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About this mod

Increases the minimum level for Encounter Zones to make Skyrim a more dangerous place in general and enhances the amount of challenging, mid- and end-game content, while still respecting character progression.

Permissions and credits
PermaZONES - Dangerous Encounter Zones for Skyrim
and T3nd0's Perkus Maximus

This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Skyrim…

Important: This mod does not require you to use Perkus Maximus to work. The name is an homage to its predecessor, SkyRe_EncounterZones (which similarly does not require SkyRe to work. Sometimes names are silly...). You can use PermaZONES without PerMa itself.

What is PermaZONES (Short Description)?

PermaZONES (or Dangerous Encounter Zones for Skyrim/Perkus Maximus) is a mod that aims to increase the difficulty level in Skyrim. Instead of
altering combat mechanics or enemy AI as many other mods do, PermaZONES changes the minimum levels for every encounter zone within the base game, as well as those added by the Dawnguard and Dragonborn expansions, increasing them beyond the pathetic and essentially worthless values set by Bethesda.

What does that mean (Long Description)?

For those who don’t know, vanilla Skyrim is broken down into Encounter Zones. Encounter Zones are generally dungeons, though there are a
number of outdoor areas included as well. Each zone has a minimum level set. For instance, most bandit camps have a minimum level of 6. If you went straight from Helgen to fight some bandits at Halted Stream Camp for instance, you would find that some of these bandits are generally higher level than you. But any bandit camps you visit after reaching level 6 would scale with your character.

This is DUMB! Level 6 is nothing. Most players will reach level 6 within the first hour or two of play. Level 6 should be reserved for non-combat NPCs like merchants and innkeepers, not tough lawless bandits surviving and pillaging in the harsh wilds of Skyrim. Why are bandits—the most frequently encountered enemy type—relegated to a mere tedious annoyance within the first two hours of play? What is the point of setting a minimum level for enemies when it becomes meaningless almost instantly? 

The entire game is essentially follows this same principle,with most zones having very low minimum levels (in the teens for the most part).
Generally the toughest zones you can find in vanilla Skyrim are the Nordic Dungeons containing the named dragon priests (the named ones with masks), and their minimum levels are still only set at 24! That’s okay if you want to start a new playthrough every time your character reaches level 30, but what if you want to get to level 80 to fight that Ebony Warrior? Basically, before you’re even 1/3rd of the way there (and remember, you level a lot faster at lower levels, which makes the early part of the game much shorter than later levels), your character’s level is as high or higher than pretty much any enemy you can ever encounter in Skyrim.

This is weak sauce, and what PermaZONES sets out to fix by setting these minimum level values higher (in some cases much higher), so that
you will continue to find challenges until far later into your playthrough. With PermaZONES, you will be able to find enemies that are stronger than you all the way into the 50’s and 60’s. In fact, I purposely designed this mod mainly for people who like long playthroughs with a single character that would reach a very high level, yet still want a challenge while playing said character. Why? Because I’m that kind of player.

However, while Skyrim leveling is almost entirely based on player level and encounter zone level, it isn’t quite that simple. While the minimum level of each Encounter Zone (or player level if it’s higher than the min. Encounter Zone level) sets the general level for enemies, enemy levels
have an additional multiplier, a Game Setting called fLeveledActorMult controls the level of the enemy you will actually encounter while playing. There are actually four settings: Easy, Medium, Hard and Very Hard. Every enemy you will encounter falls into one of these four categories. If an enemy falls into the Easy or Medium category, their level will be lowered, if they fall into Hard, they will be basically at the same level as the Encounter Zone min. level (or the player’s level), and if they fall into Very Hard, their level will be increased slightly. Most fodder enemies, the general mobs you find en-mass are Easy and Medium enemies, mini-bosses are Hard and bosses (like Bandit Chiefs) are Very Hard. This lets you find a good mix of enemies of varying level in every encounter zone, so instead of every enemy being exactly level 15 or something, you find a range from level 10-20.

