Monsters of Blackmoor Supplement II - part 2

Author: DHBoggs /

 Mermen are the first monster described in Supplement II, and one of the most interesting for the key role they appear to play in the underwater ecology of their environment.  As mentioned in the previous post in this series, mermen first appear in the Naval Combat section of OD&D book III, Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, under "SPECIAL SUGGESTIONS FOR MONSTERS IN NAVAL ADVENTURES".

We aren't told much about them in this entry - the key bits are:

"...have a l0% chance per 10 Mermen of grappling any ship which is within 1" of them. They may remain submerged indefinately... If they grapple a ship they must be on the surface."

Mermen in U&WA thus appear to be a serious threat to shipping and maritime activities - basically they are the sea equivalent to bandits on land.  Quite possibly these "sea bandits" represent only a fraction of mermen society, the roguish types perhaps.  It seems likely Blackmoor sailors would have developed a means of mitigating this threat, with convoys perhaps, or prepared bribes.  But while the text in SII is silent on this point it does reiterate the threat mermen pose to ships, going into greater detail on their use of grapples and combat.

Interestingly, the entry in SII begins with a curiosity.  Lets take note briefly of the very first thing SII says about mermen: "More intelligent than lizardmen..."   Lizardmen are nowhere else mentioned in SII.  We will come back to this fact in a later post. (hint Sahaugin).  

Leaving that for the nonce, another point of interest is the attack mermen are given - "1 bite/2 hands, 1–8 bite/1–4 hand".

Bite?, for up to 8 points of damage?!  This strongly implies sharp, perhaps shark like teeth.  So much for Ariel's pearly whites...

Nevertheless, this fits with their diet as given, which is fish, making mermen carnivores - carnivores who have an underwater civilization that "rivals that of humans." 

There is so much gaming potential in these simple descriptions in SII, it is a shame it remains largely untapped.  We can flesh out this underwater world of the mermen of Blackmoor by looking at the connections with other monster entries and see what creatures commonly interact.  

Mermen are mentioned in the following:

Giant Crabs - a menace to mermen fish farms

Giant Frogs - hunted by mermen

Giant Shark - "hereditary enemies of mermen"

Seahorse - (giant?) seahorses are ridden by mermen ride and use as horses are used by humans.

Next, looking at the monsters referenced in these entries we can add:

Giant Octopi - feed on giant crabs

Giant Squid - also a danger to ships


Aquatic Elves

We could of course also look at the encounter tables, but that doesn't really tell us what creatures are actually interacting with each other (and they are also nothing more than a list of all the monsters in the book), but using the list above as a starting point gives an "accurate" base to work from when creating underwater adventures in the seas of the north.

Next we will move on to the "giant" series of creatures.



Dick McGee said...

" Quite possibly these "sea bandits" represent only a fraction of mermen society, the roguish types perhaps."

Or, you know, the ones who are tired of having anchors randomly dropped on their houses. :)

paleologos said...

Very cool - I think I like these primal mermen a lot better than the watered-down version.


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