So you've been handed a contract and asked to risk your life, limb, and sanity in exchange for an opportunity to change the world. Welcome to the club!
The rest of the Player's Guide is bursting with detailed information, but much of it is geared more toward Game Masters and Cell Leaders than new players. This page will tell you how to prepare for your first Game and what to expect.
In The Contract, you play a skilled, ambitious Character called a Contractor who is invited to go on a series of supernatural missions for a chance of great rewards. The Game Master (GM) for that day will be chosen beforehand and could be any experienced player in the player group (called a Cell). They come prepared with a Scenario and the know-how to run it.
As a player, all you need to do is create a Contractor.
All Games conclude in one or two play sessions. Each Game may be run by a different GM and have a different set of Players and Contractors. This means attending a Game doesn't require much commitment, and if you don't like your Contractor, you can always make another one.
Your Contractor will be approached and invited on a mission by an NPC played by the GM. Don't feel obligated to immediately accept this proposal if you feel like your Character wouldn't. If you have properly created a Contractor that would risk their life for power, the GM should be able to lure and entice your Contractor even if they initially refuse.
From there, you will be given an objective, transported to the location of the Game, and introduced to the other Players' Contractors. Your GM will ask you to describe your Contractor's appearance to the group. You don't have to explain your Contractor's backstory or internal thoughts at any time during the Game. Learning each others' secrets is part of the fun!
Your first few Games will have clear objectives. Every Game is deadly and requires ingenuity, risk-taking, and proactive strategy to win. Be resourceful, perceptive, and channel your inner MacGyver! If your group manages to achieve the objective, the Game is considered a success, and your Contractor will be rewarded with unique, supernatural powers.
How does the Dice System Feel?
The Contract's dice system attempts to strike a balance between ease of use and realism.
Overall, the system is deadly. Experienced Contractors are terrifyingly powerful but may die quickly if caught off-guard by a few goons with guns.
Injuries in The Contract take a long time to heal, cannot be shrugged off, and in some cases leave debilitating scars. Weapons are fairly realistic in their lethality as well. Bows are outmatched by guns, and a lucky thug with a knife can easily bring down a prize fighter. But don't let that dissuade you from pursuing your dreams of becoming a bad ass archer. Any weapon can be deadly in the hands of a Contractor with Powers.
Contractor deaths are sad, but they raise the stakes of the Games and enrich the Characters who lose their allies. Thankfully, The Contract's emphasis on self-contained one-shot Games means that losing a Contractor does not affect a Player's ability to join in future sessions as it might with a more traditional Campaign, and Players who lose Contractors are given a reward that allows them to create a new Contractor with a Power.
Since The Contract is a role-playing game, many actions can be accomplished simply by declaring what your character does. The GM will only call for a dice roll when there is some doubt that your Character could accomplish your chosen action, or if the stakes are high enough to warrant one. For example, driving to your office doesn’t require a roll, but engaging in a high-speed chase down the interstate certainly would.
The GM can help you roll your dice until you learn. If you want to do some research ahead of time, check out the Rolling Dice guide for more information.
Given the dangerous, confrontational nature of the Games, Combat comes up frequently. When it does, gameplay moves into a turn-based structure, with each round of turns taking approximately 3 seconds of in-game time.
Players will take actions one-at-a-time in an order determined by an Initiative roll.
All actions within a single round resolve more or less simultaneously, with the order of turns simply indicating which characters reacted more quickly and therefore began their actions slightly ahead of the other Characters. In a chase, for example, both pursued and pursuer are moving simultaneously; the Character with lower initiative does not stand idly for three seconds waiting for the winner to complete their action.
If the turn-based nature of Combat seems to conflict with the fact that it's all happening at the same time, the turn-based rules win.
GMs will help you learn the rules of Combat as you play, but if you want to do some reading ahead of time, check out The Player's Guide Entry on Combat
If you survive and achieve the Game's objective, congratulations! If not, don't worry. I died on my first Game.
Each victory grants your Contractor a Gift that awakens their supernatural abilities. With The Contract's custom Power system, you can become anything you'd like. Want to be slingshot-wielding werewolf? We got you! How about a computer hacker with lightning crackling from her fingertips? No problem! A cyborg? A wizard? An evil doctor? Almost any concept is possible.
The sheer amount of freedom can be overwhelming for new players, so we suggest that select from our list of Stock Powers or ask your Cell Leader to help you craft your own.
Each Gift can be spent on a new Power or to improve an existing Power.
After playing a few Games, you may want a break playing your Contractor. Have no fear! The Contract's format makes it very easy to maintain a pool of Contractors. You simply choose which one you'd like to play before each Game begins.
There are many benefits to having multiple Contractors:
- It's less discouraging when one dies.
- Each Contractor plays (and acts) differently from the others.
- If your Contractor obtains Seasoned status (10+ victories), creating another Contractor allows you to continue playing with Novices.