In addition to increasing the min. Encounter Zone levels, I’ve tweaked these settings as well. This is a very common tweak found in many
other mods that aim to make enemies tougher (Revenge of the Enemies, Combat Evolved and SkyRe_EnemyScaling all tweaks these settings as well, for instance). This tweak is primarily here in case you aren’t using any other mods that add more difficult enemies or make vanilla enemies tougher, and just want to use PermaZONES, or PermaZONES+a general combat overhaul like Ultimate Combat or Deadly Combat without such enemy enhancing mods. NO ACTUAL NPC RECORDS WERE MODIFIED, so this should be very compatible with mods that buff or scale enemies in other ways.


; is the only requirement. There are versions included in the installer that also cover/require Dawnguard.esmDragonborn.esm or both, which you can use if you own the corresponding DLC/s. 

While this mod shouldn’t require Skyrim 1.9.32, you really should be using the latest patch. If you aren’t and have issues, please
do not hold my mod accountable.

Despite the name, this mod DOES NOT require Perkus Maximus.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend using the mod High Level Enemies(or HLE-SIC Edition if using Skyrim Immersive Creatures as well) in conjunction with PermaZONES to experience the full effects of this mod’s tweaks. Many enemies scale very poorly at high levels in vanilla without HLE or similar enemy scaling mod, which lessens the impact PermaZONES can have on your experience. But HLE is not required.


With NMM or MO:

1. Download with your mod manager.

2. Follow the instructions in the FOMOD installer. Remember to only select 1 option (you do not need and should not use more than one version of PermaZONES).

3. Ensure the PermaZONES.esp shows up in your load order.

4. Activate the ESP plugin and enjoy.


1. Download the PermaZONESv1.1.7z file to your computer and extract the contents.

2. Determine whether you want the Hardcore or Balanced edition of PermaZONES. For comparisons, please consult the README tab.

3. Navigate to either the "PermaZONES1.1 - Balanced" or "PermaZONES1.1 - Hardcore" folder. Then select the subfolder corresponding to which DLC you own or will be using. Note: Each file is exclusive. Meaning if you want to use the Basic+Dawnguard version of PermaZONES, you do not need the PermazonesBasic version as well.

4. Drag the contents of the appropriate subfolder to your "Skyrim/Data" folder. You do not need any additional files. 

5. Activate the PermaZONES plugin and enjoy.


With NMM or MO:

1. Just uncheck the mod/esp in your mod manager and remove.


1. Delete PermaZONES.esp from your Skyrim Data folder.

IMPORTANT: This mod is just an ESP file and contains no scripts, and is thus totally safe to add/remove from a save game without harming your save, causing save game bloat or other instabilities. However Encounter Zone levels are set when you first enter them. Meaning that if you install this mod, play for 20 hours, and then uninstall it, every dungeon you’ve visited will keep the levels set by PermaZONES. But every dungeon you haven’t entered yet will be at the vanilla level when you visit. From my understanding, a cell reset (by waiting 31 in-game days or using SIC’s MCM cell reset feature) does not affect encounter zones and will not fix/undo these changes. Sorry, there is nothing I can do about this issue.


No special instructions. After installing the 1.1 update, you will need to remove/delete the old version as the esp file names are different if you installed PermaZONES manually. There are no issues with updating PermaZONES in the middle of a playthrough. But remember, encounter zones you've already entered will not resent and remain fixed at the same levels set in PermaZONES 1.0.

Optional Files:

As of v1.1, PermaZONES comes in two major flavors: Balanced and Hardcore. These are exactly like they sound. While both are much tougher than vanilla Skyrim, Hardcore is aimed at players with a masochistic side, who want their game as tough as possible, who loved Requiem or other games that offer little handholding and show 0 sympathy if you can't cut it. Naturally, this is the version I recommend.

At the same time, I understand this isn't for everyone. So I've whipped up a more "Balanced" version. Minimum levels are lower, maximum levels are lower, and scaling between the weakest enemies and boss characters is less extreme. I've tried to focus on making the starting areas around Whiterun and Riverwood more manageable for low-level characters, as well as making the different faction questlines (Companions, College of Winterhold, etc.) slightly easier. Understand that this is still a WIP and may require further balancing. I would greatly appreciate your help in this regard, especially if you are using an alternate start mod. Please check out the Discussions tab at the top of the page if you want to help in this regard.

