Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-00: The Cosmic Captive (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Society Special designed for levels 1–11.

Astronomers have marveled as the famous comet Aucturn's Tear once more soars through the solar system, yet this cycle, strange portals have begun opening on each planet the comet passes, and a powerful entity trapped on the other side of these gateways desperately calls for help. To the Pathfinder Society, this is a once-in-a-human-lifetime opportunity to discover what lies through these portals—and either free the captive trapped within or ensure that it remains sealed forever.

The Cosmic Captive is a multi-table interactive adventure in which each group's actions contribute to the entire room's success.

Written by Matt Duval.

Note: The Cosmic Captive is a limited release scenario. It may be run at conventions with approval by a Regional Venture-Coordinator, and requires at least 6 tables to be playing the scenario simultaneously and in contact with each other (the Adventure Card Guild portion requires at least 2 tables with 2 players each). To inquire about access to this scenario, refer to the Organized Play Convention Support Policy.

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Non-Stop Elemental Fights


Captive is a combat based scenario with a few skill challenges.

Captive was encounter after encounter against elementals, and that’s not an exaggeration. Well, there is the odd undead or golem. For years the feedback has been there are too many generic combats in specials, but Captive just takes this to another level.

The two skill challenges allow for so many different kinds of skills to be used (even Diplomacy and Perception), they were meaningless and didn't make a lot of sense. It was just a roll off.

In terms of story, this special was the worst (by far) of any special I’ve done since Pathfinder was created. Very bland.

I wonder if Paizo realizes how many new players play specials, thinking that this is the best that Pathfinder has to offer when it’s really the worst that Pathfinder has to offer? Do you realize how many people you turn away from the game by having craptastic combat filled specials?

”Detailed Rating”:

Length: Extremely long (5 hours).
Experience: Player with 6 under average PCs (3 pregens) at subtier 1-2.
Sweet Spot: TBD
Entertainment: If I wanted non-stop combat, I would play a video game. (1/10)
Story: Lame story. If you wanted to bring the egg into the story of season 8, some box text would have been fine. (1/10)
Roleplay: None. (1/10)
Combat/Challenges: Yawn. (1/10)
Maps: Didn't always make sense for the context of location. (1/10)
Boons: Amazing boon of course. (10/10)
Uniqueness: We've seen combat fests before. (1/10)
GM Preparation: TBD.

Overall: Pathfinder shoots itself in the foot with the worst special so far. (1/10)



There were way too many moving parts in this Special for the typical time-crunch you end up facing. I was on the player side, and while my party made it through (and with only some minor difficulty that had more to do with a GM that lacked rules knowledge than actual encounter difficulty), it was a terrible special.

Really cool concept... poor execution. There was way too much going on, and story-wise, it felt like we got very, very little from it. Beyond essentially being Pathfinders in space, it kind of felt like we had no idea what was going on half the time. It seemed very difficult for the GM to communicate the important story-aspects to us. Couple that with the fact that our GM wasn't clued in on some really basic rules (climbing rules using ropes, for example), and this ended up being a snooze fest for us. It's been my absolute least favorite special so far, and was the first special some of my friends played in (I honestly hope they believed me when I told them other specials have been WAY better, and to give it a chance next year). The combats were pretty meh, and the skill checks felt really repetitive.

I love the massive feel of the specials, but you don't have to add a ton of extra pointless encounters/skill checks to make it interesting. In my experience, most GMs do better when they can worry more about the story and less about having to prep a ridiculous number of encounters and random elements that may not even come in to play.

Overall, tone down the randomness of the encounters and perhaps the number of them, and reduce the repetitive skill checks. Give the GMs a chance to actually communicate with us beyond rushing us off to the next encounter. If I just wanted to grind exp, I'd go play WoW. As a fairly new (to Society) player, I feel like I got way more out of the specials last year.

Here's to hoping for something amazing at GenCon 50.

This is a monster and not the kind that drops loot.


I have played and GM'd this special and I'm not sure what they were thinking. Now, I think the story is interesting and that it's a good kick-off to the current Year of the Stolen Storm.

From a player side, this looked too burdensome with all the encounters and sometimes it didn't feel like you were making any progress. Being cut off in encounters is not fun.

From a GM side, I'm only running this a second time because I got asked. Prepping this is just way too much. There are too many encounters, too many moving variables to track that can influence each area and each encounter, and it almost feels like you have to rush the table along.

