How to Play The Contract

When you finish this Guide:
  • You will know what The Contract is and how to play it.
  • You will have made your own Contractor.
  • You will either be scheduled to participate in an upcoming online Contract OR you will be prepared to start running The Contract for your own group.

Note: Read this guide front to back without skipping. The narrative covers the events of one play session and contains critical information.

Required to Play


Access to this website
(at least between sessions)

Several 10-sided dice or a dice-rolling app

3+ People

The Contract is a Tabletop Roleplaying Game

  • One person acts as Game Master (GM).
    • The GM referees the action and controls the world, mission, and NPCs (Non-Player Characters).
  • The other Players control personal characters called Contractors.
    • Contractors risk their lives in deadly missions for fantastic powers.
    • Most Players have several Contractors, but they may only play one per session.

Contracts

  • Most sessions of The Contract are self-contained missions called Contracts.
  • The attending Contractors are invited, briefed, and complete the Contract in one sitting.
  • Only the GM knows the details of that session’s Contract.
  • At the end of the Contract, the GM declares which of the attending Contractors achieved the objective. Those Contractors are rewarded with unique supernatural Powers.
  • The GM stands to gain Rewards for their own Contractors as well.

Play with Anyone

  • It doesn't matter who shows up to each session.
  • A different person may act as GM each time you play.  
  • A different set of Contractors can attend each Contract.
  • Many Players have no regular in-person group and play entirely online. 

Format

What price would you pay to achieve your wildest dreams?

What risks would you take to change the world?


For a select few, these questions aren’t hypothetical. They’re an offer.


We wager everything in the Contracts: our morals, our humanity, our very lives.


But the Harbingers are true to their word. Our pay transcends cash and coin.


Let me tell you about the day I accepted the offer that changed my life.



The day I signed The Contract.

Introductions

At the start of the session, the GM runs an introductory scene for each Contractor.

This story starts at a riot. It wasn’t much: an outraged mob, a few dozen squad cars, police lights flashing off the tear gas and smoke. Hard to believe a little domestic action was enough to get my blood pumping back then.

That is, until a rubber bullet caught me in the stomach. Next thing I know, I’m getting cuffed and shoved into the back seat of a squad car. A pair of cops climbed in up front and hit the road with me in tow.

We were halfway to the station when she spoke to me. Her voice came over the police radio, but it sounded like she was whispering in my ear.

“Hate to interrupt your ride, Lucy, but you and I should chat.”

The cops glanced at each other. “Uh. . . Dispatch, can you confirm that new destination for Squad 530?”

“See you soon.”

The driver shrugged to his deputy and took an exit. I was as confused as them, but I knew a distraction when I saw one. I pulled a bobby pin from the back of my belt and started working my handcuffs.

Harbingers
  • At the start of the session, a mysterious and powerful NPC known as a Harbinger contacts each Contractor.
  • The Harbinger gathers the Contractors together and briefs them on their objective.
  • Experienced Contractors have quick introductions, but brand-new Contractors usually require some convincing. . .

The cop drove us into an underground parking lot and turned to his deputy. “You see the contact?”

“I’m right here,” came that whisper again. Only this time she was actually there, sitting right beside me. She looked like she was from another world, all made-up in gold, headphones on, hair drifting in the air like she was underwater.

“Thanks for driving,” she said to the cops, “but Lucy and I have a gig to discuss.”

The officers scrambled out of the car and drew their guns on us.

“Get out of the vehicle!” cried the driver.

The deputy shouted into his radio: “Requesting immediate backup for a possible 10-300!”

I want to say I was cool, but the truth is, I was as freaked out as the cops. You don't hear a lot of encounter stories with happy endings.

“What a racket,” she muttered. “I can see why you want to get rid of them. Now about that job. . .”

“Job?” I managed.

“One night’s work. It’s dangerous, but if you succeed, I’ll put you on the path to greatness.”

The twang of my pin releasing my handcuffs snapped me back to earth.

“Thanks,” I said, “but I’m already great.”

I slammed my back into the door, tumbled onto the tarmac, and made a break for it.

Contractors
  • Most Contractors start as normal humans without Powers.
  • Only the most skilled and driven individuals receive an offer to become Contractors.

I got five frantic steps before the deputy tackled me to the ground. He jammed his gun under my chin. I gasped my last breath and waited for the shot, but it never came.

Cracking one eye, I found the cop above me frozen mid-sneer. His partner was frozen too, still pointing his gun at the car. Someone had hit the pause button on time itself.

The Offer of a Lifetime

“Who-- what are you?”

“Some call us Harbingers. We make the offer: succeed, and we’ll awaken the Powers that lie dormant within you.”

"Thanks for the save," I said, squirming free of the cop’s frozen arms. “So that’s the offer? Do one job and you’ll give me superpowers? Dangerous or not, that’s a pretty good deal.”

Payment
  • Each time a Contractor is Victorious on a Contract, they receive a Gift that unlocks their supernatural potential.
  • A Gift grants a new Power or improves an existing Power.
  • Each Player creates custom Powers for their Contractors using the Powers System.
  • No two Contractors share a single trick.

