Tattoos (5e Variant Rule)

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Tattoos[edit]

Tattoos are mundane or magical ink embedded within the skin of a creature. There are a variety of styles, inks and specialty tools that are used when creating tattoos. Just about anyone with proficiency in Tattooist's Tools can apply a mundane tattoo for a person, but it takes a gifted magic user to make the most out of the magical inks available.

Prerequisite[edit]

Getting a magical tattoo is a painful process and takes time to imbue the magic into your body, which if done improperly or too fast, can cause serious unwanted side effects. Starting at level 5 you may receive 1 tattoo of up to medium power, you can gain another tattoo at level 10 of up to high power, you can gain one more at 15th level of up to high power, and again at level 20 you can gain one more tattoo of up to high power. You must wait at least one month between each tattoo to allow you body time to balance out the magic that has been placed on you. You may receive only one high power tattoo.

Tattooist's Tools[edit]

This kit comes in a sturdy briefcase of some description and contains a variety of various colored inks, needles, and medical supplies needed for sterilization. The kit may also include a sketchbook filled with original tattoo designs, or magical templates that the artist may find on their journey.

Tattooist's Tools are needed to create any tattoos, weather they have magical properties or not. Each set initially contains a variety of ink colors, but does not include any specialty inks from the specialty inks table.

As you create tattoos, you will use up the supplies in your tool kit, which will need to be replaced every so often. Every small tattoo uses 1 ounce of ink, Medium tattoos take 2 ounces, and large tattoos take 4 ounces.

Each color of ink costs more or less depending on the dye used to make the color. Purple, for example, is the most expensive color as minerals and plants that produce appropriate colored dyes are harder to find and acquire than other dyes.


Creating Tattoos[edit]

Magical tattoo templates are often crafted by masters of their arts, which are few and far between. Finding drawings and schematics for magical tattoos can be a difficult task, as such pieces of art are exceedingly rare. Some of the most powerful tattoos come from personal inspiration, these class of tattoos are often self administered with unique ink which can yield special effects. When a character wishes to draw a tattoo onto either themselves or another creature, they must follow the rules below.

Tattoo Application[edit]

There are many variables that go into applying a tattoo which must be taken into account before choosing to apply one to the skin. Such variables include the size of the tattoo, the intricacy of the tattoo, the cleanliness of the procedure and the time that the procedure takes.

Tattoo Size[edit]

In order to apply a tattoo of any type, there must be room to draw it into the skin. Every tattoo has a size and location. Every creature only has so much space on their bodies to draw tattoos and are so limited in the number they can possess. The scale of a tattoo adjusts depending on the size of the creature it is being applied to. Because of this, a Large chest tattoo would take up the same space on a human, a Halfling, or a giant, as the size of the tattoo stays proportional to the size of the creature it is applied to.

The amount of tattoos allowed on a creature are as follows:

Body Part Number of Tattoos
Head | 1 medium tattoo, or 2 small tattoos
Chest | 1 large tattoo, or 2 medium tattoos, or 4 small tattoos
Back | 1 large tattoo, or 2 medium tattoos, or 4 small tattoos
Arm | 1 medium tattoo, or 2 small tattoos
Leg | 1 medium tattoo, or 2 small tattoos

If allowed, tails, wings, may also be tattooed, given that they are not covered in feathers, fur, or scales and are a sufficient size. They count as an arm or leg-sized body part.

Time to Apply[edit]

Tattoos take time to apply based on their size and intricacy. A large but simple tattoo may take the same amount of time as it would to create a small but detailed one. Sessions may be broken into chunks of 4 hours per short rest. Use the following table to determine how long the procedure will take.

Size (intricacy) Time
Small (simple) | 1+1d4 hours
Small (average), Medium (simple) | 2+1d6 hours
Small (ornate), Medium (average), Large (simple) | 4+1d8 hours
Medium (ornate), Large (average) | 6+3d6 hours
Large (ornate) | 8+3d10 hours
Risk of Disease[edit]

Even with sterile tools, there is still a chance of disease from being tattooed. The creature receiving a tattoo must make a Constitution saving throw, the DC of which depends on how sterile the procedure was.

Cleanliness Constitution save DC
Appropriate medical supplies used | 5
Improvised medical supplies used | 10
Poorly improvised medical supplies used | 12
No sterilization | 15
Actively unsanitary | 20

If a disease in contracted, the GM decides what disease it will be by either choosing one from pages 256-257 of the Dungeon Master's Guide or another appropriate source. Once the tattoo is applied successfully, the tattooed creature may utilize the effects of their new tattoo after their next long rest.


Specialty Inks[edit]

In very large cities, it may be possible to aquire rare and unique inks with which one may create tattoos. These inks may have special cosmetic or inherent magical properties and are generally very expensive.