For a detailed comparison between the Hardcore and Balanced versions (as well as comparing both of these to the original settings in PermaZONES 1.0), please click on the README tab at the top of this mod page.

Additionally, there are now Skyrim, Skyrim+Dawnguard and Skyrim+Dragonborn versions of PermaZONES (Balanced and Hardcore editions for each version are available). I decided that since it was all of 10 minutes work for me to make them, there was no reason to exclude a bunch of people who might not own of the DLC. But if you don't, for the LOVE OF TALOS WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR????


RequiemPermaZONES is NOT compatible with Requiem. But why would you want to use both anyway? This mod aims to bring a bit more of Requiem’s difficulty to Skyrim without overhauling every aspect of the game like Requiem does. If you like Requiem, I suggest sticking with that. But if you’ve been wanting to try a different overhaul, or want something closer to vanilla, PermaZONES might be what you’re looking for while still keeping a bit of Requiem’s challenge and feeling like a weakling that grows into a demi-god.

Skyrim Unleashed: Full disclosure: I’ve never used Skyrim Unleashed. But like Requiem, I do not suggest using PermaZONES in conjunction with Skyrim Unleashed based on the description. If you want to try them both out together, be my guest. And please tell me how they interact.

Other Encounter Zone Mods: SkyRe-Encounter Zones, ASIS-Encounter Zones, WTF-Random Encounter Zones, and ERSO 08 (the Encounter Zones module) are incompatible. DUH. Won’t break anything if you have more than one installed, but the mod lower in your load order will win any conflicts.

Enhanced Enemy AI – Revenge of the Enemies: RotE alters a few encounter zones also covered in PermaZONES. Some are easier than PermaZONES, while a few are harder. Personally, I didn’t find any logic behind which zones were changed in RotE, so if using RotE with my mod, I STRONGLY recommend loading PermaZONES AFTER RotE. But neither order will break or harm your game.

Combat Evolved,SkyRe-EnemyScaling and Revenge of the Enemies: PermaZONES, Combat Evolved,SkyRe’s EnemyScaling module, and Revenge of the Enemies all alter the game settings fLeveledActorMult. Combat Evolved’s settings are slightly tougher than SkyRe’s and PermaZONES’s settings are slightly tougher still, so load the one you prefer later. RotE’s is the closest to PermaZONES’s settings, but PermaZONES should be loaded later so it overrides RotE’s encounter zones. Otherwise, this mod should generally be safe to put almost anywhere in your load order below the Unofficial Patches. If you know of any other mods that alter Encounter Zone minimum levels or the fLeveledActorMult settings, please bring it to my attention and I will put up notes for suggested load order here.


This mod has been cleaned with TES5Edit. There are no known bugs at present, and the only problems I’d expect would be other mod
incompatibilities (which should not be game-breaking). Please let me know if you encounter any “issues.”

Recommended Mods:

These are a lot of the “difficulty” mods I use alongside PermaZONES to create a very challenging Skyrim experience. Combined together, I’ve found this setup to be ALMOST as challenging as Requiem at lower levels, and tougher than Requiem at higher levels (since you can out level everything in that mod with enough persistence). Even if you decide not to use PermaZONES but want to increase the challenge in your Skyrim, I suggest you check some of them out:

High Level EnemiesIf there is one must-have mod to go with PermaZONES, it’s High Level Enemies, which helps enemies scale at higher levels. Remember, the highest encounter zones in vanilla Skyrim are 24. With PermaZONES, enemies need to be able to scale to level 50 and beyond. HLE lets them do just this very effectively. SkyRe-Enemy Scaling is another good alternative, but if you’re using that you’re probably using SkyRe’s Encounter Zones instead of PermaZONES.

Combat Overhaul: Duel-Deadly Combat, Ultimate Combat and Deadly Combat are the big three. Personally I prefer Deadly Combat, but it’s up to you which you want to use.

Combat Evolved and Animal Tweaks: Two great mods by CrushBoss, to enhance the combat styles of enemies, make the beasts of Skyrim a
significant challenge, and tweak a lot of other minor settings to make the game more difficult. Completely compatible with the above combat mods and HLE and completely script-free.

