The kid-friendly RPG Mermaid Adventures was the first game I introduced to my children at a young age and they absolutely loved it. I loved how it introduced the concepts of more structured imaginative play in an easy to understand way.
Since our plays of Mermaid Adventures, Third Eye Games has published Mermaid Adventured Revised, an updated version of this RPG rulebook that is no longer a stand-alone game but rather an undersea supplement for The Pip System Corebook. This review will look at that new book and compare it to the original.
Note: This is a read review. I have not had a chance to get this RPG to the table yet as either a player or a guide.
Disclosure: Eloy himself provided me with a review copy of Mermaid Adventures Revised after seeing my Mermaid Adventures Review and asked me to write up a comparison of the two books. No other compensation was provided. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Information on Mermaid Adventures Revised from Third Eye Games
Mermaid Adventures Revised was written by Eloy Lasanta with help from Carol Darnell and features artwork from Melissa Gay. It was published in 2017 by Eloy’s company Third Eye Games. It is a sourcebook for The Pip System Corebook (which you can read more about in my Pip System Corebook Review). This new edition replaces the original (you can read my review of the original Mermaid Adventures game here).
This sourcebook is available in full-colour softcover and PDF formats. I own the softcover book and that is what I am reviewing here.
Mermaid Adventures Revised is a digest-sized paperback book. It is a hundred pages long including a table of contents, index and character sheet. It is full colour, featuring a two-column layout with a large “kids book” font size (that matches the Pip System Corebook), and is filled with all kinds of evocative artwork showing off various types of mermaid folk, adversaries and adventure settings.
The rules are well presented, easy to read and non-ambiguous.
What is very important to note about this revised edition of Mermaid Adventures is that this is no longer a standalone RPG rulebook. This new book is a rules supplement for The Pip System Corebook. As a supplemental work, this book doesn’t provide an introduction to what roleplaying is or what a typical session should look like. The Pip System rules aren’t repeated in this book. There are no details on how to make a character, build a dice pool or read the results of that pool. This is a huge change from the original Mermaid Adventures edition which included all you needed to play in one book.
Another big change is that the rules in Mermaid Adventures Revised use the full Pip System rules, not the simplified version that I talked about near the end of my Pip System Corebook Review. Those rules are geared towards new players and children and are based on the rules in the original Mermaid Adventures. This change makes this iteration of Mermaid Adventures more geared towards older, more experienced, players.
A chapter by chapter look at Mermaid Adventures Revised:
Mermaid Adventures Revised is broken into six chapters with new Pip System rules followed by five sample adventures. In addition, there is a short piece of fiction at the start of the book to help introduce the reader to the undersea world and set the tone for the game. The book also features a Mermaid Adventures specific version of the Pip System character sheet on the very last page in the book.
Chapter One: A World of Mermaids – Introducing the Setting of Mermaid Adventures:
Mermaid Adventures Revised starts off by introducing us to its underwater setting. We are introduced to the underwater city of Atlantis and it’s various denizens which include a number of different types of merfolk. Note that in this world you don’t just have the typical half-person half-fish mermaids we’re used to, will also find Octofolk, Urchinfolk and many more aquatic mashups.
Other setting information includes talk of the Undersea Olympics, the rules of Atlantis, The Dark Lands (the dangerous areas outside of Merfolk civilization), and the slipstream (a dangerous underwater current that while risky to use is the fastest way to get around underwater).
Chapter Two: Making Characters – Creating your Merfolk in Mermaid Adventures:
In the second chapter of Mermaid Adventures Revised, we are presented with a number of new archetypes based on the various types of merfolk introduced in the last chapter. This is a long chapter and makes up almost half of the rulebook.
There are archetypes for: Eelfolk, Fishfolk, Jellyfolk, Lobsterfolk., Octofolk, Rayfolk, Seahorsefolk , Sharkfolk, Turtlefolk, and Urchinfolk. Interestingly two of these archetypes are new to Mermaid Adventures Revised, the Seahorsefolk and Turtlefolk did not exist in the original game.
These archetypes use the same rules that we saw in the Pip System Sourcebook. They set Physical and Mental Health levels, give some starting skills, and provide one unique ability and one hindrance for each merfolk type.
For example, an Eelfolk has 4 Physical Health and 6 Mental Heath, and starts with Charm 2, Coordination 1 and Perform 2. They get the Cheerful Special Ability which gives them +1W when they do something to make someone else happy. Their Hindrance is Fight Only if I Must which gives them a -1W in any Conflict rolls to keep a fight going.
While no new Skills are presented in Mermaid Adventures nine new Qualities are. Most of these Qualities are things that just make sense for an underwater setting. Qualities like Fast Swimmer under Athletics, Royalty for Charm, or Human Expert under Knowledge. Note some of these qualities could also be used in other Pip System games, not just Mermaid Adventures.
Six new Advanced Qualities are included in Mermaid Adventures Revised. These include things like Dark Lands Guide, Atlantean Guard and Sense the Slipstream.
Magic is a part of this undersea setting and as part of that two new magic traditions are included. There is the Sea Witch who can provide other characters and extras with spells, but only if they pay a significant cost, and the Sorcerer, who casts spells through an item focus. Eight new spells are also presented. Each with a speciality for one of the Magic Traditions (not just including the two new ones in this book). Many of these spells would be useful in a wide variety of Pip settings and genres, like Beam, and Hypo Eyes, while other spells are pretty mermaid specific, like Fish Form.
