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The Search for Good Herbs

Copyright Tao Romera ©2001

Edited by Rich Kirkland for The Guild Companion

I think that the rules for searching herbs in Rolemaster are quite incomplete.

When a player decides to look for magical or healing herbs, he must search for at least 8 hours, essentially a full day's journey. But what happens if a player wants only to search for 4 hours? And how would you determine if an area has already been foraged with success (in which case we must apply a penalization of -60 to the foraging roll)? I have been thinking about all of these factors and have established some rules and tables to detail the whole process of finding a herb.

Is a herb available?

All of the plants are not available or cannot be used for their healing effects at all times of the year. In real life, you cannot find oranges or tomatoes during the whole year. I believe that the difficulty factor of each herb reflects in part the duration of the periods in which the plant is ready for its use. The difficulty to find the herb also considers the place where it grows. It's easier to find a herb in a prairie with a warm climate than on a high mountain with eternal snow and an awful wind. It would help players for the GM to prepare a list with the length of the available period and exact months of availability for the various herbs. I have included a table showing the number of days per year that a herb is available, but you may differ in these lengths. Just roll d100 and compare to the difficulty of finding the herb.

Difficulty 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
01-10 250 200 100 60 30 20 10 5 1
11-25 270 220 120 70 40 23 14 7 2
26-40 285 235 135 80 50 26 17 9 4
41-60 307 250 150 90 60 30 20 10 5
61-80 315 270 165 100 65 38 25 13 7
81-90 330 285 185 110 71 45 29 17 9
91-94 345 295 205 120 77 53 36 20 11
95-99 355 305 225 130 83 60 40 22 13
100 365 320 250 140 90 70 45 25 15

The number given in the table is the length of the availability period of the herb. To know when this period starts, you can simply choose it or make a 1D12 roll for the month and a 1D100/3 roll for the day.

Has the area already been searched?

Depending on the herb and on the nearby settlements, the area could have been searched with success recently. In other words, somebody else has found your herb. To determine if this has happened consult the following chart.

Nearby SettlementsBase Probability
(- to 5km)
Very Small (up to 500 inhab)15%
Small (500-1000)31%
Medium (1000-5000)51%
Large (5000-10,000)71%
Very Large (+10,000)91%
* Add the inhabitants of all the nearby settlements

To this base probability, you must apply the following modifiers, as a function of the difficulty to find the herb.


If larger cities are located further away (up to 20 km), you could apply an additional -20.

Then you make a 1D100 roll, and if the result is below the percentage the area has been searched successfully for the herb. Note that you must roll for each herb.

As we see, the smaller the settlements are, the harder it is for someone from those settlements to have located a herb. For the hardest herbs, it is virtually impossible for the smaller settlements to find them (simply put, there are rarely rangers or herbalists with sufficient skill living in such hamlets). If you want to be more exhaustive, you can consider only half the percentage at the beginning of the availability period, and the whole one at the end. But this could slow down the game too much. You should also apply some additional modifiers for special situations or places (for example, increase it for a forest inhabited by a tribe of expert hunter-gatherers).


"And if I want to search only for 4 hours"?

I have invented some formulas, using the trial and error method. They are a bit slow, but mechanical, so if you have a programmable calculator, it will help.

First of all you make the normal roll, as if the character were going to search for 8 hours. You determine in this way the number of doses he should find. Then you divide this number by 8 (the total number of hours) and you multiply it by 12 (100/8), which at the end is:

(number of doses)*1.5

This is the percentage a character has to find some doses after an hour of search. You make a 1D100 roll, and if the result is above this percentage, the character is not able to find any doses after an hour. The next hour, this percentage is doubled. If the result is positive then the character finds a number of doses equal to:

[(number of doses still to be found)/8]*number of hours of search

The result is rounded to the first decimal.

The next hour the percentage falls to the base percentage [(number of doses)*1.5].

For example, let's suppose that a character will find, after 8 hours of search, a total of 4 doses. This gives a percentage "per hour" of 6%. After the first hour, the player rolls 1D100, and gets more than 6, so he finds nothing. After the second hour, he rolls again, and gets more than 12, so, one more time, he finds nothing. For the third hour, he gets less than 24, so he finds (4/8)*3=1.5=1 dose. For the fourth hour he will have to get less than 6 to find ((4-1)/8/*4=1,5=1 dose.

As we multiply the percentage by 2 after each hour he finds nothing, we make it unlikely that he spends much time without finding something. At the same time, the lower the number of doses available, the more time that is required to find them. If we take the extreme example of 1 dose, he will spend at least 4 or 5 hours before finding it. The higher the number of doses, the faster and the more doses at the same time he will find.

At the end of the 8 hours, the character finds all the doses he has not previously found. In this way, the character still finds all of the doses he otherwise would have found during an eight hour search.

It is important that the character doesn't know the doses he will find in total. It may happen that after 5 hours of search, the character has found all the doses and he keeps searching for 3 hours. This may happen in real life too.

My aim with these rules is to have a better control over the search for herbs. I think that with the rules given in RMSS it is too easy to find powerful herbs, which can unbalance a game. A character could spend a month looking for a very rare herb and he is sure he will find it. And even if you tried to put some encounters during this month, it is unrealistic to confront the character with an obstacle to his search each and every week, and wild animal encounters quickly become a minor danger for advanced characters (level 4 plus) and tedious for the players.

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