Mermaids Revisited: A PC Playable Race for D&D’s 5th Edition (Ver. 2.0)

We've been using these rules in our home game for months, but I've only just gotten around to writing them up for you. We see that you've been reading our original Mermaid article, so hopefully you'll like the revision.

Mermaids from ancient myth...

The new article builds on what came before while laying out four subspecies of mermaid -- tropical, river, arctic, and deep. All of this was my daughter's idea, hence the update. She's currently playing an arctic mermaid.

Find the PDF version of this article here (via Google Docs).  

Mermaids Revisited: A PC Playable Race for D&D’s 5th Edition
Go into any seaside shanty tavern, and you’ll hear tales of mermaids, the beautiful but sometimes deadly sirens of the sea. But though legends of merfolk have spread far and wide across the Known World, the sad reality is that few sailors have ever actually seen a mermaid, much less met one. Merfolk are a rare and often shy people.

Beautiful Curiosities

C:\Users\headd\Desktop\Fighting Mermaid.jpgMerfolk tend to be private and even insular by nature, though a rare few tropical mermaids can become curious or even obsessed with the World Above. While legend has it that mermaids enjoy using their songs to lure sailors to their deaths, the truth is not quite so clear cut. In fact, most merfolk live in fear surface dwellers and desire only to be left alone. To one of the Mer, the surface can be a Hellscape of unrelenting light and heat inhabited by many sharp hooks and dangerous predators. Though many merfolk enjoy basking in the sun on warm summer days, this is known amongst the people to be a daring and sometimes dangerous pastime. Similarly, though some few merfolk do indeed take delight in the misfortunes of surface sailors, few will actually risk the surface to lead ships and men to their doom.
Still, sailors account themselves lucky when they spy a mermaid. The Mer are uniformly beautiful and widely possessed of the most wondrous voices. It’s rare but not unheard of to hear them singing on the rocks near outlying coastal communities, especially when the weather is nice.
All merfolk have the upper bodies similar to those of humans. Most have lower bodies like those of large fish. However, some few may have lower bodies of different kinds, such as sharks, giant octopi, or even jellyfish, depending on their subspecies.

Surface Scouts

Because the surface world presents a potential danger to merfolk, mer elders will occasionally send scouts into the World Above to spy on humanity and the other surface races. Such spies require special soul talismans, rare but well-known magic among merfolk, to transform their tails into bipedal legs. Once transformed, a mermaid may appear as either a human or a sea elf, depending upon her desire. Merfolk scouts in human form often have a slightly blue or greenish tint to their skin or hair.

Mermaid Weapons & Armor

Merfolk disdain slashing and bludgeoning weapons because such weapons are difficult to use underwater. Similarly, most merfolk will not wear mundane metal armor or carry metal weapons because such weapons tend to corrode or rust. Even magical weapons and armor can prove ill-suited to the harsh conditions of brackish undersea life.
Instead, merfolk warriors tend to prefer the spear, the trident, the net, and the pike (polearm). They generally wear shark hide or natural scalemail armor of various kinds, and they prize armor that has been made from the scales of a hydra, bronze or black dragon, or similar apex aquatic predator. Merfolk also prize mithral weapons and armor because these are both lightweight and highly resistant to corrosion.


Merfolk can reproduce with other merfolk and with surface-dwellers according to the form they hold. Such a union produces a sylph. Sylphs appear broadly similar to the surface parent, though they are generally paler of complexion, and they usually have a slightly blue-green tint to their skin or hair.
Slyphs are statistically similar to half-elves, but they are naturally amphibious where half-elves are born of Fey Ancestry. Sylphs also possess a natural swimming speed of 20 feet. They substitute Aquan for Elvish in their language proficiencies.

Mermaid Traits

Despite their myriad differences, all merfolk share some common traits.
Ability Score Increase. A mer’s Charisma score increases by 2.
Age. Mermaids age at the same rate as humans.
Alignment. Merfolk can be either good or evil; they are rarely neutral. Some mer view the surface world as an interesting curiosity. Others see it as an imminent threat and surface-dwelling sailors as uninvited interlopers into a world in which they do not belong.
Size. Merfolk are size medium creatures. With their tales fully extended, they may get up to 7 feet long. They vary in weight. Male mer warriors can go as large as 200 pounds or more.
Speed. Merfolk have a base swimming speed of 35 feet. Without the use of a soul talisman, however, they are nearly immobile on land. They can slide up to 10 feet but treat dry ground as difficult terrain. Merfolk in human form have a swim speed of 20 feet.
Amphibious. Merfolk can breathe freely in the air and underwater.
Language. Merfolk can read, write, and speak Aquan and Common.
Low-light Vision. Merfolk have low-light vision out to 60 feet and can see in darkness as if it were dim light.
Mer Weapons Training. The net, spear, and trident are considered simple weapons for merfolk, and merfolk can also use a half-length spear as a finesse weapon. Such a spear loses the thrown property.

