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Lets just say, someone's been fooling around with Genetics and in the same manner that Vagyr were created to be wolf-humanoids, someone tried a similar experiment to create the mythological Merfolk. The creature that ends up being created is as intelligent as a human, has gills and a fish tail, and is cold blooded. The fish tail part of the Merfolk doesn't have scales and its tail is oriented horizontal like a dolphin. The cold-bloodedness helps the merfolk use less oxygen. To compensate for this, the merfolk were settled on a tropical ocean planet whose almost entire underwater surface is the terrestrial equivalent of a continental shelf. The global ocean is shallow in most places, and only in a few places does the surface rise above water. There are underwater forests as well, these forests are composed of trees that are genetically engineered land trees adapted to an underwater existance. From these merfolk make tools and weapons (TL0), and the wood is water saturated and so doesn't float. Since the merfolk cannot harness fire, they are stuck at TL0, but one other thing, all Merfolk have the Psionic talent of telepathy, some have gone on from there and mastered other disapplines, but telepathy is common among all merfolk, whose vocal cords don't work underwater.

Some humans have settled the Island chains of this planet. The planet is called Aquatia, and it is located in the America Sector that I'm creating. Also I might mention that the merfolk are completly hairless, hair tends to get in the way when one is underwater and increases drag.

So what do you think, is this a plausible Traveller Race?
I imagine the warm/cold blood part would be the most daunting challenge. I do not have access to T20 (if you do, you may find that you still like your version better - or you might decide that both races fit your Traveller universe, perhaps as variants of the same theme) but if I created merfolk for Traveller I'm not sure how to get past warm blood. If you have a way worked out for that, however, then no problem. The TL0 idea is very good BTW, also if they have webbed hands that too would tend to slow technological development (imagine working with tiny screws and electronics with webbed hands).

Telepathy would IMHO be necessary for underwater communication, unless some other method (like whales/dolphins) were incorporated by the bio-engineers. But I like the idea of a (seemingly) silent race that speaks only with their minds (at least underwater).

Perhaps these merfolk come from the labs that brought us the Jonkereen.
There are T20 Merfolk? They don't seem to be in the Traveller Handbook, what book can they be found in? Its easy enough to use the stats for D&D Merfolk and adjust them slightly for use in T20. I suppose they could fashion tools with flint and cut off branches from underwater trees, or use animal bones to make spear shafts. Thrusting weapons seem to work best underwater. Also the human form isn't the best suited for swimming through water, even if you replace its legs with a fish tail. To swim through water, one must make one's body horizontal, but the human body is designed to be vertical. Try this exercise, stand straight up and look straight up, if you do this for a while your neck gets stiff. Now imagine your doing this all the time, your legs are a fish tail and instead of being beneath you your tail is out behind you so it can push you forward through the water. I think it would be helpful if you had a more flexible neck than a human's or perhaps even a longer neck so you can bend it backwards more or perhaps even look up while you are swimming. A seal, for instance has a flexible neck, this prevents predators from ambushing it from above.

The planet Merfolk live on is warm, most of its ocean waters have temperatures of 80 degrees F and above. A merfolk's biochemistry is designed to be tollerant or a wider temperature range than a humans, if it ends up in cooler waters, its body temperature drops and it becomes lethargic, though it can tollerate cold water for short periods as body temperature takes a while to match that of the surrounding water, this sort of limits the depths it can dive too. Fortunately most of this planet's waters a shallow with the exception of some trenches and areas near the poles. Merfolk live in temperate and tropical waters and the planet has no seasonal variation. Now if merfolk ever want to advance their tech level beyond 0, they need help from a land dwelling species, such as humans. the few islands that dot this planet's oceans are quite hospitable, and total land area is about 4% with the other 96% being oceans.

As I said before, Merfolk are natural Psions, they all have these powers from the Telepathy sphere, Shield, Life Detection, Telempathy, Read Surface Thought, Send Thoughts all at rank 5. These talents have no duration limits, if used at Medium range, as the Merfolk use this ability as their natural form of communication. If the Merfolk use these abilities at long or very long range, normal duration limits apply. The psionic point costs also only apply if these talents are used at greater than medium range (6 to 50 meters), otherwise to them it is as natural as talking or listening. All Merfolk, regardless of age roll 3d6 for their spionic strength, they are born with these capabilities and do not require training. With additional training, some Merfolk can aquire other talents besides these. merfolk have a similar range of emotions as humans and their minds operate on a similar level, they are tool users and have perfected some stone age technology, some have learned human forms of writing. If a human near the shore picks up a book are starts reading, a Merfolk in the water nearby can listen in mentally. The read surface thoughts ability also applies to mental images, so the merfolk can actually see through the humans eyes and see the words on the page as the human mentally reads each one. (This is all within a 50-foot of range however) The Merfolk can also project thoughts and mental images into the humans head. Generally this is easiest to do when the human is asleep and in a dream state, otherwise it takes the form of a "daydream" or so it seems to the human.

