the best defense is a good offense, be warned that committing to an attack can leave you vulnerable to other attackers.
Quick Actions and Multi-Tasking
Under some circumstances, a player may wish to do more than one thing during a single round of combat, and there are a couple different ways this can happen, the most common being Quick Actions.
Certain tasks that are unlikely to fail and don't warrant a full Action (such as drawing a holstered, accessible weapon) can be taken as Quick Actions. These actions do not need to be rolled and merely subtract 2 dice from the rest of that round's Action (to a minimum of 0).
Other tasks might need a definitive Outcome in order to make sense (such as shooting at more than one target) or might be more complex and involve multiple Abilities (such as sword-fighting while on horseback). In this case, the player will make a single roll (determined by the GM), and their Outcome will either be distributed between the different actions, or will account for the success or failure of both tasks equally.
If a player wants to multi-task, it is entirely up to the GM how the dice are handled, whether one thing can be done as Quick Action or not.
Some actions are demanding or require a high level of focus, and thus you cannot multi-task while doing them. This includes any Power which requires an Action as a part of it's activation, but also covers some heavy weaponry such as mortars, heavy machine guns, and sniper rifles. If an action is Committed, you cannot perform Quick Actions in the same round, and in some cases your Movement may be limited as well.
Can you think and act at the same time? Not really, it turns out. Whether or not Mental actions require a roll is largely up to GM's discretion, but generally any concerted thinking ("What do I know about this creature?", "How can I solve this door puzzle before the scarabs eat us?") is treated like a standard Action. Sometimes general awareness or "passive" mental actions (does the player notice the shark swimming up behind them?) can be rolled with their own pools without subtracting from the rest of the Action.
Characters may "hold" their Action by specifying an Action and a Condition under which the Action will occur. For example, they may say "I want to shoot the first person who turns this corner." or "I will slit the hostage's throat if they struggle." or "I will follow Jennifer and stab anyone who tries to attack us."
Characters may make a Reaction, even if they are currently holding an Action.
A held Action lasts until the Character's next Action, but actually following through on a held Action will use up the current round's Action, regardless of when the Action was originally held. For example, Jeff declares "I will pull the lever on the electric chair if the convict starts to turn into a werewolf." The current round ends and the next round begins. The convict (whose initiative puts their turn before Jeff's) then begins to sprout fur and fangs. Jeff can pull the lever, but doing so will forfeit the current round's Action.
Held Actions resolve before the Action that triggered them unless the triggering action is the firing of a firearm. Firearms cannot be reacted to without Powers.
Reactions allow a character to take their Action prior to their placement in the turn order, so long as it is in reaction to another event. Reactions are almost always defensive moves of some kind. The three main Reactions are Dodging, Defending, and Clashing.
Characters cannot React to Firearms attacks without a Power.
Doing a Reaction will "use-up" the round's Action, essentially putting one Character on the defensive. Similarly, using your Action for a given Round means it will no longer be available to use as a Reaction during that Round.
If you have already spent your Action for a given Round and have not yet Exerted yourself that Round, you may Exert your Mind to make a Desperate Reaction. You may then make a Reaction as normal, but your next Action afterwards is performed at a -2 Penalty.
To dodge an attack, roll Dexterity + Athletics. The Outcome of the dodge roll is subtracted from the Outcome of the attack roll, and the new Outcome determines whether or not the attack is successful. This means that ties go to the defender (as the Attacker's Outcome has been reduced to 0 in that case).
As always, the standard Difficulty is 6, but GMs may increase or decrease it depending on the situation. If you are laying on your back, it may be more difficult. If the attack is slow and ponderous, it may be easier.
Characters may also "Evade" with their primary Action on their Initiative. Make a Dexterity + Athletics roll, difficulty 7. The Outcome of this evasion roll can be divided up and spread around to any income attacks, subtracting from their Outcomes. For example, if you get an Outcome of 3 on your Evade roll, and two attackers each have Outcomes of 2 on attacks against you, you can subtract 2 from the first attacker, bringing their Outcome to 0, but do not have enough left over to reduce the second attacker's Outcome down to 0. You will evade the first attack but be hit by the second.
