The Midnight 3.0/3.5 campaign setting had Dwarrow (Dwarf/Gnomes) and Dworg (Dwarf/Orc) as well as Elflings (Halfing/Elf) as races. The write ups are available online if you search for it, and will work fairly well for pathfinder. Dark Sun (2e+ Campaign setting) also had the Muls which were Dwarf/Human hybirds that tended to be ridiculously tough and strong, not sure if they ever got an official 3.x treatment but you can dig around for that.
Summary up top - You and the wizard need to switch roles.
Unfortunately stopping them from getting to close combat isn't really in the cards unless your wizard wants to take over the battlefield control role. Inquisitors make lousy controllers with their spell list and archers are great at pumping out damage but not so hot at making people stay where they are. You could try picking up the Ranged Trip feat to at least prolong the inevitable, it takes a full round action to make the trip attempt at range but you can potentially knock them down and do damage, but that only hurts the Gunslinger's chance to deal with the guy since he's know shooting at a prone target.
You may want to try using your summons as a screen rather than a front line combatant. Summon them up at least 10ft away from the enemy but in the charge lanes so the enemies need to waste a full turn dealing with them or risk attacks of opportunity. As much as possibly you want to remove the ability to take full attacks on whatever you're summoning, I'd recommend earth elementals for this role most the time, so they have a better chance of sticking around a little longer. In the same vein if you want to focus on using your summons you're going to need to go the summoner route, take spell focus conjuration into Augment Summon to make them a little beefier but there again the Wizard will be a better choice. They get more access to conjuration spells that can use that Spell Focus and they get high level summon monsters to actually benefit from Augment summon.
Unfortunately can't TWF and Flurry which actually puts Flurry behind in total number of attacks, granting only 2 additional as opposed to TWF's 3 additional without spending any Ki points, but those 2 additional attacks are more likely to hit since they're coming in at highest attack bonus.
So some points of feedback on your build.
#1. You lose initiative and will probably not be initiating the combat, if you want to initiate effectively you need to go first. Your negative modifier means you even lose ties on the roll. On the off chance that you started combat far enough away that their going first means they can't shoot you down or engage you in melee in one round of movement you'll likely end up well out of range of your "tank" and support party members meaning the next point will become very important.
#2. Your monk is gaining 1d10+6 HP per level for an average of 11.5, that means any attacker with at least 2d6+4 damage is going to be knocking a full level off of you per hit, the more common 1d8+4 is knocking off a level worth of HP 25% of the time. Your AC is low enough to be in auto hit range for level so you're going to be taking at least 2 hit per opponent, more than like 3 hits if it's a monster of some sort, every round.
#3. Your attack bonus at 10 is only +12 (+16 if you go full offense from the sounds of your goals with the build) with your power attack going. Swinging at AC 24 you only have 40% (60% w/ possible offensive items) chance to hit. Your attacks do hit hard but they're probably only taking off 1 to 2 HD worth of HP per hit meaning your best case scenario is you need to hit 5 40% chances to drop an equal opponent which is roughly 2 rounds of perfect hits. Compounded by the fact that enemies without class levels frequently have 1.5-2 times the number of hit dice of an equal class leveled character you're looking at 8-10 hits to drop one bringing you up to 3 rounds of counter attacks. Your damage output only matters if you actually hit something with it. You could have 5d10+100 as your damage and it wouldn't matter if you could only hit on a 20.
#4. What everyone else is saying about Power Attack and the dragon style chain is correct, not going to reiterate.
