Living Tattoo

RavenloftCampaign Setting Logo

Dark ManLiving SpearPantherRavenWinged Snake
Climate/Terrain:Nightmare LandsNightmare LandsNightmare LandsNightmare LandsNightmare Lands
Frequency:Very rareRareRareRareVery Rare
Activity Cycle:AnyAnyAnyAnyAny
Intelligence:Low (5-7)Animal (1)Semi- (2-4)Very (11-12)Average (8-10)
Alignment:Chaotic neutralNeutralNeutralNeutral goodNeutral
No. Appearing:11-2111
Armor Class:71665
Movement:12Nil151, Fl 36 (B)12, Fl 18 (B)
Hit Dice:3+32+23+22+24+4
No. of Attacks:11311
Damage/Attack:2-52-7 (1d6+1)1-3/1-3/1-83-6 (1d4+2)1-4
Special Attacks:Strength drainPoisonSurprise, rear claw rakeDetect liePoison, spark shower
Special Defenses:+1 or better;
spell immunity
+1 or better;
spell immunity
+1 or better,
surprised on 1
+1 or better,
resist illusions
+1 or better,
resist electricity
Magic Resistance:NilNilNilNilNil
Size:M (6')M (4-5')M (5-6')S (3')M (4-5')
Morale:Steady (11-12)Steady (11-12)Steady (11-12)Elite (13-14)Elite (13-14)
XP Value:420420270420975

One of the most worthy and stalwart companions found in the Land of the Mists, a living tattoo is actually a spirit convinced to leave the swirling chaos of the Nightmare Lands for a more stable existence in the mystically prepared shelter of a magical tattoo. Only the Abber nomads have mastered the process by which these spirits are lured and captured.

Living tattoos come in many varieties, but the powers of the creature and the role that it is to play in its owner's life are always reflected in the shape of the tattoo. For example, a hunter who desires a tattoo that will help him track prey might have one fashioned in the image of a wolf or keen-sighted eagle.

Even while separated, both the bearer and the tattoo are instantly aware of each other's thoughts and feelings and can act almost as one in battle. If either bearer or tattoo is wounded, the other feels the pain as well. The tattoo is able to communicate in whatever way a natural creature of its type would and also has mastery of the languages that its bearer speaks.

Combat: A living tattoo will always work with its bearer. aiding the character to the best of its ability and even fighting to the death if necessary. Because the tattoo is a free-willed creature, it is responsive to the wishes and commands of its master, but not under any magical obligation to obey them.

A living tattoo can separate from its bearer at will, becoming a distinct, three-dimensional physical being. A living tattoo can only use its abilities when in full physical form.

The exact nature of a living tattoo's combat abilities vary with the design of the creature. Exact details on some of the more common types are provided at the conclusion of this entry.

No matter what form they take, living tattoos can only be hit by magical weapons of +1 or better enchantment.

Once bonded to a living tattoo, the character's life force is fundamentally tied to the spirit's. If the tattoo dies the character must make a system shock check or perish as well from the terrible psychic shock of his spirit-companion's death.

When a living tattoo loses hit points a character can will the creature one of his own. This process, however, is irreversible. Once the character gives up a hit point it is lost to him forever. Such a sacrifice irnmediately raises the living tattoo to full hit points. Note that this process does not grant the living tattoo an additional permanent hit point.

Habitat/Society: The living tattoo is utterly bonded to its bearer. It cares nothing for other people or beings except to note how such individuals and beings affect its partner.

Only the shamans of the Abber nomads know the secret of calling and bonding living tattoos. No Abber nomad has ever told the secret of this process to an outsider, although these shamans can occasionally be persuaded to bond one of the spirit beings to an outsider. Normally, the outsider must perform some service for the Abber nomads in order to earn such an honor.

The form a living tattoo can take is limited only by the creative and artistic skills of the shaman who designs it. The role the living tattoo is meant to play in the life of its bearer often determines the design. A hunting companion may not make a good guardian, while a guardian may not serve well as an advisor.

The Abber nomads view the bearing of a living tattoo as both an honor and a responsibility.

Once the design has been determined the shaman carefully cuts into the skin of his subject with an ink filled thorn or sharpened bone. The process is painful and laborious and the larger tattoos can take up to twelve hours to create. Once the design is complete the subject joins the shaman on the shifting plains of the Nightmare Lands. There the two call to the spirits, importuning one to take up residence in the tattoo. During such prayers the character promises to value the spirit's life as he does his own.

