From the introduction:
This game has been officially certified ‘politically incorrect’. Harlequinade, with its cynical, disrespectful world view has been known to induce fatal moral indignation in people who have had their sense of humour surgically removed and replaced by a corncob. If you are a po-faced moral nazi, or mentally ill, please read no further for your own peace of mind.
In Harlequinade, players play Victims (characters) who proceed through a Nightmare (adventure) run by The Harlequin (GM). The Harlequin is also sometimes called "You Callous Bastard". All Nightmares are set in the Ideal World (the game world).
Victims have eight Primary Attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Agility, Health, Willpower, Presence, Beauty, and Alertness). Each Primary Attribute has a numerical Rating of 2-6. Victims also have Combat Attributes with Ratings derived from Primary Attributes. Victims select an Archetype (class): Nobody (the default), Soldier, Thug, Thief, Fatboy, Lunatic, Cultist, or Gentleman of the Night. Victims then generate money to buy Props (equipment).
Actions are either Resisted or Unresisted, each using a different mechanism. For Resisted Actions the opponents compare base Attribute plus Difficulty Modifier plus 2d6--the highest score wins. For Unresisted Actions the Victim adds Base Attribute and Difficulty Modifier and subtracts 2d6, attempting a result less than zero for success.