The Art of Magic; Irezumi for 5th edition Alchemists
The Irezumi is an archetype for the Alchemist class and is one of eight traditions, including Metamoporhs, Poisoners, Artificers, Reanimators, Herbwardens, and more. You’ll need the core class presented in the original article and this to play the irezumi.
Irezumi are the artists of the alchemical traditions. Though their common name is Asian in origin, irezumi hale from a range of cultures from around the world. Irezumi can be found in rainforest tribes, religious cults, barbarian hordes, and contemplative monasteries, as well as arcane universities and metropolitan cities.
Though I was reluctant to introduce a class that can create permanent magical effects into the game, I felt that the often temporary nature of tattoo magic in D&D (such as the creepy-crawly psychic tattoos of 3.*) has always left me wanting. So here is my attempt to get a tattoo artist I would be happy to play on the table. Having said that, the irezumi alchemist needs more playtesting (see standard disclaimer below) and I would love any feedback your players have after getting it onto the table.
Mystic Tattoos: The mystic tattoo option is based loosely on the Transformation school’s Transmuter’s Stone. Though there are a few more options to choose from and more than one character can benefit from them, the benefits last only one hour as opposed to all day, every day.
Empowered and Master Tattoos: There are several factors built in to keep the stronger magical tattoos under control. 1) The time and exhaustion associated with creating empowered or master tattoos allows the DM to create dramatic situations during the creation process or over the days following. 2) The bearer is considered attuned to the tattoo as if to a magic item, reducing the number of powerful items they can carry. 3) The exhaustion associated with using an enhanced or master tattoos discourages players from using the ability more than once per day, yet provides dramatic opportunity for heroic action if the group really needs it.
The majority of mixtures created by irezumi are temporary tattoos illustrated using plant-based inks that stain the skin instead of being injected under it. These mixtures are quick to apply and disappear after the magic has been triggered. As an irezumi becomes more skilled at their craft they are able to create permanent tattoos. Most of these permanent tattoos require an irezumi to infuse them with their own alchemical power each day, but master artists can create images that draw on the bearer’s own life force, leaving the user tired but granting them access to powerful magical abilities.
Though irezumi can create mixtures that are not tattoos, most rarely bother. Their skin-staining techniques are quick to create and portable for the bearer.
2nd: aid, enhance ability, spiritual weapon
3rd: beacon of hope, protection from energy, spirit guardians
4th: conjure minor elementals, conjure woodland beings, polymorph
5th: conjure elemental, mass cure light wounds
6th: true seeing, wall of thorns
7th: etherealness, project image
8th: animal shapes, mind blank
9th: astral projection, shapechange
You gain proficiency with tattooing supplies when you take this tradition at 3rd level. Tattooing supplies are a new kit not present in the core rules and allows the player to add their proficiency modifier to any roll involving creating or identifying tattoos, their symbolism, origin, etc.
Starting when you select this alchemical tradition at 3rd level, you learn to infuse temporary magic into plant-based inks that stain the skin until used. Mixtures shared with other creatures typically take the form of these stained patterns which disappear when triggered, or after you take a long rest.
In addition, you gain two bonus alchemist cantrips of your choice. These cantrips, as well as your standard cantrips and other mixtures, take the form of permanent tattoos on your body. They do not count as Mystic Tattoos.
Starting at 6th level, you can tattoo creatures with images infused with magical and alchemical power. When creating a mystic tattoo, you (or the bearer) decide which area of the body is to be tattooed, and which effect the tattoo will be charged with (see Tattoo Locations below). Once chosen, this effect cannot be changed. To create a tattoo, you must spend 8 hours with the subject and expend 500gp of material components. No more than 4 hours (plus the Constitution modifier of the subject) may be spent each day creating the mystic tattoo. Once completed, the bearer must make a DC 12 Constitution save or suffer 1 level of exhaustion. Mystic tattoos you create are permanent. Each subject (including yourself) may only possess a single mystic tattoo.
After you have completed a long rest, you may charge a number of mystic tattoos equal to your Proficiency modifier. These mystic tattoos need not be ones you created, but they must have been created by another irizumi using this class feature. Charging a tattoo takes 1 minute and you must be able to touch the subject. Tattoos remain charged until triggered, or until you complete a long rest.
The bearer may use an action to trigger a charged tattoo, gaining its benefits for one hour.
- Eyes/Forehead/Face: Darkvision to a range of 60 feet, or advantage on Perception checks, or advantage on Insight checks (chosen when the tattoo is created).
