I'm deep in the development of Paizo's sixth Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition, but in some ways we're still learning what works and what doesn't. We've carried over a lot of lessons from First Edition, but we're learning that some of them aren't as true in this edition. An example is encounter difficulty: people are finding Moderate encounters in PF2 to be a little more challenging than Average encounters in PF1. We used to put a lot of Average encounters in our PF1 Adventure Paths, so we used Moderate encounters as the default in PF2 Adventure Paths. But because they're a little harder, the Adventure Paths are seen as harder. Some of that is due to other reasons, I'm sure: system unfamiliarity, lack of specialized options tuning player characters a little higher, and so on. But it's something worth addressing.

The way to counteract this, we've realized, is to throw in more easy encounters. Low difficulty and even Trivial difficulty encounters help balance out what might feel like a very tough grind. Adventure text is a little tighter in PF2, giving us some more room for these easy encounters than we've had in the past. We can be a little more flexible with adventure length, too, which helps make room for these easier encounters.

There's a bigger reason, though, that we are working to include more Low and Trivial encounters. They're good for the play experience. It's gratifying for players to feel like they've got a fight well in hand, as it validates their choices made when leveling up. When each encounter is a tough fight, it can feel like you're running just to keep even; some easy encounters give you some room to breathe and enjoy your newfound abilities more.

Easy encounters come in two broad types: ones the players realize is going to be easy, and one the players don't realize is going to be easy. Both have advantages, so including both is good. They have different impacts on the play experience.

Some easy encounters the players know are going to be easy. If they fought a medusa two levels ago and it was a tough fight, when they encounter a medusa again, they'll know "oh, that was SO two levels ago, we got this." The same goes for "mook" encounters against foes the players already know are easy: when a group of 4th-level heroes gets jumped by a gang of goblin warriors, they know they don't have a lot to fear. These easy encounters communicate to the players that they can try out less-than-optimal tactics or use less-than-optimal abilities, because they know the stakes are lower. They can be a little more playful. This can be a lot of fun for them, and might make them realize some surprisingly effective combinations they wouldn't have felt safe trying out otherwise.

Other easy encounters the players don't know are going to be easy. This might be because they've overestimated the toughness of a foe, or because they don't realize they have just the right tool for the job (like that the weapons they just found are the right kind to trigger a foe's weaknesses). In Pathfinder Second Edition, this sometimes hinges on the Incapacitation trait: this trait means that being higher level than the effect gives a big bonus to overcome it. So something that the players remember being really challenging a level ago (like a cockatrice's petrification or the blindness spell) could be significantly easier just one level later. In these encounters, the players pull out all the stops, just as they would for an encounter they expect to be tough, but they feel much more effective: they hurt the opponents more and faster, and they shrug off what the foes can do to them much easier. This makes them feel like their abilities are useful and valuable, and that makes them appreciate the tools they have. They feel tougher, which is important to feeling like leveling up means something.

Whether you're a writer or just homebrewing things as you go along, keep in mind that easy encounters are not only possible, they're very valuable.

(Also, based on some feedback, I'm experimenting with text sizes on my blog, which is why things might seem BIGGER than normal starting today.)