“There will be more opportunities to prove yourself. Accept, and you will be imbued so that others like me can find you. It will change the way you learn. You will advance quicker than you thought possible after completing a job. However, if you stop you will stagnate.”

Learning
  • Experience points (Exp) are used to improve your mundane stats. 
  • Contractors receive 4 Exp for a victory and 2 Exp for a loss.

“So,” she said, extending her hand, “what do you say?”

I pulled my American Spirits from the frozen deputy’s pocket. My hands were shaking so bad I could barely hold the lighter. “Fuck. So what’s the catch? I agree and I’m locked in? You gunna spirit me away to some government facility where they keep me in a cage between jobs?”

“The Contract doesn’t rely on trickery. Outside of the Jobs, you are free to pursue your own goals. You can quit at any time, but once you’re out, you’re out for good.”

Signing the Contract
  • Contractors go on Contracts willingly.
    • The same goes for Players. You are never obligated to play a session.
  • Contractors, especially more advanced ones, spend the Downtime between Contracts pursuing their ambitions, forming alliances, and dealing with the enemies they’ve made on their rise to power.
  • A Contractor can retire at any time, but once they do so, they can never attend another Contract.

“Fuck it,” I said, taking her hand. “I’m in.”

What happened next. . . Look, I’m not a poet, but I’ll try to explain it. 

It was like I was a drop of rain, and I landed in the ocean. The lines separating me from everything else disappeared. I saw it all: past, present, and future. Every choice, every accident, was like a door leading to a different universe, and I had already gone through all of them a thousand times. You understand what I’m saying?


Shit, I give up.  I told you I wasn’t any good at words.


I woke up in the garage. I was me again. The cops and the Harbinger were gone. Only sign she’d ever been there was a new tattoo on the palm of my right hand:

Room 231 of the Starlight Motel 7:00 PM

Take Bradley on flight UA 1294 and ensure he survives

My first Contract. 

Contractors and Dice

Character Sheets
  • Your Contractor's Character Sheet tracks their stats, status, Powers, equipment, history, and more.
  • The Contract uses online Character Sheets.
  • At game-time, Players access their sheets on phones, tablets, laptops, or print them out.
  • If you ever need to reference a rule, you can tap on any element of your Character Sheet to learn.
  • At the end of this guide, you will create your own Contractor by filling out their Character Sheet.
A Character Sheet

Teammates

The Starlight Motel struck me as the sort of place you ended up after a night of bad decisions. Not even that twilight sky--no sun or moon in sight, casting everything in shades of violet-- not even it could turn this parking-lot motel into somewhere that felt safe.

I climbed the steps to the second floor and knocked on the door labled 231. No answer. The windows were black.

“You’re looking for Bradley,” came a voice from behind. It belonged to a pale teenager wearing a pleather duster and watches on both wrists.

“Are you here on Contract?” they asked.

“You could say that.” 

“Then we are working together. I am Five.” 

“You look a little older than that.” 

“That is my name. I am seventeen years old. I think.”

Art by Mopipoe

“Uh huh. Look, kid, I don’t really need a sidekick.”

Five stared at me. “You must be new. We will need all the help we can get.”

“You’ve done this before?” 

Five nodded.

“So you have. . . powers.”

Another nod. 

“Okay. I’ll work with you," I said. "My name's Lucy. Don't get in my way.”

“Same to you.”

Contractor Status
  • Contractors with fewer than four Victories are Newbies.
  • Novice Contractors (4-9 Victories) can participate in Contracts with Newbies and other Novices.
  • Seasoned Contractors (10+ Victories) can only play with other Seasoned and Veteran (25+ Victories) Contractors.
  • Only Veteran Contractors can participate in solo Contracts.
  • The GM states the Contract's required Status in the invitation.

Rivals

The click-clacking of cowboy boots echoed up the stairwell. The man attached had one arm, a revolver on each hip, and a mustache that would put Yosemite Sam to shame. His sheriff’s star winked at me. 

“Great," I muttered. "Another cop.”

Five nodded. “Bo.” 

As the man approached, his face cracked into a smile. “Five! Here to pick up a new timepiece?” 

“No. We are on Contract.”

“We’ve gotta work on your sense of humor, Five.” He turned to me and held out his hand. “Looks like we've got ourselves a team. The name’s Bo Perkins. Pleasure to meet you.” 

“Fuck off, pig.”

Bo’s smile disappeared. “I don’t like that attitude. Not one bit.” 

Five stiffened. “She is new.”

“Ah. Well, little miss sunshine, as long as we’re bein’ candid with each other, I don’t think I like you either. You look like a good-fer-nothin' punk. Now I’m sure I could uncover enough dirt to put you away for a long time, but, unless you signed a very different contract than I did, I think we ought to put aside our differences and work together.”

Ambitions
  • Contractors may have opposing ambitions.
    • Lucy wants to destroy the government.
    • Bo wants to create a police state utopia.
  • In many playgroups, realpolitik and player-vs-player are not uncommon.

