mr. meeson’s will

Mister Meeson’s Will, by H Rider Haggard, tells the story of a veddy propah Englishwoman who is shipwrecked on a desert island and must have a dying tycoon’s will tattooed upon her back. It’s part of the 19th century tradition of novels exploring outlandish corner cases of the law, like Wilkie Collins’ Man and Wife.

The informational tattoo idea has been explored in fantasy. The tattoo treasure map has been done before: I remember seeing it first in some Ultima game. In D&D, tattoos of spells have been mentioned as alternatives to spellbooks.

Worst case D&D scenario: someone is tattooed with an expendable spell. They’re essentially a living scroll. Scrolls self-destruct when used.

This might lead to a rough situation for a poor sailor. He passes out at the tattoo parlor, and wakes up a living – and disposable – piece of ordnance. If the ship is attacked by pirates, the ship’s wizard might decide that there’s nothing to be done but read the scroll and expend the sailor.

Either that or someone is tattooed with Explosive Runes.

Any other weird D&D consequences of an ill-considered tattoo?

5 Responses to “mr. meeson’s will”

  1. katre says:

    I read a book once (I think it was an Eddings but I forget which) where two people drunkenly had each others’ names tattooed, and then sobered up to discover they were legally married.

    Combine this with carousing rules and maybe change it up to some kind of indenture business and you’ve got a great adventure hook.

  2. ranthoron says:

    How about portal runes that are mirrored, so whoever would use the other side of the portal would disrupt your intestines? And of course you had to remove all runes simultaneously in order for you to survive – so better find the other side…

  3. Baf says:

    There are things like Glyph of Insanity that won’t directly harm the person the tattoo is on, but will affect anyone who sees them. You could tattoo these on a solitary guard’s forehead for a sort of build-your-own-medusa effect, but I’m also thinking of things like a jealous husband having such a glyph tattooed where only his wife’s lover would see it. She might not even know it’s there.

  4. 1d30 says:

    Tattoo comes alive sometimes, possibly strangling wearer.

    Tattoos are hypnotic – Bradbury’s Illustrated Man.

    Tattoo made with poisonous ink – some terrible D&D novel called Escape from Undermountain I think.

    Tattooed with a treasure map by a desperate sailor / prospector whose friends are now looking for the only remaining copy – YOU. (waterworld probably)

    Party M-U pays you for the space on your back where he tattoos some spells as an emergency spellbook for himself.

    Minor criminals tattooed with a crime symbol, and if you don’t have any more space to be tattooed you get exiled / executed (that John Carter movie, dunno if that was in the books).

    Cults / gangs / guilds tattoo members. Possibly more elaborate based on rank. Prevents the member from going to some other gang / guild “fresh”. Slaves could be marked by owners.

    Tattoos as mnemonic device for M-Us, or even a single spell he can memorize that he can never be parted from (Teleport, or Knock, or something).

    Can you use an Erase spell to remove a tattoo? Low-level M-Us could make a little money doing that. Similarly, can you use Write to create a tattoo?

    Barbarians required to undergo tattoo or ritual scarring to go up each level.

    Silent visual language consisting of exposing various tiny tattoos on your hands. People “overhearing” might mistake it for sign language and would completely misunderstand. Only works close-up. “Speakers” must have tattoos on their hands and they’re all probably in different places.

    Tattoos on the inside of your eyelids? Anything’s possible with Regeneration to fix your mistakes.

    Tattooed people could be disguised with a Color cantrip changing the whole skin color, covering up the tattoos.

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