Detection Ink[edit]

This ink is specially mixed and imbued with the ability to detect the presence of certain creatures. The ink may come in a variety of colors, and begins to faintly glow when within 100 feet of the creature in question. For example, an ink may be mixed in order to detect members of the goblinoid family, in which case it would be refered to as ink of goblinkind detection. Another ink may be imbued with the ability to detect the presence of undead, or even a specific type of undead (zombies, liches, vampires, Etc).

Elemental Ink[edit]

This ink is purely cosmetic in most circumstances, coming in a variety of elemental styles. Some may make the lines of a tattoo appear to burn like molten lava, while others may cause it to appear as if cool water flows through the lines of the subject's skin. Certain earth-aligned inks will cause the lines of a tattoo to appear as if they were filled with glimmering gemstones. If an appropriate elemental ink is aligned with a specific tattoo, it may amplify the effects of such a tattoo. For example, a tattoo of the frozen fist would become much stronger if drawn using ice aligned ink.

Glamor Ink[edit]

This ink causes lines drawn with it to glitter like a thousand stars. These inks come in a variety of colors.

Glow Ink[edit]

Tattoos inked with this concoction are pale versions of their colors while in the light, but in dim or dark conditions glow vibrantly with their appropriate color. A Large tattoo created with glow ink shed dims light in a 5 foot radius.

Metallic Ink[edit]

Tattoos made with this ink make it appear as though the subject has organically-flexible metal inlays embedded in their skin. These inks come in a variety of colors, from gold to silver to rusty iron.

Mood Ink[edit]

While appearing as plain gray ink in a bottle, once applied to the subject, this ink changes color depending on the subject's mood.

Mood Color
Anger, Irritation | Red
Nervous, Fearful | Orange
Surprised, Shocked | Yellow
Disgusted, Repulsed | Green
Sad, Depressed | Blue
Happy, Infatuated | Purple
Prismatic Ink[edit]

Appearing to be a swirling mass of rainbow colors while in a bottle, this ink causes lines tattooed with it to become a beautiful and iridescent in appearance.

Shifting Ink[edit]

One of the rarest and most prized inks among tattooist, shifting ink allows the subject possessing the tattoo to switch between two different tattoos. Artists will often take this ink whenever they can find it, regardless of whatever color they happen to find it in. In order for this ink to display its true power, they must first have one tattoo made with shifting ink. Then, they must use the ink's power to shift the ink through their skin, leaving the spot bare once more. A second tattoo is then made in the same spot and of the same size. Once this is done the subject has the ability to switch between two different tattoos every short rest and therefore change their given magical effects.

Temporary Ink[edit]

This ink appears as normal black ink, only it is applied to top of the skin with a thin brush. Tattoos made with this ink last up to one week or until they are washed away with water.

Three-Dimensional Ink[edit]

This ink comes in the same standard variety or colors as normal ink. When applied to a subject the ink appears normal. However, the one who wears a tattoo made with this ink may take a bonus action in order to create a stunning cosmetic effect in which the design of the tattoo appears to float off their skin and hover above it. While this effect is active the tattoo may also slightly, spinning, or curling around the body part on which it is printed.


Additional Information[edit]

Magical tattoos as well as non-magical tattoos should be recorded for future reference in order to quickly check whether a character has room for a new tattoo. Unless specifically noted under the tattoo description, a given tattoo can only be taken once. Any additional applications of the same tattoo will not apply any magical effects. Magical tattoos radiate magic dimly under a detect magic spell. A successful DC 20 Arcana check may be made in order to discern the nature of a magical tattoo. If the person trying to identify the tattoo already has proficiency in Tattooist's Tools, they gain a +2 bonus to identification. Dispel Magic will render magical tattoos useless for 1d4 rounds. If the body part which a magic tattoo is on is lost, so are its magical effects. Limbs regrown with magic or other wise do not come back with their tattoos. Spells such as raise dead generally keep the tattoos intact, given that the limb is still present. Reincarnation will not bring the subject back with their tattoos intact. Clones made with the clone spell do not have tattoos.


Supply Tables[edit]

(Note that all inks listed come in 1 ounce bottles)

Tattooist Supplies[edit]

Item Cost Weight
Tattooist's Tools | 70 gp | 5 Lbs.
Purple Ink | 15 gp | -
Blue Ink | 6 gp | -
Green Ink | 1 gp | -
Yellow Ink | 3 gp | -
Orange Ink | 3 gp | -
Red Ink | 7 gp | -
Black Ink | 10 gp | -
White Ink | 10 gp | -
Full Ink Set | 50 gp | 1 Lb.
Needle Set | 5 gp | 2 lbs.
Medical Supplies | 15 gp | 2 lbs.

