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Minireview: The Zalozhniy Quartet (Night's Black Agents)

The Zalozhniy Quartet aims to bring to Night’s Black Agents what the core game lacks: something that’s ready to run without too much preptwork. Of course, everything is relative, and Zalozhniy Quartet still retains some of the “toolkit” mentality of the core game event though it is a campaign. This is, by and large, for the good, since the toolkit aspects here are very well done.

The campaign consists of four semi-independent parts, linked by a core background plot. The clever bit is that they can be played in any order; each one has multiple entry and exit point suggestions, some depending on PC actions and some on what the GM wants to do next. The links are very well done, giving the GM lots of ways and means to build the story… assuming he/she has read the thing multiple times; it’s a somewhat complex story with lots of moving parts, so quite a bit of prepwork (as in “reading and re-reading”) is needed here. The campaign also follows the core game’s line in not precisely defining what the vampires are, that is still left up to the GM,

Plotwise, the campaign contains an extremely nice mixture of moods and subgenres. As presented in the book (remember that the order is not set in stone), the first part, “The Zalozhniy Sanction”, has the PCs trace some gun runners in Odessa. Predictably, things are not quite what they seem and things will most likely go south, in a big way. This is an “action movie” segment, mostly. Next up (in book order) is “Out of the House of Ashes”, which involves old-world spooks and social skills – if someone pulls a gun here, things have gone very, very wrong. It’s a huge change of pace from the previous part.

The third part is “The Boxmen”, which is a heist story. The PCs will need to figure out how to get access to the contents of a Swiss bank vault. Cue Ocean’s Eleven (or maybe some other movies, if the PCs try for brute force). Lots and lots of room for PC (and player) tactics and planning here.

Last is “Treason in the Blood”, which has the closest ties to the background plot, and involves ancient plans (which the PCs will hopefully disrupt). It’s best suited as the final “endgame” scenario, but as noted it doesn’t need to be that. As a slight spoiler: like many spy stories, the background “big plot” has ties to the old infamous Philby spy ring in Cambridge. The link is so unconventional, however, that mentioning it here isn’t much of a spoiler at all.

All in all, I very much liked this campaign. The flexible structure is very cleverly done, and the individual parts all showcase a somewhat different subgenre of the game (and need very different approaches from the players). In addition, the four parts are only loosely connected, so they should work very nicely as standalone “one-shots” also. Excellent stuff.

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