As role-players, nothing gets us more excited then creating and bringing characters to life. I often keep this in mind when reviewing new systems added to a game. What does this bring to the table (pun intended), other than some numerical bonus? Don’t get me wrong, I love rolling tons of dice for big numbers. I’m a simple man, with simple pleasures, but I’m also a visual person. So, when I learn of a new spell, I instantly imagine what it would look like to cast. You can see Magic Missile in your minds eye, and it’s that visual element and customization that peeked my interest in the latest Unearth Arcana (found here), that introduces magical tattoos to D&D.

Tattoos can be a strong form of personal expression. Many people feel a sense of connection and meaning to the art they chose to grace their body. Like everything else, fantasy RPGs take our world and turn it up to eleven. So naturally, it feels right that tattoos can be imbued with magical properties. I like the idea of this being a rare art-form, as one would require knowledge of the arcane, and the same level of artistry with ink. We are introduced to a number of magical tattoos, each with their own spell like abilities.  In the spirit of self expression, though the spells suggest color/themes, they don’t limit the player’s imagination by describing or showing an imagine of the tattoo.  This allows the player the creative freedom to imagine, or even draw, the design they wish for their character.  However, we do get guidelines as to the coverage area depending on the power contained within.

Magic Tattoo Coverage:

  • Common – Up to 6 inches
  • Uncommon – Half a limb or the scalp
  • Rare – One limb
  • Very Rare – Two limbs or the chest or upper back
  • Legendary – Two limbs and the torso

The Unearthed Arcana article goes into quit a few spells, and, if players enjoy this new system, more can certainly be added in the future. That being said, we are going to look at a few of these spells in order to dive into the design. The first being the Masquerade Tattoo:

Masquerade Tattoo (Common):

This tattoo appears on your skin as whatever you desire. As a bonus action, you can shape the tattoo into any color or pattern and move it to any area of your skin. Whatever form it takes, it is always obviously a tattoo. It can range in size from no smaller than a copper piece to an intricate work of art that covers all your skin.
Disguise Self: As an action, you can use the tattoo to cast the disguise self spell. Once the spell is cast from the tattoo, it can’t be cast from the tattoo again until the next dawn.

Instantly, I picture the two faces of theatre for this tattoo, but obviously it can be whatever the player chooses. Beyond the ability, I love that the tattoo can be moved and changed by the player. I can picture a character that wears their emotions on their sleeve and expresses themselves through this ever changing tattoo. This role-play element to me is more appealing then the spell, but of course, being able to cast Disguise Self can come in very handy as well. Nothing game breaking here, but this could be a fun reward for the Rogue or Bard of the group that likes to hang in the seedy underbelly of cities. Perhaps they come across someone with these talents that requires a favor?

Ghost Step Tattoo (Rare):

This tattoo shifts and wavers on the skin, parts of it appearing blurred. The tattoo has 3 charges, and it regains all expended charges daily at dawn.  As a bonus action while the tattoo is on your skin, you can expend 1 of the tattoo’s charges to become incorporeal until the end of your next turn. For the duration, you gain the following benefits:

  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical attacks.
  • You can’t be grappled or restrained.
  • You can move through creatures and solid objects as if they were difficult terrain. If you end your turn in a solid object, you take 1d10 force damage. If the effect ends while you are inside a solid object, you instead are shunted to the nearest unoccupied space, and you take 1d10 force damage for every 5 feet traveled.

Now this spell has some crunch. Still only rare, so there are more treats if you read the full Unearthed Arcana article, but this ability will certainly change the dynamic for a character. Again, the tattoo is not described in detail for the player, but we do get a feel that the tattoo should be blurry or even shifting. Ghosts or Fae would make a great image, maybe some-type of graveyard scene? The abilities themselves are extremely powerful, yet flexible, acting defensively, but also allows the player greater movement through the battlefield. Though, many questions pop into my mind. What kind of person would learn to use necromancy in this way? Does this tattoo mark the character as a possible threat to other Wizards that know the origin of such a mark? Be sure to have fun and get creative when adding elements like this to your game.


So, what do you think of these new magical tattoos? Is this something you would introduce into your games? Let us know down in the comments!

If your interested in more Dungeons & Dragons articles, you can read more here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *