From the introduction:
You don't want any trouble, but those bastards just keep coming. They stand too close. They smile, but you know how much they hate you. They push you into doing things. The other queue moves faster. They drive too close. They cheat at cards. They whisper about you in the darkness. They move too fast... Wagh, it's out of control...
In Harlequinade, players control a Victim (character) that travels through a Nightmare (scenario) created by The Harlequin (GM). The Harlequin is also called "You Callous Bastard". All Nightmares transpire in the Ideal World (game world).
Victims have eight Primary Attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Agility, Health, Willpower, Presence, Beauty, and Alertness) with a numeric Rating from 2-12. Victims also have Combat Attributes with Ratings derived from Primary Attribute Ratings. Victims then select an Archetype (class) from: Nobody (default), Soldier, Thug, Thief, Fatboy, Lunatic, Cultist, Cripple, or Gentleman of the Night. Victims then generate money to buy Props (equipment).
Actions are either Resisted or Unresisted. In Resisted Actions, each opponent adds a Difficulty Modifier to their base Attribute and then adds 2d6. The opponent with the highest result wins. Unresisted Actions use a different mechanism of adding a Difficulty Modifier to the actor's base Attribute and then subtracting 2d6, with a result less than zero indicating success. However, a roll of double 1s is always success and a roll of double 6s is always failure.