Introductions are the phase of the game where the Harbinger approaches the Contractors and offers them the titular Contract: Would you risk your life for a chance to become something more? Briefing the Contractors and transporting them to the mission location is also considered part of the introductions.
Once the Contractor agrees to go on a Contract, they may or may not be briefed on their objective. Sometimes Contractors are briefed as a group, other times they are briefed separately or even given different objectives. They may be transported by the Harbinger or simply told a time and place and left to find their way themselves.
In general, GMs should strive to make introductions as quick as possible. They are usually done one-on-one and can leave the other Players waiting. To combat this, introductions can be done ahead of game time and/or started as the Players arrive.
Rules of Engagement
- A Harbinger cannot attack a Contractor unless attacked first.
- A Harbinger cannot force any Novice Contractor to go on a Game, 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 create 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 Game for 0-5 Victory Novice Contractors that are unable to transport themselves (outsiders, anachronisms, etc).
Introductions for new Contractors
The first introduction for each Contractor is different from all the others. Their encounter with the Harbinger is a formative moment, their big chance to take their lives to the next level. Picture the first few conversations between Morpheus and Neo, Frodo and Gandalf, Mr. Wednesday and Shadow, Harry Potter and Hagrid, etc.
Although Harbingers are not mentors and they are not introducing the character to the supernatural for the first time, they are a creature that is clearly something very special. It’s rarer than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet such a being. And they are extending a hand. Come, you may join our ranks, if you are willing to risk your life.
And indeed, a great many Contractors end up losing more than that.
But they will accept because their characters were literally designed to accept that deal-- and I mean, it is kinda tempting, right?
Although agreeing is signing the titular “Contract,” it is often more of a verbal contract than anything formal.
Initial introductions are longer than normal and can eat into a session, especially if there are multiple. We highly recommend doing as many as you can before all the Players are assembled.
Using your own Harbinger
For many Scenarios, you can use your own Harbinger. Your Harbinger may have their own set of goals, backstory, and powers. You do not need to conform to any Character creation or Powers System rules when creating a Harbinger, and they do not need to be formally statted out.
It's a good idea to let the nature of the Game influence your choice of Harbinger. If your Game has a very direct impact on the world (go get this object, destroy this monster), then a Harbinger that has a stake in the completion of that task is best. If the situation is very contrived (navigate this obstacle course in my pocket realm!) then a Harbinger motivated by entertainment is more appropriate.
Be aware of whether or not the Scenario you're running is telling a piece of the default Harbinger's story. It's fine to repurpose Scenarios, but you should know when you're changing them.
Keep conversations with your custom Harbinger short, and don't wax poetic. You're here for the Players, not to showcase a power fantasy. Besides, keeping things mysterious creates intrigue. It's just better storytelling.
Tips n Tricks
These are not hard and fast rules. They may not be appropriate for every Game, Harbinger, or Contractor.
Simply teleporting four Characters to a location leads to a very awkward start to the roleplaying. It helps to have a "waiting room" of sorts for the Contractors who have already had their introductions. Contractors appear one at a time and have a chance to introduce themselves, have a bit of a conversation, and speculate about the mission. Give them a minute or two before moving on to the next introduction.
In the interest of saving time, it is often preferable to separate the invitation itself from the mission brief. This means the Contractors agree to the mission, are transported together, and then briefed as a group.
Letters (as opposed to in-person explanations) serve to keep mission briefings short, as they do not provide any opportunities for followup questions.
Encourage your Players to consider what their Characters might be doing when they will be approached by the Harbinger and invited on their first Game. Ideally, this is a short vignette that shows us something interesting about the Character. Perhaps they're defending their dissertation on alternative metaphysics, counting the cash from their latest heist, or tossing a Molotov cocktail through the window of their dad's office building.
Most GMs make up their own Harbingers, but you can use one of our Premade Stock Harbingers if you'd like.