Nature’s Remedies- Herbalism in Fantasy

Herbs, leaves, fungi, and other ingredients found in the wild have long been a staple part of the healer’s toolkit. Herbalism is linked with not only healing, but also protection, witchcraft, and—of course—poison. Herbalism is covered by three skills: Medicine (for healing herbs), Nature (for most other herbs), and Religion (for herbs dealing with the undead and the like). Preparation of an herb is an Intelligence (Nature), Wisdom (Medicine), or Wisdom (Religion) check, and requires proficiency with a herbalism kit, which contains the necessary tools and implements for making poultices, incense, soups, or teas from nature’s bounty. Herbs are divided into three types: healing, endowment, and warding.

  • Healing herbs restore hit points, and help deal with poison and illness.
  • Endowment herbs grant abilities, including enhanced senses and adrenalin-like “buffs.”
  • Warding herbs protect the user from things, including the undead.

This article introduces a small selection of example herbs, along with rules for finding and preparing them. GMs are encouraged to devise their own herbs for their home campaigns. Note that this article uses the word “herbs” to refer to plants that have properties useful to fantasy herbalists, whether or not the plants are botanically herbs.

Preparing an Herb

A herbalism kit contains various herbs and ingredients; however, these need to be prepared before they can be used. Preparing an herb is much like casting a spell. Many herbs have a preparation time of just one action, although some require one minute or more. Once prepared, an herb must be used within five minutes, or it becomes useless.

To prepare an herb, a character needs to spend the required time and make the indicated skill check. On a success, the herb is ready for use; the herb can be applied by the herbalist or her patient or recipient with no further checks; this typically requires a single action.

If the skill check fails, the concoction is ruined. The herbalist may try again.

A creature can only benefit from a given herb once per day.

Finding Herbs

Finding an herb requires a Wisdom (Survival) check regardless of herb type. The difficulty of the check is the same as the difficulty to prepare it. Finding herbs takes 1 hour per dose.

Alternatively, herbs can be purchased for the prices shown in the Herb Reference table below. The price given is the cost for one dose of the herb; the herb still needs to be prepared.

Herb Reference
Herb Type Skill Check Cost Effect
Acorn of the Pipemold Flower Healing DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) 100 gp Heal injuries
Bulb of the Goldbark Bud Endowment DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) 75 gp Gain clarity of mind
Darkberry Endowment DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) 50 gp See in the dark
Firedrake Petals Warding DC 20 Intelligence (Nature) 150 gp Protection from fire
Gingercloud Leaf Healing DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) 50 gp Poison antidote
Root of the Adderwort Healing DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) 25 gp Heal minor cuts and bruises
Silver Garlic Warding DC 20 Intelligence (Religion) 200 gp Ward away the undead
Spiderbulb Endowment DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) 75 gp Increase sight and hearing
Swamp Slime Healing DC 20 Wisdom (Medicine) 100 gp Cure blindness
Sycamore Petals Warding DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) 25 gp Holy water
Yellow Bark Healing DC 20 Wisdom (Medicine) 50 gp Suppress madness


Acorn of the Pipemold Flower [healing]

These acorns are potent indeed. Stored correctly by an experienced herbalist in a vial of vinegar, the acorn becomes brittle and hard. A creature who swallows one whole (a fairly unpleasant task) regains 1d6 hit points.

Skill Check(s) Wisdom (Medicine) DC 15

Preparation Time 1 action

Bulb of the Goldbark Bud [endowment]

Sometimes used by student scholars and apprentice wizards, this foul-tasting bulb can be chewed to gain a degree of mental clarity. For 1 minute, a recipient chewing the bulb gains advantage on Intelligence checks. Unfortunately, there is a side effect: for 1 hour afterwards, the recipient instead has disadvantage on Intelligence checks.

Skill Check(s) Intelligence (Nature) DC 15

Preparation Time 1 action

Darkberry [endowment]

The darkberry is a small, sweet fruit with the ability to endow darkvision on those who eat it. Upon consuming the berry, the recipient gains darkvision to a range of 60 feet for 10 minutes.

Skill Check(s) Intelligence (Nature) DC 15

Preparation Time 1 action

Firedrake Petals [warding]

Firedrake is a leafy bush noted for being nearly impervious to fire. Indeed, craftsmen try to incorporate it into the walls of buildings, but the effects sadly do not last. When crushed and mixed into an ointment, and smeared all over the body, the recipient gains resistance to fire damage for 1 hour.

