Just thinking this up on the spot, now
There are many instances of Tattooing and painting to raise morals and place fear in the hearts of opponents in battle, for example indian war-painting.
What if Tattooes, crafted onto people with mages fire, gave certain abilities with different symbols? Of course, the crafting of such tattooes is not only a painful procedure (especially using raw fire elemental fire), but Tattooes of this type would constantly draw on the owners inner strength, meaning that not just ANYONE can have piles of tattooes sparked all over their body, because that would drain their life force, sucking them dry.
As one gets older and more battle-hardened, they will be able to withstand more and more tattooes bieng placed on their skin. In my head, I see an army fighting at the base of the hill, and at the top, the general is watching over his army, whilst idly fingering the three tattooes on his shoulderblade that was grafted on there by the order of king, along with his promotion to general. The General is thinking back to how many years service HE had to go through to be hardened enough to be able to get a whole three tattooes upon himself.
On this train of thought - the Tattooes are more than just a boost of power/ability giving insignia, but are also a heirachical sign. The more powerful the symbols and the more symbols there are, the greater respect one would be given by the general population, as it shows a hard life of training.
And if someone is degraded in the armies, or has done the community a great injustice? The king unsheathes his ceremonial dagger, and LOPS off the segment of skin which the tattoo was imprinted on. Pain, loss of power and disgrace. How much worse can you get? But this idea can also be used when fighting AGAINST a powerful person with many powers - to get rid of the powers the enemy has, you must scrape, slice or burn away the tattoo.
All the tattooes which give power, are of the same size, perhaps two/three inches in diameter, but the symbols and images on them vary, which gives the alternating powers. Examples are as follows:
All images are encircled by a thin line, a ring of black.The CrownAppearance
: A golden-hued crown, inset with a single ruby, with a jade background.Effect
: Increases the players respect slightly. Makes him more pleasant to look at, and seem more enjoyable to be with. The typical Â image of a lord or duke.The EagleAppearance
: A dark-feathered eagle, wings outstretched, in a death swoop to pick up its prey, talons outstretched. Topaz background.Effect
: Increased, magnified and sharpened vision. A chance to see through illusions (roll a dice).The OwlAppearance
: Similar to the eagle, except it is a brown coloured owl. Black background.Effect
: Ability to see more clearly in the darkness.The DragonAppearance
: A dragonhead, emerald hued, with menacing glare. Ruby background.Effect:
Toughened skin/hide. Ability to withstand elements and temperatures (heat/cold, not just heat) slightly more. The StagAppearance
: Image of a snowy stag, leaping across. Sapphire background.Effect
: Endurance and Stamina. Able to travel farther without difficulty and so on.The GauntletAppearance
: A clenched metallic gauntlet on an amber background.Effect:
Greatens the ability to defend onesself. Increases reaction time.The Rat
Appearance: A single rat, usual grey coloured, on a black background.Effect
: Stealth. Makes ones footsteps quieter and makes one more difficult to be seen. The typical choice for a thief or assassin. Sometimes Rat-tattooed people arent admitted into certain places.
Of course, you can make your own symbols.
What if, in conjunction with a traditional 'levelling up' scheme, wherein a person gains more power by assigning skills and attributes, every second level, the person is allowed to add another tattoo to their body. (the tattooes can only be added if there is either a magician in the group skilled in tattoo-art, or otherwise they will have to go to a town, and the local 'tattooist' will set one up for you, for a hefty fee.
These are also a good indication of what type of foe you are up against, as well - if the foe shows you its tattooes. Perhaps the mastermind/final enemy in a campaign turns to the party, and upon his face and shoulders, are a good 15 tattoos.
Some shops/guilds etc... may only allow people who have over a certain amount of tattoes inside. For example, a veterans club or what-have-you. Perhaps the campaign is to get information off a person in this veterans club, but to do so, the adventurers need to go attack some beasts to up their skill enough to get some more tattooes.
Im not sure I should have put this in flesh it out - as I started on it, I kind of filled in my blanks
But I'll let others give their thoughts and ideas, anyway