Writing Scenarios

The Contract burns through Scenarios at an incredible rate (one every session or two), so learning how to write your own is an important skill.

At the same time, The Contract's design philosophy makes designing great scenarios a little tricky. A dungeon with monsters works every once in a while but gets boring quickly if that's all you're doing.

Who Should Write Scenarios?

All players can and should create Scenarios and run Games from time to time. Writing Scenarios is a skill, so the sooner you start at it, the longer you'll have to get better. Even brand new new Players should be ready to write their own Scenarios after playing in five to ten Games.

A little "throw them into the deep end" mentality is warranted and healthy. This isn't about being perfect, it's about practice.

Scenario Structure

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.

Introductions

This is the part of the Scenario where the Harbinger or their agent approaches the Contractors, offers them a job, and gives them an objective.

See the GM Guide's Article on Contractor Introductions for details on how to run introductions.

When writing a Scenario, the key elements of the introduction are the mission objective and Contractor transportation. GMs often use their own Harbingers to invite Contractors on Games, so Scenarios are often written in a way where Harbingers can be hot-swapped as desired. If your Scenario is intrinsically linked to a specific Harbinger, be sure to mention that in the Scenario writeup.

Contractors may be given no background information with the offer of a contract, or they may be given dossiers with detailed objectives. Occasionally they are pointed towards a situation and left to resolve it as they see fit. They may be transported to the site of the Game with a snap of the Harbinger's fingers, or they may be left to buy a bus ticket. Newbie and Novice Contractors are always delivered to their Games if needed (e.g. they are anachronistic), but Seasoned Contractors rarely receive such accommodations.

The Mission

The core content of a Scenario. Ideally, this is 90% of the Game is spent. Other than the rules below, there are no strict restrictions on the content of the mission.

Outcome

At the end of the Game, the GM announces the outcome for each surviving Contractor, and they are left to deal with the consequences of their actions.

When writing your Scenarios, you should establish clear guidelines for what is considered success and failure even if you don't share them with the Contractors.

Scenarios may indicate follow-up events or Side Games that might be appropriate for GMs to run, depending on the events of the Game. An example is a supernatural disease that the Contractors might contract and have to go on a Side-Game to cure.

Hard and Fast Rules

These are the core restrictions of The Contract that define the format.

  • There must be a minimum of two Players and one GM. Veteran Contractors can attempt Solo Games.
  • Contractors are always given a choice whether or not they want to participate in a Game (although they need not be presented with any information about the Scenario prior to being offered that choice).
  • After the Game, each surviving Contractor is determined a winner or a loser.
  • Scenarios must be deadly, and there must be a real possibility of Contractor death in every Game.
  • No Scenarios can REQUIRE a Contractor death as a prerequisite victory.
  • No two Contractors owned by the same Player can ever meet each other or interact.

Soft and Slow Rules

These Rules are more like guidelines, really.

  • Scenarios should be designed to conclude within four hours.
  • Other than Status Constraints, Scenarios are written completely agnostic of the Contractors that may attend them. Specific Contractors cannot be required to attend.
  • Novice Scenarios should be subtle. You should not find yourself facing Stormtroopers or transformed into a toon on your first Game. Think X-Files or Fringe. Early Games should gradually become supernatural, as Novice characters can't be expected to handle total mind-fuck Scenarios and not realistically fall apart. Save your weird games for the Seasoned group.
  • Objectives, especially in Novice Scenarios, should be clear. If Players get frustrated because they are unable to figure a Game out, it does not make you an awesome criminal mastermind. Anyone can fool Novices. If they get frustrated and walk out on a Game, you are a poor Harbinger, and your peers will laugh at you.

Scenarios on the Website

Click here to create a Scenario

The Website allows you to record and track the Scenarios you create. When you record a played Game, you can record which Scenario was played.

The details of any Scenario you play are revealed to you in your Scenario Gallery. You may then run Games using those Scenarios. GMs who run a Scenario may leave comments about their experience running the Scenario, and a complete history of which Players have run or played in each Scenario is maintained.

This makes it much easier to determine which of your Players have already Played in a favorite Scenario of yours.