Had a boisterous discussion with a group of fellow DM's/GM's recently about pitting PC's against foes of different levels.
Some seem to be of the opinion that pitting PC's against higher level foes is not palatable. They indicated they not only would they not do it, they personally finds it "unfair".
I asked them if they have ever pitted lesser opponents against PC's and all agreed they had. I thought that was unfair. They suggested that the game should be "winnable" by the PC's and out classing them would end up in a TPK thus not "winnable".
Here's where my opinion diverges from theirs.
I don't think any adventure MUST be "winnable". I think every adventure MUST be playable. Wandering around even in a fantasy world, PC's are going to encounter others around them of variable experience and abilities. Some of them are equals, some are easily beatable and still others are going to beat the PC's down easily because they are just that bad-ass.
Players come to "play" a game. At what point do we decide that players are inevitably going to be able to win every game? Oh hell no!
That's the beauty of this being a "role-playing" game. There is more to it than just hacking and slashing. You have to try to overcome non-physical obstacles as well. You have to think, analyze, strategize and always be prepared to retreat. You are not always going to win every conflict and not every conflict is going to be a physical fight.
So, if a troupe of level 2 fighters, etc.. wanders into a Frost Giants lair, they better plan on how the heck they will get out alive because if they try to fight it out, they are probably going to lose. Badly.
Yes, I may very well have a bunch of Frost Giants in a 2nd level adventure because large icy mountain caves are likely places for Frost Giants to live. maybe they can survive the interaction without a fight. maybe barter something or try to talk their way out of it Maybe just run and hide, screaming like little girls will keep them alive. If it does, at least they stay alive to play out the rest of the adventure. Maybe.
I give credit where it is due. If your second level PC gets killed by Frost Giants, you should have seen it coming. If you manage to wiggle your way out of it and stay alive, I'll give you props for pulling it off with bonus XP. (Giving bonus XP to dead PC's makes no sense.)
That's part of the whole AD&D thing in my eyes, great reward for great risk. To me, only encountering opponents that you know you have a good chance at beating, well, where's the fun in that?