Pathfinder One-Shot #4: Mark of the Mantis

4.70/5 (based on 9 ratings)
Pathfinder One-Shot #4: Mark of the Mantis

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The Red Mantis assassins are one of the most feared organizations on all of Golarion, for their reach is far and their methods effective. When several of Absalom’s councilors from the Petals District turn up dead, all evidence points to Red Mantis responsibility. However, the truth is that the sole surviving council, a secretive servant of the evil deity Norgorber, is responsible and now stands to be elected without opposition. The murderer masquerading as a Red Mantis assassin is one thing, but since the kills were so inexpertly done, the Red Mantis cannot allow the noble to live. Assigning several agents to the mission, the Red Mantis intend to infiltrate the noble’s manor and execute her for her slight against their order. With three Red Mantis assassins and one bitter mercenary on the job, the noble must die before the stroke of midnight.

This short Pathfinder (second edition) adventure written by John Compton is intended to be completed in a single session and includes four 6th-level pregenerated characters. Three of the characters have strong ties to the Red Mantis assassins and use rules options presented in Pathfinder Lost Omens: World Guide, while the fourth is a mercenary fighter out for revenge. This adventure can easily be incorporated into various virtual tabletops, run off of digital devices, or printed out and played at a table.

"Mark of the Mantis" is sanctioned for use in Pathfinder Society Organized Play. The rules for running this Adventure and Chronicle sheet are available as a free download (963 kb PDF).

Pregenerated characters for this adventure are also available as a free download

Other Resources: This product is also available on the following platforms:

Fantasy Grounds Virtual Tabletop
Pathfinder Nexus on Demiplane

Product Availability

Fulfilled immediately.

Are there errors or omissions in this product information? Got corrections? Let us know at store@paizo.com.

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Average product rating:

4.70/5 (based on 9 ratings)

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Excellent heist adventure, great fun to play & GM

5/5

I just wrote a long review only for Paizo's website to eat it, gah. So this will be shorter and less detailed.

I have played this as a PC and run it as GM, and had great fun both times. The fact it played very differently speaks to how well it hits the mark for an open-ended heist adventure. The adventure does an excellent job implementing and showcasing the Infiltration subsytem.

The pregens are mostly great (not sure what the earlier reviewer was upset about, as 2 PCs have thieves tools and the monk is the main healer), even if only 1 PC gets the iconic twin sawtooth sabres, and the little notes about how each PC views the others are a great aid for 'pick up and play' roleplaying.

My one tip is to keep to the semi-abstracted nature of that system rather than being slaves to the 'tyranny of the grid' - use the map as a general reference point, and only switch to exact grid placement for combats. Otherwise you'll find the precision of the grid clashes with how the infiltration rules work to enable a cool 'heist'.


The idea was great

4/5

Mantis is a rare sandbox infiltration scenario featuring many skill checks. It’s hard to say how much roleplay or combat the scenario will feature, that will completely depend on the players and the approach they take!

While the module didn’t contain any awesome (AHA!) moments, it was well written and easy to prepare.

This was played for Pathfinder Society with 3 stealthy PCs (2 rogues), one pregen (Eteleon), and one non-stealthy PC (it was a huge mistake taking a PC without Stealth and almost ruined the scenario for both the party and himself).

The pregens were well crafted, interesting, and well suited to the module. Having said that, none of their abilities were explained. I’m not sure how you fit this module into 3-4 hours unless the GM adds lots of notes to the pregens or the players get the pregens before the session.

While I liked the Preparation section and the awareness mechanic, I found the Obstacle section (and infiltration point mechanic) to be too strict and inflexible to describe the situations that would occur. There should have been guidelines only.

In terms of Pathfinder society, I thought this scenario was so unusual from the normal PFS railroad, with too many choices, that group took forever to make choices (no matter how hard I encouraged them). What should have taken 3-4 hours took them 6 hours.

Also, the context of the assassination was a little creepy for some players. Somehow, it’s OK to kill when rampaging through an area like a barbarian, but it’s not OK to kill quietly, in cold blood?

