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For Pathfinder, d20pfsrd.com offers an advanced spell search for a plethora of rulebook sources. Sometimes, however, it's very difficult to find spells that match my search criteria closely enough. Either it still yields too many results or doesn't produce any at all.

For example, one of my character design goals is to be in dim light conditions as much as possible. This can be achieved with darkness or darklight lantern, but possibly also by a lot of other spells or magic items.

While it can be fun to stumble upon useful spells and items, it would be very handy if there was a good way of pinpointing them more efficiently. I'd like to know what are good ways to find spells and magic items that match my character design goals.

I wouldn't mind answers or comments that address my specific example above (because that is a real problem I'm having), but I think everyone could benefit from answers that address the general problem of finding spells and items to match anyone's design goals.

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You have basically three avenues.

1. Readin'

Published Pathfinder products love to give you a big list of "things that might match thematically and/or mechanically with this." Every Player's Companion and AP Player's Guide is full of such items. If there's a concept they've covered in one of those then they usually have such a list for you. If you don't know what they've covered in which book, often the references on d20PFSRD can help you - oh look, that Mooncaller druid archtype that talks about dim light is from Ultimate Magic, I should check there.

Also if you know of modules that have NPCs or "bad guys" around that theme, you can look at them to steal ideas. Like for anything shadowy, The Midnight Mirror, full of fetchlings and shadow plane stuff, and the first chapter of Council of Thieves. Nidal, fetchlings, etc. are related concepts.

2. Searchin'

You have identified the right site to use, d20PFSRD. You can use the spell search and/or the full site search. If you have a lot of money, Hero Lab with all the Pathfinder books loaded in is even better and that's what I use when doing this. You just need a thesaurus as well.

In your specific case, I'd look for things related and search on 'em. Search terms "dim light," twilight, shadow, darkness, et al. Both the relevant mechanical terms but also closely clustered concept/fiction terms. This also works great for monsters (I needed to populate a campaign with a variety of shadow/phantom type monsters, and this is the process I went through. Search "shadow" "incorporeal" et al. Once you find other common related words ("tenebrous" in this case) search on them.

As a Paizo subscriber I also do this with plain ol' Windows search on my full collection of PDFs, which gets all the PI and "talky text" that's not on the SRD sites. That's a crossover with #1 above of course.

3. Askin'

Ask on a forum. This is a crowdsourced variation on "knowin'", which is just reading the books and knowing what the options are.

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Unfortunately, there is no easy way to search for resources appropriate for any arbitrary design goal. It's literally impossible with current technology. Oh, it's possible in some cases (If your character concept involves "dim light" and not much else you could search appropriate online resources for those words), but in most others it's a pipe dream.

In order to search for or categorise character build options that match any arbitrary concept, those character build options have to have been categorised as being associated with that concept at some point in the past. There's an infinite number of possible design goals, with infinitely varying degrees of abstraction and detail; The vast majority of them have simply never been used as a means to categorise all possible pathfinder build options.

For example, suppose your design goal is "a character who reminds me of Agent Steve from the third season of The Blacklisted Files," your only hope would be to find a fansite that was incidentally created by someone who played Pathfinder extensively and had made such a character in the past, and then put their character sheet up online for others to read - and I know for a fact that no such fansite exists.

So, unless you develop a reasonably powerful Artificial General Intelligence and train it to build characters with arbitrary concepts for you, you're out of luck.

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