The character's entreaty will be answered within one day or not at all. The character must make either an Ability check on either his Wisdom or a Strength, whichever is higher. If this is successful a spirit answers the character's summons and takes up residence in the tattoo. Failure indicates no spirit has answered the call; although the character will always have the tattoo, it will never house a spirit.

There is a 5% chance that an evil spirit will enter the tattoo. This spirit has all the abilities of a normal living tattoo, however it will betray its bearer at the first opportunity. Such tattoos are not truly bonded to their bearers and are merely freed upon the bearer's demise. The DM should make a separate, secret roll to determine if the spirit entering the tattoo is of this type.

Ecology: A living tattoo can spend up to one month detached from its bearer. The tattoo will fade away and die if it refrains away any longer. as the spirit-being requires contact with its bearer's spiritual essence in order to survive. This contact is the only food a living tattoo requires.

Whenever a living tattoo is away from its bearer the only sign of the tattoo's presence is a slight tracing of scars that form the outline of the tattoo. Should the bearer survive the death of a tattoo, the entire area of the tattoo blackens and burns, leaving an angry red scar in its place.

Dark Man

The dark man is almost identical in powers, appearance and abilities to a shadow. It is not evil, however, reflecting only the outward aspects of a true shadow and not its spiritual depravity.

The physical tattoo of a dark man is designed by pricking a series of gray and black dyes into the subject's skin. The tattoo covers the bearer's entire back, from the crown of his head to the backs of his heels. Many bearers of this tattoo keep the back of their head shaved out of respect for their companion spirit.

Except in bright light, the dark man is 70% undetectable due to its shadowy appearance. The dark man most often attacks from behind, attempting to grab its opponent and drain his strength. Every time the dark man scores a successful hit it does 1d4+1 points of damage and drains 1 point of strength. The dark man is immune to sleep, charm, and hold spells.

Living Spear

The physical tattoo of a living spear is normally drawn across either the bearer's back or chest. It is possible for a character to bear two living spears, although this is a rare honor accorded to only the noblest of warriors or huntsmen.

Although living spears can be thrown in battle, they prefer to remain in the hands of their bearer. Living spears enjoy battle greatly. A living spear does 1d6-1 points of damage per hit. In addition, three times per day the spear can excrete a small amount of poison. Anyone hit by a poisoned spear must make a saving throw vs. poison. Anyone failing this roll suffers a -2 penalty on all attack rolls and saving throws for the next 2d6 rounds as his body is wracked with pain. Living spears are immune to all mind-affecting spells.


This tattoo is normally drawn across the bearer's back, with the front paws of the panther draped across the bearer's shoulders and its tail trailing around the bearer's waist. The panther is most often considered a hunting spirit.

In battle, the panther attacks as a normal great cat, using its claws and sharp teeth, doing 1d3, 1d3, and 1d8 points of damage respectively. If both its forepaws hit the panther can rake with its two rear claws doing another 1d4 points of damage each. Panthers are alert creatures who can only be surprised on a 1.

More than other tattoos, panthers prefer to remain physically separate from their bearer. This is due to their desire to guard their bearer. Panthers trust no other living being save their bearer.


The raven tattoo is always drawn across the bearer's chest, with one wing swooping across the lower part of his face. This positioning represents the wisdom of head and heart the raven brings the bearer. The raven can detect lie at will and is ever-vigilant in protecting its bearers from the falsehoods of others.

The raven is a knowledge-spirit, yet it will fight to protect itself and its bearer. The raven attacks with its sharp beak doing 1d4+2 points of damage.

The raven-spirit is immune to illusionary magic of all kinds. The bond between the living tattoo and its bearer conveys this immunity to the bearer as long as the raven can witness the illusion, and thus see through it.

Winged Snake

The winged snake is a beautiful, multi-colored tattoo that normally is placed along the bearer's back with the snake wrapping around one arm or leg.

In battle the winged snake receives a -3 bonus to its initiative due to its speed. The poisonous bite of a tattoo-snake does 1d4 points of damage. The next round its acidic poison does an additional 1-8 points of damage to its foe. The winged serpent can also attack with its breath weapon, a small shower of burning sparks. The sparks do 2d4 points of damage to anyone within ten feet of the serpent. The winged serpent can use this attack only once per turn. Winged snakes are immune to electrical attacks.