Merani look quite human for the most part. They have gills on their necks and webbing between their digits. Their internal membranes are hardened against high pressure and low temperatures, and their eyes are protected by a hard, clear nictitating membrane. Like other human-related races, their skin, hair, and eye colors can be any of a broad variety of colors. Faint lines along their skin show the addition of the lateral line sense, giving merani additional spacial awareness that is essential in the 3D underwater environment. These alterations make the Merani completely amphibious.
The Merani Empire has persisted beneath the waves of Earth’s Panthalassic Ocean for over ten thousand years. In seven immense domed cities, all thousands of years old, a strictly organized society operates like a giant machine. This machine’s gears are lacking in grease, and friction is clearly beginning to act on the spinning parts.
A caste system keeps the Merani Empire in social stasis, just as planned by its designers so long ago. In this system, each family is part of a caste corresponding to a trade, and these castes have little or no interaction with other castes. The separation is reinforced by different dialects of Espo, social mores regarding cleanliness, and a caste, the Protectors of Tradition, devoted solely to maintaining the caste system. The Protectors are allowed contact with the other castes, and are tasked with making sure they know the consequences of violating the system. (They do like to emphasize the benefits of the highly ordered system they maintain as well – an argument that over the centuries has no doubt had little traction with youth.) Punishments, depending on the severity of the transgression, can involve demeaning (‘unclean’) tasks for a set time, a drop in status within one’s caste, demotion to a lesser (more ‘unclean’) caste (for the individual or even their extended family), exile, or death. Only the Empress may elevate an individual or family to a higher caste, and she has done so very rarely.
Despite the force of punishments dealt by the Protectors, or perhaps partly due to it, friction between the castes has been growing steadily since the Merani Empire dealt the final blows to its longtime enemy, the rival Undari Empire, over two hundred years ago. Long ages of war helped keep the peace. Minor crises are now eliminated swiftly by the bloated Defender caste, and lack of any foe of consequence is leading to increasing tensions between Defenders of different cities, as well as between Defenders and supporting castes.
These tensions ripple through the castes, causing more and more distrust and dissatisfaction. The Empress is restrained by the very system that holds her empire together: she cannot disband or reassign the Defenders and their supporting castes, for they have grown too politically powerful over the millennia of conflict. The stage increasingly is set for revolution, though the Protectors keeping the castes from colluding has always made that difficult. Alternately, if a major threat were to emerge, it might greatly smooth over the tensions by refocusing the Defender castes.
Relations: With the Undari Empire defeated, the Merani seem the undisputed rulers of the oceans. Some Defender leaders have begun to look at the surface world with dreams of conquest. While Merani exiles are the most common on land, small bands of Scouting caste Merani have begun to show up with some regularity. Each band is accompanied by a Protector, to ensure caste purity is maintained. So far the Merani Empire is quite unimpressed with its terrestrial neighbors, and it has little if any care for the Aerani above, or the Torani underground. Indeed, the other, less human and non-human races are seen as immensely strange, and are deemed by the Protectors as thoroughly unclean.
Adventurers: Some Merani adventurers will be exiles, while others might have ‘strayed’ from a party of Scouts, Prospectors, or even Diplomats. Protectors will seek out these missing children if they are from important families within their castes. Neither exiles nor surface parties tend to have access to much in the way of Merani Empire tek, which on the whole is more reliable, uniform, and effective than anything available on land.
Names: Merani tend to have fairly simple first names and then also have their family name and caste name. Family names often have some relation to caste. Outside of immediate family, but still within caste, only the family and personal names are used. To ones outside the caste, if allowed to direct address by caste rules, the full caste family first name would be used. EX: Scout Farwalker Clara.
Standard Racial Traits:
- Ability Score Racial Traits: +2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Wisdom. Living a good portion of their lives in a medium almost one thousand times denser than air means Merani are strong and quite dexterous. Their stagnant society has made their willpower and intuitions somewhat weaker.
- Size: Medium
- Type: Humanoid with aquatic (amphibious) subtype. Merani can breath in both air and water.
- Base Speed: 30ft on land, and 30ft swim speed.
- Water Sense: Merani can sense vibrations in water, granting them blindsense 30 feet against creatures that are touching the same body of water. In air, this sense is limited to 5 feet.
- Languages: Merani speak Espo in caste specific dialects. This means that, while they can understand, and be understood by, other Espo speakers, it is quite clear they are not native to the surface. These dialects also give away their caste to any other Merani.