Using tattoos in your game P4
In part 1 we gave a definition of a tattoo, examined how different classes might use tattoos, looked at monster markings and tattoos, as w ell as tattoo power levels. In part 2 we talked about how magic tattoos and other items might interact, magic tattoo removal, how religion and different sects of society might react to the tattoos, activating & advancing magic tattoos, creating new tattoos, and cursed tattoos. In part 3 we looked at tattoo rarity, spell Level, & Character Levels, tattoo suggestions and tattoo and PC races. In this part, we will continue examining PC races and tattoos in this article.
Note: some of the suggestions will be tagged with tattoo’s rarity of [Common], [Uncommon], [Rare], [Very Rare], and [Legendary] or have a range of rarities. Other tattoos will be tagged with a spell level (1st through) through (9th level) or character level if it’s a class-based ability.
Bugbears & Half Orcs
These savage creatures often belong to barbarian tribes. More often than not, the tattoos they choose will reflect their tribes. The following powers might be appropriate:
- Lesser Totem Shape/ Aspects of the Totem: This power would work similarly to the Shifters in the Eberron campaign setting. [Uncommon]
- Rage granting tattoos that grants extra rage or specific rage features [Rare]
- A t attoo that grants the user extra speed [Common]
- Constitution or strength bonus granting tattoos ([Rare to Very Rare,] depending on the length of the activation or if it’s “always on” and the bonus)
- Tattoos that allow the user to shrug off blows that would fell lesser creatures. This might be represented by damage resistance or a specific type of damage immunity. [Rare]
Changelings are masters of infiltration and disguise. They favor tattoos that change their appearance more, allow them to move stealthily, and get out of tight situations more easily.
- Alter Self (2nd level)
- Bonuses to stealth [uncommon] to [rare]
- Darkness (2nd level)
- Disguise Self (1st level)
- Eagle’s Splendor: Increase Charisma of 1d4+1 (3rd level)
Changinglings may benefit from this homebrew ninja class, the phantom thief class, or the assassination domain. Nerdarchy has a whole video on how to pump up the disguise feature.
Human & Half Elves*
Due to their almost infinitely varied nature, Human, & Half-Elf tattoos will be just as varied as they are. See part 1 for a discussion on how to look at what tattoos and classes. Humans live in different environments. Read on:
Human Variants by Environment
If you’re looking for a class that encompasses all these environments, look no further than the druid’s circle of the environments. If you’re looking for a website that will give you quick, premade encounters, check out this site.
People living in the artic need extra protection from the cold. The snow has the ability to bind the people living there. Snowstorms, unstable snow and ice, and injuries are common problems which may be helped with tattoos.
- Talk to Artic Creatures (1st level)#
- Endure Elements [Cold only] (1st level)
- Sunglasses – character gets a pair of illusory “shades” that helps to prevent snow or sand blindness. (modeled after these glasses) [Uncommmon]
- Cure snowblindness (3rd level)
- Snow-heal – the snow takes on healing properties (3rd level)
- Summon snow creatures – depends on the CR of the creatures summoned
- Know snow – allows the character to know the snow and ice conditions. For instance ‘is this snow or ice structure able to withstand my weight?’
- For more ideas, look at D&D’s 3.5 splatbook Frostburn
Desert dwellers face both extreme heat during the day and bitter cold at night because there’s no clouds to hold in the warmth. They face blindness from light reflecting off the sand, blinding sandstorms, and difficulty walking through the dunes. The tattoos they would choose would reflect these conditions.
- Talk to Desert Creatures (1st level)
- Endure elements [both heat and cold] (1st level)
- No (or less) need for water [uncommon] to [rare]. Conversely, they may wish to create water (1st level)
- Locate object (water only 2nd level)
- No speed lost for walking in loose sand [common]
- Not blinded by blowing sand, dust, or dirt. Also if someone throws such things into their face, the character is unaffected [rare]
- For more ideas, look at D&D’s 3.5 splatbook Sandstorm
People living along coastal communities face water dangers, so it’s mandatory they know how to swim. Being able to swim at faster rate would be more advantageous. Talking to sea life, being able to repell sharks, being resilient against or immune to certain poisons, and know when storms are coming. The tattoos that they choose will sometimes reflect these concerns.
- Swim at double speed [Uncommon] or triple speed [Rare]
- Talk to fish and sea creaures. (1st level)
- Resistance or immunity to jellyfish and anemone poision/stings [Uncommon] to [Rare]
- Shark repellant [Rare]
- Weather sense [Common]
- Control Weather (8th level)
- Water breathing (3rd level)
- Purify Water [Common]
- For more ideas, look at D&D’s 3.5 splatbook Stormwrack.
- Those in the coastal areas might benefit from the Tidal Domain.