Capabilities

“Fine," I said. "All we gotta do is give some dude a ride on an airplane.”

Bo scoffed. “Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be an absolute cakewalk. Now listen, I’ve been a detective for twenty years. I know Five’s got their own set of tricks. What are you good at?”

"Well. . ."

Lucy's Attributes
Tap on any Attribute for more details
3 Brawn
4 Dexterity
2 Perception
2 Charisma
2 Intellect
Attributes describe your intrinsic strengths and weaknesses
  • Attributes are rated between 1-5.
    1. Poor
    2. Average
    3. Good
    4. Superb
    5. World-class
  • Your Attributes' values determine many of your other stats, such as movement speed, Mind (mental fortitude), and Body (physical fortitude).
Lucy's Abilities
Tap on any Ability for more details

2 Alertness

1 Animals

3 Athletics

4 Brawl

1 Crafts

1 Culture

0 Drive

0 Firearms

1 Influence

1 Investigation

5 Legerdemain

1 Medicine

1 Melee

0 Occult

1 Performance

0 Science

4 Smuggling

0 Stealth

1 Survival

0 Technology

Abilities define your learned skills and knowledge
  • Abilities are rated 0 to 5.
  • Even a single rank in an Ability indicates training or experience in that field. 
  • Abilities are only used in skill checks. They do not grant stats.
  • You may also invent your own Secondary Abilities.
    • They must be more specific than the Primary Abilities that appear on all sheets.
    • In return, you receive a bonus when you use them.
    • Lucy's Smuggling Ability is a Secondary Ability; it is unique to her.
    • Secondary Abilities can not grant any supernatural effects.

Rolling Dice

I chewed on Bo's question. “What am I good at? Causing trouble.”

“Big surprise. Well, the plane leaves in two hours. Let’s give ‘er a knock and get this show on the road.”

Five shook their head. “Already knocked. No answer. And the door is locked.”

“Well shit,” sighed Bo. “Suppose I could go talk to the manager--”

I set down my backpack and pulled out my crowbar.

“What in the hell do you think you’re doing, miss?”

“Causing trouble.”

I slid the crowbar between the door and its frame and gave a tug. The crackling of wood echoed down the hall, and the door fell off its hinges.

“So much for subtlety,” Bo grumbled, pushing past me into the room. “Bradley? You here, Bradley? Bra-- AGH!” 

A massive creature crashed into the cop, pinning him to the ground. A maw of slavering, razor-sharp fangs opened above him, ready to go for the kill. I raised my crowbar to brain the thing, but Five caught my wrist and flipped on the lights. 

“It appears that Bradley is a dog.” 

“WOOF! WOOF!” stated Bradley before licking Bo’s face with a steak-sized tongue. 

Bo struggled under Bradley's weight, fending off his kisses. “A dog? Thing’s a gat-dammed bear!” 

“Caucasian mountain dog,” said Five, guiding the beast off of Bo. “It smells like he has been eating roadkill.”

I tried not to laugh. "Looks like you've got your hands full, Five. Come on, Bo. Let's search the apartment."

Resolution
  • Most of the time, controlling your Contractor is as simple as telling the GM what you'd like to do.
  • When you attempt an action that is dangerous or might not succeed, the GM may call for a roll to determine the outcome. 
  • The GM declares an Attribute, an Ability, and a Difficulty rating.
    • (If the Difficulty is not specified, it is 6)

Player: "I want to investigate the apartment"

GM:"Roll + , Difficulty -"

  • Add up your rating in the Attribute and Ability and roll that many 10-sided dice.
  • The number each die lands on contributes to the Outcome.
    • +2 for each 10 (some dice use 0)
    • +1 for each 6 (Difficulty rating) or higher
    • -1 for each 1

+ = Roll - Dice

Outcome: -

  • The Outcome determines the result of your Action
    • 6+ Exceptional Success
    • 4-5 Complete Success
    • 1-3 Partial success, or a Success with a complication
    • 0 Failure
    • -1 Botch, something goes horribly wrong.

“You feel a pulse under all that fur, Five?” 

Five pushed their hand into Bradley's fur.

“No.”

Advanced Dice Rolling

There was a moment of silence. Bradley’s tongue slid over his razor fangs in a breathless mimicry of panting.  

I shook my head. “Wild. I mean, I’ve seen the videos of werewolves and ghosts and shit on YouTube, but none of the vampire ones are confirmed.” 

“Look at this,” said Five, pointing their phone’s camera at Bradley. “He doesn’t appear on film. Even so, I am sure if we live-streamed in public--” 

Bo held up his hand. “Absolutely not. Goin’ viral is the last thing we need. We’ve got a flight to catch, and as far as the US Government is concerned, this thing’s a WMD. Lucy, grab the leash; you’re our handler.” 

“Me? Five seems better with dogs.” 

“Yeah, but Five couldn’t talk their way into a timeshare presentation. No offense, Five.” 

Five shrugged. “They are often scams.”

“But sneaking contraband should be second nature to a punk like you,” he said, offering me the leash. “Unless you’re yellow.” 