I thought the instant kill mechanic was silly considering they can't fail (not even on a crit fail), they take no damage, and they can only instantly kill opponents in this module. Without this exploration mechanic, they might not be able to kill some guards without several rounds (at least not by themselves).

Although not the author's fault, while the Red Mantis should be terrifying, their actual class mechanics makes them very underwhelming opponents.

The final encounter was very underwhelming, and with only 3 PCs the battle was over in 2 rounds, and the party took hardly any damage.

Overall: The idea of playing this scenario was more fun than actually playing it. (8/10)


Absolutely phenomenal

5/5

I cannot praise this adventure enough. It was the most fun I have ever had with a one-shot or even a PFS adventure. The progression from planning, attempting and hopefully pulling off the heist, and resolving the adventure is a wild ride. I'm hesitant to get too specific because I would really hate to spoil any aspect of this adventure. Strongly strongly recommend.


Best of the One Shots

5/5

Really nice pre-generated characters with strong options that fit very well into their roles. (Do note that if you expect the cleric to be a healer you're in for a bad time, that's the monk's job in this party)

Custom exploration activity that gives the Mantis Agents that edge the flavor says they should have.

Brilliant writing that gives the GM power and mechanics to deal with whatever zany plan the PCs come up with.

This is basically a perfect example of the format.


10/10 would commit crime again.

5/5

Mark of the Mantis is one of the most well written, reactive, adventures Paizo has printed. It's the only time I've ever seen the stealth mechanics of games like Assassins Creed or Thief replicated in a TTPRG format and have them actually feel like your players are being stealthy, that alone would rate it 5 stars given how hard it is to do in any format.

But then the story itself is fantastic, the pregenerated characters are a brilliantly written range of options and as if that was not enough, the adventure is truly a free form one, a huge array of options for the players are provided so they can create their own plan and the GM has everything they need at hand to run it! If there's an opposite to the railroad game then this is it, they have a target and a mission and what they do, how they do it is entirely up to them but the GMs content prepares you to deal with all of it!

If you've ever seen a heist movie and thought how cool it would be to play one, or enjoyed Assassins Creed, etc then this scenario delivers.


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Do we have an ETA on when the download issue will be resolved?

Marketing & Media Manager

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Tsnowberger wrote:
Do we have an ETA on when the download issue will be resolved?

I successfully downloaded the folder with the Adventure PDF the Pregen PDF and the Art Assets folder inside it just now. I understand it to be resolved.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

My download seems to be stuck in some kind of endless loop since 24 February 2022 – could someone at Paizo poke it with a stick or reset the download for me, please?

Marketing & Media Manager

Lukas Klausner wrote:
My download seems to be stuck in some kind of endless loop since 24 February 2022 – could someone at Paizo poke it with a stick or reset the download for me, please?

Please clear your cache/cookies and try again. Then email customer service if the issue persists.

General guidance for all, if you having issues you will have faster service if you email CS rather that post on a product page. CS is email-focused.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Ah, thx, that worked.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Senior Developer

9 people marked this as a favorite.
keftiu wrote:
J03_M4M4 wrote:
Pregen link is now on product page
Is it intentional that two of the PC assassins are only carrying a single Sawtooth Saber? It means the Twin trait on each weapon is useless - it’s a relatively small damage bump to miss out on, but I did want to ask.

Yes, that is on purpose. One of the assassins needs that hand for spellcasting, and the other just doesn't rely so heavily on the saber. Only one of the assassins has the magic items necessary to make good, cost-effective use of two weapons. While this is partly a limitation based on the gear the characters could afford, it's primarily because I aimed for each of the assassins to have a particular feel in combat, with just one of them feeling like that "classic" dual-wielder. Try them all for a sense of how varied Red Mantis Assassins can be.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Senior Developer

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Now that folks are getting the adventure, I look forward to hearing how it went (use spoiler tags) and seeing the reviews. Enjoy!

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Does this use a flip-mat, or a custom map?

Marketing & Media Manager

sanwah68 wrote:

Does this use a flip-mat, or a custom map?

A custom map.


