Nereid Race Details
Nereids are a complex people made up of many races and nations. But much like you could get a bizarre view of land-bound society if the only individuals you ever saw were fisherman, landfolk only get to see a small subset of nereids- a subset made up of those warriors or free spirits who find business with the surface world, and those unlucky enough to be nabbed by surface raiders and raised in a life of slavery.
A nereid resembles a streamlined elf with webbed toes and fingers, fins that fold flat along their forearms and calves when they are out of the water, and bluish or greenish skin that is smooth and slick like a dolphin’s. Their facial features are sharp, with pointed ears and large eyes adapted to see underwater. They can speak in intelligible Aquan when underwater, a language that sounds similar to whalesong sped up, but their mouths are also capable of breathing above the water and speaking in surface tongues (though few ever bother to learn any).
A Different World
Nereids live beneath the waves in a world all their own. They have their own societies, histories, and gods that hardly intersect with the world above. While humans mingle with elves and dwarves, nereids coexist with merfolk, dolphins, and undine. They fight skirmishes with sahuagin and morkoth, make treaties with mighty kraken, and drive magalodons from their fishing waters. Some estimate that undersea folk in fact outnumber the combined throngs of those who live above the waves, and with so little contact between the two worlds it is hard to prove the case one way or the other.
Nereids live in a house-based society, with each house roughly devoted to a particular job in society. Each house also has a totem animal from which the house members are said to draw inspiration and strength. Nereids choose which house to swear themselves to when they reach the age of adulthood, 100 years (to the day, though they use a lunar calendar to reckon years). Before this time they traditionally spend many years exploring a number of houses and professions, and adventurers are usually drawn from those nereids undergoing this extended young adulthood.
Unlike most sea peoples, nereids are perfectly capable of living outside of the water (though it is about as uncomfortable for them as an elf attempting to live underground). Most never bother. What is the point? They have everything they could want or need in the ocean, and the surface is the domain of barbarians.
Clashes with Land Dwellers
In fact it is an unfortunate truth that the majority of encounters between nereids and surface dwellers are deadly, or at least unpleasant. In some places, especially those where land society is small and coexists with the sea rather than exploiting it, there can be peaceful relations, even trade. Legends of nereids saving fishermen lost at sea, even falling in love with them, usually come from such idyllic locales, especially the coral reef homes of the halia nereids.
But these fairytale encounters are rare and, for most sailors, you are much more likely to be drowned by a passing nereid than saved. In older times, landfolk thought of the nereids as rarities, or as savages with no more organization than a band of goblin thieves. For their part, nereids saw land people as distant irrelevances crippled by an inability to breathe proper water. But as canoes turned into triremes and fishing lines into trawler nets, the nereids and their allies were forced to respond decisively before their ocean home was despoiled. Hundreds of years of skirmishes and piracy followed.
Nereids Above the Waves
So why would a nereid leave its home? The most straightforward reason is to serve as an envoy to the surface with a particular mission, perhaps to deliver a message to a queen, or to seek justice for crimes committed by a surface-dweller. Such nereids tend to be disdainful of land dwellers. They have brittle prides and passionate tempers, but they are usually honorable. A nereid warrior’s ethos leads her to disregard insults by those that she considers below her in martial prowess, while demanding violent satisfaction for disrespect shown by a near-equal. In fact, a nereid warrior choosing to ignore a provocation is a calculated insult in itself; disregarding someone’s insolence implies that they are so insignificant that they deserve no attention.
Other nereids adventure because they have been banished from their home, to look for knowledge on land that can’t be found at sea, to repay a debt they owe to someone, or to simply make a living as a mercenary. Some unfortunate nereids are taken by land-dwellers during skirmishes at sea and then sold inland as slaves, where they are particularly valued as fishing slaves or to harvest aquatic resources like herbs or pearls. Escaped slaves may not know how to get home, or nereids from the ocean might be encountered as they search for a loved one who was taken inland into slavery.
Nereids have a distinctive appearance and customs that are strange to those who live on land, and in coastal regions especially there is plenty of bad feeling toward a race known for striking suddenly and enigmatically and then fading beneath the waves without a trace. Inland they actually have an easier time. Their unusual appearance may draw plenty eyes, but there are fewer who have reason to hold a grudge against nereids, or even know what they are. nereids on the surface often complain about how heavy the air makes them feel, how dry and bright the sun is, and how wind dries out their skin. They find many surface customs strange including, curiously, the concept of cooking food. Underwater there are few chances to light fires, so almost all classic nereid cuisine is done raw.
Nereid names can only properly be pronounced by someone who is fluent in Aquan and, ideally, underwater. On land they may use versions of their names mauled and flattened to fit an airbreather’s tongue, or they may adapt new ones altogether. Traditionally Nereid names form a short poem or evocative phrase, a custom observed faithfully by halia and stygian nereids but falling slowly out of favor among the cosmopolitan pelagians.
Male Names: Drake, Typhon
Clan Names: Aaruobua (hammerhead shark), Bogborru (island turtle), Mimu (seahorse), Obrollidli (orca), Ugurruba (octopus), Zyllyxtyx (gulper eel)
Nereid TraitsIncrease +2 to Charisma, +1 to Dexerity, Water Breathing, Darkvision, Slippery
Ability Score Increase
Your Charisma score increases by 2. And your Dexerity score increases by 1.
Nereids are theorized to be distant relations to elves, and they have the long lifespans to back it up. Nereids reach adult size within about 20 years of being born, but are only acknowledged as adults once they reach 100 years of age and choose a clan and an adult name. They can live to about 700 years of age.
Nereids in their homewaters tend toward complacency and orthodoxy, and are often lawful. Travelling nereids on the surface are more likely to be risk-takers and outcasts of some stripe, and so tend towards chaotic alignments. Morality-wise they are as diverse as humanity, and there are very good, very evil, and neutral members of the race to be found
Nereids walk awkwardly, but swim with graceful ease. Your walking speed is 25 feet, but you have a swim speed of 40 feet.
Nereids are slightly taller than humans, but tend to be thinner and weigh less than a human of the same height. An exception is the pelagians, who are built more solidly even than the average human, and stygians, who range in height from 4 and a half to 6 feet tall. All nereids are medium sized.
Nereids are at home in the water, though they can survive outside it. You can breathe underwater. While not immersed, you must drink about 4 times as much per day as a human or become dehydrated, suffering disadvantage to dexterity checks (including initiative rolls).
Nereids have especially smooth and slick skin, the better to escape the ocean's many predators. You have advantage on saves made to avoid being grappled or restrained, and advantage on checks made to escape being held, shackled, or otherwise physically bound.
Due to your ability to swim in the dark, you have the ability to see with darkvision; similar to an elf's sight
Due to Nereids being nymphs created by Poseidon, their bodies can handle the pressures of the sea. Due to this, they cannot suffer the same effects other humanoids take while swimming, as they're adept in the water
Nereids are able yo speak common, but not well. Their main language is Aquan