Summerlands Races: Sea Kin

This is the first of my Summerlands races, for the June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM. The sea kin were introduced in AD&D as aquatic humanoids, and then as the sea kin in 3rd edition’s Races of Destiny. Here, I try to make them a little more interesting than their write-up in that book made them…

Aquaman - Paxinema

Sea Kin

The sea kin have always been a peaceful people, humans adapted to life along (and sometimes beneath) the coastal waters of the Summerlands. They farm the kelp forests and fish in the rivers and along the coasts. Most sea kin never leave the area where they were born, preferring to remain close to their families. Because of these close bonds, the sea kin are fiercely protective of the ocean environment, and of their communities. Political positions, such as mayors and sheriffs, tend to be passed down along family lines, so communities resist outside interference or alliances, even with other sea kin, except in times of extreme need.

Parochial and Welcoming

Sea kin towns tend to be small, although a small number of cities have grown up in particularly fertile bays and deltas, and stunningly beautiful. Most are cut through with canals, as swimming comes as easily to sea kin as walking, and most sea kin homes are built with access to underground water sources. The ground floor of most houses (particularly the most desirable houses) floods with the high tide, and a well-appointed “tide room” is considered to be the heart of any home.

Despite their seeming isolationist tendencies, sea kin are warm and welcoming to outsiders, provided that those outsiders don’t challenge the social order. They love to hear stories of distant lands, especially inlands, and strangers who come in peace with a story to tell will find few communities as hospitable as the coastal towns of the sea kin.

Visitors to sea kin communities are often surprised by the number of wild creatures roaming free. Seals, sea lions, sea birds, even sea wolves, seem to come and go as they please, although many are adopted by individuals or families.

The sea kin are similar to humans in appearance, and one in a thousand sea kin may be born without the unique physiology that separates the two. These “land kin” rarely stay in their communities for long, preferring to strike inland and make their fortunes there, away from the constant reminder that they do not belong in the water in the same way that their kin do. The skin of a sea kin tends to be slippery, and glint slightly in sunlight. These oily secretions help them swim more effectively, and protect them from temperature changes between land and water. Their hands and feet are webbed, and their eyes are black, with a second transparent eyelid for better underwater vision. Sea kin hair tends to be black or white, though occasional sea kin have a metallic sheen to their hair (such sea kin are considered exceptionally beautiful, although they are also believed to have a temper to match their hair: vain for gold, aloof for silver, and quick to anger for copper).

Major Settlements

Few sea kin settlements can be called “major.” Sea kin prefer small towns where everyone knows their neighbors, and everyone’s grandparents knew everyone else’s. While sea kin are always curious about and welcoming of strangers, most never stray far from the place where they were born.

Where the forest meets the sea, the reven, sea kin, and wildren have build the city of Halcyon, the final stopping-point for the thousands of trees the wildren ride downriver to be milled, then shipped down the coast and upriver again to reven cities. While upriver, the grippli make sure that all the trees are replaced, sea kin with no interest in fishing or sailing flock to Halcyon to make their fortunes.

Along the central coast, at the entrance to the vast Mangu Bay stands the enormous lighthouse of Twilight’s Eye, which the sea kin call kanohi mahina, with the largest sea kin city at its feet. Although the sea kin outnumber the other races, Twilight’s Eye is one of the few cities in the Summerlands where all races mingle freely year-round, and its Council of Four consists of a sea kin, a wildren, a reven, and a grippli. No race, including the dragons, can take credit for the lighthouse, whose beam constantly scans a horizon free of ships, and the few who have tried to explore it say that is descends as far into the ground as it does into the sky, but all who have descended have left either their lives or their wits in its depths.

There are many small cities and towns along the coast, each run of the same family of sea kin that founded it. Notable among these towns are Mahana Wai, with a day’s travel outside of Twilight’s Eye, with its many geothermal pools. As with most sea kin communities, leadership of Mahana Wai is hereditary, and only those with the mayor’s approval can settle there permanently. This fact, coupled with the wealth brought in by sea kin who use the pools for relaxation and to cure disease, has led to generations-long graft and nepotism.

