Rules Reference / SRD
This Guidebook contains the comprehensive rules for The Contract. It is a reference, not a how-to-play guide.
Unlike many games, new Players can enjoy The Contract without fully understanding the rules. If you have a Playgroup and an experienced GameMaster lined up, we recommend learning as you play. If you do not have an experienced group and want to learn the basics of The Contract, start with the How to Play manual, which provides an overview of the structure and mechanics of the game.
If you'd rather read the full, unfiltered rules, you are welcome to read this guide front-to-back.
These rules are designed for any modern setting and support challenging, gritty gameplay with a focus on outside-the-box problem solving. They are designed to keep the action moving at game-time and favor counting over arithmatic.
Those 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
- 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 determine the play experience and content of The Contract. However, the system itself supports gritty violence, emotional trauma, and death.
All Players should agree on a tone and content limits before they play. We recommend employing one or more RPG Safety Tools when playing with new people, especially if you don't understand why such tools are useful.
When you sit down to play The Contract, you assume the role of either 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 abilities. GMs are given rewards for running Contracts that they can use to enhance their own Contractors.
The GameMaster's Manual contains guidance on the craft of GMing.
Players create and play characters known as Contractors: ambitious, competent individuals who willingly risk their lives on Contracts in exchange for power. All Player Characters 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, Intellect, Charisma, Dexterity, and 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.
Contractors almost always start out as mundane humans with no supernatural abilities. A particular Asset and Charon Coins (consolation prizes for dying) allow Contractors to begin their first Contract with a Gift, enabling concepts with paranormal history or ancestry.
Players often maintain several Contractors, but they can never play more than one at once. No two Contractors owned by the same Player may ever meet or communicate with each other.
- Newbie: 0-3 Victories
- Novice: 4-9 Victories
- Seasoned: 10-25 Victories
- Veteran: 26 + Victories.
As a general rule, Contractors can only attend Contracts with Contractors of a similar Status. Veteran Contractors are the only type of Contractor that can play in Solo Contracts.
Certain Gifts are restricted by Contractor Status.
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.
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, probably because they've already played it.
Ringers can be any NPC in the Contract: an antagonist, a character central to the plot, or even an non-player Contractor.
All Ringers have an objective that they must fufill. This objective may be to help or hinder the Contractors, to die horribly to monsters, or anything else the GM desires.
At the end of the Contract, Players who played Ringers are given Bonus 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 Credits or Improvements.
- A Ringer is an opportunity to include a character that would normally be too much work for the GM to run. Make them important enough that the Ringer's Player doesn't get bored!
- When you are Gming for a Ringer, discuss their role and objective with the Player before the Contract begins.
- Not every Scenario has room for a Ringer.
Contracts are deadly missions organized by the Harbingers and the primary unit of gameplay in The Contract. Each Contract concludes in a single play session. In order to play a Contract, you need one GM and at least two Players.
Before the Contract begins, the GM declares which Contractor Status is permitted: Newbies (0-3 Victories), Novice (4-9 Victories), Seasoned (11-24 Victories), or Veteran (25+ Victories), 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 for Contractors. However, once a Contractor accepts the Harbinger's invite, they may be locked in.
While Contracts are ideally concluded in one play session, 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 traditional roleplaying campaign. 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.
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 latent potential.
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.
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.
Unlocking Stock Scenarios
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 Playgroup
- 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.
GMs are encouraged to write their own Scenarios. There is an extensive guide in the GameMaster's Manual.
GMs who provide a full (at least 1000 word) writeup of a Scenario they've run earn an Improvement for one of their Contractors.
If the events of a Contract are unfair or damaging to the setting or tone, the Playgroup may declare it Void. Any Contract that is voided never occurred and grants no Rewards.
Instead of voiding Contracts that introduce undesirable Setting elements, Playgroup Leaders often rule that the Contract's events happened in a similar-looking parallel dimension, or perhaps it was all a bad dream.
Voiding Contracts should be extremely rare.
Contracts may be Voided by the following means:
- Playgroup Leaders can declare any Contracts in their Playgroup 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, the Players may vote to void and require only a simple majority.
Rewards and Advancement
By successfully winning Contracts, as well as by completing some other tasks, Contractors can obtain Experience, Gift Credits, and Improvements. Experience is used to improve your Contractor's stats. Gift Credits and Improvements grant new Gifts or enhance existing ones.
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.
A Contractor receives Experience when they:
- +3 Exp - Attend a Contract in their home Playgroup.
- +1 Exp - Attend a Contract outside of their home Playgroup.
- +2 Exp - Claim victory in a Contract.
- +2 Exp - Are the Contractor selected by the GM to earn additional Commission at the end of 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.
- Journals can award a maximum of two Exp per Contract attendance.
For example, if a Contractor attends a Contract in their home Playgroup and achieves Victory, they earn 5 Exp. If they are also the Contractor selected for Commission, they receive a total of 7 Exp for that contract. If a Contractor attends a Contract outside of their home Playgroup and fails, they receive only 1 Exp.
You can earn Experience for your Contractors even when you are not playing them. Bonus Experience can be assigned to any of your living Contractors and spent as normal. You cannot grant Bonus Experience to a Contractor if their total earned Exp is greater than 10 + (number of Victories * 12).
You may earn Bonus Experience for your Contractors by:
- +6 Exp - Running a Contract as the GM.
- +4 Exp - Playing an NPC Ringer that fulfills their major purpose during a Contract.
- +2 Exp - Gming a Move and writing up a 250 word summary of its events.
The cost to increase a trait by one level is as follows:
- Attributes: current rating x5 Exp
- Abilities: 2 Exp for the first rank , then current rating x2 Exp
- Source: current rating x2 Exp
For example, if your Brawn is at 2 and you want to raise it to 3, you must spend 10 Exp.
Experience may also be used to:
- Purchase an Asset: rating x3 Exp. Requires Playgroup Leader approval after your Contractor's first Contract.
- Remove a Liability: rating x3 Exp. Requires Playgroup Leader approval after your Contractor's first Contract.
- Treat a Trauma with therapy: 3 Exp.
- Crafting a Consumable item from a Gift: 2 Exp.
- Crafting an Artifact from a Gift: Exp equal to 1 + the Gift Cost.
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.
Gift Credits and Improvements
Each Contractor's Gifts are a unique reflection of their concept and created by their Player's using The Contract's unique Gift Builder.
Contractors receive Gift Credits as rewards, which can be spent to obtain a new Gift, or to increase the effectiveness of an existing Gift. Improvements are like Gifts, but they can only be spent to improve an existing Gift, not to unlock a new one.
A given Contractor is limited to a number of Gift Credits and Improvements equal to twice the number of Contracts they have won. For example, if your Contractor has been victorious 7 times, you may spend at most 7 Improvements on them, since they have already received 7 Gift Credits.
Note, the Asset Gifted and Charon Coins count as Gift Credits towards this limit, so if you have won 7 Contracts but you started with a Charon Coin, you may spend at most 6 Improvements before you hit the cap.
Earning Gift Credits
- Victory: A Contractor that claims Victory in a Contract gains one Gift Credit.
- 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 Credit before they've been invited to their first Contract.
- Gifted: At Character Creation, Contractors may start with a single Gift Credit by taking the Gifted Asset. This is restricted and requires Playgroup Leader approval.
- Writing Game Journals: A Contractor earns an Improvement for every 4 Contract Journals they write.
- Submitting Scenarios: A Gamemaster may earn an Improvement for submitting a completed Scenario write-up. The Scenario must have been run as a Contract at least once, and the writeup must be at least 1000 words long. They may choose which Contractor this Improvement is assigned to.
- As GM, you may earn a maximum of one Improvement per Contract you run. You choose which of your Contractors recieves the Improvement.
- Into The Fold: Running any Player's first Contract grants the GM an Improvement. A Contract is considered a Player's first if it was the first one entered into the website.
- The Golden Ratio (optional): 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. This is turned off for Playgroups by default, but your Playgroup can choose to enable it if you prefer to encourage a deadlier setting.
Contracts don't happen immediately after each other. Instead, Contractors have time in between Contracts (generally a month) during which they can recover, train, and pursue their ambitions. This is called Downtime.
During a Downtime, Contractors can Craft consumables and artifacts at their Crafting Location, train to improve their Abilities and Attributes (by spending Experience), open up to a therapist to treat their Traumas, tie up Loose Ends, or make Moves to realize their ambition or gain advantages. Or they can simply hang around and wait for their next Contract.
New or casual Players are often content with only playing their Contractors in the Contracts themselves. However, dedicated Players and advanced Contractors often engage in extended, structured Downtime activities such as Moves and Loose Ends.
The Passage of Time
One month of in-character time passes between the Contracts run in a Playgroup. If a Contractor misses a Contract in their Playgroup (because their Player couldn’t make it or chose to play a different Contractor) then a single Downtime may last longer than a month.
This longer Downtime can be useful when it comes to healing, since Injuries heal two Severity levels per month. However, mechanics which are limited per-Downtime (such as Crafting or Journals) are still limited, regardless of how long a Downtime lasts.
Playgroup Leaders may adjust the passage of time to move slower or quicker for their Playgroup if they wish.
Any roleplay that occurs outside of a Contract is called a Hustle.
Unlike the Harbingers' Contracts, Hustles do not have any predefined structure. No Experience, Gift Credits, 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 Moves and Loose Ends require substantial GM prep and/or many Hustles to resolve.
Contractors may write in their Journals for bonus Experience and Improvements. Writing an in-character Journal at least 250 words long for a Contract, or for the Downtime between two Contracts, rewards 1 Experience point. Every four Contract Journals (but not Downtime Journals) awards an Improvement instead.
Journals that outline the events of a Contract are spoiler-aware, so only Players who have spoiled the relevant Scenario will be able to read them. On the flip side, once you have spoiled a Scenario (usually by playing in it), you can read all Journals ever written for it by any (non-private) Contractors. They are available to read on the Scenario's writeup page under the Contract record section.
As of July 31 2022, Players of The Contract have written over 1500 Journals for their Contractors. The most recent ones can be found on the Community Journals page, and the rest can be found via Character Sheets or Scenarios.
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 blue link at the top of their sheet or on the Story tab.
Contractors who have appropriate Gifts may craft supernatural items during their Downtimes. There are two types of crafting available to Contractors, Consumable Crafting and Artifact Crafting, each of which has specific rules about crafting.
Every Downtime, Contractors receive 1 free Consumable for each of their Consumable Crafting Gifts. Additional Consumables cost 2 Experience each. Contractors get a single free Artifact when they gain a new Artifact Crafting Gift, but otherwise Artifacts cost an amount of Experience equal to 1 + its Gift Cost.