The humans in this region of space have something called the "Prime Directive" named after an Ancient Terran television show, the law states that interference in primitive cultures is illegal. However the humans have inhabited the Merfolk's homeworld for some time before the Merfolk were actually discovered, and when they were discovered, the humans reasoned that since the Merfolk live in the oceans and humans on dry land, living on their planet was thus permissable and didn't in itself constitute a violation of the "Prime Directive" as the legislation is commonly known by. The psionic talents of the Merfolk were not realized until sometime later, and the humans living there had by that time befriended the Merfolk, and the Federal Authorities chose to look the other way and ignore the Prime Directive in this instance, as knowing a race with the ability to read minds can be advantageous.

The situation is thus, the Merfolk need the humans to advance their tech levels, as they cannot build fires or work metals by themselves. The humans are willing to trade advanced technologies (especially adapted for underwater use), in exchange for employing the psionic services of the Merfolk, and with the Zhodani nearby, it helps to have a population of natural psions available to counter Zhodani influence in the region. With some difficulty, a starship can be filled with water and its controls water sealed so merfolk can operate them. Other robotic devices allow the Merfolk to move about on land and through the air.
Originally posted by Jeff M. Hopper:
Its been done already. Part of T20.
No, that is not true.

The minor human race included in T20 are the Luriani, who are amphibious. However, they still breathe air, have legs, have hair, and are warm-blooded. They are more like porpoise-people, not fish-people.

The closest thing in Traveller to what is being looked for are the Nexies. They are mentioned in Supplement 3 and in GT:Behind the Claw. They are detailed in GT:Humaniti (though are one of the weakest races in the book). They are warm-blooded, and have legs, but are fully aquatic with gills (unlike the Luriani, who have no gills). The Nexies are geneered humans and not a minor human race.
Originally posted by Jeff M. Hopper:
Its been done already. Part of T20.
It's been done. Part of GURPS Traveller: Humaniti. :D

In fact, GT Humaniti sourcebook *DETAILS* a chapter on at least 1 bio-engineered aqua-man race (the Nexxies), and then mentions the existence of 2 others similarly-bred "aquaman races".

If I recall correctly, the Terran/Solomani bio-engineering projects were responsible for the existence of at least one of these subspecies.

And to answer Laryssa: is it plausible?

Of course, it's more than plausible. This concept is HIGHLY PROBABLE (and easily duplicable) in the Traveller universe! =)
If you're playing T20, is there any reason you couldn't simply lift the stats for merfolk from the d20 SRD?
Sure you could. I was attempting to rationalize it a little. Merfolk are a Chimerick life form. You take the bottom half of a fish and putting together with the top half of a human. In Traveller though, you don't literally do that, its more like genetic engineering.

As for cold-bloodedness, some fish are warm-blooded, the Great White Shark is for example. The Monster manual describe the Merfolk as being 8 feet long and weighing 400 pounds. I'd say that more than half of it is fish. My guess is that you'd put the gills right where the fish part begins, just below the hips Merfolk would breath in water through their mouths and noses and the water would be shunted through their torsos to their gills at hip level, the gills then extract the dissolved oxygen, and feed the oxygen into the bloodstream. Merfolk also have a pair of lungs in their chest, which they can use to breath air when their head is above water. Merfolk have a swim rate of 50 feet per round and so require a powerful tail to push them through the water. Its not the most efficient body form for traveling through the water. I would suggest making their necks slightly longer and more flexible than a humans, so it can look forward while swimming without straining its neck. Otherwise we can go with the warm-blooded D&D version, that was the version the genetic experimentors were trying to create anyway.

Now if your a merfolk, what do you do in the Traveller Universe, how do you get around? Merfolk 2.0 are warmblooded and can breath both water and air, having two separate organs that can accomplish both. Unlike my first version of Merfolk, this one can breath air indefinitely, but it also must stay in water to keep its gill slits immersed. Merfolk have vocal cords which they can use to speak when they have a lungful of air. I think giving them an innate telepathic ability is a good idea however, this works at a distance over which one's voice would normally carry. Merfolk can pick up subvocal thinking, it is easy to guard against merfolk intrusions if people are aware of them. Merfolk can also project thoughts and images, although these aren't so overwhelming the the receipient can't tell them from his own thoughts and images. The psionic voice sounds indistinguishable from a human voice, although the merfolk must target each individual so that she may be heard. Most merfolk can't probe very deeply into one's memories, and cannot conduct psionic attacks, the telepathy talent is simply used as a substitute for speech, most often when they are underwater. One thing Merfolk can do is share a dream, with other merfolk and with humans as well. Some merfolk human relationships have developed, and in some cases dreamsharing has occured between merfolk and humans, but the merfolk must really care about the human to accomplish this feat, and the human must be receptive to the merfolk's intrusions. Generally a pattern of familiarity is established after a period of long and frequent contact, the merfolk becomes attuned to the human's mind, and can then enter it when the human is actively dreaming.

