Biology · Races

Merfolk

Overview

Merfolk are an sapient species of faye that existed after the last Ghul War and into the modern age. Merfolk have the upper torsos of well-built and attractive humans and lower halves consisting of the tail and fins of a great fish or whale. Their hair and skin span a wide range of hues, with Merfolk in a given region closely resembling the patterns of local fish species. Merfolk aren’t as limited on land as some myths suggest; their tails will quickly reform into legs once they leave the water (and, likewise, their legs will quickly reform into a tail should they ever enter water). Communities exist in mountain lakes, coastal reefs, kelp forests, rivers, and even inside polar ice shelves.

Quick Species Profile

Aquafata amphíbios “water faye of both kinds”

Life Expectancy
Average: 100 years
Max: 500 years
Average Height: 213 cm (7 ft) long in aquatic form; in humanoid form 152-183 cm (5-6ft)
Average Weight: 91-136 kg (200-300 lbs) in aquatic form; in humanoid form 56-91 kg (125-200 lbs)
Creature TypeFaye Demihumanoid (Amphibious, Shapeshift to Humanoid)

 

Biology

Appearance

Hair: Blue, Green, White, Black, Red, Silver, Blonde,Pink

Eyes: Blue, Green, Blue-green, Hazel, Purple, Indigo

From the waist up, a merfolk’s body resembles that of a human; members of others races sometimes experience feelings of desire due to the attractiveness of a merfolk’s upper body. A merfolk’s lower body, however, is comprised of a tail and fins similar to that of a giant fish or cetacean. Despite the scaly look, the texture is smooth as hairless skin. By the time they are adolescents, they are able to transform completely into humanoid form with legs to move on land. Distinctive features in both forms include portions of skin on their shoulders, arms, lower back, and lower limbs (legs or tail) resemble that of local fish species. Like humans, the other parts of their skin has various shades and short, fine, light-colored, and barely noticeable vellus hair covering. They also have fins on their arms, webbed fingers, and webbed toes on land and the ends of their tails in the water.

Physiological Traits

Amphibious Skin: The skin on their lower limbs (legs or tail) and portions of their shoulders, arms, lower back, resemble the look and color of local fish species. Despite the scaly look, the texture is smooth as hairless skin and is similar to amphibians in that Merfolk can breathe through it when moist. It is also what merfolk use to breathe underwater in place of their lungs. This function is also present in their human looking skin but is less efficient. This special skin is also shed periodically more or less in one piece throughout their lives for new healthy skin underneath.

Fish/Cetacean Mimicry: Their amphibious skin also resembles the color and patterns of natural fish, dolphins, or whales in their local environment.

Slime Coat: A thin coating of slippery slime to help their skin stay moist in order to breathe through their skin underwater and on land.

Pressure Resistance: The Merfolk are a hearty race, having lived their entire lives dealing with the constant pressure that living underwater can bring, having great natural fortitude and stamina.
Swim bladder: While their skin collects oxygen in the water, their lungs are filled with air to now help a merperson control their buoyancy, and thus to stay at the current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming.

Fins: They possess frills on their forearms, and some have finned ears.

Expert swimmer: Because of their fish tail and webbed hands (and webbed feet on land and shallow waters), merfolk are naturally adept swimmers. Their tail is strong enough that it can propel one several meters out of the water for high leaps.

Echolocation: Merfolk can use low or high pitched echoes to locate things far off in the water.

Euryhaline: Merfolk can adapt to water of various salt content like fresh, brackish or saltwater regardless of backgorund.

Biomagical Attributes

Regeneration Factor: Merfolk can passively regenerate wounds in a short time via biomagical reactions speeding up the process. The extent of this regeneration can prevent the development of scar tissue and even regrow entire limbs within a few minutes however these actions do not set any broken bones on its own. In addition, this arcanist trait is significantly slowed in anti-magic areas or when the subject is increasingly exhausted.

Negligible Senescence: Merfolk lack any measurable deterioration from aging due to their cells high regenerative properties. They do not have any reduction in functional or reproductive capabilities past maturity. The rate of mortality doesn’t increase past old age either, meaning that most can live for centuries and are biologically immortal or ageless. Merfolk however are not deathless and still get ill or injured enough to die.

Amphibious Adaptation: Merfolk from adolescence can take either their normal, fish-tailed form, or appear as a land humanoid with webbed feet. Transformation occurs when submerged in either water or air reflexively and is not under their conscious control. Apparently, it operates based on two biomagical hormones: one that is made in the presence of water to fuse the bones and muscles to make a tail and one in the absence of water that separates them to make legs. Merfolk slowly develop them throughout their lives then a huge amount during puberty. Interestingly, an obstruction on their lower body (like clothing) can prevent the change from happening.