I was under the impression that you aren't able to wear Handwraps of mighty blows and healer's gloves at the same time, as they are both "worn gloves"


Is there any word on if/when this is coming to roll20 like the other one-shots?

Marketing & Media Manager

MaxHK wrote:
Is there any word on if/when this is coming to roll20 like the other one-shots?

No word yet, but I think we got this product to them late, so I’ll keep you posted.


Aaron Shanks wrote:
sanwah68 wrote:

Does this use a flip-mat, or a custom map?

A custom map.

There is 1 custom map and 1 flipmat. Can we get the product description updated with the spoiler? Thanks!

Marketing & Media Manager

1 person marked this as a favorite.
redeux wrote:
Aaron Shanks wrote:
sanwah68 wrote:

Does this use a flip-mat, or a custom map?

A custom map.

There is 1 custom map and 1 flipmat. Can we get the product description updated with the spoiler? Thanks!

** spoiler omitted **

Referred to Webstore.

Dark Archive

Looks great so far! Just a quick query about the pregens:
Zeah Anstablit has Underworld Lore [E] +11, but at expert would be at +13. Should they be trained at +11, or expert at +13?
Thanks as always for the great content!

Paizo Employee Digital Developer

3 people marked this as a favorite.
daveasaurus wrote:

Looks great so far! Just a quick query about the pregens:

Zeah Anstablit has Underworld Lore [E] +11, but at expert would be at +13. Should they be trained at +11, or expert at +13?
Thanks as always for the great content!

Should be Trained! I think that was a weird mistype, not that it should come up a ton in the adventure. :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yacob Kress doesn't have Class DC listed for e.g. Stunning Fist (should be 22 I think?)
Eteleon doesn't have any weapon attacks listed despite having two weapons ready.

The adventure itself looks awesome, just started my PbP but so far is shaping up great. Just a little sad that the chronicle is not replayable, despite the adventure having variable elements. I really hope more One-Shots will have variable elements in the future.

Edge Points is a cool mechanic creatively lifted from some other trending RPGs :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I just played this. It's a great concept with poor execution.

Teams aren't given enough prep time. Even when you get successes you get useless information.

If I could review it I would give it 3/5 stars. At least it's not as bad as Serpent's Ire.


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

If I'm reading things correctly, three of the four pre-gens are members of the Red Mantis (and worshippers of Achaekek) and the fourth is not. And only two of the three have the Red Mantis Assassin Archetype Dedication. Or did I miss something?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ed Reppert wrote:
If I'm reading things correctly, three of the four pre-gens are members of the Red Mantis (and worshippers of Achaekek) and the fourth is not. And only two of the three have the Red Mantis Assassin Archetype Dedication. Or did I miss something?

The third red mantis is cleric of Achakek so no real need for archetype I guess x'D


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

That was my thought as well. Well, that and the way he got into the group.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Sidenote: What is the terra-cotta explorer picture for? I can't remember any mention of explorer statues in the adventure


CorvusMask wrote:
Sidenote: What is the terra-cotta explorer picture for? I can't remember any mention of explorer statues in the adventure

In the alternative track, one of the encounters is replaced with that.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Onkonk wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
Sidenote: What is the terra-cotta explorer picture for? I can't remember any mention of explorer statues in the adventure
In the alternative track, one of the encounters is replaced with that.

Didn't it just say terracotta soldiers though and refer to those soldier statues described to have swords?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I ran this for my group last week when two of my regular players couldn't make the session. They succeeded, but only just, with three of the four PCs dying, one early on when they misjudged something and the other two in the final encounter. It was a fun, tense session.

Spoiler:
The first PC died distracting the guards when the other three encountered the target's body double. The player figured he should go out in a blaze of glory, and only after the fight when they discovered they killed a decoy did he realize the error of his ways. Had the party consisted of four PCs when they did finally find their target, things would have gone much better for them.

I took the .jpg of the map to a print shop and had it printed out at 26x38 inches. It was a bit pricey but worth it, I think, as it is good to stop using a TV for battlemaps every now and then. Paizo, please keep this up and include high quality, untagged .jpgs for future one-shots.


