A body clutching the engraving kit.

There exists, within the world, a single somata engraving kit. It is not something one stumbles upon by luck or chance, and it cannot be found through research, coin, or word of mouth. When the kit chooses to be found, it is found. The small box is carved from cherry wood and bleached bone, with silver clasps and ornate hinges. Inside, stiffened felt cradles each engraving tool snuggly in their rightful places.

When you find the kit, it will be on the body of a man freshly perished, his arms curled around it like a lost child, head bowed in reverence, refusing to let go even in death. His flesh is cut and scarred, once smooth skin turned into a twisting network of gouged chasms, all the way to the bone in places. In the right light at the right time, like under the shine of the midsummer sun or in the hallowed grounds of the dead, the scars shine with faded color. The kit itself, when torn from his grasp, reveals the secret of the man’s flesh-markings. Inside, five chisels—varying in size from a hummingbird’s beak to a grizzly’s claw—await eager new hands, each one as sharp as a spurned lover’s stiletto. Any single graze across skin from the blade by clumsy hands will draw blood from flesh.

The artwork on this post was created by Norn Noszka.

As you hold the kit in your hands power begins to hum like a resonating bell. It recognizes you. It has chosen you. The kit is yours now. You’ll know, instinctively, what you’ll need to do to unlock the arcane secrets—sleep with it clutched tightly to your chest, brow bowed down against it, under the light of the moon.

When you awaken, with the morning dew pooling on your skin, you’ll know all of the engravings you can perform with the kit.

To engrave the runes you must take the tools of the kit and chisel away strips of flesh. It won’t hurt. It’ll feel a bit like stepping out of a shadow and into the warm sun. Your hands will be steady and unerring, knowing just the right turns to make, which size chisel to deploy, and how to press them against skin to get just the right depth. Each engraving takes time and effort, but once it’s done, it’s done. You cannot replace the flesh torn free, even with another’s talents and power. Magic from another source, used against the somata kit, is like oil and water.

Using the tools to engrave another, even a willing ally, is impossible. Your hands begin to shake as you pick up the chisel. A sickness bubbles up from your guts. Your mind blanks on the precise lines and cuts needed for each rune. The only one the kit works on is you.

There is only so much space on your flesh for engravings. When you first sleep and learn the secrets of the kit, it also takes stock of you. At that point in time, you have the entirety of your flesh to give—exactly one hundred parts. Your circumstances up until that point don’t matter. Weather you’re a hulking two hundred pound brute, a wispy figure of short stature, or missing a limb; it’s all the same. One hundred parts. The runes will be carved to fit what you have to give.

You won’t be sure exactly how much space you’ll need until you press the chisel to your flesh to start carving. And when you finally run out of room, covered from head to toe in a river of scarred somata, the kit will abandon you. Your work will remain, the magic carved onto your very soul, but new carvings are an impossibility. At some point you’ll lose the kit, forgetting it somewhere, or dropping it as you flee some monster in the deep dark. Perhaps you’ll die with it clutched in your hands, head pressed against it, wanting to further your work but unable to find fresh flesh to press the chisel to.

The kit may find one of your companions appealing after you’ve finished with it. It might not.


Unless otherwise noted, engravings take about ten minutes. If the engraving has a variable that lets you carve away more for added benefit, the entire engraving still takes 10 minutes. After you learn the engravings from the kit, you have 100% of your skin available to carve.

Any discussion of rules pertains to Cairn and other odd-likes, but is adaptable to other systems without much work.

Mixing of Mind and Muscle

Move 1 point from any attribute to another. Carve away 1d4% of skin per point.


Gain 3 Armor for the next hour. Carve away 1d4% of your skin.

Notching the Infinite

You can make as many notches as you’d like as part of a single engraving. Afterwards, expend 1 notch to make your next attack Enhanced. Carve away 1% of skin for each notch.


Engrave your flesh and carve the same rune onto a small inanimate object that is the size of your fist. You can touch the fetish to house your body and mind inside of it. You are aware of your surroundings and can return at any time. If the fetish is destroyed with you in it, bad things happen. Carve away 2d4% of skin per fetish.

Diagram of Knowledge

You “remember” a single piece of information that you could conceivably find in a well stocked library. Carve away 1d4% of skin.

Dusk under Sun

Your vision reverses. You can see in darkness as if it were torchlight and any source of light is pitch black. Any flames you ignite are shadow-fire: they emit a frightening darkness and freeze instead of burn. Carve this engraving again to reverse the effect and return to normal. Carve away 1d4% of skin.


Choose a new direction, including straight up, for gravity to affect you. This includes all of your belongings currently on your person. This effect is permanent until you carve a new tilt engraving. Carve away 2d4% of your skin. Carve an additional 1% to create a command scar—the tilt doesn’t take effect until you rub blood on the scar.

Veil of the Doomed

The memory of you becomes slippery. When you leave a room or after a few moments of distraction, everyone completely forgets you ever existed. Carve away 1d4% of your skin. Carve additional notches, at 1% each, for each person that can ignore this effect. Carve away an additional 3d4% to cancel this effect.

A Ripple Dancing Backwards

This engraving comes with two scars. Smear blood on the first scar to untether your soul and leave it anchored in place. Smear blood on the second scar to instantaneously throw your body through space and time to return to your soul. This transference only works once per engraving. Carve away 3d4% of your skin.

Separating the Flock

Choose a body part, such as your hand, an eyeball, or your left ear. You can detach the part and control it. It still functions the same, but can move on its own (hands skitter like spiders, eyeballs roll, ears slither like worms). Notch the area to reattach the part. Carve away 2d4% of your skin per body part. Reattach each part by carving away 1% per notch.

Sanction of Life

The next pint of blood you spill is incredibly nutritious, filling, and palatable to any creature that needs sustenance. Animals that get a whiff and taste cannot resist it and are easily distracted. Carve away 1d4% of your skin.

Stone and Feather

The weight of your body—but not you belongings—changes. Carve away 2d4% of your skin to shift your weight. You can grow up to ten times as heavy, or lighten yourself to a tenth of your current weight. To return to your normal weight, carve away another 1d4%.

The Broken Stag

Face a wild animal alone and defeat it with nothing but your hands, teeth, and wits. You don’t have to kill it, but you must at least bring it to heel. Carve the rune on yourself and it. Carve away 1% of your skin. Gain an aspect of the beast you’ve bested for three hours. Carve additional notches, at 1% each, to extend the duration by an hour.

Lighthouse on Rocky Shores

The rune glows with faint neon light when a specific creature approaches you. Carve away 2d4% of your skin. Name a specific creature, type of creature, faction, or other group. The rune glows if the named entity is nearby. The light gives off no heat and is easy to miss if this rune is somewhere usually covered up.

Seam of the Soul

Within you, deep beneath the flesh and organs, is a space to hold your most precious belongings. Carve away 1% of your skin. The rune is a seam, one foot long. As part of the carving, add extra length for 1d4% per foot, up to half your height. You can open the seam on your body, storing a single item that could fit through, in a space beyond this world. Each time you store and retrieve the item, carve away 1% to stitch closed the seam.

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