VANCU SKIN MAGIC

Copyright © 1999 by Brian Olsen

Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion

I. Letter of Submission

Kind sir,

In response to your request for submissions to your esteemed publication, I shall respectfully and humbly offer my recent research on the nature and theory of Vancu skin magic. I have spoken with my mentor concerning the publication of this body of lore. He has deemed it worthy of publication, so long as the following caveat be made: The material contained herein may not be accurate, and may change prior to its final, published form, subject to new discoveries and new theories which may, in time, come to light.

Thank you for your interest and your continuing efforts towards maintaining your fine publication. Your contributions to our collective body of lore will doubtless aid us in our journey towards a more enlightened age.

Aria del'Eyr

Nyevaerie, City of Hope

II. Letter of Presentation

My most esteemed colleagues and mentors,

I have recently completed an earnest study into the ways and means of the obscure magical arts practiced by the magicians of a distant land. These people, known as the Vancu, have magical knowledge which, while surely possessed by our ancestors, has been lost to us in our present age.

I beseech thee, therefore, to consider the investigations contained herein for submission to the archives of the Tower of Lore. The information discovered within is accurate, as much as it can be, given its nature. One would caution readers that, as with any work that extends the boundary of what is known concerning the magic of the Veil and the Hue, this lore may change in time. A wise reader will take caution to study the underlying theory of these spells before committing them to practice.

With this warning, I present to you my research concerning the mysterious nature of Vancu skin magic.

* * *

The study of the nature of magic, and the creation of permanent and semi-permanent enchantments, have become esoteric sciences in our time. It was not always such. Ample evidence exists that our land was once the home of a more enlightened people. The obscure magic of the Vancu tribeswomen is evidence of an ancient understanding of the nature of Hue and magical enchantments that far surpasses our present knowledge. Through the study of a curious artifact of Vancu "skin magic," one may begin to glimpse the underlying connection between our physical bodies and the magical energies that shape our world.

The Vancu use needles and dye to paint pictures upon their bodies as we would paint pictures upon parchment. These pictures are painted not on the skin, but under the skin, within the physical layers of the body. This causes the picture to remain visible throughout the entire life of its owner (and even beyond). In the same way, they layer enchantment under the surface of their Hue, creating a more permanent magical effect. We paint our faces and it washes away in the rain, but they paint their faces and it lasts forever. In the same way, we can use magic to fly for a short while, while a Vancu witch can enchant the Hue of her subject, granting him the ability to fly forever.

Through these tattoos (a Vancu word translated literally as "skin-pictures"), the Vancu tie the physical to the mystical. They cast threads connecting the written word (or symbolic form) to the magical patterns they represent, much in the same way we craft magical runes upon specially prepared parchment. The two methodologies are not dissimilar, though their implementation seems more advanced, considering the permanency they can achieve. Thus, the creation of a magical tattoo is not dissimilar to the creation of a magical rune. Generally, a magical tattoo takes many days to complete, although this time is principally spent in the physical drawing of the tattoo, which is difficult and must be undertaken with exacting precision. Throughout, the appropriate spells must be cast upon the emerging design, to ensure that the threads are appropriately woven. Binding the subject's Hue to his physical body has proven to be more difficult than the creation of simple runes, no doubt due to the natural resistance of all living beings to such manipulation.

Once the tattoo is complete, the final thread aligns itself to the subject's Hue, drawing its power from the Veil itself. Naturally, one can expect that the tattoo's magical properties will be thereby enhanced when the color of the Veil matches the color of the target's Hue. Curiously, it has been observed on humans that the tattoo will align itself to only one of the target's two Hue colors. It is believed that the tattoo aligns itself with whichever color had most recently appeared in the sky prior to the day upon which the tattoo was completed. (Although other factors, which are at present not fully understood, may exist and affect the outcome of this process.)

