Tiny DFRPG idea: A better Green Thumb

Following up on Tiny GURPS/DFRPG idea: A better Outdoorsman, let’s take a brief peek at the somewhat wan Green Thumb advantage in the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (DFRPG).

in GURPS, this 5-point Talent boosts a nice five skills: Biology, Farming, Gardening, Herb Lore, and Naturalist. In DFRPG, a shortened skill list means means fewer boosted skills: just the trio of Herb Lore, Naturalist, and Pharmacy (the skill of making mundane herbal medicines).

These are good skills, but the DFRPG advantage has a wilted feel. Let’s give it some water and sun.

Cultivating Green Thumb

I’d like to see a more verdant Green Thumb that rakes in two more skills to reach a full five. To do that, I could go with either of these ideas:

Idea 1: Boost Theology (Druidic) and Esoteric Medicine (Druidic)

Let Green Thumb’s intuitive understanding of plants add to the Theology (Druidic) and Esoteric Medicine (Druidic) skills.

That’s simple and sensible. These skills aren’t about plants alone, true, but neither is Naturalist. The intuitive understanding of nature that would boost any “purely plants” skill would reasonably boost these skills, too.

But while this change would be very welcome for druids, it does nothing for non-druid PCs with a pitchfork penchant. Hm. Here’s another idea:

Idea 2: Bring Farming and Gardening into the game

Introduce the Farming and Gardening skills to DFRPG, both aided by Green Thumb.

Okay, I won’t even pretend that these would make for exciting and vital new skills. (Farming. Whoopee.) But really, the skills wouldn’t be useless for a druid or other outdoorsy type.

Gardening would serve as the skill to keep magical shoots or seeds alive on the way back from the forest quest. Or the skill to patch up a leafy green ally, serving as the plant version of Veterinary (itself the four-legged replacement for other medical skills). Gardening could also act as an ersatz Animal Handling, should a PC ever need to wrangle a herd of low-IQ sentient plants. It’d stand in for Naturalist for questions involving garden pests (including that Naturalist roll to deduce that giant slugs would be affected by salt, just like their tiny backyard cousins). And it’d be the go-to skill for replanting and nurturing a defiled area (possibly boosting Nature’s strength?) when a druid thinks to bless a copse with rituals but the local spirits ‘arbor other ideas and demand the PC spruce up the place with actual landscaping.

Farming, meanwhile, might find even less frequent use. But it would make a nice stand-in for Survival and Urban Survival among the hamlets and paddies. A PC with experience in the field(s) could diagnose the health of crops and pick out farmland strangeness (you know, the sort of crop mutations or harvest festival oddities that point to supernatural blight or weird backwoods cultish stuff). Farming rolls would let a PC estimate the value of farm equipment and produce, impersonate a serf with convincing chatter about sheafing techniques and turnip rot, or see through bandits who blow their cover as field hands by hoeing all wrong. Elsewhere in the sticks, the skill would make a reasonable complementary roll for skills like Scrounging – and even Tactics, to pinpoint good ambush sites and escape routes among the silos and hay bales.

Again, Gardening and Farming wouldn’t be exciting skills, but they’d add color to PCs, and creative groups will certainly find ways to make them useful.

Other benefits of Green Thumb

Like any good advantage rooted in GURPS‘ Talent rules, Green Thumb offers an extra bonus: +1 per level on reaction rolls from sentient plants and fungi. That’s a sweet deal, as long as the GM remembers to toss such creatures into the monster salad once in a while.

On top of that, I can think of a sometimes skill bonus I’d add: Let Green Thumb aid Survival when veggie foraging in the wild. (A similar bonus to Camouflage involving greenery has a thematic fit, though that’s maybe getting borderline ghillie. Er, silly.)

Time to leaf

Do you think Green Thumb should be fertilized with a couple of extra skills? Any other thoughts crop up on this earthy topic? Shoot me a line in the comments and share some dirt. Don’t leave me all a loam…


  • Magnus Hagren

    Nice work on the new site! Just rediscovered it after finding the link in my Gulliver Mini PDF =)
    Also impressive that you’ve taken the time to add all your old rules-documents to the site!
    Will add this to my blog-roll now that it’s “dynamic” 😛

    Regards from Sweden

    • tbone

      Hi! This are kind words – thanks. Yes, the site is now dynamic – not necessarily the content (or update frequency : / ), but you know, the way you can shrink it down for different screens. Pretty cool.

      Now with your encouragement, I’ll do some more writing today on the next big article. A happy holiday season to you and to all!

  • evileeyore

    Okay, I wouldn’t add Farming or Gardening. DFRPG is prized for being simple, just wrap those two skills into Naturalist and call it a day. What I did to juice Green Thumb up was to have it add* to Survival for foraging for plants and harvesting useful bits from dead plant/fungi/ooze monsters.

    Likewise I beefed up Animal Friend to add* Naturalist and Survival when “dealing with, hunting for, or harvesting from animals”.

    I know, this flies in the face of “keeping DFRPG simple” but I find it’s simpler for the players to remember they get bonuses for animals from Animal Friend and bonuses for plant things from Green Thumb. I contemplated treating them like Higher Purpose variants as well… and I may do that in the future (Basic Sets’s Higher Purpose, not the watered-down skim-milk Higher Purpose from DFRPG).

    • tbone

      Oh, I kind of like the Gardening and Farming idea, and I don’t think there’s anything complex about their addition – but I do believe Naturalist is the canonical skill for things like dealing with smart plants, so I have no argument with you about letting that skill handle all the leafy miscellaneous stuff.

      As for your twin handling of Animal Friend and Green Thumb, I think it all sounds good. Really, it’s a move away from the canonical treatment of talents – “adds to skills X, Y, Z” – and toward a more nuanced treatment: “aids any rolls related to tasks A, B, C.” That is: let a talent boost tasks that fit a certain theme, instead of boosting levels of specific skills. It’s a fuzzier and more nuanced approach toward talents, but one that’d be interesting to explore, IMO. (Your comparison with Higher Purpose is spot-on; yes, Higher Purpose is a good model for talents that would aid tasks and goals, not necessary skill levels per se.)

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