The TriadCity Adventurer

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Turning Over a New Leaf

An Interview With an Herbalist
By Anderr
Month of Elephants 17, Year of the Tiger 5

Many organizations are renowned for their love of secrecy: the thieves guilds, the malopaths, the cultists of Nuit. None, however, are as sinister and feared as the dreaded Herbalists.

Well, maybe not. In fact, your average herbalist is probably a pretty laid-back, smell-the-roses kind of person. Today I am joined by one of the city's more experienced herbalists, who agreed to speak with me. They insisted on being kept anonymous "because it would be funny." We spoke on a bench not far from the Royal Gardens.


Anderr:  Thanks for joining me today. I appreciate that you must be busy.

Herbalist:  (taking a slow sip of beer) Oh, definitely. Got a lot of irons in the fire.

<Anderr:  In your own words, what is herbalism?

Herbalist:  Herbalism is often defined as the practice of collecting certain herbs or plant matter, combining them in specific ways, and bringing forth their hidden potential to produce the desired effects. However, I prefer to think of myself as a glorified shrubbery thief.

Anderr:  So what sort of "effects" do you produce?

Herbalist:  You've probably noticed a lot of people walk around the city with funny little tea bags around their necks. Those are herb sachets. Sachets impart effects on their wearers. As to what they do, well, there are many varieties.

Anderr:  Care to name a few?

Herbalist:  You're probably familiar with "healing" or "recovery" sachets. Those will make you recover your energy and health literally several times faster. Those are definitely the most popular kind of sachet, because there is a universal demand for them. Herbalists can also make blends that boost things like strength, intelligence and wisdom, which can be very handy for some situations. There are also recipes for a few more unusual effects; protection from theft, success picking locks. Not that I know anyone who would worry about picking locks, you understand.

Anderr:  That's quite a variety of different kinds of sachets. How powerful are the effects?

Herbalist:  Depends on the herbalist and the ingredients. They range from nice, but forgettable, like the sachets you can pick up at the herbalist's shop in the white plaza, to literally four or even five times as powerful. I've seen two tiny little sachets making someone more intelligent than a forty-pound bag of ruby jewellery. Same ratio goes for healing sachets; if you have a good set of those, you practically never need to sleep. You just keep feeling full of pep.

Anderr:  What determines how strong a given herbalist's sachets are?

Herbalist:  Experience. An herbalist who just apprenticed and learned their skills yesterday is going to make sachets that wouldn't outperform a placebo. But every time they bow to the king, they're gonna find that their herbs are stronger and stronger. Before long, they'll be able to produce some really eyebrow-raising effects.

Anderr:  Sounds too good to be true. Are there any side-effects? Will my hair fall out?

Herbalist:  Nothing like that. There are two drawbacks, though; one, making good sachets for lots of people means you have to constantly be collecting the necessary herbs. You have to work it into your daily routine and you end up effectively spending a lot of time on it. Two, and this is the big one, all herb sachets have a performance envelope. That's a fancy way of saying they wear out and die. Eventually, the herbs around your neck will just stop working without even so much as a death rattle, and you'll need to notice on your own. The real "side effect" of herbs is that you get used to them; so much that when they wear off, you may find yourself getting winded all the time because you're used to running around full tilt all day.

Anderr:  You mentioned that making sachets means taking certain steps in your daily routine. What does that mean? How are sachets made?

Herbalist:  Making sachets is actually a fairly time consuming process. The hard part is getting the supplies. First, you need two empty sachets. Just like surgeons need sterile tools, we need clean, empty, sachets. Currently the only place to get those is Herb's shop by cathedral station on the green line. The Herbalist in the white plaza doesn't sell 'em; doesn't want the competition.

Next, you need herbs. There's a handy table of herbs in the player's guide that matches the type of plant to the effect it creates. It doesn't take long to figure out where you can get what you need; just find the right kind of plant, look at it to see whether it has any leaves to pick right now, and gather them. Helps to bring a container; I prefer a nylon daypack, or even a golf bag. Leaves aren't heavy, but they're hard to hold onto in large numbers.

Next, you put the herbs into the sachet. Each sachet holds four components - that's four bunches of leaves or what-have-you. You should always put four leaves in a sachet at this step to avoid problems with the ritual later. It can be tricky to put the right leaves in the right sachets. I recommend picking up exactly the number of sachets you want to make, exactly the leaves you'll need, and then moving to a new room just to make sure that you don't get mixed up. You should set the sachets on the ground, put the leaves in them, and then perform the actuation ritual on each sachet. Then they're ready to wear.