Specialty Inks[edit]

Item Cost Weight
Detection Ink | 1,000 gp | -
Elemental Ink | 100 gp | -
Glamor Ink | 100 gp | -
Glow Ink | 100 gp | -
Metallic Ink | 100 gp | -
Mood Ink | 150 gp | -
Prismatic Ink | 50 gp | -
Shifting Ink | 5,000 gp | -
Temporary Ink | 50 gp | -
Three-Dimensional Ink | 200 gp | -
Tattoo Costs[edit]

When determining the cost of a tattoo in a standard magic game, remember that tattoos do not require attunement. On average low power tattoos should cost around 2000 gp, medium 5000 gp, and high powered 15000 gp. Remember that changing the cost or availability based on how your character play is a valid strategy to help push more powerful effects to later levels.

When using anything but standard inks, a general rule is to increase the cost of the tattoo by 10% if the ink will have no additional effect on the tattoo, and increase it by 25-50% if the ink will add additional effects to the tattoo.

Feats[edit]

Inked[edit]

Prequisite: Constitution 13 or Higher You really enjoy the look and feeling of having tattoos. You may now take an additional 2 tattoos, one of which may be a high power.

Tattoo Compendium[edit]

Eye of Darkvision[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Head
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Low

A complex tattoo of an eye with a slit pupil is made on the subject. This tattoo gives the wearer 60 feet darkvision. If the wearer already has darkvision up to 60 feet, their darkvision expands to 120 feet. If the wearer already has up to 120 feet darkvision, this tattoo applies no magical effect.

Eye of Truesight[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Head
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Medium

A complex tattoo of an open eye to be placed on the forehead. This tattoo gives the wearer the ability to activate truesight up to 60 feet once per long rest for 10 minutes.

Mark of the Ranger[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Arm
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the wearer a +1 to attack rolls made with any bows or crossbows.

Mark of the Warrior[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Arm
Intricacy: Simple
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the wearer a +1 to attack rolls made with any melee weapon.

Mark of the Bull[edit]

Size: Large
Location: Chest or Back
Intricacy: Simple
Power: Medium

This tattoo increases the subjects hit point maximum by one up to their level. Whenever you gain a level thereafter, your hit point maximum increases by an additional 1 hit point.


Mark of the Child[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Chest
Intricacy: Simple
Power: Low

This tattoo looks like a small human child and is on the upper chest. It gives you the ability to cast the alarm spell without using spell components, you must finish a short rest before you can use this property again. Intelligence is your spell casting modifier for this spell.

Mark of the Dryad[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Arm
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Low

This tattoo looks like some form of plant life (roses, ivy, etc) and spirals all the way along its wearer's arm. As an action, the wearer of this tattoo may cast the entangle spell, you must finish a short rest before you may use this property again. Constitution is your spell casting modifier for this spell.


Mark of the Elvenkind[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: Low

This mark imbues its wearer with the benefits of Fey Blood, granting them immunity to magical sleep and advantage on saving throws against being charmed.

Mark of the Ghast[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Arm
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo resembles swirling mist which wraps up and around the arm of the wearer. The wearer may activate this tattoo as a bonus action, causing the lines of this tattoo to glow slightly and their arm to change shape. The wearer's arm pales in color and grows into that of a ghoul, fingers sharpening and elongating into a terrible clawed hand. Any article of clothing not meant to accommodate the change in limb size is destroyed in the process. If the arm is covered in armor not meant to accommodate the change in limb size, the limb change does not take place. A melee attack with this arm does 1d6 slashing damage and 1d4 cold damage. If the tattoo is created with ice elemental ink the dice increases to 1d6 cold.

Mark of the Hummingbird[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the wearer +1 to initiative rolls.

Mark of the Pit Fiend[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Arm
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo resembles hellish imagery mixed with infernal runes which wraps up and around the arm of the wearer. The wearer may activate this tattoo as a bonus action, causing the runes of this tattoo to glow slightly and their arm to change shape. The wearer's arm grows disproportionately larger and becomes scaly and red, their hand tipped with razor sharp, black claws. Any article of clothing not meant to accommodate the change in limb size is destroyed in the process. If the arm is covered in armor not meant to accommodate the change in limb size, the limb change does not take place. A melee attack with this arm does 1d6 slashing damage and 1d4 fire damage. If the tattoo is created with fire elemental ink the dice increases to 1d6 fire.