Spending a Gift Credit or Improvement to improve an existing Consumable Crafting or Artifact Crafting Gift will grant an additional free copy of that specific Consumable or Artifact.
A Crafting Location is a specially-prepared location where a Contractor performs their crafting, such as their home, laboratory, or wizard’s tower. If you do not have access to your Crafting Location (for example, if it is destroyed or you are imprisoned), you cannot Craft. If you have the freedom and materials, you may spend a Downtime creating a new Crafting Location instead of Crafting.
Each Contractor receives a single free Crafting Location with their first Artifact Crafting or Consumable Crafting Gift.
The most effective Contractors are not content to sit back and relax during their Downtimes. They have grand ambitions and an unquenchable thirst for power, and so they spend their Downtime making Moves.
Any Downtime activity initiated by a Contractor that has potential upside can be a Move.
Moves always require a GM, but not all Moves require a Hustle, danger, or dice-rolling. Moves can range from an out-of-character conversation with a GM to grueling, deadly missions that are even more elaborate than Contracts. It all depends on the objective of the Move, the tactics used by the Contractor, and the preferences of the Playgroup.
- Using your Gifts to make money.
- Hunting for supernatural treasures.
- Blackmailing a politician.
- Stealing someone's identity and ditching your old one.
The Gamemaster's Manual section on Running Downtimes contains guidance on how to run a wide variety of common Moves that Contractors may try to make.
Contractors make Moves for many reasons. The rewards of a successful Move are just as various and include tying up Loose Ends, eliminating harmful Conditions or Circumstances, acquiring allies or equipment, or pursuing their ambition to change the world.
Contractors may never gain any Experience, Gift Credits, or Improvements from making Moves.
GMs who run Moves for Contractors may gain Bonus Experience by writing up a summary of the Move's events and a public World Event that is viewable by anyone in the Playgroup. If their writeup is at least 250 words, they gain 2 Bonus Experience for one of their Contractors.
Be warned: the status quo is powerful, and making Moves is risky. Sometimes even successful Moves have consequences such as new Loose Ends, injury, or even death.
If a Move would result in certain death for a Contractor (for example, a Newbie wants to assassinate the Pope who is under heavy supernatural guard), the GM must warn the Player beforehand. The Player may withdraw the request or opt to go through with the Move, knowing their Contractor will die.
How to Make Moves
Making Moves always requires GM participation. Only the GM may grant rewards for Moves.
Step 1: Find a GM
To make a Move with your Contractor, you must determine the following:
- What is the goal of your Move? What are you hoping to achieve?
- How does your Contractor plan to execute the Move?
Next, find a GM in your Playgroup, share your plan, and ask if they will run the Move. If they feel the Move is in-character and setting-appropriate, they might agree to run your Move.
No GM is strictly obligated to run any given Move. However, it is considered poor form to refuse GMing a Move to tie up a Loose End that you granted. Doing so may void the Loose End.
Step 2: Run the Move
If you find a GM to run your Move, they are in charge of designing and running your Move. Things may or may not go according to your plans.
Some smaller Moves can be resolved through an out-of-character conversation between the Player and the GM. Other Moves require a Hustle complete with dice-rolling and danger. Some objectives (such as being elected president of the USA) can only be achieved by making a campaign-like series of Moves that requires significant GM involvement.
GMs should coordinate with their Playgroup Leader to ensure their Moves are setting-appropriate.
Step 3: Record the Move
Once the Move is complete, the GM should grant any rewards or consequences to the Contractor that they feel are appropriate. Typically this involves adding/removing Conditions, Circumstances, Trophies, and/or Loose Ends.
The events of Moves are canonical and can only be voided by the Playgroup Leader.
Users of the website can also officially record the Moves they run. To do so, the GM should visit their Playgroup's homepage and click on the "Record Move" button or visit the Contractor's Character Sheet and click the "Record Move" button under the Story tab.
When officially recording Move, the GM must provide a summary of the Move's events (which are viewable to anyone who can view the Contractor's Chracter sheet) and a World Event (which is visible to anyone who can view the Playgroup). If the combined word count of the summary and World Event is over 250 words, the GM earns 2 Bonus Exp for one of their Contractors.
Contracting is a messy business, and the events of Contracts and Downtimes can lead to Loose Ends.
Loose Ends represent an enduring situation that poses a threat to a Contractor if it is not resolved. For example, the Contractor was filmed using their Powers, they made enemies with a powerful crime lord, or they must break a curse within three months or they will turn into a pumpkin.
The GameMaster's Manual section on Running Downtimes contains many example Loose Ends.
The GameMaster's Manual section on Running Downtimes contains many example Loose Ends.
GMs may assign Loose Ends to Contractors based on the events of a Contract or a Downtime. Some Liabilities taken at character creation also grant Loose Ends.
When you grant a Loose End, you are committing to follow through with running the Loose End, including any Moves the Contractor may make to attempt to tie it up. If you feel you cannot follow through on a Loose End, you should not grant it, even if it means the Contractor gets off easy. Loose Ends are an optional additional system and can be utilized as much or little as a Playgroup desires. Contractors' past actions may come back to bite them, even if there are no Loose Ends recorded on their Character Sheet.
When you grant a Loose End, you are committing to follow through with running the Loose End, including any Moves the Contractor may make to attempt to tie it up. If you feel you cannot follow through on a Loose End, you should not grant it, even if it means the Contractor gets off easy.
Loose Ends are an optional additional system and can be utilized as much or little as a Playgroup desires. Contractors' past actions may come back to bite them, even if there are no Loose Ends recorded on their Character Sheet.
Each Loose End has a Cutoff and a Threat.
A Loose End’s Cutoff counts down the number of Contracts a Contractor can attend before the Threat from their Loose End manifests.
Cutoff values generally range from 1 to 5. They decrease by 1 every time a Contractor attends a Contract. This number is visible to GMs but cannot be seen by the Player who plays the Contractor.
Once the Cutoff countdown hits 0, the Loose End’s Threat manifests. If that Threat requires a Hustle with a GM (for example, an assassination attempt), that Contractor may not attend Contracts until a GM has run the required Hustle.
Contractors may make a Move to resolve a Loose End before its Cutoff. Doing so is often difficult and may be dangerous, but taking initiative on a Loose End should be less deadly or generally result in a better outcome than running down the Cutoff timer.
A Loose End’s Threat defines what negative outcome will befall the Contractor if they fail to deal with it in time.
Threats can take many forms. They may cause new negative Circumstances, Conditions, Traumas, or Battle Scars. They may remove positive Circumstances, Conditions, or equipment. They may take the form of an event (such as an assasination attempt), or, sometimes, even directly cause the death of the Contractor.
For example, if a Contractor gains a Loose End because they were filmed using super-strength, and they fail to address the growing buzz on the internet before the Cutoff hits 0, the Threat that manifests may be a new Circumstance where they are stalked by an army of internet sleuths.
GMs must specify the Threat of a Loose End when they grant it. The Player can only see the general threat-level (Dangerous, Deadly, or Fateful) until the Cutoff hits zero.
- Dangerous: The sort of Threat which may crop up for people in the real world.
- Examples: The loss of resources or equipment, imprisonment, infamy, having your family kidnapped, or mundane gang-level violence.
- Deadly: A supernatural or extreme Threat that poses a significant risk even to Contractors.
- Examples: An assassination attempt from a powerful foe or organization, being put into a coma, imprisonment on another planet, gaining a severe curse.
- Fateful: Reserved for Loose Ends which will cause certain or almost-certain death when the Cutoff hits 0.
- Examples: A chronic deadly disease, an implanted bomb exploding, an assassination attempt from a harbinger-level foe.
The Contract has a "default" setting of The Illumination, but the game is designed to be played in whatever setting the Players desire. Each Playgroup can choose their own setting, whether it be The Illumination, something borrowed from other media, or even one of their own creation.
That said, the elements that enable The Contract's Format are shared between all Playgroups and settings. These are the Harbingers, The Powers that Be, and The Contracts themselves.
Harbingers are the mysterious administrators of the Contracts. Their purpose is to find or create deadly challenges to test the Contractors, invite them to Contracts, lure them into accepting, and sometimes transport them to the site where the Contract takes place.
Harbingers are as powerful as they need to be to accomplish these goals and aren't required to have pre-established stats or Gifts. However, like the monkey's paw, they never offer full satisfaction and will never directly solve a Contractor's problems (though they may sometimes cause them).
Rules of Engagement
- A Harbinger cannot attack a Contractor unless attacked first.
- Harbingers don't pay in advance
- A Harbinger cannot force any Contractor to go on a Contract.
- 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 must provide transportation to the location of a Contract for 0-5 Victory Contractors that are unable to transport themselves (outsiders, anachronisms, etc).
GMs may have multiple Harbingers, and each Harbinger has their own story, modus operandi, and goals. They may bring a particular flair or complication to their Contracts. Perhaps a certain Harbinger runs gameshow Contracts that are televised, or another Harbinger only runs Contracts that involve hunting monsters.
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.
You could think of the GMs and Players themselves as the actual Powers That Be, if you'd like.
A Playgroup is, intuitively, a group of Players who regularly play The Contract together. A Playgroup is also a group of Contractors that share a setting.
Playgroup Leaders act as the head GM for their Playgroups, settling disputes, approving Gifts, and generally preventing shenanigans. They are empowered to edit the Character Sheets of the Contractors in their Playgroup, record or void Contracts, and define their Playgroup's setting.
The Contract's website provides an extensive host of tools that Playgroup Leaders can use to build and manage their communities including configurable roles and permissions, a newsfeed-style record of World Events that occur in the world of the group, membership management, links to external communities, etc.
The Contract's format, Gifts, Character Sheets and Advancement allow Contractors to remain portable between Playgroups, even if they have vastly different settings. This allows Contractors to be played online or with whatever Playgroup you happen to find yourself playing with (if desired).
Some Playgroups opt to use a tribunal of the three most experienced GMs instead of a single Playgroup Leader.
Creating a Playgroup
Creating a Playgroup is as easy as filling out the form! You can create as many as you'd like.
Each Playgroup has its own private parallel dimension in The Contract's collective multiverse. Playgroups have 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 Playgroup to take place in Feudal Japan, a futuristic science-fiction city, or the world populated by anthropomorphic animals, make it so!
Visiting other Playgroups
Contractors live their lives in their home Playgroup's Setting, but Harbingers from other Settings may invite them to join Contracts in their Playgroups. If the Contractor accepts, they are transported to the Harbinger's Setting to participate in the Contract and are returned to their home Setting when the Contract concludes. Contractors may earn Gift Credits (or die) while visiting another Playgroup.
A Contractor visiting another Setting is only guaranteed to have access to their base stats and Gifts. 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 Setting.
When a Contractor attempts an action where the outcome is risky or unsure, the GM will call for a roll to determine what happens.