Merfolk need special equipment when traveling outside of their aquaeous home. Starships need to be specially modified so they can maintain a water filled environment. I think the bridge and all crew compartments would cost twice as much, the starship most in turn be submersible and especially protected from contact with water, and the Merfolk can then swim inside and operate the controls. Repairing parts of the starship is something of a bother as seals have to be broken and the sensitive electronics exposed. A merfolk starship needs some air filled rooms for the purpose of conducting repairs of sensitive electronic equipment. Otherwise any of the standard Starships can be adapted for merfolk.
Originally posted by Laryssa:
Sure you could. I was attempting to rationalize it a little. Merfolk are a Chimerick life form. You take the bottom half of a fish and putting together with the top half of a human. In Traveller though, you don't literally do that, its more like genetic engineering.
First, why couldn't you "literally" do that in Traveller? What's stopping you?

Second, you can simply take the stat block and call it whatever you want - the chimaeric origin is just flavor text, not holy writ. You can take an orc's stat block and call it a Grabblesnorz from the planet Siskidoodl if you want to.
Well a fish and a human being can't simply be grafted together and be expected to live, the different tissues would reject each other and a human brain couldn't control the fist parts, also fish are cold-blooded and humans warm blooded. If you want to create Merfolk you have to create the entire creature starting at the genetic level.
Enter Aquans from d20 Future, or MTU's "Zeta Strain" Humans. These are humans altered by a less kinder Imperium to inhabit Waterworlds as second class labor. I guess they would all be like Kevin Costner.

I also have Halflings, bred literally for that, to fit two half sized workers into one human cot in a workhouse. They are called Turlaks, and are all male, all mules, and reproduce by cloning.
THe PCs have a small village forming in the upper drive deck...

I usually give genetic creations 1-3 "powers" and a defect. I also try to keep them set at what they were created for, other than that, by 1100, they are considered human, though some stigmas persist.
I guess you have a point there, but then any sort of machine could be made into a cyborg, including a starship. I'm interested in creating a race of people, to add some color to the setting I'm working on. The more I think about it, I think Merfolk would make an interesting interstellar race, they need help to become starfaring, as living underwater would prevent them from melting and working metals and so would keep them in the Stone Age. The Americans in this America sector have a Prime Directive which legally prevents them in theory from interfering with more primitive cultures. Well the Merfolk got around this stricture, because humans colonized their planet, thinking it was uninhabited by any intelligent race. Aquacia has 96% hydrographics and very little land, but enough for the few thousand colonists who settled there. The human colonists lived by fishing and small scale agriculture. The climate over most of the planet can be described as "Hawaiian" island chains that are really the tops of mountains over very large underwater continents that cover most of the planets surface. The life forms are suprisingly compatible with humans, including the fish, which are very similar to Earth fish. Towns were built and some humans spent some time at the beach. At some point the Merfolk became aware of these colonists, they were all telepathic and can read the surface thoughs of humans. When a human reads a book to himself, for instance, a merfolk situated offshore can sometimes mentally "overhear" what the person was reading. Sometimes these books were textbooks on physics or engineering, and it was through this telepathic ease dropping, that the Merfolk learned much more than they should of legally according to the American 'Prime Directive' Law. By the time humans discovered the Merfolk, the cat was already out of the bag. Merfolk knew the principles of the Jump Drive, how grav vehicles worked, computers, all sorts of things that American law forbid its citizens from revealing to these primitive cultures. It did not occur to the original American colonists to look beneath the waves for intelligent races, they checked only the islands and found no one.

After much acrimony, the colonists weren't about to leave, the American government decided that the damage was already done, and that the Merfolk culture was already contaminated by contact with the human colonists. The Federal government decided to grant US citizenship toe the 20 million Merfolk living on this planet. the Merfolk lobbied hard for this, and made plenty of friends with the human colonists. The human colonists in turn were able to customize technology for the merfolk. they modified gravbelts so they could carry merfolk out of the water, and various devices were used to keep the Merfolk's sensitive body parts wet or immersed in water. Merfolk get uncomfortable after spending more than an hour in the air. Numerous discomforts assault them. (Their skin chafes, their eyes dry out for example) after a time, merfolk were able to aquire robots that could work on dry land, and build the technology that could be adapted for underwater use, that they so desparately needed to advance their society.

