Merfolk of Golarion. That is a book I would love to read. I mean they have elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, humans, and kobolds. Did they not learn with Bastards of Golarion that sometimes having too many races in one player companion makes for a not so good book. Not saying Bastards is a bad book, it is still one of my favorites, but they could have done more with it. With the next adventure path, Ruins of Azlant, has a lot of aquatic adventures, hopefully. I really hope that it can be run while playing aquatic races but it does not seem that way in the descriptions. In June, Paizo is putting out the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures. In July, Paizo is putting out the Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea. Now the campaign settings are usually bigger books and they can fit a lot in them so I am looking forward to see what they put in that for the merfolk settlements. This sounds like too much to me considering the size of those books “ Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea explores the mystical paths and strange abilities of seaborn adventurers—and those who hunt them. Discover the secrets of aquatic elves, gillmen, merfolk, tritons and more. New magic items aid aquatic characters in adventuring on land and take land-dwelling characters into the mysterious deep, while new spells grant mastery over the waters. A host of other new archetypes, feats, and more allow characters of all types to infuse themselves with the power of the sea. “ I mean what a two page spread each for aquatic elves, gillmen, merfolk, tritons, and others, plus a two page spread for new magic items and/or spells. A two page spread for “those who hunt them” which are most likely the non-aquatic races. That right there is the entire book. The new archetypes and feats will have to be woven into those main categories. I want a book just on merfolk!
With the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures there are things I really hope they include. According to one developer “ it's just a 64-pager. Half of the book is a gazetteer of Golarion's oceans and seas, and the other half gets into the rules for underwater combat and provides some fun new options.” Since there will be no fire underwater, and humans are a fire based species as much as an air based one, the differences between how things work needs to be addressed. How are weapons forged? How are potions and alchemical items in flasks bottled without sea water contaminating the mixtures? How does a wizard, magus, or alchemist keep a spellbook or formula book, the ink would run, the paper would get wet and break down?
Off Topic idea, in the discussion for the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Aquatic Adventures they discuss the lakes, especially Lake Encarthan. Lake Encarthan is another thing that could easily have a book all on its own. I mean it is a huge, freshwater body of water, lake means freshwater sea means saltwater, with seven nations along its banks, Druma, Kyonin, Lastwall, Molthune, Nirmathas, Razmiran, and Ustalav. People of the North combined three different kingdoms, Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Realm of the Mammoth Lords, and Irrisen. Granted some of the nations around Lake Encarthan have been discussed before, Kyonin was discussed in Elves of Golarion as that is their homeland and Bastards of Golarion for half-elves, but that in no way means a medium-sized book focused on Lake Encarthan would not be an interesting idea. Perhaps a full adventure path that goes to each of the countries, somehow fitting two into one book. Wait, now I am giving away my RPG Superstar ideas.
Back to the merfolk. Merfolk are very xenophobic but yet are on friendly terms with aboleth. They keep animal companions too and thus by extension familiars. In fact two of the three favored classes for merfolk in the advanced race guide are druid and rangers, both of which have animal companions. It makes sense for them to have familiars too as opposed to spellbooks, thinking along the lines of the unlettered arcanist. I just do not see how the merfolk can be friendly with aboleth. Aboleth are aberrations, evil alright lawful evil, and have tried to destroy the world of Golarion once already, see Earthfall. The only thing I can think of is the fact that Aboleth have created some aquatic races, including skum and ceratioidi, which means they may have made merfolk too or at least some Aboleth cults are stating that. Aboleth in their own language translates to “Owner”, “Master”, or even “God” so it is easy to see how the Aboleth see themselves. Yet merfolk will willingly serve Aboleth. I cannot wrap my head around it and I hope that in one of the upcoming nine books, seven for the adventure path plus the other two mentioned previously in this post, somehow this relationship is explained.
Onto happy thoughts, bright colors. The reason I love the gnomes with Pathfinder is they are offshoots of the fey and they have bright colored hair, like troll dolls, and their skin can have colored hues as well. Same with the merfolk, their hair and scales can come in a wide variety of colors and hues, to summarize the Advanced Race Guide. Their upper body, torso, head, and arms, is humanoid, generally described as human or elven in build, while their lower body is that of a large, long fish. I love choosing bright colors for character creation. I use the manga hair color meanings for hair, or I roll 1d10 if I am in a random mood, and I use an aura color chart, randomly rolling 2d20, for eyes and gnome skin tone. I can do the same thing with the merfolk but I like to roll 1d4 first because I like multicolored tails. Snakes do not have one color for their scales nor do most fish. Sometimes the colors are very similar. Sometimes they are not. Yes, I realize that I can get a one on a 1d4 and thus have single colored tail too. I just like the options of having bright colors in the fantasy setting. I also know that “Despite the potential variety in the race's appearance, merfolk in shared habitats tend to boast similar pigmentation” unlike gnomes. The most I have done so far for a grouping of merfolk has been a caravan so this has yet to really become an issue.
Speaking now on the caravan, it is interesting how the bestiary entry for merfolk has a maximum of 71 with:
patrol (3–10 plus 2 lieutenants of 3rd level and 1 leader of 3rd–6th level),
or shoal (11–60 plus 1 sergeant of 3rd level per 20 adults, 5 lieutenants of 5th level, 3 captains of 7th level, and 8–12 dolphins)
Meanwhile the sahuagin, with which the merfolk share Outsea which is in itself a great settlement, have bands and tribes of higher numbers, but a patrol of a maximum twenty-one. Eleven to twenty plus a lieutenant for a patrol of sahuagin.
band (20–80 plus 100% noncombatants, 1 lieutenant of 3rd level and 1 chieftain of 4th level per 20 adults, and 1–2 sharks), or
tribe (70–160 plus 100% noncombatants, 1 lieutenant of 3rd level per 20 adults, 1 chieftain of 4th level per 40 adults, 9 guards of 4th level, 1–4 under-priestesses of 3rd–6th level, 1 priestess of 7th level, 1 baron of 6th–8th level, and 5–8 sharks)
Making me wonder why the low numbers for merfolk? Merfolk do have settlements beyond Outsea, Stormshoal, Jehyseel, and Chosovosei at least. Chosovosei is supposed to be a small city, in game terms that means a population of five to ten thousand.
The comparison of patrols is most interesting to me. Eleven to twenty plus a lieutenant for a patrol of sahuagin compared to three to ten plus two lieutenants of 3rd level and a leader of 3rd–6th level totaling six to thirteen for merfolk. So for the sahuagin lets roll 1d10+10 and for the merfolk 1d8+2 and let the patrols battle it out…