Characters may Defend against an incoming melee attack with their own melee weapon. Defending in this way uses their weapon's standard attack roll and difficulty. The Outcome from the Defense roll subtracts from the Outcome on the attack roll, and the new Outcome determines whether or not the attack is successful. This means that ties go to the defender (as the Attacker's Outcome has been reduced to 0 in that case).
Characters may also Defend against hand-to-hand (Brawl) attacks with a melee weapon or with their own Brawl roll. Defending against Brawl attacks with a melee weapon is usually done at -1 Difficulty. A defender wielding a melee weapon may choose whether they want to Defend with their weapon or with their own Brawl roll.
Characters may Defend against attacks made on other Characters if they are within range.
Clashing is type of a high-stakes Reaction that gives the defender a chance to deal damage back to their attacker. The rolls and matchups are all the same as Defending, but instead of subtracting Outcomes from one another, both Outcomes are compared, and the Character with the higher Outcome deals full damage to their opponent. In the event of a tie, both characters successfully deal full damage.
Characters may take their Movement either before or after their Action, but never before and after. This means you cannot run out of cover, attack someone, and run back behind cover. Characters that have already spent their Action (usually as a Reaction) may still move on their turn.
During their Movement, each character may move 5 + (5 x Dexterity - Penalty) feet without incurring a dice penalty. Minimum 5 feet.
A character may extend their Combat Movement by up to 5 feet per point of Brawn they possess. Doing so incurs a -1 dice penalty for their Action that round. If they have already taken their Action and did not save dice to sprint, they can only use their Free Movement.
If a character commits their entire Action to sprinting, roll Brawn + Athletics. They travel 5 x (Outcome + Dexterity rating + Brawn rating) feet.
Movement over difficult terrain is rarely free and may often require a roll. GMs may levy penalties to Movement based on the terrain at their discretion.
Jenny the Blade, a knife-fighter from the rough streets of Belfast, wants to charge the armed guards surrounding the vehicle she's trying to rob and slash at their throats. She is 35 feet away, and has 4 Dexterity and 3 Brawn. She is able to move 25 feet for free thanks to her 4 points in Dexterity, and can move up to 15 more feet due to her 3 points in Brawn, so she can cover the full distance, but because she went 10 feet over her base movement speed, she loses 2 dice on her attack roll.
All standard movement, Combat Actions, and rolls assume that a Contractor is carrying some amount of weight, such as a backpack or satchel. If a Contractor is totally unencumbered (i.e. carrying nothing but maybe a small object in their hand, plus their clothes), they receive a +1 dice bonus to all physical Actions.
A Contractor can carry 15 pounds per point of Brawn with no penalty. Once they hit that limit, they are considered Over-Encumbered, and take a -1 dice penalty per 25 pounds over their limit.
Other Kinds of Movement
A character can jump 1 vertical foot or 4 horizontal feet per point of Brawn without needing to make a roll. These numbers are assuming a running jump; for jumping from a standstill, they are cut in half.
In Combat or when the stakes are high, jumping requires a Brawn or Dexterity + Athletics roll in order to successfully make the full distance.
If a Character attempts a jump which is longer than they could ordinarily make, the Difficulty of the roll is increased by 1 for every extra foot they need to clear.
Climbing always requires a Dexterity + Athletics roll. Characters may move 5 + (2 x Outcome) feet. The Difficulty is set by the GM, based on the surface they are scaling, with a ladder being difficulty 5, and a challenging cliff face at difficulty 9.
Characters must roll Dexterity + Athletics to swim during Combat. They move (Outcome x 5) feet. Any amount of encumbrance at all - for example, if you are wearing a backpack - cuts this speed in half. A character at full encumbrance who finds themselves stuck in the water is unable to swim, begins to sink down, and will eventually Drown.
If a character is hit by a successful Attack, they will take Damage.