The GM names one Attribute, one Ability, and a Difficulty (a number between 2 and 9, usually 6). 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. After they roll, they count up 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 GM narrates the specific details of how the action occurs.
The Contract also provides a Discord Dice-rolling Bot to make it easier to run Contracts over the popular chat application Discord.
When a character enters a contest of skill or their action is resisted, it is a Contested Action. Examples include sneaking past a guard, swordfighting, or competing in a race.
In Contested Actions, both the initiator and the defender make a roll. The defender's Outcome is subtracted from the initator's, reducing it to a minimum of 0. Because of this, ties go to the defender.
The resulting value is the Contested Outcome. A Contested 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 perform an emergency blood transfusion but do not have any ranks in Medicine, you may roll only Intellect, 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 Difficulty cannot be reduced below 4. If the Difficulty of a roll would ever rise above 9, it remains 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).
The Character Sheet
A Contractor's Character Sheet is the one-stop-shop for informaiton about them. It tracks their stats, stock, and story.
The Character Sheet is filled out during Contractor Creation.
At gametime, Players use Character Sheets to reference their Contractors' stats and track their well-being.
Character Sheets also provide background infromation on Contractors, and track their history, experience, and Gifts.
Online Character Sheets
On the website, fully-featured online Character Sheets make creating and maintaining Contractors as easy as possible.
The online Character Sheets do all the necessary math for the Player. They track a Contractor's Contract and Gift history as well as all of their experience points and expenditures. They contain helpful mouseover text and expandable rules sections that are designed to be referenced at gametime.
Players may choose to mark their Character Sheets as Private, which will hide its content from anyone except their Playgroup leaders and any GMs which are currently running a Contract for them.
Creating a Contractor
Creating a Contractor is a simple process wherein a Player comes up with a character concept and fills out a Character Sheet. Afterwards, their Playgroup Leader will approve the sheet and request changes before the character is played.
Each Contractor should have a clearly defined Character Concept which informs both how they behave as well as the sorts of Gifts the will end up using. A good concept has two pieces:
- Archetype: The Contractor's niche. Professions, dominant personality traits, and supernatural paradigms are good starting points.
- Example Archetypes: Frat bro wizard, cannibal celebrity chef, vampire biker, child chess prodigy, were-bear russian, sketchy circus ringleader.
- Ambition: The Contractor's driving goal. Why are they risking their life for power? The best ambitions are lofty or impossible to achieve and put the Contractor into conflict with the setting's status quo.
- Example Ambitions: eliminate all non-human sapient creatures,turn the USA into a police state, end homelssness and/or hunger, or create a new age of dinosaurs.
Character Concepts are not set in stone. They often change over the course of a Contractors first few Contracts as they find their voice, and they may develop naturally as the Contractor is changed by their experiences in the Contracts.
Filling out the Character Sheet
Filling out a Character Sheet is an easy process using the online Character Sheets. Simply visit the Create Contractor page and follow the on-screen instructions.
New Contractors start with 150 Experience points. Players spend these points purchasing Attributes, Abilities, Assets, and Liabilities. Their costs are the same as for Advancement. Any unused Experience is saved and can be spent as normal during any Downtime.
Additionally, Players also select which Limits their Contractor will use. Each Contractor must select three Limits.
At the moment, The Contract only provides online Character Sheets. In the future, we are planning on also making paper character sheets available.
Playgroup Leaders are responsible for approving Contractors created in their Playgroup. For Contractors attending a Contract in another Playgroup, the GM may allow or disallow their attendance at the start of a Contract at their discretion.
Assets and Liabilities
During Character Creation Players may select various Assets and Liabilities to further customize their Contractors. Assets grant beneficial Conditions and Circumstances, while Liabilities give negative Conditions, Circumstances, Battle Scars, and Traumas.
All Assets and Liabilities have a point value. Taking an Asset costs 3x its point value in Experience. Liabilities grant 3x their point value in additional Experience.
Assets and Liabilities are separated into three categories:
- Physical, which represent specific physical capabilities or defects such as bine double-jointed, a poor sense of hearing, or a missing leg.
- Background, which represent aspects of Contractor's backstory such as wealth, contacts in the criminal underworld, or having been raised by wolves.
- Mental and Emotional, which represent Contractor'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 Playgroup's leader.
Most of the Conditions, Circumstances, Battle Scars, and Traumas granted by Assets and Liabilities can also be acquired during Contracts and Downtimes.
Changing Assets and Liabilities
The Battle Scars, Traumas, Conditions, and Circumstances granted by your Contractor's Assets and Liabilities are not "protected." They may be lost, mitigated, or changed by the events of Contracts and Downtimes as normal. In such cases, the Experience points you have spent/received from taking the relevant Assets and Liabilities are unchanged.
For example, let's say you start with the Asset Rich, which grants a Circumstance that makes you rich. If you then get caught breaking a bunch of laws or someone assasinates your reputation, you may lose that Circumstance. The Experience you spent on the Asset will not be refunded.
Similarly, if you start with the Liability One Eye, which grants a Battle Scar, a fellow Contractor may use a Gift to heal that Battle Scar. Doing so would not cost Experience.
Via Editing your Character Sheet
Making changes to Assets and Liabilities that affect Experience should only be done during Character Creation.
Once you take your new Contractor on a Contract, their Assets and Liabilities are "locked in." If you want to edit your Contractor's Assets and Liabilities after they've seen play, you must get approval from your Playgroup Leader.
A Contractor's Attributes represent their raw, intrinsic capabilities, absent any sort of knowledge or special training. The five Attributes are Brawn, Dexterity, Perception, Charisma, and Intellect.
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.
Increasing an Attribute's rating by one costs its current rating x 5 Experience points. For example, increasing Brawn from 2 to 3 would cost 10 Exp.
The Attributes of humans are rated on a scale of one to five, with two being average and five being world-class.
- Above average
List of Attributes
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 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.
Intellect 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.
Intellect is often paired with these Abilities: Occult, Culture, Computer, Science, Medicine.
Mechanics Affected by Intellect
- A character's rating in Mind is equal to their Intellect + Charisma + 1, with a maximum of 9.
- If a player forgets a detail, the GM refers to their character's Intellect when making a determination of whether or not their Character remembers it.
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.
- At the start of combat, a character's dice pool for their Initiative roll is calculated by adding their Perception 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
- At the start of combat, a character's dice pool for their Initiative roll is calculated by adding their Perception and Dexterity. (This is the only roll that is a combination of two Attributes).
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
- A character's rating in Mind is equal to their Intellect + Charisma + 1, with a maximum of 9.
- Gifts that are in any way social (emotion control, fascination, suggestion) must use Charisma in their rolls.
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
Seasoned and Veteran Contractors may purchase an additional 6th rank in an Ability. In addition to increasing the dice pool, a Contractor cannot Botch a roll made with an Ability at 6. Any negative Outcome counts as a Failure instead.
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.
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.
A trained vigilance of your surroundings, suitable for soldiers, police, assassins, etc.
Knowledge of animals, including identification, training, zoology, and handling.
Used for swimming, climbing, running, dodging, jumping, throwing, sports, etc
Used for unarmed combat, grappling, and very small weapons.
Used for building, repairing, sculpting, tools, etc.
Knowledge of humanities, history, languages, social sciences, etc.
Used for driving cars, motorcycles, electric scooters, etc. If you drive regularly, you should have one point.
Used for guns and crossbows, firing and general knowledge.
Persuasion, intimidation, lying, and trickery (usable only on NPCs or to avoid metagaming)
Forensics, tracking, research, scrolling intensely though microfilm in the city archives.
First aid, care, anatomy, surgery, etc.
Close range handheld weapons, from knives to clubs to battle-axes.
Knowledge of mythology, legends, religions, rituals, pop-culture magic, etc. This ability does not grant supernatural powers by itself.
Acting, singing, dancing, working a crowd, etc.
Physics, math, chemistry, biology, etc.
Sneaking around, hiding things, misdirection
Skills relating to obtaining food, water, and shelter as well as avoiding danger in natural environments.
Knowledge of technology, including general use, programming, and hacking
Sleight-of-hand, lock-picking, pickpocketing, and other actions demanding manual dexterity.
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
When a Secondary Ability is used for a roll, its rating is addded to an Attribute's to determine the roll's Dice pool. Secondary Abilities may be rolled in place of Primary Abilities in two circumstances.
- The Secondary Ability's specialization applies. In such cases, the roll is made at -1 Difficulty.
- 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.
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
- Electrical Engineering
- Being Pathetic
- Piloting Aircraft
Normal, well-adjusted humans have these three Limits:
If you are ever tortured or made to experience an extended period of physical or mental agony, make a Trauma roll.
Make a Trauma roll if you ever witness a humanitarian atrocity such as massacre, torture, extreme abuse etc.
Make a Trauma roll if you ever kill someone for a reason other than immediate self-defense.
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.
Examples of Alternative Limits
You apply a human-like social conscious to animals. Whenever you gravely injure a non-human animal for a reason other than self-defense, roll Trauma.
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.
If you are ever held against your will, imprisoned, or tied up, make a Trauma roll.
You are a perfectionist or a megalomaniac and cannot tolerate major failures of any sort. Make a Trauma roll every time you lose a Game or fail a task in your area of expertise.
Any time you allow someone (through action or inaction) to escape justice for a major crime, make a Trauma roll.
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.
Make a Trauma roll each time you see a new monstrous supernatural creature. Lovecraft, eat your heart out.
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).
You find technology abhorrent and unnatural. Any time you use or trust your life to technology developed after 1940, roll Trauma.
You are a true believer with a specific religious code, defined at Character creation. Make a Trauma roll any time you violate this code.
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.
Sometimes you must compromise your values to win
If a Contractor crosses one of their Limits, their Player must make a Trauma Roll (roll Mind Difficulty 8, Penalty applies). Failing a Trauma roll causes either mental damage or a new Trauma (GM's choice).
Conditions and Circumstances
Conditions and Circumstances are free-form character sheet elements that track a Contractor's status and situation, respectively.
Conditions and Circumstances come with their own systems for how they affect a Contractor. Some are easy to get rid of, others last a lifetime.
There are no blanket mechanics that affect all Conditions and Circumstances. No Gifts directly grant or remove them. Instead, they're conciquences of the events of Contracts and Downtimes.
Unlike stats and Gifts, there is no guarntee that a given Condition or Circumstance will travel with a Contractor if they attend a Contract in another Playgroup.
Acquiring Conditions and Circumstances
Some Conditions and Circumstances are granted by Assets and Liabilities, but most are acquied over the course of gameplay during Contracts and Downtimes.
Several stock Conditions and Circumstances are provided, but GMs, Scenario-writers, and Playgroup Leaders may also invent their own.
