This PDF weighs in at 52 pages containing the following:
Cover , TOC and Credits 4 pages
Introduction 3 pages: Giving us both an intro to what this book's intent is as far as the material contained within, but also a brief look at tattoos by culture, and the relevance each has on another.
The Meat of this meal, 41 pages: Covering everything from the specific skills and DC checks for using them, to new feats affecting both wondrous and mundane tattoos. Types of tattoos are covered, as well as costs, time requirements, and DC checks for the quality of tats. We also cover the parlor, branding, scaring, henna, and piercing. Wondrous Tattoos (well over 50) act as our magical items for this tome, and we're even given new classes centered around this love of ink. All will be discussed more below.
Back Cover, OGL,Ad, and a blank page(?) take up the last 4 pages.
Ok, where do we start here? The concept of ink on skin has been around within fantasy gaming for as long as artists have been illustrating our dreams. Let's face it, inks cool. It adds a level to the characters visual appeal, makes them more interesting, more dangerous, sexier. But what if that same ink could do more than just look cool? What if it was more than just a visual? This is the question this book seeks to answer with the options presented within, options that are fairly well presented, and go along way towards injecting some much needed life into the concept of “Fantasy Tattoos.”
Formatting is the standard dual column approach, with embedded illustrations. Artwork is B&W other than the cover, and ranges from OK to good with Stock Elmore artwork interspersed with originals pieces. I noticed no glaring spelling/grammatical errors that would cause problems.
The Skills covered in this tome are exactly what you might think they would be, the various craft, knowledge and profession skills applied to henna, piercing, scarification and tattooing. Necessary for the body of work, but nothing here really jumping out and screaming “Notice me!”
After skills we tackle the new Feats presented. Right off the bat we are told that not every Feat is intended for the person getting the tattoo, as much as the person doing the tattoo, this makes sense as the book tries to appeal to both sides of the fence, those with, and those doing. Rather than give you a full list of them (27), I've picked out a few to discuss
Augmented Tattoo: by adding special material to your ink, when making weapon are armor tattoos, you infuse the tattoo with the effects of that substance...once you apply this to a few of the magical tattoos from Chapter 2, this get's nice, fast.
Holy tattoo: Perfect for those times when lugging around those gaudy holy symbols just isn't an option.
Master Tattoo Artist:You can create magically enhanced tattoos
Quick Healer: Recover from lethal and non-lethal damage faster. (this would be the oddball feat, as it's generic enough to have nothing to do with tattoos)
Tattoo Mastery: This is the one that Wizard players will want...Can prepare a certain number of spell without studying your caudex.
In Memory Of The Fallen: Have to say, I would have been disappointed if this had not been covered somewhere within this book, as so many people's reason behind their ink is a lost friend or loved one. Fantastic feat giving you either bonuses to skill checks based upon the skills of the person memorialized, or a combat bonus against the race of beastie who did you friend in. Excellent feat.
The next section of the book goes into descriptions of the various types of tattoos
Textual: Being quite literally text, I'm amused that both examples given within the text are merely arm/leg bands, when the ribcage text blocks have become quite popular over the last several years within mainstream culture.
Abstract: Here you'll find the most common stylized patterns, your “tribals” if you will.
Symbolic: Defining the majority of all ink, the “picture” tattoo. And no, I don't just mean a picture of your late Aunt Ruth, I mean any imagery that is a stylized interpretation of what one asks the artist to ink into their skin.
Enhanced Tattoos:With three subsections under this one, we begin to see our first “magical” tats
Animated: flags actually wave, trees rustle with the breeze, animals caper, etc.
Luminous: produce roughly the equivalent of candle light, in the colors of the tattoo
Shapechanging: tattoos that will survive, recognizably, throughout shapechanging
Long-Lasting: exactly what they sound like, lasting twice as long without touch-up work
Spell Tattoos: Think along the lines of a single use rune, or scroll, contained within a tattoo
Wondrous Tattoo: More powerful version of the Spell Tattoo, but now mimicking the effects of an item, not just a spell.