I've always been of the opinion that the free actions that come with a lot of spells is part of the problem if you had to cast the spell then spend another action to touch someone with it, fire your ray, or lob your fireball that would solve a lot of the problems. As it is the concentration checks are pretty much a joke, you get at most one attempt to interrupt what's coming your way, and most casters can auto pass the concentration checks required by their highest level spells because bonuses to concentration are thrown out all over the place. I wonder how changing the action of casting the spell from Move>Standard (Cast Spell)>Free (Touch/fire spell) to Move>Standard (Cast Spell) > Standard (Touch/Fire spell) would settle things down. It would have a similar effect to the full round casting suggestion that's floating around but would give you that entire window between Cast Spell>Deliver spell to do something to disrupt what's coming down the pipe which would make the concentration checks more likely to come into play. Further changing the concentration formulae across the board by adding 5 to all of the base chances puts them out of the Auto-Pass range and back into the dangerous range making it harder for the wizards of the world to stand point blank and fire off their spells.
I have also been toying with the idea of the Armor as DR ruleset but expanding it to grant creatures a base defense bonus based on their BAB which on paper looks like it grants a little extra oomph to the martials of the world while making the casters look a little more frail. If you add 1/2 the character's BAB to AC, again across the board so Full/Touch/Flat Footed and convert Armor bonus to flat DR/Armor you end up with martials that can wade into the fray under their own power with some better staying power without making them Weaboo Killing machines, it also incentives some more of the Combat maneuvers since it becomes really hard to just full attack through armored targets since they're chipping damage off every hit and brings combat a little more in line with how real world fighting worked, AKA knock the guy in full plate on his butt, strip the armor off and bash him with a rock while three of your friends hold him down or get the can opener and rip the armor to pieces so you can poke holes in him. The downside to this is that combat would drag on more since enemies are hitting each other more often but doing smaller amounts of damage per hit, but again I kind of like that since it makes it a little more tense when you slowly dying as opposed to just getting dropped in one or two attacks you couldn't really do anything about. I also like the fact that the model actually makes Full Plate and Strength characters feel a littler more relevent as each of Paizo's releases seems to be driving martials farther and farther down the Dex to everything road.
It's also kind of the entire archetype of the Dervish style bards, self targeted bard songs and some combat abilities plus the bard's normal range of spells. They're not super hard hitting till way later level when their dances(songs) get bonkers but they scale well throughout and don't require a bunch of level dips.
No I saw no stats for homebrew monstrosity only a player complaining it was too hard. The biggest questionable thing is the GM admitting he's focusing the power gamers and honestly that's how I target too. There's no point in beating up on the knowledge focused diviner if there's a decked out pouncing barbarian there. The Diviner doesn't want to fight its not what the player is focusing on, the barbarian does want to fight. It would be no fun for the barbarian player to stick him only in noncombat situations why would you stick the noncombat character in the center of combat situations. The only person that's really metagaming from what the OP has said is him. He made tank cleric got mad because he got hit and claims shenanigans. He held off two monsters while the other guys fought off one, where's the problem. He wanted to be a tank that's what the tank should be doing. If the GM was metagaming he'd be throwing all the monsters at the traditional melee tanky characters and ignoring him.
Other people have added things that were not in the OP and I didn't address any of that because its not really relevant.
It sounds like the original post is leaving a lot out. His GM has the belief that clerics can't be tanks, that's fine nothing again opinions the GM didn't change rules to make it impossible for a beefy cleric to exist. Then at the tail end the OP is complaining because a monster hit him after he buffed himself up a bunch. If a monster kicks back casts a few buff spells then wades in you can bet the party would unload on them. Purely from the OP and not all the folks complaining about the GM opinion
There was a supplement in 3.5, weapons of legacy I think, that had a fun system where all the items had a story and started as a low level item but if the player researched and played homage to that story then it unlocked more power. For instance you could have a +1 longsword that was once owned by a man born and raised in a mountain top monastery, then in his early years used the sword to fight off a red dragon. Years later he stood alone against a horde of orcs in a pass and towards then of his life used it to destroy the reanimated remains of the original dragon. You would then have to do similar tasks like climb to high altitude and meditate open to the elements for five days to unlock turning into into a +2 weapon. Then you'd have to fight a CR appropriate dragon to make it a +2 frost longsword. Then you'd have to stand alone against x number of enemy's for y number of rounds and it'd become a +3 frost defending longsword and finwllynyou'd have to defeat a powerful undead for and it'd become a +4 frost defending undead bane longsword. The whole book was full of them and very flavorful.
