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This is a bit of a longshot, as I only remember a fragment on it. It was an RPG that I played in the 90s, probably on either an IBM PC or the NES. The action was top-down with multiple characters in the party, like Final Fantasy or Ultima. It might even be a game from one of those series. What is stick in my head currently is that at some point in the game, you were presented with a rune on a wall and given the opportunity to interact with it. Doing so left some sort of brand or mark on your skin that was likely necessary to progress, but it also did a non-negligible amount of Health damage, which was enough to kill one of my party members, something I felt was dreadfully unfair. I have the vague memory that the rune may have been light brown, with darker-brown used to show the carved parts. Given the era, there likely wasn't much graphical fidelity to it (and I frankly don't recall any details of how it was shaped). I don't remember if the rune was just shown as part of the wall tile from a top-down perspective, or if this was something that you were shown from a different perspective when you looked at it.

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I started paging through walkthroughs for RPGs I remembered playing in that time period, and the Marks in Ultima III: Exodus sound about right.

The Marks are powerful magical brandmarks in Ultima III, needed to finish the game.

The Marks can be obtained by touching special hot rods inside dungeons. The hot rods are usually found in the lowest levels of the dungeons, and each rod will give a character one of four different Marks. Touching a rod will also deliver 50 points of damage to the character. Each Mark has a special power that is granted to the character for the rest of the game.

Mark of Kings

Allows Lord British to advance a character past the 5th level.
Image of the Mark of Kings

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