It's such an unwieldy scenario that is not really that fun. I had fun playing it because we built our characters for one year to specifically play this at GenCon.

This may not be Blood Under Absalom bad, but it's pretty darn close.

Unnecessarily complex


I have been in the fortunate position of having both GM’ed and played this special. I comment from both perspectives.


From a player’s point of view I have to say that overall I enjoyed it. The fact you can choose your own path is always appreciated. Having the three paths differ from one another is also good. However, it’s a bit unfortunate that you as a player don’t really get to know what challenges each path holds, except for ‘Earth’ that is. In order to really enjoy a special, you want to do the path that is closest to your preferences, but I as a player had no clue as to how ‘Water’ was going to be different from ‘Fire’. While they do differ, I think that choosing between two paths (as was the case in Legacy of the Stonelords) is vastly superior to this setup.

An issue I had was that you also don’t really get the entire story as a player, which is a huge shame. While you’ll get a conclusion that sums it all up, you’re still going to miss some vital information. Having random ‘Fire’, ‘Water’ and ‘Earth’ events pop up, makes you want to know why and it’s disheartening to hear that ‘you simply don’t know’. Also, on the lower tiers, the fights are repetitive. The variation in encounters is simply lacking. Especially during the whole ‘solve the puzzle’ part it was quite frankly boring me to face the same creatures over and over again. Where there’s maybe too much diversity in the paths, there’s too little in encounters in certain tiers.

Finally, as a player, I was confused as to understanding the mercenaries. While I now understand it was a last ditch effort to stop the jailbreak, it just didn’t have that same sense of ‘this is the final combat!’. It ended a bit abruptly. I can understand this to be different for the high tiers, but for 1-2 or 3-4 it’s just another combat that doesn’t really stand out. It didn’t feel like a logical end for the special in terms of combat prowess. It felt like just a filler.


As a GM, I’m honestly quite annoyed. While I appreciate diversity and options, it’s really frustrating to know that you’ll be preparing some paths that the table will not visit. Now if it’s just a few encounters, that’s fine, but we’re speaking of 23 fights and 21 different maps. That’s just a lot of maps to draw or buy, and monsters to prepare. It’s just too much honestly.

But wait, that’s not all! You also have a lot of interconnected mechanics that further increase the amount of preparation that has to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great way to create a feeling of ‘what we do has an impact on every table’, but I’m not convinced this is the best way. Having a single event influence places in three different ways, makes sense. But having three of such events just makes it overly complicated for a GM. It’s doable, but it’s not exactly GM-friendly.

Finally, as a GM, I have to comment on the puzzle/jail situation. The idea behind it is certainly cool, as is the shielding. But having 4 different shields which all influence either the shields or how the puzzled is solved, in combination with the various ways a puzzle can be solved (which can change in difficulty), is just a pain to keep track of. I don’t even want to read that sentence again as it’s confusing, yet true. And then there’s the fights between the rounds of puzzle solving. They’re just repetitive and no fun. It’s the same fight over and over again. I wish there was more diversity. In hindsight I should have considered using creatures found on the paths the players hadn’t visited.


All-in-all it’s a great story, but it doesn’t transfer well to the player. As a special, it struggles with diversity. The paths were a great idea, but the mechanics are too complex while the encounters in the lower term are just plain repetitive. The Special certainly tries, but ultimately comes short of being a great experience for players and GM’s a like. It has issues and while I can understand the direction Paizo took with this – especially with the interconnecting mechanics - I think that the easier format of Legacy of the Stonelords is better.

The high tier is particularly good


Perspective: GM

About a year ago I GMed Siege of Serpents, and I was rather disappointed. The party were all highly optimized PCs, and the enemies tended to be feeble NPC Codex dudes. They didn't have a chance at winning initiative, hitting or damaging the PCs before being vaporised.

This time, things were very different. The scenario gives players some choice of path to follow, along with an expectation of what to expect in terms of difficulty. Also, the high tier has several optional encounters with varying difficulty, in case the PCs want an extra epic challenge. These vary from brutal to absolutely insane. Which means, altogether, that the GM has a lot of tools with which to tailor the difficulty of the scenario to fit the group of players and provide an enjoyable challenge.

As many others have remarked, this scenario is BIG. At high tier I had to be prepared for 23 different fights, and that's not including an option whereby the party faces enemies from a lower tier (I would ignore that event; it's crazy for preparation and pointless as a combat). However, there does seem to be some effort to make things a little less crazy;

- Some reuse of enemies. Some monsters appear in 3 different places, but due to path choices, you're not likely to face them more than 1-2 times. And the pairing of monsters is shuffled. So the total number of statblocks the GM needs to learn is a little bit reduced.