Skyrim ImmersiveCreatures: Excellent mods to add a huge number of variants of the vanilla enemies as well as several completely new enemy types, including higher level versions of many creatures that work great with PermaZONES. Even comes with individual difficulty settings for its new creatures that stack with the normal difficulty slider, and the ability to adjust spawns. Be sure to grab the High Level Enemies - SIC Edition if you want to use these mods together as well as the SIC patch for Animal Tweaks from AT’s page.

OBIS - OrganizedBandits in Skyrim: Does for bandits what SIC does for monsters. Again, make sure to grab the Combat Evolved patch if using those mods together.

Enhanced Enemy AI -Revenge of the Enemies: A bit of a mixed bag if I’m being honest, but there’s nothing like it for making vampires and named bosses tougher and more unique. I’ll admit it’s a bit unfair in that it gives some enemies massive resistances or immunities as well as powers that can easily one-shot you, but there really isn’t another mod that achieves similar results while being better-balanced. Trust me, you will feel like a hoss when you manage to kill Red Eagle or a Dragon Priest with this mod installed. Make sure to install the SIC compatibility patch if used together. Suggested to load ABOVE PermaZONES ESP in your load order. 

Dragons: Deadly Dragons and Enhanced Mighty Dragons still reign supreme in my books for adding new dragon types and generally making all dragons truly terrifying, though Elemental Dragons looks terrifying if you don’t mind the lack of regard for lore-friendliness or the OP items it adds. Pick your favorite or use both together with the use of a Bashed Patch. Then add Dragon Combat Overhaul on top to make them smarter, give them devastating abilities, and increase the frequency of dragon attacks or the number of dragons spawned at one time.

Perkus Maximus: My perk overhaul of choice. The perks, spells, items and features it adds give any character build options to deal with the challenges added by all these other difficulty mods. If PerMa isn’t your thing, you can always try something like SPERG or ACE instead (or PerMa’s predecessor SkyRe), which should work perfectly with PermaZONES.

Toxicity – A Witcher-Like Toxicity System or Chasing the Dragon – Toxicity and Addiction: Not difficulty mods in the traditional sense, these mods add a toxicity component to using potions, giving you slight negative effects every time you drink one. When combined with PerMa or another mod that disallows you from stacking potions and makes restore potions work over time, you will have to think twice about when you down those life-savers. Chasing the Dragon also comes with an addiction component, but I’ve found Toxicity to work better with PerMa and offers more control over the magnitude of its effects.

Loot and Degradation: Again, not a traditional difficulty mod, L&D adds features that let weapons and armor degrade in quality (Fine, Superior, Flawless, etc.) over time/use, and even a chance for these items to break completely. This means that Legendary Daedric Sword you’ve crafted up might suddenly become a lot weaker after slogging through dungeons for days on end, or your Glass Armor might suddenly break in the middle of the fight, forcing you to quickly loot a set of Scaled Armor off that bandit you just killed. It also lets enemies wield smithed/improved weapons and armor, which will deal/take more damage, and is a lot more realistic (or is the Dragonborn REALLY the only person who can work a grindstone in Skyrim?).

Timing Is Everything: Not a difficulty mod in the slightest, but it does synergize well with PermaZONES. TIE lets you customize when and how many quests/quest lines in Skyrim begin. In vanilla Dragonborn, Miraak’s cultists show up as soon as you’ve visited the Greybeards. With TIE, you can set them to wait until you’re level 25 or until you’ve recovered the horn or gained Dragonrend, or at any point when you’ll feel better prepared for the high level enemies you’ll find in PermaZONES’s Solstheim. Comes with the ability I know many will appreciate to customize when Dawnguard's random Vampire Attacks start. Set it for a higher level so you actually stand a chance, or set it to level 100 so you never experience Whiterun being wiped out by Death Hounds and their vampire masters.

Future Plans:

Continuing to balance the "Balanced" version of PermaZONES. Please help me by letting me know which areas/dungeons you think are too easy/hard.

Determining whether adding maximum levels to encounter zones was a good idea, especially for the Hardcore edition. I may tweak these or remove them entirely in future versions depending on feedback & my own experiences (if I ever find the time to play again).


