[Blue Room GURPS: The Craig Roth Collection]RULES FOR HERB-HUNTING


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.

Dose Multiple

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.
If the roll fails by 1, then go to B.
If the roll fails 2, then go to C.
If the roll fails by more than 2, then the herbalist has wasted his time and finds nothing!

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.

Identifying Herbs

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!

Using Herbs

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.

Binch Mushrooms

Description: A small, brownish mushroom with a wide, bulbous cap supported by a short stalk. The underside and stalk are pure white.
Lookalike: Many. Most of them are dummies (no effect of any kind) but 1 in 6 are mild poisons of varying kinds. None discovered as of yet are actually deadly.
Habitat: Any territory with sunlight and good, drained soil. Autumn only.
Part and Method: Cap, eaten raw
Effect: "Binchrooms" are powerful healers, healing 1d6-1 damage each. However, they taste foul and can make you extremely ill. For each mushroom eaten, make a HT roll. A failed roll means the healing still applies, but the patient is at -1 on all die rolls for 150/HT hours. This penalty is cumulative by dose!
Dose Multiple: 1/2
Rarity: -6


Description: A short hardwood, with a squarish trunk, large, dark leaves, and small, yellow fruit. The fruit are small and vaguely apple-shaped.
Lookalike: Only a very dim person could mistake these for actual apples. They average 1.5 inches wide, and are a bit blockier.
Habitat: Forests, and some marshes.
Part and Method: Fruit, powder
Effect: Eating the apples is dangerous. HT roll or go into convulsions doing 1d damage, -3 to combat for 1d days thereafter. If the roll is made, treat as physical contact with the powder (see below). The smell, once the skin of the fruit is broken, is horrible (much like ammonia). However, the noxious fruit's useful form (the powdered flesh and seeds) is a powerful irritant. Just having a dose contact the skin will reduce DX and combat by 2 for 50-HT minutes. And having it tossed into the eyes will blind for 2d hours!! Note that it must be handled carefully! The typical method is to toss it from some sort of flask, or a parchment envelope made for the purpose.
Dose Multiple: 4
Rarity: -4
Price: $25

Borsha Vine

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.
Lookalike: A similar vine, with paler flowers, is common. It isn't dangerous, but it has no positive value, either.
Habitat: Swamps, and damp forest areas and streams.
Part and Method: Root, chewed raw.
Effect: This is a powerful, general poison antidote. It steels the sytem against poisons of all kinds, adding 6 to any HT checks to resist poison - if it is chewed in time!
Dose Multiple: 1/2
Rarity: -8, -15 outside of swamps.
Price: $50


Description: A small, grey-green strain of wild lettuce. leaves are thick with thin yellow circles on their undersides, visible only in bright light.
Lookalike: Drundage (see below)
Habitat: Nearly anywhere, summer.
Part and Method: Leaves, chewed raw, extract, tea, or tincture
Effect: This is a powerful hallucinogen. In general, it takes 4d minutes for the effect to set in (this varies with method used), and the attendant hallucinations last for 3dx3 minutes. During this time, the character will be totally incapacitated. For 1d hours thereafter, he will be nauseous (-1 to combat and proficiency checks). This is a very popular plant among ne'er-do- wells and rogues, but is expensive due to it's relative rarity. It's name derives from it's odd, mild flavor.
Dose Multiple: 1/2
Rarity: -9
Price: $20

Brimflower (Winewort)

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.
Habitat: Meadows and hardwood forests, spring and early summer.
Part and Method: Flower, powder
Effect: This powder drastically reduces the effect of alchohol, provided it is mixed with the drink an hour beforehand. It is used to make "fixed" drink contests, etc. It leaves a telltale silt in the bottom of the bottle, however, which must be concealed somehow (opaque containers do the trick).
Dose Multiple: 1
Rarity: -10
Price: $10

Doorham's Bane

Description: A tall, reedlike plant, pale green and featuring small, circular leaves along it's length.
Habitat: Freshwater shallows, Spring through Autumn.
Part and Method: The whole plant is used, extract form.
Effect: This is used to make a nasty ingestive poison. It is resisted with HT+2, but does 3dx2 damage if the save is failed! Onset is 2d+2 rounds. The poison is odorless and colorless, and tastes of sharp anise.
Dose Multiple: 1
Rarity: -6
Price: The plant itself is not normally sold, but the finished poison can be had for $200 from appropriate sources.


Description: A small, grey-green strain of wild lettuce. leaves are thick, fibrous and unpalatable.
Lookalike: Butterleaf (see above)
Habitat: Nearly anywhere, summer.
Part and Method: Leaves, tincture
Effect: This is a rare and magical plant. Specifically, it is *anti- magical.* Anyone downing a dose of the foul drundage tincture is granted 1d levels of Magic Resistance for 5d minutes. However, like many herbs, a HT roll (this one at +3) is required to down the foul stuff successfully. Failure has no effect.
Dose Multiple: 1/2
Rarity: -12
Price: $350


Description: A tiny, bright green weed with white flowers. It rarely grows as high as 2 inches.
Lookalike: Many and various, with all sorts of effects. When a lookalike is indicated, roll on the random table for effects.
Habitat: Hardwood forests, Spring through Autumn.
Part and Method: The whole plant, tincture
Effect: Provided the character can pass a HT roll (to keep it down) the foul tincture from this plant will increase DX by 1 for 1d-3 hours (minimum 1)! A failed HT roll will not only lose this effect, but will reduce ST by 1d+1 for 1d hours. While thus weakened, no attempt to retake the drug will work.
Dose Multiple: 1/6
Rarity: -7
Price: $75


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.
Lookalike: A rare lookalike is nearly identical (the leaves have a slightly thicker central vein, and are paler). It is a deadly, paralytic poison. A failed roll against (HT-5) means total paralysis instantly, and death within an hour. A successful save still means 2d+2 damage and paralysis for 6d hours!! To find this foul plant on purpose, the rarity is -17, and all else is the same.
Habitat: Forests of all kinds, mountainous areas and streamsides, spring only.
Part and Method: Berries, powdered and mixed with alchohol.
Effect: Greenberry wine creates a strange effect. It makes the imbiber totally unaware of any tactile stimulus (including pain)! Unless the drinker actually looks at a wound, he will not know it is present! This confers the High Pain Threshold advantage, but the GM keeps track of all wounds - the PC is never sure how bad off he is until he falls unconscious! Also called "berserker berry" although it does not in any way affect temperament. The effects last 2d-1 hours.
Dose Multiple: 1/4
Rarity: -8
Price: $25. Some particularly mad mercenaries seem to like it . . .

Red Marigold

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.
Habitat: Stream-sides and meadows. Spring and Summer.
Part and Method: Flower, ointment.
Effect: Adds 1 to hit points restored with First Aid, or adds 1d if the damage is from burns! As a burn-healer, it is unsurpassed without the use of magic. It is commonly employed in potions and magical salves, as well.
Dose Multiple: 2
Rarity: -4
Price: $5

Random Herbs

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
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 

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