Answering the question - How Many Herbs do I Know?

Players always ask the darndest questions. These rules came about when I was trying to answer a series of questions on the Hârnlist.

Your criticism/commentary is welcome.

When to Use the Right Skill | Covering the Basics | How it Works | Example Given | Organizing the Data

When to Use the Right Skill

The HârnMaster game system has two very similar skills:

HMI: SML TCH INT SS: Ulandus +3, Aralius +2
HMII: DEX EYE SML SS: Ulandus +3, Aralius +2
Definition: Knowledge about finding/identifying and harvesting herbs and spices is herblore.

HMI:SML INT AUR SS: Skorus+4, Tai+2, Masara+2
HMII: SML INT AUR SS: Skorus+3, Tai+2, Masara+2
Definition: Knowledge about preparing and mixing herbs for use is alchemy.

If the PC has the herblore skill, they know where the herbs grow, and when they should be picked, and how to harvest them. A PC with herblore and not alchemy can make simple poultices, teas and to use the herb dried or fresh in cooking. They should also be aware of the poisonous plants in the region.

To really make use of the herbs the herblore skill finds, the PC needs the Alchemy skill.

Because these skills are so closely linked, PCs with herblore, receive a bonus of 1 OML to open alchemy; even during gameplay.

Covering the Basics

Herbs and spices are divided by category and region. A category refers to its frequency (from very-common to very-rare.) Its region refers to the location in which it is found (from the local area to some other continent.)



The regions where herbs grow are game specific. These have nothing really to do with country or kingdom boundaries, but more to do with the climate of the land. A region is considered local if it is within a few days travel from the PCs home/workplace. Local herblore relates to all the herbs to be naturally found in the local region.

Distant regions refer to places the PC may never have travelled, but trade is frequent and herbs from these distant regions are available for sale at most markets.

Foreign regions refer to places the PC may never have travelled and trade is infrequent or non-existent. The herbs, if found anywhere are strange and exotic. Book-lore is the only way the PC can learn about herbs and spices from Foreign regions.

When to Use the Right Skill | Covering the Basics | How it Works | Example Given | Organizing the Data

How it Works

The PC with herblore traditionally only learns local or regional herbs with the few that are imported/traded in the area. It is up to the GM to determine if the herbs are available for the PC to learn about.


  LN Knowing Bonus HMI Finding Bonus HMII Finding Bonus
Local +0    
Distant -25    
Foreign -50    
Book* +25    
Tract* +20    
Treaty* +10    
Scroll* +5*    
very-common +10 x 1.25 x 1.25
common +05 x 1.00 x 1.00
uncommon +0 x 0.75 x 0.75
rare -5 x 0.50 x 0.50
very-rare -10 x 0.25 x 0.25

* Per written work, per category, per region. If one written work covers multiple regions or categories, divide its bonus accordingly.

When to Use the Right Skill | Covering the Basics | How it Works | Example Given | Organizing the Data

So How Many?

It depends greatly on how the PC studies herblore. If they learn from someone locally, chances are they will only know the local, regional and traded herbs. It requires book knowledge (and thus literacy) to learn about the herbs from Foreign regions.

For each herb encountered, they receive the following bonus: INT+SI+Bonuses. Once the bonuses are calculated for the herb, the PC then makes a skill check vs herblore, adding the bonus to her roll. If the EML is less than zero, the PC has no chance of knowing the herb.

Results are as follows:

She knows how to find the herb year-round and how to use it.
She knows how to find the herb when it is in season only and is uncertain as to its specific use.
She does not know the herb at all.

When to Use the Right Skill | Covering the Basics | How it Works | Example Given | Organizing the Data

Example Given

Fennelisa has an herblore of 16 (ML), and an intelligence (INT) of 14. She is illiterate, so she can gain no bonus from reading on the topic.

So she would have the following bonuses for each category of herb within each region.

Herb Category Bonus Effective ML
Local Herbs
very-common 14+1+10+0=25 25+16=41
common 14+1+05+0=20 20+16=36
uncommon 14+1+00+0=15 15+16=31
rare 14+1-05+0=10 10+16=26
very-rare 14+1-10+0=05 05+16=21
Distant Herbs
very-common 14+1+10-25=0 00+16=16
common 14+1+05-25=-05 -05+16=11
uncommon 14+1+00-25=-10 -10+16=06
rare 14+1-05-25=-15 -15+16=01
very-rare 14+1-10-25=-20 -20+16=-04
Foreign Herbs
very-common 14+1+10-50=-25 -25+16=-09
common 14+1+05-50=-30 -30+16=-14
uncommon 14+1+00-50=-35 -35+16=-19
rare 14+1-05-50=-40 -40+16=-24
very-rare 14+1-10-50=-45 -45+16=-29

So if she were trying to see if she knew a local very-common herb, her chances are fair (41%); but if she's trying to see if she knows a foreign, very-rare herb she has no chance.

When to Use the Right Skill | Covering the Basics | How it Works | Example Given | Organizing the Data

Organizing the Data

These rules require the PC to organize the data somehow. One idea Andreas came up with was that every herb and alchemical recipe be written up on a playing card-sized piece of cardboard. Each time the PC learns a new herb, they get the card. By glancing quickly through the cards they can find out all the basic information they need to know about the herb in question.

The cards will be produced in black and white because it's expensive to produce in color - and because I'm sure there will be lots of changes over time.

The front of each card should show the plant in its entirety (from root to flower) and in several forms (flowering, not flowering, buds, seeds, etc..) Ideally the art will be hand drawn to fit the Hârnic style; but that will depend on the amount of time I have, and how tired I get of drawing plants (S,AS).

With any luck, these cards should eventually start appearing on my web page. The information (as presented on the back of the "card" above) is already there (under Bizarre). Now it's just a matter of adding to it and finding various pictures for everything.

I do not intend to catalog every herb on the island, and certainly not all the herbs on the continent - but I found a file off an AD&D web site that lists a lot of herbs (the file is available on   It was written by Shaun Hately,

When to Use the Right Skill | Covering the Basics | How it Works | Example Given | Organizing the Data

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