Groundbreaking – Fall Changes

Welcome back to Groundbreaking with me, your host, Randal! It is almost Halloween, and I (and my wife) took our kids recently to a pumpkin festival a couple of weeks ago, and I have been thinking about how I would write one into a game ever since. As citizens of the U.S. of A., we celebrate both Halloween and Thanksgiving in the fall for very different reasons, but there are often fall festivals that either cater simply to the season or try to bridge the gap between the two popular holidays. I sat down to simply write this out as pure canon, expecting to make it Halloween themed, but started to think a little bit more about what festivals are to different people and how they can serve different purposes. That train of thought then brought me to what changes were occurring in the region that would prompt the various festivals, so I started down that road instead. Let’s see where it led us.

Changes in Weather. The weather in the basin tends to be dryer in the fall months. While the rain forest and swamps stay wet and unchanging to outsiders, the locals notice the dip in humidity. Without the warm air above (that can hold more water) more of the local humidity escapes the valley, causing the air to feel (and taste) differently as the water levels of the swamp and river lower. The temperatures dip in all regions, but the northern forest tends to protect the denizens more so than the open plains to the south and deserts to the east. The Goblet itself sees increased winds during this time, creating all manner of mischief all its own. This increased wind also has the ability to affect the surrounding area greatly when two larger weather patterns collide nearby. When warm and cold air mix with the wet air rising up from the valley it can create some nasty thunderstorms. If the colliding weather fronts are large enough, or they are angled enough that the Goblet causes wind shears, the storms can grow to great size.

Changes in Flora. Vegetation in all regions starts to shed or color as appropriate. The swamp and river tends to become cluttered with branches or vines that have been sloughed to prevent water loss. The plants in the desert are generally about as small as they are going to shrink after the summer, and so they begin to hunker down through the cold to wait for the rains to come. The leaves of the forests to the north all begin their colorful retreat into winter as a start contrast to the unchanging evergreens. While generally not as colorful, the trees and bushes in the southern farmlands also begin to either bloom or hibernate as their crop and cycle dictate.

Changes in Fauna. Life in the swamp changes little, but during this time of lowered water levels, there is more activity from the denizens as their favorite watering locations move. This makes fall a popular time for hunters, as their prey are generally easier to find, but it also makes hunting more dangerous as the larger predators are also aware of this. Many of the larger forest animals begin to fatten up for their winter hibernations as many of the smaller creatures set about nest building and collecting food stores. The desert creature tend keep on keeping on, with an noticeable increase in large vermin activity. As plants shrink and wither, fewer animals roam the desert for foot or water and thus the vermin that feed on them must travel further to feed. The farmlands to the south generally start having issues with roaming packs (such as coyotes) that are looking for easier meals near farmlands instead of hunting in the hills further away.

Brown bear in the forest, fall colors, searching for salmon in a river. Brown bear (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Changes in Civilization. What does all of this mean for Groundbreaking and Marathis’ Cradle? It really depends on who you ask. The farmers in all corners of the region change gears as their crops shift with the season. The valley’s mushrooms, berries, and fungi depend on different water and humidity levels while the standard crops to the south lean more towards sunlight and temperature (they have irrigation for water). The forest is more about hunting than gathering, so they begin their seasonal migration with the herds, and that includes preparing for the colder months. The desert dwellers generally deal with the same issues (warm days and cold nights) but the temperature range shifts and water is harder to come by. Many of the seasonal inhabitants move to the farmlands or the Goblet for seasonal work or just to relax for a few months. Either way, most of the civilized sections of the region begin to slow down production a bit and begin to rely on extending their stores and begin a time of reflection and restoration (of mind, spirit, and community).

Festivals. What does this mean for festivals in the region? A number of things, actually, and many of them aren’t far from what we are used to seeing in the real world. Festivals can be gatherings to share or exchange crops at the end of a harvest (or harvest season). They can be ways to gather with like-minded individuals to share in cultural practices (or perhaps to share your culture with neighbors or outsiders). They can be a way for a community (or ruler) to give back to the people that make it thrive. They can also be ways for the rich or powerful to appease (or sometimes intimidate) the poor and downtrodden. Festivals are often a combination of all of these ideas and more. Next time, we will look at a couple of ideas that would make for great common themes through the region as well as festivals of the different regions that play on those themes differently.

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Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at!