Each Contractor's Character Sheet has a space to detail their Equipment in the Stock tab. Players manage the contents of this field and can bring anything their Contractor would reasonably have access to. Crafted Artifacts are tracked in their own separate space on the Character Sheet.
Restricted objects such as drugs or military weapons require special connections to obtain. These connections can be made via roleplay or with the Stockpile or Arsenal Assets.
Some GMs may be charitable, but in general if your Contractor doesn't have something written in their Equipment list, they don't have it.
Carrying a small amount of gear won't cause any dice penalties, but if you bring too many things, you will become Encumbered, and your ability to move will be reduced.
Some Contracts and Circumstances may dramatically restrict a Contractor's access to their Equipment. They may be teleported to the site of the Contract in their pajamas, for example. This is entirely fair and acceptable. Crafted Artifacts and Legendary Artifacts may be stripped or stolen just as easily.
Trophies are special-- often supernatural-- items obtained during a Contract or Downtime. Unlike crafted Artifacts or standard equipment, Trophies may be assigned any system or significance the GM sees fit and are tracked separately on the Character Sheet.
Like Conditions and Circumstances, Trophies are only guaranteed to function within the Playgroup where they were obtained.
Source pools start with a capacity of 1. This capacity can be increased by spending (current rating x 2) Experience Points during a Downtime. Source regenerates at a rate of one point per day.
Each Contractor's Source pool can be renamed to match their paradigm. For example, a Pyromancer that fuels their Gifts with their inner rage may have a Rage pool, a Vampire might have a Blood pool, etc.
A Contractor's rating in Body is equal to 5 + (Brawn / 2, rounded up). A fit human will thus have a Body rating of 7, while hulking brutes will have 8 Body and weaklings 6. The character sheet on The Contract website calculates this automatically, but here's a table:
|Brawn rating||Body rating|
|1 or 2||6|
|3 or 4||7|
|5 or 6||8|
|7 or 8||9|
GMs may call for a Body roll when a Contractor's physical endurance is tested, such as when resisting poisons, diseases, or air deprivation. 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 Mind rolls and Initiative rolls).
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 can cause permanent and debilitating Battle Scars.
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 Gifts, and can only speak at a whisper. If they are Injured beyond Incapacitated, they die.
An Injury's Severity rating determines how deadly it is, how difficult it is to stabilize, and how long it takes to heal. Injuries of Severity 4 or greater cause Battle Scars and will worsen until properly 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.
Each time a month passes, all of your Injuries are reduced in Severity by 2 levels. If you have three Severity three (Threatening) Injuries, they will have all reduced to Severity one (Minor) Injuries after a single month.
How this healing rate manifests depends on how your Playgroup treats the passage of time. Usually, a month passes each time a Contract occurs in a given Playgroup.
Will to Survive
Once per Contract you may reduce an incoming Injury’s Severity by up to 4 levels (to a minimum of Severity 4). You take a point of Mind damage, and the Battle Scar you suffer from this Injury always remains after the Injury is healed, regardless of Stabilization.
You must use Will to Survive as the Injury is taken, after Armor and bonus damage is calculated and before the Injury is recorded on your sheet.
Injuries in The Contract should feel significant and inconvenient. Don't be afraid to be brutal in describing deep lacerations, collapsed lungs, and broken bones. Remember: seven Severity-1 Injuries will kill most people.
|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.|
|2 - Moderate||A deep gash, a small but severe burn, muscular blunt trauma.|
|3 - Threatening||A puncture, a medium sized burn, a fracture.|
|4 - Serious||Maimed hands, punctured lung, shattered ankle.|
|5 - Severe||Lost fingers, multiple stab wounds, a nasty gunshot.|
|6 - Critical||Critical injuries include severed limbs, multiple or severe abdominal stab wounds, body-wide injuries etc.|
|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.|
Degradation and Stabilization
All Injuries Severity 4 or greater require advanced medical treatment and will degrade, worsening in Severity by one level every half hour until Stabilized. Stabilization represents a major treatment of a Severity 4+ Injury: closing wounds, setting broken bones, field surgery, etc. The amount of time stabilization takes depends on the treatment, and an Injury cannot degrade during a Stabilization attempt. Each Injury can only be successfully stabilized a single time. An attempt at Stabilization is classified as either Proper or Makeshift depending on the supplies brought to bear: To attempt a Proper Stabilization, the character performing the treatment must have the appropriate equipment. Using appropriate medical supplies, Roll Intellect + Medicine, Difficulty equal to the Injury’s Severity. Even a partial success will Stabilize the Injury and stop its degradation. Complete success (Outcome 4 or higher) puts the Injury on track for a clean heal, and any Battle Scars caused by the Injury will disappear when the Injury is fully healed. Unsuccessful attempts can be retried at +1 Difficulty per failure, and each botched attempt increases the Injury’s Severity by 1. Roll Intellect + Medicine, Difficulty higher than the Injury’s Severity, based on the tactics and supplies used. A partial success will still stabilize the Injury and stop its degradation. However, any Outcome less than 4 worsens the Injury’s Severity by 1. Regardless of the treatment’s Outcome, any Battle Scars caused by the Injury will persist after it is fully healed. Unsuccessful attempts can be retried at +1 Difficulty per failure, and botches also worsen the Injury’s Battle Scar.
Equipment Needed for Proper Stabilization
Advanced first aid kit (antiseptic, bandages, splints, stitches / staples, tape, etc).
Field surgery kit (splints, field surgery tools, morphine, donor blood, etc).
Requires surgery theater (vets / doctor’s office, hospital)
All Injuries Severity 4 or greater require advanced medical treatment and will degrade, worsening in Severity by one level every half hour until Stabilized.
Stabilization represents a major treatment of a Severity 4+ Injury: closing wounds, setting broken bones, field surgery, etc. The amount of time stabilization takes depends on the treatment, and an Injury cannot degrade during a Stabilization attempt. Each Injury can only be successfully stabilized a single time.
An attempt at Stabilization is classified as either Proper or Makeshift depending on the supplies brought to bear:
To attempt a Proper Stabilization, the character performing the treatment must have the appropriate equipment.
Using appropriate medical supplies, Roll Intellect + Medicine, Difficulty equal to the Injury’s Severity.
Even a partial success will Stabilize the Injury and stop its degradation. Complete success (Outcome 4 or higher) puts the Injury on track for a clean heal, and any Battle Scars caused by the Injury will disappear when the Injury is fully healed.
Unsuccessful attempts can be retried at +1 Difficulty per failure, and each botched attempt increases the Injury’s Severity by 1.
Roll Intellect + Medicine, Difficulty higher than the Injury’s Severity, based on the tactics and supplies used.
A partial success will still stabilize the Injury and stop its degradation. However, any Outcome less than 4 worsens the Injury’s Severity by 1. Regardless of the treatment’s Outcome, any Battle Scars caused by the Injury will persist after it is fully healed.
Unsuccessful attempts can be retried at +1 Difficulty per failure, and botches also worsen the Injury’s Battle Scar.
Not all Injuries heal cleanly. Battle Scars represent disabilities and disfigurements caused by Injuries. For example, a severed hand, a lost eye, or a wheezing cough. Battle scars that are not properly treated are permanent and can only be removed through relevant Gifts.
Taking an Injury Severity 4 or greater causes a Battle Scar
- Severity 4: a Minor Battle Scar
- Severity 5: a Major Battle Scar
- Severity 6: a Severe Battle Scar
- Severity 7+: an Extreme Battle Scar
The specifics of the Battle Scar are usually decided when the Injury is treated (see Stabilization). However, GMs may choose to apply an untreatable Battle Scar immediately if the narrative demands it (for example, if a Contractor’s arm is run over by a steam roller).
An Injury worsening in Severity does not cause a new Battle Scar or restart degradation.
Penalties from Battle Scars do not stack with wound Penalty. Instead, the highest penalty is used.
A Contractor’s rating in Body is reduced by 1 for each Battle Scar after their fourth.
Example Battle Scars
The online Character Sheets provide a helpful selector for pre-made Battle Scars complete with systems, however GMs may design custom Battle Scars as well.
Minor Scars (Severity 4)
- Chronic Pain (Your Penalty is always at a minimum of -1.)
- Disfigured (All social rolls are made at +1 Difficulty. The Asset Beautiful is suppressed as long as you have this Battle Scar)
- Missing Fingers (You are at a -1 die penalty for any roll utilizing the affected hand.)
- Tinnitus (You suffer a -2 dice penalty to any roll which benefits from hearing. You cannot distinguish the words of others in loud situations.)
- Wheezing (You cannot shout or raise your voice above a whisper. After physical activity, you wheeze loudly and suffer a -2 dice penalty on Stealth rolls.)
Major Scars (Severity 5)
- Enervated (Each tiring physical action you take causes a -1 Penalty that lasts 15 minutes and stacks with all other penalties (including itself).)
- Limp (Your movement speed is reduced by half.)
- Lost Hand (Any Actions requiring the affected hand fail automatically. You are -1 to -3 dice on any rolls to perform Actions which require two hands, depending on the Action.)
- Missing Foot (Your movement speed is reduced by half.)
- Mute (You cannot speak or sceam.)
- One Eye (All Perception rolls utilizing sight are rolled at +2 Difficulty. Any Actions involving depth perception are rolled at +1 Difficulty.)
- Soft Spot (A specific spot on your body was previously injured and is now extremely vulnerable to further attacks. Called shots against your soft spot do +2 damage. If an attack hits you which could conceivably hit your soft spot, roll 1d10 at Difficulty 6. If you fail, the attack hits your soft spot and does +2 damage.)
- Vertigo (You suffer a -3 dice penalty to any rolls which involve balance or grace.)
Severe Scars (Severity 6)
- Deaf (You automatically fail all rolls which require hearing and are at -3 dice for multisensory rolls.)
- Missing Arm (You are -2 to -4 dice on any rolls to perform Actions which require two hands, depending on the Action. Athletics rolls are made at +1 Difficulty.)
- Missing Leg (You move at one quarter movement speed with a prosthesis or aid. You cannot Dash or Sprint.)
Extreme Scars (Severity 7+)
- Blindness (Any rolls which require sight are automatically failed, and any Actions which would be made easier by sight are rolled at between +1 and +3 Difficulty, depending on the Action.)
- No Hands (You do not have functional hands. Any Actions which require manual dexterity automatically fail. Any actions which would be assisted by having hands are rolled at between +1 and +3 Difficulty.)
- Paraplegia (You cannot effectively move without a wheelchair or other bulky mobility device.)
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. There are some Effects which can situationally prevent your death, but true resurrection is extremely rare, and 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.
Mind represents your Contractor's mental and emotional fortitude. Mind is rolled to cope with potentially traumatic events and to resist urges and outside influences. It also acts as a sort of "health pool" for short-term mental wellbeing.
