A mid to high level villain must have lived that long for a reason, and reached their exalted status on the graves of rivals and would-be heroes. They must have encountered many strategies and heard about others, and seeing as they aren't fools, they prepare for future enemies. What if they therefore assembled a kit of needed items and consumables for the purpose of confronting dangers? What, in your experience, would a villain with wit, intellect, or even just experience, include in such a kit, knowing the tactics and strategies employed in a world like Golarion where divination, flying, invisibility and teleportation are common enough at the levels of power that they have achieved?
What potions, wondrous items, or other items mundane or magical, might a non-spellcaster keep in their kit?
What scrolls, wands or other item types above might a spellcaster keep close at hand?
I understand where you are coming from with this. Having a villain being prepared for the sillyness that PC's can do. Though tactics might provider a bigger impact than what a 'kit of supplies' might do. (though having a staff that sets magical wards, summons monsters, etc would be part of tactics if the villain was warned of an adventuring group coming for him or her.
Though I think some misconceptions are also here, unless your PC's are long lived, have reached their status on the graves of rivals and would-be villains, and have seen/heard strategies, and prepare, then these don't necessarily apply to the villain.
I think the biggest thing is prior and 1st hand knowledge of the party. Maybe he was a NPC that worked with the PC's and turned into Villain, or whatever. As long as you can justify him knowing what to expect, (though the PC would also know what to expect unless the Villain did something to prevent that)
That said, any specific items I'm unsure, but for the very least, some sort of spell or item that: raises all saves or defenses or both (resistance bonuses, amulets of armor, etc). If he's working alone, something that will take the attention of several party members for several rounds(Summoned monsters, enchantments or illusions, poisons, traps, or somehow splitting up the party) The ability to attack both defenses and saves, (to be able to counter both high defenses and high saves, if they are only good at one or the other then that's about half the party he can't effect) Means to heal himself without wasting an action.(be that a healer on his side or what have you)
There's plenty of options, but there can't be a 'set in stone kit' that these Villains would use because each party dynamic will require different items/tactics, and assuming the Villain knows just because he's experienced and not dumb can seem like a betrayal to the Party.
Ways to deal with stealthy tactics such as invisibliy, flight, burrowing. So way to "deal with" those tactics I imagine would by typically common for an experienced villain, even if its by choice of terrain. So, see invisiblity, dispel magic...
Other thing a seasoned villain would typically have is either an escape route or a way to bring himself back from the dead. Villain's become recurring villains if the heroes don't ever block the chosen recovery path. So, teleport, Dimension Door...
Early warning systems (as mentioned above) such as wards or summons or other generic minions help.
Defensive Buffs. In conjunction with the early warning systems, the villain can have a chance to prepare for an upcoming fight with the heroes. So things like, Stoneskin, blurr... whatever you feel would be inline for the type of villain you're going for or based on info from your early warning systems (such as scouts or minons that escaped previous battles against the hereos).
Counterspelling could also be a neat tool for a villain.
Other than that, I imagine most top-notch villains would prepare like most people would if they were playing in an MMO. Heal potions, buff potions/scrolls/wands, anti-debuff measures, etc...
If I were a villain I would put together a Batman like utility belt composed of the following.
-"An escape plan"-This can be a potion, scroll, minor artifact that will allow me to bug out when the heroes are pummeling me.
-"Sight beyond sight"- past level 6 you should expect your enemies to come at you at all times. Especially utilizing stealth and invisibility. A potion of true seeing, see invisible, glitter dust, ect.
"knock out gas" or "stun grenade"- Every once in a while your villian actually gets the jump on the heroes and rather than just charge in and mack the first guy he sees he should first soften them up. Use something like slow, cacophonous call, or confusion to take some out of the battle while you make your attack.
-"Poison"- No reason in the world why you should not be using this stuff. Some of the cheaper poisons are really effective at slowing down your everyday hero.
-"Buffs"- Ideally the best villain is wearing a cloak of resistance or something that will help him against the inevitable will or fort save.
-"Battle field control"- tangle foot bags, alchemical fire, pits, anything that will create space between you and your enemies.
="The grappling hook"- Sometimes you need to scale a wall or jump out of a window and something like a potion of fly, ring of feather fall or slippers of spider climb will come in handy.
I'm sure that I'm missing a lot but this might be a good place to start. Great bad guys always get away and if they have an intelligence above 14 should be taking notes. If the heroes rely on their bard or cleric then a well placed silence spell is going to come into play. If they always fly then a web spell, dispell spell, or a team of archers is going to be waiting. Evil does not equate to stupid or crazy.
