Race Review: Melenite (Nathanael Roux): 4 stars
“Peace, order, and efficiency are the cornerstones of melenite society. Everything is planned and designed to run smoothly, from the mushroom farms to the workshops producing the highest quality of wagons. The engineering required for the complex excavating of their burrows is one of their proudest accomplishments.”
The Melenite is a race of badger-inspired humanoids created by Nathanaël Roux. The document includes a full write-up of the race’s lore, mechanical details for the core race, two subraces, and two racial feats. The writing and presentation is flawed, jarring, and at times baffling. However, the mechanical aspects—the parts that affect actual gameplay—are rock solid.
Concept. The concept of the race is great, allowing you to play a badger person who can dig tunnels with your clawed hands. The mechanics support this with claw-based unarmed strike damage and a conditional burrowing speed. The Melenite is further developed with a sense of toughness which manifests in a boost to Constitution, an option for natural armor, and some poison resilience which can optionally be enhanced via one of the racial feats.
Mechanics. The mechanics of the race respect this edition’s design conventions. Ability score boosts keep to the +2/+1 model, with every melenite getting +2 to Constitution and the subraces adding +1 to a different ability score. There are familiar features, such as darkvision and natural weapons, which are already known to be of an acceptable power level for a player race. The new features, such as the conditional burrow speed and the limited ability to shrug off poison, are balanced conservatively to avoid any potential concerns about “power creep.”
Overall, the total package of racial features is in line with the degree of power one would expect for a racial option. The variety of minor abilities avoids the “specialist problem,” in which you’re too strong in one situation but too weak in others, but also don’t add up to an excessive total. Well done.
What didn’t work:
Writing. The writing and presentation of this race needs work. The most glaring issue is that despite how clearly this race is portrayed as anthropomorphic badgers, the document never actually says so. Instead, you’re left to figure that out for yourself over time. (I actually thought they were mole-people until I eventually googled “do badgers burrow?”)
There were multiple places in the lore and description where a sentence or topic seemed to come out of left field, or I found myself saying “Huh?” aloud at my desk. For example, there’s a section header titled, “Keepers of the Forest,” in which the first paragraph describes woodland melenites (as expected) but then the second paragraph suddenly introduces bees as a central topic. It’s not until you’ve scrolled further down and checked out the stats that you realize those two paragraphs were describing the two subraces—a concept which was not properly introduced in the writing.
The disjointed writing is distracting, but it’s also full of interesting lore for the race. More importantly however—since D&D is about playing the game, not reciting prose—the mechanics of the melenite race are evocative and well-balanced, requiring no special adjustment or extra work from the DM.
Overall, I give it a solid four stars: it’s a solid piece of content that’s held back only by the writing. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes races of anthropomorphic animals in their games. Granted that’s not everyone, but if it’s you, there’s no reason not to include melenites in your games.
BONUS: You can now get the melenite for 75% off by clicking on the picture below!
About the author:
Jacob S Kellogg has been a gamer as long as he can remember. His entire first-grade class watched him challenge a rival for the high score in an old space shooter at recess, and he reverse-engineered his favorite RPG video games into tabletop versions before he even knew tabletop RPGs were a thing. (He was just trying to evade his parents’ limits on “brain-rotting” screen time.)
Nowadays, Jacob publishes original tabletop games and Dungeons & Dragons supplements in an attempt to turn game design into a career. Despite working on games professionally, he still has an appetite for actually playing them in his spare time, though he breaks it up with plenty of anime, which he watches alongside his loving wife.