This is the kind of feel I like :) Do you decide what the components should be on a case-by-case basis, or have a set of them drawn up?
Sort of, I have basic rules like if they want something that increases intellect then they need a something like a rare book or some component from an intelligent creature. If it's fire based then their component will be fire based. Mostly you can wing it if you can run a game. I try to keep the ingredient within reach of the party, it shouldn't necessarily be life threatening unless they're making something big.
My way also helps with the whole "what if they have a +6 con belt" since they had to survive making that item and getting the materials for it before it would come into play. Most of my guys end up with a few generally weaker items rathan than a couple of big ticket items. No one for instance has crafted a +4 or higher anything since it would put them out of commission for 8 days after the downtime to actually make the item (I pile the damage onto them at the end so they can't double dip their time) but most of them have a few more mundane +1 or 2 items and cheap wonderous items. It's nice because I focus on humanoids mostly so you don't need/want people stepping into combat with 40AC and +25 to hit modifiers belting out 100's of damage a round.
So you're not really using the terminology right. Stat damage, like what I use heals naturally if slowly or with a moderately common clerical spell. If clerics are rare like my game then getting wimped for say 6 con damage is going to weaken the recipient for a few days but they will ultimately be back in fighting shape or it can be cleared with a couple of lesser restorations if they can find a cleric which would be another little mini task.
Stat drain on the other hand is bad juju and sounds more like what you're thinking of. Drain can only be restored by magic. Getting 6 points of drain puts you in a world of hurt since you can't just fort up and wait for it to wear off, you have to go out and find someone or something to fix it.
The reason I use damage and rare components in that game is to make the players actually commit to what they're making. The stat damage weakens them but doesn't cripple them if they play safe and the rare component just makes the items more valuble to them personally. It also means I can have things like a +3 holy keen longsword that was cast with the life force of one of the dead god's champions, 12 con damage and a soul bound up in what would a more or less in unnoteworthy weapon in normal pathfinder makes the players cherish that weapon.
How are you handling clerical magic? I run a game were basically all of the gods are dead except for one so clerics are fairly rare and arcane magic is outlawed and dangerous. In that setting making an item deals double the enhancement bonus or highest level spell used in the item, whichever is higher, as con damage which can be pulled from a willing or helpless third party or straight from the crafter. The items also require unique components so you can't just churn out +1 swords you have to go out an collect fire giant blood to temper the blade with or whatever is thematic for the item. It makes item creation kind of a side quest for the party and makes their items mean more. You cherish you +3 battle Axe because it had to worked in the boiling heart blood of a red dragon that almost ate your buddy rather than picking it up in the market.
If you get some of the force spells from 3.5 then force can be an awesome focus but with Pathfinder only you're going to find that you have a steady trickle.of damage but none of the big punches other mages can bring to the table. The lack of true AOE damage hurts a lot and in general force effects are weaker than their counterpart spells specifically because nothing is resistant to them. It is good if you're doing a campaign or AP with a lot of incorporeal enemies though.
They have no trapfinder and a den full of kobolds. How is this party even supposed to reach combat?
