Reviewing random TTRPGs out of the Trans Rights for Texas Bundle No.2
Author: Shawn Pommier
Artists: Shawn Pommier, Kiril Tchangov, Lluis Abadias, caffeinsystem, Aekashics
Publisher: Eldritch Dream Games
Merfolk is a race expansion pamphlet for Pathfinder 2e. It’s short, about 11 pages, but contains everything you need to play as a mermaid. Including a few options for subraces, a whole bunch of custom feats, and enough items/equipment to get you started in an underwater campaign. Overall, I found the content to be poorly laid out and uninspired. Even if you really like mermaids, there is probably a better product out there for you.
Reviewing trans rights for Texas bundle
I recently got the Trans Rights for Texas Bundle. It’s a huge package of TTRPGs, so I’m rolling dice to randomly select games and deep-diving them. I hope this will help other people find stuff they wouldn’t have looked at otherwise.
This is the second review I’ve done and it’s the second time I’ve come up with homebrew for a DnD style game. I’ve never played 2e, so I can’t give an opinion on the balance of the ruleset, but I like the idea of playing as merfolk. I was genuinely curious as to how they were going to differentiate a mermaid setting from a more standard medieval fantasy campaign. Unfortunately, the answer was not a lot.
The first thing that I noticed when flipping through this product is that the layout and design are not top-notch. If you don’t care about presentation, that’s fine. It just makes the product look amateurish (Hey, I’m an amateur too.)
Art is high quality, but not cohesive
The first thing I want to say is that the book has a lot of art, and all of it is good. There are evocative illustrations on every page. But the style bounces between highly rendered and more cartoony. Also, none of the art feels Bespoke. Like, the pictures never feel like they fully match up with what’s being described on the page. I know that I’m nitpicking, but I would have preferred less skilled artists with a vision for the product.
Readability is low
So, my bigger complaint about the design has to do with the text of this pamphlet. The text is small and feels cluttered. Adding some extra white space would make reading a lot more comfortable. Additionally, there are awkward page breaks that force you to flip back and forth to read a single ability.
Both things could be overlooked on their own. However, parts of the PDF have an effect like they have been water damaged and it’s just frustrating enough that it really draws attention to all the other ways the layout feels hostel to the reader. I’d say it was clever given the subject matter. Except it feels more accidental than intentional, and it’s irritating to have small text on a bright computer background get blurry in the middle of a sentence.
The pamphlet starts out with a description of mermaids, and why you might want to choose one as an adventurer. Pretty good stuff here. The lore makes sense and brings some new ideas to the trope. Mermaids are wanders, suspicious of outsiders, and place equal value on artistic beauty and martial prowess. There is also a good variety of stats and descriptions of multiple Heritages (Pathfinder term for subraces) each with their own twist on the culture and lore. I think the Cephalopod merfolk is the most interesting, allowing players to swap out their tails for tentacles. I love the idea of playing Ursala with weapons in each of her tentacles!
This section is good. I wish it was longer because there are only two pages of content here. Most of the rest of the book is taken up by feats, which I wasn’t as impressed with.
I know that Pathfinder has a lot of feats. I still think this pamphlet has too many for the size of this product. There is almost no room for anything except for the feats section. In addition to taking up too much space, a lot of them feel uninspired. Extra movement speed, extra attacks, etcetera. Maybe that’s just part of how pathfinder is played, but it makes for boring reading The two interesting feats that I found were bioluminescence and an ability that extends the length of time a creature can hold their breath by blowing into their mouth. I have to admit, making out with a drowning person to keep them alive feels like a very mermaid thing to do.
Crafting and equipment
The very last section of this book contains rules on crafting and gathering, as well as a few underwater items and equipment you can make. I think that’s a great idea. Mermaids are described as artisans who value creation and beauty. It makes sense that they would be able to take what they need from the sea as they travel vast expanses. Additionally, it solves a mechanical problem that a lot of standard items and equipment just aren’t going to hold up underwater for very long. Unfortunately, this section is a bit anemic. Mostly what it does is let you swap out metal items for coral variations with the same stats. There is one item, Bioluminescent tattoo ink, which I think is the best idea in the whole book. That’s a very clever idea and I would have loved some more oddball rules like that to infuse this book with a sense of setting and tone.
This book doesn’t do enough to support the theme or style of play that a Merfolk race implies. I really would have liked to see the creators have more fun with the feats section, especially since it takes up more than half the length of the product. The crafting section was a good idea but feels rushed to me. I wish they had spent some more time developing it. I’d also had loved a short section with some general advice for running an underwater campaign. Maybe include some optional rules to smooth out underwater combat, or to make 3-dimensional movement easier to keep track of. Or really, just anything to make merfolk feels different from other generic fantasy races.