Along the coast, travellers often stumble into desolate, empty settlements, communities whose people have been wiped out by sahuagin, collectively known as The Hollows. While the sahuagin never occupy a sea kin city for long, Hollows are traditionally left empty for generations.

Ancient Enemies

The sea kin and the sahuagin live in mirror societies, one above the waves but occasionally dipping below, and the other below the surface, sometimes encroaching above. Sea kin settlements tend to be primarily aboveground with an aquatic element, rarely overlapping with sahuagin territory. For generations, the sahuagin and the sea kin lived in a state of detente, both avoiding open war, but each raiding the other’s settlements from time to time. Most of the Endless Sea belonged to the sahuagin, and the sea kin fished along the coasts. Conflict was inevitable, swift and bloody, but never organized or consistent. Enmity always existed between the two, however. The sahuagin hunt the mammals of the sea: seals, sea lions, dolphins, and even whales, which the sea kin see as an almost personal attack. Meanwhile, the sea kin fish and farm, and think nothing of capturing and eating shark, which is an abomination to the sahuagin. (The sahuagin, of course, hunt and eat shark, as well, but that is the natural order – for mammal to hunt shark is, to them, a subversion of that order.)

Then, some years ago, The Blue came. No sea kin has seen The Blue, but captured sahuagin speak in whispers of a race of creatures from deeper in the sea. If the shark-kin (or, more derisively, “sea-devils”) are the stuff of human nightmares: sharks that walk and organize like humans, then The Blue are sahuagin nightmares made flesh: arms like men, Whether they had been there all along, came through a planar gate, or were newly spawned by some undeasea demon, no sahuagin knows. What is known is that The Blue are unreasoning, unrelenting, and have a taste for sahuagin blood. The incursions of The Blue drove the sahuagin upwards, to the shallow ocean traditionally farmed by the sea kin, igniting a conflict that rages still.

This conflict has galvanized the sea kin into organizing beyond their small communities. Armies have formed, and generals arisen. There is talk of a coastal government and a coastal defense force. Such things are new to the sea kin, however, and have not yet appeared. Perhaps one of the veterans of the sahuagin wars will emerge as a leader, or a councilor from the Council of Mages. Until that happens, the sea kin defend themselves against sahuagin incursions as best they can, sometimes organizing a local defense force, hiring adventurers, or enlisting the aid of reven mercenaries. The latter, while more experienced in warfare, can do little to follow the sahuagin back to their homes, however.

Nature Worship

The sea kin revere the sea and the sky, rather than any personified gods. The sea and sky, who have no other names, are thought of as lovers, kept apart by cruel circumstance, who can only touch when it rains. Sudden gentle storms, then, are seen as holy moments, and most sea kin stop briefly to meditate or pray as the first drops of rainfall. More violent storms are cause for more fervent prayer, as the sea kin beseech the quarreling lovers to make peace. Lightning storms, in particular, are cause for great concern, given how much time the sea kin spend in contact with water.

Recently, worship of the war goddess Reshephzaya has been spreading, as the sahuagin battles continue to rage. A popular goddess among the reven, she is thought to both aid in war and protect against disease.

Sea Kin Names

Sea kin names travel down family lines. Firstborn sea kin are always named for their mother’s father or their father’s mother. Occasionally, a sea kin will be named for an important visitor or someone of significance to the family, mixing reven or grippli names into family lines.

Male Names: Arcas, Kato, Risto, Zenon. Female Names: Dryope, Hygea, Meta, Teofila

Sea Kin Traits

Ability Score Increase. Sea kin physical attributes are as versatile as any other human’s. Two of your ability scores increase by 1.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet. Your base swimming speed is 30 feet. Any abilities or class features that increase your walking speed apply to your swim speed.

