I’ve been working the last year with the amazing Anna Orlova on concept art for many of the iconic figures of the RuneQuest Campaign. One thing we’ve done is establish their tattoos and their meaning (at least the meaning of many of the tattoos). This helps us tremendously with achieving a higher level of artistic consistency – and also lets us gain insight into these characters.Remember, these tattoos are going to be far more painful than modern tattoos. That pain serves a magical purpose as it allows the recipient to focus on them without seeing them – the pain enhances their magical nature.
As a teaser, here’s the sheet showing Vasana’s tattoos and explaining their meaning. It gives an insight into her life history – and brings the character to life!
What I find fascinating is all the initiatory markings as well as the clan and tribal markings. This gets really wild once folk come back from a few big heroquests.
Note also how important the “ordeal tattoos” are. This is that period after which a young “man” (in this case a Vingan) goes out on the edge of the community and survives with their fellow newly made initiates. This is an important part of becoming an adult.
In my culture, te ao Maori, we would cut the face with sharpened bones like you carve Wood, rub ink into the cut then place small embers into the wound to cauterize the markings. They would heal into a 3d texture similar to a wood carving. This is different to how we would Mark the body with hammer and needle. I would suspect that the tattooing process for the Orlanthi would be similar. And not getting those marks would be beyond shameful – it would be rejecting your kin, your gods, and your spirits. A deliberate rejection of human society.
So instead of kind of making up most of Vasana’s tattoos each time, we now have a base line. We can add to them – for example, when she goes to the Spirit World or into Snakepipe Hollow – but those new tattoos “date” her.