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Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-26: The Mantis's Prey (PFRPG) PDF

****( ) (based on 5 ratings)

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A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for 7th to 11th level characters (Tiers: 7-8 and 10-11).

The Red Mantis have a contract to assassinate Grandmaster Torch, and the famed Absalom information broker calls in a favor from the Society to prevent his untimely demise. You must locate the Red Mantis assassins sent to kill him and eliminate the threat before they strike.

Written by Michael Kortes.

This scenario is designed for play in Pathfinder Society Organized Play, but can easily be adapted for use with any world. This scenario is compliant with the Open Game License (OGL) and is suitable for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

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Product Reviews (5)

Average product rating:

****( ) (based on 5 ratings)

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Mandatory lore, but disappointing combats

***( )( )

I was one of the players in the party Quentin mentioned in his review below. I was playing an enchantment-focused mesmerist and as such responsible for a big portion of the crowd-control. Let me put it this way: for a mesmerist the combats are incredibly easy and trivial. Unless they roll a 20, your spell will stick and if you have some heavy hitters, combats will be over in (less than) one round. You’d expect more from assassins really. You can basically skip almost all the combat encounters as they are just a waste of time. There was only one combat that could have been scary, but that individual (who isn’t the boss) was dealt with in a rapid fashion after she couldn’t see us that well.

In other words, the combats are a significant weak point of this scenario and that’s a legit shame. The puzzles were a lot of fun and the location was great. Like Quentin I hope that we get to visit this place again given its history. I also liked the identifying challenge at the start of the session and Grandmaster Torch is indeed something special. Would it surprise you if I said that it was my character that played the follow-up scenario and hates his guts? Thankfully she’s a decent liar and actually tried to not show it too much. Whether she was successful is something else, but I had a blast role-playing that out.

This scenario does a good job explaining the whole shadow lodge situation and offers interesting puzzles as well as some role-playing opportunities. Based on the lore, it’s a must-play to understand the overarching story. Everything is still solid in this day and age, except for the combats that are quite frankly disappointing and require an update of sorts. So while I would suggest other should play it, I'd also recommend you to warn murderhobo’s that this scenario isn’t something that will suit them.


Great fun, but could use some work here and there.

****( )

(I both GMed and played this. I'm mainly judging on my GM experience.)

Season 2 is very hit or miss. Usually there are good ideas at work, but the execution is lacking. This scenario is so close to hitting that ideal sweet spot.

First off, the main location is fantastic. I told the backstory of Allegro College and one of my players commented how that could fill several scenarios alone, and I agree. PFS doesn't really do "flashback" scenarios, but I'd at least like to see a followup on what happened there.

The puzzles are relatively easy, but my players had fun solving them. It's also a relatively unique puzzle, so there's that. The opening skill challenges were also interesting to play out. And of course, Grandmaster Torch. One of my players had already played a Season 4 followup and hated GMT, so it was fun to see him interact with the NPC. My only complaint here is that the skill DCs seemed a bit low, my players aced them without breaking a sweat.

The only thing I can honestly be negative about is the combats. It's the typical Season 2 blues, low-level humanoids that are built more for flavour than for effectiveness (even disregarding the power creep, they're still underpowered). As another reviewer said, builds that can't do what they're supposed to do, it's not a challenge. They have interesting abilities, but simply lack the build to pull it off. They're lacking in offense (both to-hit and damage) and in defense (saves, AC and HP). Fights were already decided after two people had acted. To be fair, my players had a stellar combination of crowd-control and damage output, but still, fights seemed more like an obligatory inclusion than an actual challenge.

One other minor nitpick is that I like the idea of the Shadow Lodge storyline, I just think it's poorly executed, especially since after a whole season of repetitive multiparters, this is the only scenario that properly explains the whole ordeal. I'd have liked the storyline to be more interwoven with the other scenarios, explain a bit more about them.

Still, despite that, both my players and I had a great experience. Very interesting on the lore side, okay in the combat department. I'd gladly play/run this again.


Great Puzzles, Creative, Underwhelming Combat

****( )

First and foremost, Mantis is a puzzle based scenario. Mantis has some of the best puzzles I’ve seen in PFS scenarios so far. The puzzles can be solved by average players, they have multiple solutions, and in general they’ll be enjoyable for most players.

Hopefully the GM lets the players struggle a bit and doesn’t auto-solve the puzzle with mere dice rolls (otherwise, why have hand outs?). That’s my only criticism of the puzzles. Imo, the best way to handle puzzles is to have the relevant skills HELP with solving the puzzle (they provide hints and clues). I don’t want skill checks to outright bypass a puzzle altogether (unless the roll is extremely high, but even then I’d rather let the players think for a bit).

Concerning the handouts, it’s important that you print and give all of them to your players. Even for summarizing what they know during the 1st “encounter” (no hand out is provided). It just makes everything clear. And make a copy for each player (I never got to see a few hand outs). That advice applies to puzzles in general.

The combat encounters in Mantis are sometimes creative but underwhelming. Although the NPC builds are complex, they’re ineffective. This is compounded by the environment, poor tactics, and weak archetypes.

”For example”:

Some of the NPCs had acrobatic builds, yet they still couldn’t tumble past us without taking an AoO (which killed one of them). If a build can’t do what it’s designed to do, why bother? And the other mooks couldn’t use their feats to protect them because they weren’t adjacent.

All of the assassin builds would have benefitted from using the ninja class (which wasn’t available at the time).

In general I’d recommend that authors stop using the warrior class, they’re just too weak for their CR. Besides I don’t think Red Mantis assassins would use relatively untrained men-at-arms to back them up.