Water Dependency: Water is essential for sea kin survival. You must immerse your body in water for at least one hour, once per week, or suffer one level of exhaustion. Each additional day after the first seven spent out of the water increases your exhaustion level by one. Each hour of immersion in water removes one of these levels of exhaustion (but not exhaustion from other sources).

Adaptable: If your DM allows feats, you may choose one feat at first level.

Aquatic Vision: Your specially adapted eyes grant you superior vision in underwater conditions. While underwater, to a depth of 600 feet, you can see within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and between 600 and 3000 feet as if it were dim light, regardless of the actual light level.

Hold Breath: You can hold your breath for a number of minutes equal to your Constitution score.

Aquatic companions: When a class feature or other source grants you an animal companion, you may add dolphin, seal, and sea lion to the list.

Sea Kin Bonds

When creating a sea kin character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 My grandmother told me stories of the ruins beneath the sea, and I would do anything to be able to discover the wonders that I know await me there.
2 During a sahuagin raid on my village, I was trapped in a cave-in with one. We learned to communicate, and while I still defend myself against them, I believe that there is something worse coming from deep in the ocean.
3 I was the only survival of a sahuagin hollowing. Everyone I have ever known was killed, and I am haunted by dreams of their final minutes. My blade is their vengeance.
4 I was born in Twilight’s Eye, and have friends and allies from a variety of races. I would give my right arm to explore the lighthouse and expose its secrets.
5 I have secretly hated the ocean all my life. As soon as I could, I ran away inland and sought my fortune.
6 My family is the only thing that matters, to me, and I would kill to protect them.

Feat

One with the Sea
Requirements: Sea Kin with 4 class levels or 4 hit die, must undergo the Ritual of Evolution

You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution, gaining abilities that connect you to your humanity and abilities that will one day be common to all sea kin.

  • Your swim speed increases to 40 feet.
  • You gain proficiency in one skill or tool of your choice.
  • You gain proficiency in all Strength (Athletics) checks related to swimming.
  • You can breathe both air and water, gaining the amphibious quality.


Hacking the Sea Kin

The sea kin are my attempt at including humans in the Summerlands, without actually including humans. They don’t require oceans, though – any region that has significant lakes or rivers could be their home. Their write-up here is similar, in many ways, to their 3rd Edition description, particularly the importance of family and home. A little conflict is always good, though, so I added a war with the sahuagin, and complications around that. The god(dess) Resephzaya will come back, I’m sure, as will Twilight’s Eye. Still, the idea of an aquatic humanoid race is extremely portable, and One with the Sea doesn’t have to be tied to the Ritual of Evolution, I just wanted the story-feat to connect to all seven of the major races.

For the sea kin traits, I wanted to keep the feat, since I think that is the major reason (mechanically) that some players choose humans. At the same time, the other racial features are great in a couple of environments, but completely useless in others. That seemed like a fair trade-off for the other human qualities, especially since they can be bought back, later, as part of One with the Sea. As an added bonus, you can create Aquaman, the greatest super-hero.

Next time: the most common sea kin background: farmer/ fisher!

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6 responses to “Summerlands Races: Sea Kin

  1. Hi Quinn,

    Another great contribution to the Summerlands blog Carnival.

    Very often, a setting only starts to come alive when you present some of the details from the world. Sea-kin are a clever way to present humans with a vert different feel to them.

    Excellent work
    Phil

    Like

    • Hi Phil,

      Thank you! This is where things started coming together for me, too. I felt like the introductory material was important, but when we get to the sea kin, and the fisher background, and the selkie, it hopefully starts to feel like a world. I’m looking forward to writing the Reven, in particular, in a couple of weeks.

      Quinn

      Like

      • Hi Quinn,

        Oh yes, it is important to lay out the foundations. However, once you start adding the details, then the setting really comes to life.

        I look forward to reading the next in the series.

        All the best
        Phil

        Like

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