I still wonder if there are impossible combinations, but this discussion has inspired me to add another generation type to my random magic item generator, for UC building item slots, which work in reverse with respect to base values compared with typical random item generation. It can also report whether the combination of values you request is impossible.
It's a pretty bad flaw if the rules would have a situation like the one I described, where you're supposed to roll an item, but it's impossible not to exceed the base value. Is such a situation actually possible, or can, say, a small city not afford a building with a medium slot?
Edit: well, depending on item type, I guess. a lesser medium armor can fall below small city base value, but perhaps my example is bad. Still, if it's merely improbable that you'll roll a valid item, that can be worked around. It's impossible that causes a snag.
Where is this in Ultimate Campaign? In PRD terms, anyway.
Your small city builds a building that has a medium slot. Small cities have a base value of 4 kgp, but medium magic items cost well above that, minimum. Thus, it is impossible to roll anything below the base value.
What about the level 2 finesse ability adding DEX to hit in addition to STR? That way you can have balanced STR/DEX (I'm a huge fan of this), and do respectable damage with your medium/low STR bonus to damage, plus Precise Strikes, and still hit often? (Edit: I'm not all about the damage; it's just easily quantifiable.)
(I should note: if DEX to damage does happen, I'm going to give in and join the crowd; but I like the balanced STR/DEX concept, it just could use some help.).
You don't seem to be asking any direct questions, more like providing advice? So I'll add my experience into the mix.
I have tried something like this before, when I ran Rise of the Runelords (my one and only experience GMing this game*). It's a tough balance act just how much information to reveal, but it certainly works.
In some cases, I read the line that the bestiary has that describes the creature. This is sometimes a giveaway, but on more mundane creatures, I liked describing the monsters, since otherwise there's a highly detailed description of the room, including how apparent the age is, where the sunlight comes in, the fierceness of the roaring fire, and what have you, and oh yeah, there's some guys in here, by the way.
Other times, I'd just describe the creature in a very basic way (light/dark, skin/fur, weapon/claws, wings/no wings), and it will remain a mystery until it uses an iconic ability, and it all snaps into place. If it's obviously a <creature type> then they'd get that. If they know to expect ogres in a region, I'll just say, "ogre."
They seemed to enjoy realizing what it was they fought after the fact. (Edit: it was often of no concern of ultimate difficulty, just a neat little surprise, since their fighting skills basically allowed brute-force to work, regardless of resistances and such. Then, at a certain level, knowledge checks just become automatic successes.)
* I used this approach in another game, however. I ran a Paranoia game once where the troubleshooters went outside. I described it as cold, with a very high gray ceiling. They proceeded, and found a hairy thing, approximately knee height, with arms and legs, and discernible facial features, but very odd ones. Perhaps some kind of mutant? And, look, now here's a much larger one, taller than them. Good times.
As to why play a swashbuckler, asked a few times in this thread, my answer would be: for the swashbuckler class features. The deeds are pretty fun, for example, or at least have the potential to be. I'm looking at this class, and I am interested because it's a "swordplay dude with parries and ripostes, and other interesting things" (and a new, not-even-finished, experimental class, at that), not because it's, say, a "DEX-based martial class". It's the same reason why I might choose to play a sorcerer: it's not for the CHA-based casting, but for the spontaneous mechanic, and bloodlines, and such.
I'm assuming "magic mart" means a store that has anything? There may be different connotations.
Anyway, I go by the settlement rules. It's a major pain normally, but as I [perhaps too] often mention, I wrote an item generator to do all the rolling for me, going with the 75% success rate if it's below base value, and all that good stuff.
It's kind of fun to see players improvise when something they want is not available. Unfortunately, I don't think they've ever looked at the list and thought, "Yeah, I'll get that." Instead, they wait until what they want is available. So many magic items in this game, so few see use longer than the time of looting (might as well use it) to the time of pawning off for half price. I got a bit off-topic there...
Of course, as someone else mentioned, once teleportation and interplanar travel is involved, I wouldn't bother rolling, particularly during extended downtime, since the party can shop around at all the major cities.
As for why I even try: I would prefer there be some element of chaos in magic item shopping. The players are playing to problem solve, after all. Adapt. That kind of thing.