I snatched the leash from his hand. “I took this job for a chance to change the world. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

I will

"Roll Dexterity + Ledgerdemain, Difficulty -"

+ = Roll - Dice

Outcome:

The Mission

Bradley and I boarded first with the elderly and uniformed military personnel. I gave him the window seat, took the aisle for myself, and saved the middle seat for Five.

Bo slumped into the aisle seat across from mine. “Well color me impressed, Lucy. We made it on board without getting arrested. Now we just have to survive the flight. And the other passengers.”

“What about ‘em?”

“You didn’t notice?” he whispered ”Looks like we’re heading to Hawaii with a band of monster hunters.” 

“You’re fucking kidding.”  

“Keep your cool. Chances are they’re nothing but charlatans and scam artists. ‘Course I can’t say the same for the pair of air marshals in row 35.”  

“Shit.”

Five squeezed past me to their seat and started petting Bradley. “The dog looks different. Longer fangs. Pointed ears. Red eyes.” 

“He’s getting hungry,” I said. “When he snapped at that dog, he looked like a full-on demon.”

The Flight attendants finished their presentation. The plane lurched into motion. 

“Maybe he will eat my roast beef sandwich,” Five said, rummaging through their bag. Bradley sniffed the sandwich once, coughed, and started licking at the arteries in Five’s wrists. 

The plane shot down the runway with a mighty rumble, and we were away. It was about now I started to panic. 

“Fuck this. We’re not dog trainers. We aren’t priests. Why the fuck did she choose us for this job?”

Bo scoffed. “This aint Ocean’s 11, sweety.”

“The fuck does that mean?”

“He means they did not pick us for our specific talents. These jobs are more like,” Five paused, “like an escape room. Except all the puzzles are impossible. If you want to win, you have to cheat.”

Problem Solving
  • Contractors may not be suited for the Contracts they attend.
  • Most Contracts demand outside-the-box solutions to critical situations. 
  • Violence is a risky tactic, not the assumed solution.
    • Trying to fight your way through every Contract will earn you a one-way trip to the graveyard.
Scenarios
  • The modules GMs run as Contracts are called Scenarios.
  • New GMs are given 5 Scenarios to help them start running The Contract.
  • After you play in a user-created Contract, its Scenario write-up is revealed to you, and you can then run it for other groups.
  • Unlocked Scenarios include notes from GMs who previously ran it, as well as Journal Entries for the Contractors who attended.
  • Playing in an occasional online Contract is a great way to discover content for your in-person group.

Taking Inventory

“He wants blood,” I said, pulling Five’s wrists away from Bradley. “Human blood.” 

“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink,” muttered Bo. “Unless, of course, we do something drastic.”

I leaned close to Bo. “What are you saying? We feed him a person?” 

“Seems like things are heading that way, one way or another,” he said, nodding towards the demonic dog currently trying to lick its way through the skin on Five’s neck. 

“I’m gunna be fucking sick. There has to be another way.”  

“I’m listenin’ for bright ideas, sugarplum, but I ain’t hearin’ any.”

I wracked my brain. “We’re so stupid. We could have gotten donor blood on our way to the airport, or at least some syringes. Instead we’ve got jack shit.” 

“I have syringes,” said Five.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m type-1 diabetic.”

Equipment
  • You specify your equipment on the "Stock" tab of your character sheet.
  • You can list any equipment you would reasonably be able to acquire.
  • You can carry up to Brawn x 15 pounds without it affecting your movement.
  • Your equipment list can be as detailed or vague as you like. However. . .
    • If it isn't listed on your sheet, you don't have it.
Weapons and Armor
  • Weapons and Armor are separated into broad categories with shared stats.
  • With Powers, any sort of weapon, even silly ones, can be viable.
Type
Roll
Damage
Knife or dagger
(Dex or Brawn) + (Brawl or Melee)
+0
Full-sized edged (sword, axe)
Brawn + Melee
+1
Edgeless thrusting (rapier, spear)
Dexterity + Melee
+1
Greatsword, giant axe
Brawn + Melee
+2
Handgun
Dexterity + Firearms, Difficulty 7
+2
Rifle
Dexterity + Firearms
+2
Click Here for a complete list of weapon stats
Type
Armor Rating
Penalty to Physical Actions
Street clothes
0
-0
Rugged clothes
1
-0
Armored clothing
2
-0
Bullet-proof vest
3
-1
Plate Armor
4
-3
Click Here for a complete list of armor stats

Getting Hurt

“Five, I could kiss you.” 

“Please do not.” 

“Give me one of those syringes. Bo, hand me that water bottle. I’m going to the bathroom.”

You ever try to draw blood from yourself? It isn’t easy, especially with turbulence. . .