Mark of the Telepathy[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Head
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Low

This tattoo gives the wearer the ability to open a two-way, telepathic conversation with an intelligent creature within 120 feet. The two creatures must share a language in order to communicate. If desired, the creature may attempt to resist this communication with a successful WIS save against DC 10. If they succeed, you can no longer attempt to use this ability on them until your next long rest. If this tattoo was made with prismatic ink, the WIS save becomes against DC 14.

Maw of the Dragon[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Head or Arm
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Medium

This tattoo has a different effect depending on where the subject has it placed. If placed on the head the character gains a breath weapon. Once per long rest, as an action the wearer can activate the tattoo to exhale energy of the chosen type in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw, taking 3d6 damage of the chosen type on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. If placed on the hand and arm the wearer can activate the tattoo once per long rest as a bonus action, for 1 minute, all melee weapon attacks deal an additional 1d4 damage of the chosen type.

Dragon Color Damage Type
Black/Copper | Acid
Blue/Bronze | Lightning
Green | Poison
Red/Brass/Gold | Fire
White/Silver | Cold

If drawn in elemental ink corresponding to the desired element instead, the ability can be used twice per long rest.

Spirit Walker's Sigil[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: High

This tattoo is a symbol of the astral plane. Once per long rest, as a bonus action you can activate the tattoo, causing your physical body to softly dissolve into an ethereal mist. Until the end of your turn you may move through solid matter with ease, if you end your turn while still in solid matter, you are immediately ejected to the nearest open space and take 1d6 force damage per 5 feet you were ejected. If created with three-dimensional ink, this ability can be used once per short or long rest.

Tattoo of Chilling[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Low

This tattoo allows the wearer to cast the Ray of Frost cantrip at will. Constitution is your spell casting modifier for this spell. If this tattoo is created using ice elemental ink, attack rolls with this spell are done so with advantage.

Tattoo of Flame[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Low

This tattoo allows the wearer to cast the Fire Bolt cantrip at will. Constitution is your spell casting modifier for this spell. If this tattoo is created using fire elemental ink, attack rolls with this spell are done so with advantage.

Tattoo of Leaping[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Leg (Both)
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Low

This tattoo is to be placed identically on both legs and it causes the wearers jumping distance to be double. (Horizontally and Vertically) If done in Three-Dimensional ink the wearers jump distance triples.

Tattoo of Minor Protection[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Any
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the wearer a +1 to AC and Saving Throws.

Tattoo of Major Protection[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Any
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: High

This tattoo gives the wearer a +2 to AC and Saving Throws.

Tattoo of Striding[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Leg
Intricacy: Average
Power: Low

This tattoo gives the wearer an additional 5 feet of movement. If this tattoo was created using three-dimensional ink the effect increases by an additional 5 feet of movement.

Venom Ward[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the user advantage on saving throws against poison.

Wings of Ink[edit]

Tattooing Time: 48 Hours over the Period of a 7 Days.
Size: Large
Location: Back
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: High

This exceedingly detailed and lifelike wing tattoo resembles the wings of a flying creature. This tattoo must be inked with air elemental ink or three-dimensional ink. As a bonus action, the wearer may sprout wings resembling those of the tattoo from their back, gaining a flying speed equal to their current speed. These wings last until they are dismissed by using another bonus action. Armor that is not specially designed to accommodate these wing will not allow you to manifest them, and clothing not made to accommodate these wings may be ruined upon manifesting them.

Tattoo of Ability[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: High

This tattoo gives the wearer +2 to an ability score of the wearers choosing up to a maximum of 20.

Tattoo of Skill[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Simple
Power: High

This tattoo gives the wearer expertise in one skill they are already proficient in. If this tattoo is done in Prismatic ink the wearer gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.

Tattoo of Iron[edit]

Size: Small
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo allows the wearer to use their reaction to activate it and reduce bludgeoning, slashing, or piercing damage they take by 1d8.

Tattoo of the Blazing Sun[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the wearer resistance to fire damage and when you receive magical healing you gain temporary hit points equal to half (rounded up) the healing you received. (Spending hit die doesn’t count)

Tattoo of the Shining Moon[edit]

Size: Medium
Location: Any
Intricacy: Average
Power: Medium

This tattoo gives the wearer resistance to cold damage and your hit point maximum cannot be reduced.

Tattoo of Unrestricted Strength[edit]

Size: Large
Location Back
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: High

This tattoo gives the wearer a boost of strength. Once per long rest you can use an action to activate this tattoo to gain (+10) to all strength related rolls for 1 hour, afterwards, you gain two exhaustion points.

Tattoo of Dreams[edit]

Size: Large
Location Back
Intricacy: Ornate
Power: High

This tattoo often in the shape of something sleep-related. With this tattoo, you can cast sleep at 3rd level twice per long rest. Additionally, other creatures are not able to enter your dreams without your permission.


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