Smuggler's Uhi

edited June 2018 in DesignFinder Chat
Smuggler's Uhi

Aura major transmutation; CL 15th 
Slot none; Price 6500 gp; Weight 1 lb.


This mallet and chisel are made of ebony with an obsidian blade. They may be used to transform one creature and up to 50 lb. of carried equipment into a tattoo on another. Both must be corporeal, and the recipient must have skin or a similar membrane. Both creatures must be willing and present for the entire hour-long procedure, performed by a third creature who delivers the transformed creature's blood beneath the recipient's skin using the uhi. Once the procedure is complete, the transformed creature becomes a 2-dimensional work of art on the recipient. It can make purely mental skill checks and communicate with the recipient telepathically, but cannot otherwise take actions, nor can it be targeted by attacks or spells.

As a full-round action the tattoo's recipient can expel the transformed creature from their body, causing them to appear in an adjacent square and erasing the tattoo. The transformed creature can also leave the recipient's body at any time, but doing so causes them to be dazed for one round. The tattoo cannot be dispelled, but the spell erase expells it and causes it to take 2d6 Constitution damage (Will negates expulsion and Constitution damage). If insufficient room is available, the transformed creature may make a Strength check to burst any enclosures in the process. If it fails it remains a tattoo, though if it was expelled by the erase spell it dies, dissolving into a puddle of pigment. (This counts as remains for resurrection and similar spells.) The transformed creature can leave if the recipient dies, but dies if the recipient's body is destroyed.

The tattoo radiates an aura of strong transmutation.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, arcane mark; Cost 3250 gp


JACOB: First of all, congratulations; welcome to the Top 16 of the very first DesignFinder! Another interesting item that ingenious players are going to find different ways/reasons to use, especially in an intrigue game. I like items that make me look things up; searching for uhi, however, isn’t easy -- Google kept thinking I was looking for various acronyms. I eventually learned something new, though.  I also really like what a GM could do with this to set up a mystery or a prison break or some other fun plot. Mechanically, I think the designer did a nice job covering a lot of the various questions that could arise from the item. Once thing that was a little unclear, however, was what happens with erase: the item says it causes it (referring back to the tattoo) to take Constitution damage, but I think it probably should be explicit that it’s the character that’s been turned into a tattoo that suffers the damage. It also doesn’t make clear what the DC of the Will saving throw is. I often wonder about pricing when using cantrips/orisons, but I think this landed in a nice sweet spot. I think this item would be used pretty specifically, but I could see keeping it for whenever I might want it instead of automatically selling it, as the price is in the area that the contingency might be worth holding on to it more than getting gold. One note -- I would probably drop the reference to blood in the first paragraph; I think it brings in a bit of a squick factor, more than the specific details are needed for how it works.

Style-wise, I noticed a few small things. There should be a comma in the price and cost, and there’s no need to underline Description and Construction. The spells in the requirements are styled correctly, but they need to be italicized in the body of the item as well.  

KATE: This is a really neat item, and I had to look up what a uhi is, so I learned something new! This definitely differentiates itself from some of the other magical tattoos that already exist. I am slightly worried about how much use this item would see in play, but I can certainly think of situations where players would want to use it. Can the recipient have more than one such tattoo? This could be a way for one PC to sneak the whole party into a secure location, if given sufficient prep time. I see some grammatical errors, so make sure to proofread future entries carefully. I see a lot of missing commas in particular. Nice work on a really interesting item!

MIKE: I enjoyed this item, and I can see a lot of utility in it for getting a large party onto transport suitable for a smaller group or as a way to protect familiars and companions. The amount of time required to use the item menas a party has to plan ahead to use it, but I think that is reasonable. You did a great job of considering the effects of an erase spell (the spell should be italicized, and “expels” only has 1 ‘l’), and the corner case where there is no room for the ejected creature. As mentioned above, the item has some rough edges, and I hope you proofread (or get a trusted friend to proofread) entries in subsequent rounds.
Congratulations and welcome to the top 16!

