Short treatise on herbs

The patterns governing herb growth are well documented elsewhere, but it is also quite easy to tell what kind of herb a given bush will produce. How? It's determined by the line on the screen at which the bush appears. Using the big room as a guide, the first screen line at which a floor or dungeon feature can appear is line 5, whose herb bushes always produce morgia roots. The line below that is home to moss of mareilon, and below that is the mighty spenseweed. Curaria mancox/devil's roses are next, followed by alraunia antidote/demon daisy, followed by stomafillia/stomacemptia, followed by pepper petal/burb root. The line after pepper petal is morgia root again, and the pattern repeats. Presented more visually (and best viewed in a monospaced font):
(line no.
  mod 7)  type of herb found at that line
---------+--------------------------------
    5    | morgia root
    6    | moss of mareilon
    0    | spenseweed
    1    | curaria mancox/devil's rose
    2    | alraunia antidote/demon daisy
    3    | stomafillia/stomacemptia
    4    | pepper petal/burb root
If you don't know what "line number mod 7" means in the above chart, feel free to ignore it. Just remember that the pattern starts with morgia root for the topmost line at which herb bushes usually appear (barring any digging) and repeat every seven lines. BTW, if you are like me in never remembering which beneficial herbs are paired with demon daisies and devil's roses, remember the "a" in "daisy" matches the "a"'s in "alraunia" and the "o" in "rose" matches the "o" in "mancox." Kinda cheesy, but it works.

On a standard 80x25 character screen, there are fifteen lines on which floors and dungeon features may appear, yielding two complete repetitions of the pattern with a bonus line of morgia root at the bottom. Lines 4, 20, and 21 may be burrowed to yield floors there too, and herb bushes can grow into these lines once dug out if their growth patterns permit it. If you play on a larger screen, use the "l"ook command to count down the line number of a given herb bush, keeping in mind that the "look" cursor's topmost limit is line 3, which would be stomafillia according to the pattern.

It is sometimes possible to move herb bushes to the lines you want in order to get a particularly desirable herb. You need four herb bushes in a "T" shape, like this (again, view it in a monospaced font):

...
"""
.".

When it's time for new bushes to grow, you'll get this pattern. . .

.".
"""
"""

. . .pick the bottom row clean. . .

.".
"""
...

. . . and wait for another generation to pass. . .

"""
"""
.".

Then harvest the bottom bush of each column to oblivion.

"""
.".
...

Voila! The T has moved up a row. You can also use an inverted T to move downward, or T's laid on their sides to move left or right. Once your T is in the position you want, just pluck off one end of the crossbar to get the ever-lovin' herb square. The process isn't risk-free, however. For one thing, generations of herb growth are not always predictable, and you may find two generations spawning in quick succession without giving you enough time in between to overharvest the needed bushes. Another note: do this in a locked room if you can. If you don't, the RNG *will* dump a wererat or a dark elven spider factory into your lap at an inoppurtune moment, leaving you to hack and slash through the bodies and miss perhaps several generations of herb growth.

As for the overall usefulness of each herb--well, reasonable minds will differ. Following are my own subjective opinions. Spenseweed, stomafillia, morgia root and moss of mareilon are the top four, with a definite gap in usefulness between them and curaria and alraunia, and another larger gap between those two and pepper petal. I personally rate spenseweed and stomafillia at the top because their utility never expires; you will *always* need healing and you will *always* need food, but the attribute gain twins stop increasing your attributes at a certain point. My non-troll characters go for spenseweed first, stomafillia second; for trolls, the priorities are reversed. If only the two grew on adjacent lines! Also, don't pass up the opportunity for a attribute gain square, ever, unless you absolutely must choose between morgia root and spenseweed. Even then, morgia root *may* be the right choice, depending on how early it is (early game, pick morgia, late, pick spenseweed, middle is a toss-up), your race and class (mindcrafters and wizards love morgia, brawlers *need* spenseweed), and how low your attributes are now.

In the middle tier, I prefer alraunia antidote in the *very* early game, as in the initial dive from the SMC to the mountain village before my first spider corpse. Once I'm no longer scared of pit vipers, my preference changes to curaria mancox so as to safely increase my Mana score by munching on kobold shaman. Last and in my mind least is pepper petal, which is inferior to spenseweed in almost every way. Spenseweed's use by rubbing instead of ingesting allows its use even while bloated, which will happen often if you're on the Blessed stomafillia Diet Plan (TM). Pepper petal has an evil twin; spenseweed doesn't. I've not observed any significant difference in healing potency between blessed pepper petal and blessed spenseweed, but as I often don't even bother to ID a bush I know will be pepper petal, I may have missed it. Some may argue that pepper petal is preferable to spenseweed for a starving character, but since stomafillia grows on the line above pepper petal--i.e. the two are often found together--I don't consider that a compelling argument.

Please note that, in those crucial beginning turns, *any* benefical herb (anything but the "evil twins") can save your life. If you see an herb bush by its lonesome, fated to die next generation anyway, then for heaven's sake, don't stop picking till you see the ground! Also, the Alchemy skill can add new wrinkles to prioritizing one's herbs. If you happen to know a recipe for a PoGA using only demon daisies and booze, then ignore the above paragraphs and GO FOR IT, MAN! Remember that success in the Drakalor Chain often comes not by memorizing a bunch of rules and patterns but by thinking on your feet!

One last comment: for an eerily complete catalog of insights into Conway's Life, point your web browser to http://web.stanford.edu/~cdebs/GameOfLife/ and learn more than you ever knew you needed to know about herb bushes.