Since a magical tattoo leaves an image on the subject's physical and mystical selves, it is expected that the tattoo will be visible to Hue-reading abilities. In regards to k'Tral's theories on the nature of death and Hues, one might suppose that a magical tattoo would accompany its owner's spirit beyond death, perhaps even lending its magical powers to the deceased. Doubtless, the Vancu have many interesting theories about this subject.

Great care must be taken to protect the physical half of a magical tattoo. If the image is cut or damaged, the tender threads to the mystical half may also be damaged, causing a painful backlash as the magical energies are disrupted. In such a case, the tattoo will be lost completely, vanishing even from the subject's Hue. Experiments have shown that a tattoo might survive minor disruptions to its physical pattern, but its magical properties are temporarily inert until the pattern can be restored.

Finally, the artist must take care that two or more tattoos do not intersect. The crossing of the physical patterns tangles the threads that connect the Hue patterns to the subject's body. The two tattoos will surely be erased, causing great pain to the subject. Further research into this fascinating area of magical study will doubtless reveal greater secrets about the underlying workings of magic and the Hue. By discovering the hidden connections between our spirits and the magic of the Veil, we may someday possess the power and knowledge necessary to restore our land to the paradise of the Ancients.

Your eager student,

Aria del'Eyr

III. Review Committee Evaluations

This spell list has been developed by Aria del'Eyr through her study of the mysterious Vancu magical arts. The creation of an enchanted tattoo embeds a small bit of magic into the recipient's Hue. The spells on this list grant the caster the ability to bind the magical energy of the Veil into her artwork; however, she must still create the design. Therefore, no magical tattoo can be created without the use of needles and ink. Before any magical tattoo can be placed on a target, the area of skin must be cleansed of any hair, imperfections, dirt, or oil. Generally, a magical tattoo takes many days to inscribe. Each day, the cleansed area must have "Prepare Flesh" cast upon it. The tattoo spells grant the artist the ability to embed magical energies into the design she creates using her artistic ability (natural or enhanced). The magic serves to embed the design in the target's Hue, granting him additional abilities. Each magical tattoo must be tied to one color of the target's Hue. When a tattoo is completed, it aligns itself with the target's Hue color. For a human, it aligns itself with the color that appeared most recently.

A magical tattoo has an effective level that determines the time required to create it, the minimum area it requires, and its level for resisting other spells and effects. All tattoos require a minimum of one square inch per effective level for the design. The artist must spend two days per effective level to create the tattoo, casting the required spells each day. Note that these days of work do not need to be consecutive.

A tattoo that grants a bonus to a skill or RR has an effective level equal to the bonus. A tattoo that stores a spell as a "daily item" has an effective level equal to the spell level times the maximum number of times per day that spell may be used. (That is, a tattoo with a 3rd-level spell embedded as a Daily IV item has an effective level of 12.) Tattoos that store magical effects not duplicated by existing spells should be assigned an effective level by the game-master.

A tattoo will last as long as the owner lives. A magical tattoo remains a part of his hue, perhaps even beyond death.

A magical tattoo is vulnerable to physical destruction. If a deep wound completely bisects the design, the tattoo might be erased (as per the "Erase Tattoo" spell). There is a 20% chance of a damaged tattoo being erased, with this chance increasing by 10% each day until the wound is healed. In any case, a damaged tattoo will not function properly until it is repaired. If the wound is healed, the tattoo will still not function until a "Repair Tattoo" spell is cast upon it, but it is no longer in danger of being erased. Some wounds may increase the chance of erasure (such as a limb severed so that its tattoo is cleanly bisected).

No magical tattoo can intersect another magical tattoo. If the tattoo artist attempts to cross two magical tattoos, they will both automatically erase.

Tattoos resist spells at the level of their owner, or at their effective level, whichever is higher.

Game-Masters' Note: The primary limiting factor on the power level of these spells will be the surface area of the targets. If you feel that the given guidelines allow too many tattoos to be placed on a single person, you might consider increasing the required surface area, or limiting each person to a fixed number of tattoos. Note also that the tattoo artists are generally limited by their skills in tattooing, preventing them from creating powerful tattoos until they have invested heavily in their skills.