- Legs/Feet: An increase to base walking speed of 10 feet (bearer loses this benefit if encumbered, or while wearing medium or heavy armor), or advantage on Athletics checks, or advantage on Acrobatics checks (chosen when the tattoo is created).
- Chest: Advantage on the saving throw of one ability (chosen when the tattoo is created)
- Back/Arms/Hands: Resistance to any one damage type (chosen when the tattoo is created)
Tattoos are both permanent and distinctive and can be used to identify the user. Some churches and organizations will look poorly on tattooed individuals, while some will see them as a mark of pride and respect.
Starting at 10th level, you may enhance the artwork and alchemical power of your tattoos. By spending an additional 8 hours with a subject who possesses one of your tattoos, and expending 1,000gp worth of components, you may grant them a second mystic tattoo. This tattoo may be on the same body part, or a different body part. Each mystic tattoo must be charged separately and requires its own action to trigger.
At 14th level, you may expend a 7th level mixture slot to create an empowered tattoo on a subject. The bearer is considered attuned to the tattoo as if it were a magic item and may trigger the tattoo by using an action.
You must spend 24 hours and 1,000gp per level of the spell in material components to create an empowered tattoo. No more than 4 hours (plus the subject’s Constitution modifier) can be spent each day creating the tattoo and each time increment must be spent undisturbed or the time must be restarted. You do not recover the spell slot until the tattoo is completed. The process of creating the tattoo is incredibly painful as well as using the subject’s energy and therefor the subject can have no fewer than 2 levels of exhaustion during each increment. Once the tattoo is completed, you suffer 2 levels of exhaustion.
When completed, the empowered tattoo is charged with one of your bonus formula of 3rd level or lower. If any choices must be made regarding the spell (such as which benefit is gained from enhanced ability) those choices are made by you at the time the enhanced tattoo is created. A subject may only have one empowered tattoo and it must be placed on a body part that does not already have a mystic tattoo. The charge of this tattoo is permanent, and is not expended when you take a long rest or after being activated by the bearer.
Should the spell require concentration to maintain, the bearer maintains it. When the duration of the spell ends the subject takes a number of levels of exhaustion equal to half the level of the spell (rounded up).
For example, you expend a 7th level spell slot to create an empowered enhance ability (bull’s strength) tattoo on a subject. The bearer may trigger the tattoo at any time by using an action. When the duration of the spell ends, the subject takes 1 level of exhaustion.
At 18th level, you may expend a 9th level mixture slot to create a master tattoo on a subject.The bearer is considered attuned to the tattoo as if it were a magic item and may trigger the tattoo by using an action. You must spend 24 hours and 1,000gp per level of the spell in material components. No more than 4 hours (plus the subject’s Constitution modifier) can be spent each day creating the tattoo and each time increment must be spent undisturbed or the time must be restarted. You do not recover the spell slot until the tattoo is completed. The process of creating the tattoo is incredibly painful and drains the subject’s energy, therefor the subject can have no fewer than 3 levels of exhaustion during each increment. Once the tattoo is completed, you suffer 3 levels of exhaustion.
When completed, the master tattoo is charged with one of your bonus formula of 5th level or lower. If any choices must be made regarding the spell (such as which beast the subject turns into when casting polymorph, or which creatures are summoned with conjure) those choices are made by you at the time the master tattoo is created. A subject may only have one master tattoo and it must be placed on a body part that does not already have a mystic or empowered tattoo. The charge of this tattoo is permanent, and is not expended when you take a long rest or after being activated by the bearer. Should the spell require concentration to maintain, the bearer maintains it. When the duration of the spell ends the subject takes a number of levels of exhaustion equal to half the level of the spell (rounded up).
For example, you expend a 9th level spell slot to create a master polymorph tattoo on a subject (selecting the beast form taken by the bearer at the time the tattoo is created). The bearer may trigger the tattoo at any time by using an action. When the duration of the polymorph ends, the subject takes 2 levels of exhaustion.
We’re always looking for playtesters for our races, classes, archetypes and other designs here at Tribality. Wizards had the benefit of 175,000 playtesters over 2 years to get their ideas to the table; clearly we don’t have that luxury. Each of our builds are as balanced as we can design with a small playtest group and decades (over a century, maybe, I haven’t done the math) of gaming XP, and we are always excited to hear when players get these ideas on the table and provide us with constructive ways to make them better.