Your best bet for handling combat when it happens is give the kobolds home field advantage since it is their home. Make the spaces small and dark so the party has to expend resources on getting light where they need it and are taking squeezing penalties to get into place. Use swarming tactics and teamwork feats to give your combat kobolds a leg up and bolster their physical combat ability with static defenses. A deadfall can really ruin the party's day. So can a spring loaded wall of spikes coated in kobold dung. Don't try to make kobold bruisers have them use guerrilla tactics, darting in and out of small tunnels and taking surprise attacks on the party while luring them into traps. A few level 1 kobold rogues with poisoned spears popping out every once in a while to get off a sneak attack shanking can wear the party down and deplete resources pretty well. There's a certain amount of fear when a player runs into an ogre and gets whimper for 50 damage, but its nothing against the dread and frustration of getting whittled down 5 or so hit points at a time while poison and disease are ravaging your body
The best evil game I've ever been in was a slippery slope game. Everything we were presented with to begin with seemed like the best option out of crappy options but as the world expanded around us and the impact of those early choices became clear we were uncountably the BBEGs of the setting, ruling with an iron fist and deciding what was best for everyone based only on our limited view of the world. We weren't told up front we were going to be evil and our DM never flat out said we were evil until the end. The enemies we fought were played brilliantly, the zealots that kept ambushing us trying to take the artifact we were trying to put into play were actually bands of heroes. The grateful mayor we helped was actually a petty tyrant, the artifact we were trying to put into play was supposed to make a utopia for man by crushing free will and enforcing pure order and rule by the person that ultimately activated it. Was a lot of fun and way more interesting then the usual "we're evil let's burn everything" game that most people play. Evil people don't think they're evil, they think they're making the right decisions and righting wrongs, they're only evil in relation to the viewer.
So if you put your game on rails you're gonna have a bad time. That said even in free flow games there's always someone that wants to wander off and the easiest way I've found to control that is to not let it be rewarding. Give your plot hooks negative consequences if they're not followed through on. If the party doesn't go after the evil wizard he's not just going to sit on his hands waiting for them he's going to do evil wizard things. If its only one guy wandering off ask what he's trying to do, turn the focus to the party that's advancing the game and give them some awesome encounters and fun moments then turn back to your off track guy and tell him he didn't find, couldn't do what he wanted. Don't waste time elaborating or letting him wander too much further a field. If he gets completely un interested in the main story that sucks he wanders off in search of his story and stops being an issue with the current game. The player can either get back with the rest of the group or be a nonentity for the game. You can usually nip this at the bud if you have a preAP/campaign character generation jam and make all your players tied to the area you're running and to each other. Your barbarian players may not care about saving orphans but if they're friends with the paladin then they'll go along to help their friend. You ideally want every character to either care about the setting or care about another character in the group so they have a common thread.
A suli draconic sorcerer with a bunch of self buffs and touch spells can lay down some hurt. For giggles I built one out to 20 and you get 20Str, 14Dex,14Con,10Int,10Wis,24Cha with a 25pt buy. Bronze Dragon Draconic Blood line and you basicaly with a claw wielding magus with a bigger spell list, more casts, and the ability to tack +1 damage per die to your electric spells like say shocking grasp. Deliver your touch spells with claw attacks with elemental assault up and you get 1d4(1d6 at later levels) slashing + 1d6 electrical damage from elemental assault + 10d6+10 electrical damage from shocking grasp +2-8 damage from power attack +5 damage from strength + 1d6 electrical damage from your bloodline claws at later levels. It's not super optimized but you still get to throw handfuls of d6's at things which is always fun. Throw on the dimensional assault feats and you can jump in with dimensional door, kick some butt, and jump back out again
In order for it to be viable mid to high level is to either build ac bonuses into the classes, maybe 1/2 BAB, or lower the to hit bonuses for everyone across the board. D20 modern had something similar where every class had a defense modifier (defense was their ac) that scaled as they leveled up and armors generally had lower defense modifiers than 3.x/PF counterparts but came with extra perks attached to them.
Mummy's Mask specifically handles this issue. Pharasma does not care about your physical possessions after death, only the arbitration of the soul. Looting tombs does nothing to impact the final judgment of the soul so while the temple of pharasma finds the looting distasteful they do not actively oppose or bar the looting. If your cleric refuses the loot that is on them but it is not their diety or their temple's mandate that they do so.
