Merfolk are mythological creatures that have the upper bodies of humans and the lower bodies of a marine animal, almost always a fish. They originated in medieval folklore as mermaids, creatures that would seduce blueballed sailors to drown them (mermen were invented sort of as an afterthought to explain procreation). They are prominently featured in MTG, RPGs, and even 40k had a minor aquatic race at one point. Creatures similar to merfolk can also be found in many videogames, such as the Zora from The Legend of Zelda, the Naga from Warcraft, and the Slithereen from Dota2.
Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder generally have given merfolk only lackluster attention, as their unique body configuration makes them to all practical purposes useless on your typical land-based campaign, but, if you add them into a "surfacers gone underwater" campaign (itself a rarity), they tend to be overpowered, as they are faster and don't need to worry about breathing underwater. D&D usually tries to push the Triton over the merfolk as a consequence, as Tritons at least can try to partake in both underwater and traditional campaigns.
Still, despite their issues, /tg/ has had a spattering of threads dedicated to merfolk over the years where it has discussed how an underwater civilization would develop, and many people have wished to use merfolk characters or merfolk cities in their campaign. Unfortunately, most settings have rules that are not conducive to using merfolk as player characters, fluff that does not include merfolk as a major power, and a lack of effort to describe a thriving merfolk civilization.
PC stats for merfolk in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition can be found in the article "heroes of the Sea" in Dragon Magazine #250 and, alternatively, in the Forgotten Realms splatbook "Sea of Fallen Stars".
In Heroes of the Sea, merfolk stats look like this:
- Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 3/18, Dexterity 3/18, Constitution 3/18, Intelligence 3/18, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 3/18
- Ability Score Adjustments: None
- Racial Class & Level Limits: Fighter 12, Shaman 3, Cleric (Specialist priest of Eadro only) 7, Bard (Thief with Humanoid Bard kit, Female Only) 9
- Available Kits: Tribal Defender, Oracle, Wandering Mystic
- Natural Armor Class: 7
- Swim Rate 18
- No movement or attack penalties when in water.
- Amphibious: Can breathe air and water.
- Totally Water Adapted: A merfolk out of water is reduced to crawling, giving them a movement rate of 1, and after 1 hour out of water begins to fatally dehydrate, taking 2 damage per hour until they return to the water.
- Take double damage from Fire and are instinctively terrified of it.
- Weapion Proficiencies: Crossbow, Trident, Javelin
- Nonweapon Proficiencies: Alertness, Animal Handling, Animal Lore, Animal Training (Fish), Bowyer/Fletcher, Danger Sense, Direction Sense, Gaming, Hunting, Local History, Mining, Religion, Survival (Aquatic)
- Female merfolk also have the NWPs Artistic Ability (Shell Carving, Tapestry Weaving), Chanting, Poetry, Singing and Weaving.
In Sea of Fallen Stars, this variant statblock is given:
The Overcrowded Aquatic Humanoid Niche
Merfolk are a pretty iconic "underwater race" in Western culture, but they're far from the only such creatures. And since D&D takes the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to race design, well, merfolk kind of draw the short straw in that there have been a fuckton of races over the editions who can basically be described as "magical humanoids who live underwater". A short list of them, and only listing the ones that specifically live underwater rather than the "humanoids adapted to life on the coasts or at sea" like the various demihuman subraces from Stormwrack, would include:
- Aquatic Elves, who are literally "elves, but underwater".
- Selkies, aquatic fey who can shapeshift into the form of seals.
- Sirines, which are literally nymphs of the sea.
- Pahari, which are the Al-Qadim equivalent of merfolk, except they're a) able to transform into pure human and pure fish forms, and b) exclusively women.
- Tritons, which are either two-tailed merfolk or merfolk with legs depending on the edition.
- Nereids, the actual oceanic nymph from Greco-Roman mythology.
- Shalarin, fin-backed sea-people native to the Forgotten Realms.
- Liminals, which at least are supposed to be "half-merfolk".
- Sea Kin, the specific Half-Fey born to aquatic fey like selkies, sirines and nereids.
- Aventi, which are your stock "Atlanteans as humans who can breathe underwater and swim good" race.
- Koalinths, which are aquatic hobgoblins.
- Merrow, which began as "ogres, but live underwater".
- Scrags, which are the troll counterpart to merrow.
- Malenti, which are aquatic elves, but secretly sharks.