T3nd0, for creating Perkus Maximus, and SkyRe’s EncounterZones module, which was the inspiration for this mod. 

CrushBoss, T3nd0 & MyEvergreenHometown for creating their mods Combat Evolved, SkyRe’s Enemy Scaling module, and Enhanced Enemy AI – Revenge of the Enemies, which all alter the fLeveledActorMult game settings. Their changes served as the basis for my own tweaks to these settings in this mod.


Why is it called“PermaZONES”? Does it only work with Perkus Maximus?

Nope. The name is a bit misleading, as PermaZONES does not depend on Perkus Maximus (PerMa) whatsoever. You can use my mod without PerMa, and even use it with other overhauls like SPERG if you want and it’ll work exactly the same way with no issues. I chose this name because I use and love T3nd0’s overhaul, and wanted to create a counterpart to SkyRe’s Encounter Zones module for its successor as even though there are plenty of great alternatives for most of the SkyRe modules not covered in PerMa (Races, Standing Stones, Enemy AI, etc.), there are very few alternatives to SkyRe’s Encounter Zones module. Hence, PermaZONES was born.

Then how is it different from SkyRe_EncounterZones, or other mods that change encounter zones
or de-level the game?

Well, that’s two different questions really. Just to be 100% clear, PermaZONES does NOT DE-LEVEL Skyrim. First, mods that de-level Skyrim are working against the design of the game. Skyrim is a mixed system, including both leveled and unleveled content. If you’ve ever played Oblivion, that game was entirely leveled, and lead to ridiculous situations like average bandits wielding glass and ebony weapons or armor, and actually made the game more difficult as you progressed/leveled. Morrowind on the other hand, featured a lot more unleveled content. This is great for some aspects as it does add a real sense of progression to your character where you feel stronger as you level, and you can be richly rewarded by surviving a high-level area at low-level with great loot or powerful items. But it can also lead to problems, like how in Morrowind by level 30 you were essentially an untouchable god (unless you had the DLC). Skyrim, developed after these two games, uses more of a mixed system, balancing the pros and cons of both, with (imo) the best results. Bethesda came up with a good design; they just messed up on the implementation (made it too easy). Luckily we have mods to fix that.

But because Skyrim uses a mixed-level system, trying to de-level the game requires a huge amount of changes. Just look at mods that try to do just that such as Requiem or Morrowloot. These are great mods, but they also experience a lot more issues in terms of compatibility, which I wanted to avoid. An additional issue is also added in de-leveling mods that let the player out-level the entire game so that you are stronger than everything and any sense of difficulty or challenge disappears. While it’s sometimes fun to be a god and destroy everything, this can get old very quickly. By playing by Skyrim’s rules, PermaZONES is compatible with almost any mod setup while making the game tougher but still rewards leveling.

Okay, but what about other encounter zone mods?

Well, there really aren’t that many of them to be honest.There’s ERSO – Erkeil Real Skyrim Overhaul, which includes an Encounter Zone module, SkyRe_EncounterZones, WTF – Random Encounter Zones, and ASIS-Encounter Zones. There’s nothing wrong with any of these alternatives, and I encourage you to give them a try if you don’t like my take on encounter zones. However, I feel that PermaZONES has a few advantages over these other mods, which may appeal to you. 

-PermaZONES is simple. Download, Activate & Play. It’s that easy. ERSO’s and SkyRe’s Encounter Zones modules are just small parts of much bigger overhauls that require you to download huge mods that add a lot more to your game that you may not want, or require to you to carefully install so you only get the little piece that you actually do want. And ERSO’s isn’t even on the Nexus, which is a pain for people who prefer downloading and installing through a mod manager only. WTF-Random Encounter Zones is very cool as it lets you set random encounters so that each playthrough is different, but it also requires the use of SkyProc. While SkyProc is pretty easy to use, I’m sure lots of people would rather not bother with it, especially if it’s just one more on top of patches like Automatic Variants, ASIS, Patchus Maximus and Dual Sheath Redux. 