Its really good for heavy armor characters and crushing for light armor characters. Since to hit rolls stay the same while AC doesn't increase you get to a point where attack rolls are basically checking for grits and 1's. Damage doesn't increase though so heavy armor wearers can soak up the auto hits while light armor wearers get flattened.
it also makes a lot of little mooks actually a challenge for a high level character. A 10th level fighter can usually be sporting a 25+ AC and is swinging twice a round for well over 13 damage a swing, meaning he kills 2 enemies every round assuming he has no way to get more attacks. If you pile all those enemies into one "creature" you end up being able to tie up PCs a little better with them and make them actually a threat. 14.5 damage isn't going to overwhelm a higher level PC but it's enough that you have to pay attention to the thing that's doing it if they're doing it often enough
With my system yes you do the attacks. In that case the guards only get one attack per round. Now when you have a unit of say Ogres then it gets a little speedier. The things to remember is that even with the example I used, the units are likely to one shot each other a few time, the average damage per attack is 14.5 and they have a about a 45% chance to hit every swing.
I don't know how well this would work for your situation but I've used the setup below to do small unit skirmishes in games where you have war like setups.
Each unit consists of 5-20 creatures with the identical build and equipment
Damage is spread evenly so the unit doesn't actually shrink or take any penalties until it runs out of HP with the exception of any single attack that does enough damage to kill a member of the unit outright.
This mimics the unit fighting as a whole. Generally speaking 10 people can't hit the same guy which is why they're not throwing 10d8+1 damage every round but they're all basically aiding the attacks and defense of one active combatant and milling around. The rule about one shotting guys out just accounts for lucky hits breaching their formation and mimics their squad slowly shrinking and getting outnumbered.
So for a unit of 10 City Guards (Human Warrior 2 w/ Longsword & Scale Mail) it would look like this -
Any attack that deals 13 damage applies a -1 Damage. Ever two stacks of this penalty reduces AC by 1.
So the guy's CR is -
So his base CR is 5 if they meet on a even playing field, you said you expect him to get a sneak attack so you're planning on having him fight from advantage which is arguably another 1 since you're going to have to either strip the PC's of defenses or set up the terrain to favor this guy. CR 5/6 isn't something you should be throwing at APL 1/2. His regen should be Acid or Sonic like the rock troll since a level 1 party with a wizard can deal with that, but his raw stat advantage would make it a no go. The caveat to this would be if the party is aware that he's got stone troll blood and you're going to put a way to exploit his sunlight petrification into the encounter. Then you get a kinda neat encounter with this super strong bad guy taunting the party and ultimately succumbing to hubris.
If you were going to do this the kaiju should be the map and your players would be fighting the parasites/symbiotic organisms on something that big while the kaiju itself would be an environmental hazard. You could have a massive claw swip through the map from a random coordinate and do a trample attack on anything in the area, or have its breath weapons or gazes sweep through the fights every few rounds. The goal would to either get to or make a weak spot on the creature so they could bring it down or maybe just goad it off its current path of destruction. Kaiju type monsters aren't enemies they're forces of nature. Your plans here can't roll initiative on a forest fire why should they on the super beast
Don't forget you can always up his level a few and toss Combat Expertise or just good old fashioned defensive fighting on him to drop his attack bonus back down into the desired area while upping all of his defensive stats. Prebuffing is also a great way to up an NPC's effectiveness without having to actually change his stats. Give him whatever buffs you feel he needs and you can hand wave them off as he used scrolls, potions, wands before hand.
I have a problem similar to this and to make up for it I usually play knowledge monkeys or at least an above average intelligence that way if I slip with "Crap it's a Glabrezu!" It can be partially explained away as having heard the description somewhere but I really try not to do the whole "wait shadows only do strength damage thing", when it slips out usually its on accident, it might be the same for your guy. The getting upset when you change things might be frustration from perceived imbalances. I know we had an issue with a purple worm that spread its poison through every attack not just its sting and had a higher DC and die attached to it that caused some grumbling. When I run games I know I regularly reskin monsters so they can't be ID'd by description, my dire wolves in one game were a horse sized beast that looked like a cross between a snake and a mountain lion for example. Same stats under the hood but nothing alike visually. You can also usually get away with adding templates and then just not telling your players that they're present unless they in character start looking for why these guys are different. If you make your changes mechanically similar or based off of existing things and he still gets up set then you might have a whole different issue that isn't going to be solved by anything but some one on one time hashing out expectations.