IV. Thesis Approved for Publication:

TATTOO MASTERY (Closed Essence)

 

Class

Area of Effect

Duration

Range

 1—Prepare Flesh

UF

varies

24 h

touch

 2—Store Design

I

1 design

P

touch

 3—Bind Tattoo

UF

caster

24 h

touch

 4—Layer Tattoos

UF

1 tattoo

P

touch

 5—Precise Design

U

caster

10 min/lvl

self

 6—Tattoo Bonus

UF

caster

24 h

touch

 7—Transfer Design

U

caster

24 h

touch

 8—Tattoo Spell

UF

caster

24 h

touch

 9—Hue Binding I

UF

1 tattoo

24 h

touch

10—Impress Tattoo

F

1 tattoo

P

touch

11—Erase Tattoo

F

1 tattoo

P

touch

12—Linked Tattoo

F

caster

24 h

touch

13—Temporary Tattoo

UF

caster

24 h

touch

14—Hue Binding II

UF

1 tattoo

24 h

touch

15—Protection Tattoo

UF

caster

24 h

touch

16—Redraw Design

UF

1 tattoo

24 h

touch

17—Repair Tattoo

UF

1 tattoo

varies (24 h)

touch

18—Tattoo Nullification

F

1 tattoo

24 h

10'

19—Enhance Tattoo

F

caster

24 h

touch

20—Transfer Tattoo

F

1 tattoo

P

touch

25—Hue Binding True

UF

1 tattoo

24 h

touch

30—Fate Binding

UF

caster

24 h

touch

50—Tattoo Mastery

U

caster

24 h

self

1—PREPARE FLESH (UF): This spell prepares an area of bare skin for the inscription of a magical tattoo. The designated area is chosen at the time of casting, and must be large enough to contain the magical effect of the tattoo. This spell must be cast each day during the embedding process. This spell allows the inscription of tattoos through any natural or enhanced epidermal layer, even if such inscriptions would be otherwise impossible (e.g., through iron scales). The spell prevents all pain and infection during the inscription process.

2—STORE DESIGN (I): This spell allows the caster to store in her mind the pattern of any design she can see and touch. The stored design can be another tattoo, a drawing, or even a three-dimensional image. A stored design may be used as a guide for the artist's Tattooing skill (providing a +10 to +50 bonus, GM discretion) or it may be transferred using the Transfer Design spell (level 7). The caster may only store one design per level in this way.

3—BIND TATTOO (UF): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo that is bound to the target's Hue. The tattoo has an effective level of 1, and is limited to one of two minor magical effects: (1) the tattoo may be invisible normally, appearing only on the target's day; or (2) the tattoo may be visible normally, yet generate a visual effect on the target's day (e.g., it glows, it looks sharper or more colorful, it moves as though alive, etc.).

4—LAYER TATTOOS (UF): This spell creates an additional layer where tattoos may be placed on the target's skin. When cast upon a non-magical tattoo, the spell causes the tattoo to vanish, enabling the creation of an additional non-magical tattoo in the same place. At will, the target can cause the original tattoo to re-appear, thus making the new tattoo vanish. The target can effectively switch between the two layers at will, causing either tattoo to appear on his skin. This spell can be cast multiple times, creating a "flip-book" of tattoos on the target, but the target cannot possess more layers than one third his level (fractions round up). At no time can any of the tattoos in the layered pattern be magical in any way. If any tattoos are magical or become magical, the layer is destroyed and all tattoos will be lost. This spell cannot be cast on a magical tattoo.

5—PRECISE DESIGN (U): This spell allows the caster to create designs with greater detail than normally possible. The spell grants the caster magnified vision, acting as a microscope set at ×100 magnification. The spell also allows the caster to guide the flow of ink from the end of her needle magically into more intricate designs than her equipment would otherwise allow. Note that the caster still needs ink and needles to create a tattoo. This spell does not grant a fixed bonus to the caster's skill at tattooing; it only gives the caster the tools necessary to create extremely finely detailed work. The GM should reward such extra effort appropriately.

