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Foothold is a fortified point with the wardstone and several creatures. It is created by invasion forces if they have enough time to secure their positions, let it be on open field or in the center of conquered settlement. After some time footholds start to spawn other invasions. Footholds belong to the force that created them, it can be Guardian or Defiant in contested territory, or one of the plane types (fire, water, earth, air, life, death).
Some footholds on open field, presumably those that belong to the opposite faction, are generated automatically at specified points.
If an invasion force takes over a settlement and builds a wardstone on it, thus converting it into a foothold, killed NPCs will not respawn (it is not confirmed whether surviving NPCs despawn or stay alive). If there is a wardstone in a settlement, some quest-giving NPCs and general goods NPCs will despawn until the area is secured. To restore normal functioning of a settlement, players must defeat foothold by destroying its wardstone.
Zone invasions usually spawn huge amount of invasion forces, so after some time the zone becomes covered with footholds.