My preferred method for handling PC death, or rather, PC replacement, is this:
1. If the party loots the PC's corpse, I deduct that amount of treasure from future encounters. This is still useful to the party, though, as it is basically a 100% exchange rate rather than 50% (sell unwanted item). Plot items are exempt. Usually, though, the players keep it simple and don't loot the body.
2. For the new character, the player can choose to either A) start with gold equal to the wealth by level table for a character one level lower and buy anything they want, or B) start with gold equal to the wealth by level table for the correct level, but can only buy items from a list I randomly generate, plus 75% chance of non-list items.
And that's about it. Well, I also house-ruled reincarnate to change how it deals with stats, but that's out of scope for this.
I believe this sufficiently creates an incentive to play smart to stay alive, but doesn't punish death too much. I mean, a lot of deaths are just bad luck. Even good saves only save about 50% of the time (depending on the enemies, etc.).
@Throne: Regarding 20 point buy, you kind of have a point, but 15 points is just bleh. I don't get why it's the standard. I've tallied up random rolls before, and 4d6b3 is about 19.5, IIRC. 20 gives you leg room without giving too much power. That's why I'm a huge advocate, and I guess yes, it does help out the MAD classes more than the SAD ones.
Edit: This has made me realize that CHA is the weak link, here. It gets you panache, but so will Extra Grit. I wonder if it can be mostly ignored, 12 CHA plus Extra Grit. Down 1 feat, but saves you 8 build points.
*shrug*, I think synergy with gaining panache is pretty good on its own. The fact you can double it (edit: precise strike, that is), without requiring a crit, as a swift action for 1 panache is pretty nice.
What about removing riposte as a separate ability, instead making it a free riposte if your parry roll is a confirmed critical threat (and still exceeds the attacker's roll)? It could cost panache, possibly not require an AOO, and make it more dynamic, and synergistic with the critical range increase? (Edit: I was a bit unclear what I meant by all this. Too many variables; basically, one ability: parry, and riposte is an optional reaction to a successful parry if the parry roll is a crit threat and confirmed. What the parry should cost, and what the riposte should cost, I'm not sure of myself.)
Adding my voice into the group that doesn't care about a DEX bonus to damage. No new reasons that haven't already been said by others, but I think it deserves mentioning.
Mainly (and this reiterates other statements, but the Why is as important as the What), without DEX to damage, you have to decide, on a sliding scale, how much damage you want to do versus how much defense. With it, it's a no brainer: DEX, obviously. If the swashbuckler is lacking in damage, and I don't think it is (the ability to take weapon specialization, the presence of Precise Strikes, and the improved crit range all contribute nicely), surely there has to be some other way. For example, in my view, the finesse class feature helps allow you the choice of where you want to be in that sliding scale, rather than pigeonholing you into only using DEX for your attack rolls. When I played my swashbuckler, I ignored that class feature. If there is to be DEX to damage, then there has to be a way to tailor your swashbuckler.
As it is now, I think it works nicely: you can A) focus on STR, and optionally get a little DEX for the benefits of that, B) or focus on DEX, and hit often, but not quite so hard, but still non-negligibly. You can also C) balance a little between the two, which is what I did when I played this past weekend. It was a bad session for data gathering, though (example: I declare parry, enemy rolls a 20, negating my parry entirely; second time, I rolled a... 3. So, I didn't really get a sense of whether I like it). However, with 16 STR and 14 DEX, I had an effective character. I like the idea of being successful with multiple moderate scores, as opposed to focusing all your efforts into a single one. I had fun with it, but more testing is required.
The supernatural ability costs a specific action, usually standard (if it doesn't say an action, it's standard), and supernatural abilities are not included in the description of iterative attacks. Even though the result of using the power is a ranged touch attack, the trigger is a supernatural ability. The ability would have to specifically say that it can be used as part of a full attack. That's my interpretation.
If I GMed such a character, I might allow it, depending on the other PCs in the party.
The real tragedy of sunder is that you have to go look up the rules to see how sunder works, and how many HPs a certain item has, or DR, and what happens to it when it's broken, because it's still somewhat usable, etc. I dunno about you all, but I haven't gotten those dusty sunder rules memorized!
I'm pretty sure he was referring to the people making homebrew posts and ideas for a new rogue class.