A Contractor's rating in Mind is equal to Intellect + 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, and the especially weak-willed, 3. 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.
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 (Intellect + Charisma +1, 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 either one point of mental damage or the development of a new Trauma. Botching a Trauma roll causes one mind damage and the formation of a new Trauma.
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.
Traumas are caused by crossing a Limit and failing the 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 Gifts. They must make a Mind roll at Difficulty 8, standard Penalty applies. Failure results in either a new Trauma or a point of Mind Damage (at the GM's discretion).
GMs and Players often work together to come up with the new Trauma, but the GM has the final say.
Most Traumas outline some triggering circumstance where a Contractor my lose control. When this situation arises, the Contractor must make a self-control roll (Mind, Difficulty 8) to maintain control. Failing a self-control roll generally causes the Contractor to take an Action they otherwise wouldn't, but it does not cause an additional Trauma or Mind damage.
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.
Due to the Imbued status of Contractors, Traumas can be cured by spending 3 Experience and engaging in therapy during a Downtime. Therapy involves opening up to a councilor about the circumstances that led to the Trauma. They may also be removed without an Experience cost using certain Effects.
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 Self-Control in order to recognize a fact over their delusion or to make any decision based on facts rather than their delusion.
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 Self-Control roll to resist the urge.
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 Self-Control roll or enter a fight-or-flight response.
- Nightmares: Your sleep is plagued with horrible nightmares. At the start of each Contract and each time you fall asleep, make a Self-Control roll. If you fail, you take one Mind damage.
- Anti-social: You struggle with engaging in social interaction. In order to attempt to get someone's attention, or to speak to someone you have known for less than a day, you must succeed a Self-Control roll. If you become the center of attention in a large group, you must Exert your Mind to avoid fleeing or shutting down.
- Vengeful: An insult to or an attack on your person simply cannot be tolerated. Each time someone wrongs you or disrespects you in a major way, you must succeed a Self-Control roll to resist taking revenge.
- Pyromania: You are obsessed with fires and feel compelled to start them frequently. Any time you encounter a new flammable object, you must succeed a Self-Control roll to avoid attempting to set it on fire.
- Kleptomania: You can’t help but take things that don’t belong to you. Whenever you move to a new location, you must succeed a Self-Control roll, or you must attempt to steal something in your immediate vicinity.
- Technophobe: You don’t trust technology, and are constantly worried that it will betray you. Any time you use modern technology, you must succeed a Self Control roll. If you fail, you may Exert your mind to face your fear.
- Delusions of Grandeur: You believe yourself to be the very best, one of the elite, superior to anyone else you meet. You must succeed a Self-Control roll in order to believe something or take an action which contradicts this delusion.
- Substance Addiction: You are addicted to a specific substance. Any time you encounter that substance, you must roll Self-Control. If you fail, you must consume it, and if you botch, you will Overdose. You are unable to regain any Mind from resting unless you have consumed the substance that day.
- Uncontrollable Anger: Your anger is powerful and hard to control. Any time you become angry, you must succeed a Self-Control roll or lash out aggressively.
- Compulsive Liar: You have trouble with honesty and generally find it much easier and safer to make things up. Any time you are asked about yourself, or are offering information about yourself, you must succeed a Self-Control roll in order to tell the truth. If you are ever caught in a lie, you must Exert your Mind in order to come clean; otherwise you must attempt to justify the initial lie with more lies.
- Paranoia: You have a natural distrust of everyone around you, and are always on edge looking for threats. You must roll Self Control in order to let another person remain in a position where they could easily hurt you, or to allow someone else to perform a task which is necessary to keep yourself safe. If you fail, you may Exert your Mind to face your fear.
- Fear of the Dark: You are utterly terrified of darkness. You must succeed a Self-Control roll in order to leave a well-lit area. If you fail, you may Exert your Mind to face your fear. Take a Mind damage if you are ever surprised while it’s dark.
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 Gifts requires Exertion. A point of Source may be spent in lieu of this cost, if available.
- Desperate Defense: 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 Gift if you Exerted yourself to activate it - though if you spent a point of Source on your Gift activation, you will still be able to Exert your Mind during that same round.
- 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.|
When a Contractor claims victory in a Contract, they are awarded with supernatural abilities and/or equipment called Gifts. Gifts are the reason Contractors risk their lives on the Harbingers' missions and the primary means of Advancement in The Contract.
A Contractor’s Gifts are an awakening of their latent potential, and are therefore unique to each individual.
Each Gift 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 powerful abilities 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).
New Gifts can only be acquired from succeeding in a Contract, but Improvements for existing Gifts can be earned in several other ways outlined in the Gifts and Improvements section of the guide
The Gift Builder
Players construct their own Gifts between sessions using The Contract's unique Gift Builder.
The Contract's Gift Builder allows Players to create custom Gifts that are balanced AND behave consistently no matter who is acting as GM.
Examples of completed Gifts can be found on the Stock Gifts page. Stock Gifts can also be customized or granted to a Contractor as-is.
The rest of this guide outlines how the Gift Builder works, but the Gift Builder itself provides plenty of guidance on its own.
Building a Gift
Creating a custom Gift is easy.
- Come up with an idea for a Gift that fits your Character Concept.
- Visit the Gift Builder page and select a Gift Type and Effect that matches the idea you just conceptualized.
- Select Enhancements and Drawbacks and adjust Parameters and Activation Style to customize the Effect to your liking.
- If the Gift costs more than one Gift Credit, add Drawbacks and adjust Parameters until it has a Gift Cost of 1 (it can be improved in the future).
- Fill out the Gift's Visual Description to establish its flavor and make it clear to any GMs how the Gift will look when it is used during a Contract.
- Name the Gift, and add a cool Tagline if you can think of one.
Congratulations, you just made a Gift!
Every Gift you make has a Gift Cost associated with it. This is the primary method of ensuring that Gifts are generally balanced across all Contractors and Playgroups. The Gift Cost is displayed within the Gift Builder as you are creating a new Gift, and is also displayed alongside each Gift on a Contractor's Character Sheet.
Each Enhancement you add to a Gift will increase the Gift Cost by 1. Conversely, each Drawback will decrease the Gift Cost by 1. Increasing and decreasing the level of a Parameter will similarly increase and decrease the Gift Cost by 1. Finally, some Activation Styles will either increase or decrease the Gift Cost.
A Gift may only be given to a Contractor who has enough available Gift Credits and Improvements to match the Gift's Cost. Generally speaking, this means that when a Contractor completes a Contract and gets a new Gift, it must have a Gift Cost of 1, since Contractors only receive a single Gift Credit per Contract as a reward.
The first thing you do when creating a Gift is select its Gift Type.
A Gift's Type represents the way it manifests. There are four different Gift Types to choose from. Not all Effects are available for each Gift Type.
Powers are a Contractor's bread and butter. They can represent something innate to the Contractor themselves, or the ability to channel power from the world around them. They may be obvious or subtle, arcane or technological, actively called upon or passively empowering.
Powers are the only Gift Type that doesn't always require some form of equipment, making them the most reliable.
Examples of Powers include:
- Any superpower
- Magical spells and divine invocations
- Cybernetic implants and other bodily augmentations
- Supernaturally honed Abilities
- Mythical Brawn, Dexterity, Intellect, Perception, or Charisma
- Beneficial effects stemming from your Contractor's otherworldly nature
If your idea for a Gift isn't obviously one of the other Gift Types, it's probably a Power.
Legendary Artifacts are high-risk and high-reward. They are unique, one-of-a-kind items, stronger on average than Powers or crafted items. However, they can be lost, destroyed, or even stolen by other Contractors, as well as temporarily stripped by the GM in some circumstances. While there are ways to protect Legendary Artifacts, some risk always remains.
As your Contractor progresses, you may invest multiple Gifts and Improvements into a single Legendary Artifact, granting it multiple activated and passive Effects.
Examples of Legendary Artifacts Include:
- Unique alien technology
- Mythical relics
- Family heirlooms
- One-of-a-kind creations
Any Gift that is extraordinary equipment your Contractor did not create themselves is a Legendary Artifact Gift.
Consumable Crafting Gifts allow your Contractor to create single-use items that can be shared and traded around. Consumables grant an Effect once before being 'consumed', but they do not require any Exertion to activate.
Consumables can only be crafted during the Downtime between Contracts. Each Downtime, Contractors can craft one of each of their Consumables for free, and additional Consumables may be crafted at a cost of 2 Experience each. Spending a Gift Credit or Improvement to improve an existing Consumable Crafting Gift will also give you an extra free Consumable.
Examples of Crafted Consumables Include:
- Specialty ammunition
- Settable traps
- Deployable super-tech
- Magic makeup
- Energy drinks that turn you into a mongoose
If it's supernatural, single-use items your Contractor makes, it's Consumable Crafting.
Artifact Crafting Gifts allow your Contractor to create powerful, long-lasting items. Crafted Artifacts can be batered and traded to other Contractors, rivaling even the Gifts they receive from the Harbingers. However, the cost to create these artifacts is steep.
Upon receiving a new Artifact Crafting Gift, you may craft that artifact once for free. You can also craft a free copy any time you improve an Artifact Crafting Gift by spending an Improvement or Gift Credit. Otherwise, Artifacts can only be crafted during Downtime, and it costs your Contractor an amount of Experience equal to 1 + it's Gift Cost.
Examples of Crafted Artifacts Include:
- Extraordinary weapons and armor
- Skunkworks prototype devices
- Alien technology
- Super-suits for your team
If you're looking to rival Hephaestus or Stark, you want Artifact Crafting.
Effects are a fundamental building block of Gifts, and each completed Gift is built by starting from a single Effect. Each overall functionality a Gift might have (e.g. injuring someone, memory manipulation, investigating an individual) has a representative Effect.
Effects are esssentially a generic starting point for a Gift which defines the core of what the Gift does. When building a gift, it is crucial to identify this element within your concept. For example, if your vampire assassin character wants to remain unseen while stalking their prey, the core thing which this Gift does is make them hard to detect, so you would use the Obscure Effect. If your alchemist wants to develop a lethal poison, the ultimate goal is to hurt some, so they might want the Injure Effect - however, if they prefer to slowly debilitate their target over time, Afflict might serve their purposes better.
Any given Effect can be used to create a vast number of mechanically and flavorfully distinct Gifts. There are currently over 90 unique Effects available in The Contract. Each Effect is further customized through using whichever Activation Styles, Parameters, Enhancements, and Drawbacks are available for it.
Effects are grouped into 10 categories based on their function.
These categories serve no mechanical purpose, but exist to aid in narrowing down the correct Effect to use for a given Gift concept.