Forest, Jungle, & Swamp
The forests, jungles, and swamps of the world are very different places, but ironically enough the skills and abilities they would need are very similar. They would need to see through thick vegetation or fog, speak to animals in the area Their tattoos reflect this.
- Speak to forest, jungle, or swamp animals and creatures, respectively. (1st level)
- Eyes of the forest (Jungle)/ swamp – character may see through dense vegetation (forest or jungle) or fog (swamp) as if it were clear for an additional 20 feet. Note: this tattoo doesn’t allow the character to see further in magical fog or magically summoned vegetation. [Uncommon]
- Brachiation (forest or jungle only) – You can move through wooded or jungle areas at your base land speed, ignoring any effects on movement due to terrain. You must be at least 20 feet from the ground to use this ability. In the jungle, characters may use vines to swing and slide on, like classic depictions of Tarzan. [Uncommon]
- Swampwalk (swamp only) You can move through swampy and marshy areas at your base land speed, ignoring any effects on movement due to terrain. [Uncommon]
People coming from grassland areas could be modeled after either the Native Americans, very in touch with nature and spiritual or the European settlers who followed. Here are a few tattoos that might be appropriate for them to have:
- Spike growth
- Speak to grassland creatures (1st level)
- Find Steed (2nd level)
- Affect normal fires – mainly used to extinguish (1st level)
- Barbarian Totemistic powers [Common] to [Rare]
- Pass without Trace (2nd level)
- Looking for ideas for your grasslands encounters? Check out our article here or this site.
Mountain men are strong, sturdy, oftentimes desiring freedom above all else. Their professions are often consist of mining and logging. If you take inspiration from the TV series and book “Christy,” they’re also superstitous, prone to feuding, and sometimes uneducated.
- Constitution, dexterity, or strength bonus granting tattoos ([Rare] to [Very Rare,] depending on the length of the activation or if it’s “always on” and the bonus)
- Protection from evil (1st level)
- Locate object (metals & gens only 2nd level)
- Shape metal (for sharpening tools) (4th level)
- Freedom of movement (4th level)
- Locate object (2nd level)
- A PWYW product on DM’s guild has The Way of the Eternal Mountain monastic Tradition.
- Looking for a mountain encounter? Add a Mountain Troll.
People who live atop of volcanic islands are cut off from the rest of society. The tattoos that they choose might draw from the coastal areas, but with the following additions
- Endure Elements [Heat only] (1st level)
- Pass without Trace (2nd level)
- Freedom of movement
- Those who are warlocks might be interested in the Volcano Patron.
- Interested in using volcanos in your game? Check out our article here. Another site has a pretty neat take on it too.
- Want an epic fight on a volcano? Add a volcanic dragon as an encounter.
Humans living in the Underdark have quite a few dangers to worry about. Lack of sight in the dark. Falling. Wandering monsters. Drow. Their tattoos would reflect these dangers.
- Feather fall (1st level)
- Protection from evil (1st level)
- Darkvision [Common]
- prestidigitation (cantrip)
- This pdf from WOTC’s website has the Underdark Stalker.
- If you have some money to spend, you might want to check out AAW’s Underdark Races & Classes.
Human Variants by Culture
Humans can also be organized by culture, which may affect their choices of tattoos.
A magocracy is state run by mages. Because of this, some people in the society may wish to protect themselves from magic. Tattoos doing the following would be appropriate for them:
- Absorb Elements (1st level)
- Antimagic Field (8th level)
- Nondetection (3rd level)
- Nystul’s Magic Aura (2nd level)
Those who live in a martial state believe that the strong rule. Fantasy barbarians and societies comprised solely of monks might be considered coming from such an ideology. Interested in real life martial states? Check out this link. People in such a state might want to raise their martial ability through their tattoos. While it might not be commonly done, tattoos of [Rare] and [Very Rare] should be able to do this. Some societies may frown on this use of tattoos, however.
In the real world, we have the Democrats, Republicans, and Green Party, among others. People may tattoo themselves to support their political party. Some unscrupulous polititians may even have mass suggestion (6th level) to urge voters to support them. If a state is truly politicized, even the presence (or notable absence) of tattoos may become a political matter.
A theocracy is a state run by clerics and other members of the clergy. The world’s most well recognized theocracy is Rome. Those under theocratic law may wish to hide their true beliefs, thus the same types of spells that a magocracy would have tattooed into them, with the following additions
- Disspell evil/ good (3rd level)
- Protection from evil/ good (2nd level)
- Sanctuary (1st level)
- Zone of truth (2nd level)
* Half-Elves can be treated either as humans or for elves for tattoos.
# In this section, whenever it mentions speak with animals from a certain area, this power is always on.
As you can see, there are many ways to use tattoos in your game. Take a few of these ideas and change them to suit your gaming world. If any of these ideas struck a chord, and you want to use them, feel free to tell me in the comments section below!