Tarman was one of the first liveships ever constructed and, unlike later liveships, lacks a figurehead. Despite this, Tarman quickened like other liveships after generations of being owned by Leftrin's family. Tarman communicates using a mild telepathy, which is strengthened by touching his wizardwood.
Tarman was modified by Leftrin using additional wizardwood. He has four legs, ending in webbed feet, which he uses to navigate the Rain Wild River; he also has a tail.
Leftrin encounters a wizardwood cocoon while sailing Tarman on the Rain Wild River. The cocoon, whose serpent occupant has died, is harvested by Leftrin and used to add legs and a tail to Tarman.
Tarman ferries FitzChivalry Farseer, Amber, Lant, Spark, and Perseverance from Kelsingra to Trehaug. Tarman is suspicious of Fitz upon meeting him, as he senses that Fitz has been "marked" by another dragon. Tarman requests to communicate with Fitz, which marks the first time the ship deigned to speak to a stranger. Tarman agrees to carry Fitz, but insists that by doing so he is not interfering with the will of another dragon.