The "Building Encounters" section in the CRB is understandably brief, and focuses on the essentials. That's fine. But what about the GMG? There's an entire chapter called "Encounter Design" (page 46). What does it have to say? It does briefly talk about adding a third party to an encounter, a party that could either aid or hinder the heroes. But does it even breathe a single word about the little tiny fact that if that monster decides to join the enemy side (after a bad Diplomacy check, say) that can easily
lead to a PC death? Nope.
There's even a section called "Combining and Separating Encounters" but it comes across as if it was written for Pathfinder 1. I certainly can't recognize any of it in the official AP encounters I've seen. Let's reproduce it in full (the combining paragraph, not the separating one):
Picture this: the PCs storm a castle. They choose to eschew
stealth in favor of a direct approach. On the ramparts, a
guard spots them and raises an alarm. The sound of horns
and whistles blare throughout the keep as each defender
ensures that everyone is ready for a fight. And then, they
politely wait in whatever room they were already standing
in for the PCs to come and attack them. It sounds pretty
unrealistic, and it feels unrealistic at the table. Many
players find it far more satisfying when their foes take
reasonable actions and countermeasures against them.
This means moving to defensible positions or banding
together with allies. Taken to an extreme, combining
encounters can quickly lead to fights that are unwinnable,
so be careful. In the castle example, some guards may
come out to attack the PCs, while others cluster around
the central keep. Perhaps each individual patrol of guards
around the castle is a trivial-threat encounter, but as they
gather together, they form groups of gradually escalating
threat. Such groups give the PCs a sense of how challenging
their opposition is, so that if a fight against six guards is a
challenge, they won’t try to pick a fight with 30. When the
PCs’ foes amass into an overwhelming force, give the PCs
fair warning and a chance to retreat and try again another
day. Of course, if the PCs come back after the alarm has
been raised, the guards are likely to change their rotations
to better secure the keep.
If this is how Mr Jacobs views the game, I can totally understand him being so nonchalant or indifferent to the very real problems GMs are having.
That is because "combining encounters can quickly lead to fights that are unwinnable" is not something that's "taken to an extreme". It is the default completely standard way encounters work.
All encounters are like this. Remember, only two of the very "easiest" category of encounters (Low) can be combined without that being close to an automatic TPK. To be precise: Low + Low = Extreme, and boy, is it easy for an Extreme encounter to end up with a TPK. (And that's coming from a GM - me - whose players love optimizing their characters for combat and choosing builds only if they percieve them to be effective in combat)
Especially the passage "Perhaps each individual patrol of guards around the castle is a trivial-threat encounter, but as they gather together, they form groups of gradually escalating threat" describes PF1 and not PF2:
1) there are few to no trivial threats in PF2 (remember we're discussing the levels where GMs first encounters the system, so we're not discussing high or even mid levels here. Besides, regular human castle guards traditionally signify a low-level adventure in D&D anyway)
2) there is no "gradual" escalation. A level 3 or 5 party can take out five guards, sure. But in my experience, they are very likely to need 30 minutes of downtime to recuperate, or they have to blow all the Cleric's remaining heals (they did remember to bring a Cleric, right?)
3) " they won’t try to pick a fight with 30" -- what are you even talking about Paizo? I've browsed through three 2nd edition APs and can't recall even a single instance of a fight against thirty monsters. I'm sure there is one, but it certainly is far from so easy that Paizo pretends it is.
This is totally good advice - for Pathfinder 1
. I recognize nothing
here from my own PF2 experiences.
Back to the CRB:
Does the section on "Fleeing Enemies" (page 494) even with a word mention the very real possibility that the fleeing enemy will reach another room of monsters in just a single turn? No. Does it discuss ways to cope with the fact the heroes are very likely to be unable to handle that room's encounters without getting a short break first? No.
Does the section on "Bypassed Encounters" (page 493) discuss what happens when that encounter's monsters creep up behind the heroes, and assault them when they are already fighting another monster? No, not at all. (Spoiler: the heroes die. No, I don't know what monster we're talking about. Yes, I know they will die regardless)
Had the CRB or the GMG acknowledged how PF2 differs from every major alternative (meaning d20, PF1 and 5E) in this aspect, it might just be that I wouldn't have bothered. But they don't, like, at all.
It isn't enough to say players can
fix it. Sure we can - but Paizo needs to tell us how. Paizo especially
needs to acknowledge and discuss the ways Pathfinder 2 differs (drastically!) from their previous game (and ideally also the by far
most likely source of new players, i.e. Fifth Edition).