September 5, 2015

Tattoo Mage

Arcane Tradition
Comments from the Finger: I've long considered that the weak point of all wizards is their incredibly fragile spellbook. A lifetime's accumulated knowledge, all the wizard's power, can be destroyed with an errant match. How to combat this? Body ink!

School of Tattooism

Mastering the geometry of arcane diagrams is essential to studying any school of wizardry, for it is in this manner that spellbooks are written. However, one school of exceptionally specialized study strives to achieve the complete perfection over these diagrams, and to transcend spellbooks entirely. Tattoo Mages are their own canvases for arcane diagrams, turning their bodies into a beautiful, yet functional, murals of arcane spells.

Beginning when you select this tradition at 2nd level, you do not learn or prepare spells as a normal wizard does. Rather than inscribing arcane diagrams in your spellbook and preparing spells from these each morning, you tattoo your skin with the arcane figures and require no study to prepare them. This replaces your normal means of learning and preparing spells, and you create and maintain no spellbook. Tattooed spells count as spells copied in your spellbook for the purposes of other class features.
     There is, however, limited space with which to tattoo your spells, though you can create them smaller and overlap these diagrams as you become more skilled. You have space for a number of spells of 1st level or higher equal to your wizard level + twice your Intelligence modifier (minimum 5). You need not prepare tattooed spells to cast them.
     When you find a wizard spell of 1st level or higher, you can craft it into a magical tattoo. For each level of the spell, the process takes 1 hours and costs 50 gp. The cost represents the material cost of magical inks required. Once learned, you can remove a spell through a painful process that takes 1 hour per level of the spell and deals you 1 point of slashing damage per spell level. You learn and can freely tattoo only 1 additional spell when you gain a level in the wizard class.
     The use of cantrips is unchanged. You know a number of wizard cantrips of your choice as shown in the Cantrips Known column of the Wizard table.

Rune Scars
At 2nd level, in addition to your spell tattoos, you permanently mark yourself with powerful symbols called Rune Scars. Gain two Rune Scars of your choice. Your selection cannot be changed. Unless otherwise noted, Rune Scars can be selected only once.
     Additionally, you can select an additional Rune Scar at 6th, 10th, and 14th level.

Disappearing Ink
By 6th level, as a bonus action you can hide your tattoos, causing them to be invisible so long as you concentrate on the change.

Scar Ally
Beginning at 10th level, you can inscribe 1 willing creature with a temporary version of a Rune Scar that you know which last for 1 hour. This process requires 1 minute. Only 1 creature may gain the effects from a temporary Rune Scar at a time.

By 14th level, you can inscribe the spell glyph of warding upon your body and are immune to its effects. You can have 1 such glyph of warding active at a time. Additionally, the glyph does not break if you move 10 feet from where you cast it.

Rune Scars 
Adept. You gain proficiency with one skill or tool set of your choice. You can select this Scar more than once, choosing a different proficiency or skill set each time.
Aegis. Your armor class while unarmored is equal to is 13 + your Dexterity modifier.
Caestus. Your unarmed strikes deal 1d6 bludgeoning damage.
Crucible. You learn one evocation cantrip of your choice from the Wizard spell list.
Cudgel. You gain proficiency with one weapon of your choice. You can select this Scar more than once, choosing a different weapon proficiency each time.
Ebon. You gain darkvision with a range of 30 feet. If you already possess darkvision, its range increases by 30 feet.
Marathon. Your movement speed increases by 5 feet.
Nimble. Your Dexterity increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
Ruse. You learn one illusion cantrip or 1st level spell of your choice from the Wizard spell list.
Titan. Your Strength increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
Vigor. Your Constitution increases by 1, to a maximum of 20.
Vigil. You add your proficiency bonus to Initiative rolls.

Changelog: 9/6/15: Scar Ally: limited to scarring allies with Rune Scars that you know.
Tattooist: You always have all tattooed spells prepared. You can know up to wizard level + int mod (until I find a better number for this which makes the class relevant to wizards but doesn't make sorcerers irrelevant.)
Rune Scars: Ruse: Learn and illusion cantrip or 1st level spell.
Spellglyph: One glyph of warding maximum.
9/7/15: Tattoist: Edited again (I'm playing with the mechanics). Now Wizard level + 2*Int mod and gain 1 spell when you gain a level. Also, tattooed spells also explicitly count as spells in your spellbook.