I ran this for my group this weekend and I think I may have handled the Infiltration incorrectly as the planning and initial infiltration took up a little more than 2 hours... I chalk that up to me not being as experienced GM/DM as many others here. :D

I'd love for there to be some videos or podcast of a sample playthrough by the designers available to review and learn from.

That said - I thoroughly enjoyed the current progress of the playthrough. We plan to finish last night as they have just finished dealing with

Campaign Spoiler:
the body double
and are proceeding to the finale. I assume they'll have about another 2 hours. They are currently about 3 hours into the one shot.

I would definitely recommend this one shot and I plan to run it with a couple of my other groups.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I dunno. Playing these things out always seems to take a lot longer than I would expect from reading them. :-)

For example, "Menace Under Otari", from the Beginner Box. When I first read it, I figured "one session", three or maybe four hours. The *shortest* playthrough I've seen on Youtube was about twelve hours. Now granted this was a DM and four players who were not familiar with PF2E, though they were familiar with D&D5E. I don't know, but I wonder if the twelve hours was cut down from longer recordings. Anyway, my rule of thumb is "how long do you think it'll take? Triple that." Even that may turn out to be an underestimate.

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Menace is typically about 8 hours to my experience. It was run pretty cleanly in two sessions for Beginner Box day


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Mantis took my group six hours to play, mostly because it's a heist and you know how players love to send way too much time planning. The adventure even suggests ways to curb this, but my players didn't pick up on my hints.

The other two one-shots I've run have both taken the time the adventure suggests: four hours.


Pathfinder LO Special Edition, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I'm guessing none of that included a "session 0". :-)

If I can convince three more of my friends (there's one I *know* would be in) to try Pathfinder, I'll run 'em through the BB and hope they enjoy it enough to try Abomination Vaults next. But they're not gamers, and we're all old (younger than me, but the youngest is well over fifty) and they've never risen to the bait I've laid before 'em in the past, so... <shrug>


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Correct, no session 0. I run these one-shots when one of the five players in my Age of Ashes campaign cannot make a session. The other players just show up to my house, choose a pre-generated character, take a few minutes to familiarize themselves with their abilities and then we're off. No prep is needed for my players when I run these.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Senior Developer

5 people marked this as a favorite.
JayDub84 wrote:

...I chalk that up to me not being as experienced GM/DM as many others here. :D

I'd love for there to be some videos or podcast of a sample playthrough by the designers available to review and learn from.

It's not just about being an experienced GM. Every group is different, and every GM has a different style. When I need to finish a game within a certain time period (like needing to finish an organized play game within a 5-hour slot), I'm mostly good about running a tight, fun game that wraps up in 4.5 hours. If I have no time pressure, or if I have players full of absurd and daring strategies, you better believe I might run that same adventure for 8 hours!

Managing your group's infiltration planning might benefit from a few steps:

  • When the PCs discover new information, write that on a notecard and place it on the table. This keeps the information accessible and gives the players something to manipulate as they plan.
  • As the players plan, periodically chime in to paraphrase what you've heard. "Okay, so I'm hearing you want to create a distraction at the front gate, use that to sneak in back, and then set fire to the shrubbery? That covers some of your objectives; what else do you need to account for?" This helps center the conversation, as it's really natural for these planning conversations to digress wildly.
  • It's okay to step in, acknowledge that the players have a decent plan, and ask they wrap up in the next 5 minutes to start the next scene. Some players can scheme for hours and hours, and applying a gentle cut-off to that scene helps wrap up those conversations.

    JayDub84 wrote:


    I would definitely recommend this one shot and I plan to run it with a couple of my other groups.

    Glad you've enjoyed it! I encourage you to leave a review when you get a chance.


  • Really enjoyed running all these One-Shots.

    Any clue if we'll be getting more?

    Director of Marketing

    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Unikatze wrote:

    Really enjoyed running all these One-Shots.

    Any clue if we'll be getting more?

    Pathfinder and Starfinder Society Scenarios and Free RPG Day Adventures make great one-shots.

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