My New Video Game: Herb Witch – Training Grounds

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Games, Musings
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A free computer game I made that helps you learn the properties of medicinal plants while you play!


What is Herb Witch?

Herb Witch is a visual novel in which you befriend plant spirits to join your team as allies, using their powers to defeat disease spirits, while learning real medicinal plant properties in the process.

What’s a Visual Novel?

If your favorite part of computer games are the one where you have a dialog wheel, allowing you to talk to other characters, discover more about them and advance the story, then you already know and enjoy what a visual novel’s all about. Many games use visual novel mechanics between missions and in the giving of quests. Visual novels are all about telling interactive stories. Games that tell a linear story without allowing the player any real choices that impact the ending are called Kinetic Novels.

How is this Game Played?

Unlike “catching Pokemon”, these plant spirits are intelligent beings you have to woo by conversation, gifts and spending time as you would real people, using dating game mechanics to gain their affection. They have varied personalities, likes and dislikes. Memorizing lists of plant properties is kind of boring, but getting to know benevolent Angelica or spooky Elder as they progressively share their powers with you is fun!

The more friends you have, the more powerful you become as an Herb Witch. And while there’s a whole lot of fighting, it’s all done to heal the people of your village and escape the [story plot device] your character faces.

Is This The Full Game?

No, this is the proof of concept, done in six weeks as part of the Pixelles Game Incubator, where ten women were assisted in making their first video game, one of them being me! It has simple place-holder graphics and very basic animation, sufficient to test whether the game is fun. You can check out the rest of the games that were made by this year’s participants.

Herb Witch – Training Grounds is the demo version, essentially just the battle engine, in which the healing Goddess Eir tests your aptitude to become an apprentice healer. You are given two plant spirit helpers, Angelica and Elder, along with the task of defeating an Earth Lungs Disease Spirit (essentially a lingering flu). If you succeed, you unlock a third mystery ally, and get to truly trounce that evil spirit with any two of your three allies. If you let the villager die… well, the Goddess will be displeased.

Creating the battle engine at the core of the game was the hardest part, which is why I did it first. I know I can write good stories and dialog. I’ll be working on them throughout the summer, and posting newer versions of the game as they’re ready.

Why Did You Make This?

I’m making the kind of game I want to play, one where I learn something useful while having fun, fight monsters, and live an adventure through dialog with interesting characters. Most games teach you plenty (trolls are weak to acid, but resistant to blunt weapons, for instance), but it’s all pretty useless knowledge outside the game. While this game won’t teach you dosage and how to prepare plant medicine, you’ll at least know which plants to look up and what they’re good for. There are plenty of books and websites that teach you usage, the hard part is sorting through all of them to find the one you need.

My other reason is that I’m learning Traditional Western Herbalism, by growing the plants, using and making teas and tinctures, talking to plants, and of course studying the books. Being a geek, I thought making a game about it would be a fabulous way to organize my learning. After all, it takes a very thorough understanding of how they work to accurately model them in a game setting, even in a simplified way.

These simplified game mechanics are made possible by the six disease states of Western Herbal Energetics, developed by Matthew Woods, while the nine element system and plant spirit descriptions come from Raven Kaldera’s Northern Shamanic Herbal. The battle mechanics are mine.

What’s the Story of the Full Game?

You play as Renna, a fourteen year old girl who’s just had her BloodMoon celebration and thus become a woman. This would be the start of your promised apprenticeship with Grandma — to become the next village healer — but instead you’ve been left grieving her sudden and mysterious demise.

Her scrolls on herbalism will be a big help — if you can remember how to read runic! Perhaps the strange woman who started tending her garden can assist in talking to plants, and maybe even in uncovering what happened to your beloved Grandma.

Career options are limited for women in this Scandinavian society. Unless you can somehow manage to learn witchery on your own and prove your worth to the villagers, Father will force you to marry in thirty days. With an armful of babies, and a husband to tend, there will be no time for anything else. By the time the Moon is dark again, your destiny will be sealed, one way or the other. Time is running out, young woman, so show them all what you’re made of!

What’s Coming in the Next Update?

  • Health meter bars, a more intuitive mandala layout for the element grid, animation of plant attacks, more sound effects, better drop down menus, keyboard mapping of actions for faster gameplay, more plants and more diseases.



How Do I Download This Game?


Download Link: Herb Witch Training Grounds (ver. 0.11) 

Platforms: Runs on Windows PC, Mac and Linux.

Other Downloads:

There’s a tiny prototype of Herb Witch as a 2D shooter for PC. No installation, just download and then run the executable to play it.

You can also try out Bad Mother, a motherhood simulator for PC made during a Mother’s Day game jam. It’s incomplete but playable.


Detailed Installation Instructions: 


1) Download the game to your Downloads folder

  • PC: Right-Click the link above and choose Save As to your Downloads folder
  • Mac: Option-Click the link above.
  • Linux: If you’re geek enough to run Linux, you’re geek enough to know this. 😛

2) UnZip the file

On PC:

  •  Navigate to your Downloads folder using File Explorer.
  • Right-click on the file, and choose Extract All from the context menu.
  • Click on Browse, then select Desktop as the destination. Click the Extract Button.

On Mac:

  • Use Finder to get to your Dowloads folder and find the zip file.
  • If the file shows a .html extension, rename the file by clicking once on it, then and removing the .html so that it ends in .zip (this is an old bug in Safari). Confirm that you want to use .zip in the dialog popup.
  • Double-click the zip file to extract it.
  • Drag and drop the HerbWitch-tg-0.11-all (the new one that is NOT .zip) to your desktop.

3) Double-click the UNZIPPED  HerbWitch-tg-0.11-all folder on your desktop to open it (NOT  the zipped folder!).

4) Double-click the HerbWitch-tg-0.11-all.exe to run the game and enjoy!




I can’t unzip it!

  • If you’re running an old version of Safari on Mac, you probably didn’t remove the .html extension. See above.
  • If you’re running Windows 2000 or older, you’ll need to use an unzip utility to extract the files like 7-zip. Older Macs may need an unzip utility such as Izip.

I’ve unzipped it but it won’t run!

  • You’re trying to run the file from inside the zipped folder. Make sure you navigate to the unzipped copy of the folder that should be on your desktop, open it, and double-click on the executable.


 Please feel free to ask questions,
comment and make suggestions for the game!
All input is appreciated, your enthusiasm helps motivate my work. 

  1. This looks very interesting, I am downloading it, thank you for sharing this! I am a huge geek when it comes to all kinds of things. Integrating your passion into a game is so cool.


  2. Teka Lynn says:

    Neat! It sounds like a lot of fun to play.


  3. Jessica says:

    It’s a great idea. Will it run on an iPad?


    • lofnbard says:

      Apple does not allow its mobile development kits to run on any operating system other than iOS, so I’d have to buy a Mac to make iPad or iPhone versions. Since I’m running on no budget, I’ll be starting with Android phones and tablets — after the main PC (Mac, Windows, Linux) versions.


  4. […] designs as I program game prototypes. The first demo I was finished in February 2014, there’s a link to read about it and download it here on this blog. I’ve since decided that a visual novel wasn’t the best medium, and am now working […]


  5. Amy says:

    Are you still developing this? It sounds fabulous!


    • lofnbard says:

      Yes I am! This summer I’m working on the herb garden and taking plant identification pictures at various stages of growth for the game. I’ll go back to coding in the fall. 🙂


  6. Liat says:

    Hey, I just tried the demo version. It’s fun. I would love to see a full version. Are you still working on it?


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