Unearthed Arcana: Spells and Magic Tattoos Analysis

Welcome back to another UA analysis. In this one, we don”t get new subclasses; instead, we get some spells, as well as a new type of magic items, those being magic tattoos.

But let’s get started. First let’s look at the spells: there are 11 of them, with 8 of them being quite similar in function, so I won’t go over each and every one of them.

Spells

First off we have a 1st level spell called acid stream. It’s quite powerful, forcing a Dexterity saving throw on a line 30 feet long and 5 feet wide. On a fail, creatures are covered in acid, taking 3d4 damage at the start of their turns until they use an action to scrape or wash it off. The damage might not be spectacular, but it can affect multiple enemies, can last multiple turns, and requires an action to stop. That last part can be deceptively powerful, and i can see it being useful even in higher levels – the damage can start to stack up quickly, and each action is precious.

After that, we have Otherworldly Form, a 6th level transmutation spell, and a particularly interesting one. Available for Clerics, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards, it is something I would call a “magic warrior” spell. It lasts for 1 minute and requires concentration, and gives you the following benefits:

  • Immunity to fire and poison, or radiant and necrotic damage
  • Immunity to the poisoned or charmed condition
  • Flying speed of 40 feet
  • +2 to your AC
  • Weapon attacks are magical, and can use your spellcasting ability modifier instead of Strength or Dexterity for attack and damage rolls
  • You can attack twice when you take the Attack action

Obviously the smorgasbord of buffs makes it a powerful spell, but for a 6th-level spell slot, it should be as such. I can see this being useful for all the classes that have access to it, although for some it may be overshadowed by other spells that require concentration (Clerics, for example, might prefer a party buff over it). Warlocks will find it a tempting option: the synergies with Pact of the Blade are obvious, but other types of Pacts can also use the defensive and mobility bonuses and ignore the weapon aspect of it. I can also see it being the target of a Bard’s Magical Secrets feature.

Then we have Spirit Shroud, a 3rd level spell that lasts for one minute, requiring concentration. Attacks you make against enemies within 10 feet of you deal an extra 1d8 radiant or necrotic damage (your choice), and creatures taking that damage cannot regain hit points until the beginning of your next turn. In addition, any creature of your choice that you can see that starts its turn within 10 feet of you has its speed reduced by 10 until the start of your next turn. This spell is available to Clerics, Warlocks, and Wizards. I should note that all attacks deal extra damage; this includes spell attacks, something that Warlocks especially will love – it almost doubles their damage output with Eldritch Blast. The healing negation is a bit niche, but can definitely seriously hamper certain enemies that regenerate (the obvious example being Trolls).

Finally, lets look at the rest of the spells, which all fall in the same category. They are:

  • Summon Aberrant Spirit (4th level)
  • Summon Bestial Spirit (2nd level)
  • Summon Celestial Spirit (5th level)
  • Summon Elemental Spirit (4th level)
  • Summon Fey Spirit (3rd level)
  • Summon Fiendish Spirit (6th level)
  • Summon Shadow Spirit (3rd level)
  • Summon Undead Spirit (3rd level)

As you can see, each of the spells summons a spirit of a particular creature type (Shadow Spirit being a Monstrosity). They have several things in common: Their AC, HP, number of attacks, attack roll and damage roll bonuses scale with the level of the spell slot used, they last for 1 hour requiring concentration, they share your initiative count but take their turn immediately after yours, and you can issue orders to them without requiring an action. All of them also have a stat block for the spirits summoned, so they don’t rely on an existing creature out of the Monster Manual or some other book.

As I said earlier, i won’t go over all of them individually, especially considering that most of them also have variants over what sort of spirit you can summon. However, all of them have unique attacks and abilities, some of them relying on melee combat, others in ranged attacks, while some also have support or utility roles. Regardless of that though, I find them a very welcome addition to the game, since I believe summoner-type characters lacked enough options for their playstyle. It’s still not as fleshed out as other types of characters, but this is a step in the right direction.

Magic Tattoos

And now let’s talk about the magic tattoos. There are 11 of them, ranging in rarity from common to legendary. An interesting aspect of them is that you can have multiple magic tattoos, but they all count as one magic item for the purposes of attunement. There’s also some nice general descriptions about how each one of the tattoos can look, providing an aesthetic direction but without being too restrictive. But let’s take a look at them.

Absorbing Tattoo (rare)

The tattoo is associated with a specific damage type. All types are included, except bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing. You gain resistance to the associated damage type, and once per day you can use your reaction when you take damage of that type to gain immunity to it, and regain hit points equal to half the damage you would have taken. It is unclear if that damage is before or after taking your resistance into account though.