Thought that was probably it, no context in the post. Anyway, I might have been wrong about the duelist anyway, edited my post. There is nothing fancy in the build. Just pump up bluff, get feint (edit; all of them), and then profit.
My take-away from it is, rely on sneak attack, don't even worry about strength. Tailor-make the rogue to your campaign. It might be difficult to theory-craft a rogue because you have to optimize to a specific set of circumstances "at compile time", whereas a wizard could be "schroedingered" (for the lack of a better term) and optimized "at run time". Sorry for the programming jargon, not sure if they're common things people know! Best words I have, if the analogy is accurate.
Edit: However, I have few data points. Just my take-away.
^ Me? Well, duelist is rogue-themed. If it doesn't count, then I don't know what to say. I tried a rogue myself, but I made all manner of mistakes, so I can't offer any other meaningful input other than my experience with GMing a [prestiged] rogue PC. Not a solution to everyone's problems, but data are data, right?
Edit: might not actually have been a duelist. I still have access to the character sheet (it's a formula one, not the easiest to read impatiently), not seeing any duelist features. I could have sworn "duelist" was being slung around back then. Well, my memory sucks.
A player in my RotRL game did a duelist. Nothing too fancy, just the feint feat chain, really. Most of the feats were various utility things, not to be a one-trick pony I guess. So if you're looking for optimization, I'm sure there's something out there.
The ranger PC (same campaign, different player) did more damage with full attacks, but the rogue did more damage with single attacks. So the rogue did better with more, but lower HP enemies.
I think. In any case, duelist is worth looking into into more detail.
James Jacobs wrote:
Both of your options work fine, though, especially since you're playing in your GM's game and not mine! :-)
Although we like sticking to Golarion as published as much as possible, you got me in that our version will necessarily be an imperfect match, since it's impossible to know everything you and Paizo know, especially in a case like this. I won't press the issue. Thanks for the time to answer, though! If Iron Gods comes out and I find my android retroactively isn't up to snuff... well, he was just malformed!
(Trying to frame this as not to request a large amount of deliberately-as-yet-unrevealed information).
I'm making an android PC, and trying to reason out his lack of memory of his origin. I figure he has spotty memories of random places, and he guesses that was traveling, but doesn't recall why, whence, or whither. His first clear memory is essentially his decision to become his class, and the rest easily remembered.
Is that right, or should his earliest memory be becoming self-aware for the first time at some arbitrary location? If so, would this be similar to a human forgetting everything after becoming 18, but retaining all of their "book smarts" and instincts, and (probably) without the ensuing existential crisis?
If both cases are possible, do you prefer one or the other? I'm assuming androids are created for almost any reason that can be conceived, and can even be given different initial conditions, including "setting one out with no preset disposition or inclination, and seeing what it does". If that's also wrong, please correct me!
Thanks so much!
Bran Towerfall wrote:
Wow, that's a lot of combatants... In any case, I was just trying to help clear up that your use of tactics was not only sound, but within the spirit of the published tactics (almost exactly the same thing, really), because some people seemed to think, earlier in the thread, you were playing brutally against the PCs.
Edit: And oh, dear readers, I sincerely hope I didn't spoil anything major... I'm usually pretty careful about this kind of thing. In any case, the tactics involve more than just the statue thing. If you're playing this AP and you now decide to prepare feather fall, don't think that makes you safe. A soft descent from a building is still you out of the fight for a while, which is still good for the baddy!
Here are their clues (spoilered juuuuust in case):
Vraxeris, the illusion wizard, has a detailed journal basically saying everything that is necessary. However, if your PCs aren't into reading, it can be missed.
The gluttony wizard has a list of all the components for each type of weapon. Wondering what this is might make them read the former if not the latter, It's supposed to be in his spellbook, but make it a sheet of paper that is wrapped around his divination focus mirror.
That said... my players are readers, and knew all about the Runeforged weapons. However, despite all this, they all made weapons except for the one they were supposed to make. Watch out for the abjuration one, BTW. That thing is monstrous! It's practically universal. I recommend a nerf. Anyway, they ended up fine. Runeforged weapons are not necessary.
Guys, guys. The official tactics for this encounter call for the BBEG to use a magic item to cast flesh to stone on a character, and then shove the resulting statue off the side of the building. That's what the GM's instructions are. Using deep slumber instead is different, but arguably similar enough not to matter much. This wasn't some "Muahahaha! I'll destroy them all!" type of thing.
