Hiring the Red Mantis [spoilers]


Skull & Shackles


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My PCs have just arrived in Ilizmagorti, and they'll be there a few days. They're doing piracy as part of chapter two and wanted to stop in at a nearby port outside the Shackles, and since they're there anyway they thought they'd request an estimate on how much it would cost for the Red Mantis to off Captain Harrigan (who is their current boss).

I can run a fun quest and such just to get the opportunity to talk to a representative of the RMA, but I have no clue how much assassination actually costs. Are there guidelines anywhere (for any assassins at all, in 3.x or PFRPG)?


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Okay, I found this:

PF9 p. 68 wrote:
The method of determining the price the Red Mantis requests for an assassination is known to the order’s leaders alone. Where a fickle merchant-baron might be dispatched for a mere handful of coins, the price for killing a cheating landlord could cost the buyer his family’s most treasured heirlooms. In any case, the assassins’ fees are as much a factor of who wants the killing performed as who is marked for death.

So I can arbitrarily make up any number I like, apparently. I'm thinking 25 points of plunder.


I would recommend against this. 25 points of plunder can be a lot, but something to keep in mind is that the Red Mantis, once paid, don't stop until their mark is dead. They even go so far as to kill their mark again should they be resurrected, they've been doing this for a while and they WILL succeed. What's more is that fighting Harrigan is the climax of the 5th book and a major plot point that draws them into the final arc of the adventure. Setting the price high may make it less likely that they'd choose this option, but I know of some groups who would jump on that, even if it meant grinding for three sessions. This option is basically "If you wish to skip a chunk of the plot, you should pay this toll."


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But surely rule one of being a GM is "Always say yes." If what the players really want is to skip a chunk of the plot then shouldn't I let them?

Besides, I'm not convinced that they'd be skipping all that much. One reason it takes Admiral Doloruso so long to get her fleet in shape is that her boss is so distracted by his hatred of the PCs (ch 5, p. 35). Her primary ambition is a command of her own (ch.5, p. 54), so she'd take over Harrigan's fleet as planned, and really there aren't many who could challenge her on that. It probably also means that the grudge prisoners (Cut-Throat Grok et al) are either working for her or are free agents.

Admiral Thrune will have a bad moment when her primary patsy in the Shackles dies, but she's very resourceful. Surely she'll either make a deal with Doloruso or else deceive her into attacking Bonefist on her own (and then just time things so that Cheliax swoops in and wins everything).

Aside from the fight against Harrigan himself, the only thing that might be lost is the Battle of Empty Eyes, since Doloruso has no personal grudge against the PCs (unless I engineer one). This means that there are more ships in the final fight and that the PCs miss out on the experience and loot of fighting Harrigan.

I disagree that this is the GM saying "If you wish to skip a chunk of the plot, you should pay this toll." I think instead that it's the players saying, "Is there a toll we can pay to skip that chunk of the plot?" I think that I need to say yes and then make them regret their decision.


In that case, you seem to have things well in hand. :) I would make the price something more interesting than simply X-amount of gold/plunder. Like, "Go to this island and get this thing" to keep things moving and make it something that they have to devote time and effort to without the game becoming a grind.


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Ooh, good thought. Thank-you.

Any thoughts on my analysis of what happens in the AP if Harrigan dies prematurely?


You seem to have a pretty good grasp of the consequences. Honestly, depending on when it happens, a lot could change. If it takes place before the fifth book, then Harrigan won't be around to sabotage the Captains' feast through the Eel. Also he won't attack their home island, which unfortunately means they won't have any incentive to assemble a fleet to rebuff the coming assault, leaving them potentially woefully unprepared for the coming storm of the Chelish fleet. However, this can also have positive effects as well, without her Patsy, the Admiral might not have gotten all of the information she needed to successfully navigate the Eye, leading to significant losses on the voyage through. She should still have enough to cut her predetermined swath through the Shackles, but possibly much shower than in the book. At your discretion, the PC's could learn about the creeping onslaught after Drenchport falls (possibly through one of their Free Captain allies) allowing them to start assembling a fleet to meet the threat. Play up the desperation and race against time elements of the situation and track the days, if they take too long preparing, they might lose Port Peril and then the whole game changes.


The biggest loss may be the entirety of the adventure and adversity written into the fifth book. You may need to come up with a whole new adventure to keep the game rolling. Or maybe they've pissed off some other captain who could play as a stand-in Harrigan for that book.


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What about if Harrigan kills the Red Mantis assassin sent after him? That should give the PCs something to think about.


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Thank-you for the ideas!

Nakteo wrote:
You seem to have a pretty good grasp of the consequences. Honestly, depending on when it happens, a lot could change. If it takes place before the fifth book, then Harrigan won't be around to sabotage the Captains' feast through the Eel.

Happily, this player group is self-sabotaging when it comes to half-elves, so there will be challenges aplenty for them at the feast. (This also affects their relationship with Tessa, of course. They really hate Cheliax though, so Arronax Endymion might end up filling her role.)

Nakteo wrote:
Also he won't attack their home island, which unfortunately means they won't have any incentive to assemble a fleet to rebuff the coming assault, leaving them potentially woefully unprepared for the coming storm of the Chelish fleet.

I have a couple of side-plots, one of which will hopefully inspire them to build a fleet. Even without it, though, they're already leaning in that direction. They want power, and a fleet seems like a logical long-term goal to them even without other motivations.