Some merfolk formed romantic relations with humans, much in line with mythology, as standards of beauty are similar for both races. Human males often find themselves staring and the female merfolk (mermaids). You see merfolk don't wear cloths, clothes does them no good, when soaked with water it doesn't keep them warm, it increases drag when merfolk swim through water and most natural fibers don't last long when continuously immersed in salt water. Human males tend to be distracted by the mermaids.

Merfolk are large creatures because of their powerful fish halves, otherwise their torsos are the same size as humans. Because of this body form, merfolk have large lungs than their human counterparts, to take in enough oxygen for both their human and fish halves. When under water and using their gills, merfolk keep oxygenated air in their lungs. In fact merfolk blood exchanges oxygen for carbon dioxide within their lungs, this acts as an emergency oxygen supply for when the merfolk enter a water layer without dissolved oxygen. this fact has allowed merfolk to rescue humans underwater on many occasions through 'mouth-to-mouth' contact and sharing of the oxygen in their lungs, which the merfolk can keep oxygenated while their gills are operating.

Dispite their half human appearance, merfolk have a diet that humans sometimes find disquieting. Merfolk eat their food raw, bones and all, and they eat quite a bit more than the typical helping a human has. Merfolk after all have no way to cook their food. (They could conceivably bring their food near an underwater volcanic vent, but there is no way to do this without also cooking themselves.) Merfolk also have long digestive tracts due to their large size, so they can handle alot more roughage than a human can.

Another trait of a merfolk is their ability to telepathically bond with a specific individual, they must really care about that individual, and that individual must really open their minds to them, but once a telepathic bond is established, a merfolk can communicate at a much greater distance with that one person than they could with anyone else, and this ability only works with other merfolk or humans, due to their similar brain structure. Once telepathically bonded the pair share each others dreams even at interstellar distances when they are both asleep, and can communicate when they are both dreaming once they become lucid enough to realize it is a dream. This feature is very valuable since this form of communication is FTL and instantaneous. know one knows precisely how telepathy works, but it allows for instantaneous communication while both minds are uncontious. In addition merfolk find the minds of nontelepathic humans to be like an 'Open Book' while fellow merfolk have all sorts of built in defense mechanisms that prevent this sort of intimacy between members of their own race.

Generally a human/merfolk telepathic pair can share the same dreams whenever they are within 40 parsecs of each other, which basically means anywhere within the America sector. this form of instant communication has military value, and is extremely valuable whenever the neigboring civilizations decide to invade American space. The main trick is to communicate meaningful messages while a lucid dream is taking place, and then actually remembering what occured in the dream. Usually the parts of a dream that are remembered are the parts that occur right before the person wakes up. Human/Merfolk pairs can't produce children, but they have proven useful on many occasions. Merfolk appear to be distantly related to the Zhodani, who live only a few sectors away, but these were genetically engineered to have Psionic talents rather than requiring training. Who ever did all this genetic tinkering is unknown, no artifacts of that race have been found, and the Merfolk have no native written language, they have adopted human written language instead.
Can they commuicate with someone in Jump space? Personally I would say no, and make it difficult on a pair separated in this fashion. My Cr0.02. :D
Originally posted by Laryssa:
Well a fish and a human being can't simply be grafted together and be expected to live, the different tissues would reject each other and a human brain couldn't control the fist parts, also fish are cold-blooded and humans warm blooded.
And we can't fly between the stars or slag one another with fusion guns, either.

All of it can happen if you as the referee say it can.
Originally posted by Fritz88:
Can they commuicate with someone in Jump space? Personally I would say no, and make it difficult on a pair separated in this fashion. My Cr0.02. :D
Makes little difference to me. The contact only occurs during periods of lucid dreaming. In other words both characters have to be asleep and dreaming at the same time for contact to occur. This isn't a normal form of telepathy. Personally I'd allow this form of contact in Jump Space, as it is GM directed, and it happens by chance. The person experiencing the dream can never be entirely sure whether there is true contact occuring or whether its just a normal dream. Usually these telepathic shared dreams make alot more sense the the normal variety the two characters in the dream can talk to each other and exchange information. A person can't just decide to initiate contact, he can increase the chances by thinking about his partner before going to bedm but thats about it. When a character is in Jump Space, he has little else to do anyway, I'd say allow it. After all the character spends 7 days in jump space, it would be nice if you could use those days for something rather than have the GM automatically say, "Seven days later you drop out of jump etc." Its otherwise like those seven days didn't occur, you would otherwise just advance the calendar seven days, and basically just throw away the time. If one has time for dreaming, then Jump Space would be the place for it to occur. Those are my thoughts on the matter.