Anderr:  Tell me about this "actuation ritual" you mentioned. That sounds like something that requires special skills.


Herbalist:  Yep. The first three things every young herbalist learns, after they become good at meditation, are ritual cleaning, drawing magic circles, and actuation.

The actuation ritual should be done while meditating for best results. Find a private space, bury your conscious mind, and begin by ritual cleaning. Ritual cleaning is something you need to do before any ritual in order to eliminate any sort of magical or physical interference. To borrow another surgical metaphor, it's like creating a clean operating space free of harmful foreign energies. The cleanness is easy to break; anything like a bee buzzing by, or someone next to you singing or clapping their hands can ruin your work instantly. That's why it's good to pick someplace private and quiet to work.

Drawing a magic circle is creating a delimited space for your power to act within; keeps the outside energy outside. A room needs to be clean first in order to draw a magic circle, otherwise you'll summon a succubus. Or, maybe just fail to draw one. You try it. The magic circle doesn't require any sort of tool or drawing instrument; it's a physical manifestation of a magical barrier. Circles will sink back into the earth after a time; they sink slower in some places than others.

Finally, the active ingredient in the ritual is actuation. Actuating a sachet is where you catalyze its ingredients into harmony with each other, and unleash their potential. This is where a pile of leaves becomes a source of great power. Actuation requires that the sachets be filled, and on the floor in the room with you. Make sure to actuate all sachets. If it fails, you'll know. Two most common reasons to fail to actuate are that something broke the ritual's clean state without you noticing, or that you forgot to fill the sachet. You can also fail simply by lack of talent.

Anderr:  That's a lot of instructions! Sounds complicated.

Herbalist:  The first couple of times, it can be daunting. Soon, though, it takes about ten seconds or so and you're done.

Anderr:  You mentioned that the ritual steps can fail because of a "lack of talent" - what counts as talent for herbalism?

Herbalist:  Patience. Being calm, observant, centered. Some people call it wisdom. I know that studies have shown that wearing emerald jewels can really improve the performance of an herbalist - and not only that, but make them learn and advance faster as well.

Anderr:  How do you advance as an herbalist?

Herbalist:  Most people have another job on the side; a lot are healers or rangers, who, most of the time, just heal and range. If you want to get some experience under your belt, practising rituals can really be a good experience. Make sure you have the wisdom to learn from it, and practice cleaning, drawing circles, and so on. Or you could do an interview and demand half the spiffs; worked for me.

Anderr:  Are there any advanced techniques or skills in herbalism?

Herbalist:  Not that I know of, at least not in the usual sense. You don't learn "Remote Herbalism" when you become a master or anything like healers and malopaths and all those weirdos. However, you do get better by learning little out of the way spots to find herbs, so you don't have to wait for them to grow back so much. You can also experiment with different blends of herbs.

Anderr:  Different blends?

Herbalist:  Right. The effect of the sachet depends on what kind of leaves you put in. For example, mint leaves cause a healing effect, and thistle leaves cause you to get stronger. Most people would put four mint leaves in one sachet, and actuate that to make a really strong recovery sachet. But you could mix in two mint leaves and two thistle leaves, for example, and get a sachet that gives you about half as much recovery boost as the other, and some strength boost as well. Or you could do three of one leaf with one of the other. You see? The combinations are endless. Most people just want one effect, so most herbalists will put four of the same leaf in a sachet to get the maximum effect. But who knows what special blends might turn out to be suited for certain situations? That's an area that hasn't been researched too much yet, including by yours truly.

Anderr:  Any advice to people seeking to make money from Herbalism?

Herbalist:  Yeah, don't do it for the money. We herbalists make some of the most universally useful items in the city - powerful recovery sachets - but most of us never see a dime for it. And it's really better that way. Competition with other herbalists, and just plain goodness, makes us give 'em away. Selfish people just never seem to make it as herbalists.

Anderr:  Which Roles mix well with Herbalism?

Herbalist:  Herbalism is a good match if you want to be a ranger, and especially if you're a healer. Healers are always our biggest customers - after malopaths - for recovery sachets.

Anderr:  Any closing remarks?

Herbalist:  You don't happen to have any bay leaves on you, do ya?

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