Nakteo wrote:
However, this can also have positive effects as well, without her Patsy, the Admiral might not have gotten all of the information she needed to successfully navigate the Eye, leading to significant losses on the voyage through. She should still have enough to cut her predetermined swath through the Shackles, but possibly much shower than in the book. At your discretion, the PC's could learn about the creeping onslaught after Drenchport falls (possibly through one of their Free Captain allies) allowing them to start assembling a fleet to meet the threat. Play up the desperation and race against time elements of the situation and track the days, if they take too long preparing, they might lose Port Peril and then the whole game changes.

This sounds like a good time. Thank-you for this.

Nakteo wrote:
The biggest loss may be the entirety of the adventure and adversity written into the fifth book. You may need to come up with a whole new adventure to keep the game rolling. Or maybe they've pissed off some other captain who could play as a stand-in Harrigan for that book.

That's worth considering. Part one of chapter five would be unchanged, since it's just the council meeting and looking into treason within the Shackles. It would likely end up with the PCs being fast allies of Endymion. Part two is a complete wash, since it's all about learning more about Harrigan in order to better fight him. I could probably add motivation for running the Gullet by offering Infamy, but the shipwreck is probably a loss. Part Three is just an exercise in gaining Infamy, so that stays. Part four is the PCs being attacked (which is gone) and them taking over Harrigan's island stronghold. I think they'll still do that last, just with Dolorusa in charge rather than Harrigan.

So I'll lose some of the module and most of the personal enmity, but the PCs generated enough antagonists through their respective backstories that I'm overflowing with that already anyway.

Shaun wrote:
What about if Harrigan kills the Red Mantis assassin sent after him? That should give the PCs something to think about.

Huh. So what does a powerful person do upon learning about being a Red Mantis target? Is there any recourse? I don't think that there are a lot of things that could cause Harrigan to panic, but this might be one of them.

I mean, what would anyone do, not just Harrigan? Is this where you choose your afterlife and pay someone to plane shift you there and just give up on terrestrial existence? Do you play the game of finding out how many Red Mantis assassins you can kill before they finally sawtooth sabre you to death? Do you go into denial and hope that the legends about the Red Mantis are untrue?


Shaun wrote:
What about if Harrigan kills the Red Mantis assassin sent after him? That should give the PCs something to think about.

The PC's aren't likely to find out. If you're the greatest assassin organization in the world, you don't make a habit of letting your failures be known. On a related subject, the Red Mantis don't fail contracts. If a target kills an assassin, they send more assassins or a single much more skilled assassin. This may sound like a cannon fodder approach, but the least Red Mantis is a 6th level character, likely with years of training behind them. That character will lose a head on fight, but a coup de grace will kill just about anyone. In short, once the PC's hire a hit on Harrigan, he's a walking corpse, and soon a non-walking one.


Thug- Those're a lot of interesting ideas of how Harrigan might react to funding our about a hit on him. Honestly, he strikes me as a "Kill them all" kind of guy, but let it unfold how you wish. Make sure that Harrigan dies in some manner that will give the PC's a level of satisfaction at having solved a problem with outside the box thinking, be it having him murder through a score of assassins, surviving only by employing super paranoid precautions only to be brought down by a lucky blow (signifying that he really would have been a scary person to go head to head with), or by randomly dying in a humiliating fashion in front of his peers (letting them lol at his expense). I would try to avoid "he and his ship mysteriously vanished" as then they might be constantly thinking that he'll return later. How the learn of his death could be anything from a rumor in a tavern, to an ally learns of it, to a Red Mantis showing up to say "It is done.". Though that last gives them no details. But yeah, all kinds of fun to be had. I'd be excited to learn how this all goes down.


Nakteo wrote:
.... the Red Mantis don't fail contracts. ...

An NPC in Rival Guide would like to disagree with you :P An ex-mantis assassin himself. Though it does have the clause that it's not happened "yet".


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Nakteo wrote:
Thug- Those're a lot of interesting ideas of how Harrigan might react to funding our about a hit on him. Honestly, he strikes me as a "Kill them all" kind of guy, but let it unfold how you wish.

(It's tbug, not thug. It's like a t-rex, except small and squishy.)

I like the idea that he'd resist. He could certainly thin their ranks, at least at first. Maybe he'll fight them for a while then decide to go join Besmara on the Seawraith while still alive. I suspect she'd have him keelhauled for betraying all her ideals, and then the Red Mantis could stop their attempts.

Errant Mercenary wrote:
Nakteo wrote:
.... the Red Mantis don't fail contracts. ...
An NPC in Rival Guide would like to disagree with you :P An ex-mantis assassin himself. Though it does have the clause that it's not happened "yet".

Right, the level 18 ex-Red Mantis and his level 18 lover have "to date" survived all attempts to assassinate them, in part because they're allied with a couple other high-level characters. The implication is that if Harrigan were willing to join a team with three level 18 characters then he could survive for a little while, but he's no team player. Even then, it's surely only a matter of time until the RM fulfill their contract.

So he can fight them off temporarily if he has enough high-powered help, but he's short on that at the moment. I just don't see his ultimate fate changing once they accept the contract, and like Nakteo says I want to give the PCs some satisfaction for thinking outside the box.


My players took Harrigan out at the end of the regatta. In the end, I replaced his betrayer role with Arronax Endymion. I swapped the fortress home of Harrigan with the pyramid where Endymion makes his home in Hell Harbor, basically using the same maps. It was awesome because they had been defending Endymion against accusations of being a spy for several levels by that point and were fairly closely aligned with him.

If you have the Pirates of the Shackles book, there are several pirate lords there who want to take out the Hurricane King. We used several of them that weren't in the adventure path.

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