I want to add that it makes sense to me, but man, this FAQ completely disrupted the subtext of the entire section.
When I first started playing, I didn't recognize there being such a thing as "temporary" or "permanent" bonuses (apart from duration). Then I learned of the section discussing temporary bonuses. So I took it as them being weaker versions, same as damage and drain being weakened a little as well (from 3.5e of "the world's most popular RPG"). The fact the FAQ states that all along that this is a matter of "quick application", it completely disrupted my understanding of this section.
I didn't play 3.5e D&D (very slight familiarity through NWN and OOTS), but it sounds like the temporary/permanent thing was part of improvements, along with negative levels not actually being the loss of levels (similar veins, anyway), and it was just worded (very) inaccurately.
I'm more shocked/jarred than anything. I think it's kind of cleared up for me, though I still don't like it (and I'm almost sure there's going to be a weird case that causes this to break; gut feeling, though, not actual knowledge). I find the "quick" rules to be nice and clean. Slightly annoyed I have to fix my character spreadsheet, though...
Edit: I know this doesn't mean that anything "has" to change, rather that it's more beneficial to do it than not. But still, I'd feel like I wasn't doing my best if I didn't consider cases not in the enumerated list of example changes due to bonuses.
Digital Mage wrote:
Fox's Cunning explicitly states that it doesn't provide extra skill points.
Okay, so fox's cunning was a bad example; I haven't read it in a while. It was more of a "provoke discussion" type of question (you seem to be on the same page as me with respect to the FAQ making things muddy).
(The rest of this is directed to the thread in general.)
Better example, maybe eagle's splendor mixed with the feat leadership (*reads both things* yep, nothing there that says "no")? It would be absolutely ridiculous to get additional followers for a few minutes, but that's what happens if temporary bonuses are no different from permanent ones, apart from how much time you want to spend doing math.
So, does fox's cunning grant you two temporary skill points per class level now, if you're willing to do a "full rebuild and recalculate", as opposed to the "quick" method? I am! Because that is still kinda easy, and temporary skill points sound like a powerful tool.
There are other related questions, but this seems like a good "counterpoint" argumentative type thing to ask about. I would say the intent is probably "no", but this FAQ makes things weird, in my view.
It changes things for me. Before, it was absolutely clear to me that those specific things on the list happened, that's it. There wasn't even a hint of "maybe other things, this is just for speed". Nope, nothing. No carrying capacity. No ability score checks. Now, those new specific things are obvious, as they are in the FAQ explicitly, but other things I may have to ask my GM about.
When writing my item generator, this is what I decided to go with: 50% chance of lesser, 50% chance of greater. And when "least" items are possible (in the case of slotless wondrous items), make the odds 25% least, 25% lesser, 50% greater.
I'm not totally sure if this is statistically appropriate, particularly for slotless wondrous items (should it be 33%/33%/34%?), but it's what I decided on. Edit: In other words, that method may not be perfect, but I think it's "good enough".
I'm not really sure of a good way to enhance the fun of a flying party. Combat with a lot of flight gets annoying with respect to measurement, and positioning is less important (and thus less tactically interesting) most of the time, in my opinion, though it depends on the situation.
I'd actually leave it up to the players on this one. They might naturally amuse themselves with ideas like picking up enemies and dropping them, or dropping things on enemies, or just enjoying air superiority for a little while. Just have the enemies act naturally. Enemies might use ranged attacks, or try to disengage if they can't fight back.
Does this link help? I only clicked on a couple settlements, but it seems to include the sizes for the ones I clicked (e.g. "large town"). Edit: I tried a few more, not all of them have sizes listed. But I think it's the best you'll find on the matter. If you have a map, I'd recommend to guess sizes based on location, like nearer to a road is likely larger, that kind of thing.
Also, you may find my PFRPG Random Item Generator useful. Select a settlement size, and click Generate! Uses CRB for the number of magic items of each degree of strength in a settlement, and UE tables for the actual items.
Comprehensively, the main pieces of info together:
The table of spells per day under "wizard" indicates you don't get any base 2nd level spells until wizard level 3.
