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The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Alchemy Gardens and Labs: How to Build Your Own

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

by Arden Mercury


Alchemy at DrachenFest US is a multi-step system, and includes lots of opportunities to collaborate with people in your camp, and exercise your prop-making skills and storytelling abilities. The main Guild of Alchemical Arts tent in the Bazaar is certainly a destination for information and skill courses, but gardens and labs within each individual camp are the real centers of activity: this is where you’ll do most of your herb-gathering, potion-making, and experimenting, and maybe even sneak into another camp’s garden for a little skullduggery. Your camp might also have a chance at winning a Dragon Egg for the best garden and lab, if your efforts are especially impressive.


Throughout the world of DrachenFest US, your character will encounter a variety of unusual plants imbued with unique natural properties. Herbs and alchemical compounds from other worlds lose their potency when brought through the portal into this new world, but mundane herbs are still useful: they create the right conditions for powerful herbs to appear in your garden.


Guild Skill Courses in Herbalism will include an introduction to the setup and care requirements of different types of garden beds, how to harvest the herbs (both in terms of roleplay requirements and what you need to show your camp refs), and safe handling practices. Some herbs are extremely dangerous, and require protective gear and various other precautions. By continuing to take Guild Skill courses in Herbalism, you will learn how to expand your garden and grow more powerful herbs.


All plants require processing into potions, salves, oils, or powders to achieve a useful potency and avoid unwanted side effects. Biological warfare using unprocessed plants is strictly prohibited by the Guild: picked and unprocessed herbs will have little to no effect if shoved in a character’s face, and shoving another character into a bed of unpicked herbs will have more interpersonal consequences than mechanical effects.


Setting Up Your Camp Garden

Each camp will designate space for players to set up a garden. The ideal garden will feature individual garden beds, at least 2’x2’ in size, featuring a distinct surface OR border to differentiate them from the surrounding area, and visual elements that create a specific biome. Garden beds that require a specific surface should cover the ground at least ½” deep, to give you space for digging and planting roleplay.

You do not need to have your garden fully set up and ready to start producing when gameplay begins to have a successful event. Working on and improving the garden throughout the event is part of the process, and you will be able to use your newly acquired skills and the contributions of new players in your camp to make it the best it can be, so don’t worry about making it perfect on Wednesday afternoon.


Each garden bed should include a variety of saplings and/or animal life. Saplings can be represented by real or fake plants or plant parts, and can be contained in pots or placed directly in the ground. Animals can be represented by plastic figurines or prop creatures, or by an appropriate soundscape. At least two animals or plants are required to establish each bed. No real animals are allowed. All physreps must be completely removed at the end of the event, including any sand or gravel. Avoid digging large holes or removing existing plants.


If you do not have the resources to set up a camp garden that contains these elements, or if there is any herb you need but haven’t grown, herbs can be purchased from the Alchemists’ Guild tent in the Bazaar in exchange for coin or assistance in the Guild Garden. Picking herbs directly from the Guild Garden requires permission from a Guild Team member.


Garden Bed Types:

Shady

  • Moist topsoil, watered at least daily, with some form of shade or cover (e.g. a canopy or sunshade, or some taller plants).

  • Can include stakes or a vertical element for climbing vines.

  • Animal Life: Insects (beetles, bees, butterflies), amphibians (frogs, toads, newts).

Grassland

  • Full sunlight and grassy surface; lower-growing plants.

  • Animal Life: Reptiles (lizards, grass snakes).

Dry

  • Sand, gravel, or rocky surface.

  • Animal Life: arachnids (spiders, scorpions), desert-dwelling snakes.

Wetlands (Taught in Herbalism 2.)

  • Marshy areas; near streams, pools, or artificial ponds of water.

  • Animal Life: Turtles and tortoises, snails and slugs, fish or crustaceans.

Ash (Taught in Herbalism 3.)

  • Ash surface, volcanic rock, requires frequent raking or turning.

  • No additional plant life.

  • Animal Life: Salamanders or fiery mythical creatures.


Sabotage Areas

In addition to individual garden beds, each garden also needs a designated area of at least 1’x1’ with a border, in an easily accessible location. This area should include a post where contributing players can place their Guild insignia. This post can be as simple as a dowel or a piece of wood, or as elaborate as you want to make it, but must be highly visible.

Within this Sabotage Area, players from other camps can add or remove PVP items provided by DFUS, such as stealable items and invasive Creatures. Any Creature placed in this area will be considered to infest the entire garden. Stealing, defacing, or interfering with any other part of another camp’s garden directly is prohibited - any sabotage or theft will occur in the Sabotage Area only.


Other Recommended Tools:

  • Small gardening tools: trowel or spade, rake, shears or scissors

  • Small stakes and twine

  • Gardening gloves

  • Watering can

  • Fish tank bubbler for any water features (to avoid farming real mosquitoes)

  • Glass dome or bell jar (taught in Herbalism 3)

  • Miniature plant pots

  • Paper and writing implements



Setting Up Your Camp Lab

The powerful herbs and components you encounter or grow in these lands will need to be processed into compounds before they are used, and that is where your camp lab comes in.


While any Alchemist character can create a curative poultice from common herbs and grasses, Guild skills in Alchemy are required to process the components from your garden into more powerful compounds. This knowledge is closely guarded, and those who have passed the appropriate Guild Skill courses, demonstrating the ability to handle precise processes, noxious vapors, and dangerous reactions, will receive it.


Each camp will allocate space for players to set up an Alchemy lab. Your lab can be as simple or complex as you want, as long as it contains certain basic elements. If you have a surface to work on, a place to put your Guild insignia, and at least one of each type of tool listed below, then you have a lab. The more you add, and the more you collaborate on creating an interesting space, the better your lab will be.


If you do not have the resources to set up a camp lab with these general materials, the Guild lab in the Bazaar will be available for your use during its opening hours. Please bear in mind that the Guild Lab is a shared space. Respect the needs and roleplay of others, and any props that belong to the Guild team or other players.


Lab Requirements:

  • Heat Source: a candle or alcohol burner and stand, or an LED candle in a genre-looking vessel. If you have any doubt that a prop is heat-safe, leave your heat source unlit to perform that roleplay, or use an LED flame. Never leave an open flame unattended.

  • Measuring Device: Jeweler’s scale with weights, measuring spoons/scoops, graduated glassware, eyedroppers, or pipettes.

  • Mixing Implement: Mortar and pestle, stirring rods, or spoons.

  • Containers: Flasks, glasses, bottles, test tubes, or jars, preferably without modern markings. Modern borosilicate lab glass is acceptable if alternatives pose a safety concern.

  • Timekeeping Device: Compound-making roleplay will mostly rely on 5 to 10 minute increments, so you’ll need an hourglass or in-genre clock.

  • Sabotage Area - similar to the garden, mark off a 1x1 foot area in the corner for sabotage items to be placed.

Once completed, your potion and compound physreps must be approved and sealed by a Camp Ref before they can be handed off or used. Physrep containers must not be glass, and all containers must have secure lids. We recommend plastic test tubes with lids for potions, and small cosmetic jars or tins for salves and other compounds. Be sure to bring enough for any potions that you might sell or give away. Spare tubes and tins may also be available for purchase from the Guild or from other merchants in the Bazaar, while supplies last.


Other Recommended Tools:

  • Gloves

  • Cloth mask or other face covering

  • Test tube rack

  • Tongs, forceps, or tweezers

  • Funnel

  • Food coloring

  • Unscented moisturizer, gel, or petroleum jelly for salve and oil physreps

  • Jug or bottle for water

  • Cleaning rags for spills

  • Paper and writing implements

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