Like I was saying, in most of the encounters, the tactics the NPCs used (which was mostly a frontal assault), worked against them and made the scenario very easy (and non-thematic for assassins as well).

The GM obviously has to update the plot based on the Shadow Lodge faction being part of the PFS. There is no “big reveal” and the “confrontation” at the end should be more of a celebration, which should lead to GM Torch and the PCs hunting down The Spider.

The entire Shadow Lodge plot gets lost in the order of the scenarios. After the assassination attempt on GM Torch, it would make sense to go after the Spider. For many players at my table, they’d already killed her at level 1, which made the entire meta-plot a joke (which isn’t the authors fault). Epic conclusions to major plot lines need to be tier 7-11, not 1-7 (like Shadow’s Last Stand).

So the proper order (if you care about the SL plotline) would be The Dalsine Affair, Mantis’s Prey, and then Shadows Last Stand 1+2. This is obviously very hard to do in the logical order. I hope in the future Paizo considers the tier when concluding storyline arcs.

I also thought the story of the Allegro college was interesting (and good reading for the GM), but the players will only learn a fraction of it (and that’s only if they have the correct skills). This is unfortunate.

”Detailed Rating”:

Length: Medium. Took 3.5 hours without the optional encounter.
Experience: Player with 6 players at subtier 7-8, with 5 well-made PCs and 1 pregen. I also read the scenario.
Sweet Spot: Subtier 7-8. I think the combats would be far too easy at subtier 10-11.
Entertainment: I was entertained, but then again I like puzzles and a good storyline. (8/10)
Story: The story of both of the assassins and the college were good, the GM just needs to make sure the players discover it. (8/10)
Roleplay: Talking / intimidating / belittled by GM Torch. Yes! (8/10)
Combat/Challenges: This was hard to rate! The puzzles are 9/10, but the combat encounters are 3/10. (6/10)
Maps: Good looking custom map, which at least catered to the BBGs abilities. (8/10)
Boons: Excellent boons (not powerful, they just made sense). (8/10)
Uniqueness: Great puzzles and a few very creative ideas were in this scenario. (9/10)
Faction Missions: Creative faction missions which furthered the plot. (8/10)

Overall: The puzzles, story, and location were creative and interesting enough to carry this scenario. (7/10)


Good but needs some adjusting

***( )( )

I did like to run this as the setting and enemies were very nice but some of the setup and numbers were kind of awkward. May be some spoilers ahead.

The first fight expects you to throw something like 6-8 enemies at the players when on a 3 square wide bridge. A movement nightmare that makes it so half the feats and abilities of the enemies just cant work. Then all the enemies have maybe some of the worst ACs for an NPC of their level that I've seen.

Then they expect the players to unmask a gorgon. This was rough to run RP wise and the ensuing fight doesn't last long since all the other enemy NPCs are caged and arrive to the fight late.

Then the fight with the leader of the mantis group was a joke in my opinion. This amazing rouge is expected to fight alone? all of his strength is in his sneak attack and other tricks which you kind of cant do if its a 6V1. He gets 6 way stomped like the bug he is.

The final "encounter" has lost its luster since all the shadow lodge info has come out. Its a big reveal that has already been revealed to all the players. I think it can still shock the players but I skipped setting it up and merely explained it to the players box text style.

If I ran this again I would definitely fix some of these encounters. Bump the ACs a few points and throw in a few more goons. My group was balanced and they walked through this thing, so Im sure a little bump could be handled.


Highly Recommended!

*****

I've GMed over 100 PFS sessions, but rarely have I been compelled to write a review as much as after GMing Mantis' Prey - this is my first public review of any Paizo product ever. A few things stood out to make this an awesome experience for my players and I:

1) Awe Inspiring Location!

Print out the map in 1" battlegrid full-colour if you can, rather than drawing it by hand on a battlemat, as it really is awe inpiring to be battling behind a raging waterfall!

2) Puzzles you can solve!

Puzzles that players can actually solve on their own without resorting to skill checks - though those are available too, if you need them, but it really diminishes from the sense of discovery and achievement (not to mention fun!) if you do.

3) Red Mantis + GMT = Wow!

The Red Mantis - everyone who's heard of them, fears them! This is the first time I've ran a session with them, so it was fun to learn who they are and what they're capable of. Full of menacing flavour, they didn't disappoint.

Michael Kortes wrote the original Silent Tide wherein you first meet the GMT easing the pain of unhealable burns in his bath, surrounded by an entourage of half-orc bruisers, doing business deals and opening strange chests, who doesn't love the GMT?

Well, in Mantis' Prey, you meet GMT again, and he's in splendid form! I've often felt that multi-part scenarios written by different authors lack cohesiveness. So in this regard, I'm glad Michael Kortes was tasked to revisit GMT himself, because all of his signature elements are here!

YMMV) A Smorgasboard of Feats/Abilities

If I were asked to identify a minor annoyance, it would be having to reference three hardcover books to run the Red Mantis = Core Rulebook + Advanced Players Guide + Inner Sea World Guide. It's often difficult enough finding time to read the scenario during a working week before a game, I do this on the brief train commute to/from work, so looking feats and class abilities up across separate sourcebooks before a game often gets overlooked. As more sourcebooks are released, this is something we'll need to get used to. It's not a huge complaint, and shouldn't affect your decision to run this scenario - if you're running Tier 7-11 scenarios, there's a good chance you have these products already, but if not, ignore the asterisked* feats/abilities and the scenario runs just fine without them.

Cheers,

Stephen (DarkWhite)
Pathfinder Society 4-Star GM
Venture-Captain, Australia


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