REP: Congratulations! I like the idea of this a lot, and it has enough limitations that it feels balanced. It’s also evocative and has loads of storytelling potential that is useful in a number of kinds of campaigns. On the downside, the second paragraph in particular feels very muddy and needs some proofreading and revision--a little more development also generally needed to go into the mechanics of what causes the tattoo to fail. Still, a lot of folks like to design thiefy items (myself included) and you managed to make one that felt quite unique and interesting.


  • An interesting and different item. Well done on making your way into the top 16.

    Personally, I might have liked a bit more detail on what the tattoo might resemble.  A reader might envision that it somewhat looks like the embedded creature, but the wording '2-dimensional work of art' might make some readers think that the creature could be disguised as a heart with 'Mom' in it, a coil of barbed wire or just a geometric design. Nor do we have any idea of size or scale.  Even in a general sense, like fist-sized or something that indicates that the tattoo isn't just a 'dot' or effectively imperceptible mark. Additionally, it might be good to know whether the embedded creature can perceive the surroundings of the tattooed creature.  Can it see?  Can it hear? (Obviously to see it would have to be visible; not under clothing and such).

    I don't know why it shouldn't be dispel-able, if targeted directly (but that's a personal opinion).  Most casters will have a dispel for such things, with an erase spell being a far less likely thing to have ready or prepared.  That's such a niche spell (though absolutely appropriate for removing a magical tattoo), but then you give the recipient a Will save (which doesn't typically have one, as Jacob pointed out, though it's easy enough to extrapolate the DC for a 1st-level spell, since you don't give a flat DC based on the item's effect.) You've basically made one very specific counter, then, in addition to requiring the caster to have that spell, they must make a touch attack, then succeed at a caster level check (which is the normal procedure for removing magical writing, which this would count as and your description doesn't mention overriding the normal use), and then the target just gets a save to negate the whole shebang (at a pretty easy 1st-level spell DC). Granted, if they fail, the 2d6 Con damage is scary. I personally feel that's a tad excessive; that can drop a lot of people on a high roll (but you've clearly indicated that death is a option and that you want it to be a possibility, at least in certain instances).  I would almost prefer it to be 1d6 or 2d4 with a successful save halving the damage (if you still want it to be painful) and expelled regardless of the Will save (requiring the touch and caster level check is enough), but that's a personal opinion.
  • This is a neat, flavourful little item that I can see having some great story potential. My Bellflower network character immediately wants one for use in smuggling slaves to freedom, and the infiltration possibilities are nice too, but this raises a question already posed by Kate - how many such tattoos can one recipient have at a time?

    I'm also struggling a little with some ambiguous wording in the second paragraph, namely "The transformed creature can also leave the recipient's body at any time, but doing so causes them to be dazed for one round". Who is dazed in this scenario - the transformed creature, the recipient, or both? I can imagine the effect applying to either: turning corporeal again & pushing your way out of someone else's skin seems like it could be quite a shock to the system, and so does having someone else unexpectedly clamber out of your body. I'm therefore left unsure of the intended interpretation, and would appreciate slightly clearer wording here.
  • edited June 2018
    gnurro said:
    I'm well aware of the singular they, but don't think this answers my question? Indeed, it's the very existence of the singular they that makes the phrasing ambiguous! It's unclear whether "them" refers to the (singular) transformed creature, the (singular) tattoo recipient, or the (plural) both of them.

    (ETA: If your comment was directed at the item's author rather than at me, I'd point out that they clearly understand singular they as well, as evidenced in the phrase "the tattoo's recipient can expel the transformed creature from their body".)
  • edited June 2018
    itokro said:
    gnurro said:
    I'm well aware of the singular they, but don't think this answers my question? Indeed, it's the very existence of the singular they that makes the phrasing ambiguous! It's unclear whether "them" refers to the (singular) transformed creature, the (singular) tattoo recipient, or the (plural) both of them. 
    Apparently the author of the item wasn't aware of it when writing.

    Edit: One can use the gendered forms to clearly separate both persons. (And if you use male and female no one will yell. Hopefully.)
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