Skill Check(s) Intelligence (Nature) DC 20

Preparation Time 5 minutes

Gingercloud Leaf [healing]

The gingercloud tree is known for its use as an effective antidote to many poisons. While it can do little for poison damage already taken, it can help to end or resist a poison in the patient’s system. After imbibing the leaf as part of a soup, the recipient gains advantage on saving throws made to resist or end the effects of a poison for 1 hour. This is similar to the item described as “antitoxin” in the core rules, although it cannot be stored.

Skill Check(s) Wisdom (Medicine) DC 15

Preparation Time 1 minute

Root of the Adderwort [healing]

This herb is the blue-black root of a deep purple flower. While the flower itself can cause sickness, the root has wonderful healing properties when ground into a poultice and applied to a cut or abrasion, restoring 1 hit point to a recipient who currently has 1 or more hit points.

Skill Check(s) Wisdom (Medicine) DC 10

Preparation Time 1 action

Silver Garlic [warding]

Silver garlic is a particularly potent form of garlic found near silver mines. It has powerful warding properties against the undead when worn around the neck in the form of a necklace, although the smell can be off-putting. Undead creatures have disadvantage on melee attacks against the wearer for 10 minutes; however, the wearer has disadvantage to Dexterity (Stealth) checks due to the obvious aroma.

Skill Check(s) Intelligence (Religion) DC 20

Preparation Time 1 minute

Spiderbulb [endowment]

Spiderbulb grows in the ground, and has a pungent, spicy taste and aroma which can sting the eyes. When carefully sliced and placed under the tongue, it heightens the recipient’s senses of sight and hearing for 10 minutes, granting advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Skill Check(s) Intelligence (Nature) DC 15

Preparation Time 1 minute

Swamp Slime [healing]

A disgusting, foul-smelling ointment smeared across the eyes can cure blindness. Any creature suffering from the blinded condition due to illness, poison, or other effects, but not including situations where vision is merely obscured, has its sight restored for 1 hour (if the condition lasts less than 1 hour, it is cured).

Skill Check(s) Wisdom (Medicine) DC 20

Preparation Time 1 action

Sycamore Petals [warding]

Sycamore petals are divine, holy plants; they can be ground up and mixed into water. The result is the equivalent of a vial of holy water. Unlike actual holy water created by a cleric or paladin using a special ritual, this—like all herbal concoctions—only remains effective for 5 minutes.

Skill Check(s) Wisdom (Medicine) DC 15

Preparation Time 1 minute

Yellow Bark [healing]

The yellow bark of the yewclaw is a wonderful way to ease the strain of madness on an afflicted person. Burnt as an incense, and deeply inhaled, the resultant smoke calms the mind, curing a short-term madness completely, and suppressing the effects of a long-term madness for 1 hour.

Skill Check(s) Wisdom (Medicine) DC 20

Preparation Time 1 minute


Rate: 5 gp/day

Known for the assorted tonics and serums, apothecaries are sometimes mistaken for alchemists, but their services are purely medicinal. Apothecaries use a hireling’s statistics but have an Intelligence score of 14, possess a healer’s kit, and are proficient in the Nature skill and with alchemists’ supplies. Apothecaries gain the following traits: ? Administer Treatment. An apothecary can spend 1 minute caring for a patient. An ally treated by the apothecary can make a new saving throw against a poison or disease. This expends a use of the apothecary’s healer’s kit.

Prepare Remedies. While traveling or adventuring, an apothecary can spend 10 days brewing an antitoxin or creating a new healer’s kit. In a natural environment, the apothecary doesn’t need to purchase raw supplies to craft these items.


Rate: 1 gp/day, plus 1 gp/meal served

Preparing meals over a campfire is an entirely different skillset than cooking in a kitchen. Warm meals are a luxury many adventures forgo, but consuming only preserved rations can lead to ill health. Cooks use a hireling’s statistics but are proficient with cook’s utensils and gain the following trait.

Hearty Cooking. Any creature who eats a meal prepared by a cook during a rest where they spend Hit Dice regains an additional 1d4 hit points.


Rate: 5 gp/day

Occasionally called “translators,” interpreters are polyglots who are not only able to speak multiple languages, but quick to learn new tongues. Interpreters use a hireling’s statistics but have an Intelligence score of 14, know three additional languages, and gain the following trait: ? Linguist. It only takes an interpreter 125 days to learn an unfamiliar language and half that to learn a language that shares a script with a known language. Additionally, an interpreter has advantage on all Wisdom (Insight) checks to comprehend a speaker’s meaning, even if the language is unknown.


Rate: 6 sp/day

Equally adept at performing songs and telling tales, minstrels entertain during long travels and recount adventurers’ heroic deeds.