Punitive Tattoo: Not every tattoo is asked for. Similar in nature to cursed magic items, they are detrimental to the character bearing one.
The next section deals with the game mechanics behind design and application of getting a tattoo, what checks are required by whom, and time/size constraints. Also covered are game mechanics for branding, henna, scarification, and piercing. We're also giving the equipment list to fully stock our new found profession for both PC's and NPC alike, and are introduced to the Gnomish Tattoo Machine, a magical device mimicking the modern day tattoo gun. We're also given some fairly old school methods for removal of body art (ouch) as well as a few magical ones.
Chapter 2 is all about the Magical Tattoos themselves, introducing us to 57 different ones. Here we are given the breakdown for which tattoos will take up a magic item slot, and which will not, and why.
Arcane Bonds: Our first punitive tattoo. A cuff of runes around both wrists, this tattoo essentially keeps one a slave, as they are unable to leave their master, nor hide from them.
Augustov's Magic Pocket: Tired of being pick pocketed? Afraid of dropping your bag of holding? Worry no more, come on down to Krazy Katfish's and we'll tattoo a magic pocket right on you, that's right, store your valuables in your tattoo.
Cantrell Ovin's Crown: A palm tattoo that will conjure a gold coin...with limitations of course.
Dragon's Power: Granting the bearer not only the energy resistance of whichever color dragon they have tattooed, but also a plus to strength or constitution,
Gouzong's Exigent Arrows: An inner arm tattoo of an arrow upon the non dominant arm. When the character draws a bow, the tattoo conjures an arrow for so many per level/day.
Rolling Bones: A tattoo of a pair of 6 sided dice, either in the palm or upon the wrist, that conjures a set of dice with a simple gesture.
I'm going to stop there, as I said, there are 57 of these, and I was only looking to give you a taste of what's in store with this chapter. They are all presented with very well balanced mechanics, and a flavor that will make them welcome in most game settings. Several tattoos are presented such that a good GM could turn the quest to receive one into a full adventure hook very easily, or even the removal of an unwanted tattoo, in the case of the punitive markings.
Chapter 3 introduces us to the Inkantationists, with three primary types of said spellcaster: the tattooed wizard, the inked bloodline sorcerer, and the painted one. The tattooed wizard being a wizard class archetype, the inked bloodline being exactly that, and the painted one being a prestige class. Within this section, detailing these new class options, we are introduced to the Living Tattoo Familiar, an interesting game concept, and a great way for a wizard to smuggle their familiar along with them. We are also introduced to the Caudex, a collection of spell tattoos operating as an alternative to the standard spellbook. An interesting concept when you consider they still have to read and study every day (creates some rather amusing problems for line of sight depending on where you have all of your tattoos lol). The Painted One prestige class (lvls1-10) has a few abilities worth noting, such as Mark of the Past (gain abilities in a previous class as if you had continued putting levels into it), and Sentient Tattoo (yeah, exactly what you're thinking, grant a sentience and personality to a tattoo).
Eight new spells and 11 new items and 1 device...amongst them I found this hilarious item
Nipple Shield of Stunning: You all remember the Janet Jackson Wardrobe malfunction...well that piece of jewelry has been immortalized.
The book closes out by introducing three new organizations for usage within a campaign setting that all have various reasons to use tattoos within their order. As well presented as they are, I would of liked to have seen an actual guild presented for ink masters, an organization for the various players of this trade to belong to.
In closing, this product dealt with body modification game mechanics fairly well, and several of the spell tattoos and items should be welcome additions to a group. The feats offer many different options for both PC and Gm alike, and overall the concept of giving a reason for your players to ink up beyond “it looks cool” is really nice. I give this product a solid 5 star rating, and recommend it for any play group looking to add a new layer to their characters.