Last Updated: June 20, 2021
Building on its 3.5 roots, Pathfinder present several items which provide static numerical bonuses to character’s stats. Most iconic among these are the Cloak of Resistance, and belt/headbands which enhance ability scores. In every game I have every played, everyone in the party has carried these items. Every Fighter had a Belt of Giant Strength, every Wizard had a Circlet of Intellect, and every character had a Cloak of Resistance.
These items are critical to the functions of your character. Without a Cloak of Resistance, characters quickly die to spells and traps. Without enhancing their ability scores, characters find their attacks and spells to be ineffective against increasingly dangerous foes. However, these items are incredibly dull. Once the item has been acquired, the novelty immediately wears off, and the numerical improvement becomes an assumed part of your characters stats.
Because these items are so necessary, other items in the same slots make very rare appearances in the game. Never once have I seen a rogue forgo a Cloak of Resistance in favor Cloak of Elvenkind. The two items can be combined by further enhancing an existing magic item, and paying 1.5 times the cheaper effects cost. This can lead to things like Cloak of Elvenkind and Resistance +X. Because of the investment to create or acquire these items, it becomes very difficult to part with them when a much more interesting item comes along.
Late in the lifetime of 3.5, the Arms and Equipment Guide had a small section which allowed these static enhancements to be added to existing items without paying 1.5 times the cost. While this certainly reduced the cost of these items, it didn’t address the issue of replacing your existing items.
4th edition removed ability enhancing items, but resistance enhancing items remained in place. Because of the numerical scaling mechanism of 4th edition, the resistance bonus became secondary to the specific items magical effect, which allowed players to focus on using interesting and effective items without sacrificing essential numerical bonuses.
In place of these items, I propose Enhancement Tattoos, a new “item” type which provides the same static numerical bonuses, but allows for other items to be used and exchanged freely without hassle. The tattoos are difficult to remove and destroy, which means characters won’t be robber of crucial enhancements which might cripple their characters.
To compensate for the additional utility of Enhancement Tattoos, they cost 1.5 times the normal cost of the equivalent items, and can’t be transferred. This matches the cost of adding the enhancements to other items, but still allows characters to use and exchange items in the belt/cloak/head slots. Characters who do not want to use items from these slots can still use the normal items, and will save some gold by doing so.
The appearance of Enhancement Tattoos is intentionally broad, and their appearance can be a fun way to add detail to your character. An assassin might have tattoos of snakes coiled around his wrists in simple black ink, while a fierce barbarian might have elaborate tribal tattoos which seem to glow and shift beneath his skin when he hefts a weapon.
Because Enhancement Tattoos can’t be removed, they are also an excellent way to buff enemies without giving your players too much additional loot. NPCs tend to have considerably more treasure than monsters, so enhancement tattoos can help to improve your NPCs’ stats without throwing additional loot into the pile.
Presented below is a new item creation feat detailing the specifics of Enhancement Tattoos. Your group may instead choose to allow Enhancement Tattoos to be created using the Craft Wondrous Item feat, if you feel that the secondary feat is unnecessary.
Craft Enhancement Tattoo (Item Creation)
You can create Enhancement Tattoos, which provide bonuses similar to a magic item.
Prerequisite: Caster level 5th, Craft Wondrous Item.
Benefit: You may tattoo creatures (including non-living creatures such as constructs and undead) with Enhancement Tattoos. Crafting an Enhancement Tattoo takes 1 day for each 1,000 gp in its price, and costs 1.5 times the cost of the equivalent items. To create a wondrous item, you must use up raw materials costing half of its base price. See the magic item creation rules in the Magic Items section of the core rulebook for more information.
Enhancement Tattoos may replicate the effects of a Cloak of Resistance, a Belt which enhances physical ability scores, or a circlet which enhances mental ability scores. To calculate the price of the tattoo, multiply the price of the equivalent item by 1.5. For Example: A tattoo of resistance +1 costs 1,500gp, and a belt of Physical Perfection +2 costs 24,000gp.
Enhancement Tattoos may be placed anywhere on the characters body, and may be as subtle or as overt as the creator chooses. Tattoos give off a magical aura identical to their equivalent item. At the creators discretion, the tattoos can be obviously magical, or may appear completely mundane. The limits of the magical appearance of the Tattoo are up to the GM.
Enhancement Tattoos are similar to and functional like a magic item in many ways. When targeted by a Dispel Magic effect, they behave like an item, and are suppressed temporarily instead of being dispelled. Effects which destroy magic items, such as Disjunction, destroy an Enhancement Tattoo, removing both the magical effect and the physical tattoo. Enhancement Tattoos may not be sundered. If the tattoo is located on a limb which is removed, they cease to function, but resume functioning if that limb is later restored (such as via Regeneration).
Upon a creature’s death, its magical tattoos stop functioning and no longer produce a magic aura. If the creature is later returned to life, its magical tattoos resume functioning.