Some Effects have different possible methods of implementation which are meaningful enough that they must be mechanically differentiated; these are called Activation Styles. There are four possible Styles an Effect can have:
- Activated: An Effect with the Activated Style requires the user to do something, generally Exert their Mind and/or spend an Action, to activate the Effect. These generally impact the user directly, rather than the people around them.
- Targeted: An Effect with the Targeted Style requires the user to select a target and do something, generally Exert their Mind and/or spend an Action, to activate the Effect. These impact the people and world around the user, though they can also sometimes be self-targeted.
- Trap: An Effect with the Trap Style is placed by the user, and is then triggered later by something else.
- Passive: An Effect with the Passive Style is always on, without requiring any Action or Exertion to activate. These generally impact the user directly, rather than the people around them.
Most Effects only have one or two Styles available, and it is chosen during Gift creation.
In some cases, changing the Activation Style of a Gift can either increase or decrease the Gift Cost.
Many Effects have Parameters. These represent a linear progression of balance-relevant values. Examples include the range at which the Gift can be used, or the time it takes to activate. Increasing a Parameter by a level will also increase the Gift Cost by 1, and vice versa.
Parameter values are generally restricted based on Contractor Status to keep Gifts balanced at all levels.
Enhancements and Drawbacks
Enhancements and Drawbacks are the primary means of customizing the mechanics of your Gift.
Enhancements and Drawbacks can fundamentally alter the default behavior of an Effect. Each Enhancement you take increases the Gift Cost by one, and each Drawback decreases it by one. 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 Gift by taking Drawbacks. Be careful about taking too many Drawbacks; an unusable Gift is not fun. We recommend taking no more than three on any given Gift.
Simple dice bonuses and roll modifiers are not common. We make an effort to supply Enhancements and Drawbacks that enable a variety of flavors and 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 Gift's Description is extremely important. Here you must describe, in non-mechanical terms, what the Gift 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 creating a Gift with the Injure Effect, you may choose to flavor it in many ways. If you put "hurls a ball of white-hot fire" in the Description, your Gift 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 Gift, 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 Gift.
The amount of freedom provided by the Description field is limited balance-wise to what could intuitively be called less than a "Gift Credit's worth" of impact. Refer to the Effect's Enhancements and Drawbacks for reference. You can never specify mechanical modifiers in the Description. Playgroup Leaders have the final say as to whether or not a given Gift'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 Gift, but they are free to use their discretion in the extent of its effect. A fireball-flavored Injure Gift 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 part of a Gift that is truly sacred and not subject to GM discretion is the System Text, which is derived from the Effect, 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 Gift). Providing more detail will always result in a more consistent, well-defined Gift.
System Text, Tagline, and Gift Name
The final three elements of the Gift Builder are the easiest to fill out when creating a Gift.
The System Text describes the mechanical rules of a Gift. Each Effect has a default System Text, which is then modified through the various customizations you make. The Gift Builder will automatically populate the System Text for you, including any modifications from Parameters, Activation Style, Enhancements, and Drawbacks. It is useful to double check this text before saving your Gift, to make sure it has the mechanical impact you intended.
Finally, your Gift needs a Name! This can be whatever you like, though it is helpful for anyone looking at your character sheet if the name is related to the actual Gift you've made. The Tagline field is optional but it can be useful to introduce the Gift in a fun and flavorful way.
Restrictions on Gifts
1. They must be created using the Gift Builder
In general, winning in a Contract allows you to create a single Gift using the Gift Builder on this website. Playgroup Leaders can, if they wish, create House Rules which allow for alternate systems for making Gifts, or can even grant rewards which aren't Gifts at all, but a Contractor who has Gifts or rewards that are not created through the Gift Builder or are made using alternative systems will be locked to their own Playgroup. This rule is very important for ensuring a balanced game and for allowing Contractors to be portable.
2. Your Character must be eligible to recieve the Gift
A Contractor can only receive a Gift with a Gift Cost equal to the number of Gift Credits and Improvements they have available to spend. The online Character Sheet keeps track of total Gift Credits and Improvements earned, as well as the 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 and Parameter levels, are restricted to only Contractors who have achieved a certain Status. This prevents Newbie and Novice Contractors from having access to overly powerful Gifts, 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 Gifts which fit within their Character Concept. The Contract does not have a "class" system to restrict what Effects 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. Playgroup Leaders can veto Gifts
Playgroup Leaders are responsible for checking on Gifts within their Playgroup to make sure players are following these guidelines. Additionally, Playgroup Leaders can veto a Gift for any number of other reasons, and can even prohibit Contractors from other Playgroups from going on Contracts in their Playgroup if the Contractor's Gifts are problematic. Some examples of this include:
- The Gift violates a house rule
- The Gift's Description has too many balance implications or was not created in good faith
- The Gift abuses the freedoms afforded by the Gift Builder to nullify Drawbacks, create an infinite combo, or is otherwise unbalanced due to shenanigans
- The Effect is restricted due to the Playgroup's chosen Setting (e.g. Hack may be restricted in a cyberpunk Setting)
Going in Turns
In critical situations where every second matters and all the Players want to act at once, the GM can opt to pause the realtime pace of gameplay and move into a turn-based mode of play called Combat.
Each Round of Combat lasts approximately three seconds of in-game time. During a given Round, each character has a chance to act, taking turns in an order determined by rolling 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.
When Players are in the sorts of tense, high-stakes situations, they want their Characters to do as much as possible on their turn. The Action Economy determines how much a given character can do in a given Round.
Violent conflict is not the only time splitting the action into turns is useful. As a rule of thumb, you should use turn-based gameplay whenever multiple characters want a bunch of different things all at once.
Conversely, not all "combat" situations demand turns. If a Contractor is taking pot-shots at distant zombies or sneaking around a camp of sleeping enemies killing each one without raising the alarm, you do not need to roll Initiative or use turns.
Most combat resolves in two to four Rounds. If your Playgroup's combat regularly lasts more than five Rounds, GMs should re-evaluate how they are setting up encounters.
The Online Character Sheets have an expandable Combat quick-reference guide just below the Abilities section. It packages the rules outlined in this section so they're easy to use, and it calculates dice pools and Movement based on the Contractor's stats.
The Nature of ViolenceContracts have life-and-death stakes, and violence is common.
Combat in The Contract is quick and deadly. Its outcome is 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 Death. Contractors should strive to be creative and create other advantages such as an ambush, a numbers advantage, better positioning, etc.
All established Contractors have some way of dealing with violence, but their options are not limited to simply winning a race of "who can kill who first." Combat has no direct reward (such as Exp), so avoiding unnecessary combat is a wise and often-successful strategy.
Players do not need to fully understand these rules before playing, but GMs must.
As GM, your goal is to teach your Players, not use their ignorance of the system against them. You should strive to inform newer Players of their options and help translate their intentions into the systems laid out in this guide.
Time in Rounds
Each Round of Combat lasts approximately three seconds of in-game time. During a given Round, each character has a chance to act, taking turns in an order determined by rolling Initiative. This turn-taking helps make sense of the chaos of combat, but in-game, these actions are all happening at roughly the same time.
When narrating Combat, think about how action sequences are shot in movies. Lots of things are happening at once, but the camera can only focus on one interaction at a time.
Combat in The Contract is similarly set up such that if two characters are interacting, their Actions for that Round are usually resolved at the same time, regardless of the turn order.
To avoid action narration feeling like a Final Fantasy fight, speak about the current Round's action in the pesent progressive tense. E.g. If a Contractor runs across the room on their turn and the next Player asks what's happening, narrate that the Contractor "is running" across the room instead of "ran" across the room.
The Action Economy
When Players are in Combat, they usually want their Characters to do as much as possible on their turn. The Action Economy determines how much a given character can do in a given Round.
- Actions: The primary thing a character does in the Round is their Action, whether they're attacking, activating a Gift, throwing a road flare, etc.
- Reacting: When attacked, Defending yourself (or counterattacking with a Clash) uses up that Round's Action.
- Desperate Defense: If a Character who has already used their Action is attacked, they have the option to Exert their Mind Defend with a penalty.
- Movement: Characters get a certain amount of Free Movement each turn. Moving farther or over difficult terrain can use up their Action.
- Characters can move before OR after their Action on their initiative. They cannot split their movement to move, attack, and then move more.
- Free Actions: Things like speaking a short phrase, dropping something you're carrying, or activating certain Gifts can be performed without rolling or incurring dice penalties.
No Gifts, Conditions, or effects give Contractors the ability to take additional Actions each Round. This is an intentional design decision that helps keep turns short and prevents action economy min-maxing.
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 to lowest Initiative Outcome. Ties are broken by the size of the characters' Initiative dice pools, 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.
Characters that are not likely to do anything in the Combat (e.g. bystanders or characters who don't know anything is going down) do not need to roll Initiative or have a place in the turn order.
The GM may roll Initiative for NPCs or opt to have them all go at the end of the Round, one after the other.
- Ambushes: A character who is ambushed or caught flat-footed automatically loses Initiative. 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.
- Hostages: One character is holding another hostage with a weapon. If the hostage attempts to break free, roll Initiative as normal. If hostage-taker decides to kill their hostage, they get a free attack on the hostage at -2 Difficulty, then Initiative is rolled.
- Mexican Standoffs: Two or more characters have readied actions to kill each other. The first attack is free, then initiative is rolled. Any character that attacks the target they were already aiming for gets -2 Difficulty on their attack.
- Mass Combat: See the Mobs Article for guidance on how to manage Combats with many participants.
An Action is what a character does in a given ~3 second Round.
The most common Actions are:
- Activating a Gift
- Sprinting, driving, or performing difficult movement
However, characters can choose to take any Action they'd like.
Actions that do not normally require a roll will often equire 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?
Some tasks can't reasonably be performed in 3 seconds and so take multiple Actions. The GM informs the Player how many Actions their intended task might take.
Because Combat tends to last only a few Rounds, it's not worth judging precisely how many Actions it will take to perform any task that takes longer than 9 seconds or so.
If a Contractor wants to pick a lock or make an omlette during Combat, they'll be doing that until Combat ends and for some time after that.
An Attack represents an all-out attempt to kill your target.
To make an Attack, pick a target in range, specify how you'd like to hurt them, then roll. The relevant Attribute, Ability, Difficulty, and Bonus Damage is determined by your weapon.
Attacks are always treated as Contested Rolls. If your target does not React, the Outcome of their defensive roll is simply treated as 0.
GMs may apply Difficulty modifiers at their discretion, depending on the circumstances. Shooting a stationary target is much easier than firing from a moving vehicle during a rainstorm.
Not every aggressive action is an all-out attempt to kill. If a Contractor slaps someone, tackles a target to the ground, or jams their knife into their prisoner's hand, don't have them roll for an all-out attack that might kill their target.