The paragraph above "Table: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells" is what says that bonus spells only apply if the character can already cast that level. Thus, although 14 INT grants an additional 1st level spell and additional 2nd level spell, the bonus spells do not become "active" until the wizard class spells per day table grants base 2nd level spells. That is what that paragraph means by "high enough level".
As someone else mentioned, Roll20.net, but not an option if not everyone has a laptop/tablet. Sharing might help.
However, another option is to throw away the idea you need to faithfully reproduce the map, and draw relevant bits of it at a time. If you approximate, you can decrease drawing time. What you should aim to preserve are: approximate dimensions, visual obstacles, line of sight from one hallway to another, doors, platforms. In short, make a new room that is tactically similar.
Combined with the above, draw a "minimap" while the PCs are exploring, and draw a combat map when combat begins. This breaks down a little if the PCs start running through corridors, skipping fights (we did that once, it was actually really fun, though obviously very dangerous), but it's a good general strategy that's inexpensive on time and resources.
Edit: the aforementioned minimap consists of lines for hallways, and aims to present the logical branching flow from one room to the next rather than accurate distance.
Let's see, Hook Mountain Massacre itself:
I didn't have a wizard doing fly on everyone, but I did have a druid use call animal to get a roc to fly them places. I don't recall them really missing much.
Thing is, the adventure "knows" that flight is available. It may not expect widespread usage until 5th level spells are available, but as James Jacobs says, some encounters are there to make the PCs feel powerful, and I think this qualifies. It's natural to be concerned that everyone will feel challenged enough, but I think it's just the initial shock of seeing the ability used for the first time. The PCs (in character, maybe even their players) might be in for a shock when it stops working so well. Hang in there!
Oh, level-ups are indeed fast with this one. I ran it for my group in 22 sessions (admittedly, that's pretty fast), and note that there are 16 level-ups (the final battle might have made them level 18, but the game ended, so I didn't tally XP). So yes, lots of leveling up.
I recommend the approach where you level where the AP says to, though deviate from it so the level-up happens at the end of your session if you want there to be no interruptions. I granted XP, and it ended up being almost exactly aligned with the books expectations. I did it as group XP, though, no individual rewards. (The reward in doing something cool is the fact you did something cool, right?)
As for magic items, don't worry about that so much. There is lots of treasure in this AP, including magic items, and there is plenty of time to head down to Magnimar or another city to purchase items that Sandpoint won't have.
There is one potential snag in book 1 where there are some shadows, and no magic weapons were found before then. The party ran away from that encounter, and purchased a wand of magic weapon. If you want to be nice, include a scroll or two of it in, say, the Catacombs of Wrath, but I'd say just let it be as-is and see how they solve the problem.
(spoiler button, by the way is: [ s p o i l e r ] T e x t h e r e [ / s p o i l e r ] (just without the spaces between each letter -- under the post editor, there is "How to format your text" and a button called "Show" -- click "Show").
For roleplaying, there are few opportunities for meaningful RP in this, IMO. (Well, what I mean is, good, lengthy conversations.) I didn't get to experience it as a player, so I can't truly speak to that, however. But since you're the GM, and you enjoy RP, I think two things result from this: 1) you can add good flavor to the villains, really make them memorable, and 2) RPing the NPCs helps the players get into the RP mood a little better, I think.
This is just going to be a GM call. I can't see this debate ending with community consensus.
I see valid arguments for it working and not working. If I were GM, I would personally say "no" for disintegrate because raise dead is the same level and specifically describes how and what it heals (regarding body parts and the like), whereas breath of life does not say anything about restoring the body, only the state of being dead or alive, in terms of hit points. As a result, in my most favorable interpretation, you have gathered up dust, cast breath of life, and have made those specs of dust into a live pile of cells, and without some sort of oxygen and nutrient delivery system, that pile of cells won't last very long. But, that pile of cells could perhaps be the intermediary step in a much larger plan. So, if the players had a crazy plan where this was the first step, I'd see where it goes. But now the discussion is out of scope, so I'll stop here.
For fun, consider the implications on trolls and/or the spell regenerate!