6—TATTOO BONUS (UF): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo on the target. This tattoo will be enchanted to grant a bonus to one skill of the caster's choice. The bonus can be any number up to the number of skill ranks that the caster has in the Tattooing skill. The GM may decide that some skills (such as Power Point Development or Body Development) cannot be enhanced in this way.

7—TRANSFER DESIGN (U): This spell allows the caster to copy exactly a design that she has memorized through a Store Design spell (level 2). Note that this spell must be cast each day if the caster is transferring a design that will become a magical tattoo.

8—TATTOO SPELL (UF): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo on the target. This tattoo will be enchanted to store one spell of the caster's choice. The embedded spell level may be up to half the number of skill ranks (rounded down) that the caster has in the Tattooing skill. The embedded spell must be cast each day during the embedding process.

9—HUE BINDING I (UF): This spell binds a magical tattoo more closely to the target's Hue. The magical properties of the tattoo are only present on the target's day (i.e., when the color of the day matches the Hue color to which this tattoo is aligned). In fact, this tattoo is only visible on the target's day, at which time the tattoo's effective level is doubled. The tattoo and its effects cannot be used on days that do not match the target's hue color. This spell must be cast each day during the tattoo embedding process.

10—IMPRESS TATTOO (F): This spell copies the pattern of an existing tattoo (as a positive image, i.e., not reversed) directly onto another being. The tattoo being impressed can be magical or non-magical, but the copy is non-magical (although it could be enchanted later). The tattoo to be impressed must be touched to the recipient's skin. (In the unlikely event either target is unwilling, RR's apply.)

11—ERASE TATTOO (F): This spell will instantly erase a normal or magical tattoo on the target's body. If the tattoo is not magical, then it disappears completely and painlessly (no RR). If the tattoo is magical, it must make a RR. If the tattoo was created by the caster of this spell, then it takes a special –50 RR penalty. If the tattoo fails its RR, it disappears, and its owner takes 5 concussion hits per square inch of erased tattoo. Tattoos created with the various Hue Binding spells are more deeply tied to their owners; if such a tattoo is erased, the damage taken by the owner increases to 10 hits per square inch.

12—LINKED TATTOO (F): This spell allows the caster to create two tattoos on two separate targets. The designs of the two tattoos must be identical. The owners of the two tattoos are linked. (If either target is unwilling, RR's apply.) The nature of this link is decided at the time of creation and may be one of two options:

  1. Mutual Link: The targets will be aware of each other's emotional and physical states over any distance. If one tattoo is damaged or altered (including erasure), the other becomes altered in the same way. If they are damaged, they must be repaired simultaneously.
  2. Master/Slave Link: The bearer of the master tattoo knows the physical and mental health of the bearer of the slave tattoo. The slave tattoo may have a magical effect embedded by other spells, but if so, the master tattoo controls its activation. The owner of the master tattoo decides when and if the effects of the slave tattoo are activated. If the master tattoo is destroyed, the slave tattoo is also destroyed, but the slave tattoo may be destroyed without harming the master.

13—TEMPORARY TATTOO (UF): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo on the target. This tattoo can be enchanted to grant a bonus to a single skill, or to store a spell or magical effect. The spell level can be up to twice the number of ranks the caster has in the Tattooing skill, and the skill bonus can be up to four times this number. This spell requires a number of hours of application time equal to the bonus applied or to the level of the spell stored. If a spell is embedded, that spell must be cast during the creation process. The magical effect of this tattoo can only be used once, after which the tattoo erases (as per the Erase Tattoo spell).

14—HUE BINDING II (UF): As Hue Binding I, but more durable. The effective level of the tattoo is increased by the day's Hue value on the target's day. On the opposing day, the effective level is decreased by that day's Hue value. On other days, the effective level is unchanged. This spell must be cast each day during the tattoo embedding process.

