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Watercolor of a merperson with pale skin and a red, gold, and blue fish tail sitting on a large rock on the ocean floor. Their back is to the viewer and their blue, green, and gold hair is sweeping through the water in a graceful curve that obscures their face. Beyond them, a shipwreck sits on the ocean floor. This watercolor was created by R-region.


Overview: Merpeople are a sapient, part-human and part-fish, aquatic species. They can breathe both water and air, and regularly use wheelchairs for mobility on land.

Physical Description: Merpeople have a humanoid upper body and a fish tail. How human-looking their upper body is varies from population to population. Some groups have entirely human-like upper bodies, while others are much more fish-like, with fins, scales, and webbed hands.

The scales of most merpeople are in shades of silver and blue, but a significant number have the vibrant coloring and patterns of coral reef fish. Similarly, many merpeople have simple, stream-lined tails, but a significant number have tails with dramatic fins, spines, and other appendages. Most merpeople have hair, or something hair-like, such as fins or tentacles, growing on their heads.

Most merpeople can transition quickly between breathing water and air, and can live in both saltwater and freshwater. How long a merperson can stay out of water varies more widely. Quite a few merpeople need to keep their skin moist to prevent injury and are sensitive to heat and dry environments.

Mobility on Land: Most merpeople use wheelchairs to get around on land, giving them the same physical access needs as other wheelchair users. Wheelchair accessible buildings need ramps, wide doors, room to maneuver, elevators (or the magical equivalent), and grab bars. Hardware and utilities, like door handles and countertops, will need to be at useable heights and have ample leg room. You can find a detailed checklist here.

Those merpeople going adventuring on land will want something similar to the Combat Wheelchair, which was created by Sara Thompson for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons. It is a fantasy wheelchair designed to handle the challenges of adventuring. It is based on the wheelchairs used for basketball and rugby, and what it can do is grounded in the details of how real wheelchairs work.

Senses: Compared to humans, most merpeople have enhanced senses that they use to navigate in the dim, and sometimes cloudy, aquatic depths. In addition, a significant number merpeople have echolocation, telepathy, or other special traits that they use to navigate and stay in contact with others.

Diet: Most merpeople eat fresh fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Even with magic, cooking can only be done safely on land, so cooked food is rare. Fermentation is the main form of underwater food preservation, and many merpeople enjoy a wide array of fermented food and sauces.

Common Mental Characteristics: Merpeople have human-like minds, including the full range of mental diversity that humans have.

Magical Affinities:

  • Water Magic
  • Sensing Magic
  • Communication Magic
  • Animal Magic
  • Plant Magic
  • Weather Magic
  • Summoning Magic

Common Species Traits:

  • Amphibious
  • Skill Aptitude: Swimming
  • Heightened Senses
  • Addition Sense: Echolocation
  • Telepathy
  • Animal Talker: Fish, Amphibians, or Invertebrates
  • Enchanting Song

Common Vulnerabilities:

  • Moist Skin
  • Heat Sensitivity
  • Specific Damage Vulnerability: Fire
  • Sensory Sensitivity
  • Light Sensitive Eyes

Prominent Cultures: Aquatic cultures are just as diverse as those on land. Being the most numerous aquatic species, merpeople are at the center of many of these different cultures.

Clothing: Because clothing gets in the way of swimming, most merpeople wear little to no clothing. The everyday clothing that merpeople do wear tends to be simple, close-fitting, and easy to move in. Clothing for special occasions, however, is usually designed to trail dramatically through the water.

Respectful Portrayal Note: Please keep in mind that a non-disabled merperson who uses a wheelchair won’t have the same experience as a disabled wheelchair user. A non-disabled merperson is by definition not disabled. While they are having a disabled experience—the experience of being a wheelchair user—they don’t have to live with any of the other things that come with being disabled. For example, they don’t have to contend with ableist stigma, lack of power over healthcare, triggers, flare-ups, chronic pain, or any other aspects of disability.

Being clear about the difference between a non-disabled character with a disabled experience and the full experience of being disabled is important. Without this distinction, it is easy to accidentally erase the lived experience of what it means to be disabled.


Merpeople are part of the Crossroads Setting for the tabletop role-playing game, Magic Goes Awry. Click here to go to the list of vibrant and unique magical people from the Land of Crossroads.


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