- Several flipmats re-used. Although it does tend to be "one map one fight". It could have been both interesting and convenient to set multiple encounters on the same map. Either in separate areas (cave systems) or as late reinforcements to fights ("in round 3, these people arrive") which force players to re-think how the fight looks. Reinforcement fights also reduce the overhead of having everyone roll initiative, position themselves on maps and such. It also breaks the "combat is decided in three rounds" paradigm a bit.
- Standardized DCs for skills and saves, scaling by tier. This means you need one small table for DCs that you use everywhere, instead of every section getting new mechanics. I think this principle could have been used even more for "random damage events" that do damage based on APL. Those could have been more standardized as well.

I'm the player that Quentin referred to as making story/lore handouts. I think this scenario has a fantastic premise and I like the way the encounters lead up to bigger revelations. The problem is that the scenario as written doesn't really have a "message plan" for how to communicate this information, and how to dose it. There are various NPCs who provide information and that earns the PCs "clue points", but that's very abstract. So I made handouts with tidbits of info to accompany clue points (also useable as talking points for the GM when RPing that NPC). The idea was that during the break, tables could show each other what they'd learned, and that when the NPC Society leader summarized everything, players could see what their contribution to that had been.

When I read the premise for this scenario, I got really excited, but also saw trouble on the horizon, because I doubt most players have any clue about the following (publicly available) Golarion lore:


Who the Elemental Lords are (ISWG, The Great Beyond) and what they're like.
Who the good Elemental Lords are, and what happened to them (Artifacts and Legends).

The premise of the scenario is that you're contending with demigods, but most players will just respond with "who?"

I think this Special made some strides towards improving on prior complaints.

- Enemies aren't complete walkovers. There are scaling options to make things doable for high-powered PCs without forcing every table to play at that difficulty.
- The choices players make in which direction to go matter, and the likely effect of the choice is obvious enough.
- Variety in monsters, but also an attempt to limit the amount the GM has to prep. Still not perfect but the attempt is there.
- The interaction between tables was less abstract. Specific PC actions enabled specific thematic benefits for other tables.
- Appendix with monster statblocks sorted by tier. So you don't need to print monsters your players can't encounter.
- The encounters made sense in sequence; each one dug a little deeper, they weren't some random order. The progression felt right.
- Epic premise that makes sense to do as a group special.

- There was no graded performance for the House. That means that if you have to skip some encounters because there isn't time, it doesn't negatively impact people's rewards for the adventure.

This is important because almost all specials I've played before had so insanely much content that you didn't have time for, and then got slapped for not completing it. We took about six hours and I was able to run 10-15 encounters (depending on how you count) which is already pretty huge for a 10-11 tier.

- Diverse encounters. Quite a lot of different abilities had a role to play. And picking a different path really gave you very different challenges/people to talk to.

However, there is still room for further improvement;

- The final map uses a flipmat but then goes on to provide a description of what's actually there that you have to ignore about 50% of what's printed. At this point it's less confusing and less explaining work to just draw it yourself. Shame, a pretty final map should be part of the deal.
- Monster statblocks could be even better organized by:

1) Sorting it into encounters, instead of alphabetically. I want to be able to print a 1-4 page spread of pages that lists all monsters in an encounter, without anything else.

2) Starting statblocks at the top of a page/column, making sure they don't break onto other pages.

Screw pagecount. I want useability more than I want to save paper.

- A message plan for the story. At what points and pace will information be revealed? Because specials tend to be big stressful things, many GMs won't have time to improvise lore drops that aren't already in the scenario. Please provide bullet points with "this NPC tells you..." or handouts.

- Minigames should have flowcharts or handouts. I can make them myself, but if every table needs them, why isn't it in the scenario? They should be player-safe to read. This goes in particular for the final map; a list of "what can you do, which abilities can you use". You can't just dictate ten skills to players and expect them to remember all that, then dictate ten items, then ten spells and some more things they get access to, and expect remembering of all that as well.

- Further cut the number of encounters. A full path here would have been about 1+3+3+[3 to 6]+1 encounters for something that's supposed to take 5 hours or so. That's if you don't take detours or optional content. It also means you don't get to take any second path, while for this one, the GM preps 3 paths. By making each path shorter, we could have people travel across 2/3rds of the content instead of only 1/3rd. For the GM, it would be rewarding to see more of the material you prepared actually getting used.