Damage dealt = Outcome on attack roll - Outcome on defense roll (if applicable) + Weapon Damage - Armor. If the attack Outcome minus the defensive Outcome is less than or equal to 0, that means the attack failed, and thus no damage is dealt (calculate this before Weapon Damage and Armor are taken into account).
When a character takes damage, they receive a new Injury with Severity equal to the total Damage dealt from that Attack. Minor injuries, while still serious, heal relatively quickly and do not impair the target much. Severe injuries leave Battle Scars, disable the bearer, and are much more difficult to treat.
When attacking, the relevant Attribute, Ability, and Difficulty for the attack roll, as well as the Damage modifier, all depend on the type of weapon. Described below are the most common classes of weaponry. The Difficulty of these rolls may be decreased or increased based on situational factors at the GM's discretion. The specified rolls are for all-out attacks made with the relevant weapon. Weapons can be used in other ways with varying difficulties. For example, while the roll to actually Injure someone with a slingshot is Difficulty 8, merely hitting a person's body would be Difficulty 6 and wouldn't do any damage. Note that while Guns are quite powerful, they can be difficult to transport and obtain. With a couple of Gifts, Contractors can make effective use of any type of weapon. Using Secondary Abilities can also be very helpful in making the most out of your weapon of choice. Note: Tracking reloads / ammo is an optional rule at the GM's discretion.
Additional Weapon Damage
Hand-to-hand, biting, choking
Brawn + Brawl Difficulty 6
1/2 of the target's Brawn (rounded up) acts as Armor against hand-to-hand attacks
Knife or Dagger
(Brawn or Dexterity) + (Melee or Brawl) Difficulty 6
Edgeless thrusting sword (Rapier)
Dexterity + Melee Difficulty 6
Sword or Axe
Brawn + Melee Difficulty 6
Greatsword, Giant Axes
Brawn + Melee Difficulty 6
Brawn + Melee Difficulty 6
Most improvised weapons fall into this category
Additional Weapon Damage
Reload After X Combat Turns
Dexterity + Firearms difficulty 7
Dexterity + Firearms difficulty 7
Dexterity + Firearms difficulty 7
Dexterity + Firearms difficulty 6
Dexterity + Firearms difficulty 8
1200 feet (2100 with trained spotter
Additional Weapon Damage
Throwing knife / shuriken
Brawn + Athletics Difficulty 7
0 (maximum of 4 Damage total)
Throwing axe / javelin
Brawn + Athletics Difficulty 7
Dexterity + Athletics Difficulty 8, requires Brawn 3 to use
Dexterity + Firearms Difficulty 8
Dexterity + Athletics Difficulty 8
Dexterity + Athletics Difficulty 8
Handheld Stun Gun
Roll Dexterity + Brawl, Difficulty 7. If you are successful, the target must roll Body, Difficulty 9, adding their Armor rating to the Outcome. If they fail, they are stunned and lose their next Action. Otherwise, they suffer a Penalty of 4 - Outcome to their next Action. If they botch, they are stunned and take a Severity-1 Injury.
Ranged Stun Gun
Roll Dexterity + Firearms, Difficulty 8. Maximum range is 35 feet. Resistance and effect as per a Handheld Stun Gun (listed above).Target must re-roll every round until the darts are removed or they gain an Outcome of at least 4.
When attacking, the relevant Attribute, Ability, and Difficulty for the attack roll, as well as the Damage modifier, all depend on the type of weapon. Described below are the most common classes of weaponry. The Difficulty of these rolls may be decreased or increased based on situational factors at the GM's discretion.
The specified rolls are for all-out attacks made with the relevant weapon. Weapons can be used in other ways with varying difficulties. For example, while the roll to actually Injure someone with a slingshot is Difficulty 8, merely hitting a person's body would be Difficulty 6 and wouldn't do any damage.
Note that while Guns are quite powerful, they can be difficult to transport and obtain. With a couple of Gifts, Contractors can make effective use of any type of weapon. Using Secondary Abilities can also be very helpful in making the most out of your weapon of choice.