Body
  • Body represents your physical fortitude.
  • Its value is calculated based on your Brawn Attribute. 
  • All humans have between 6 and 8 Body.
  • When your physical fortitude is tested, the GM may ask you to roll your rating in Body in place of the standard Attribute + Ability.
Injuries
  • Injuries are tracked individually on your Character Sheet.
  • An Injury’s Severity determines how deadly it is, how difficult it is to treat, and how long it takes to heal.
  • Typically, there is an in-game month between Contracts. Each Injury you've sustained heals 2 Severity levels in this time.
    • If you do not want to play an injured Contractor, you can always play a different one while they heal up.
Battle Scars
  • Injuries Severity 4 or higher leave Battle Scars.
  • Battle Scars are permanent disfigurements that do not heal naturally.
  • They may only be prevented or removed using Powers.

Combat

I emerged from the bathroom with new blood stains on my jeans carrying a 12 oz water bottle full of what I hoped looked like wine. The line of people waiting in the aisle gave odd looks as I squeezed by. 

“One bloody mary for our buddy,” I said, handing the plastic bottle to Five. “Why’s Bradley under that blanket?” 

Bradley lifted his head to greet me, and I nearly had a heart attack.  A pair of glowing red eyes peered over an upturned, batlike nose. Strands of saliva swung from the tips of needle-sharp fangs that no longer fit behind his lips. 

“He’s getting worse,” said Five.

"Jesus," I said, and Bradley growled. "Good thinking keeping him out of sight of those wannabe Van-Helsings."

Five uncapped the bottle for Bradley, who proceeded to swallow the meal, bottle and all, with a single chomp. Five was lucky to keep their hand. 

As the dog set to work lapping up any excess splatter, his demonic features receded. Soon, he was back to the big, clumsy teddy bear we’d met in the motel. We breathed a sigh of relief.

“Gotta hand it to you, kid,” whispered Bo. “That was some good thinking.” 

“Thanks,” I said, reaching out to pet our still giant, but otherwise normal, dog. 

Bradley gave my leg a sniff, recognized the scent of a good meal, bared his fangs, and lunged.

Combat Basics
  • Combat in The Contract is quick, unpredictable, and deadly.
  • A successful combat relies more on setting up the right fight than being the best fighter.
  • The best way to win a fight is with an ambush or a numbers advantage.
Going turn-based
  • When the action comes to a head and many characters want to do something at once, the game enters a turn-based mode called Combat. 
  • At the start of Combat each character rolls Initiative (Dexterity + Perception) to determine their place in the turn order.
  • Each Round of turns represents three seconds of in-game action.
What can I do?
You get one Movement and one Action on your turn each Round.
Movement
  • You may move up to 5 + (5 x Dexterity) feet immediately before OR After your Action.
Actions
  • Attack with your weapon or hands.
    • If an attack's Outcome is positive after defense, it results in a new Injury with Severity = Outcome + Weapon damage - Armor
  • Evade by rolling to Defend or Dodge. Your Outcome is "spent" to reduce the Outcome of any incoming attacks until your next Action.
  • Activate a Power or use an Ability as normal.
  • Hold your Action by declaring an Action and a triggering event. If the event occurs before your turn on the next Round, you perform the Action.
If you have not yet spent your Action this Round, you may use it as a Reaction.
Reactions
  • Dodge by rolling Dexterity + Athletics. Your Outcome is subtracted from the attacker's.
  • Defend with your weapon by rolling its attack roll. Your Outcome is subtracted from the attacker's. Availability depends on weapon match-up (tap).
  • Clash with the attacker using the same roll you would use to Defend. The higher Outcome (not contested) is treated as the result of a successful, undefended attack roll against the loser.
Each Character Sheet features an expandable Combat reference.

Multiple Injuries

In an instant, Bradley the monster was back. His fangs sank into my calf like a dozen steak knives. I remember making a noise, not a scream, something more primal. I twisted and kicked. My heel connected with Bradley’s eye, but he didn’t let go. 

Wound Level
  • Injuries increase your Wound Level, depleting your Body.
  • Your Wound Level is equal to the Severity of your worst Injury + the number of other Injuries you have.
  • Let’s say Bradley’s bite counts as a Severity 4 Injury. 
  • Combined with Lucy's existing Severity 2 Injury from drawing blood, her Wound Level is now 5.
    • 4 (Highest Severity) + 1 (number of other Injuries) = 5.
  • Try it out using the widget below.
Penalty
  • Injuries aren't easily shrugged off. Pain and loss of functionality impacts your effectiveness.
  • As your Body is depleted, you gain Penalty.
  • Your Penalty subtracts dice from every roll you make.
  • Penalty cannot reduce a roll's dice pool to fewer than two dice.
Try it Out!

Injuries

2
Excessive Blood Donation

Add an Injury

Body 7

Penalty
Bruised
0
Hurt
-1
Injured
-1
Wounded
-2
Mauled
-3
Maimed
-4
X_X

Gifted

Bo Perkins snapped his body like he was throwing a punch with his missing arm. There was a blue shimmer, and Bradley flew backwards, slamming into the wall beneath the window. Undeterred, he opened his jaws and prepared to lunge again. 

Five leaped onto his back, and they both disappeared. A lone wrist watch clattered to the ground, the only sign they’d ever been there. 

“What the hell!?” cried a passenger in the row behind us. He was standing, looking over the seat at me with a look of utter shock. 