  1. Right off the bat it seems like wizards will now have a limited spell selection. 1st lvl wizards have 6 spells, and now at 2nd lvl with this path they have a max of 4. Other wizards at lvl 1 have 8 or so spells. Is this an intended feature of the subclass?

    1. It seems like I didn't make clear that this wizard prepares all his spells at once, much like a sorcerer. The lack of spell selection is intended to balance the fact that this wizard can cast from a wider pool of prepared spells on any given day.

      I'll edit this to make that point clear tonight. I've been camping, without phone or laptop, for the last couple days, and I can make edits tonight.

    2. It seems like I didn't make clear that this wizard prepares all his spells at once, much like a sorcerer. The lack of spell selection is intended to balance the fact that this wizard can cast from a wider pool of prepared spells on any given day.

      I'll edit this to make that point clear tonight. I've been camping, without phone or laptop, for the last couple days, and I can make edits tonight.

    3. But this is not what happens. Here it says you have space for a number of spells equal to 1/2 your wiz level plus your int mod, minimum of 3. In the book, wizards normally prepare a number of spells equal to their wizard level + int mod. With this, you have limited the number of spells known to the number sorcerers get but only if they max out their int when possible, and you have limited what they can prepare to less than what they could before. They dont get more prepared in exchange for a smaller list to prepare from, it is only less spells.

    4. But this is not what happens. Here it says you have space for a number of spells equal to 1/2 your wiz level plus your int mod, minimum of 3. In the book, wizards normally prepare a number of spells equal to their wizard level + int mod. With this, you have limited the number of spells known to the number sorcerers get but only if they max out their int when possible, and you have limited what they can prepare to less than what they could before. They dont get more prepared in exchange for a smaller list to prepare from, it is only less spells.

    5. That's a mistake on my part. Still, this begs the question: if a wizard doesn't prepare spells, but instead can cast from his entire spell list, what's the most balanced number of spells to give him?

    6. I suggest giving them a number of spells closer to what they would prepare normally. so a lvl 2 wizard with an int mod of 3 would normally prepare 5 spells. a 2nd lvl tattoo mage prepares their maz, which given the same int mod would be 4. at lvl 10 with an int mod of 4, a normal wizard prepares 14, while a tattoo mage prepares 9. at lvl 20 with an int mod of 5, a normal wiz prepares 25, while a tattoo mage prepares 15. so this mage has the same number of spells as the sorcerer (dependant on the int mod of course) and I am not sure that the features gained by the tattoo mage are good enough for such a drop in number of spells. I could be wrong since this is just my opinion and I am sure you have thought this through. although that spell glyph one is just begging for abuse. Though it sucks that you are strictly immune instead of being able to choose if it effects you or not since that means I cant use cure wounds as a contingency spell.

    7. I had a very specific thing in mind for the number of spells a tattoo mage knows / can prepare: it needs to be more versatile than a normal wizard (if only slightly) but also not simply making the sorcerer irrelevant. When I wrote this, I forgot to cross-reference the normal wizard class, which actually prepares more than the sorcerer knows! (I suppose I knew this, but I never applied it to the design of this class.)

      Is it too powerful to give wizard level + twice Int mod? Reminder that this is the limit of spells that they know and spells they can prepare.

    8. hmmmm... what about wiz level plus int mod plus dex mod? after all, putting more tattoos requires you to be frugal with space, and dextrous hands will have an easier times writing the tattoos smaller, and therefore being able to fit more on the body.


  2. Comments from the Finger: I've long considered that the weak point of all wizards is their incredibly fragile spellbook. A lifetime's accumulated knowledge, all the wizard's power, can be destroyed with an errant match. How to combat this? Body ink!

    The disadvantage though, is that when you die, all your magical knowledge dies with you. A book, while fragile, may last an eternity, while flesh in merely mortal. :D

    1. Wizards are known to be protective of what spells they know, they're practically currency in the wizarding community... maybe some wizards would prefer their spells die with them :)

    2. You know, comments like these two make my day. If the death of magical knowledge with your body poses a problem with the way wizards in your campaign world view magic, you can write in the tattoo mage as a fringe belief among wizards. Specifically, one that applies to the young, impulsive, and selfish.