Note: Tracking reloads / ammo is an optional rule at the GM's discretion.
Armor from multiple sources cannot stack. Instead, the highest armor amount is used.
Bulkier Armors levy a penalty on any physical actions taken by their wearer. Penalties from all sources stack.
|Layered/rugged Clothing||1||0||Examples include tough leather jackets, layered denim, etc.|
|Reinforced Clothing||2||0||Technologically crafted clothing, designed as armor|
|Bomb Suit||6||5||Movement is severely limited|
|Full Plate||4||3||Full Plate weighs 45 lbs.|
|Frag Grenade||2 lbs||2 rounds||Targets within 5 feet take 15 dice of damage, decays by 1 die per 5 feet out, stopping entirely at 50 feet||Effective throwing range of 100 feet|
|Stick of Dynamite||0.5 lbs||Fuse (variable)||Targets within 5 feet take 10 damage, outside radius take 10 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 5 feet out||Effective throwing range of 50 feet. Semi-volatile, risk if stored improperly|
|Brick of C-4||1.25 lbs||Detonator (variable)||Targets within 5 feet take 15 damage, outside radius take 15 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 5 feet out||M112 demolition block, US military|
|Satchel Charge, WWII||10 lbs||Detonator (variable)||Targets within 15 feet take 15 damage, outside radius take 15 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 15 feet out||WWII era, US Army M37 Demolition Kit|
|Satchel Charge, modern||20 lbs||Detonator (variable)||Targets within 20 feet take 15 damage, outside radius take 15 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 20 feet out||US Army M183 Demolition Charge Assembly|
|Small IED (letter bomb)||10 lbs||Fuse / Detonator||Targets within 5 feet take 15 damage, outside radius take 15 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 5 feet out||Volatile, high risk of accident|
|Medium IED (package / container)||100 lbs||Fuse / Detonator||Targets within 20 feet take 15 damage, outside radius take 15 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 20 feet out||Volatile, high risk of accident|
|Large IED (car bomb)||1000 lbs||Fuse / Detonator||Targets within 65 feet take 15 damage, outside radius take 15 dice of damage, decays by 5 dice per 65 feet out||Volatile, high risk of accident|
High Explosives deal 15 flat damage within their Lethal Radius (covers a circle up to R feet from the center of the blast). Outside the Lethal Radius, they instead do 15 dice of damage, and for every additional R feet outside the Lethal radius, the dice pool decreases by 5.
The radius R is calculated based on the weight in pounds of the explosive material, using one of the following formulas:
- R = 4 x SQRT(W/2) for Secondary Explosives, which includes things like TNT and C-4.
- R = 2 x SQRT(W) for Primary Explosives, which includes most homemade bombs
A High Explosive bomb can be detonated manually through a remote control, through a timer, or through a triggering mechanism such as a tripwire or a pressure plate. The stats for damage are the same regardless of detonation method, and depend only on the weight of the explosive material.
Cooking off Grenades
You may "cook off" a frag grenade by holding it for a round and then throwing with a Wits + Athletics roll, Difficulty 7. Failure or partial success indicates a dangerous throw. A 2-round cookoff (explodes immediately, but may be reacted to) is rolled at Difficulty 9.
Other Sources of Damage
Falling - and subsequently landing - deals 1 Damage per 10 feet fallen, up to a maximum of 20 Damage at 200 feet. Armor does not apply.
GMs may allow Athletics rolls, Powers, or less-splatty surfaces to mitigate the severity of the damage somewhat.
Fire and Electricity
Electricity and Fire Damage give an Injury that increases in Severity the longer exposure is maintained.
The following table gives Damage per turn from electricity. No attack roll is made; damage is automatic. Ordinary Armor will not apply to electricity damage, but specialized grounding Armor, can stop it entirely.