Bo scrambled over, threw the blanket over my injured leg, and started tying a tourniquet, his single hand working in tandem with an invisible one. 

“They went 25 seconds into the future,” he whispered urgently. “It’s one of Five’s Gifts. You best not be around when we catch up to them. Go!” 

I struggled to my feet. More passengers were craning their necks and covering their mouths in shock. I shot Bo a frantic glance.  

“I’ll deal with it. You go!”

Powers
  • Most Powers do not grant dice bonuses or make you more effective in a fight.
    • Instead, they provide tools, information, and options.
  • While you can create almost any Power imaginable, they must fit your Contractor’s concept.
  • Powers work. If a Power allows you to side-step the primary challenge of a Scenario, you win.

Exertion

I used the seat backs like crutches, jostling another dozen passengers from their sleep, grimacing at each agonizing step. Hot blood pooled in my shoe.

A dozen rows back, an arm reached out and caught my wrist. It was one of the air marshals. 

“What happened up there, miss? Are you okay?” 

“I-- it--” I stammered.

Exerting
  • When the chips are down and the stakes have never been higher, you may Exert yourself to get a bonus on a roll.
  • You must declare that you are Exerting before you roll. 
  • Exerting allows you to ignore your Penalty for the roll AND increases its Outcome by 1.
  • You may Exert a maximum of once per Round of Combat.
  • Exerting is stressful and takes a toll on your mental health.

Mind

“I stepped on the dog’s tail, and he bit me. Just surprised him. All’s good now.”  

The air marshal and I looked back up the aisle. There was no commotion. The man who’d seen everything was seated, maybe sleeping. 

“Okay,” he said, letting go. “You should let the flight attendants know if you need first aid.”

“Thanks. I’ll do that.” 

I didn’t talk to anyone. Hell, I don't know if I drew a single breath until the bathroom door was locked behind me. My body was shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t know what to do. I just sat there, waiting. My leg didn’t hurt anymore, but it had gone numb, and that was even worse.

Mind
  • Mind represents your mental and emotional fortitude.
  • Mind damage represents short-term stress, and is accrued linearly (not tracked per-injury like Body)
  • Click the “Exert Mind” button on your Character Sheet to incur one Mind damage.
  • Mind damage recovers one level per night of restful sleep.
  • Mental stress also contributes to your Penalty. 
  • When your mental fortitude is tested, the GM may ask you to roll your rating in Mind in place of an Attribute + Ability.

Conspiracy

Thirty minutes later, there was a knock at the door.

“Occupied!”

“It’s Bo. Open up.” 

I cracked open the door. Bo pressed his way in and closed it behind him. There was hardly enough room for one person inside, let alone two.

“How’s the leg, champ?” 

“I’ll live. What’s going on out there?”

He sighed. “Situation’s under control. For now. Bradley’s getting hungry again, startin’ to get the whole,” he gestured at his face. “We need your help.” 

“I can’t. He’s tasted me. He’ll attack on sight.” 

“I know, I know. That’s how come Five and I can’t give our own blood. Listen, the syringe idea was a good one, I’ll give ya that, but it’s time for plan B.” 

“Murder.”

He winced. “Listen, I can do, well, what needs to be done. But to make it look like a suicide, I’ll need that blade you snuck past the TSA. Yeah, I noticed. What do you say?”

Limits
  • Limits are circumstances that test your ability to cope.
  • You choose three Limits during character creation.
  • Most normal humans have these standard Limits:
    • Murder: killing another person outside of immediate self-defense.
    • Torture: being tortured or enduring extended physical or emotional stress.
    • Atrocities: witnessing or participating in a humanitarian atrocity.
  • Non-typical Contractors (psychopaths, fairies, etc) can select other Limits or create their own.

Whatever it Takes

“No fuckin’ way,” I said, resisting the urge to spit in his face. 

“Don’t let your idealism blind you. Way I see it, we got two options. One: we wait, let this monster lose control, kill a few people, and get taken out by the air marshals, if we’re lucky. Two: we take one life, relax until we land in Hawaii, and get paid.” 

“You forgot option three: kill the monster.” 

Bo’s face turned red. “Kill it!? We don’t even know if we can!” he snorted. “We brought this creature on board. It’s our responsibility to see it through. Are you gunna throw this opportunity away? You gunna rip up The Contract?” 

My heart pounded in my throat. “What did Five say?” 

“They’re on board.” 

“Fuck.” 

Bo held out his hand. “Give me the blade, Lucy. We’ll all get home safe, and we’ll all get paid.”

I pulled the pocket knife and turned it over in my hand. The blade caught my reflection. 

“I feel sick.”

I handed it over.  

Bo relaxed. “Trust me kid, you don’t wanna think too much about it.” 

He opened the door and paused. “You made the right choice.”

I probably shouldn’t have, but I watched him walk away. He slipped into a bathroom up the aisle and kept the door open. A few minutes later, a woman walked in. Don’t know how she didn’t see him. 

She closed the door.

There was one loud bang, something hitting the door.

People looked up, then went back to reading their books.

