They named that time The Illumination, and it was by the flash of a camera phone.
The year was 2004. Until that point the Earth was as we had always known her. We filled her cruel vastness with legends, superstitions, and rumors. Warlocks, monsters, and gods lurked on the edge of the collective consciousness, always a possibility but never more. We lacked evidence.
That evidence came as humanity filled its pockets with technology equipped to capture and transmit. An iPhone found on High School senior Nate Klienman’s mangled corpse held a video of his girlfriend’s bone-snapping transformation into a monstrous wolf creature. A Brazilian widow documented a series of conversations with the misty figure of her late husband. A Chinese fishing boat caught a mermaid in a net and put it on display in the Beijing aquarium. Each week brought a new revelation that we were not alone.
Superstitions reversed their slow death overnight. Salem held their first witch trial in a century. The jury rendered a verdict of “guilty on all charges” and sentenced Maxibelle Horux to death. A week after her lethal injection, half the jury died from a tainted batch of flu vaccine. A fearful, populist movement arose to rid humanity of the creatures lurking in its ranks. Suspects are forcibly subjected to bizarre tests of their humanity, and the results are often open to interpretation. A mob’s justice is swift.
Yet the paranormal is not merely relegated to a persecuted class. Where some see monsters, some see sentience, and others see opportunity. If a vampire can sustain themselves on cloned blood and work the graveyard shift, why not legalize and tax? Politicians and Aristocrats employ odd-looking individuals as "advisors" or "protection." Entertainment magazines publish revelations every week about which celebrities shed their human skins at home. Charlatans of all stripes, from palmistry mediums to televangelists, have flourished despite the risks. The treatment of the paranormal varies from place to place, person to person.
Long have cabals, cults, and secret societies thrived in the shadows. Their roots run deeply through humanity’s oldest systems of power. Machinations are challenged, and sleeping dangers awaken. The world is changing, forcing long-dormant powers into desperate action.
And it is in the midst of this great period of change that The Powers That Be have once again turned their attention to the blue marble. For the first time in two hundred years, Harbingers approach worthy individuals with an offer they won't refuse. The Games have returned, and a new generation of Contractors are being forged.
Harbingers and The Powers that Be
The Games 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.
Harbingers are the administrators of the Games. Their purpose is to find or create deadly challenges to test the Contractors, invite them to Games, lure them into accepting, and sometimes transport them to the site where the Game 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 powers. Their interactions with Contractors are generally minimal and standoffish. They cannot attack Contractors unless attacked first. They will never directly solve a Contractor's problems (though they may sometimes cause them).
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 Games. Perhaps every Game run by a certain harbinger is a gameshow that is televised, or another Harbinger only runs Games where a single Contractor can win.
A Cell is a group of Players with a shared setting.
Cell Leaders act as the head GM for their Cells, settling disputes, approving Powers, and generally preventing shenanigans. They are empowered to edit the Character Sheets of the Contractors in their Cell, record or void Games, and define their Cell's setting.
Some Cells opt to use a tribunal of the three most experienced GMs instead of a single Cell Leader.
Creating a Cell
Creating a cell is as easy as filling out the form! You can create as many as you'd like.
Each Cell has its own private parallel dimension in The Contract's collective multiverse. The Cell has 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 games in your Cell to take place in Feudal Japan, a futuristic science-fiction city, or the world populated by anthropomorphic animals, make it so!
Traveling to other Cells
Contractors live their lives in their home Cell's Setting, but Harbingers from other Cells may invite them to Games in their worlds. If the Contractor accepts, they are transported to the Harbinger's Cell to participate in the Game and are returned to their home Cell when the Game concludes. Contractors may earn Gifts (or die) while visiting another Cell.
A Contractor visiting another Cell is only guaranteed to have access to their base stats and Powers. 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 Cell.