Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Merfolk

Merfolk are an aquatic race of half man, half fish creatures.  They have broad, strong abilities that are somewhat marred by a slow move speed.

Racial Traits:
Ability Scores: +2 to Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma is absolutely incredible.  This smattering of abilities opens up a ton of point-buy options and allows the Merfolk to easily play basically any class in the game.

Size: Medium - nothing special here. 

Speed: Here's the big penalty.  Merfolk have a swim speed of 50 feet, but only a base move speed of 5 feet.  For the rest of this guide, I'm going to assume that you take the Strongtail alternate trait, brining your land speed up to 15 feet but reducing your swim speed to 30 feet.  After that, you can bring your movement speed up though fast movement (barbarians and monks), the travel domain (clerics and inquisitors), spells (expeditious retreat and haste), and feats (Fleet).  Once you get one or more of these, you'll be able to take full advantage of your other great traits.

Natural Armor: +2 to natural armor bonus is another great trait for melee characters, a big bonus from level 1 - 20.

Legless: The silver lining to a 15 foot move speed is that you can't be tripped.

Low-Light Vision: See farther in low-light conditions, this is probably not going to come up that frequently.

Amphibious: You are amphibious, which is essentially just flavor. However, it does mean that you have the aquatic subtype, against which some spells are stronger.  Not anything to worry about though.

Alternate Racial Traits:
Darkvision (Low-Light Vision): You gain dark vision at the cost of also gaining light sensitivity.  Light sensitivity is likely to be a pain throughout a campaign, so I would skip it.  However, if you are constantly in dungeon crawls its something to consider.

Seasinger (Low-Light Vision): +2 to Perform (sing) and +1 DC on language-spells is great if you are a singing bard or enchanting spell caster.  Well worth Low-Light Vision.  Of course, if you don't do either of these things, don't bother.

Strong Tail (50 Foot Swim Speed): This is a must have, brining your move speed up to 15 but lowering your swim speed down to 30.  Most certainly worth it, even in aquatic campaigns.

Favored Class Options:
Druid: +1 hp to animal companion is good, as your animal companion is probably going to see more combat time than you.

Ranger: Again, +1 hp to animal companion is good, as your animal companion is probably going to see more combat time than you.

Druid: Additional range on water spells is too specific, and probably not useful.  Skip it.

Getting a Better Move Speed: 
Barbarians, Clerics, Monk, OraclesInquisitors, and Cavaliers, all deserve special mention as they can easily mitigate the tough hit to speed.  Barbarians (and Bloodragers) and Monks gain fast movement, bringing the merfolk speed up to a very reasonable 25 ft.  Clerics and Inquisitors can gain the travel inquisition (highly recommend), bringing the speed up to 25 as well.  Cavaliers can (probably), ride their ponies around and totally ignore their own move speed.
In fact, I would highly recommend that all melee characters who don't wear heavy armor dip 1 level into Barbarian for fast movement (as well as some rage).
Many Oracles gain move speed as well.  Metal Oracles can gain Dance of Blades, Flame Oracles get Cinder Dance, and the Spirit Guide archetype allows for entry into Cinder Dance as well.
Other options include the Fleet feat if you have plenty of feats to go around.  You can also get expeditious retreat cast on you, or similar spells.

Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma is absolutely fantastic for a few classes, the Ninja, PaladinBardCleric, Mysterious Stranger Gunslinger. For the Ninja, Paladin, and Bard, go ahead and take that dip into Barbarian or Bloodrager for the extra speed.  Might even be worth it for the Cleric on top of the travel domain.  For the Gunslinger, you might be able to get away with just moving slowly.
The Barbarian and Monk are fantastic choices, due to the bonus to speed.  Inquisitors can gain the travel domain, and Cavaliers can ride their beasts into battle.
Beyond that, armor, dexterity, constitution, and charisma benefits a lot of classes. AlchemistFightersRangers, Rogues, and Magus all gain from the martial aspects.  Sorcerer, Oracles, and Summoner all benefit from the Charisma boost and survivability, and suffer somewhat less from the maneuverability hit.  However, the Sorcerer and Summoner are also less able to manage it, with a dip into Barbarian, Cleric, or Inquisitor being reasonably detrimental.  Oracles have their own ways of gaining speed, as listed above.
Only Wizards and Witches don't gain immensely from everything.  A lack of an intelligence boost isn't great, but everything else still keeps these spell casters at a solid green, particularly because a slow move speed is less painful.

Racial Archetype:
Wave Warden (Ranger): The Wave Warden is essentially an underwater ranger, with a separate style for underwater combat and a favored terrain of underwater.  The ability to summon nature's allies is a welcome trade for swift tracker.  Obviously, this archetype is only useful if you spend the vast majority of your campaign underwater.  Otherwise, it is pretty much useless.

Racial Feats:
Sea Hunter: Sea hunter allows you to make opponents flatfooted and suffer other detriments until they make a Swim check.  This is pretty powerful if you are underwater all the time, and, again, completely useless if you are not.


  1. So would it be OP or just weirdly strong to do a Merfolk - Strongtail traits - Class Bloodrager - Bloodline : Aberrant - Archetype : Primalist or Steelblood - Weapon : Bardiche - Full plate.

    Okay so with that what I'm trying to do is using the reach of the Aberration bloodline at my advantage on the field (Abnormal Reach) and the Bardiche is pretty good with that 1D10 19-20 x2 crit REACH (that you can make even more badass with Keen or Improved critical), so you have way more reach later like WAY more reach.

    Movement improved too with the class and the buffs of the Rage and buffs of the Sorcerer (any spell like enlarge, shield... and the Aberrant tumor too), Merfolk has already freaking good stats +2 DEX +2 CON +2 CHA.

    So I was thinking it might be juste freaking good all of this and Tentacle + Merfolk = Lovecraft heroes, with super reach bonus on the map and can be very deadly warrior. Just don't know if I can make it even more good like adding cleave etc or dip into another class :/

    1. It would be pretty strong! Merfolk is a great races, and its bonuses work perfectly with what you are trying to accomplish.

    2. Thks ! Wasn't sure about that I always doubt my weird build :/ Thks again for this great site and the answer to my comment !

  2. With sorcerer, can't you mitigate the speed problem using Overland Flight, come level nine?

    1. Sure - but that's 8 levels that you don't have it.

    2. Just use mount and swap it out later for a better spell