THat is getting into some extreme detail for lighting effects. Most players GM's I have encountered treat magical light a little different. A good example is a light bearing sword. If magical light worked as normal light, a light bearing sword, or flaming sword for that matter would cause more problems than benefits, visually. Most players and GM's I have played with take magical light as an area effect, thus eliminating the "blinding source point" effectively providing light in the area listed, although the magic eminates from a point, the light is treated as an area effect. Perhaps I am wrong in this interpretation, but if not, a light spell should impose a to hit penalty in most situations (as the group would be effectively blind if the light were in front of them). A sword bearing light would be nearly impossible to use, as it would effectively blind the user to anything that the sword was in front of. I can see (no pun intended) the difference for non-magical light, but the sake of game play magical light should be treated differently. Unless of course the spell/ability allows for specific effects, like say "Blinding Flash".
I'm kind of being a little ridiculous on purpose. Still, it's one of those weird things when you think about it. I don't think there should be rules concerning it, but thematically, a light source orbiting my head would totally bug the hell out of me. Ultimately, it's best to ignore it and assume you get a radius of light, but once you start thinking "what would this thing be like", it gets really weird.
I don't think any of the books say anything about this, but as Diego Rossi mentioned, the stone orbits your head. Well, the books DO say that, but not the consequences. In darkness, you should be casting a shadow opposing the stone. That seems like it would be seriously annoying. Not to mention that once per orbit, it is in front of your face, and even assuming it's at forehead level, it shines light almost directly into your eyes.
The price is fine. Er, rephrase: it can be considered to be fine. Why? A secret cult of disgruntled archon-blooded aasimar are churning out these mysterious magic items and unleashing them upon the world. Maybe to disrupt the economy? Who can say.
I'd eliminate the ioun torch, then change the everburning torch to be a lapel pin, or something.
My preferred method* is to purchase a scroll of it at a high caster level, as high as you can get and still cast it from the scroll without fail, and then do that. It can't be dispelled except by casters of higher than your level when you cast it (i.e. the scroll's level; though the text can be interpreted ambiguously, so maybe it's the target spell that should be done at the higher level, same approach either way), so it's pretty safe, probably until you get to high levels, unless the campaign is caster-heavy. It's mainly good for See Invisibility and Arcane Sight. That said, it's only practical when you have pretty good wealth.
* Only done on one character so far, a sorcerer. But I'd probably do it again if the conditions were right.
There is now an experimental "Custom Settlement" generator. Type in a base value, and some numbers representing how many of each different "strength" (e.g. greater medium) of item you want. It doesn't use the "RAW" method, since that method is computationally impractical for this sort of generation. But, if my programming is right, it will achieve statistically similar results. At present, it "feels" a bit "off" to me, so I'm going to continue to refine the method I use. And I'm definitely gonna try to pretty up the page, and include nicer instructions and such.
Semi-technical description follows.
A lot of work went into this! I discussed the problem earlier, in that if the base value were just under the price of the absolute most expensive item, you would roll and reroll, and so on, and possibly not get that item by pure chance. And you'd never get an item if the base value were higher.
...Not unless you knew all the possible items and their odds of being generated, that is.
So I decided to enumerate every possible item that could be rolled from these tables, and how often those items would get generated. Basically if you need to roll 4 times to get a piece of armor, the result is a series of, "What does 1, 1, 1, 1 get me? Got it. Now 1, 1, 1, 2? Same thing. 1, 1, 1, 3?" And so on. It's more complicated than that, since you might need to roll one or two more times for special properties, but you get the idea. The result is a database with all the possible combinations of lesser/greater, minor/medium/major, and armor/weapon/potion/etc, and how many times that item can be generated using the tables.
So what does all this mean? When you ask for "a lesser minor item worth no less than 750 gp", I first select a type randomly, and let's say I pick "potion". I then pull a list of all potions that are lesser minor, and worth 750 gp or more. I then pick randomly from that list, based on the relative frequency of those items. No matter how many items there are, only one random number is needed to pick one, or I know immediately if there are no possible matches. Now let's say there indeed aren't any matches. I then try another item type, until I run out of types, or I find an item.
Let's say the party goes somewhere, not knowing what to expect, such as exploring a swamp, forest, or really massive cave system. In this case, prepared spellcasters are going to probably run with their "standard routine", and cast spells conservatively. They need to be ready for anything, and they could be traveling all day. So there might be a couple hours/level buffs running. This really isn't what I'd consider a massive pre-fight buffing buffet.