My "boss" monsters when they exist have the following -
Basically i try to make my bosses hard to kill but don't really add much combat power but just giving your big guy full caster support buffs without eating their action economy goes a really long way towards increasing their impact, more importantly in increases the value of dispels in the party's arsenal and any round you can tie down the parties casters stripping buffs is another round and spell slot they're not using to nova the "boss" all of these changes are pretty transparent to the party, i don't give them feedback on the DR so it just looks like it takes a lot of oomph to knock them down. I should note thus is only done with solo big bads, though i will prebuff smaller fights if the party out actions the boss. I'm also fond of haste + spring attack on bosses so I can keep the fight mobile which cuts down full attack spamming.
Just allow crossbows to make iterative attacks like bows, take out the extra actions for reload and now you have a weapon that has a slightly higher base damage than a bow but a lower and more likely crit effect. Try it out for a game some time, the bow has better feats eventually than the crossbow but for most of the level curve they stay close to each other with bows winning on the top end (Long bow as a median damage of 12 on a crit with crossbows coming it at 11) because of composite strength modifiers and eventually many shot but not as badly as they do right with the rapid reload feat tax on crossbow builds.
Players that aren't present for a game are always "in the wagon" as far as my group has always been concerned. You're there doing something or other in the background you're just not a foreground character for the sessions you missed. It's easier for everyone if the loot and xp is evenly split that way the power curve on the party stays constant, and if you are auto splitting everything you find then there's no "but I'm a rogue and I'm stealing all the money because I'm a rogue! Ow why'd you punch me" moments at the table. The best bet is you were there you experienced what happened get with the group and move on, the other option is "hey why wasn't he with us?" "Don't know, guess we don't need him after all" "hey guys I'm here!" "We don't need you go away". I'm guessing you'd prefer the first to the second
So if I get the gist of your post right it boils down to "My players aren't playing right!". First to touch on a few of the things you mentioned -
Dice Rolling: I prefer to have my players roll their dice together and so do most of the other GM's I know. It streamlines combat and it feels good to throw down a handful of dice. If you don't like it that's fine but your player isn't actually doing anything wrong because the rules don't say you have to roll one die at a time, it sounds like your biggest issue is that you don't know/understand what they're playing with and that's causing the friction. From your brief example, to me 34 damage doesn't sound outlandish for a two weapon or two handed fighter, the eye rolls may be coming from you asking about things that have probably already been explained in the past. Feats don't change session to session and you have 100% control of the items so you should know what they have already. The best way to solve this problem is to have everyone leave a copy of their character sheet with you after the session so you can familiarize yourself with what they're working with and to just make your expectation on dice firmly known, but I will say I side with the players on the rolling situation 100% and I bet you'll agree it makes it faster when you stop and think about it objectively without the frustration of not knowing the characters.
"I expect the players to know every item and power" (paraphrase): Ok so this one is a little unreasonable. The tanglefoot comment makes me think you're expecting your players to prepare for every corner case you can think up to throw at them and are frustrated that they're not prepared for them. I can tell you that I have never bought a smokestick or a tanglefoot bag. I've used them when I come across them but I've never wasted my time or money on items that are just statistically insignificant. Now what is reasonable is "I expect my players to know every power or item they've acquired" 100% here. Your player should know what everything on his sheet can do. I get frustrated when I have to explain my player's powers/skills/feats/spells to them on the fly too however I don't get upset if my player doesn't know what aboleth mucus does. More importantly your players probably shouldn't know, at least in character, what every spell and power does unless they're knowledge based characters.
