Contracting Tips

Tips for Players

  • Don't metagame. Metagaming will get you killed.
  • Don't whine. The game is both difficult and unfair – because life is difficult and unfair, and the goal is to be realistic (within the frame of reference of an alternate Earth in which the laws of physics are different). You will lose characters. If you do something stupid, you may find yourself in a situation in which you have no chance of survival. This is the nature of the game, because it’s the nature of life.
  • Don't be discouraged when your characters die. It will happen from time to time. When you first begin, your fatality rate will be high – probably very high. As you learn from your mistakes, your fatality rate will decrease. It will probably take you a number of tries to get a character to Seasoned status. Once you do, you will become less squishy, though certainly not invulnerable. Seasoned Contractors die, too, but not nearly as often as Novices.
  • Focus on the short term, but keep the long term in mind.
  • Learn from the last Contract, but don't choose your Gift based on it. Be proactive rather than reactive; think things through, have a plan, and know what Gifts you want and why. Keep the big picture in mind; your character shouldn't be a random collection of Gifts that seemed useful at the time. You can't predict future dangers from past games; as your character develops, new threats will arise. And remember that the biggest threat is always other Contractors.
  • Be aware that offense is stronger than defense. This is one of the design principles of The Contract, which emphasizes mobility, striking power, and flexibility. Otherwise, the game could become static and boring. After all, watching two turtles endlessly butt heads is not very interesting.
  • To be successful, you must be able to cooperate and compete at the same time. (This is true in life as well as in the game.)
  • The Contract assumes that the players are invested in fulfilling Contracts, and doesn't work if they aren't. If you find that you don't care about completing objectives or earning Gifts, then The Contract isn't the game for you. There's nothing wrong with this, of course; there are thousands upon thousands of role-playing games, and no one person will enjoy all of them.
  • Don't feel obligated to try for Veteran status. Most Veteran Tests result in death. If you feel up to it, then go for it; there's no reward without risk. If you don't think you're up to it, then focus on improving as a player rather than trying to achieve a particular benchmark. Ultimately, player skill is more important than character skill; a Veteran Test is more a test of the player than of the character. And there's no shame in leaving your character at Seasoned status over the long term, or permanently. If you’re having fun playing your character at Seasoned and don’t feel the need to go for Veteran, then don’t.

Tips for Referees

  • Contracts do not have to be completed in one session, and some scenarios can readily be broken up into two sessions (or more, if needed). Many scenarios, however, work much better if competed in one session. This is particularly true of puzzle games, since breaking them into multiple parts can allow the players more time to think about the solution than the scenario intends them to have. Experienced players should be efficient enough to complete most if not all scenarios in one session.
  • Avoid railroading the players. Let them make their own choices.
  • Never change a scenario on the fly because you think it isn't difficult enough. It's easy to cause a total party kill that way. Total party kills should be earned by the players rather than awarded by the GM. Gauge the difficulty of the scenario while writing or customizing it, before play begins; if it turns out to be too easy, make the next one more difficult.
  • Don't worry if it seems like the characters can do too much damage. They will inevitably reach the point where they can kill any one opponent with one blow. (But only one opponent per attack. Area attacks are rare, and must remain so.) This is an intentional part of the system. Remember, the players are facing opponents who can kill with one blow, so they should be able to do the same thing – after investing sufficient Gifts. This is why Contractors are seldom interested in a fair fight. Wise players will look for ways to gain advantage, rather than charging in blindly.
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