Tropical Mermaids

When one typically thinks of mermaids, the mermaids that most often come to mind are tropical mermaids. Also sometimes called “solar” mermaids, tropical mer tend to live nearest and interact most with the surface world.  They generally live in large towns or even cities nestled into reefs or within large kelp beds in relatively shallow, well-lit waters. Tropical merfolk generally fish the same waters as humans and other sea-faring races and often have direct, open relations with sea elves. Tropical merfolks are by far the most apt to send scouts into human settlements with soul talismans and to attempt to keep abreast of events in the World Above. They have coloring most like that of the surface world, so a tropical mermaid in human form is virtually indistinguishable from a legitimate human.
This does not mean that tropical merfolk are not dangerous or even deadly. Indeed, it is the tropical mermaid’s song that is the most apt to lure unwary sailors to their doom. When they venture forth, tropical mer typically go as bards and occasionally as rogues.
Ability Score Increase. A tropical mer’s Dexterity score increases by 1.
Mind-altering Magic. Tropical mer know the Friends cantrip. When they reach 3rd level, they can cast Charm Person as a 1st level spell once per day. Once they reach 5th level, they can also cast Suggestion once per day. Charisma is their spellcasting ability for these spells. They must be able to sing in order to use their innate magic.
Extra Language. Tropical mer can speak, read, and write Elven in addition to Common and Aquan.

River Mermaids

While most merfolk live in salty, brackish water, so-called “river” merfolk typically live in freshwater. River merfolk tend to settle in small, insular communities, often hidden deep in freshwater swamps or at the bottoms of the widest, deepest rivers. River merfolk may have some trade with lizardfolk, goblins, or even bullywugs, but they disdain humans and elves and will work with and interact with such creatures only in the most extreme circumstances.
River mer have skin tones ranging from tan or brown to deep, forest green. Their hair is similarly colored but typically darker, ranging from golden to almost black. Where tropical merfolk tend to come ashore as bards or entertainers, river mer are much more apt to see themselves as druids or caretakers of the land.
Ability Score Increase. A river mer’s Wisdom score increases by 1.
Natural Magic. River merfolk know the cantrip Shape Water. Once they reach 3rd level, they can also cast Speak with Animals as a 1st level spell once per day.
Voluntary Transformation. Of all merfolk, river mer are the only subspecies that can transform into their bipedal form at-will without the use of a soul talisman. River mer can appear as humans or with scales like lizardfolk according to their surroundings.
Extra Language. River mer can speak, read, and write one additional language in addition to Common and Aquan. This language is either Goblin or Draconic.

Arctic Mermaids

Arctic merfolk are a fierce, tribal people living far from civilization, deep in the frozen vastness of the Great Northern Ice. Tribes of arctic mer typically follow seal or walrus migrations, hunting and trapping in the harshest imaginable conditions. Thus, arctic mer are the toughest, most-warlike of all merfolk.  They generally mistrust and disdain humankind as soft and over-civilized. Indeed, arctic mer may even hunt humans for sport.
Arctic merfolk tend to have skin complexions ranging from pale white to bluish white to deep, vibrant royal blue. Their hair ranges from pale white to navy, and they are generally quite fond of trophies and trinkets, especially sea lion or walrus tusks. Unlike other merfolk, arctic merfolk tend to have lower halves resembling those of sharks.
When they venture forth, arctic merfolk most often go as barbarians or rangers. Some few trade with and train alongside sea or wild elves, learning even the most esoteric of elven fighting techniques.
Ability Score Increase. An arctic mer’s Strength score increases by 1.
Arctic Survivor. Arctic merfolk gain proficiency with Survival.
Frozen Habitat. Arctic merfolk are comfortable in conditions that would sicken or kill other subspecies of merfolk. Arctic mer can live comfortably in freezing conditions and have resistance to cold damage, even from magical sources.
Ice Magic. Arctic merfolk know the cantrip Shape Water. Once they reach 3rd level, they can also cast Absorb Elements as a 1st level spell once per day.

Deep Mermaids

The rarest of all mer, deep mermaids live in the darkest parts of the ocean, way down in lightless spaces along the very ocean floor itself. Deep mer typically live in caves or caverns, some of which connect to the underdark or to other, less mundane planes of existence. Unlike other merfolk, deep mer have bottom halves like octopi or jellyfish, making them visually distinct from other merfolk. Deep mer skin is typically either purple or black or else pale, almost luminescent white. Their hair can be either a deep, almost burgundy red or pale white like their skin. Most deep mer wear their hair short.
Of all merfolk, deep mer have the strongest tendency towards evil. They often seek to entrap or enslave surface mer, especially tropical mer, whom they view as weak-willed and inferior. In rare cases, deep mer may even sacrifice their victims in demonic rites intended to please or placate the foul gods of the deep.
Deep mer are apt to use arcane or eldritch magic and to make pacts with extra-planar entities. They generally attack humans and other surface-dwellers on sight, both from fear and hatred and as a means of gaining knowledge and power over the surface world.
Ability Score Increase. A deep mer’s Intelligence score increases by 1.
Superior Darkvision. Deep mer have darkvision out to 120 feet.
Deep Magic. Deep mer know the cantrip Minor Illusion. When they reach 3rd level, they can also cast Disguise Self as a 1st level spell once per day. Once they reach 5th level, they can cast Darkness once per day. Charisma is their spellcasting ability for these spells.
Extra Language. Deep mer can speak, read, and write one additional language in addition to Common and Aquan. This language is either Abyssal, Infernal, or Undercommon.


  1. Love the subraces! Thanks for sharing these.

    1. Thank you! It was all my daughter’s design, but we appreciate the thought.

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. My sister-in-law loves mermaids and she's new to DnD. This made making her wish come true.


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