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Sounds really interesting.

The Exchange

Is there a minimum number of tables to run this at a convention?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I imagine there will be, but won't know until it gets released.

Silver Crusade

I'm surprised it isn't being offered at PaizoCon this year.

Scarab Sages

The preview already hints as possible death by box text.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Comets deserve FREEEEDOOOOOM!!!

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

Maps Appearing in The Cosmic Captive:

  • Flip-Mat: City Gates
  • Flip-Mat: Desert Ruins
  • Flip-Mat: Hill Country
  • Flip-Mat: Tech Dungeon
  • Flip-Mat: Twisted Caverns
  • Flip-Mat: Wasteland
  • Flip-Mat: Winter Forest
  • Map Pack: Cave Chambers
  • Map Pack: Evil Ruins
  • Map Pack: Extradimensional Spaces
  • Map Pack: Ice Cavern
  • Map Pack: Lairs
  • Map Pack: Starship Chambers
  • Grand Lodge

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    Stat block appendices separated by subtier? Yes please!

    RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I am so psyched after reading the finished copy. Thank you very much to John and Linda for giving me this chance. :-)

    Best of luck, Pathfinders! I'll be right there with you at Gen Con :)

    John Compton wrote:

    ** spoiler omitted **

    Map Availability Request:
    Out of the above listed maps, how many will be available for purchase physically at GenCon this year, and how many will need to be .pdf-printed because they are out of print? Apologies on the late question, just found out I'm running this and am trying to calculate logistics on the production/acquisition of them to minimize map-drawing time. (tier 3-4)
    Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

    Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
    John Compton wrote:

    ** spoiler omitted **

    ** spoiler omitted **

    I provided a list of all of the maps featured in the July–August adventures—including this interactive special—to our operations team so that they could prioritize what to ship to Gen Con. My understanding is that most of these maps will be available in some quantity at the Paizo booth, though I do not have exact numbers.

    Thank you for the prompt response!

    Balthazar Murklercer wrote:
    Is there a minimum number of tables to run this at a convention?

    I heard "requires a convention of certain size and RVC approval as well as 6 Tables running it".

    No further info to hand.

    The Exchange

    When exactly are these going to be available for download? For a while it said they'd be available on the 4th, but now it just says "unavailable"...

    Prismatic Codex wrote:
    When exactly are these going to be available for download? For a while it said they'd be available on the 4th, but now it just says "unavailable"...

    If you're not running it for a convention/multi-table game day event, then it won't be available for purchase till at least August 2017.

    RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Just got back home from Indy and minimal internet access, and wanted to say thank you to everyone who took time to play this on Friday night. I really hope everyone had fun. :-)

    Also, my heartfelt gratitude to all the table gms, volunteers, HQ staff, John, Linda, Tonya, Tanis, and all the many, many people who made the event possible. The 'written by' feels like such a small part of the effort seeing it come to life, and I'm just overwhelmed and incredibly grateful to have been part of it. This community is really the best and I'm so happy I get to participate in it.

    And to the druid at my table, sorry about indirectly killing your cat...

    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    Are any of the combat encounters supposed to have 4-player adjustments?
    I'll be one of the GMs at our local convention over Labor Day Weekend. Among the advance signups so far, there are only 7 players requesting to play with 10th- or 11th-level PCs (and a few with 9th-level PCs). I've read the scenario and noticed a few accommodations for 4-player tables, but not in the combats.

    The Exchange

    I got this chronicle at gencon, and because we played it at the 3-4 tier, the GM crossed off the 5-8, 9-11, and 12+ lines. but as I read it, if I wait longer to use it, it should go up "based on your level when you activate the boon."

    I just want to make sure I'm reading this correctly. thoughts?

    Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

    Abominog wrote:

    I got this chronicle at gencon, and because we played it at the 3-4 tier, the GM crossed off the 5-8, 9-11, and 12+ lines. but as I read it, if I wait longer to use it, it should go up "based on your level when you activate the boon."

    I just want to make sure I'm reading this correctly. thoughts?

    Snippet of boon text wrote:
    You can activate this boon as a standard action by checking one of the boxes that precedes it, gaining one of the benefits based on your level when you activate the boon. For any spell-like ability, use your character level as your caster level.

    As bolded above, the ability is based on when you activate the boon, so your GM should not have crossed out those options.


    thanks, I thought so.

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