Attacking Multiple Targets
If a Contractor wants to Attack Two Targets with a single Action, they roll once at +2 Difficulty. The Outcome is split evenly between the two targets (the GM divvies any remainder at their discretion). Each target may Defend or Clash as normal. Weapon and Bonus Damage applies fully to each target hit.
Because any target that choses to Clash has an extreme advantage, Contractors rarely opt to attack multiple targets with a single Action.
Fully Automatic Firearms may also "sweep" an area.
Inevitably someone will want to make a specific aimed attack targeting a hand, an eye, or a weak spot. When such attacks go beyond flavoring and assume strategic importance, the GM should call for a Called Shot.
- A called shot must be declared before the dice are rolled.
- A called a shot must be within the maximum listed range of a weapon if applicable.
The Contractor then makes their attack as normal. A Contested Outcome of 4 or higher is required to hit a target the size of an arm, leg or larger. A Contested Outcome of 6 or higher is required to hit a target is the size of a hand, head, or smaller. If you score less than the required Contested Outcome, you still hit your target, but not in the chosen location, and your damage is cut in half.
A successful called shot levies benefits at the GMs discretion such as Battle Scars, armor penetration, or extra damage. When aiming at extremities, a successful Called Shot limits the maximum damage to a Severity 5 Injury. Additional damage is wasted.
Players often specify some detail about the manner in which they are attacking ("I take aim and fire" or "I slide under the creature's belly and stab upwards"). When these descriptions are flavorful instead of strategic, interpret them as standard all-out attacks without additional modifiers. Once the roll is complete and Damage has been determined, narrate the attack based on the Outcome. This a great opportunity to help Players feel badass.
Grappling and Choking
A Garrote is a melee weapon that may use Brawl or Melee in much the same way as a knife. They are Difficulty 8 to use, though that Difficulty drops by -2 if you are able to surprise a target from behind. A garrote operates like a chokehold above, however the attacker may maintain the original grapple roll if they wish. It is not generally possible to escape a successful Garrote Attack. To escape without a relevant Gift, one must defeat the person maintaining the garotte. Damage done while choking with a Garrote does not suffer the -2 Damage penalty intrinsic to unarmed attacks.
A Garrote is a melee weapon that may use Brawl or Melee in much the same way as a knife. They are Difficulty 8 to use, though that Difficulty drops by -2 if you are able to surprise a target from behind. A garrote operates like a chokehold above, however the attacker may maintain the original grapple roll if they wish. It is not generally possible to escape a successful Garrote Attack. To escape without a relevant Gift, one must defeat the person maintaining the garotte.
Damage done while choking with a Garrote does not suffer the -2 Damage penalty intrinsic to unarmed attacks.
Quick Actions and Multi-Tasking
If a Character wants to do more than one thing during their Action, the GM determines whether or not they can multi-task and how.
Simple tasks that are unlikely to fail and don't warrant a full Action can be taken as Quick Actions.
Quick 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).
Examples of Quick Actions include drawing a holstered, accessible weapon, standing up, and buckling your seatbelt.
If a Contractor wishes to take their main Action and then perform a Quick Action, their main Action's roll is still at -2 dice. If they didn't take a dice penalty, they'll have to wait until next Round to perform their Quick Action.
Using Two Abilities at Once
If a Contractor attempts an Action that obviously involves two seperate Abilities (e.g. sword-fighting on horseback), the GM will generally call for a roll using the lower of the two relevant Abilities, and they may also increase the roll's Difficulty. The resulting Outcome determines the success of the attempted Action as normal.
Certain Actions are so demanding that anyone performing them cannot multi-task perform any Quick Actions at the same time. These are called Committed Actions.
In practice, these are mostly imited to Gifts that state simply to "Spend an Action to activate" and do not require a roll. GMs may occasionally declare that other Actions are committed and cannot be split.
Can you think and act at the same time? It turns out, the answer is "not really."
Whether or not Mental actions require a roll is up to the GM's discretion. 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, and general awareness or "passive" mental actions (does the Contractor 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."
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 cannot normally be reacted to.
Characters may make a Reaction, even if they are currently holding an Action. Doing so forfeits the held Action.
Reactions allow a character to take their Action prior to their placement in the turn order, so long as it is in direct response to the other Action. Reactions are almost always defensive. The three main Reactions are Dodging, Defending, and Clashing.
Characters cannot React to Firearms attacks without a relevant Gift. However, they can React to someone drawing a gun before an Attack is declared.
Reactions will "use-up" the current 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 Defense. You may then Dodge or Defend as normal, but your next Action is performed at a -2 Penalty.
You cannot Clash as a Desperate Defense.
To dodge an attack, roll Dexterity + Athletics. Dodging Contests the attack, subtracting its Outcome from the attack roll's. If the Contested Outcome is 1 or greater, the attack hits, but if it is 0 or less, the attack misses.
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 to dodge. If the attack is slow and ponderous, it may be easier.
Characters may also Evade with their 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 contest any incoming attacks. 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 the Contested Outcome of their attack to 0, but do not have enough left over to reduce the second attack's Contested Outcome down to 0. You will evade the first attack but be hit by the second.
Sometimes, it's possible for a character to use their own weapon to Defend against an incoming attack. Defending in this way uses their weapon's standard attack roll and Difficulty. Defending is a Contested Action against their attack, so the Outcome of the defensive roll is subtracted from the Outcome of the attack roll, giving a Contested Outcome which determines whether the attack was successful. If the Contested Outcome is 1 or greater, the attack hits, but if it is 0 or less, the attack is stopped.
Unarmed characters may Defend against unarmed attacks. Characters armed with a melee weapon may Defend against unarmed, melee, or thrown projectile attacks. Firearms can be used as melee weapons to Defend and can only be Defended against by those in melee range, provided the attacker did not have the attack prepared (ie. you may defend against someone in reach who is drawing a firearm or starting to aim at you, but not against someone who was already aiming at you pulling the trigger.)
Characters may Defend against attacks targeted at others if they are within range.
A character wielding a melee weapon may choose whether they want to Defend against unarmed attacks using their weapon or Brawl roll.
Clashing is type of a high-stakes Reaction that gives the defender a chance to deal damage back to their attacker.
A character in a position to Defend against an attack may choose to Clash instead. Unlike Defending, Clashing is not handled as a Contested Action. The rolls are the same as for 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.
Note: you cannot Clash as a Desperate Defense.
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 + 1) feet.
When performing an all-out Sprint towards a target, excess sprint distance can be used to “follow” the target if they move before the sprinter's next movement.
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.
Few GMs find it worthwhile to track fully-itemized, weighted equipment lists. These Encumbrance rules are best used as a reference in cases where a Contractor seems like they're carrying way too much stuff.
If the Player complains, ask them to draw their Contractor carrying all their stuff. That almost always shuts them up.
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 = Contested Outcome + Weapon Damage + Bonus Damage - Armor. Bonus Damage can be obtained through Gifts, and different sources of it do not stack. If the Contested 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). In a case where you have split your Outcome to attack two targets, the Weapon Damage and Bonus Damage values will be halved (rounded up).
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 can cause Complications and are much more difficult to treat.
This section contains information on damage from equipment. See the Other Sources of Damage section for additional, situational rules.
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. All gun attacks are rolled with Dexterity + Firearms. The effective range listed is not a maximum range. Guns may be fired at targets beyond that range, with the Difficulty increasing by +1 for each increment of the listed range, up to a maximum of 3x the listed range. For example, if a Contractor shoots with a handgun at a target 70 feet away, it is rolled at +1 Difficulty. Once the target gets further than 100 feet away, the Difficulty will increase to +2, and the maximum distance at which they can be hit is approximately 150 feet (three times the listed effective range). Contractors may reduce the Difficulty of a firearms attack by spending time aiming. -1 Difficulty per Round spent aiming, to a minimum of Difficulty 4 for stationary targets and Difficulty 5 for moving targets. This bonus can only be gained if the shooter is standing still. Note: Tracking reloads / ammo is an optional rule at the GM's discretion. Roll Dexterity + Firearms, Difficulty 8. Maximum range is 35 feet. If the Contested Outcome is positive, 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. Target must re-roll Body for the next 3 Rounds or until the darts are removed or they gain an Outcome of at least 4 on their Body roll.
Base Attack Difficulty
Reload After X Combat Turns
Difficulty 6, +1 at melee range
Heavy Sniper Rifles
Difficulty 6, +3 without a tripod or at melee range. Tripods take one Action to deploy.
Hand-to-hand, biting, choking
Brawn + Brawl Difficulty 6
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
Throwing knife / shuriken
Dexterity + Athletics Difficulty 6
0 (damage capped at your Brawn rating)
Throwing axe / javelin
Brawn + Athletics Difficulty 6
1 (damage capped at your Brawn rating)
Improvised Thrown weapon
Brawn + Athletics Difficulty 7-9 (GM's discretion)
0-1 (damage capped at your Brawn rating)
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. The target may contest by dodging or Defending. If the Contested Outcome is positive, 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
Mace / Pepper-Spray
Roll Dexterity + Brawl, Firearms, or Athletics, Difficulty 8. The target may dodge or Defend. If the Contested Outcome is positive, the target is blinded for 10 Rounds (30 seconds). Blinded targets automatically fail any roll requiring sight and suffer up to a -3 dice penalty to any roll that would benefit form sight. A sight penalty of -2 dice lingers after the initial 30 seconds until the target can properly wash their eyes. Does no Damage.
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.
All gun attacks are rolled with Dexterity + Firearms.
The effective range listed is not a maximum range. Guns may be fired at targets beyond that range, with the Difficulty increasing by +1 for each increment of the listed range, up to a maximum of 3x the listed range. For example, if a Contractor shoots with a handgun at a target 70 feet away, it is rolled at +1 Difficulty. Once the target gets further than 100 feet away, the Difficulty will increase to +2, and the maximum distance at which they can be hit is approximately 150 feet (three times the listed effective range).
Contractors may reduce the Difficulty of a firearms attack by spending time aiming. -1 Difficulty per Round spent aiming, to a minimum of Difficulty 4 for stationary targets and Difficulty 5 for moving targets.
This bonus can only be gained if the shooter is standing still.
Note: Tracking reloads / ammo is an optional rule at the GM's discretion.
Roll Dexterity + Firearms, Difficulty 8. Maximum range is 35 feet. If the Contested Outcome is positive, 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.
Target must re-roll Body for the next 3 Rounds or until the darts are removed or they gain an Outcome of at least 4 on their Body roll.
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-advanced clothing designed as armor|
|Flack Jacket and Helmet||3||0||This armor is obvious and unusual, and may cause social issues depending on the area.|
|Bomb Suit||6||5||Movement is severely limited|
|Full Plate||4||3||Full Plate weighs 45 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
|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
|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
|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
|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)
|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)
|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)
|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 Perception + 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.
