New Focus - Tattoos, minor or major

Would a magical focus in Tattooes be a minor or magical focus?

I'm picturing a character who does a lot of enchanting of his own tattooes but little spell casting.

That's another of those "minor focus: Wands" and "minor focus: Swords" that have been getting so much hate since HoH: MC came out.

If the scope is only the tattoo itself (the picture) then it is minor, but if by tattoo you mean the enchanting medium,I would even consider not allowing it as a focus since "You cannot be focused on laboratory activities...".

At least it should be major since it can encompass a lot of Corpus spells, some Mentem spell, any personal ward (Rego), some Imaginem, some Animal. And on top of that the magus would be able to apply it to other people, creatures and animal. Well beyond a major focus in my opinion when you list the range of possible spell.

You might try to negotiate for Major focus: self (spell affecting only the magus) and even then, it feels too broad to my taste and would probably limit to a couple of Form at most.

How about

Major Magical Focus - Tattoos on self
This focus applies only to spells/enchantments relating to tattoos only when the tattoos are on the caster, not on other people.

Any other ideas for boosting lab totals for tattoo enchantments? This character isn't going to be much for spell casting

You seem to be assuming that a magical focus in Tattooes applies to any effect enchanted in a tattoo.
In the opinion of many (most?) people on this forum, the rules as written do not support this interpretation.
Instead, a magical focus in tattoos would benefit spells, magical items etc. that affect tattoos: creating them, changing them, erasing them etc. You can get some pretty interesting effects this way - e.g. an effect that changes equipment into tattoos, so you can carry it around without encumbrance - but it's still definitely a minor niche, qualifying as a Minor Focus.

It's something of a stretch, by you could probably take a Major Focus in "People with appropriate Mystical Tattoos".
The focus applies to any target who satisfies the following three conditions:

  1. He is a person (e.g. no buildings, spells, or storms - whether a ghost or a humanoid faerie count is up to the troupe).
  2. He is bearing a tattoo "appropriate" to the effect (e.g. snake tattoo would be appropriate for turning into a snake or protecting someone from snakes)
  3. Creation of the tattoo was seasonal work by someone with appropriate supernatural skills (e.g. it's a lesser device tattoo enchanted by a Hermetic Magus, or a tattoo enchanted by a Gruagach).

Very clear explanation.

Two alternative I can suggest:

Tattoo magic: follow the same rules as Verditius Magic, with the following exceptions:

  • Philosophae is replaced by Profession: Tattoo artist
  • Necessary conditions: casting tools is replaced by Necessary conditions: drawings.

So basically, the Mage-tattoist can benefit from virtus reduction if he is the one opening the enchanted item (eg: the support where the tattoo will be - so it is not a virtus reduction which applies on each tattoo done on the same support), he can benefit from a bonus on his lab total for enchantment equal to his Profession: Tattoo artist as he is able to include powerful mystical symbol and use special ingredients with strong resonance in his inks.

As a drawback, he can only cast spell by doing some quick drawings on a tablet or on the floor.

It could be a minor tradition amongst the Criamon for example, and the Tattoo magic free virtue replace the regular free virtue Criamon mage usually have. Since it is a reskinning of an existing ability, you can assume that it is more or less balanced. Obviously, the magus can take strong/affinity with Profession: Tattoo artist, like a Verditius could take strong/Affinity with Philosophae.

Second alternative: Ex Miscellanea magic Rustician magic using Tattoo as a medium. Here againg, follow the whole package (p130, HoH:So), giving a nice flavour, but within RAW, minimising shennanigans and lengthy discussion.

Both give you strong concepts.

Also, consider creating a "tattoo magus" through Flaws, rather than Virtues. This is generally a pretty good option when you want to make a magus whose magic always takes some specific form (tattoos, wands etc.) but still has a very broad range of targets and effects: instead of giving him much higher totals than other magi when doing magic that way, give him much lower totals than other magi when doing magic any other way. These Flaws then "pay" for other more generic Virtues.

For example, to make a "Tattoo magus" a perfect choice would be to take Restriction: when not wearing (visible) tattoos. It's a Major Flaw, that gives you three Virtue points for playing a magus who's always flaunting his tattoos to perform his magic.

Yes! Either option fits the spirit and rules of Ars Magica very well, and makes for excellent characters.
I particularly like Tattoo magic, even though I'd replace Philosophiae with Craft:Tattoos (minor quibble, but having Craft rather than Profession has a number of subtle implications), and I'd simply rule that casting tools must be tattoos.

This in my opinion an excellent summation of the issue.

