Category Archives: Rules

Herbalism – Simples!

(Introducing the idea of “folk remedies” for faerie folk.)

If you’ve ever played a herbalist character, you’ll have endured occasional frustrations where you’re either unable to find anything useful, or you keep on finding the wrong things. Naturally enough, upon finding a herb that one currently has no use for, the herbalist player is tempted to seize the ingredients anyway, in an effort to build up a stock of materials over time… but than can introduce long-term game balance problems.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty set of optional rules that allow a player to get a little more out of their herbalism skill – rather than being a supposedly good faerie carrying around a bunch of poisons for no better reason than because the ingredients turned up.

The existing rules that describe how to make ointments and potions remain unchanged, but there are other things that a herbalist can do to provide aid, such as mixing a remedy for a sore throat. Potions and ointments remain ‘special’ in that they are formulated to last a long time, but herbalists can also derive beneficial effects from relatively common plants, and other ingredients such as honey. These herbal remedies are prepared and used on demand: they aren’t stockpiled like potions, because they only work when fresh.

The ingredients for these minor remedies are easily found: nothing is particularly unusual, so if the herbalist is prepared to expend the stated time they are likely to be able to gather all the required ingredients, and make enough medicine to treat several faeries. The Game Master does not need to make a die roll to determine what herbs are present: the simple ingredients required for these remedies are always available – unless the character is trapped underground, it’s the middle of winter, or it’s too dark to search for the required ingredients, etc. (The Game Master can rule on any such limitation.)

If the player declares that he/she is going to make a herbal remedy, any of the following may be chosen. The character then expends the stated time to gather the ingredients, and chop, crush, boil, etc. as appropriate. At the end of that time, 1d100 is rolled. Making herbal remedies is a relatively easy aspect of the herbalism skill, so if the roll is less than double the character’s herbalism skill, the remedy is found to be a success, and can be used for treatment.

If the 1d100 roll is greater than double the character’s herbalism skill, the herbal mixture is clearly absolutely awful, and won’t do any good. It is thrown away… but the herbalist can try again by expending more time.

A list of herbal remedies follows. Game Masters may wish to allow additional herbal remedies (learned from books, or NPCs) during gameplay…


Herbal remedies table

That’s it! Thanks for reading, and I would be interested to know what you think…


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Tricky Questions from Faerie Wood

Number one in, perhaps, a very long series…

Treelings as Herbalists

All treelings are herbalists to some degree, but how does a treeling go about harvesting herbs, given that she:

(a) is a form of plant herself,
(b) has an innate ability to talk to plants, and can therefore presumably hear their little screams as she plucks ’em from the soil, and
(c)  is supposedly of a neural alignment, not inclined towards killing sprees centred upon her vegetable brethren?

That question puzzled me quite a lot, back when I was playing Twiggle the treeling. For a start, there’s the percentile skill roll that’s made to see if she’s on the ball at that particular moment; able to spot any herbs that may be in the area. My fellow players always used to laugh at me, disappearing off to search the vicinity for herbs each time we made camp. Or “taking a trip to the herb garden,” as Mark called it.

You can imagine Twiggle calling out to the plants around her:

“’Scuse me! Are any of you lot precious ’erbs, by any chance?”

(Like virtually all of my female characters, Twiggle had a matronly manner and a Cornish accent. Lawks.)

Of course, all the plants reply that they are ordinary plants, since they don’t want to get ‘harvested’.

“Are you sure, moi dears? What about you? Yes you, with the berries…”

Fortunately, Murphy’s law prevailed and when the Game Master made his dice roll I never seemed to find any of the more exotic spell herbs; just a lot of mild digestive poisons. I decided that since poison is a nasty thing, the plants in question must also be nasty, and unpopular. Taking plants such as these out of the ground could be considered akin to weeding, perhaps. But that still leaves you in the unusual position of being a basically kindly faerie… with a satchel full of poison.

In fact, it leaves you in the unusual position of being a tree that wears a satchel. Folk kept coming up to me to see why somebody might have left a bag in a tree, and if there was anything good inside it…


The more useful herbs, though… they give rise to the question of eco-faeries. Happening upon a spell herb, should the player take every bit of it, in order to make as many potions as possible? Should they take just what they need and leave the rest growing, for other faeries to find later? Might they attempt to take a viable specimen with them, for replanting in their own garden? Or does this tactic circumvent the herbalism skill, since the player would ultimately not need to roll against their skill, but simply go and potter by the potting shed?

With the exception of the ‘satchel in a tree’ problem – which has no answer unless perhaps you allow treelings to grow pockets – here’s a proposed solution to these herb-related questions:

What the herbalist takes isn’t the whole plant. Each of the notable herbs has a magical part, and that’s the only bit that is of use. Pulling up the whole plant doesn’t get you any additional magic ingredients: it just wastes the plant. The material that the herbalist is after is some loose bark, some berries, some newly-grown shoots, some pollen, some buds… or whatever. (Although some key ingredients will invariably be roots, and those are pretty much essential to the continued existence of a plant.)


Next, on the social side, plants don’t feel pain the way we do. Perhaps they don’t mind giving up a bit of fruit (it’s how their seeds are dispersed, after all) and getting a bit of a tidy-up at the hands of a skilled herbalist could be quite pleasant – and every bit as necessary as trimming your toenails.

The notion that the herbalist might be after buds, or old bark, or pollen… that’s awkward, though, since it introduces a time dimension. Buds appear in spring. Pollen is available in summer; seed pods and fallen leaves in the autumn. Do we need four herb tables; one for each season? Perhaps. I’m quite intrigued by this idea… but I don’t like introducing additional complexity, in general. (Nor will Garry necessarily let me.) We have also to address the question of Crimson Wood, where plants are supposed to be more inherently magical. Does this involve some kind of bonus, or multiplier to the die roll?

Let’s ask Garry.


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