-PermaZONES is all-inclusive. SkyRe’s EncounterZones doesn’t include any areas added by Dragonborn, and ASIS’s doesn’t include areas from either DLC. WTF can cover every zone when it generates a patch, but its results are also somewhat random, which some people might not like. As it stands, ERSO is the only other Encounter Zones mod that covers all of Skyrim, Dawnguard and Dragonborn.

-PermaZONES is tougher. Now this is admittedly up for some debate.Some areas of the game might be tougher if you used ASIS’s encounter zones, or ERSO’s, and using WTF you could set every zone’s level ridiculously high if you wanted. But generally speaking, PermaZONES’s weakest areas are tougher, it has more mid-level and high-level zones, and its hardest zones are higher level than those found in other encounter zones mods. 

-PermaZONES was designed with progression in mind in regards to the major quest lines in Skyrim (main & DLC quest lines, faction quest lines, Civil War quest line). Each new quest in a quest line will present a more significant challenge than the previous one. Sometimes, this just means you will need to be a bit more careful in your next mission. Other times, you might want to think about completing a few side quests, or doing some random adventuring to level up a bit and upgrade your gear/abilities before taking that next mission from Delphine or Tolfdir. The reason behind this was to make it more difficult to become the head of a guild or slay one of the major villains like Harkon or Miraak by level 20 (which just seems ridiculous), and to add a touch of Morrowind back to Skyrim (anyone else remember being told by quest-givers to go off and train/explore for a while before coming back?) to keep you from rushing through quest lines.

Are there areas of the game I can’t go to until I’m high level?

Not exactly. Skyrim is an open-world game, which is why its mixed-level system works so great. My mod doesn’t tell you not to go anywhere at level one, but you will find some areas a significant or near-insurmountable challenge until you’ve leveled up a bit. However, a careful player who knows his enemy, prepares well, and approaches fights tactically can still defeat most opponents, even when they are a much higher level than the PC. During my own play testing, my level ~10 character managed to defeat level 30+ and 40+ enemies (and I use a fair number of other difficulty mods alongside PermaZONES as well) time and time again. By level 20 I was defeating enemies level 55 and higher. It wasn’t impossible, but often the margin for error was so small that a single mistake meant death and reload.

This is also a reason why PermaZONES is such a great compliment to a perk overhaul like Perkus Maximus, which adds tons of new gameplay elements, features and play styles. While you might find a certain dungeon or enemy impossible to counter at level 15, you might be able to take a perk at level 16 that gives you an advantage and turn the tables on your foes to turn that significant challenge into a minor inconvenience.

The fact of the matter is, everything else being equal, the player will always defeat the AI in a one-vs-one situation. The player is just smarter, no matter how much modders improve the AI, and has a much wider access to tools and resources through the acquisition of items, loot, crafting, spells, and perks. To balance things out and create a challenge, you need to either turn that 1-vs-1 into a 1-vs-2+ situation, or make the enemy tougher than the PC. I chose the latter route, because I feel it encourages smart play and careful planning, whereas adding absurd amounts of enemies just makes you feel like a mass murderer or require you to grab several followers to use as meat shields. Followers can be loads of fun, but they shouldn’t be a requirement. And there are tons of mods that increase spawn rates if you prefer
that sort of method. 

So just how tough are the new encounter zones compared to vanilla?

Well, there are a lot of them. Way too many to list here.And I think it’s a bit fun just to discover while playing personally. It sort
of defeats the whole point if you are saying “Okay, Fellglow Keep is a level 25 dungeon, so I need to wait until I’m level 25 to go there.”BUT, I will give you guys some explanation of how I set things up, which was based on three primary factors:

1) First, most vanilla encounter zones are grouped into dungeons/areas based on Enemy Type. The major types are Animal, Bandit, Dragon, Dragon Priest, Draugr, Dwarven Automaton, Falmer, Forsworn, Giant, Hagraven, Spriggan, Vampire and Warlock. In vanilla, Bandit camps are almost always level 6 minimum, Falmer Hives are almost always level 18 min., Dragon Priest lairs are all level 24, etc. I’ve kept this same setup with PermaZONES.

