Groundbreaking – An Introduction to Lakeside Proper

We have made the trip to the basin, climbed the volcano to the caldera, and descended to the lakeside village. Where should we go first to rent a … wait, is that … crushed ice … under those fish?

Hello, hello, welcome back. The overview is done, it is time for the dive into the details of the region.

This region is the home of many of my own adventures and plots, and Lakeside Proper is the locale in which I placed the Side Trek Seed “The Nereid’s Shawl” for Wayfinder #18 (page 48). That Backstory says that the lake grew to cover the gate, but when writing this blog I decided to change the shape of the lake and decided that the gate fell to the depths of the lake. Other than that, the Backstory still holds and can be considered canon for Groundbreaking. I will delve a bit more into the the backstory here and in other pieces, but wanted to give you the option of reading that piece to get a taste of some adventure in the region.

Descending to Lakeside Proper treats travellers to the unique sight of an almost aerial view of the sprawling village built upon the water, with many buildings two or even three stories tall, and multiple rope bridges connecting them. The bustling activity provides they eye with plenty of distraction, from children chasing faeries, pets chasing each other, to fisherman and farmers hawking their wares along the main pathways. It isn’t until you reach the shoreline and have to travel another half a mile to the water that you realize that the view from above and afar gave a false sense that the village and lake are small. I wanted to convey that when you see something from afar, your perception of how it should be can affect how you see it. A large fishing village on the water just seems out of place, and so you tend to assume it isn’t as big as it really is … at least until you are right next to it and cannot ignore the scale.

It is this half mile stretch that visitors get their first taste of what it is to be in Lakeside Proper (or just Proper by the locals as their are many small groupings of homes or other buildings around much of the lake). Anybody familiar with a fish market will be right at home here with the sights and sounds that accompany an active and thriving marketplace. Strange to most outsiders are that the fish carts store and display their wares openly on a bed of crushed ice, which is quickly explained away as proximity to fresh catch and fresh snow (snow is not present during the warm seasons). There are, in fact a couple families that make their living creating ice for the markets in little stove-like devices placed in the waters below their homes. These families were befriended by the same fey decades ago and were taught this magic as children. They have been doing it so long now that they have completely forgotten the origin, but they keep it secret anyway.

Most outsiders are oblivious, but wary and traveled adventurers likely notice that something amiss with the population, but have a hard time putting their finger on it. The average age of the citizenry in Lakeside is lower than one generally finds, with the oldest humans or halflings no more than 50 years old (should one be so bold as to check ID). This development is less than a year old, when a particularly virulent plague (some say curse) tore through the caldera, taking lives of all ages but leaving none of the most elderly breathing. To this day, none of the elders from the neighboring areas dares to enter the caldera, lest they too be cursed. Life, however, moves on, and so the village continues to thrive under the leadership of the next generation of elders. A small number of families were wiped out entirely, their homes given to family outside the caldera or sold to families that wished to take their place. This change in leadership sees the stoic mourning of the older generation, and the excitable optimism of the younger generation as a dichotomy that will hopefully resolve itself and allow the village to thrive and maintain prominence within the basin. See the Rumor Mill below.

As is found in any lakeside fishing village, there are boat makers (a trio of siblings) that specialize in kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats. They are all on the northern edge of the village where they have easy access to the lumber from the mill and some open space to work. They each have their own suppliers for the adornments they prefer to use, such as sails, oars, and the like. Throughout the village, it is easy to find a dozen or more families that can build or repair fishing rods and tackle, each with a custom design or flair that they claim makes them better than others. Most families that have gardens are willing to sell any extras, and many teens can be seen wandering the neighborhoods carrying baskets of fruits and vegetables to be traded with others. While there are inns at the base of trail leaving the caldera, they are purely function over form (places to prepare before the long walk out or a place to rest after the long walk in). Just as any village, it is a simple matter to adjudicate simple shopping trips for adventurers. This town isn’t known for its magic, and even the specialists focus on keeping their families fed. It shouldn’t be difficult to get high quality (masterwork, export, master) fishing equipment or boating equipment with a few hours or a day of shopping.

The four tallest buildings on the lake are owned by the wealthiest citizens, are all of similar design, and all operate as taverns and inns. These three story establishments are built on the shelf nearest the edge, engineered by a mysterious figure known as Ranthak, and are collectively known as “the dives” because a running jump from the roof can clear the walkway and land in the deep of the lake. He convinced each of the four families to fund his enterprise, and in return he has a room in each that is never to be rented out, along with a servant on call at all times (even when not there; which is most days). Each of the locations has a special gimmick, but that is unique, but they all have some overlapping activities (such as fish racing in an open common area). Aside from general aesthetics, the one thing that truly proves these were designed by the same entity is that they all have identical water fountains in the center of their common areas. I wanted to have a mystery unrelated to the greater fey mysteries of the realm. I felt that an unknown or enigmatic figure would help give that mystery some legs.

The Rumor Mill
Each of the following rumors can be learned by spending an hour or more gathering information from locals. The DC listed is the target to determine if the rumor is true (T), false (F), or nobody knows (?).

The People of Lakeside Proper
DC 10 – (F) All old people entering the caldera are doomed to catch the plague.
DC 15 – (T) No citizens are older than 50 years.
DC 20 – (?) The current elders brought the plague so that they could make changes.
DC 25 – (F) The Ice Makers are wizards and witches.
DC 30 – (T) Ranthak has never revealed their identity, but is reportedly smaller than a halfling.

The Places of Lakeside Proper
DC 10 – (T) The channels/sloughs under the village are more complex than a city sewer.
DC 15 – (F) The boat maker siblings are all competing for an inheritance.
DC 20 – (F) The most successful businesses are owned by the same family.
DC 25 – (?) The four dives have a hidden purpose that only Ranthak knows.
DC 30 – (T) The four dives are used by smugglers when the fog is thick.

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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!