Homebrewed D&D: Inked Flesh Magics

I’m a part of a group here in Philadelphia called Drinks & Dragons and GM a monthly game night at American Sardine bar (Spoiler alert! Don’t read further if you’re a player at ASB). I’ve been running Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition at these events for a number of reasons, but mainly because it’s what’s in demand, easily accessible, and most familiar to the majority of people who show up. I enjoy the unpredictability of magic in Dungeon Crawl Classics so I try and insert that into my 5e games where I can with house rules, such as…

Inked Flesh Magics

The Artist of Inked Flesh Magics

Agnon Reith is an old elf who is slightly off kilter due to years of magical enslavement. He practices a relatively unknown trade of inked flesh magics. Once renown for his skills he was imprisoned by a nefarious sorcerer and forced to provide his services to this unkind usurper.  Though this sorcerer is long dead and Agnon is free, he is hesitant to resume his old practice. The characters can only convince him to do so with questing or treasure of quality enough to impress the old, proud, and wary elf.


How the Tattoos Work

The player chooses the design and the placement on their body.

Have all players make their rolls before revealing the results (Agnon will not tell them in advance). Let them know that there is a chance that things can go wrong for them.

While getting their tattoo the player must make a DC10 CON saving throw:

  • Success = 1d6 damage and gain spell associated with the design below.
  • Critical Success = as success, but the tattoo has d3 uses before it is exhausted.
  • Failure = 1d10 damage and roll on the infection table below.
  • Critical Failure = 1d20 damage, roll on infection table, permanent 1d6 loss to CON.

To “use” a tattoo the character’s spell casting ability defaults to their highest attribute. Any class/race can use these magics.

Once a tattoo is used it will be exhausted and disappear until after the character takes a long rest.

Tattoo Designs

Tattoos provide a single use (independent of spell slots) of the spell listed.

  • Eye with a triangular pupil (Detect Thoughts)
  • Sword made of stars (Magic Weapon)
  • Circle of flame (Flaming Sphere)
  • Solid black circle (Darkvision)
  • Torn leaf (Lesser Restoration)
  • A stick and a finger bone crossing (Augury)
  • Eye containing concentric circles for pupils (Clairvoyance)
  • Squirrel made from folded scrolls (Conjure Animals)
  • Wine bottle cork (Water Walk)
  • Two skulls facing each other (Mirror Image)
  • Broken key (Arcane Lock)
  • A skull with the sun in its mouth (Scorching Ray)
  • Skeletal jaw (Magic Mouth)
  • Severed fingers arranged in a circled square (Remove Curse)
  • Gargoyle (Meld into Stone)
  • Paw print patterned with veins (Locate Animals or Plants)
  • Rose wrapping a sharpened stick (Spike Growth)
  • Hammer balanced on a rock (Shatter)
  • Snake with its head severed (Protection from Poison)
  • Leaping Black Horse (Haste)
  • Shackles forming a circle (Enthrall)

Infection Table

  1. On the 13th day of the month an Illusory Gnome named Gavin follows you around the entire day incessantly asking inane but complicated questions
  2. Whatever part of your body where the tattoo appears twists 180 degrees for 1d24 hours. It’s slightly painful and very awkward. This will occur every month on the same day you originally got the tattoo.
  3. The tattoo travels along your flesh appearing on a different part of your body each day. You can feel it like an itch when it moves.
  4. Whenever your tattoo is visible you cannot tell a lie to whoever can see it
  5. Whenever your tattoo is visible you cannot tell the truth to whoever can see it
  6. The ink renders your skin invisible, revealing the muscle and sinew below it
  7. Whenever the part of your body containing the tattoo is in contact with a surface for more than a minute it leaves a black stain on that surface in the shape of your tattoo.
  8. The ink works its way into your veins and shows up as pulsing bright green streaks just below the surface of your skin. These streaks move throughout your body with your bloodstream.
  9. The ink pools together and moves into the whites of your eyes where patterns form in accordance to the tide of the closest shore.
  10. The tattoo replicates itself at an unpredictable rate. You often wake up to find a new copy on your body somewhere. Each one is slightly smaller than the previous.
  11. You suffer a high fever for seventeen days. On the 18th day you awaken, perfectly lucid and able to hear the words of an ancient god of hellfire in your ear, prophesying the end of ways. (*from Luka)
  12. Your blood is replaced by ink. Normal curative spells no longer have effect on you, but spells for mending inanimate objects do. You can now be sundered. (*from DungeonsPossums)

*11-12 were harvested from #gygaxian-democracy on the DIY RPGs channel on Discord.

These are obviously house rules for 5e, but as always can be adapted to your game of choice with designs and spells that fit your table in that beautiful never-ending cycle of homebrewing and hacking.

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