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Tattoo artists among the Heortlings


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With the importance of magical tattoos among (among many others) Heortlings, who actually do the tattooing? Presumably, this is something that requires a reasonable amount of expertise, likely Using the Art skill, possibly in conjunction with some other skill (Craft (Tattoo), perhaps - it's unclear whether the Art skill requires that you also know your way around a corresponding craft when it comes to things like working with clay or metal, but my personal interpretation is that you would need to know the Craft to just do things right in the first place, and then use Art to make it aesthetically appealing ). I picture that temples must at the very least have access to someone to do religious tattoos, whether it's an actual official or some guy in the clan who knows how. It's conceivable that this is not a professional, or at least not a full-time position, but in that case, it just increases the number of people who need to know the craft. 

And how many people would be required in a typical clan? With basically everyone getting a number of large tattoos for all kinds of reasons, and how much longer it takes to make them using pre-industrial techniques, I can't imagine a single person could service an entire clan? Tattoo artist should be a more common job than Charioteer. 🙂 Would anyone who knows more about this want to wager a guess from our known pictures of Heortlings and a time-estimate?

It's also possible to imagine wandering experts (or town-based ones), the true professionals who do this full-time and at a higher cost due to their mastery of their craft. 

Thoughts? It just struck me that I have no idea what would happen if the PCs decide to get a tattoo to mark some event or use it as a spell focus (PCs have a tendency to want tattoos rather than other foci, in my experience).

Edited by Akhôrahil
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I know a good portion of their tattoos are gained during the initiation heroquest. It's possible that there's some degree of magic involved in future ones too. Perhaps, instead of our tattooing methods, a priest simply draws on your skin and blesses it and that becomes a tattoo?

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14 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

I know a good portion of their tattoos are gained during the initiation heroquest. It's possible that there's some degree of magic involved in future ones too. Perhaps, instead of our tattooing methods, a priest simply draws on your skin and blesses it and that becomes a tattoo?

I don’t quite like that last part - it’s a good thing (narratively) that the tattooing is an ordeal. My preferred interpretation is that magical tattoos (outside of one’s that are picked up magically as well, like initiation tattoos) stay pristine on their own, but that they have to be created the normal way.

I also like the thought that magical tattoos can change according to events. Banishment from a clan means that your clan markings will start to fade (this assumes that they weren’t already destroyed, Sons of Anarchy style). When you increase a Rune a lot, that tattoo might become brighter, enlarge or even glow.

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1 hour ago, Akhôrahil said:

I don’t quite like that last part - it’s a good thing (narratively) that the tattooing is an ordeal. My preferred interpretation is that magical tattoos (outside of one’s that are picked up magically as well, like initiation tattoos) stay pristine on their own, but that they have to be created the normal way.

I also like the thought that magical tattoos can change according to events. Banishment from a clan means that your clan markings will start to fade (this assumes that they weren’t already destroyed, Sons of Anarchy style). When you increase a Rune a lot, that tattoo might become brighter, enlarge or even glow.

I didn't mean that it wasn't an ordeal, mainly I meant that it was probably a religious thing done by the priests and probably wasn't done with our real-world techniques. A specialized tatoo artist just doesn't feel like something that would fit among the Orlanthi, imo.

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41 minutes ago, Richard S. said:

I didn't mean that it wasn't an ordeal, mainly I meant that it was probably a religious thing done by the priests and probably wasn't done with our real-world techniques. A specialized tatoo artist just doesn't feel like something that would fit among the Orlanthi, imo.

The Orlanthi are the most-tattooed people on all of the entire platter, and we know from real-life societies with tattooing that specialised tattoo artists are an actual thing. I mean, they usually also help with harvesting or hunting, but it's entirely a traditional practice that requires thousands of hours of expertise to be good at and the excellent ones are valued as living treasures.

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3 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

 and how much longer it takes to make them using pre-industrial techniques,

I suggest that 'pre-industrial" doesn't matter much.  Tattooing is done in prisons now, by people who have no access to modern tattooing machinery (electric needles) but do use those pre -industrial techniques.  So it seems to me that the craft of tattooing must not be extraordinarily hard.  The art, yes it takes talent to make good pictures on skin.  But a Movement rune will not require extraordinary art. 

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22 hours ago, Akhôrahil said:

With the importance of magical tattoos among (among many others) Heortlings, who actually do the tattooing?

Most of the time, I think that normal people do the tattooing. Cult tattoos would be done by the initiating Priests/Lords, clan tattoos would be done by clan elders, family tattoos by the head of household and so on.

You could use Craft (Tattoo), but I would just use whatever overall skill applies. so, a Priest might use Cult Lore, a head of family might use Manage Household and so on.

If you want a really special tattoo, then go to a specialist.

magical tattoos might count as special ones, so a spell matrix might need to be done properly, or might just be several runes entwined.

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9 hours ago, Sir_Godspeed said:

Aren't Lhankorites tattooists?

Possibly. In the story of the First Ring, Orlanth gifts Lhankor Mhy the Ivory Marking Bone, which is described as being able to "mark signs of power upon anything." Animal bones have often been used in tools for tattooing, historically.

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In HQG The Coming Storm, it is specified that Griselda Grey-Tresses tattooes everyone with the clan tattoo (the auroch head) in the Red Cow clan. She is no priestress, but the leader of the Women's Circle and a godi of Ernalda. She's especially the elder grandmother of the Red Cow clan, and assists every birth in the clan. It is unclear if she only tattooes the clan's mark, or also the runes after the initiation. In my campaign, the runes linked to a god appear juste like birth marks, but a little blurry and discreet (that's why the clan has to track down any Cacodemon mark...). They have to be covered and accentuate through tattooing. I decided that Griselda was also tattooing these, because is seemed to me quite natural.

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In my Glorantha many of the tattoos are gained magically from the initiation ceremonies, and for the enchantment tattoos I've used the RQ3 rules where you had to have Engraving 25%  to make the required engravings for enchantments, except that for tattoos it's Tattooing 25%. Many of the PCs have become quite good tattoo artists during their careers.

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I believe this is going to be covered shortly (ish) in a book. However yes they are tattooed and thats something done either by the priest or by artists associated with the temple 🙂

 

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Note that depending on how tattoos are made in one's Glorantha, it has some consequences on worldbuilding and possible scenarios:

  • In a world where tattoos appear magically after adult initiation, someone might come out with the "wrong" Rune on them (Sun or Darkness Rune, or a rare Chaos Rune). So there's probably some contingency plan for that in the clan's traditions (exile, execution, dealing with the parents, etc). It's also harder for agents of Chaos infiltrate society so you have to make sure they have proper disguise spells when you run an adventure with them. It also affects Chaos detection magic like Storm Bull's a bit too.
  • On the other hand, in a world where tattoos are drawn, one would have to decide how the Rune are chosen. Does the tattoo artist, or a clan shaman or priest, know (through magic or aura reading or whatever) what someone's Rune are? That also has some repercussions on society (including similar ones to the previous point). Do the recently initiated get their Runes "revealed" to them during their initiation, privately? In which case they can lie and get something else tattooed if they want. Or maybe people don't know their Runes at all for sure, and just get tattooed the ones with which they *think* they have the most affinity. Or maybe they just get the tattoos for the cults/deities they like.

I think all these approaches can work as long as the GM deals with the world-building and narrative consequences, which is the fun part (at least to me).

Edited by lordabdul
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