I continue rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. We are in the home stretch, and today I’m fiddling with something a player of mine wants to make a reality: Herbalism, Alchemy, and Medicine! Let’s take a look as I wander my way poorly while I try to describe my nascent Idea of what that would look like.
In many of the tales and legends, we are told of wizards and witches and crones out in the woods making concoctions of ingredients found within the world, their lessons in combining eyes of newts and brains of frogs to create hexes, or healing leaves and soothing roots to create tonics that repair the wounded and dying. It is a staple of the genre, yet I have not felt that any of the systems I have found or created have really showcased this skill, in a way that will be meaningful to the games it is in, and also fun to use without being a burden on the DM and the player.
So, to that extent, like last week’s article on the Injuries, I want to try and narrate out what I am trying to do with this system, while simultaneously tear it out of my head into a fully formed and working system.
Lets go for a ride.
One of the parts that has always stumped me, much like with poison, is that ingredients must be both highly specific and absolutely vague. This comes from the examples in literature and fantasy writing – which newt eyes? left or right? ice newt? Fire newt? Swamp newt? specific caterpillars? What do each of the ingredients represent and how do they work together into the desired creation?
As each setting is different, and each world easily can have different ingredients that are important to it, I think it is critical to creating a relevant system that none of the specific ingredients be pre-defined. Instead, the system can cope with both ingredients named on the spot and pre-defined ingredients, as the game masters desires.
To represent this, I build a table for ingredients based both on the four humors from the Medieval Ages and elemental properties. Lastly, Because poisons and healing are a thing, I wanted to add life and death to the chart.
Every time an ingredient is discovered the DM can choose two properties from the chart or roll 2d100 and consult it. Duplicates are perfectly fine. This will give the ingredient its properties and traits. Herbalists can keep track of their discoveries and attempt to gather similar ingredients again, and these extensive notes on how and where to gather ingredients is a hallmark of a good herbalist.
Properties and Traits
Each ingredient has two distinct aspects that define how it performs. First are its Traits, which are the basic categories for ingredients, determining how and when they are most effective. These are, as stated above, based on elements and humors. Cold, wet ingredients perform differently than cold, dry ingredients, and so on.
Properties are the vital and important portion of the ingredient that defines how it works in a concoction. Each ingredient will have two properties, defined by their Traits.
Eg: When Sofi the Herbalist locates a plant in the wilderness, and she picks it, she is able to identify that it has specific properties. She rolls 2d100, achieving a 64 and a 22. This identifies the Plant as being Wet (Clotting) and Fire (Healing). This is a particularly helpful plant!
Now that we know what we are gathering, we can work on determining how to gather them. Of course, there will be an easy way (paying gold) and a harder way (gathering from the wilderness) but each will have its own ups and downs.
Each ingredient has its own set of properties, and that means that there are properties one can select when shopping ingredients. Ingredients cost 2g per part (one usage in a concoction). Elemental properties are slightly rarer, and cost twice as much per property, with an elemental/elemental ingredient costing four times as much as normal (8g). vitality properties are each also significantly rarer than elemental, costing five times as much per property, with Vitality/Vitality costing ten times as much as normal (20g).
When harvesting ingredients, you make a survival (Intelligence) check against a harvesting DC. This DC is 10. if you fail this check, you find no ingredients to harvest. for every 2 points above the DC, you find enough of a specific ingredient to be used as one part in a concoction. For every 5 points above 10, you find an additional ingredient to use. You choose which parts are which ingredient.
Concoctions represent the many forms of ingredient delivery systems. Teas, poultices, mixtures, Infusions, pills, and all other forms are covered under concoctions. Feel free to define the look and shape of each one you create.
Each concoction requires three equal shares of ingredients, called parts. By combining these parts, you create a concoction with the chosen ingredients that amplifies the properties into effectiveness.
For each part of the concoction, choose an ingredient. This can be the same ingredient or different ones. experimenting is key to herbalism, so feel free to change it up.
Properties are affected according to the following chart:
Fore each occurrence of a property in the concoctions parts.
6- Distilled Essence: Triple the strength of the property per the table.
5- Potent Effect: Choose or roll an additional property from the traits the concoction already has. The concoction has this effect as well at an expected level.
4- Enhanced Effect. Chose one or roll from the Enhanced effect table.
3- Increased effect. Double the strength of the property as per the table.
2- Expected effect, listed on the Table.
1- Overwhelmed by the other properties, no effect.
Unlike magical effects and potions, concoctions take time to take effect. once a concoction is applied, it has no effect for 10 minutes unless otherwise specified. Sometimes, this is beneficial, and other times it is not.
When you create a concoction, you can opt to either create at the stated level of power, given the properties, or you can try and experiment with creating something new, but I think I have to save that, and the chart for what the Properties do, for another time. This one is proving difficult enough to pull out of my head, as it is.
So, I guess this is Part 1 of 2. I hope to have the second part out on Thursday!