This chapter includes a number of new random charts. These appear to be a carryover from the first edition of Mermaid Adventures. There are four character charts each with eleven different entries and players are encouraged to make one roll on each chart to determine the physical aspects of their mermaid (hair colour, hairstyle, eye colour, and fin colour). Then there are six extras charts and players randomly roll on two of these charts. These charts provide things like Fun Items, including a Music Box or a Slinky, or Features, such as having a tattoo or a big nose, and Learning tools, like an Art Kit or Compass.
One final chart of Goals is presented which gives characters some motivations. These not only provide roleplaying cues but also give each character an in-game bonus that comes into effect when they are pursuing their goals.
The character creation chapter finishes off with ten example characters. These are ready to play and fully fleshed out with interesting backgrounds, full game rules and mechanics, and some great looking artwork.
Chapter Three: Friends and Enemies – New Undersea Allies and Adversaries for the Pip System:
Mermaid Adventures Revised presents a number of new extras. These start off with a bunch of typical sea creatures like sea turtles, dolphins and other various types of fish, but also adds in a couple of mythical creatures like the dreaded Kraken and Sea Dragons. A number of merfolk types are presented including Merkids, Bandits and Aristocrats. Finally, we get some creatures from the Top-World, including Pirates, Seagulls and the scariest of all to kids: Adults.
Overall you get twenty-four new extras in this book many of which would be great to port over into another Pip System setting. Each of these has a description and full Pip System rules, including three unique Advanced Qualities. All of these are much more detailed, with much more mechanics and crunch, than the handful of adversaries and allies we saw in the original Mermaid Adventures.
Chapter Four: Navigator Tips – Advice for the Pip System Game Guide:
Mermaid Adventures has always used the term Navigator for the player running the game and this chapter has some tips for new Navigators.
Most of these tips revolve around not worrying too much about being realistic here. In this setting, people can talk underwater and things like underwater fires are a real and dangerous possibility.
The best part of this chapter is a number of charts, six in total, with twelve options on each of them. These are event charts, designed to give the Navigator adventure ideas. The suggestions run the gamut from “Find a mystery potion.” to “Your best friend wrecked the family chariot.”, and “One of you is slowly becoming a mini Kraken, find a way to stop this transformation.” I was really impressed by the variety of prompts here.
There are five included adventures with Mermaid Adventures:
The rest of the Mermaid Adventures rulebook is taken up by five short adventures. These are introductory level stories meant to highlight what types of games you can play with Mermaid Adventures. Each is rather short and could easily be played during a single session.
While these adventures are identical to the ones in the original Mermaid Adventures book, they have been re-written and updated to the full Pip System rules. What I like the most about these adventures is the variety of tales they tell. In one of them, your merfolk will be rescuing humans from a sinking ship while trying to keep the fact you are merfolk a secret. In another, the characters take part in the Underwater Olympics. It’s always great to see family-friendly adventures in RPGs that aren’t combat focused.
My only complaint about these adventures is that they are written assuming that the characters pass all of the rolls with no advice for the Navigator on what to do if they fail. For example, calling for a Navigation roll to find the right way to go but not having information about what happens when the roll fails and the players can’t find their way. This is nothing that an experienced GM couldn’t handle but for a game geared at young and new players, it seems like a bit of an oversight.
Overall thoughts on Mermaid Adventures Revised:
I’m not sure exactly what I think of Mermaid Adventures Revised especially when compared to the original Mermaid Adventures. The original edition presented a very simple, four stat, narrative quality and equipment system that was very easy to present to and teach to young children. I introduced the game to my kids when one of them was still a toddler, not even in school yet, and they loved it.
This new version of Mermaid Adventures uses the full Pip System Corebook rules. This is despite the fact, as I noted in our Pip System Corebook review, that there is a rules-lite version of the Pip System included in the core book. I really expected this new version of Mermaid Adventures to use the simplified system. What this change in core systems means is that Mermaid Adventures is no longer aimed at very young players. I can’t see having used this version of the book, along with the Pip System Corebook, to introduce my girls to Roleplaying at the age I did.
Now on the other side of things, I’m sure the more detailed Pip System rules featured in Mermaid Adventures Revised will make this game much more interesting for older kids, say tweens and teens, and also much more mechanically interesting to adults. While this undersea RPG is family-friendly and aimed at children, I know a number of adults who would love to play in this setting. Having a more structured and solid set of rules may actually make more sense, as I doubt that many people try to introduce their kids to the world of RPGs when they are still preschoolers.
What I personally like even less than the fact the game has ramped up in complexity is the fact that it is no longer a standalone book. I would have much preferred a full explanation of the Pip System to be included in Mermaid Adventures. I would have liked to have full character creation rules, rules for gear and conflicts, etc. While I realize this would make the book significantly longer and up the cost, I think I would prefer that versus having to flip between two books.
Please don’t let these negative comments give you the wrong idea. Mermaid Adventures Revised is a solidly written RPG supplement, presenting a very cool world for families to play in with all of the features of the Pip System. This new edition of Mermaid Adventures is better laid out than the original, features more artwork, more character options, and is a great addition to the Pip System Corebook. As an expansion to the Pip System in general, fans may want to pick this up for the added options even if they don’t plan on running a mermaid focused game.
Overall, I think I prefer the original Mermaid Adventures book. First, I appreciated that it was an all in one book with setting and rules in one place. Secondly, I loved having a game with rules geared towards brand new and very young players. At this point what I wish Eloy had done is keep both books in print perhaps renaming the new edition Mermaid Adventures Advanced, or Mermaid Adventures A Pip Core Setting Book, or maybe instead renaming the original game to Mermaid Adventures Junior.
Have you played either version of Mermaid Adventures, this new Pip System based setting or the original standalone kid-focused RPG? I would love to know your thoughts are on the game and what you think of the updates made to this edition.