- Minor: wall socket - One level per turn
- Dangerous: electric prison fence - Two levels per turn
- Deadly: junction box - Three levels per turn
- Fatal; main feed line, subway rail - Four levels per turn
The following table gives damage per turn from fire. No attack roll is made; damage is automatic. A character's Armor rating is "spent" as it reduces the damage from fire, meaning that if a Character as 2 armor, it will prevent the first 2 Damage from fire, but not subsequent damage on future rounds.
- Torch; a part of the body is exposed to flame: One Damage per round
- Bonfire; half of the body is exposed to flame: Two Damage per round
- Raging inferno; entire body is engulfed in flame: Three Damage per round
Normal blood loss is accounted for by the standard Injury system, but for cases where blood is specifically drawn (e.g. by a medical professional or a vampire), this system may be more suitable.
A character who has lost blood without taking Damage is given an Injury representing blood loss. This Injury’s Severity = twice the number of pints of blood lost. If a character loses blood once and then gives blood later, the existing Injury’s severity is increased.
Unlike other Injuries, the recovery time for blood loss may be greatly reduced via a blood infusion. Each day a character receives blood, their blood loss Injury is reduced in severity by one level.
Toxins: Poison, Disease, and Climactic Conditions
Mundane poisons, diseases, radiation, and the like are modeled as Toxins.
Toxins have a Lethality rating, an Onset Time, and a Toxicity rating. Upon being inflicted with a Toxin, a Character rolls Body, Difficulty 7. The Onset time is multiplied by this result. The Character in question then receives Damage equal to the toxin's Lethality rating every Onset Time. This Damage can be soaked with Brawn (reduced to a minimum of 1) and worsens the severity of the Injury it causes instead of applying a new Injury each time. The damage continues until a Toxin's Toxicity rating is reached.
Curare: Lethality: 5, Onset: Immediate, Toxicity: Terminal
You are hit with a curare dart. You roll Body, Difficulty 7 and gain two successes. Starting in two rounds, you suffer 5 Damage (minus your rating in Brawn, to a minimum of 1) every two rounds until you die or are cured.
Nonlethal poisons and diseases use the Toxicity to "cap" how much damage may be applied. The common cold would have a Toxicity rating of 1 or 2, meaning its Injury can only reach Severity 1 or 2. Similarly, Tranquilizers would have an upper limit on how much effect they can have within the specified time frame unless they have a significant lethal factor.
Extreme temperatures and adverse climactic conditions use the Toxicity mechanic. Climactic conditions should be rated in Severity from 1 to 5 (adjusted for protective gear), or higher for supernatural or extraterrestrial conditions.
Alcohol reduces Dexterity and Intelligence by 1 for every 2 drinks. One point is recovered per hour.
Knockout gas such as BZ and Kolokol-1 require a Body roll at Difficulty 9 each turn spent in the area of effect, plus the turn after leaving it. An Outcome of 3 or higher allows full action. An outcome of 1 or 2 allows the character to crawl out of the gas, with no other action possible. An Outcome of 0 indicates the character is overcome by spasms that turn, and a botch indicates the character is Incapacitated.
Characters can hold their breath for 35 seconds x Body rating. They may Exert their Mind for an additional 10 seconds. This assumes no strenuous activity. Characters then suffer a Severity 1 Injury every round until they die.
Powers are the supernatural abilities and equipment that Contractors will accumulate over time as they complete Contracts. They are the reason Contractors risk their lives on the Harbingers' missions and the primary means of Advancement in The Contract.
A Contractor’s Powers are an awakening of their personal potential, and are therefore almost always unique to each individual. Each Power has a specific, predetermined behavior, but their effects are drawn from a mind-boggling array of possibilities. This means that any Contractor can gain access to the sorts of Powers you’d hope a Character with their concept would have. This is as true for generic archetypes (sorcerers, ninjas, super-soldiers, werewolves, etc) as it is for more unique concepts (stage magician, graffiti artist, plumber, basket-weaver, or really anything you feel inspired to create).