15—PROTECTION TATTOO (UF): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo on the target. This tattoo will be enchanted to grant a bonus to the target's DB and RR versus one type of attack or creature. The bonus can be any number up to the number of skill ranks that the caster has in the Tattooing skill. The effective level of the tattoo is equal to the bonus granted. This spell must be cast each day each day during the tattoo embedding process.

16—REDRAW DESIGN (UF): This spell allows the caster to move an existing tattoo around the target's body and to make small changes in the design. The tattoo can be moved or altered up to 1 square inch per day. A magical tattoo cannot pass over another magical tattoo in such a way that they intersect, or the two will erase. This spell is useful for editing or repairing damaged tattoos.

17—REPAIR TATTOO (UF): This spell will repair a damaged tattoo, restoring its design and its magical abilities. This spell requires one hour of work for each level of the tattoo, with a minimum of one hour and a maximum time per application of 24 hours. If the tattoo was damaged by a wound, the wound must be healed and the skin purified before this spell may be used.

18—TATTOO NULLIFICATION (F): This spell temporarily negates the magical effects of an enchanted tattoo. The tattoo gets a RR, but tattoos created by the caster take a special –50 RR penalty. Once negated, tattoos are not considered magical and can be erased with no pain.

19—ENHANCE TATTOO (F): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo that utilizes unique magical properties. Each tattoo artist generates her own repertoire of unique special effects for use with this spell. For example, one might create a death tattoo that kills its owner when certain conditions are reached, then transfers itself to the first target to touch it thereafter. In the case of an unwilling target, RR's apply.

20—TRANSFER TATTOO (F): As Impress Tattoo, except it also copies and transfers the magical properties of the tattoo. This spell may only be used on targets that share the caster's Hue color.

25—HUE BINDING TRUE (UF): This spell binds a magical tattoo more closely to the target's Hue; it becomes associated with both of the target's Hue colors. (Note that this spell is useless for targets with only a single Hue color.) This spell must be cast each day during the tattoo embedding process.

30—FATE BINDING (UF): This spell allows the caster to create a magical tattoo that enhances the target's Hue value. This spell can only be cast on the target's day, and then only when the day's Hue strength is greater than or equal to the target's Hue value. The tattoo's effective level is equal to the target's Hue value, plus one. The tattoo requires a number of hours equal to its effective level to complete. When the tattoo is complete, the target loses all of his Fate points, but his Hue value is increased by one. (The target can regain his Fate points normally on his next day.) This spell may be cast again at a later date to extend the design of the original tattoo and further increase the target's Hue value. Of course, the caster must follow the above restrictions for casting this spell.

Example: Aria has a Green Hue, with a value of 7. On a Green day, when the strength of the day is 7 (or more), she uses this spell to create a Fate Binding tattoo on herself. The effective level of this tattoo is 8, so the tattoo requires 8 square inches and 8 hours to complete. Once completed, Aria's Fate drops to zero, but her Hue value increases to 8. On the next Green day, Aria will regain her Fate points, up to a maximum of 8. On a future Green day of strength 8 (or greater), Aria can use this spell to expand the tattoo, increasing her Hue value to 9.

If this tattoo is ever erased or destroyed, the target's Hue value is restored to its original value, and then the target loses a number of points from his Hue value equal to the number gained through this spell.

Example: Aria has expanded her tattoo until she has a Hue value of 10. She receives a vicious cut that destroys her Fate Binding tattoo! Her Hue value is reduced to 7 (her original value) and she immediately loses three points from her Hue value (the amount she had gained through this tattoo) giving her a new Hue value of 4.

50—TATTOO MASTERY (U): Allows the caster to create tattoos with her bare hands. The caster does not require ink or tools, and can create any tattoo in hours instead of days. (Divide the total time for creation in hours by 24.)

Editor's Note:

Post your comments on this article on the RMSS Discussion Board.