Trauma
  • When you cross a Limit (in this case Murder), you make a Trauma Roll.
    • Roll your Mind, Difficulty 8.
  • If you fail, you take one point of Mind damage and acquire a new Trauma.
    • Traumas are long-lasting mental health issues such as phobias, delusions, and compulsions.
    • The specific Trauma you develop is based on the circumstances that led to its formation.
    • When a Trauma is triggered, you must roll Mind, Difficulty 8 to maintain control.
      • For example, someone with a phobia of the open ocean would need to succeed a Mind roll to board a ferry.
  • The Imbuing process makes Contractors more resilient to trauma than normal humans.
    • Traumas may be “bought off” by spending 3 Exp and a Downtime in therapy.
    • Certain Powers allow Contractors to heal Traumas without an Exp cost.

The End of the Line

I threw up.

Later, I heard the other passengers discover the body. An anguished scream, a hushed murmuring. I didn’t open the bathroom door until we touched down in Hawaii, and by the time I did, Five, Bo, and Bradley were gone. 

It’s only now, looking back on it, that I realize Bo lied to me. If I hadn’t given him that knife, he would have fed Bradley a different in-flight meal.

Me.

I can’t blame him. There’s no sense keeping a dead-weight Contractor around. Liabilities end up in the graveyard. 

Death
  • The Contract is dangerous, and survival is not guaranteed.
  • If your Wound Level exceeds your Body rating, you die.
  • Dead Contractors are interred in the Graveyard and can never be played again.
  • Contractors gain access to Powers that make them resistant to death once they reach Seasoned Status.
Underworld Upsides
  • When one of your Contractors dies, you are given a Charon Coin which you can use to start a new Contractor with a Power.
  • GMs are rewarded with a Power Improvement when they run a Contract that achieves The Golden Ratio: at least one Contractor dies while another achieves Victory.
    • Note: GMs are impartial referees that pit the Contractors against the Scenarios. GMs who fudge rules to kill Contractors have a hard time finding Players.
But I don't want to die!
  • Good. Contractors are not throwaway characters.
  • The Golden ratio and Charon Coins exist only because GMs are hesitant to kill Player Characters even when they deserve it.
  • While Contractor death is a vital ingredient to The Contract's challenge and story, each Player has a different appetite for danger.
    • To help you find a group that suits your tastes, the website assigns GM Titles based on the GM's deadliness and experience.
Tap on a GM's title for precise stats
Pillow Referee Just Boss Cruel Middle Management

But, in the end, some of the sheriff’s words were true. It is better not to think about it. 

And I did get paid. 


Powers

You won't need to create a Power until after your first Victory, but here's a primer.
  • Creating a custom Power is easy:
    1. Envision what you’d like your Contractor to do.
      • Get creative (or steal ideas).
    2. Select an Effect that matches your power’s concept.
      • Effects are starting templates for Powers with defined systems.
      • Examples include: Investigate Individual, Alternate Form, Disguise, and Injure.
      • There are currently 93 Effects to choose from.
    3. Customize the Effect with Drawbacks, Enhancements, and Parameters.
      • All Powers have a Gift cost.
      • Taking an Enhancement or upgrading a Parameter expands the Power’s functionality but costs a Gift.
      • Taking Drawbacks or downgrading a Parameter reduces the Gift cost but makes the Power more situational or risky.
    4. Flavor your Power and describe its appearance.
      • At this point the Power has a system but no identity.
      • Does your Alternate Form Power turn you into a werewolf or a magical girl?
      • Does your Restrict Power fire spiderwebs or summon ghostly chains?
      • Your Power’s Description can have a big impact in-game, but it cannot change the Power’s System.
  • Certain Effects, Enhancements, and Parameter levels are restricted to Seasoned or Veteran Contractors.
Still Curious? Try creating a Power or check out the premade Stock Powers.

Downtimes, Setting, Worlds


Downtime

Downtime
  • One month passes between Contracts. This is called Downtime.
  • Most Newbie and low-Novice Contractors spend their Downtimes doing little other than healing, training (spending Experience Points), and preparing for future Contracts.
  • No roleplay is necessary for any of these activities.
  • However, Contractors are ambitious, and more advanced Contractors take initiative during their Downtimes to seek power and change the world.
  • For Seasoned and Veteran Contractors, Downtimes become as important-- or even more important-- than the Contracts themselves.
Side Games
  • Any roleplay that occurs between Contracts is called a Side-Game.
  • While no Gifts or Experience can be earned through Side-Games, Contractors can make moves that will help them on Contracts.
    • They can seek out powerful artifacts, form a cult, make a fortune, or even try to take over the world.
  • The setting of The Contract is not static. It evolves in major ways the more you play, shaped by the events of Contracts and the actions of ambitious Contractors.

Setting

The narrative in the first two sections of this guide takes place in the default setting of The Contract: Illuminated Earth.

Illuminated Earth is a version of the modern world where the advent of smartphones and the internet confirmed the existence of the supernatural instead of disproving it.

The spectre of magic and otherworldly phenomena looms large in the zeitgeist despite their extreme rarity. As a result, modern society has twisted into a superstitious and paranoid reflection of itself.