"Why didn't you use the rubble": Majority of the time it's either because you didn't tell them it was there, or you told them it was there while other things were going on and they forgot, or even better, it's there and their characters are gut reacting to a problem and not logically solving it which is what a normal person would do and is actually a decent role playing moment. Most people don't immediately become engineers when someone falls down a hole the first thing they do is go "oh s%#& bob fell down a hole. Quick grab him!" followed by "well can I reach him with this!" as they go through the things that immediately come to mind. The fact that your players are organically trying to solve the problem with the things they're familiar with - aka themselves and their gear is actually a good thing not a bad thing, and it's fine to remind them that there's big chunks of rubble around but they're supposed to be doing the troubleshooting not you, I always enjoy seeing how the players come up with a solution because it's almost never the solution I planned for.
Role Play and Motivation: Ok so Thomar Loyalind may only be on your adventure for the profit, being a follower of Sarenrae doesn't carry the requirement that you do everything for free and that you fight evil just because. Being a Paladin doesn't carry the stipulation that you do everything for free either but you do still have to fight evil just because in certain circumstances. It sounds like you need to talk to your players about their motivations, preferably before the game started way back at level 1 so you could get them hooked in as characters and not as looters. For most people if you don't set their character hook early then they're just mechanically playing the game, you might be able to hook them later if you get their motivations from them but that's not likely. As for the "why are ladies hitting on me comment" That is role play, congratulations you have picked the wrong motivator for that character he's not interested in romantic dalliances or maybe just not interested in barmaids who knows but either way he's not buying what the ladies are selling and that's a character moment. You can take advantage of moments like that with a really easy sentence "Did you say that?" Now your player has made a character decision and now you have an open ended situation where the player can develop the character a little bit in a low impact/stress situation. Bottom line is you need to find out, either ask or really just listen to when they chit chat about situations, what the player's motivations are and play to those not try to force them to do what you want them to do. I'm currently playing through Curse of the Crimson Throne and we just got to Skarwall and the party paladin asked why we were going there because our GM didn't explain the reason why it was important to us. This is an important part of AP but the hook wasn't set for it, as far as our good guys are concerned Skarwall is a bad place but it's self contained and isn't an immediate threat, there's a ton of evil, pain, and suffering going on back in the city that needs to be addressed that we keep getting pushed off on other errands while it festers. All of the characters have motivations that could be used as a hook but the GM announced the next location like we should all automatically want to go there because there's undead, eliminating undead is none of our characters motivations. If you don't hook a player's motivation they're not going to get invested in what you want to do, that's the biggest part of a GM's job and it's something you really can't force. If you want your players to role play find their motivations and exploit them, even the dumb barbarian player archetype usually has drunken tacked onto there and it can be something as little as a fabled cask of ale in the where ever you want them to go that can be his motivator. It's ok to add things to the game to bribe your characters into being interested in something if whatever it is wouldn't already interest them.
Bottom line on all this - It sounds like you're not running the game your players want to play. That's ok. Next time you get together sit down and have your players spell out their character's motivators for you, if none of them have motivators that are in line with what you want to do, then you're going to need to either scrap the party, scrap the game, or rewrite things so you can suck in around half of your party. Most groups have the secondary motivator of "because my friends are doing it", a drunken barbarian my not care about orphans but if the cleric and paladin are haring off to save kids odds are the barbarian will tag along. So long as you're not constantly catering to one or two players you can generally get away with using this motivator to keep the party going. Remember you're setting the stage but it's the players story that matters most, they don't want you to read them a book or they wouldn't be playing a game, they want to be the "hero" of the story but they want to do it the way they want to do it which may not be the same as the way you want them to do it. If that's unpalatable to you then maybe it's time to pass the chair to someone else for a while, it sounds like the players have their motivators in synch from what you describe, they're playing the game they want to play and they're getting disgruntled by the fact that you're not liking the way they want to play it. Everyone at the table is supposed to have fun it sounds like you're the only one not, if that's the case then it's time for you to make a change, either join their fun or pass it off to someone else so you can make your fun next time.