Merfolk blood: The biomagical composition of a merperson’s blood has the effect of dramatically increasing the lifespan of a natural creature that ingests it to roughly that of a merperson. The material basically stops most of the effects of aging for natural animals or humanoids, but not other faye, magical beasts, or spirits. Furthermore, because of the effect of the “mermaid’s blood,” it is treasured by merpeople and other faye who need it to increase the lifespan of their mate if they are a natural humanoid.

General Diet

Typical diets are composed of native fish and aquatic plants. They will also partake of other aquatic animals such as mollusks, shellfish, and water fowl. Brackish merfolk also partake of a few insects, reptiles, and are more likely to eat foods closer to land. Marine merfolk have the advantage of hunting large mammals on occasion. Fruit and nuts that drift in the waters to propagate are a delicacy and are often grown by experienced farmers.

Reproduction

Copulation is internal sexual fertilization and can occur on land or underwater. Whether the transformation has them in their Sea forms or Land forms, the Merfolk retain their humanoid sexual organs. The males often have a sheath that remains hidden for a great part, only coming into view when sexually aroused, and the females is nigh invisible till they’re aroused, then the female’s vulva change hue, signaling their ready for sexual relations. Often times the coloration ranges from intense reds to fiery oranges or other ‘loud’ colors. A mermaid will gestate her baby for five months and return to the water to give live birth.

Lifespan and Growth

Larva: A newborn merfolk is born with the size and body of a large goldfish and a proportionate humanoid head. They are completely aquatic and breathe with gills on their fish body. In the first week, they lack a mouth and rely on fat stores until it develops and their body grows two flipper like arms.

Child: With their increase to the size of a human child, their upper body becomes more humanoid as they grow a torso and their flippers develop into arms with hands. Their gills know become internal lungs and they can now breathe through their skin in water. Although they retain their fish like tail on land, it is strong enough to let them stand up straight or maintain an upright structure like a seal.
Adolescent: Hormonal changes during puberty allow for their race’s signature metamorphosis for the first time if they leave the water. In addition, their bodies take on the secondary sexual characteristics common to many humanoids during puberty.

Adulthood: An adult merfolk is fully amphibious, at home in water or land. However most live either near bodies of water or very moist places.

Subspecies

  • Marine
  • Freshwater

History

The origins of merfolk likely lie in the chaos that was the Ghulat Wars. Now even before these events, there were aquatic faye living in various places, some humanoid, others different body shapes. However the combination of run off pollution from both sides of the conflict, corruption of environmental magic and plant life that kept it in check, and invoked geothermal activity that were raising ocean temperatures at an unnatural rate. This wasn’t particularly great for landing creatures either and many varieties of people’s had to find refugee from the destruction. The story goes that one group of elves were desperate enough to flee to a half-submerged caves in order to survive. Then aquatic humanoids like sirens and nixies taught them magic that allowed them to create fish like forms and eventually mated with them, leading to the creation of the merfolk we know today.
Whatever their origin, merfolk became one of the few surviving aquatic faye races in the aftermath of the Ghulat Wars. Most were nomadic groups simply hunting and gathering enough food and materials for subsistence. At the same time the land races were slowly rebuilding their environment, the oceanic merfolk were creating their own civilization, using coral reefs and submerged islands as a base. Some merfolk bands moved to inland water ways and settled in these bodies of water and wetlands to become the Freshwater peoples.

Culture

Ethnotypes

  • Brackish
  • Coral
  • Polar
  • Coastal

Architecture

Merfolk structures often incorporate unique materials and features which results in distinct a architectural style. Wooden materials are uncommon due to the effect of woodworms. Instead, Merfolk make use of a variety of durable marine building materials:

Kelp,  Seagrass – Many merfolk buildings are made by weaving living kelp into a hollow ball that floats in the water while anchored to ocean floor. There can be several rooms arrayed in a daisy chain, one above the other, all constructed from only a few plants.

Coral Reefs are common places to settle, large structures providing shelter for marine merfolk. They have also developed techniques to cultivate, and reshape coral by extracting of segments or larva of live corals from a reef and growing them in a nursery until adulthood.

The bones of giant sea creatures such as whales and sea serpents are large and strong enough to be excellent building materials.

Freshwater brackish merfolk can use wood to build their structures, because woodworms do not live in freshwater.

Hydraulic cement is a building material imported from other races known for its ability to harden underwater. Hydraulic cement is combined with sand or other materials to create concrete structures, or is used in mortar to bind stone and brick buildings.

