The multiverse ain’t supposed to make sense; there’s no grand scheme, no deep meaning, no elusive order. The only truth worth finding lies within.
Home Field: Pandemonium
Best Alignment: Non-Lawful
WITHIN THE RANKSEdit
Playing a character who’s a member of the Bleak Cabal is likely to pose a challenge for many players - and it’s equally likely that the faction’s too grim to interest many players. After all, it’s hard to play someone whose outlook on life is, by choice, depressing and fatalistic. But the opportunity to play a character on the edge of madness can be a challenge - and exciting, too, as the faction lends itself well to numerous possibilities. For example. a Bleaker can apprentice with Ezra to aid the homeless, with Tyvold to help orphans, with Tessali to watch the dangerous barmies, or with Sruce to tend Bleakers in the depths of the Grim Retreat.
ROLEPLAYING THE BLEAK CABALEdit
The question often arises as to why any Bleaker would bother to join a party of adventurers or undertake any sort of quest in the first place. Wouldn’t it be easier to remain in Sigil and perform charitable works to ease the pain and suffering of others, as well as one’s own? Wouldn’t it be more fitting to lie in bed all day and refuse to show interest in anything the world has to offer? Perhaps, but a true Madman welcomes his duty to embrace the pain of life, wrestle with the demons of insanity, and emerge the stronger for it all. For the same reason why the Cabal endures the tormenting winds of Pandemonium, so do Bleakers set out on adventures - the madness of it all moves a cutter farther along on the path toward self-awareness. After all, the faction’s core belief says that a body’s got to find meaning within himself, but such meaning can’t come without first experiencing the intrinsic folly of the rest of the multiverse. Exploring the ruins of a castle or escorting an infant prince across a desert won’t mean much to a Bleaker other than what be can take away from it - bow the experience can help him look inward and find truth.
A Bleaker doesn’t dwell on treasure the way other adventurers often do, but that doesn’t mean be won’t take his fair share. He’ll hold on to it, prepared to spend it in whatever fashion he thinks best - perhaps to bolster a struggling orphanage or aid a sage’s medical studies toward relieving mental illnesses. But if he can’t think of a suitable use for a pile of jink, a Bleaker just might leave it where it lies - one of the many reasons why other factions call them Madmen. Of course, all of this assumes that a Bleaker’s made his daily saving throw against the futility of existence. As stated in A Player’s Guide to the Planes in the PLANESCAPE Campaign Setting boxed set, a Bleaker must roll 1d20 at the start of each game day. A result of 1 means the sod‘s thrown into a fit of melancholia, overcome by the pointlessness of life. He won’t take any actions unless his comrades can provide a convincing philosophical argument as to why be should bother. Demonstrating that the action will relieve the Bleaker’s depression may work, as might appealing to the sods charitable inclinations. However, the mere sight of a friend being menaced by a monster isn’t enough to rouse a Bleaker who’s failed his daily roll. What’s more, a Madman who is role-played to the hilt is likely to steel himself against arguments that his cutters throw at him repeatedly, forcing them to come up with new and better reasons for the Bleaker to take action.
A Bleaker’s daily roll can get him into trouble in other ways, though. A roll of 20 indicates a state of manic euphoria. The character’s overcome with flights fancy and free association, and he’s likely to believe that he’s some sort of a messiah. Fortunately, this only lasts for one day. To role-play this manic state of mind effectively, a player can speak very quickly, jump from one thought to another without logic, and respond to everything he hears by word association.
Bleakers can be of any alignment save lawful. Lawfully aligned characters can’t stomach the basic premise of the Cabal, that the multiverse doesn’t make sense, for without sense there’s no order. However, further distinctions of alignment seldom trouble Bleakers. “Good” and “evil” aren’t necessarily the standard definitions to Madmen; instead, they prefer ‘sanity' and 'insanity'. The thin line that separates these extremes for any given Bleaker is often a faint one, blurred by tying to live and keep at bay a body’s inner demons. A member of the Cabal can be quite sane one day, and a fortnight later be in the throes of a depression bordering on true insanity.
It’s all a matter of outlook Similarly, Bleakers of opposite alignments can work well together despite clashing viewpoints. If the Factol assigns two Bleakers to tend the soup kitchens near the Foundry, they will. The chaotic evil fellow will dish up broth with as much speed and determination as his chaotic good partner, though his heart may not be as gladdened by the deed. The two Bleakers have a far more primal urgency to deal with - their own internal struggle for sanity. At one point or another, all Madmen share the pain inherent to their faction, and not even alignment can separate two Bleakers who know the tenors the other has endured.
Intelligent characters - notably wizards, priests, bards, and other classes with scholarly inclinations – are particularly attracted to the Bleak Cabal, with its emphasis on the mental over the physical. Thieves and fighters can also join the faction, but these classes typically do so later in life. Perhaps a warrior sees too much killing, or a highwayman spends too many years on the run - whatever the case, the burden of life takes its toll and sends him a bit off the edge. Their haunted pasts drive them to even greater acts of sacrifice and compassion.
BLEAK CABAL MEMBERSHIPEdit
At first, it seems like joining the Bleak Cabal’s as easy as stepping through a portal. A body’s just got to decide that he wants to be a member and then make his decision known to any Bleaker, whether at the Gatehouse, in a soup kitchen, or on the howling plane of Pandemonium. But then comes the initiation period, which tends to break most berks. The Bleaker’s response to the applicant won’t be much more than a grunt or a shrug of the shoulders. He won’t explain what to do, where to go, or anything of the sort – the sod’s on his own. Oh, he can tag along with the Bleaker he’s attached himself to and continue to struggle for acceptance, but the Madman’ll try to ignore the sod and may even try to talk him out of joining. Most berks change their minds in the face of such repeated disinterest or downright antagonism. But those whose hearts are truly bleak, whose will is such that they persevere, eventually get accepted into the faction as namers. Typically this initiation period lasts from six months to one year. A sod who makes it through the initiation has to drop his last name or family name; all members of the Cabal are known only by their given name. It’s a sign of their willingness to give up a life of past “meaning”.