This system helps GMs run mobs of similar enemies (a pack of wolves, a squad of cops, a horde of zombies, etc). The more characters are involved in Combat, the slower it progresses and the more work the GM has to do. GMs and scenario designers should try to limit the number of characters in a combat to 8 or fewer. This mob system lets GMs “collapse” many similar enemies into a mob that acts and is tracked as a single character. Mob health: Attacking mobs: Mob attacks:
This system helps GMs run mobs of similar enemies (a pack of wolves, a squad of cops, a horde of zombies, etc).
The more characters are involved in Combat, the slower it progresses and the more work the GM has to do. GMs and scenario designers should try to limit the number of characters in a combat to 8 or fewer. This mob system lets GMs “collapse” many similar enemies into a mob that acts and is tracked as a single character.
These rules cover additional edge cases and situations that may arise during a Contract. GMs and Players are not expected to be familiar with these rules, and any of the situations they describe can also be resolved through standard GM Discretion. As such they should be considered optional.
These systems are provided for Players and GMs who like extended, structured rules and as an example of what The Contract's developers would rule in these situations.
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
- 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
- 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 melee 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, 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.
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, Gifts, 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: 30 seconds, 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.
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.
Vehicles provide exceptional speed, protection, and power but are only usable in niche situations. This system covers common road vehicles such as motorcycles, ATVs, cars, trucks, SUVs, and semi-trucks. Most of the time, GMs can handle scenes with vehicles without referencing this rules. However, they are useful if you are dealing with a vehicle-based Contractor, Scenarios with Mad Max-style road battles, or Combats that start on foot and turn into a chase.
Entering and Exiting Vehicles
Vehicles provide exceptional speed, protection, and power but are only usable in niche situations. This system covers common road vehicles such as motorcycles, ATVs, cars, trucks, SUVs, and semi-trucks.
Most of the time, GMs can handle scenes with vehicles without referencing this rules. However, they are useful if you are dealing with a vehicle-based Contractor, Scenarios with Mad Max-style road battles, or Combats that start on foot and turn into a chase.
Vehicle Speed and Acceleration
Speed and Acceleration
A vehicle is traveling at one of the following speed levels at any given time.
|Speed Level||Distance / Speed||Notes|
|0 - Stopped||Stationary (0 mph)|
|0.5 Technical||Dex + Drive x 5 feet per Round (5 mph)||Used only when traversing extremely difficult terrain such as stairs on a motorcycle or rocky, off-road terrain in an SUV. Skipped in standard acceleration.|
|1 Maneuvering||120 feet per Round (15-50 mph)||Used when accelerating from a stop, when traversing difficult terrain, when performing tight turns, or when tires are damaged.|
|2 Highway||250 feet per Round (55-85 mph)||Usable only when traversing ideal terrain, such as a highway.|
|3 Top||500 feet per Round (90-120 mph)||Extremely dangerous|
In ideal conditions, drivers may use their Free Movement to move their current speed’s distance, or to accelerate or decelerate one speed level, in which case they use their target speed’s distance.
If skilled maneuvering is required (often the case in races or combat), the driver must use their Action on a Dexterity + Drive roll.
- With an Outcome of 4, you travel the distance of your target speed. Otherwise, you traverse some distance between current and target speed
- Failures may cause crashes, and Botches always cause crashes.
- Difficulty can be modified by the relative speed of the vehicle, the terrain, and any obstacles present.
The higher the speed, the less maneuverable a vehicle is. A 180 degree turn must be performed at Technical speed or Maneuvering speed with a roll.
Slow vehicles (semi trucks, mini vans) require 2 Rounds to increase their speed by one level. Heavy vehicles also require 2 Rounds to slow.
Entering difficulty terrain at too high of a speed demands a Dexterity + Drive roll at a high Difficulty. A failure causes a Tumble, but any Outcome will result in significant damage to the vehicle.
Vehicle Crashes and Safety
A botch on any Drive roll causes a crash. A failure may cause a crash at the GMs discretion. There are two types of crashes.
- Sliding out on a motorcycle, rolling a car, a major collision with a significantly smaller vehicle, entering poor terrain at speed, or any crash that involves several small or indirect collisions.
- Damage: Roll Speed rating x 2 dice, difficulty 6 and add 2 to the Outcome to determine Damage for each participant.
- A Tumble may destroy or damage the vehicle at GM’s discretion.
- Direct collision with a tree, the side of a building, or a vehicle same-size or larger.
- Damage: Roll highest speed rating involved x 4 dice, Difficulty 6 and add 4 to the Outcome to determine damage for each participant.
- Destroys the vehicle.
Safety measures in crashes:
- Armor: Any Armor the Contractor happened to be wearing applies in full.
- Seat belt: +2 Armor (stacks with normal Armor).
- Airbag: +1 Armor (stacks with Armor and seatbelt, requires seat belt to be worn).
Protection from Outside Attacks:
- Standard civilian cars offer 3 Armor from exterior ranged attacks, which does not stack with other Armor.
- This represents both the materials of the vehicle as well as increased difficulty to get a good shot on a target in cover.
- Armored vehicles
- Damaging passengers requires an opening and a called shot for firearms
- Against exterior explosives, armored vehicles grant 10 Armor to passengers.
- Melee attacks from/against passengers in a moving vehicle are not generally possible.
Vehicles are not video game monsters that take damage when any weapon collides with them. They have many components, only some of which are critical. If a critical component of the Vehicle (such as the engine or drive shaft) breaks, the vehicle stops.
Vehicles that "cannot be destroyed" due to a Gift or other effect simply cannot be fully destroyed. Their windows may still break and their doors may be ripped off, but they'll keep going.
- Non run-flat tires that take any damage are destroyed.
- +1 Difficulty to Drive rolls per tire destroyed
- If half or more of a vehicle’s tires are destroyed, the vehicle can only move at Maneuvering speeds.
- If all are destroyed, the vehicle can only move at Technical speed.
- Engine damage
- Damaging an Engine with an Attack requires a Called Shot (requiring Outcome 4). A standard civilian vehicle engine has 4 "Body" and 6 Armor.
- Sidearms and shotgun shot are unlikely to damage an engine enough to cause immediate catastrophic failure, but they may cause a broken windshield, loss of functionality, or eventual overheating.
- A vehicle with damaged critical components cannot travel faster than Maneuvering speed.
- Traverse Obstacle (e.g. a parking lot, city streets, watermelon cart in the market).
- Roll Dex + Drive Difficulty 6 + (depending on obstacle and speed).
- Full distance if Outcome is 4 or higher. Failure causes a crash.
- On a flat straightaway, the outcome is determined by the vehicles.
- If any maneuvering is required, roll a contested Dexterity + Drive
- Attempting to pass during a chase at same speed
- Attempting to drive alongside the other vehicle
- Attempting to out-maneuver during a chase
- All require a Dexterity + Drive roll.
- PIT maneuver: an attempt to safely stop similarly-sized vehicle
- Dexterity + Drive, Difficulty 7. The target may Defend at Difficulty 7.
- Success reduces their speed to 0 and turns them around. Any failed rolls cause Tumbles and vehicle damage.
- Driver Multi-tasking
- Non-challenging driving is considered a Quick Action and uses one hand.
- Drive-by (while moving at Maneuvering speed or higher, otherwise normal).
- Firing from inside a fast-moving vehicle is +2 Difficulty.
- Crashing into a target
- Attack with Dexterity + Drive Difficulty 5 + speed rating. They dodge with Dexterity + Athletics (or Dexterity + Drive if driving).
- If targets are roughly the same size (pedestrian vs motorcycle, SUV vs sedan), both experience a catastrophic crash or Tumble, depending on Outcome and intent.
- If one target is significantly larger, the smaller target experiences a Catastrophic crash. While the larger one experiences a Tumble.
- In cases with extreme size differences (bus vs pedestrian) the larger vehicle will not crash.
- Bailing (leaping from a moving vehicle)
- Roll Dexterity + Athletics, Difficulty 6. Complete success results in you taking a “Tumble.” Partial or a failure counts as a Catastrophic collision.
Most modifiers are levied by the GM at game-time at their discretion.
- In general when working with contested rolls, if one vehicle should benefit from its speed, size, or versatility, this is done as a Difficulty modifier on any relevant rolls.
- +1 Difficulty to maneuver a large vehicle
- -1 Difficulty to maneuver a motorcycle
- -1 Difficulty to race in a sporty car
- +1 Difficulty for difficult terrain (e.g. a trail for a dirt bike, a grassy field for an SUV)
- +1 Difficulty per damaged tire
- +1 Difficulty at high speeds for missing front windshield.
Drugs designed for human consumption have minimal positive mechanical Effects.
All drugs risk Addiciton. If you would gain a Trauma while under the effect of a substance you are not already addicted to, that Trauma will be an addiction to the given substance.
No drug acts immediately. The quickest onset time available to a drug is 1 minute when administered intravenously (via IV or with carefully with a syringe directly into major vein). Drugs administered via snorting or muscular injection (i.e. a dart) have an onset time of 5 minutes. Drugs that are ingested have an onset time of one hour.
- Normal dose: Recreational drugs have no mechanical benefits. They give at least a -1 Penalty, which can increase depending on the specific drug and how much you consume, at GMs discretion.
- Despite what Vice News tells you about scopolamine and similar drugs, no effective truth serum exists. This is because effective doses for sufficiently reducing inhibitions also cause delirium, confusion, and memory loss, making the information gained extremely unreliable.
- Normal dose: Reduce Mind Penalty by 2 for the next 4 hours, but during this time all Mind rolls are at +1 Difficulty. You cannot fall asleep while under the effects of a stimulant, and you cannot have restful sleep until 16 hours after the initial dose.
- Overdose: You are affected by the following Traumas: hallucinations, paranoia, delusions of invincibility. All Wound and Mind Penalties are ignored. Mind rolls are at +3 Difficulty.
- Massive Overdose: After 2 hours roll Body, Difficulty 9. If you fail, you suffer a heart attack (Severity 7 Injury that cannot be reduced with Will to Survive).
Painkillers / sedatives
- Normal dose: Reduce Body Penalty by 2 for the next 4 hours, but you take 1 point of Mind Damage when you consume the painkiller.
- Overdose: Take an additional Mind damage. You must roll Mind, Difficulty 8 to avoid falling asleep whenever you sit still. All physical Actions are performed at a -2 Penalty that cannot be reduced. Body Penalty is ignored.
- Massive Overdose: Sleepless no longer prevents you from sleeping. If you fall asleep, you stop breathing. If you remain asleep for more than 3 minutes, you take a Severity 1 Injury that worsens every 30 seconds that you are not receiving artificial respiration.