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Now, first things first, THIS WALL OF BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, IS SIMPLY MY OPINION. Just wanna make that clear.
The obvious suggestion is to run the campaign as written, if you think it lacks challenge then you can always suppress the amount of treasure or our levels.
I totally agree with this. I've looked at these npc's in the AP and I don't think they're underpowered at all. In my opinion, I feel that you're probably looking at, "Well they're a 25 point buy so I have to rebuild everybody"
The reason we're on the verge of TPK's in every combat is because you keep rebuilding these guys and making them far overpowered. I know Paizo "claims" that all these AP's are built for "4, 15 point buy" pc's but that is a load of crap. Now, there's no way I'm gonna convince any of you of this and that's fine, but I've played WAAAAAAAAAY badder dudes in RL, and I've seen several of my characters bite the dust. And the ONLY thing our DM would do, is max out hit points for the bad guys. That's it. Because why add more work to yourself by rebuilding these dudes? It's not worth it. Yet, they were still challenging(obviously with the pc deaths involved I mentioned).
And our point buy? Ranged from 60 to 80. Yep, you read that right. All of us had stacked pc's and we still managed to get our butts handed to us.
Me, I'm personally a fan of 25 point buy MINIMUM. It allows you to build a pc to where he's strong somewhere. AND, I don't have to dump anything. I HATE DUMPSTATTING. I hate it. But you have no freaking choice with a 20 point buy. With a 25, I can build the pc to where I'm content with his mechanics, and I don't have to have an 8 in something(Barring a racial adjustment which I have no problem with. I just hate lowering it on purpose).
I think you overestimate the power of our PC's. I don't give a rip what items everyone possesses. You can have a million items on you, it doesn't matter. Because this game ULTIMATELY boils down to 3 things:
1. Armor class
3. Hit points
To survive this game, you need to be awesome in all three of those. I don't care how much damage you're doing, if your AC stinks... you're going down.
If you don't roll your save... you're going down. If Rave doesn't save, Mark's either calling it quits, or making up a new pc because Rave would've been obliterated(Which I noted you boosted the DC vs. the Empowered LB which was actually an 18. Not that it mattered, everyone saved anyway).
And if you don't have enough hit points... you're going down. Which is what he did. He only has 67. Fortunately he saved and managed to survive. Otherwise, game over.
Half+1 sucks. It is absolute crap. I know most people think it's fine and it's great but... I don't. BUT, I deal with it because that's what the majority of DM's use, unfortunately. If it was me, I'd be using the Way of the Wicked hit point method. That way, the minimum you get stuck with is Half+1. But at least you have a shot at rolling max without having to worry about a stinking 1.
If you two remember, markofbane and DW, Kriger kept rolling 3's and 4's on HP's and he had like 40 hp's at 6th level or some crap. It was less than the Set's summoner which use a d8. It was horrible. And because of my crappy rolling - which exist in every thread of mine - it's what ultimately led to us using Half+1. And also because of that - if I remember correctly - both Kalsgrim and Servayn actually lost hp's which wasn't fair to them. So I always felt bad about that.
Obviously half+1 is better than rolling(at least for me). But I totally feel it still hampers pc's and it still sucks and always will. Never, and I mean never, will I feel it's gamebreaking in ANY WAY, that a pc should have an opportunity to roll max hp's while at the same time not having to worry about rolling a 1,2, or 3(The d6 bothers me the least, but I would still prefer nothing less than a 3 on that).
Most folks(if not everyone) probably disagree with me on this, but, that just means they would be wrong. :)
Okay, enough ranting about that good stuff.
Basically, I don't feel these NPC's have to be altered. I think they prove enough challenge as is. If he starts out with that lightning bolt, somebody(or several somebodies) is gonna be hurt bad. Period. Barring evasion and none of us have that except for the familiar.
Because every time you rebuild them, you know our strengths and how to defend against them. And every enemy is gonna be prepared for us every time which really doesn't make sense at all and wouldn't be fair to us. That'd be like me going through each book of an AP(any AP), reading what it takes to beat the baddies, and then building my pc to where he's optimized vs. said baddies. It takes the challenge out of it and makes it not fun. I understand why you feel like you must do this but I feel like it's really unnecessary. These dudes are challenging enough as written.
Of course, we're never gonna know unless you run it that way.
Anyway, as I've said, this is all strictly my opinion and not worth the two cents I paid for it. It can be easily taken with a grain of salt.