Minstrels use a hireling’s statistics but have a Charisma score of 14, are proficient with three musical instruments, and gain the following trait:

  • Spread Reputation. A minstrel that spends a day in a settlement can perform songs of their employer’s exploits. Until a week passes, one of the subjects of the song can choose to reroll a Charisma check in that settlement. Once this trait has been used in a settlement, it can’t be used again until new tales can be told.


Rate: 2 sp/day

Alternatively known as “bearers”, adventurers employ porters to carry supplies. Porters are used by most expeditions to transport gear over terrain that pack animals can’t easily traverse, such as across mountains or into dungeons. Porters use a hireling’s statistics, except they have a Strength score of 13 and gain the following trait:

  • Broad Shoulders. A porter treats their Strength score as 2 points higher when calculating their carrying capacity, and has advantage on all checks made to carry heavy objects over a distance.


Rate: 10 gp/day

Scholars are specialized hirelings frequently consulted by those in search of obscure information. Scholars rarely leave civilization, but sometimes accompany adventures who need their expertise to examine ruins or immovable relics.

Scholars use a hireling’s statistics with the following modifications. They have an Intelligence score of 14, and are proficient in Investigation and either one additional skill (chosen from Arcana, History, or Nature) or one set of tools (chosen from alchemist’s supplies, calligrapher’s tools, or cartography tools). A scholar also gains the following trait:

  • Studious. Whenever a scholar makes an Intelligence check to find or recall information, they may treat d20 rolls of 9 or lower as a 10.


Rate: 5 sp/day

Trained to assist warriors with their gear, squires are typically youths of noble blood apprenticing to be knights. However, lowborn adventurers occasionally feign nobility and employ squires of their own. Squires remain close to their master, holding extra weapons and equipment, or picking up dropped gear.

Squires use a hireling’s statistics, except they have a Strength score of 12 and gain the following trait:

  • Arming. A squire hastens donning and doffing armour, reducing the required time by half. A squire can also assist in equipping a shield; so long as a creature is within 5 feet of a friendly squire, equipping a shield is a bonus action. A squire also loses their club attack and gains the following attack option:
  • Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage.


Rate: 2 sp/day

Sometimes called “pack handlers,” teamsters load and unload beasts of burden, drive wagons, and manage the feeding and grooming of pack animals. Teamsters use a hireling’s statistics, except they are proficient in the Animal Handling skill and with vehicles (land).


Rate: 1 sp/day

Also known as a lantern bearer or linkboy, torchbearers provide light during expeditions to dark places, freeing their employers’ hands for other purposes. Torchbearers use a hireling stat block and gain the following attack option:

  • Torch. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1 fire damage.

Personality & Background

Hirelings should be memorable and have personality, but should also have some reason for agreeing to such dangerous work. To aid in the quick creation of a hireling, the following tables are provided.

d8 Trait
1 Eager. Always strives to please their employer.
2 Fatalistic. Believes they are helpless to enact real change.
3 Stoic. Impassive and difficult to provoke.
4 Sarcastic. Prone to wisecracks and mocking criticism.
5 Excitable. Thrilled by new sights and experiences.
6 Optimistic. Possesses a happy-go-lucky attitude regardless of the situation.
7 Dull-witted. Slow to react or process new information.
8 Aggressive. Always first to act or suggest a response.
d20 Feature
1 Constantly fiddles with a brass coin.
2 Whittles during free moments.
3 Clumsily fumbles fragile objects.
4 Speaks in a higher pitch when excited.
5 Constantly reads small chapbooks.
6 Stutters during periods of stress.
7 Loves to recite folky sayings and proverbs.
8 Whistles when nervous.
9 Drinks heavily when stressed.
10 Has terrible eyesight.
11 Loves to taste new foods.
12 Taps their fingers on walls and furniture.
13 Superstitiously avoids things that cause bad luck.
14 Possesses an inexplicable knowledge of fine wine.
15 Collects commonly found items (rocks, feathers, bones, etc.).
16 Plays with a small knife when bored.
17 Hums random songs without realizing.
18 Loves gazing at the stars.
19 Doodles with charcoal on spare parchment. 20 Has a lucky charm they kiss for good fortune.
Background Motivation
d6 Motive
1 Owes money to the wrong people.
2 Has always wanted to be a real adventurer.
3 A loved family member died and now they have nothing to live for.
4 Loves gold and sees adventuring as a quick way to make money.
5 Angered a local authority figure and fears they might seek revenge.
6 A relationship ended spectacularly and now they want to leave town.
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