Evil does not equate to stupid or crazy.
Completely agree! as well as with most of what you mentioned. Silence and some of the generics like True Seeing and such are a must, but anything else too specific to what the PC tactics I would caution against. (unless of course this is not the 1st encounter, b/c as you said, EVERY good villain escapes at least a few times against the same party. (that or comes back to life) :P
I've had an old GM who told a story of his 'recurring villain' I think he came back 4 or 5 times from death, and that only after being completely dismembered, burned, teleported and burred.
"What do you mean the Runelord Karzoug is back! I saw him die!"
"Yeah, but an elder dragon cast true resurrection on him. Guess you'll know better for next time!"
-edit changed reincarnation to resurrection
The question isn't a matter of preparing a specific villain for a specific party. It is somewhat a reaction to prior experience as a DM, and noting threads that pop up from time to time, most recently one about a flying, invisible party destroying an encounter. But it goes a little more to the general assumptions about the world in which the game takes place. Magic and the supernatural are a fact. They're part of the assumption that all characters must operate under. Invisibility, divination, flight, teleportation, are all, if not common knowledge, knowable with even the littlest amount of any knowledge skill (In fact, that DC 10 knowledge check that anyone can attempt will probably reveal the existence of any number of supernatural abilities).
I started thinking about this when I was reading the description of a fortress in an AP. It was a typical medieval-style fortification. But this was the headquarters of a very powerful Wizard. Why that same old fortification? Any enemy powerful enough to threaten a villain that powerful would find such a fortification trivial. This got me thinking about how different Golarion must actually look from a medieval society based on the prevalence of magic and the supernatural.
Back on topic. A hypothetical villain, will (barring extreme arrogance or other personality disorder) have a sense of self-preservation, and want to prevent their schemes from being ruined by interference from the (probably quite common) groups of meddling do-gooders. They usually have the same, if not usually more, resources than are available to PCs. The ways that their enemies might attack, apart from the frontal assault, are probably fairly well known.
Buffing of AC, saves, stats and hit points, as well as healing, I think can be assumed in most cases, but what about:
- Stealth (of the mundane variety). Not much to be done except sentries and barriers to entry. Good Perception checks and alarms and traps are the easiest way to deal with this.
- Invisibility. (Basically another level of stealth, but people don't always combine the two.) Potions or scrolls of see invisibility work when they are aware of an invisible foe. Having minions with True Seeing, See Invisibility, Tremorsense or Blindsense, are excellent ways to deal with this. Also, having magical defenses that cast Dispel Magic on people crossing a certain threshold, or a permanent Invisibility Purge set on an area observed by sentries, are possible for higher-level enemies.
- Teleportation. This is really tough to deal with, but it usually only works when the enemy has a good idea of where they're teleporting to. Dimensional Anchor effects notwithstanding, the best way might be reinforcing their defenses against Divination.
- Divination. Okay, this is tricky, because often it depends on DM interpretation. Pure divination in the sense of the dictionary definition (i.e. appeal to supernatural powers for information beyond what can be acquired with the senses), like Augury or Commune or the like are super-dependent on DM fiat. Scrying, and other more Arcane means at least have some internally consistent rules to follow. Detect Scrying is to me the most obvious defense. But what about scrying on objects? Locate Creature? Using extraplanar creatures as sources of information? Many scrying-type effects are dependent on familiarity with the target. A good behind-the-scenes villain will make this extraordinary difficult, but that can make for some excellent play - tracking down the identity of the villain.
- Alternate movement types. There are several types that merit being dealt with separately.
1. Flying. Fly yourself, fly better. Dispel enemy flight, whether through magic or mundane means (nets or other entangling effects). Ranged superiority. Terrain (underground dungeons make sense in this instance, but prevent you from using it against your enemies as well). Environment (Wind & Weather).
2. Burrowing. Depending on the source, your building materials can make this impossible. At higher levels, Force walls are your friend, but earlier on selecting the types of rock you build with, using Iron in construction, or creative architecture might do.
3. Intangibility. Not terribly common coming from a group of PCs, but you may have had to consider defending yourself from that Lich down the block who keeps letting his zombie dog crap on your lawn. Force. That's about it. Or creative architecture again, since intangible creatures have to stay within a certain distance of the surface of a wall or floor or such, you can at least create choke points where incorporeal invaders must pass, and maybe then be forced into the open if your Force Wall budget is low.
Okay, it will likely be impossible to prepare for everything on this list, especially at lower levels.