Yet, some witch hunts do have merit. It's an open secret that billionaires and Senators employ paranormal advisors and bodyguards. Charlatans become pop culture icons, and each revelation inspires a new cult.

The world is changing. The secret societies that pull humanity's strings are scrambling to adapt.

Now's a good time to move up.

Custom Settings
  • The true story of The Contract is in the format: powerful beings approach ambitious individuals and offer them a deal to go on deadly missions in exchange for fantastic Powers. 
  • It’s easy to picture such a story taking place in any number of settings. 
  • One popular option is to start the setting as a completely mundane earth, where all supernatural elements are introduced by the Contracts and Contractors.
    • This allows even Novice Contractors to make huge moves during their Downtimes. Seasoned Contractors have a shot at world domination.
  • Other groups prefer to use established settings from TV, movies, books, anime, or other roleplaying games.
    • Modern settings work best.
  • Although Contractors' stats and Powers are tightly balanced, elements of the Setting and the Contracts themselves are not subject to any balance requirements.
    • Play groups can introduce any supernatural elements into their settings that they want.
    • Players do not have meta-game knowledge about the systems of the creatures and situations they are facing.
    • GMs and Scenario-writers have an idea what sorts of Powers and capabilities Contractors of a given Status will bring to the table.

Worlds

Worlds are Player groups with a shared Setting.
  • Each group of Players typically shares a single World.
  • Each World's homepage centralizes information about its setting, membership rosters, Contract records, and upcoming sessions.
  • GMs may post World Events to inform members of significant world-changing events within the setting.
  • Players can be members of multiple Worlds, but each Contractor calls a single World home.
Each World has a World Leader
  • World Leaders act as head GM for the group.
  • They define and maintain their World’s setting.
  • They settle disputes relating to events and Contractors in the World.
  • They may view and edit the Character Sheets of the Contractors in their World, allowing them to help less motivated Players with their recordkeeping.
  • They control memberships, roles, and permissions for their World.
Visiting Other Worlds
  • Unless your Contractor belongs to a closed World, you may bring them on Contracts that occur in other Worlds.
  • You can play your Contractors whenever you want, with any group.
  • Contractors cannot move between Worlds on their own.
  • However, Harbingers from other Worlds can invite your Contractor to participate in Contracts that occur in their World.
    • Your Contractor is transported to that World for the duration of the Contract and returned to their home World immediately afterwards.
    • While traveling between Worlds, only your Contractor’s Attributes, Abilities, and Powers are guaranteed to work.
    • Equipment may not travel with you, and supernatural items and effects that were obtained in one World may work differently (or not at all) in another.
      • Items and effects that use GM-created systems are tracked as Artifacts and Conditions on your Character Sheet.
  • A Contractor cannot participate in more out-of-World Contracts than home-World Contracts.

You're Ready to Play!

Step 1 - Create an Account

While The Contract does not require an account to create a Contractor, read the guide, or view one of the stock Scenarios, we strongly recommend making an account before continuing.

Accounts are free, require only an email address, and unlock 100% of the website's features.

Already have an account? Click Here to Log in
Step 2 - Create a Contractor
Whether you're planning on playing or GMing, you should Create a Contractor

I want to. . .

Step 3 - Find a Contract to play in

All that's left to do is find an upcoming Contract to play in!

Visit the Looking for Game page for a list of upcoming Contracts.

Note that while many newbie-friendly Contracts occur each week, they are usually scheduled as-needed or right before they occur.

The surest way to schedule a Contract is to Join Our Discord Server

New Players should make an effort to participate in Contracts run by more experienced or recommended GMs.

Step 3 - Create a World
Create a World to give your playgroup a home and unlock an additional Stock Scenario.
Once you've created your world, invite your friends to join and create their own Contractors.
Step 4 - Select a Scenario and read the GameMaster's Manual
The Contract comes with several Stock Scenarios to help you start running. They are trivial to unlock:

  • 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 World
  • Passing the Hours - Play a Contractor in a Contract
  • Beware the Assassin - GM a Contract
  • Monster Hunter Island - Lose a Contractor on a Contract
  • Finally, the Scenario from this guide's narrative 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.

Once unlocked, Scenarios will appear in your Scenario Gallery
Always remember, The GameMaster's Manual is chock full of useful advice for GMs.
Step 5 (optional) - Hold a "Session Zero"

When you're GMing for a group of Players that is brand new to The Contract, it can be helpful to split your first session into two halves.

Instead of running a Contract during the first half (or "session zero"), simply help your Players create their Contractors and run their initial introductory meetings with the Harbinger.

At the second session, you can jump right into the meat of the Contract with time to spare.

This provides extra "wiggle room" time for teaching rules, answering questions, and learning the system.

Step 6 - Schedule a Contract
Now all you need to do is Schedule a Contract and invite your Players.
When you complete the Contract, you can declare each Contractor's outcome. You and your Players will receive the Experience, Gifts, and Improvements you've earned, the Scenario will be revealed to them, and the Contract will be entered into the record books.