Considering that all of these - which aren't even accounting for the "aquatic beastfolk races like crabfolk or locathah - are able to actually get around on dry land and most of them are playable, and the poor merfolk look even more screwed over.
With a +2 in dexterity, constitution, and charisma with no stat minus, +2 natural armor, and unlike some amphibious races not drying up if they're on land, Merfolk are a fantastic race. The only problem? Sloooow on land. 5 feet move (15 with a trait- still half of everyone else). If you pick a class that gets a way to give them respectable movement and/or you just don't mind being the slowest one around, a solid choice.
They have a Drow equivalent Deep Merfolk race, grey-skinned merfolk who live in the lightless depths of the seafloor.
|This article or section is about Monstergirls (or a monster that is frequently depicted as a Monstergirl), something that /tg/ widely considers to be the purest form of awesome. Expect PROMOTIONS! and /d/elight in equal measure, often with drawfaggotry or writefaggotry to match.|
Mermaids are naturally among the most common monstergirls. They have a very similar problem to centaurs though, in that if they're a nonhuman animal from the waist down, where's their vagina? Also like with the centaur, different approaches to "The Mermaid Problem" have been taken. Some give merfolk the genitalia of fish, thus having fertilization occur externally (sexual interactions with humans are typically of the oral variety in this case). Others instead have the fish part start just below the genitals, which would logically result in a weird hole through the middle of their bodies. Still others have the fish part start above where human genitals would be and just slap on a forward-facing human vagina at waist-height. The simplest approach taken is making mermaids limited shapeshifters, capable of transforming their tail into legs. This is typically paired with a duration limit or need to return to water within a limited time to stop them from being reduced to strictly better humans and keep them sea creatures.
On their page titled "The Mermaid Problem," TVTropes of all sites puts forth the clever idea of replacing the fish tail with a dolphin tail. This is brilliant for more reasons than that article seems to realize, since not only does it simplify a lot of the internal biology by making them fully-fledged mammals, but there's also the fact that dolphins are actually notoriously perverted in regards to sexual behavior, with individuals of both sexes often trying to bone dolphins and non-dolphins alike, and there being so much sex overall that the females of some species have evolved an additional pelvic orifice that exists for the sole purpose of sex. On top of that, since it's hard to hold onto someone you're constantly thrusting into when you A) are floating around in the ocean, B) don't have arms, and C) can't coil around them like a snake or eel, dolphins of both sexes actually have MOTHERFUCKING PREHENSILE GENITALS. Yeah, you're probably getting several ideas right now, aren't you, you perv?
It'd be more surprising if the Monster Girl Encyclopedia didn't have a mermaid mamono. They are portrayed as incurable romantics who yearn to find that special someone. They also have quite a family tree, with Merrow (their perverted cousins), Sea Bishops (mermaid clerics of the sea goddess), Mersharks (aggressive shark-based mermaids), Unagi Joro (lamia-esque eel-maids from Zipangu) and even Selkies (wereseals) making up part of the Mermaid class of mamono.
- Merfolk/Homebrew for an extensive piece of homebrew all about merfolk.
- Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting (Pathfinder compatible)
|The Races of Pathfinder|
|Player's Handbook:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Aasimar - Catfolk - Changeling - Dhampir - Duergar |
Drow - Fetchling - Gillman - Goblin - Grippli - Hobgoblin
Ifrit - Kitsune - Kobold - Merfolk - Nagaji - Orc - Oread
Ratfolk - Samsaran - Strix - Suli - Svirfneblin - Sylph
Tengu - Tiefling - Undine - Vanara - Vishkanya - Wayang
|Bestiaries:||Android - Astomoi - Caligni - Deep One Hybrid - Gathlain |
Gnoll - Kasatha - Munavri - Naiad - Orang-Pendak
Reptoid - Rougarou - Shabti - Trox - Yaddithian
|Adventure Paths:||Being of Ib - Kuru|
|Inner Sea Races:||Ghoran - Monkey Goblin - Lashunta - Skinwalker |
Syrinx - Triaxian - Wyrwood - Wyvaran
|Ultimate Wilderness:||Vine Leshy|
|Blood of the Sea:||Adaro - Cecaelia - Grindylow - Locathah - Sahuagin - Triton|
|Planar Adventures:||Aphorite - Duskwalker - Ganzi|