Third, similar but easier one:
Make a Verditius with Craft: Tattoo. Raise Craft: Tattoo very high (as well as Magic Theory and Philosophiae, of course).

OH! NICE! Scribbles in book of cool ideas to be used later

Minor to me, by antecedent, but because only affects spells really concret (Imaginem maybe, but only Corpus(Form) spells to make it o affecting them) too. The Lab applications is better, but one tatoo is not one Sword or Wand, you can't give to others freely.

You may want to consider a Criamon doing a lot of Criamon-Imprints.

In a typical ArsMagica-Campaign "tatooing" wouldn't be known as form of art or a craft.
(According to Wolfram Alpha, the first known use of "tattoo" in English is in 1688)

A Verditius may have learned such things from vikings a couple of hundred earlier than in a usual setting.
And tattooing will be used as a form of marking criminals a couple of hundred years later than a typical campaign.
It would be somewhat anachronistic, but then, so are real magicians.

Alas Pictish and Roman Criminal Branding.

On tattoos, I was envisaging a pagan warrior, covered in swirling tattoos. Being a bad ass warrior rules criamon out by and large (path of striders are a very particular breed of badass).

I like the restriction suggestion as I'd pictured him like that, having to expose the tattoos to work.

Spell casting would be hampered by slow caster and short ranged magic making him relatively useless at offensive spell slinging.

Tattoos would be used to summon things like equipment and ferocious animals as allies and would have a nice line in defensive combat spells such as gift of the bears fortitude, endurance of the beserkers, etc.

Verditius makes some sense. High craft tattoo would give him the bonuses to enchanting tattoos that I am looking for and then casting tools aren't much of a problem given his other spell casting issues. Tricky to make effectively to begin with as verditius are skill heavy (need speak Latin, magic theory, craft, philosophies) and being a warrior also requires another high stat (at least one weapon skill quite high to be effective).

I'd not really read the rustic mages section of societates before and found that quite interesting and it would work very well for making spell tattoos but not so hot for enchanting invested tattoos.

I think I will try to spec him as a verditius and see how tricky it is. Then maybe look at a few other options.

Have you considered Inscription on the Soul from TMRE?
He could even used the materials from the dyes to invoke even greaters powers I suspect.

Oh yes. Read that the other day and its perfect. Just need a way to get initiated into it first.

Or, since you're in a non-canon setting anyway (IIRC), just declare that it's part of his tradition?
Could even be their free "house" virtue.

Depending how canonical your campaign is, your SG can even let you create your own Ex Miscellenea tradition (Pictish Sacred Warrior of some sort).

And if you "reskin" the Verditius magi, he does not need to be Verditius. It is a suggestion which give you the whole package, without the challenge to see how your tattooed hot-blodded axe-wielding pagan magus could have ever fitted in the house. Also, it might allow you to avoid the strange dichotomy of needing to have several high Academic skills when the character is more an intuitive magus.

One of the magus at my table has a similar concept (minus the Tattoo), I just share with you some his flaws/virtues. His concept was loosely based on divergent tradition of Gruagach who was integrated into Ex Miscellanea.
Giant Blood (Free tradition virtue)
Blatant Gift (Free tradition flaw)
Spell Binding (Free minor tradition virtue)
Short-ranged magic & short-lived magic (major and minor flaws)
Puissant: Great weapon (Bardiche in his case)
Deft Art: Corpus
Fast caster
and he went with the package of puissant and affinity with Parma (and a few other flaws/virtues to balance the whole thing like a major focus on self Corpus magic of some sort)

If you remove the Parma package, possibly take a major focus: warrior or melee combat (check with your SF if it is too broad - I love focus, it gives great concept but they can lead to so much abuse if the SG is not careful), you can squeeze in the Tattoo magic package comfortably.
If you want to really go full on spell-slinging warrior, you can consider "Restriction: only when wielding a weapon" but it can make double duty with the Necessary condition from Verditius-like magic.

From the games we played, the interesting bit for a melee magus is the combination of fast caster, deft art corpus which allow him to use fast cast, spont ReCo10 to get out the way of the most dangerous assault. The fast cast option cannot be achieved through enchantment - even if Verditius can enchant Mastery-like ability, it is still normal casting time).
The combination of Size +2 and enhanced Parma make him quite efficient against magical opponent. He turned his Bardiche into his talisman so he can funnel touch-based spell through it, but the blade itself is not enchanted with any effect so MR does not block it. As a drawback, he had to reinvent many Corpus spells to fit his large size, but he is fine with it.