The primary way of obtaining Powers is through Gifts. Any time a Contractor successfully completes a Contract, they are given a Gift, which can be used to either purchase a new Power or improve an existing one. There are some additional methods of gaining Powers:
- Coins of Charon - If a Contractor dies, that player will receive a Coin of Charon, which can be used to allow a new Contractor to begin play with a single Gift.
- Gifted - The Gifted Asset also allows a new Contractor to begin with a Gift, although it is restricted and requires World Leader approval.
- The Golden Ratio - As a GM, if you run a Contract in which at least one Contractor dies and at least one other Contractor wins, you have achieved the Golden Ratio and will gain a single Improvement that can be used to enhance one of your Powers (but not to buy a new Power).
- Into The Fold - You will also gain an Improvement for running a Contract that includes at least one brand new player.
- Journals - Finally, if you write in-character Journals detailing your Contractor's experiences during various Contracts, you will not only gain Experience but also gain an Improvement for every 4 game journals written.
The overall procedure for creating Powers is as follows
- Come up with an idea for a Power that fits your Character Concept.
- Visit the Create Power page and select an Effect that matches the effect of your conceptualized Power.
- Select Enhancements and Drawbacks and adjust Parameters to achieve the mechanical effect you'd like.
- If the Power costs more than one Gift, add Drawbacks and adjust Parameters until the Power costs a single Gift (it can be improved in the future).
- Fill out the Power's Description to establish its flavor and any mechanics that are not significant enough to warrant taking an Enhancement or Drawback.
- Update the System text, add some Flavor text, and name the Power.
Congratulations, you just made a Power!
Effects are the mechanical starting point for all Powers, and each completed Power is built from a single Effect. Each overall functionality a Power might have (e.g. injure, memory manipulation, investigate individual) has a representative Effect.
Any given Effect can be used to create a vast number of mechanically and flavorfully distinct Powers. There are currently over 90 unique Effects available in The Contract.
Effects have a generic "starting point" Power that Players customize using that Effect's Enhancements and Drawbacks. The Effect is further customized by filling out a Description that establishes all visual, flavorful, and mechanical elements that do not affect balance enough to warrant a Gift cost or credit.
Effects are grouped into 10 categories based on their function.
Many Effects have Parameters. These represent a linear progression of balance-relevant values that are relevant to all Powers created from a Effect. Examples include the Power's range, or the time it takes to activate. Increasing a Parameter by a level costs one Gift, and decreasing it credits one.
Parameter values are generally restricted based on Contractor Status, to keep Powers balanced at all levels, and to allow certain Effects which would otherwise be too powerful to be available to Novices.
Enhancements and Drawbacks
Enhancements and Drawbacks are the primary means of customizing the mechanics of your Power.
Enhancements and Drawbacks can fundamentally alter the behavior of the Power. Each Enhancement you take increases the cost of the Power by one Gift, and each Drawback decreases it by a Gift. As such, their effects are significant.
The generic effect that comes with each Effect can be underwhelming, but you can quickly increase the potency of the Power by taking Drawbacks. Be careful about taking too many Drawbacks; an unusable Power is not fun. We recommend taking no more than three on any given Power.
Simple dice bonuses and roll modifiers are not common. We make an effort to supply Enhancements and Drawbacks that enable a variety of Power concepts and cause interesting gameplay and story situations.
Some Enhancements and Drawbacks are available on several Effects, but many are unique to a given Effect.
A Power's Description is extremely important. Here you must describe, in non-mechanical terms, what the Power is, what it looks like when used, and any other details you wish to establish.
The text you enter here can have real, significant, in-game impacts. For example, when you can create an Injure Power you may choose to flavor it in many ways. If you put "hurls a ball of white-hot fire" in the Description, your Power may behave very differently in-game than if you put "causes the target's internal organs to fail." The mechanics (dice, damage, etc) will be the same, but there may be significant secondary effects to using a fireball at, say, a gas station.
Likewise you may establish additional limitations on your Power, if desired. For example, if you specify "Preston must flourish his hands and shout 'Magic Missile!'", then a hand flourish and a shout are now officially required to activate the Power.