      Alternatively, you can view them as the noble but obsessive geometer, who works tirelessly to advance the works of arcane geometry. It's a malleable concept, and that's one of the reasons I like it so much.

    3. Also the tattoo mage could cast a spell that stop the decay of his corpse and seal it in a secret tomb where only his apprentice or someone truly worthy could study the perfection of his art.

  3. This is awesome, I've always loved the flavor of the spellbook-tattooed-on-body. I LOVE Spellglyph. I so wish Glyph of Warding didn't have that 10 feet restriction.

    My only concern might be Scar Ally being able to choose from anything in the list. Maybe limit it to only the Rune Scars he has? It feels like a lot of versatility to have, especially being able to give proficiency to whatever skill an ally needs to use whenever.

    1. That's a really good thought! I'll edit that limit in tonight

  4. Have you ever looked at Tribality's Alchemist class? One of the subclasses was Irezumi (basically tattoo mage), and I feel like tattoos fit an alchemist-type character's flavor fits tattoos a little better. (If you find it interesting enough, maybe you can finish off its subclasses. We never got to have the herbwarden, clockwork mechanic, or reanimator, and the column that posts about the alchemist is on hiatus.)

    1. I'd probably have to get permission from tribality, but that seems like an awesome project!

  5. Sorry for the delete earlier. Great work. I really dig this class. Plus it will fit nicely with the campaign I am running. There is a typo in Rune Scar Aegis. And isn't there only one Illusion Cantrip, at this time? Taking Ruse basically means that you are taking Minor Illusion.

  6. A big one I'm curious about is the lvl 2 ability Tattooist.

    It says you have enough space on your body for tattoo's, totaling 1 per wizard level + your int modifier, and that you maintain and create -no- spell book.
    Does the no spell book aspect mean that when you select this archetype, you need to scribe the 6 spells you learn as a lvl 1 wizard onto yourself, for 300 gp and 6 hrs duration, before you can even use them?
    Additionally, only wizards with an Intelligence score of 18 or higher could actually scribe all of these spells onto themselves, so you're losing potentially multiple spells there just by selecting the archetype.
    When you say that your method of learning spells changes, there is not actually a provided alternative written (though obviously implied), meaning that you would still gain 2 spells of your choice when leveling as a wizard, yet you can only scribe one of these onto yourself? It doesn't state how the learning new spells mechanic has been replaced, saying only that the way you learn them changes, and is shown that only the the way you prepare them (always being prepared) is different from a normal wizard.
    Since you cannot obviously exchange spells known as a normal spells known caster (sorc for example), swapping one for another when you level, this is incredibly restricting. When you want to swap a spell, you need the written form and then spend the time needed to remove it, so unless you can find a scroll/etc, you will never be able to change your spells. I think that needs a reword, as you've made one of the most versatile casters in the game into one of the least versatile of them all.

    Also, can another wizard learn spells from the tattoos as if they were a spell book? As it seems that these tattoos are spells in written form, could they be directly copied to a spell book?

    I like the rune scars and rune ally, quite flavorful. As a question, would there not benefit in a flavorful way that there would be some rune scars that effect your casting in some way (aside from a freebie cantrip)? It seems to add tremendous physical score/effect benefits, perhaps adding some that have similar but more caster orientated would be useful?

    1. There are a couple broken mechanics available for Spellglyph (which I love the concept of, a nice use for glyph of warding, awesome):
      There is not specified a limit of glyphs you can cast on yourself, so it's hugely possible to stack multiple glyphs. They don't use concentration, and if you use the spellglyph option you can store dozens of spells at any one time on yourself in them.
      Imagine when a player travels from A - B and spends 5 days travelling, or has any extended downtime. At 14th level, that's lvl 7 spells (slots that can cast glyph are 3/3/2/1/1 between 3rd-7th lvl spell slots) . You could drop possibly 5-10 spells a day stored on yourself, or just completely layer yourself in explosive runes and be a literal walking encounter killer. Combined with regaining 7 lvls of spell slot from your arcane recovery ability, that's even more.
      Since you can set the trigger for glyph, you could have hundreds of those active at any one time, and when you fight something, you just command certain ones to go off. It's a way more powerful version of the Contingency spell, since its removed the limitation of only having one active at a time, and removes the duration.
      On the whole for it, I feel that adding a restriction for the amount that you can have active would negate this problem, but also still require balancing (since even 3 of these active is possibly huge damage radius), and having it reduced too much could possibly make this worthless. Could simply using the contingency spell without the material component (since using your own skin) be a better replacement in terms of balance?