I don't know if there's a way to make any of those viable below level 9 (or equivalent druid level). The key is getting to Multiattack on the druid benefits and multiple stat ups and improved natural attack which the animal can't get till level 6 if I recall... Below that the tiny-small range creatures just do not have the ability to do damage, they're still ok scouts but fluff but just not combat critters. Even at that level they just become passable not really good by any stretch.
Don't even really need to do that. A level 9 druid's weasle companion has 36HP 24AC +13/+8/+8 attack routine for 1d4-1 damage per hit before any spells are shared. Unless your GM is running a game where every creature is the same level as the party that weasle can handle one or two mooks by himself and with a +18 stealth check they'll never see him coming.
My question would be how do you roll over a 20. You're physically rolling dice for this ability unlike crane wing or deflect arrows which are just "No you don't hit me" abilities. If the wording was you expend an attack of opportunity to make an attack against you kiss I'd say it could negate a natural 20 but it specifies that the roll has to be higher. If it said equal too or higher, like a regular to hit roll vs ac, then maybe but it's specifically only on a higher roll. Could be wrong but I have a feeling this will be closer to the intent than building in a crane wing style deflect that you can then also stack the real deal on top of.
The only time I've had people hate the BBEG/Me is when the party got cute and tried to jump on the warlord massing the goblinoid army (level 14 Half-Fiend Orc with a minor artifact level weapon + his advisors and shamans) when the party had just hit level 6. "They're just orcs, mage knows fireball let's just kill him" was a fine epitaph for that party. But honestly short of running them over with the plot bus repeatedly there was going to be no way to stop them from trying it and there was literally no chance of their plan suceeding
I always metagame my BBEG to hell and back. You can hear what your players think of the BBEG's tactics and characterization, I use that to slowly mold him into something they understand and to play up he Wow parts of his strategy and tone down the parts that aren't jiving with the party. If you hear them grumbling about your guy proofing away from danger then change the tactics and have him create situations that the players have to Del with while he bows out. I've had parties really focus on why their archer was unable to hit one of my guys (entropic shield and great rolls vs a pc wizard that just wanted to blast and not troubleshoot) and started having to play that up because the party latched onto it and started prepping for ways around it. Same thing with a lich they hadn't realized was a lich yet. The party was trying to figure out why he kept popping up and started focusing on his cleric minion who they thought was just ressurecting the BBEG as a figure head over and over again. That keyed me to start playing up there cleric henchman as more of a character than an action economy object because the party was interested in him. Your players will tell you what they like and don't like just listen to them spitball and keep your BBEG's characterization fluid until you see what the players latch onto.
You can also net +6 to heal checks if all three other party members assist the priest. Aid another stacks but only if multiple people do it. There's nothing in the heal skill or aid another action that says you can't aid someone trying to help you so the sick guy can and should be assistingnthe priest with every check.
Incidentally it doesn't matter what the rulebook says. If your DM says you can't identify with a skill check then you can't end of discussion. You may want to check with him how you can identify it cause it might be some sort of macguffin or it might be one of those "You can't unless you can room a 30 on a d20" moments.
I never finished him off but I started building a Svirfneblin Greatsword fighter that was shaping up pretty nicely. Good AC from the racial +2 Dodge and small size paired with a racial +2 all saves and SR means he should stick around in fights for a while and -2 str really isn't a huge downside and his big stat hit is Cha which for more people would be a dump stat anyway on a fighter. Here's his first five levels. I'd probably take him into the crit feats eventually, 18-20 isn't terrible for feat fishing and keeps his damage dice reasonable (1d10). He actually keeps up pretty well with shield weilders for the first half of his progression, eventually enchanted shields will win out over Dodge + Heavy Armor but it really should so you can't complain.
Svirfneblin Fighter (Two-Handed Fighter)
+2 AC (Dodge)
Starting Gear: Great Sword, Scale Mail w/ Armored kilt, 55GP left over
Level 1: Feat: Power Attack , Bonus Feat: Furious Focus