In order of difficulty: Animal Dens<Bandit Camps<Draugr Crypts<Spriggan Groves<Warlock Lairs<Forsworn Camps<Hagraven Nests<Vampire Lairs<Dwarven Automaton Sites<Giant Camps<Dragon and Dragon Priest Lairs

2) Second, all Encounter Zones are adjusted based on their hold location. For example, bandit camps in Whiterun and Falkreath hold will be
slightly lower level than those in the Rift or Eastmarch. This was done to 1) increase variety in level zones, so that all draugr crypts in the game aren’t exactly the same level and 2) provide a sense of realism and progression. Areas of the game you would think to be “safer” will in fact be easier, while remote dungeons in the less-civilized or more lawless area of Skyrim will be tougher. These are smaller adjustments than those from enemy type, usually just a 1 or 2 level difference between different holds, but that can add up to a big
difference between the safest holds and the most dangerous.

In order of difficulty: Whiterun<Falkreath<Haafingar<Eastmarch<The Reach<The Rift<Hjaalmarch<The Pale<Winterhold

3) Finally, the last modifier is based on any quests or questlines connected to the encounter zone. What this means is, if there are several encounter zones involved in the Main Questline or the Thieves Guild Questline, the dungeons that are part of later quests (Karthspire vs. Bleak Falls Barrow for MQ or Goldenglow Estate vs. Irkngthand for TG), will be higher level areas. Usually each quest will send you to a dungeon ~5 levels higher than the one in the previous quest. I’ve done this for the MQ, Civil War, Companions, Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, College of Winterhold, Dawnguard and Dragonborn quest lines. I’ve also made dungeons with unique quests (like The Pale Lady, Lights Out or those connected to the Bard’s College) a bit tougher. I’ve also upped the level on dungeons related to Daedric Quests. These quests should be difficult as they give very good rewards (relatively speaking), and you shouldn’t be the champion of 10 different Daedric Princes by level 15. They’re broken down into 4 tiers with the weakest quest areas around level 30+ and the strongest around level 50. Obviously this won’t affect quests like Mephala’s, which has no dungeon/combat component. Nothing I can really do about that. All encounter zones added Dawnguard and Dragonborn also start as mid-game level content (level 30+) and run quite high as you advance in the quests they add.The reason for these tweaks was to add more content that you can still find challenging later in the game, and to let you feel like you’ve earned the title of Harbinger or Archmage, or feel more on-par with bosses like Harkon, Miraak & Alduin a bit more than in vanilla.

Grinding levels hunting wolves and deer is boring. Why did you make a mod that forces me to do this?

Um...I didn't? Before I released PermaZONES, I playtested it extensively and rarely did I feel the need to grind levels. Sure, sometimes I ran into a dungeon that was just too tough to beat at my current level and forced me to come back later, but I personally like this. Skyrim is big. Go do something else if you're stuck on a current quest or dungeon. A single perk, a better set of armor, or a follower can mean the difference between success and defeat. Don't get frustrated, get creative. With PermaZONES, you should not approach dungeon crawling and exploring the same way you do in vanilla. If you like being able to just wade into a dungeon, swinging your sword to and fro and slaughtering without having to worry about being killed, then PermaZONES isn't for in. In fact, I'm curious why you downloaded it in the first place.

My philosophy is that if you should install a mod, it should have an impact on your game and how you play. If you can't tell the difference between my mod and vanilla, then it isn't doing its job. If you can forget that you installed PermaZONES, it isn't doing its job. It's as simple as that.

Should I use the Balanced version or Hardcore version? 

Well, if you're a milk drink, you should probably go with the Balanced version....

Just kidding. Sort of. Honestly it depends on a lot of things: how frustrated you get by dying, what other difficulty mods you're using, whether you play on Adept or Master, etc. Personally I recommend the Hardcore version as it's a lot closer to my original vision of PermaZONES, but if you tried 1.0 and found it too tough, 1.1 Balanced might be more your style. You can compare the two on the README tab at the top of this mod page, where I've listed every encounter zone and the levels each version sets those zones to. 

Can’t you just give us the exact levels?

Check out the README tab at the top of this mod page, or the README included in the mod download.

Are you always this verbose?

Only when it annoys people. At least I put the essential stuff at the top and bolded all the points for quick browsing. You don't have to read the entire page, but don't waste my time asking questions I've already answered in the comments.