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The description of a Spellwrought Tattoo states:

Produced by a special needle, this magic tattoo contains a single 1st level spell, wrought on your skin by a magic needle. To use the tattoo, you must hold the needle against your skin and speak the command word. The needle turns into ink that becomes the tattoo, which appears on the skin in whatever design you like. Once the tattoo is there, you can cast its spell, requiring no material components. The tattoo glows faintly while you cast the spell and for the spell's duration. Once the spell ends, the tattoo vanishes from your skin.

The Ability modifier for this spell is +3; the Save DC is 13 and the attack bonus is +5.

The two bold parts are the parts I'm wondering. The first part implies that you cannot apply it on someone else since it says you must hold it against your skin, and the second half of that sentence implies you need to actually be able to speak in some fashion. So if you have a familiar such as say, a Crow, could it say a command word through it's mimicry? What about a creature such as an owl or cat? Could the command word be a bestial noise?

But let's assume that instead of a standard familiar, you're using a unique one that is already capable of verbal communication such as an Imp. While a familiar cannot attack, it can "take other actions as normal." Could it then use the spellwrought tattoo to cast whatever spell is on it, such as Magic Missile, Burning Hand, Silvery Barbs, or Shield of Faith? What about spells such as Find Familiar, since you are not casting the spell, but your familiar is.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Who is wearing the tattoo, you or your familiar? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2023 at 13:13

3 Answers 3

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There are several cases which should be considered.

The caster uses the item, the tattoo is on their skin.

The description of the magic item clearly states that once the needle is used, the tattoo is on the user's skin, and the spell can be cast only by the tattoo bearer.

Note anyway that the Find Familiar spell provides the following option:

Finally, when you cast a spell with a range of touch, your familiar can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell. Your familiar must be within 100 feet of you, and it must use its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast it. If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll.

If the spell stored in the tattoo has a range of touch, then the familiar can deliver it.

The familiar uses the tattoo: they are the user of the magic item.

As already noted in this answer, familiars can use and attune to magic items. Supposing that the familiar has all the requirements1, if they uses the item following the instructions then they can cast the spell, but the owner of the familiar has no role at all in this scenario.

Moreover, note that this item has no class nor attunement requirement.

For familiars that do not speak in a human way, such as crows or owls, it is unlikely that they can cast a spell with a Verbal component, since such component requires a:

[...] particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance.

Moreover, in support of this, one should consider the fact that a wild-shaped druid cannot cast spells while in beast form:

You can’t cast spells, and your ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form.


For the peculiar case in which the familiar casts Find Familiar, I suggest to talk with the DM for dealing with this familiar-inception.


1 They have hands for somatic component and they are capable to speak. These are the premises of the question.

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RAW; Yes, presuming the familiar does the entire process

Familiars are capable of using magic items and as a result, presuming the familiar is capable of holding the needle to skin and speak at the same time.

Could the command word be a bestial noise?

Judging from the text of "Speak with animals" animals can always talk, you just can't understand it; ergo the owl would be able to set it to the bestial equivalent of "Magic missile" if it desired.

You gain the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure the speech aspect totally holds up. Some Beasts (like Giant Owls) have language, most don't. So the natural presumption is a lack of word language unless stated. Special familiars like Imps would definitely work though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Journer
    Oct 17, 2023 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Journer I forget the reference for it but under "just presume things are normal unless stated otherwise"; it would be an argument of symantics, but at least in english it isn't uncommon to refer to an animals noises as "speaking" and a word is defined as "a single distinct meaningful element of speech" so i think it fits the definition \$\endgroup\$
    – Cassie
    Oct 17, 2023 at 16:53
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No, the familiar is not you

To use the tattoo, you must hold the needle against your skin and speak the command word.

You had it right there. If the familiar can speak or not does not matter. It does not have your skin, so you cannot apply the tattoo to it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Following this logic, does any usage of "you" in the rules implicitly mean the player? For instance, the grapple rules: "you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple". \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Oct 17, 2023 at 13:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Its a fair comment. The rules for at least tge combat section say "Throughout this section, the rules address you, the player or Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master controls all the monsters and nonplayer characters involved in combat, and each other player controls an adventurer. “You” can also mean the character or monster that you control." \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2023 at 14:00

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