Spirituality

Many merfolk followed deities that had dominion of the seas and tides. After the collapse of divine pantheons, groups transferred faith to nature itself or the idea of an living force in magical energies or “wild magic”.

As an extension of this idea, certain animals were sacred and culturally treated with respect no matter ones belief or lack thereof. Frogs and newts are this for the brackish, and dolphins and whales for the marine community.

Most of their folk-stories are framed around marine animals. Various animals are viewed in different ways. Octopi are considered clever tricksters; Sharks are powerful hunters to be admired from a safe distance; Dolphins are playful, yet capricious and unreliable; Whales are dignified and very, very loud. Stories usually focus on the interactions of various animals, or how-this-came-to-be type stories. Why The Whale Sings, and such.

Gender/Family

Mermaids far outnumber mermen. In merfolk culture, mermaids typically hunt. They also, by virtue of vastly overpopulating their male counterparts, tend to rule merfolk society. Mermen, by contrast, tend to be “soldiers” to their “queens”.

While promiscuous with other humanoid races and, in fact, known for their loose sexual attitudes, merfolk nevertheless often choose to mate for life with each other.

Since most merfolk live & travel in pods of up to 12, once children are added into the mix, raising them is a group effort.

When couples marry, the man leaves his mother’s family and goes to live with the woman in her family. Married men often have two names, their own and their wife’s, while women only ever have one. The duties of a husband are to be a partner and aid to his wife, including doing all the physical work that needs doing in the family group and also helping to raise their children.

Dress/Modesty

Nudity is a non-issue for children and is also the case for nomadic and uncontacted clans and tribes. Although some merfolk lightly decorated themselves with shells, pearls or pigments, the concept of clothing was introduced from terrestrial races. Even for those who adopted foreign ideas of modesty, being a female dominant society, bare feminine breasts and hips are not seen as taboo.
Brackish merfolk are more likely to wear a type of clothing, partially for protection on land and partially to prevent tension/show status to more prudish races. If they can’t obtain clothing material via trade they may weave a crude kind of fabric from aquatic plants like seagrass or common plants like hemp. Their clothing tends to be simple, loose and only cover the bare minimum like loincloths or short sarongs and tunics. On their own they are likely to forgo clothing entirely.
Marine merfolk tend to be isolated in the oceans and thus even less likely to dress. Shells or pieces of coral with small holes in them might be made into necklaces the merpeople may wear around their necks and sometimes loop along their tails. A few might even make fabric from seaweed drying along the shoreline, called seaweed cloth, that is used for garments, rope, and even baskets. Shells or pieces of coral with small holes in them form necklaces the merpeople may wear around their necks and sometimes loop along their tails.

Socialization

As a merfolk ages, they are given a sort of tutelage. This tutelage consists of all the necessary skills to live in the harsh aquatic environment. They learn to hunt, communicate in their language and a set of other useful skills for survival.Due to encroachment of industrialized nations, a similar set up is made for merpeople who are training in a society that adopts specialization and division of labor.

Magic Use

The merfolk population is pretty split on being better in either sorcery or spellcraft. Their active sorcery in the form of endowments obviously revolves around life underwater, so they usually don’t develop powers that can’t be used while submerged in water. However some unexpected abilities can develop such as a mermaid gifted with heat manipulation, allowing them to freeze or boil the water around them. If she goes on land and learns to use it in the air, she might even be able to heat it enough to briefly make fire.

As spell casters, they tend to be quite good in specific areas. Their affinity with water makes it easier for them to use or develop spells related to liquids and gases. Many mermaids are also taught mind altering incantations that are expressed through various songs.

 

Science and Technology

Transportation

Most merfolk are capable of traveling in water and even land under their own power. For marines, some types of large fish, sea turtles, dolphins or whales, can be tamed to the point where they can be ridden around. Either by themselves or with these riding companions, big ocean currents can be ridden on to get across vast distances like ocean highways. The upside of using currents is that the big ones are reliable and always present. The downside is that they are often one way in a very big loop, making it slower to sail in the opposite direction and infeasible for short or medium-distance trips to go all the way around. Freshwater merfolk use a similar concept for riverways, though instead of animals they are more likely to use sailboats when carrying things, that they learned to make by observing other races.

Weaponry

Naturally, the Merfolk will primarily use their strong aquatic tails for powerful strikes and they have developed their martial arts strongly on thrusting and grappling, since those are the most efficient ways to fight underwater.

