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 almost-legendary 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 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 have the upper torsos of well-built and attractive humans and lower halves consisting of the tail and fins of a great fish. Their hair and scales span a wide range of hues, with Merfolk in a given region closely resembling each other. Merfolk can breathe air freely but move on dry land only with difficulty, and rarely spend long periods out of water. As a race, Merfolk are insular and distrustful of strangers, but individuals, especially adventuring Merfolk, break the mold and can be quite garrulous. Merfolk concern themselves more with nature and the arts than with morality and ethical debates, and have a strong inclination toward neutral alignments.

Random Starting Ages
Adulthood Intuitive1 Self-Taught2 Trained3
15 years +1d4 years
(16 – 19 years)
+1d6 years
(16 – 21 years)
+2d6 years
(17 – 27 years)

1 This category includes barbarians, oracles, rogues, and sorcerers.
2 This category includes bards, cavaliers, fighters, gunslingers, paladins, rangers, summoners, and witches.
3 This category includes alchemists, clerics, druids, inquisitors, magi, monks, and wizards.

Random Height and Weight
Gender Base Height Height Modifier Base Weight Weight Modifier
Male 5 ft. 10 in. +2d10 in.
(6 ft. – 7 ft. 6 in.)
145 lbs. +(2d10×5 lbs.)
(155-245 lbs.)
Female 5 ft. 8 in. +2d10 in.
(5 ft. 10 in. – 7 ft. 4 in.)
135 lbs. +(2d10×5 lbs.)
(145-235 lbs.)

Standard Racial Traits

  • Ability Score Modifiers: Merfolk are graceful, hale, and beautiful. They gain +2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, and +2 Charisma.
  • Size: Merfolk are Medium creatures and thus have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Base Speed (Slow Speed): Merfolk have a base speed of 5 feet. They have a swim speed of 50 feet.
  • Type: Merfolk are humanoids with the aquatic subtype.
  • Languages: Merfolk begin play speaking Common and Aquan. Merfolk with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Aboleth, Aklo, Draconic, Elven, and Sylvan. See the Linguistics skill page for more information about these languages.

Defense Racial Traits

Senses Racial Traits

  • Low-Light Vision: Merfolk have low-light vision allowing them to see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.

Other Racial Traits

  • Amphibious: Merfolk are amphibious, but prefer not to spend long periods out of the water.

Alternate Racial Traits

The following alternate racial traits may be selected in place of one or more of the standard racial traits above. Consult your GM before selecting any of these new options.

  • Darkvision 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 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.
  • Secret Magic: Merfolk sometimes manifest magical powers they are unwilling to explain to non-merfolk, 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 willspeak with animals (aquatic animals only); 1/dayfins to feet (self only), hydraulic push. This racial trait replaces the armor racial trait and alters the merfolk’s movement speed. Source PZO9280
  • Strongtail 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.
  • Unexpected Ally: Merfolk with this racial trait gain a +2 bonus on Diplomacy checks to influence a creature’s attitude. In addition, merfolk with this racial trait gain a +1 racial bonus on checks to perform the aid another action. This replaces low-light vision. PPC:HftF

Favored Class Options

The following favored class options are available to all characters of this race who have the listed favored class, and unless otherwise stated, the bonus applies each time you select the favored class reward.