If the party knows they're about to storm a castle, or a hideout, the prepared spellcasters are probably going to prepare general-purpose spells as with the previous case, but here, they are not expecting to have their spells last all day. Instead, they'll have a coordinated pool of buffs that stack different bonus types and such, and cast 10 minute/level spells, with the intent of finishing well before that time expires. Maybe some 1 minute/level spells after a few fights, or before the ominous looking door. The party charges in, and seeks to destroy nearly every living thing in whatever stronghold they're going into. No time for searching, just get in there and kill. If an obstacle is reached, try and brute force it to get through as quickly as possible.
If the party has really good intel, such as "the bandits will come at midnight, and their leader is <XYZ>, and the lieutentant is <ABC>," this is a great amount of information, and it'll proceed much like the previous example, but the party knows better which spells to prepare, and/or which weapons to use.
Now, this is all assuming the party has some peace and quiet to do all this. If they stand right outside the door of a room with some baddies, odds are good that whatever is inside will hear all this spellcasting going on, and try to disrupt it. Or, cast spells of their own, or maybe even run away to find reinforcements. So, it's generally not a good idea to do any prep near your enemies.
Having the bad guys buff in advance is somewhat harder to pull off, since it seems the bad guys are most often (not all the time, of course) on the defensive. As the game progresses, the enemies can get as much intel on the heros as the heroes have on the enemies (e.g. when the adventurers hear "evil necromancer", they kinda know what to prepare for, same as if the bad guys hear about the good guys summoning angels, preferring certain spells, or something). Luckily, minions help sound alarms and such, so whatever villain is in the inner sanctum is ready for the intruding party, and might even be able to set traps specifically for the heroes, but I digress. Just pointing out it's a two-way street.
Edit: On the subject of time, what we do is use rough ballpark figures: "It takes 2 minutes to loot the bodies." "The pool drains in 5 minutes, revealing a tunnel." Generally, this works out well, and if buffs are about to run out, everyone's respectful, and recasts them, or maybe we might do dramatic effect: you got 10 rounds left on those buffs! Ballpark.
If the material component is not in the equipment list, I'd say the creature can't cast that prepared spell <edit: without getting, or being given the resources, through a deliberate action by it or someone else> (or use it as a spell slot type spell, if spontaneous -- basically, if it's a regular spell, not an SLA). As precedent for this, I point to APs, where caster NPCs/enemies get listings of which components they are carrying. It also means there is no reason to planar bind a creature to kill it for its wealth in expensive material components.
For raise dead and the like, it makes sense, as such a creature could be called to cast that spell, caller supplying the material components.
However, I would probably be pretty pretty lenient on lower-cost spells, e.g. stoneskin, especially if the creature is likely to cast that on themselves. Otherwise, using the rationale of "this creature expects to be called (probably via planar ally), and prepares spells knowing there are certain expectations, but doesn't have the wealth to grant it freely," helps describe why it works the way it does.
Edit: But strictly RAW, creatures tend to have equipment listed, so if no nontrivial material components are in that list, it doesn't have them, unless the GM gives it to them, which is plausible.
This might not be exactly what you asked for, but here's what I used when making spellbooks in my Runelords game: Listing of all spells
(Edit: I'd make a copy of it just in case something happens to it.)
However, I have vague future plans to make a spellbook selector, which makes defining a spellbook easier (something along the lines of check the boxes of spells that you like, then hit generate for a nice listing, or something). Mostly as a fun side-project. But, I haven't had a lot of spare development time lately, so it might be a few months before I get to it. :P If and when I get around to it, it'll be found near my Item Generator for Settlements (maybe not on that exact page, but there will at least be a link there). The item generator takes priority over the spellbook generator and/or helper, unfortunately.
When running it, I found the background information to be useful to me, when the players don't act as expected. For example, there's a love triangle among NPCs in Burnt Offerings, which I used to figure out how some of them would act in a given situation. One tried to save another, for example (instead of, say, running away), and the would-be rescuee sold out the would-be rescuer on the first chance to save their own skin.
Limited use, sure, but this specific instance was one I remember.
But really, it's to help the GM know what to do. Would character X know information tidbit Y? Would character X surrender, lie during interrogation, or spill the beans? A tactics block might say "fights to the death", but if something unexpected comes up, maybe that character might change their mind. That sort of thing.
