A Necromancer's Grimoire: The Secret of Herbs
By Thilo Graf
This pdf is 29 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
Kicking off with a rather grisly, yet aptly-written piece of prose we are introduced to the matter at hand on page 6, before we get to the content – killing 4 further pages in the process and making this pdf rather short, but onwards to the new plants introduced here:
Since the herbs here can be found in specific climates and need a survival-check to be found that is further modified if the character has ranks in Profession (Herbalist), Craft (Alchemy) or similar skills – beyond that, foraging of course also provides nice adventure-hooks: After all, what if the needed plant only grows in the graveyard of dragons or those haunted burial cairns?
Each entry of the respective plants comes thus with a foraging DC, a sample price for one batch and both a description of the physical form of the respective herb as well as multiple items that can be crafted from it as well as the required DCs. Growing your own herbs is also covered in an extensive one-page sidebar that provides concise rules. But what can these plants do?
The bulbous and insect-eating Balor’s Maw can be fashioned into an acidic splash weapon that sticks to targets and continues to burn, scent bombs to throw off e.g. hounds or other smell-based trackers or suregrip, which makes losing one’s hold, be it on ledges or weapons, less likely. Corpseroot can be used to make an incense that repels mindless undead, preserve a corpse for 24 hours with a certain balm, stagger or even paralyze foes with a mild poison or act as a concoction that hides the user from mindless undead. Death Man’s Head mushrooms can be made into a fire-accelerating paste or even a dried, albeit slightly unreliable volatile shroom-bomb or an interesting poison: Working only when ingested (and best concealed in spicy foods), the poison deals fire damage from inside to the victims.
Dragon’s Tongue, blood-red, serrated ferns can be made into a tonic, that, as long as it’s ingested for at least a week, provides a +1 bonus to fort-saves, but only as long as daily consumption is maintained. It can also be used to create red smoke or a disgusting tar, which, while sickening and nauseating, helps afflicted to throw off infections by providing a substantial bonus to the next fort-save versus a disease. The plant can also be quite profitable, as a delicacy beer can be brewed from it as well! Golden-yellow flowers called Mother’s Kiss can be made into an incense that, when inhaled, deadens pain and helps to save versus pain-spells. The flowers can also be substituted as balm for using a healer’s kit and have yet another cool application: When mixed with mare’s milk, they may hasten natural healing of both hp and ability score damage, but also weaken the character while under the effect., reducing str and dex by 6 points for 48 hours or 1d8 hours after having fully healed. Finally, the dried flowers may act as a plaguefinder: When diseased people breathe on them, the flowers turn blue! From Nightroot, one may extract a non-flammable bioluminescent paste that works as superb illumination in e.g. gas-filled tunnels or work-environments with a lot of black powder. It can also be used to enhance sight, but this particular application is risky: While enhanced vision in shadows and darkness is neat, a botched dose means that the characters suffers from hallucinations that may see him/her jump at shadows and suffer from the shaken condition. It can also be turned into poison and blind others.
Polysap is harvested from chameleon trees, which look like the most dominant form of tree in a given forest to the untrained eye. The sap can be made into a balm that slightly hardens the wearer’s skin (+1 natural AC), used as a clay-substitute or as a kind of make-up to create masks and help infiltrators or actors with their professions and tasks. Finally, it can be used to stop bleeding or to enhance fast healing/regeneration, if available.
Sage’s Cap is a potentially dangerous, lethal mushroom, but one that can be made into weapon versus the incorporeal and it’s regularly already interesting poison can be refined into a different type of poison that induces horrid nightmares. Finally, the fungus can be made into a certain incense helping versus emotion-based effects, but also making the user sluggish.
The vine-growing weeping maiden can end bleed damage, be made into a draught that results in a particular deep slumber, grant a bonus to dying creatures to regain consciousness, or be made into a poison that increases bleed damage. Thin, red, extremely sharp grasses called Wizard’s Beard can be made into an incense that allows prepared spellcasters to unprepared spells, freeing the unused spell-slots for other spells, but it is taxing and also imposes minor penalties. One can also create a deadly poison that hinders spellcasting. On the risky side, the plant can be made into eye-drops that, while sickening, do allow the user to detect magic. If the herbalist botched, though, the users can see false auras, making the usage unreliable.
After all these glorious new plants, we are also introduced to 5 pages covering special materials that can be created by combining multiple doses of different herbs. Mixing these materials as well as DCs and market prices are also provided.
Editing and formatting are top-notch this time around, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to NNW’s 2-column standard with its parchment-like background and the artwork consists mostly of stock-art at the lower end of the spectrum. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
It’s been years since 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming has announced the Apothecary’s Handbook, one of my most anticipated PFRPG-books right now and I’m still hoping it will be a milestone of quality similar to their equipment book. In the meanwhile, the necromancers Alex Riggs and Joshua Zaback have stepped up and created this. And honestly, after being disappointed by some of their releases, I did not expect too much from this one. I was oh so wrong. Tight in focus, extremely useful, oozing flavour and untold options for adventure, this is all but required for low magic or dark fantasy settings and campaigns and even for the others, there is so much goodness in here, the herbs being balanced and all, that these plants are guaranteed to enrich your campaign via the details they provide and the extra sense of believability paired with their wondrousness made this book one of my all-time-favourites of their oeuvre. Multiple uses, foraging and combined substances? Yes, please! In fact, I’d immediately slap 5 stars plus seal of approval on this pdf, were it not for one gripe: This pdf feels too short, with the fluffy introduction out of the way and some very spacious (and ugly) artworks in the text, we not even get 20 pages of content for a topic in which the necromancers obviously managed to shine very bright. This relative brevity means I will go down to 4.5 stars, but still round up to 5 since the ideas and content provided can be considered universally top-notch. I really hope the authors will grace us with a sequel or even a massive almanac/grimoire of more herbs: After all, it’s a niche no other 3pp is exploring at the moment and one the authors quite obviously know how to write for. Why not one for desert plants, arctic plants, jungle vines, aquatic plants etc.? Ahhh, one may dream…
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