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It's time. I'm getting the Planescape tattoo.

For a long time, I've been impressed with the tattoos on Platter's Planescape site.  After years of wondering if I really want that tattoo, I've decided that waiting almost a decade to decide is probably long enough.  I do want it.  I've found a beautiful version of the artwork, here:


The nature of a man by ~isilien on deviantART

About the tattoo

The graphic is called the Symbol of Torment.  You might think to yourself, "What an unlovely thing to get tattooed onto your skin."  However, it's not unlovely, at all.  The backstory is tremendous, and those who know it will admit that it can be life-changing to experience it.

The quick of the story is this.  Think of it as a fairy tale or parable.  Long ago, there was a man who was the most vile, selfish, power-hungry man in all of history.  He was not merely a jerk.  He killed thousands, broke apart families, used women and discarded them, and did it all in the most horrific ways possible.  When he realized that he had become the most evil man in history, he knew that his afterlife would be one of utter torment.  So he found a witch, and asked her to make him immortal.  The witch loved the man dearly, for although he was cruel, he was handsome beyond compare.  And so even though the witch did not know how true immortality worked, she found a way to cheat death, and used a ritual to place that power within the man.

Over the millennia that followed, the man died thousands of times.  Every time that his body sustained enough damage to kill him, he found himself awake, hours later, with no memory of what had gone before.  Soon, he forgot his own identity.  In his many lifetimes, he was a lunatic, a saint, a cheat, a hedonist, and a killer.  He compounded the mistakes of his first life, so that soon even the gods took notice of his villainous immortality.  And they made something happen.  He began to remember.

He woke up in a morgue, and he could still picture his death from mere hours before.  He set out to learn who he was, and why he had been damned with undeath.  Over many lifetimes, he retraced his steps though history.  He witnessed the effects of his actions -- entire family lines wiped out, the course of nations changed.  He met the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of those he had murdered.  He began to try to set things right.  He apologized to those he met.  He did good deeds for those who needed it.  And then he met the one woman he never expected.  He found the witch.

The witch made a terrible confession.  To grant the man immortality, she had stolen the souls of the living.  Every time he had awakened from death, someone else had been killed in his place.  Even as he spent lifetimes trying to make things right, he was killing the innocent with his mere existence.  Finally, he understood the depth of his sin.  He understood how deeply he had unraveled the weave of life, and he knew that at long as he struggled against the justice he deserved, the universe would remain horribly out of balance.  Overwhelmed with regret, he knew it was time to face that which he feared the most.  It was time to accept his fate -- the only righteous and true end to a fearsome unlife.

And so, together he and the witch conspired to reunite the man with his mortality.  Willingly, he accepted his mortality and the consequences of his decisions.  Finally ready to face the afterlife like a man, he walked into the Grey Wastes and was seen no more.  As his life ended, other lives began to flourish.

And that is the story told upon the Symbol of Torment.  The final rune, the small twist that looks something like a double helix, is the Symbol of Hope.  As one line fades into oblivion, another one grows strong, mortality and humanity intertwined, the balance restored.

Where do we go from here?

Now my job is twofold.  First, I need to find the best tattoo artist in northern California.  Second, I need to start learning about how to care for tattoos, as I intend mine to have color, and I do not want the color to fade or bleed.  If you have any suggestions, let me know.

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Comments (10)
Harshael writes:

For a design that intricate, you're going to want it to be as big as possible. Otherwise, the artist will not be able to get the detail in. The lines will also blur over time.

You may want to get a couple of smaller tattoos first for a couple of reasons.

1) Testing your artist. Really, it is best to develop a relationship with your artist, seeing what he or she is capable of.

2) Testing yourself. Everyone's skin is different. Some people are allergic to certain kinds of ink, others have issues with healing. This will also give you experience in caring for your tattoos.


Tatoo care really is not that complicated, at least in the longterm. For the first few weeks, you have to baby it, and it will bleed out a bit regardless of what you do. Just keep it lotioned with a good product (your parlor will probably have its own brand) and keep it out of the sun.

Once it is healed, just keep sunblock on it when you go out into daylight. The tattoo *will* change over time. The colors will flake and face, the lines will blur. This is normal, unavoidable, and, in many cases desired. You don't want a new tattoo. You want an old friend, a story. You will probably need to get it touched up every couple of years. Some artists will touch up their own work for free.

Just ask around, ask people with (good) tattoos. Don't pick a parlor out of a phonebook. Don't let someone do it for free, in their home. These people are probably students or posers. They can give you a shitty tattoo and perhaps some diseases as well.

I hope I have been helpful.


aboyd [TypeKey Profile Page] writes:

Yes, that's a lot of help! Thanks.


Baldrick writes:

and did you have your tattoo now ?


aboyd [TypeKey Profile Page] writes:

Nope. I put a deposit down for the tattoo with Lydia at Marks of Art. She's a great artist. However, due to some "invasion of privacy" issues with people close to me not respecting my boundaries, I decided to walk away from getting any tattoos, ever. Someone was trying to make my tattoo into their "thing" that they took ownership of and... well, it doesn't matter. The bottom line is that my experience was co-opted and I decided that the best protection was simply to not do something that someone could co-opt. So I'm going to keep my body for me, reclaim some privacy. :)


EnnaSaur writes:

Too bad. A Planescape: Torment tattoo would have been awesome. Good job at explaining the story :D


sue ingram writes:

Excellent helpful hints from Harshael. I am too old fashioned I think to have a tattoo but my 2 kids have had one done and neither of them were warned in any way to use sunblock afterwards. I find this of great interest as I make a sunscreen that aims to be non-toxic for your skin and ultimately your health and would imagine that it should be a far better option than the bulk of the toxic versions out there? Especially if your skin's surface has been broken?


Kopi Tribulus writes:

nice pic dude, that was awsome tattoo


dress writes:

good article,thank you!


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