Many weapons suffer reduced effectiveness under water due to hydrodynamic drag. Merfolk therefore use weapons that are specially designed to eliminate drag and increase ergonomics for submerged use. Some weapons are unchanged but the techniques for their use underwater is radically different.
Partisan – A partisan is a pole-arm similar to a spear but it has a much larger spear point and prongs on either side of the blade. it could accurately be described as a sword on a pole.
•Great trident – This trident has 3 large bladed points and is capable of delivering grievous wounds.
Mersarissa – A very long spear for use in underwater army formations, it has a large blade and reach.
Chain Net – A net made of fine chain links or cable instead of rope. It has small barbs that cut a trapped creature as it struggles.
Katar – A short sword that attaches to the forearm instead of being held by the handle

Merfolk armors are usually form fitting and flexible and use some form of buoyant material for padding such as kelp pods or cork. Shields are designed to have as little drag as possible when moving them laterally and also have small buoys distributed to the inner surface.
Sharkskin leather armor – Basic leather armor has the same properties as land based leather armor.
Padded – This padded armor uses aquatic fibers to give its wearer some protection.
Chain shirt – Chain shirts built by merfolk smiths tend to be tighter fitting than those on land to reduce drag.
Scale mail – Scale mail is more popular with merfolk than chain because it has less drag.
Breastplate – Breast plates are very popular in in the underwater world for their ease of manufacture, good protection, and freedom of movement
Lorica Plumata – This armor is a combination of chainmail and scalemail. It consists of metal scales that are attached to a backing of tight fitting chainmail. It is expensive but gives excellent range of motion and defense.

Communications

Below the water they communicate in a series of whistles, fluting sounds, sub- and super-sonic pulses which humans cannot hear. It is thought that whales, dolphins, and other large fish may also hear and comprehend this language. When underwater, mermaids “sing” their messages in a special language whose pitches and tones aren’t distorted by water, allowing communication. It sounds a bit like whale song, but more modulated and of a higher pitch, although it also depends on the individual mermaid who sings it. Of course, that language doesn’t work above the water. Those songs appear to be just as rich and complex as regular language, with differences in pitch, tone, tempo, and structure helping to convey different, intricate meanings. This also means that mermaids possess extremely precise hearing, and are very skilled at controlling the sounds they produce. It’s probably the main reason why mermaids are so famous for their beautiful singing voices; it’s simply one of their natural methods of communication.

Medical Treatment

Herbal and medicinal baths are a popular home remedy for common physical ailments for Freshwater merfolk. Most of these would have the physician infuse aquatic herbs and minerals in the water to absorb into the skin. Marine medical treatment mostly involved the secretions of various sea life that was traditionally used for relieving pain. Lotions made from corals are still commonly used, such as mushroom coral which produces a sunscreen. An amazing discovery made by marine merfolk was a surgical procedure were coral can be used as scaffold for broken or missing bones. The body can use the minerals within the coral to slowly rebuild their skeleton. After the Medical Revolution, liquid and pill form medication became prevalent for the freshwater ones as well. Injections were introduced to the marine merfolk due to them being effective underwater.

Manufacturing

Merfolk have various uses for naturally obtained substances in their environment, such as using mushroom coral secretions as effective sunscreen.

Traditional Merfolk tools are typically neolithic, made from bone, discarded land glass, or the sharp teeth of sharks, but most lack metals. Larger settlements often learn metallurgy from terrestrial races and even develop their own version. Commonly used materials:
•Bronze – A poor quality but inexpensive metal that resists corrosion
Stellite – A common type of metal that resists corrosion and is similar in strength to steel
Byssus/Sea Silk-Strong fibers from mollusks that are immune to water degradation and can be woven into fabrics to make clothing, rope, nets, and other tools.
Sharkskin – Leather made from the skin of sharks and is very tough.
Orichalcum– A rare and mysterious metal dug from out of Seamounts, Orichalcum has a golden or coppery color. Orichalcum shares many properties in common with iron such as strength and magnetism, however it does not rust in salt water. The only thing preventing it from being more widely used, is that it is rare and expensive. Large Orichalcum (and iron) deposits can be found by observing where Hammerhead sharks congregate due to their magnetic senses, the large number of sharks also makes extracting the ore difficult at best and further increases the rarity of this much sought after metal.

Author’s Notes

When doing research by looking at descriptions of mermaid races in rpgs, comics, and wikis I noticed something. When a setting tried to explain how merfolk breathe water and air it was typically either unexplained magic, special lungs or moisten gills on the side or the neck. So it got me thinking, how come I didn’t find a series where mers followed real life amphibians and breathe through their skin (and lungs if they have)? I have no idea if realistically the surface area of breathable skin on a humanoid body would be insufficient or not though. Running with the amphibian theme though I modeled their life cycle and forms on land after research done on the vertebrates. I guess it wouldn’t be far off to say that functionally they more like frogs and only looked like fish people.

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