3rd Party Publisher Favored Class Options

  • Aegis: Add +1 foot to the aegis’s base land speed. This option has no effect unless the aegis has selected it 5 times (or another increment of 5); a speed of 34 feet is effectively the same as a speed of 30 feet, for example. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Alchemist: Add +10 minutes to the duration of the alchemist’s mutagens. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Antipaladin: Add 5 feet to the antipaladin’s detect good range. This option has no effect unless selected 5 times (or another increment of 5); a range of 64 feet is effectively the same as a range of 60 feet, for instance. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Arcanist: Add 1 spell from the arcanist spell list to the arcanist spell book. This spell must be at least 1 spell level below the highest level the arcanist can cast. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Barbarian: Add +2 temporary hit points while raging in or near the water. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Bard: Add a +1/3 bonus to all untrained Knowledge checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Bloodrager: Add +1 foot to the bloodrager’s swim speed when in a blood rage. In combat this option has no effect unless the bloodrager has selected it 5 times (or another increment of 5); a swim speed of 54 feet is effectively the same as 50 feet, for example. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Brawler: Add +1/2 to damage rolls made with unarmed attacks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Cavalier: Add a +1/2 bonus on Diplomacy and Ride checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Cleric: Add +1/4 of an additional die of channel energy. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Cryptic: Adda +1 bonus to Linguistics checks on riddles and puzzles. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Dread: Add a +1/2 bonus to Intimidate and Perception checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Fighter: Add a +1 bonus to the fighter’s CMD when resisting grapple and a +1 bonus on Escape Artist checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Gunslinger: Add a +1/3 bonus to the AC bonus granted by the gunslinger’s dodge deed. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Hunter: Add a +1/2 bonus on wild empathy checks the hunter makes to influence animals and magical beasts that have the aquatic subtype. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Inquisitor: Add a +1/2 bonus to Knowledge checks to identify the abilities and weakness of creatures with the aquatic subtype. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Investigator: Add a +1/3 bonus to all untrained Knowledge checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Magus: Add +1/2 damage on spells that contain the water descriptor or belong to the elemental water school. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Marksman: Gain a +1/2 bonus to the dodge bonus granted by evade arrows. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Monk: Add +1/4 to the monk’s armor class bonus. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Ninja: Add a +1/3 bonus on damage rolls to sneak attack. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Oracle: Add one spell known from the oracle spell list or from the Wave, Wind, or Lunar mysteries. This spell must be at least one level below the highest spell level the oracle can cast. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Paladin: Add 5 feet to the paladin’s detect evil range. This option has no effect unless selected 5 times (or another increment of 5); a range of 64 feet is effectively the same as a range of 60 feet, for instance. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Psion: Add +1/3 to the psion’s saving throws versus water effects. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Psychic Warrior: Add a +1/2 bonus on Stealth checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Rogue: Add a +1/2 bonus on Perception and Stealth checks while near or in the water. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Samurai: Add a +1/6 bonus to the samurai’s Reflex saves when near or in the water. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Shaman: Add +1/4 to the natural armor bonus of the shaman’s spirit animal. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Skald: Add a +1/4 bonus to Will saving throws when the skald performs the inspired rage raging song. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Slayer: Add a +1/3 bonus the the slayer’s sneak attack damage rolls. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Soulknife: Add +1/2 electricity damage when the mindblade has the shock or shocking burst enhancement. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Summoner: Add 10 feet to the range of the eidolon’s life link ability while in the water. if the eidolon’s base form is aquatic, this bonus is applied when out of the water also. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Swashbuckler: Add a +1/3 bonus to the dodge bonus granted by nimble. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Tactician: Add +1/2 to the maximum number of creatures allowed in the tactician’s collective. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Time Thief: Add a +1/2 bonus to all Survival and Swim checks. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Vitalist: Add +1/2 to the maximum number of creatures allowed in the vitalist’s collective. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Warpriest: Add +1/2 to the result of the warpriest’s channeled energy when healing creatures with the aquatic subtype. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Wilder: Add 1/4 power known from the wilder power list. This power must be at least one level below the highest power level the wilder can manifest. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Witch: Add 5 feet tremorsense to the witch’s familiar. If the familiar doesn’t have tremorsense, the familiar gains tremorsense 5 feet. If the witch ever replaces her familiar, the new familiar gains this bonus to its tremorsense distance. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]
  • Wizard: Add +1/4 wizard’s casting level when casting spells containing the water descriptor. [JBE:BoHR:AFCO]

Racial Feats

The following feats are available to a merfolk character who meets the prerequisites.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Race Guide © 2012, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Jim Groves, Tim Hitchcock, Hal MacLean, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Owen K.C. Stephens, Todd Stewart, and Russ Taylor.

Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea © 2017, Paizo Inc.; Author: Amber E. Scott.

Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Favored Class Options. © 2014, Jon Brazer Enterprises

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