(WITH FANTASY EXAMPLES)
By S. John Ross © Copyright 1997
For game purposes, this includes mushrooms, molds, tree bark, and any other plant or fungus part or derivative. Each "herb" is defined by several attributes. The herb list later in this article follows the format outlined here. Tables for random generation of discovered herbs are at the found at the end. These tables also serve as good guidelines for herb design on the part of the GM.
This is the *common* name of the herb. If you like, you can add a pseudo- latin name for flavor. This adds considerably to conversations with sages and wizards, who tend to go on in such terms just to befuddle adventurers ("hand me that jar of Moriscullis Astromanticus, won't you Drack?")
Many herbs have "lookalikes," plants which bear strong resemblances to the named herb. This can be dangerous, as a failed identification can spell doom if the lookalike happens to be poisonous. Occasionally, finding a lookalike can be a happy accident, but this isn't something you want to count on!
This is the terrain-type that the plant favors, and also the seasons in which it can be found. Specific penalties for out-of-season or out-of-lands herbs will be noted here, if applicable.
Part and Method
This is the useful/potent part of the named plant, and the way it is employed for maximum effectiveness. For example, the entire Borsha plant is not potent, only the root, and then only if chewed fresh.
This is the power of the herb, in game terms.
This is explained below.
This is a modifier to your level of Herbalism, used when herb-hunting (see the next section). Even a common herb will have a penalty for this purpose!!
This is the typical price of the herb (per dose) at an herbalist shop. Herbalists will typically give freelance gatherers half this price.
Each search takes 1d hours. An herbalist may make as many searches as he pleases, if he has the spare time.
First: The herbalist chooses which herb he is searching for, and the GM rolls against his skill, modified by the Rarity of the herb. Naturally, the season and location must be right, too.
If the roll succeeds, then go to A.
A). The herbalist has found the herb he sought. He has found doses equal to the amount the roll is made by. If the herb has a dose Multiple, then apply this to the final amount, and round up. The End.
B). The herbalist has failed in his search, but has found another useful herb. Determine randomly or choose. If the result is a lookalike, allow a roll versus Herbalism to realize this! Amount found is 1d-2 doses (minimum 1), modified by the Dose Multiple. The End.
C). If the herb in question has a lookalike, then the the herbalist has discovered it and mistaken it for the real thing! Amount found is 1d-2 doses (minimum 1), modified by the Dose Multiple. The End.
If an herbalist finds an herb he wasn't specifically looking for (with the exception of result 4, above) he gets an Herbalism roll to identify it. In modern times, a botanist can subject a plant to all sorts of tests to discover specific alkaline content and other identifying factors (spore prints for mushrooms). However, the mediaval herbalist just tastes the plant in question . . . This can be dangerous even on a successful roll, so let the player beware!
Specific uses are covered in detail under each herb's description. The various methods, in general terms, are covered here. When the herbalist goes about any of these methods, the GM should require a skill roll at +6. A failed roll means the batch is ruined and the time is wasted. This roll is at -1 for each dose above 1 processed in the same batch. To an extent, it is wise to make several doses at once!
Raw: the part is chewed or eaten in it's natural state. This one requires no roll! Naturally, it is usually a good idea to clean the herb before chewing on it.
Extract/Decoction: Like a tea, but more concentrated. The herbs are just covered with water and put to a slow boil for times ranging from an hour to a day. The advantage over a tea is that an extract can be mixed with food or drink for full effect.
Tincture: The herb is soaked in spirits, which are then drunk normally. A tincure will be ready to drink after 1d+1 days of soaking.
Ointment/Salve: The herb is crushed, and heated in spirits or water. This is then mixed with lard, butter or similar fatty stuff. The ointment must "rest" for 2 days before reaching full potency.
Tea: The herbs must be at least partially dried (minimum 1d6 days) and then boiled in water.
Powdered: The herb must be thouroughly dried (4d-1 days) and then crushed to powder. This powder may be eaten straight, or mixed with food or wine.
Poultice: The herbs are prepared as for an ointment, but are smeared on a hot, damp cloth. This cloth is then applied directly to skin. The whole process takes about 1 hour.
There are other possible methods. Lotions can be made from blending crushed herbs with milk, some herbs are mixed with vinegar, or cooked in bread to be effective, etc. Some potent fruits must be juiced and made into wine to be used!
Sample Fantasy Herb List
While these sample herbs were designed for a TL 3 fantasy run, some of them would work just as well as alien plant-life for a GURPS Space game.
Description: A small, brownish mushroom
with a wide, bulbous cap supported by a short stalk. The underside and
stalk are pure white.
Description: A short hardwood, with a squarish
trunk, large, dark leaves, and small, yellow fruit. The fruit are small
and vaguely apple-shaped.
Description: A small and twisted, woody
flowering vine. The flowers are bright blue or blueish-white. The vines
can grow up to 20 feet long in favorable weather, and grow quickly.
Description: A small, grey-green strain
of wild lettuce. leaves are thick with thin yellow circles on their undersides,
visible only in bright light.
Description: A ground-creeping stem flower,
found in tangled growths. It's vine is nearly black, and the flowers are
a deep turquoise or pale red.
Description: A tall, reedlike plant, pale
green and featuring small, circular leaves along it's length.
Description: A small, grey-green strain
of wild lettuce. leaves are thick, fibrous and unpalatable.
Description: A tiny, bright green weed
with white flowers. It rarely grows as high as 2 inches.
Description: A thorny, soft vine found growing up the sides of
trees. The berries are dark green and grow in clusters of thin leaves along
the entire vine.
Description: A small flower, much like
the earthly weed, with a larger, red flower. The stems are hollow, and
the flower turns to yellow fluff in autumn, which carries the seeds away
on the breeze.
Table A: Plant 2d (high) RESULT 1-2 Mold or Slime Mold (skip table B.) 3 Tree/Shrub 4 Mushroom 5-6 Herb (small, soft-stemmed plants or weeds) Table B: Part 1d RESULT 1 Root 2 Leaves 3 Bark or Fruit 4 Stem or Flower (cap for mushrooms) 5 Seeds (gills for mushrooms) or The whole plant 6 Roll again, until two different results are obtained. Table C: Method 1d RESULT 1 Raw 2 Extract/Decoction/Tincuture 3 Ointment 4 Tea 5 Powder 6 Poultice Table D: Habitat D20 RESULT 1 Meadows, Fields 2 Forests (determine type randomly) 3 Marshes 4 Rocky or Mountainous or Desert 5 Aquatic 6 Underground Table E: Effect/Use (fill in details as needed) 3d RESULT 3 Offensive use (blinding, slippery, etc) 4 Healing (actual hit point loss) 5-6 Recreational Drug 7 More than one use (roll 1d4 times) 8 Deadly Poison (actually causes damage or death) 9-10 Healing (cures/helps specific illness) 11-13 Poison (makes ill, causes penalties, sleep, paralysis, etc) 14 Poison Antidote (a specific poison) 15 Poison Antidote (generally) 16 Increases an attribute temporarily (determine randomly) 17-18 Magical or special effect