The amount of freedom provided by the Description field is limited balance-wise to what could intuitively be called less than a "Gift's worth" of impact. Refer to the Effect's Enhancements and Drawbacks for reference. You can never specify mechanical modifiers in the Power's Description. World Leaders have the final say as to whether or not a given Power's Description goes too far. Players should act in good faith and not abuse the freedom afforded by the Description field.
GMs must respect the Description text of a Power, but they are free to use their discretion in the extent of its effect. A fireball-flavored Injure Power can reasonably be expected to detonate an open can of gasoline, but the GM is well within their rights to say that it cannot light a building on fire. The only parts of a Power that are truly sacred and not subject to GM discretion is the System derived from the Power's Base, Enhancements, Drawbacks, and Parameters.
Treat the Description field as you would your equipment list. If you want to establish something, do it up-front. GMs can fill in the blanks you leave at their discretion (though it is bad form to be malicious or go against the intent of the Power). Providing more detail will always result in a more consistent, well-defined Power.
System, Flavor Text, and Power Name
The final three elements of the Power system are the easiest to fill out when creating a Power.
The System text describes the mechanical rules of a Power. The power creation form will automatically populate the default system text for you. The System is wholly derived from the Effect's starting System and any Enhancements and Drawbacks that are taken. There may be other elements in the System box that must be decided at the time the Power is created, such as any associated rolls. Values of Parameters may be referenced by entering the name of the parameter, lowercase, with spaces replaced with hyphens, surrounded in [[two-pairs-of-brackets]].
The Flavor Text can be anything you'd like. It has no in-game effect and only serves to introduce the Power in a fun way. The Name field is self-explanatory.
The Contract offers a selection of premade Stock Powers that are designed around a variety of different concepts, and can be given to a Contractor as-is or can be easily modified into a new version. They are available here.
Restrictions on Powers
1. They must be created using The Contract’s Power system
In general, a Gift allows you to make a single Power using the Power system featured on The Contract website. World Leaders can, if they wish, create House Rules which allow for alternate systems for making Powers or can give Gifts that aren't Powers at all, but a Contractor who has Powers that are not created through this Powers system will be locked to their own World. This rule is very important for ensuring a balanced game and for allowing Contractors to be portable.
2. Your Character must be eligible to take the Power
A Contractor can only receive a Power with a Gift cost equal to the number of Gifts and Improvements they have available. The online Character Sheet keeps track of total Gifts earned and total cost of all Gifts on a given Contractor, and an alert will pop up on any Character Sheets which are out of balance.
Some Effects, as well as some Enhancements, are restricted to only Contractors who have achieved a certain Status. This prevents Newbie and Novice Contractors from having access to some exceptionally strong Powers, and also restricts access to Effects and Enhancements which would significantly impact game design - for example, the Intangibility Effect is restricted to only Veteran Contractors (25+ wins), because the ability to walk through walls would make a large number of potential Scenarios much more dificult to design.
3. They must fit the Character's concept
Contractors should strive to take Powers which fit within their Character Concept. The Contract does not have a "class" system to restrict what Powers a character has access to; instead, players are free to match any Effect with any Character, as long as it can be justified in some way. This rule is subjective and flexible, and exists primarily to encourage well thought-out, cohesive Contractors rather than prohibit experimentation and fun.
4. World Leaders can veto Powers
World Leaders are responsible for checking on Powers within their World to make sure players are following these guidelines. Additionally, World Leaders can veto a Power for any number of other reasons - or if your character is from a different World, you may not be able to go on Contracts in their World. Some examples of this include:
- The Power violates a house rule
- The Power's Description has too many balance implications or was not created in good faith
- The Power abuses the freedoms afforded by the Power system to nullify Drawbacks, create an infinite combo, or is otherwise unbalanced due to shenanigans
- The Power is restricted due to the World's chosen Setting (e.g. Hack may be restricted in a cyberpunk Setting)
These rules cover additional edge cases and situations that may arise during a Contract. Everything in this section is optional reference material. GMs and Players are not expected to be familiar with these rules, and any of the situations they describe can be resolved through standard GM Discretion.