      On the whole, I rather enjoy the classes concept, but it seems like it takes one of the biggest aspects of a wizard away (huge spells known) and exchanges it with a sorcerers spells known limitation (without the easy option of swapping a spell each time you level). With tweaking, no doubt the broken aspects could be changed, but the casting limitation I feel detracts to much from the class, and if that was the way it's designed to go, perhaps moving the archetype to a sorcerer origin would be better than having it as a wizard? Less mechanical changes that way.

    2. Oh, also, since you can store spells in the Spell Glyph version of glyph of warding, and you can store summon spells (and those spells do not require concentration now), you could potentially trigger dozens of Conjure Elemental spells at once, for a 1 hr duration walking army of doom that always obeys your commands and never has a risk of breaking free.
      Just noticed that.. :/

    3. To prevent this, I'll need to change Spellglyph to one glyph of warding at a time. That edit will come up soonish.

    4. I intended for the mechanics here to be very sorcerer-y, sacrificing total number of spells known for a larger, and hence more flexible number of spells prepared. Hence, the tattoo mage would just drop the preparing spells mechanic entirely. Because this begins to step in on sorcerer territory, I was very careful to make sure that it wouldn't completely overshadow the sorcerer class, but I underestimated exactly how much more versatile the wizard already was, so trying to plan around the sorcerer might have been a no-win situation.

      So the question remains: what number of spells known = spells prepared gives this class an appropriate balance of power and versatility as I described?

    5. I think, perhaps, why does the spells known & spells prepared require change? If simply the tattooists skin was to be considered his spellbook in all regards, it would theme it toward what you're after (especially since you've already stated you can make room later by layering and merging tattoos) and remove any of the concerns regarding balance between classes or other wizard archetypes. The difference most of the wizard schools get is the ability to reduce gold/time for scribing spells, a tattooist could simply be one that has a safer, more secure version of a spellbook, but doesn't get those cuts. That would be a decent trade off?
      It would mean you don't need to worry about that mechanical change at all, and still give a theme'd wizard.
      Also, it would allow you far more focus on beneficial abilities as every archetype does, rather than restricting ones.
      Additionally, it would conflict less with other abilities of the wizard
      (arcane recovery, spell mastery, signature spells) that are all worded to use your spellbook as a selection and power mechanic. If your skin -IS- the spellbook, there is no longer a problem?

      Either way, I would think disappearing ink needs a bit of a buff, it's overshadowed by every other lvl 6 ability for all the core wizards. Simply making tattoos invisible is very flavorful, and perhaps at a select few moments handy, but it doesn't really achieve much in the way I'd expect a lvl 6 to bring to the table.

      For Spellglyph, I think the problem with using the glyph of warding is that, whilst an awesome use for the spell, now having the restriction of 1 glyph brings the lvl 14 capstone for the archetype down to below the power beneficial for it, and could probably benefit from either being moved or changed.
      Moving it to the lvl 6 and merging the two abilities of invisible ink and the 1 use glyph could work. Maybe even altering the mechanic abit? Why not add things like glyph of warding to your rune scar selection, for additional flavor? Add in casting draw card ones where you gain a new spell (and/or use one in a new way), or empower your casting? With similar unlocks to how the warlocks invocations work, that would be worth doing, considering more rune scars, or at least more varied rune scars, would give greater options to the tattooist. Currently, it's basically every 1-3 lvls you are grabbing a new feat/stat choice from a 4th lvl ability boost. I think that needs changing up a little, personally.

