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What is the most effective way to have your defensive/offensive spells and effects in place for the start of a battle? I ask this because most enemies tend to already be buffed when battle starts. They have foreknowledge of our approach as our battles towards them tend to be loud, or we set off traps alerting them, of that one member of the party who wears full plate and no ranks in stealth (yes Im looking at you paladins and fighters). Whereas we generally dont know we are about to get into a fight until combat is upon us. Either we have entered into a new room or we are being ambushed.

When an effect is hours per level (or greater) like mage armor its much easier as 1-3 castings and your covered for the day. Its the ones that are 1 min per level or less that are the issue. Casting your buff/defensive spells in combat, while capable of turning the tide, are really expensive from an action economy view.

The metamagic feat quicken spell is one method but its very costly because it adds 4 levels to the spell but allows you to get it off as a swift action, which basically means you can get 2 spells out if your a high enough level.

The spell contingency is another expensive method but only allows a single spell to pop into effect at the start of a combat. It also depletes 2 spells to use.

As far as I know magic items suffer the same action limitations as it takes an action to drink a potion (and you cant have multiple potions mixed together for a single drink). Wands and scrolls generally only let a single spell get off. Yes there are feats and abilities which can allow you to get a second usage of these in.

So what can a party do to even out the starting action economy of a fight?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Camp at the boss' doorstep, his buff will timeout :D \$\endgroup\$ – Mouhgouda Dec 5 '16 at 13:46
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Depending on the situations, player characters can use exactly the same sorts of tactics as the bad guys for fighting with buffs already in place. If they are aware of where the bad guy is, either through foreknowledge, scrying, interrogation of minions, or just good perception, then they can potentially pause before approaching the combat and apply short-term buffs. Judicious use of spells like invisibility and silence might increase the chances of discovering the location of encounters prior to triggering them.

Of course, in practice, unless the PCs are ambushing someone, it is highly likely they will be unaware of exactly where the bad guys are, or when they will enter combat. As you point out in your question, in a number of cases, the PCs are the ones invading the bad guy turf, so are less likely to have that sort of foreknowledge.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Lets never forget the usefulness of a good Scout. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Dec 5 '16 at 16:03

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