How do I decide on my enemy's stats?
The exact stats you should give your baddies depends a lot on the culture of your Cell and the situation of the fight.
Use Contractor Stats as a guideline
The one benchmark for a "fair" fight is: enemies with the same exact stats as your Contractors will make for a "fair" fight. In these cases, the group that does better on Initiative will almost certainly win.
This is a good starting point for balance because it means the situation makes the difference. Get into a straight fight, and it's a crapshoot. Your Players will have to come up with some strategy to find an additional advantage or suffer the consequences.
Bad Guys can sometimes one-shot Contractors, but shouldn't always.
At a maximum, your enemies should probably roll around 7-10 dice to attack with a maximum damage bonus of +3. This gives a healthy chance of one-shotting Contractors, but it keeps things tense.
Exceptions can be made for enemies that should not be fought or whose attacks could have been mitigated with better investigation / planning.
Beware of numbers
The Contract's Combat system greatly favors those with the numbers advantage.
If a group of Contractors split up, they can quickly turn a fight you balanced for the full party into a disaster. Good. Splitting up must carry risks. It makes Games drag on, so it's important that Players use the tactic sparingly.
Strive to make your enemies more interesting than giant rats.
Give your foes cool powers or bizarre advantages. Get creative and inspired! Don't just think of enemies as bags of stats to be overcome. They are real creatures who can strategize, plot, and hunt your Contractors down. Play them like intelligent adversaries, when appropriate.
Health in The Contract is designed to model mundane creatures and humanoids and is not appropriate for large monsters or creatures that should feel like “bosses.” If you are tempted to give a creature a Body score higher than 12, consider using this alternative health system.
You can also change the way damage works for Boss monsters in other ways. For some monsters, Brawn may act as Armor against all damage unless it is of a certain type (say fire or silver). Amorphous creatures might only takes 1 damage per attack no matter what the Players roll or be immune to all damage that doesn't specifically target their weak spot.
Health and Stats
Instead of the standard Body depletion system, “boss” creatures may use a more traditional pool of health. Injuries deplete their health pool on a one-to-one basis with Severity. (Boss health = Maximum health - sum of all Injury Severities)
A reasonable health pool depends on each Cell’s culture and each Game’s Contractors.
Add up your Contractors’ “threat rating”
- Newbie / Novice non-fighter: 1
- Newbie fighter: 2
- Novice fighter: 3
- 10-20 Victory non-fighter: 3
- 10-20 Victory fighter: 4
- 20+ Victory: 6
Set the boss’s health equal to your party’s “threat level” x 6. This does not guarantee your party will be able to defeat the boss or that the boss will have a shot against your party.
When making Body rolls, use a number of dice equal to remaining health / 3 (rounded up).
Penalty is equal to missing health / 4 (rounded up)
The boss’s rating in Wits is considered 7 for the purposes of calculating Stuns.
Avoiding unsatisfying fights
Full-party wipes are never desirable, and since there is a lot of variation in The Contract, it's possible you may accidentally create a monster that would just completely destroy the Contractors.
To avoid this:
- Describe the boss’s status in a way that allows Players to make a guess about how they’re doing. (Do not mention health or postulate on how many attacks it may take to destroy the monster.)
- Allow surviving Contractors to run away. The boss will not pull punches, but does not have to pursue those who flee after one or two Contractors are killed.
- Do not trap Contractors in a “boss fight,” even if they deserve it.
Boss that dies too easily
It's a bit anti-climactic when a boss dies too easily, but it's generally preferable to a boss that might wipe the party. To avoid fights that are too easy, add some Armor to your boss, or give them a stun resistance Power.
Do not change your Boss's stats at game-time. If a Contract finds a clever way to completely destroy or avoid your boss, that is awesome and you should reward it.