      Optionally, what if at lvl 14 the tattooist could use the Contingency spell (and add it to spells known) more than once, for a greater duration, instead of Glyph of Warding? Since your skin is made up of arcane designs, perhaps if you could have a number of contingency spells active equal to int mod (or half int mod rounded up), with an duration of 'Until Dispelled or Triggered' (instead of 10 days), and requiring no material components?. So adept are ye at storing spells in your skin, now you can do so with actual power, and due to that your own safety is paramount?

    6. Maybe put in a mechanic that works off the arcane recovery ability, since your spellbook is now yourself? Something that gives you additional versatility in that manner, perhaps adding in that you can re-prepare a number of spells whenever you use it? That lets you function on a prepared spell level higher than most other wizards would, by virtue that your body is the power, rather than your book.

      Basically, you can shift the base idea of the class to revolve around the tattoos themselves in a beneficial manner. Instead of trying to change the entire core mechanic of the class, use it to bring out further theme and flavor! :)
      Often the biggest thing I see from homebrew stuff (over a halfdozen+ sites) is that the mechanics of the core class get forgotten, using things like uncanny dodge, evasion, arcane recovery, rage, to bring out the new features and tie them to the class tighter, will create a really nice and entwined mechanic between both the core and archetype, rather than just building the archetype and forcing it on top of the class.

      As said, I do love the idea of this archetype, I just feel that when you mess with the classes mechanics to a degree that this does, you may as well not use the class at all for this. Especially if you're wanting the base sorc line, why not simply allow a sorc to learn additional spells due to tattoos at that point (such as learning 2 extra spells known/prepped at lvls 1/3/5/7/9, basically giving the class a blank expanded spell list)? It'll give you the known/prepared mechanic you're after, with far less grumbling and balance issues.

    7. The reason for subclasses like this to modify traits of the main class is to give players options on different takes on the wizard class. Love wizards, but hate the hassle of preparing your spells? Tattoo mage is right for you! I'm not making this a sorcerer origin for two reasons: Firstly, it's not a Origin by any respect, and secondly, because that defeats the purpose of trying to give the players options.

      On Disappearing Ink: The power here is boosted slightly by also giving another Rune Scar at this level. No need to go overboard with rewriting it at the moment; there's plenty to discuss in Tattooist.

      On Spellglyph: I disagree that it's underpowered as-is. Because the spell trigger requires no actual action, or can be used when any not-allowed creature get too close, or something of that nature, it's more than competitive with other wizard tradition capstones.

      Trading this feature with Contingency is way off base. Removing the material cost, the only real cap on that really quite powerful spell, boosts it's power immensely, to say nothing of having a really long duration. Finally, you get this capstone at 14th level, which means you can store almost any spell you know in it freely. Nice suggestion, but it's too powerful. (Side note: 3.5 players will often remark that a generous use of contingency is what made wizards godlike in respect to other classes in that edition. It's best not to play with action economy fire without extensive limits.)

    8. Fair points, all of them.

      My take on the 'love a wizard, but don't wanna prepare your spells?" would be play a sorcerer, that in itself -is- an option, and quite the reason that the different classes exist in the first place?
      There's a far easier time to make a artistically/wizardly inclined sorcerer using the mechanics to achieve the desired result, than it is to remake a class and possibly destroy the balance between the two.

      The difficulty with removing the spellbook and changing the spells mechanic is you need to clarify how that effects the other core wizard abilities that specifically state using the spellbook (arcane recovery, spell mastery, signature spells) to use their effects, since you neither create or maintain a spellbook, it would mean you cannot use these abilities at all.

      Glyph of Warding and contingency are very similar spells, though contingency is actually the more restricting one than glyph of warding. This is because contingency remains on the caster, whilst glyph is intended to remain as a ward on a location/item.
      Contingency can only store a spell of 5th or lower, and requires you to set a specific trigger. A glyph can store any spell of equal or lower level than what level you cast the glyph at, can cause up to 11d8 blast radius damage with explosive runes at 9th lvl, more if you use another spell like fireball stored inside.
      The material component of Contingency is not expended when you cast it (its a focus aspect), but the materials for glyph are expended, so casting this repeatedly will cost you more equivalent gold than contingency will.
      The old 3.5 contingency wizard is a thing long passed, but considering the balance between the two, I personally lean toward contingency being the most balanced and suitable to your goal, a moving protection spell that triggers as required. If you allowed a layering effect (still restricted in total number), it allows the caster to protect ones self very well.

