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My party is going to ineavitably fight a water elemental so old and powerfull that it has turned into a small lake. Complete with fish, algae and other various fauna and flora found in lakes. My problem is, i have no idea how to balance that thing out. How does one defeat a lake? Especially when they don't know that the lake is going to try killing them?

The system we're playing is highly homebrewed pathfinder
>the party's obligatory kitsune fucks the lake
>Gate spell, send it to a different plane.
>Summon a Fire Elemental on top of the lake, burn the water elemental out. Maybe use magic fire to boil the lake from the inside, make it evaporate.
>mass produce magic weapons and just start stabbing it a lot
>send in the bard, he's thirsty enough
If they have access to magic or civil engineering, the best way to defeat an entire lake would be to dig a channel so that the water is diverted into a small tributary or series of smaller pools, then heat those smaller areas evenly in order to accelerate evaporation. The party should dig the evaporation zones first, then slowly dig toward the lake so that they have the element of surprise and can take advantage of the inevitability of gravitation and fluid dynamics.

Having the party defend a team of diggers from a raging water elemental actually sounds like a fun last stand mission.
OP here
I'd say prepare multiple possibilities.
1. They fight the lake elemental like a normal boss. Just build some monster stat block for it with appropriately outrageous CR/level.
2. They drain the lake somehow. Probably wouldn't actually kill the elemental, but would get it to weaken or leave the area. Contrive some NPC that can provide a mechanism to achieve this, but don't have the NPC volunteer the information until the players ask for it. The mechanism should also be something that the players could feasibly contrive on their own, like damming up a river with fallen trees or bursting a dam with explosives/magic/fire.
3. Contrive an alchemical weakness for the elemental. Like getting a giant drunk before trying to fight it. Make up something like "waterbane" or whatever to have the players go quest to acquire it and use it on the elemental to transform the overly tough boss into a manageable encounter. Unlike option 2, this information should be provided without the players seeking it out. Have a passerby say something like, "Oh, if only we had some waterbane! My ma always used to say it could siphon a water elemental's power." or have a wanted poster for the item prominently posted somewhere the players see and have it lead them to an alchemist or other person trying to stop the elemental.
Oh yeah, and to encourage them not to try taking your overpowered elemental in fight, have it nuke someone right in front of them. If your players are likely to face down any challenge believing they can win, also state the HP number of damage the elemental deals to the unfortunate NPC. If that still doesn't deter them, make it very clear the elemental only attacks when the party acts aggressively towards it or make an escape incredibly obvious (like WAAAAY obvious. Neon signs tier obvious. Your players will not think it's obvious) .
I would probably stat the lake as multiple elementals. killing one kills a 'part' of the larger lake.

Having additional elementals show up as regeneration.

I'd fluff each elemental as more of a tentacle of the larger creatures or some sort of bloblish shape rather than the more recognizable shape usually ascribed to elementals. In your description make sure it is clear they are really all one creature or moving as if they were one creature. Don't suggest they are separate creatures.

Have them fight a series of lesser elementals first. As the lake wakes up, move to a larger ones, at the end a lhuge elemental that represents what is left of the now fully awakened lake.

it's Pathfinder
Pfffft, only a lake?
www youtube com/watch?v=MqkWnnPjzv0

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