My illustrator has informed me that this month is #mermay. Far be it from Handbook-World to buck the trend. I do think we’re slightly less cute than the rest of the hashtag though.

Any dang way, this particular experience comes from a long-ago Pathfinder game where I thought it would be a good idea to roll up a merfolk. If you’ve never given the race a look, I’ll go ahead and save you some reading:

Base Speed (Slow Speed): Merfolk have a base speed of 5 feet. They have a swim speed of 50 feet.

That movement speed means the second you write “merfolk” on your character sheet you’re in damage control mode. Assuming you’re in a standard adventure rather than a Krill & Krakens campaign, a merfolk PC is going to find herself flopping through the dungeon like a friggin’ magikarp. And let me tell ya, it’s no fun running from the monsters with only a 20 foot run speed.

In my case, damage control began with combat style, which made archery a good starting place. Standing still and plunking away with a bow is pretty standard at low level. And thanks to the stand-still-to-full-attack nature of 3.X archery, I could keep my eye out for mobile archery platforms at higher level.

Next were the options baked into the race. Both the Strong Tail and Secret Magic alternate racial traits provide relief for that abysmal movement speed, increasing it from 5 to 15 feet or giving you access to the fins to feet spell respectively. Since this particular campaign was set several hundred miles from the nearest ocean in Golarion’s River Kingdoms, I opted to make my guy a mudskipper merfolk with a stubby Strong Tail. Behold my majesty.

At this point my Cajun hobo river pirate merfolk still needed a class, so I sought about for anything that could buff movement. Bard was the natural choice, with options at every level. Expeditious retreat, summon monster II (horse) and haste were all there for the taking. Plus bard plays nice with the archery shtick anyway, building naturally into the arcane archer prestige class. We never quite go to that point though. More’s the pity, this campaign only lasted to level 3. Even so, it was still all kinds of fun planning a build around this one interesting weakness.

That brings us to our question of the day! When you look at all those cool aquatic races that you’ll “never get a chance to play,” what stops you from giving them a shot? How would you go about optimizing one of these suboptimal options for a standard land-based adventure? And if you have given a merfolk PC a chance to shine, how did it go? Did it turn out life was better down where it’s wetter? Or did you relish the chance to be part of that world? Tell us all about your little mermaid adventures down in the comments!


ARE YOU THE KIND OF DRAGON THAT HOARDS ART? Then you’ll want to check out the “Epic Hero” reward level on our Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Like the proper fire-breathing tyrant you are, you’ll get to demand a monthly offerings suited to your tastes! Submit a request, and you’ll have a personalized original art card to add to your hoard. Trust us. This is the sort of one-of-a-kind treasure suitable to a wyrm of your magnificence.