      Question, too, the way you've worded spellglyph has it that 'you are immune to its effects', does that mean you cannot benefit from any spell stored in it that would give you a buff, as well? That will need clarity.

      Additionally, I am not sure than the glyph of warding -is- more powerful than other wizard capstones, whilst it is itself quite a powerful spell:
      Abjurer gains spell resistance, adv on saves and resistance to damage from -all- spells. That's huge.
      Enchanter gains the alter memories, that's an insanely huge mechanical benefit to messing with mines in the role play aspect, huge flavor and game play use.
      Evokers can overchannel, using the old Maximize metamagic feat. That's insane for any and all damage spells of 5th or lower.
      Transmuter with the master transmuter has a tremendously versatile amount of effects, not the least being casting raise dead as an arcane caster with no prep required.
      Comparatively, a single movable glyph of warding is really not competing with the capstones of these archetypes (as a 3rd lvl spell, necromancer learns raise dead (also 3rd lvl) and gains big benefits to them at 6th level), and the overall benefits of each school at that level overwhelm the spellglyph with theme and flavor if not with hard core mechanical benefits.
      The only benefit that I would see being used is the ability to break the concentration mechanic, thus making this in effect a better maintainer than the Conjurer (something to be avoided), or any other class/option/feat etc in the game.

      Being a 3.5 player for many years, contingency was powerful yes, but hardly what I feel as what made wizards godlike compared to other classes. It didn't help, but damn the wizard had -so- many other things that raised it above near any other class that contingency was a drop in the ocean.

    9. Since you store spells in the glyph with a specific trigger (with none of the restrictions of contingency), you've granted a second contingency spell of greater power than the actual contingency spell. Making the point of 'more contingency spells is overpowered' seems moot when that's exactly what this mechanic does. At least contingency spells have specific restrictions to not break it as a spell active on the caster, which glyph does not have.

    10. There are an absolute stack of options you can use to provide the more spells prepared aspect for the tattooist, and a bunch of other flavorful ideas too.
      Just a few ideas here:
      *Allow you to prepare an additional spell or two at certain levels (tattooing them onto yourself, with the same mechanic already listed in this archetype to remove/replace them for versatility)
      *Able to cast a spell prepared in the above additional manner once per day without using a spell slot. (similar to the spell mastery/signature spells mechanic)
      *Using the Arcane Recovery feature mechanic, you could be able to change a number of prepared spells for a number of non-prepared spells.

      You could tie anything into the rune scar mechanic, giving your options flavorful and practical spell casting effects, granting the option for that to either boost your physical stats or your caster aspect.

      Invisible Ink would benefit more from being a rune scar option than a directly gained effect, it's wasted depending on how you want to play your character. If I play an arrogant or haughty wizard, why should I fear showing my scars? As an optional choice mechanic, it's brilliant. But as one that I may never use?
      Think of that as similar to the warlocks Invocations. They really provide you a depth of options, and Invis Ink would be amazing for those that wanted to pick it, but wouldn't restrict others to having it and never using it.

      You can achieve your results and get the tattooist wizard to gain its own unique feeling, but you don't need to rewrite the entire class to do it, and the archetype would benefit far more from having it -using- the mechanics with a flavorful twist, the features being used to -add- to the wizard class, rather than negate it. As it stands, it seems more that what it's providing is an entirely different base class, and because of that conflict it quite simply will not fit as a wizard. As a unique base class, Tattooist would be amazing, and I could see several brilliant archetypes for that base class. But as an archetype for wizard? It just will not mesh in its current incarnation. It's no longer a wizard, for any intent or purpose.

  7. I played this in my last campaign and it was amazing. I was a mountain dwarf and took cudgel so I could use a great sword and then later on took heavily armored. I was a tank wizard! So much fun. My dm also included Tattooist's tools that i was proficient with. I got about 1 gold per tattoo i gave people.

    1. Woo! I'm glad you enjoyed this one!