The latest Unearthed Arcana blends magic and artistry, introducing a brand new mechanic that’s only skin deep – Magic Tattoos.

Magic tattoos imbue their bearers with wondrous effects and abilities. Magic tattoos are initially bound to magic needles, which transfer their magic to a creature, The designs of magic tattoos vary greatly in appearance depending on who created it, but they share general characteristics that hint at the effect of the tattoo.

Think of the new tattoo system as enhanced magical items, which add a whole new flavour (and look) to your character. The size and rarity of the tattoo dictates just how powerful it is, meaning you can get inked a little or a lot.

Tattoo rarityArea covered
CommonUp to six inches
UncommonHalf a limb or the scalp
RareOne limb
Very rareTwo limbs, chest or upper back
LegendaryTwo limbs and the torso

Like other magical items, tattoos require attunement, however you can have multiple tattoos and they only class as one item, meaning you only use one attunement slot.

There are 11 tattoos at the moment, but what do they do we hear you ask?

Absorbing tattoo

Using colour to give you resistance to a particular energy type? Yes please! This very rare tattoo provides damage resistance based on the colour you decide to have your tattoo. Plus, once per day you can use your reaction to absorb a single attack of your chosen damage resistance, giving you full immunity while also regaining half the damage as HP.

Barrier tattoo

This tattoo depicts protective imagery and uses ink that resembles liquid metal. While you aren’t wearing armor, the tattoo grants you an Armor
Class depending on the tattoo’s rarity, as shown below. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.

Coiling grasp tattoo

This tattoo has long intertwining designs. While the tattoo is on your skin, you can, as an action, cause the tattoo to extrude into inky tendrils, which reach for a creature you can see within 15 feet of you. The creature must succeed on a DC 14 Strength saving throw or take 3d6 force damage and be grappled by you. As an action, the creature can escape the grapple by succeeding on a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. The grapple also ends if you halt it (no action required), if the creature is ever more than 15 feet away from you, or if you use this tattoo on a different creature.

Eldritch Claw Tattoo

This tattoo depicts clawlike forms and other jagged shapes. While the tattoo is on your skin, your unarmed strikes are considered magical for the purpose of overcoming immunity and resistance to nonmagical attacks, and you gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with unarmed strikes.

As a bonus action, you can empower the tattoo for 1 minute. For the duration, each of your melee weapon attacks can reach a target up to 30 feet away from you, as tendrils of ink launch from your weapon or unarmed strike toward the target. In addition, your melee weapon attacks deal an extra 1d6 force damage on a hit. Once used, this bonus action can’t be used again until the next dawn.

Blood Fury Tattoo

This tattoo evokes fury in its form and colors. While this tattoo is on your skin, you gain the following benefits:
• Your attack rolls score a critical hit on a d20 roll of 19 or 20.
• When you score a critical hit against a creature, that target takes an extra 4d6 necrotic damage, and you gain a number of temporary hit points equal to the necrotic damage dealt.
• When a creature you can see damages you, you can use your reaction to make a melee attack against that creature, with advantage on the next roll.

Illuminator’s Tattoo

This tattoo contains beautiful calligraphy, images of writing implements, and the like. While this tattoo is on your skin, you can write with your fingertip as if it were an ink pen that never runs out of ink. As an action, you can touch a piece of writing up to one page in length and speak a creature’s name. The writing becomes invisible to everyone other than you and the named creature for the next 24 hours. Either of you can dismiss the invisibility by touching the script (no action required). Once used, this action can’t be used again until the next dawn.

Lifewell Tattoo

This tattoo comprises symbols of life and rebirth. While this tattoo is on your skin, you have resistance to necrotic damage.
When you would be reduced to 0 hit points, you drop to 1 hit point instead. Once used, this benefit can’t be used again until the next dawn.

Ghost Step Tattoo

This tattoo shifts and wavers on the skin, parts of it appearing blurred. The tattoo has 3 charges, and it regains all expended charges daily at dawn. As a bonus action, while the tattoo is on your skin, you can expend 1 of the tattoo’s charges to become incorporeal until the end of your next turn. For the duration, you gain the following benefits:
• You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks.
• You can’t be grappled or restrained.
• You can move through creatures and solid objects as if they were difficult terrain. If you end your turn in a solid object, you take 1d10 force damage. If the effect ends while you are inside a solid object, you instead are shunted to the nearest unoccupied space, and you take 1d10 force damage for every 5 feet traveled.

Masquerade Tattoo

This tattoo appears on your skin as whatever you desire. As a bonus action, you can shape the tattoo into any color or pattern and move it to any area of your skin. Whatever form it takes, it is always obviously a tattoo. It can range in size from no smaller than a copper piece to an intricate work of art that covers all your skin.

As an action, you can use the tattoo to cast the disguise self spell. Once the spell is cast from the tattoo, it can’t be cast from the tattoo again until the next dawn.

Spellwrought Tattoo

This tattoo contains a single spell of up to 5th level, wrought on your skin by a magic needle. To use the tattoo, you must hold the needle against your skin where you want the tattoo to appear and speak the command word. The needle turns into the ink that becomes the tattoo, which appears on your skin. Once the tattoo is on your skin, you can cast its spell, requiring no material components. The tattoo glows faintly while you cast the spell and for the spell’s duration. Once the spell ends, the tattoo vanishes from your skin. The level of the spell in the tattoo determines the spell’s saving throw DC, attack bonus, spellcasting ability modifier, and the tattoo’s rarity.

Shadowfell Brand Tattoo

This tattoo is dark in color and abstract. Whilei t’s on your skin, you have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to become shadowy and insubstantial for a moment, reducing the damage you take by half. Once used, this reaction can’t be used again until the next dawn.

For a full breakdown of the new magical tattoo mechanic, head over to Unearthed Arcana on the Wizards of the Coast website.

About The Author

Editor at large of Polaroids and Polar Bears, PR bod and not-so-secret geek. Chris established Polaroids and Polar Bears in 2013.