Never Leaf Home without One! | Tool Time with Herbalism Kit in 5E D&D
Plants are one of those things in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons that perpetually perplex me. Many fantasy video games with a crafting system incorporate herbalism and have at least a small list of specific plants used as ingredients in various potions, dyes and the like. However, 5E D&D hasn’t provided extensive coverage for plants as of yet (at least, not at the time of this writing). What’s more it’s explicitly stated in official materials that proficiency with an herbalism kit allows you to concoct healing potions at half cost. It absolutely blows my mind how many people don’t know this or think it’s tied to alchemist’s supplies. As a quick disclaimer, while proficiencies are a core mechanic of 5E D&D, tool proficiencies are distinctly more nebulous than those for skills or weapons and your own Dungeon Master might rule how to apply tools differently from how we present here. With that out of the way let’s talk about the herbalism kit.
5E D&D tool time — herbalism kit
Before we cover some applications of the herbalism kit, let’s cover what composes one according to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:
An herbalism kit includes pouches to store herbs, clippers and leather gloves for collecting plants, a mortar and pestle, and several glass jars.
A whole new world
Considering plant is an entire 5E D&D creature type and many fantasy works’ emphasis on magical or rare plants and herbs it baffles me how little support there is for this kit of tools. The world of herbalism is vast in our own world and this could only be compounded in a fantasy setting. Poisons and medicines only scratch the surface of the utility of an herbalism kit. These tools could help your character know which plants are edible or not, if they are hearty or flavorful and the list goes on. Magical plants offer incredible potential for complexity of application.
Many different tool kits would benefit greatly from knowing how to care for and harvest plants. Everything from furniture to clothing to buildings and vehicles are made from plant based materials like wood, hemp, bamboo and so much more. Nearly any character could complement any tool proficiency with an herbalism kit proficiency. Knowledge of plant based materials and their properties is truly invaluable.
One YouTube channel I’ve found incredibly fascinating, educational, and relaxing to watch is Liziqi, a woman who utilizes many local resources from her home and makes things the old fashioned way from furniture and blankets to wine and clothing. Many times we can see her hiking into a bamboo forest to harvest from it, taking raw materials and making beautiful crafts. Doing this in a 5E D&D campaign would not only build an abundance of flavor into the world and characters but it could also be a great way for downtime activities to make money or have character moments, much like the Avengers moments at Hawkeye’s farm.
Herbalism kit proficiency and skill checks
As mentioned, herbalism kit proficiency is very complementary to a vast array of skills in 5E D&D.
Arcana. One obvious application would be knowledge of magical plants, especially if your world has carnivorous or monstrous plants. It would also likely help you identify what plants would be used to concoct certain potions, poisons or the like. This would also likely help you identify what sorts of plants might have been used in a ritual or as reagents for certain spells.
Investigation. This one fits the standard for our applications of Investigation — you’re likely to notice discrepancies in plant growth or abnormalities related to plants. You might also be able to determine if an odor resembles a certain plant’s fragrance or what type of plants might have been burned from the scent of smoke.
Medicine. Another obvious application here is the application of medicinal herbs, understanding the effects an herb or plant has on the bodies of different creatures. Perhaps a certain plant affects gnomes differently from everyone else for example. Maybe a certain herb is normally poisonous, but heals elves. The possibilities with fantasy plants are endless so let your imagination run wild (no pun intended).
Nature. Combining Nature proficiency with herbalism kit tool proficiency practically guarantees your success when it comes to identifying plants. If nothing else it would certainly give you a massive advantage in the area. Perhaps such a combination would be required to have knowledge of an especially rare plant?
Religion. As with many applications to Religion, much of it relates to the specific religions of your world. However, Religion is likely to allow you to know if certain plants hold significance or are used in special religious rites or festivals.
Survival. This would likely manifest as understanding the edible nature of plants or the sustainability of harvesting a plant. You would also likely know how filling a plant is and if it’s caloric and nutritional benefits outweigh the effort to acquire it. You would also likely know how to recognize if a specific plant is likely to reside in an area or climate.
What do you think?
Do you often take advantage of the herbalism kit’s wealth of versatility? How do you deal with plants and crafting in your 5E D&D games? We want to hear from you in the comments! Until next time, remember — no matter how much a plant begs you for blood, never give it any.