They are provided here for Players who like extended, structured rules and as an example of what The Contract's developers would rule in these situations.
Supplementary Combat Rules
Attack Difficulty Modifiers
GM's may use their discretion to adjust the difficulty on any roll based on situational factors, but here are some useful examples of potential difficulty modifiers during Combat.
If your target is...
- Behind cover: +2 difficulty
- Immobilized: -3 difficulty
- Running: +1 difficulty
- At point-blank range (within two meters): -2 difficulty (doesn't apply to melee weapons or sniper rifles)
- At long range (beyond listed range for weapon): +1 difficulty, up to +2 at max range (which is weapon range x2)
- Roughly the size of
- A normal adult human: base difficulty
- A child: +1 difficulty
- A house cat: +2 difficulty
- A small mouse: +3 difficulty
- A horse: -1 difficulty
- A truck: -2 difficulty
- A house: -3 difficulty
If you are...
- Behind cover: +1 difficulty, can't use turns to Aim but can dodge as a free action
- Using your off hand: +1 difficulty
- Lining up a shot: -1 difficulty per round spent aiming, capped at -3 in general and -2 for moving targets. Shooter must be standing still.
- Using a Secondary Ability: -1 difficulty
- Firing blind: +4 difficulty
If your surroundings are...
- Dark: +2 difficulty, down to +1 with Perception at 5
- Foggy: +3 difficulty, down to +1 within point blank range
- Stormy (torrential rain, heavy snow, hail): +1 difficulty
- Underwater, and you are using a...
- Knife/your bare hands:+1 difficulty
- Small melee weapon (short swords, hand axes, clubs): +2 difficulty
- Large melee weapon (long swords, polearms, flails): +3 difficulty
- Throwing weapon: doesn't work
- Firearm: doesn't work, with the exception of harpoons and some specially designed pistols
Rate of Fire
A standard Offensive Action represents an all-out attack. This means that, for Firearms, you shoot a number of bullets equal to your Rate of Fire. Some single-action revolvers and rifles have a rate of 1 bullet per 3-second round, but the vast majority of modern guns are semi-automatic, meaning they can fire 2 or 3 bullets in a span of 3 seconds without losing too much effectiveness. The Difficulty and Base Damage for guns is based on using a semi-automatic rate of fire (when applicable).
Fully Automatic Weapons
Fully automatic weapons, such as machine guns and some rifles, are able to make a special type of attack. They may "sweep" an area with the weapon, covering 5 feet per 10 rounds expended, or a 10 feet area for an average assault rifle. This attack will damage anyone within its area of effect; however, characters in that zone are given the ability to Dodge, which ordinarily cannot be used to avoid a Firearms attack roll. Damage is calculated normally but is done separately for each person within the area of effect.
The combat system as-is simplifies the stats of firearms significantly, treating all guns of a particular type (sniper rifle, handgun, shotgun, etc) as essentially the same. This is largely done because we don't want to make copious record-keeping the default for the system. Simplicity lets the focus remain on telling a good story, rather than min-maxing your gear.
However, Cells can feel free to develop more realistic (but more complicated) methods of handling this. If players are interested in being meticulous about specific weaponry they can keep precise track of their magazine capacity and ammo usage per round, and GMs can establish their own values for gun damage, range, rate of fire, etc, which takes into account differences between various weapons within the same class.
For the sake of balance, we recommend at least starting with the default values as a base and then adjusting from there based on specific knowledge about a particular gun.
If a character is being held hostage (say someone is holding a gun to their head). If they attempt to break out, roll Initiative. If they lose initiative, an attack may be made against them at a massive advantage. IF, on the other hand, the hostage taker decides to attack, they get one free attack before initiative is rolled.
The first attack is free. Then Initiative is rolled. If you attack the target you were already aiming at, you get a big bonus.