Archives of Nethys

Core Races | Other Races


Merfolk

Source Blood of the Sea pg. 12, Pathfinder RPG Bestiary pg. 204 (Amazon), Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)
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Merfolk are among the best known and yet the least understood of the aquatic races. Folklore is filled with stories of merfolk: legends of beautiful merfolk falling in love with humans, or ship crews saved from storms by friendly bands of the creatures. Among land dwellers, merfolk are almostlegendary figures of impossible beauty and magic. In reality, merfolk are secretive and prone to intense xenophobia. They value their privacy and are more likely to react to surfacers with aggression than with friendship or passion. Merfolk communities guard their territories ruthlessly. They may warn away ships and travelers who seem nonthreatening or genuinely lost, but if trespassers appear hostile, merfolk attack first.

Merfolk have the upper bodies of graceful humanoids with fine, delicate features. Their skin can be deep, warm shades of brown, lighter shades of tan and gold, or very pale tones of peach and white. Merfolk have the lower body of a great fish, with a long tail ending in powerful fins to aid with swimming. Merfolk scales are iridescent and grow in many colors, most commonly the green and blue shades of the sea. Like many fish, merfolk have darker scales on their backs and lighter ones on their undersides, which helps mask their presence from creatures below them in the water.

Although many surfacer myths about merfolk are untrue, one bears out: most merfolk are genuinely gifted musicians. Merfolk might experiment with a harp or woodwind, particularly one discovered on a wrecked ship or stolen from a seaside community, but many merfolk are practiced singers. Merfolk voices naturally and lightly span ranges that would make human bards envious, and their songs travel far underwater or across the surface of the sea.

Merfolk Adventurers: Merfolk are an insular and guarded race. While they might work with non-merfolk on occasion, only rarely do they trust these allies fully. Merfolk who adventure on their own often do so because nothing is left for them in their homes.

Sahuagin and merfolk clash frequently, and sahuagin have been known to destroy entire merfolk colonies, taking the few survivors as prisoners. A merfolk who escapes this fate may be left alone in the world, his friends and family dead or captured. Some of these unfortunates leave their former territory, suppressing their painful memories, and caring little where their travels take them. Other merfolk leave their homes only as a means to protect their own: to rescue loved ones captured by aquatic slavers, to recover powerful magic items to defend their lands, or to seek a cure for a disease or curse.

On rare occasions, a merfolk community may exile a merfolk who has broken the trust of his neighbors. Exiled merfolk feel great shame and often lie about their origins to their fellow travelers. Some of these adventurers seek a way to regain the good graces of their community, such as by performing a great service, killing a ferocious predator, or finding a lost treasure to bring home with them.

Rumors exist of merfolk exiled from their community for no reason other than their lack of musical talent. Some merfolk tribes see musical expression as a sacred merfolk ability—a gift from the gods themselves. A merfolk who cannot sing, or one who sings badly, is thought to be cursed, destined to bring ill fortune to their kin. “Cursed” merfolk are gently but firmly turned out of their homes and left to make their own way in the world. Many become wanderers and adventurers, spending their time among races who do not recognize the stigma that caused their banishment.

Merfolk Racial Traits

+2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, +2 Charisma: Merfolk are graceful, hale, and beautiful.
Aquatic: Merfolk are aquatic and can breathe water. Their land speed is 5 feet, but their swim speed is 50 feet. They are amphibious, but prefer not to spend long periods out of the water.
Low-Light Vision: All merfolk have low-light vision.
Armor: Merfolk have a +2 natural armor bonus.
Languages: Merfolk begin play speaking Common and Aquan. Merfolk with high Intelligence scores can choose any of the following bonus languages: Aboleth, Aklo, Draconic, Elven, Sahuagin, and Sylvan.

Merfolk Alternate Racial Traits

Replaces Armor, Speed

Secret Magic
Source Inner Sea Races pg. 216
Merfolk sometimes manifest magical powers they are unwilling to explain to nonmerfolk, leading scholars to speculate that the magic originates from the merfolk’s rumored eldritch patrons. Such merfolk have only a 40-foot swim speed, but they add +1 to the DC of any enchantment spells they cast, and if they have a Charisma score of 13 or higher, they gain the ability to cast the following spell-like abilities: At will—speak with animals (aquatic animals only); 1/day— fins to feetARG (self only), hydraulic pushAPG. This racial trait replaces the armor racial trait and alters the merfolk’s movement speed.

Replaces Low-Light Vision

Darkvision
Source Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)
Some merfolk favor the lightless depths over shallower waters. Merfolk with this racial trait gain darkvision with a range of 60 feet and light sensitivity. This racial trait replaces low-light vision.

Seasinger
Source Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)
The beautiful voices of the merfolk are legendary. A seasinger gains a +2 racial bonus on Perform (sing) checks and a +1 racial bonus to the save DC of language-dependent spells. This racial trait replaces low-light vision.

Replaces Slow Speed

Strongtail
Source Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)
A few merfolk have broad, strong tails that are more suited for land travel than the typical merfolk tail. Merfolk with this racial trait have a land speed of 15 feet and a swim speed of 30 feet.

Merfolk Favored Class Options

Instead of receiving an additional skill rank or hit point whenever they gain a level in a favored class, Merfolk have the option of choosing from a number of other bonuses, depending upon their favored class.

The following options are available to all Merfolk who have the listed favored class.

Druid (Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)): Add +1 hit point to the druid’s animal companion. If the merfolk ever replaces her animal companion, the new animal companion gains these bonus hit points.
Ranger (Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)): Add +1 hit point to the ranger’s animal companion. If the ranger ever replaces his animal companion, the new animal companion gains these bonus hit points.
Sorcerer (Advanced Race Guide pg. 1 (Amazon)): Add +1/2 to the sorcerer’s caster level when determining the range of any spells with the water descriptor.