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I'm planning on playing as a merfolk in a future Pathfinder campaign. Since merfolk only have a land speed of 5 feet, can a merfolk take a 5-foot step so as to avoid attacks of opportunity even though that's a merfolk's maximum movement?

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No

Looking at the 5-foot step entry in the PRD answers this:

You can only take a 5-foot-step if your movement isn't hampered by difficult terrain or darkness. Any creature with a speed of 5 feet or less can't take a 5-foot step, since moving even 5 feet requires a move action for such a slow creature.

So no, they cannot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is why d20 Hutts use hover-dais. Get your merfolk some boots of striding and sprinting ..... oh, wait a second... \$\endgroup\$
    – Mindwin
    Jun 29, 2017 at 4:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had actually thought the answer would be 'yes'... good catch though! \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Jun 29, 2017 at 11:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depending on the class an agile alpenstock could help. You need to hold it in your hand for it to work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Jun 30, 2017 at 7:25

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