Edit: I second Landon's 2nd paragraph. Read, absorb what you can, work with that. Tailor things to your liking. I made a few mistakes myself, and the players were none the wiser, and it made things interesting anyway.
Regarding the point of using charm to get information from NPCs (Mokmurian knows where Xin-Shalast is, for example) - there is a spell in Second Darkness Player's Guide called Hidden Knowledge, which converts knowledge to a tattoo. Have Mokmurian (and other wizards) use this spell regularly to hide knowledge from himself. Instructions directly from Karzoug, what a schmott guy. I mention Mokmurian specifically because he's the only one who knows where Xin-Shalast is, and that information is really only supposed to be available later on.
It should be fine as-is, considering its exact purpose is for players to read before the campaign starts to help them come up with characters. I mean, remove whatever you'd like, but it sounds like you don't have anything in mind. If you're worried about it spoiling something later on, it doesn't. It points out that there are giants, but that's about it.
The first version has Xin-Shalast on the map, but it was removed, and so that older version is unavailable, and even if it wasn't fixed, you'd just say that there's no way the characters would know where Xin-Shalast is, it's easy enough to find at the start of book 6.
It does not affect supernatural abilities. Antimagic field does, but this is not antimagic field.
On to the secondary discussion taking place, this is how I see it working (the area version, anyway):
In general, this is a problem with the "standard" spell fields. Some spells don't quite fit the mold, but which are shoehorned into them anyway out of necessity. I don't feel like looking for examples, but mage's disjunction can actually serve as its own example in a different way. Look at the "area" line -- it lists a target. Why is there a target in the area line? Well, you can't have both lines, but the spell has to be written somehow. I don't like it, but I understand.
In any case, I don't believe the area itself is meant to be an ongoing effect, though I don't really have rules text to support this, except the fact that the text doesn't mention anything about items entering the area (though admittedly, it's a fairly weak semantics point). I apologize for my half-hearted argument, but I'm not really feeling motivated today.
I might as well throw out some [very] random ideas/seeds (not all will be applicable):
I don't have anything really specific I feel is worth saying, but perhaps I might have some general helpful advice for clearing the writer's block, and that is: search the dusty corners of the game, for things that probably only NPCs can get away with. Then, if you have an interesting enemy or group, the encounter might just write itself.
Are there any character concepts that you never got to try? Maybe there was one you skipped because it wasn't a good team player. NPCs don't need to be team players.
Are they any interesting feats that might be fun to try once? An enemy is a great place to try it out. I know I ignore a lot of feats when I build a PC because it's just not practical to have, maybe due to steep requirements, being deep in a tree, or only extremely situationally useful. Pick the feats and make that situation happen.
In particular, look at the teamwork feats. They might not be great for PCs because of the high level of coordination required (character builds), but if you're designing a gang of thugs, it's a good opportunity to set them up exactly how you want them.
Look at the weird or impractical prestige classes. I can't get myself to play a mystic theurge, but I would totally make up a mystic theurge enemy.
What's on sale now? I can help answer that one with (shameless plug incoming) my item generator for settlements. As for making it more interesting and dynamic, I can't offer better advice than the posters before me (nobody at my table is interested in haggling, etc, so I have no experience with this).
Thanks, Twigs. Being a complete noob at high-level combat myself (highest PC I've played was a sorcerer 15, and my only introduction to high level combat was the few high level characters in the pinnacle), I thought it went rather well. My main goal was to avert rocket tag, so that goal was met. I'm 95% sure that without the preparatory spells I added to the map, they could have taken him down in one round.
I'd say it was fairly easy for them but it was not the usual "derp right in without a plan" sort of thing that is often normally possible. So, not too easy. I did kill two PCs after all, and they did actually have to think and coordinate. They were very well prepared, and really took the time to stack every bonus type they could muster. It went about almost exactly like I planned, really, except I expected Karzoug's minions to be more effective.
I was kinda foolish for having Karzoug cast imprisonment (especially since my character spell-turned a maze in our last campaign which really helped turn the tide of the final fight), but doing something else instead (e.g. point-blank disjunction and quickened dimension door to safe range) would just have delayed the inevitable in this instance. Karzoug was down to about 3 WIS and one more attack from the apostate devil would likely have drained all of that.