Barrier Tattoo (rarity varies)

This tattoo increases your AC while you aren’t wearing any armor, depending on its rarity. Uncommon gives 12+DEX, Rare gives 15+DEX(max of 2), and Very Rare gives 18. I can see this being particularly useful for spellcasters, since they usually don’t get armor proficiencies – Warlocks in particular, since they also don’t have access to Mage Armor without allocating an invocation for it.

Coiling Grasp Tattoo (uncommon)

This tattoo gives you the ability to use an action to target 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 Athletics or Acrobatics check. An all-round useful ability, with no limitations on how often you can use it, it obviously falls off in the higher levels, but until then it will serve you well.

Eldritch Claw Tattoo (uncommon)

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with unarmed attacks, and they are considered magical. In addition, once per day, you can use a bonus action to empower your melee weapon attacks for 1 minute. They can reach enemies up to 30 feet away, and deal an extra 1d6 force damage on hit. Finally, a “magic weapon” option for monks and unarmed combatants in general! This is a very welcome addition, although I think it would be fine to have versions of higher rarities that give +2 and +3 as well.

Blood Fury Tattoo (legendary)

Your attack rolls score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20, your critical hits deal an extra 4d6 necrotic damage and you gain an equal amount of temporary hit points, and when you are damaged by a creature you can see, you can make a melee weapon attack against it with advantage. I can definitely see why this is legendary rarity – even without the crit bonuses, the retaliation ability is super strong. Obviously a great option for every class, but I can see barbarians appreciating it quite a lot more than others.

Illuminator’s Tattoo (common)

Once a day, 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. Nothing too fancy, just an ability for secret messages – but the time limitation of a day kind of limits the ability for secret communication over longer distances. You can also use your finger to write as if it was a pen, a fun little extra use.

Lifewell Tattoo (rare)

You gain resistance to necrotic damage, and once a day if you would be reduced to 0 hit points, you are reduced to 1 instead. Obviously avoiding unconsciousness is always useful, and the resistance to necrotic damage is also a nice addition. But i think it would be fine to also have protection from death effects that don’t deal damage, like Power Word Kill, perhaps with a longer cooldown – let’s say a week.

Ghost Step Tattoo (rare)

This tattoo has 3 charges, regaining them every dawn. You can use a bonus action to expend a charge and become incorporeal until the end of your next turn. During that time, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks, you can’t be grappled or restrained, and you can pass through objects and creatures as if they were difficult terrain. A straightforward ability, with obvious uses in combat as well as infiltration. Not sure it’s strong enough to warrant a rare rarity, I think uncommon might be more suited to it; alternatively, you can add a few more charges to it.

Masquerade Tattoo (common)

You can use an action to cast disguise self once per day. Nothing exciting or spectacular, so i don’t really have anything to say here. You can also use a bonus action to change the shape, size, color, and location of the tattoo on your body. A fun extra thing, although I’m not sure why you need a bonus action for that.

Spellwrought Tattoo (rarity varies)

From what I understand, this tattoo acts like a spell scroll. It contains one spell of up to 5th level depending on its rarity, which you can cast once without requiring any material components. Cantrips and 1st level spells are common magic items, 2nd and 3rd level spells are uncommon, and 4th and 5th level spells are rare. It has the same numbers with spell scrolls when it comes to save DC and attack bonus, so it’s exactly the same, just with a different appearance. That being said, it’s still a nice idea that can inject a bit of flavor in an otherwise mundane magic item, so I approve.

Shadowfell Brand Tattoo (very rare)

You have advantage on Stealth checks, and one per day when you take damage you can use your reaction to reduce the damage by half. Another straightforward ability, but as with Ghost Step, I do feel that it could be of a lower rarity.

Overall, I can’t say this installment of Unearthed Arcana was particularly exciting in terms of mechanics, but I appreciate what it brought nonetheless. I already spoke about the summoning spells; as for the tattoos, they are a nice concept, and I like the fact that you can “stack” them in a single attunement. It might seem like something that can be abused to bypass the limit of 3 attuned magic items, but I think that as a GM you can implement further restrictions – although there are also people who don’t use the 3-item rule, so for them it’s not an issue.

What did you think about the new spells and tattoos? Do you like the new options for summoners? And what’s your opinion on the concept of magic tattoos, and how they are presented?

You can read the full article here, and download the PDF here.

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2 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Spells and Magic Tattoos Analysis

  1. Hi thanks for sharing this looks all very interesting. Is Unearthed Arcana the name of the game? I’m an SEO consultant and don’t know anything about gaming, everything you write about sounds really cool but I often don’t understand what you are saying. Can you let me know if there is download somewhere? Thanks in advance!

    Like

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