Insanity is a danger to the Kithain. They interact regularly with things that are not "real," and Glamour has a habit of making one's perceptions change over time. Thus madness is a threat to every changeling.
Changelings typically pass through three "thresholds" of Bedlam, although they occasionally go right from normalcy to complete madness without stopping at the intervening thresholds. The Storyteller has complete control over the process of Bedlam. She may decide to advance a character further into Bedlam at any time that seems appropriate. However, there is a list of warning signs to guide the decision-making process. As a general rule, a character who fits three or more of the warning signs has the potential to slip into Bedlam.
Bedlam should be inflicted only when it is appropriate. One mad changeling can ruin the whole chronicle if you're not careful. Of course, Bedlam must be a threat with teeth if the balance between the real and fantastic worlds is to be encouraged.
- This same rule applies to non-changelings being driven into madness by overexposure to Enchantment. It does happen, but please use sparingly.
First Threshold Edit
The first threshold is perception-based. A character begins to have trouble distinguishing between mundane and chimerical things. She also begins to see what appear to be chimerical things that are not really there. Listed below are threshold flaws that can be inflicted on a character who has descended into the first level of Bedlam.
- Color Change: Everything changes color, either randomly or in patterns.
- Whispers: The changeling "hears" telepathic or audible whispers that impart secrets or prophecies, or that spew unintelligible gibberish.
- Dread: A feeling of complete and utter dread engulfs the changeling; shadows distort into monstrous shapes.
- Lights: Bright lights flash in and out of existence, surrounding people with nimbi or other illuminations.
- Whatever the first-threshold flaws that a changeling suffers are, they should be annoying but bearable. The character should descend into madness slowly. First-threshold madness is curable and recoverable. After the first threshold has been reached, however, the Storyteller may choose to add additional first-threshold flaws to the character's perceptions, or she may send the character to the second threshold immediately.
Second Threshold Edit
Bedlam's second threshold is more severe and debilitating. At this point chimerical reality seems to become mundane reality. The Storyteller should take the player aside and explain how the character's reality has changed. This is when madness becomes evident to other changelings, because the afflicted's Glamour is affected. The changeling ceases to interact with anyone who does not fit his version of reality.
Certain kinds of therapy can actually drive the afflicted deeper into Bedlam at this point. It is very difficult for outsiders to discern whether a changeling is in the first or second stage of Bedlam. Indeed, the changeling may regain lucidity occasionally; during these "spells," he seems positively normal. Some examples of second-threshold Bedlam are:
- Don Quixote Syndrome: The character believes everything to be from an ancient time or fantasy realm.
- Delusions of Grandeur: The character sees everyone as an underling, fit only to serve him. No matter what utter nonsense he spouts, he expects others to laud his ideas and cater to his insane visions.
- Social Darwinism: The character sees everyone as either predator or prey — and herself as a predator of great strength and skill. This is an insidious form of madness, as it can remain undetected for some time. Soon, however, the character will strike — and death will follow in her wake.
- The Walls Have Ears: The character believes that everything has a personality and is alive. Manifestations of this madness range from a changeling holding quiet conversations with fence posts to uttering apologies every time he takes a step on the street.
- It's very difficult for players to watch their characters fall into Bedlam. Before proceeding to the third threshold (at which all but the most miraculous healing fails), the Storyteller should make sure that the madness fits the character's personal story, and give the character opportunities to heal, if possible. Of course, if the player of the mad character is having fun, there's no reason to ease his transition into the third threshold — utter madness.
Third Threshold Edit
The third threshold of Bedlam is the most devastating. The character becomes an unintelligible creature. She retains all the characteristics of her former stages of madness, but also suffers from a number of other threshold symptoms, as seen below:
- Berserker: The character attacks all around her with whatever weapons are nearby.
- Autism: The character withdraws into himself, not recognizing the outside world at all.
- Feral Cunning: The character reverts to an animalistic state; not a frenzied attacker like the Berserker, but a cunning, predatory animal that doesn't communicate and seeks only to escape or kill.
- Perversity: The character descends into the depths of her psyche and performs inhuman acts barely conceivable by even the most depraved soul.
- Third-threshold Bedlam is highly contagious. Any changeling forced into prolonged contact with a character in third-threshold Bedlam risks developing first-threshold Bedlam. This is, of course, up to the Storyteller's discretion, but it is a definite danger. Only the most brave (or foolish) treat those in third-threshold Bedlam. Changelings in this stage are often destroyed, albeit remorsefully.
As if this weren't awful enough, those in third-threshold Bedlam birth many nervosa (accidental Chimera created from madness. For example, the monster under the bed), which share common characteristics and work to protect the mad one.
If left untreated, Bedlam completely overtakes a character. She loses all free will and passes into the world of dreams. One night, while the changeling dreams, she simply ceases to be, disappearing entirely from the face of the Earth. At this point (or perhaps sooner), the player may no longer run the character and must create a new one if she wishes to continue play in the chronicle.
Treating Bedlam Edit
First-threshold Bedlam is cured, ironically, by exposure to Banality. A changeling in first-threshold Bedlam often goes off by himself, seeking to "cure" himself in the normalcy of human society. He resigns his position at court or leaves his household, taking a job in the mortal world and forgetting his changeling nature temporarily. Eventually, the changeling is cured—disavowing all contact with changeling society is often like a splash of cold water on the changeling's psyche.
Treatment of second-threshold Banality is a little different. A delicate balance of magical healing (using the Primal Art) and Banality therapy must be used to treat the madness. The madness has progressed to the faerie soul of the changeling, and both his human soul and faerie soul must be cleansed before continuing.
The only widely known cure for third-threshold Bedlam is drinking from the Cup of Dreams, an ancient and powerful faerie treasure thought to be lost in the Dreaming. It is said that some dragons also possess the lore to cure third-stage Bedlam. No Banality cure has ever worked, and psychiatrists who treat changelings in third-stage madness are thoroughly confused by their patients' resistance to psychoactive drugs and normal therapeutic techniques.
Warning Sign Check List Edit
The following are some warning signs that a changeling might be in danger of experiencing Bedlam. Although none of these is a "sure" sign of impending madness, the more warning signs a character exhibits, the more likely it is that Bedlam is on the horizon.
- Your Glamour is higher than both your Willpower and your Banality.
- You spend more nights in freeholds than in the real world. (If you spend all of your time in freeholds, Bedlam is almost assured.)
- You have more than one faerie treasure.
- You interact with more than three chimera on a regular basis.
- You are a constant Ravager.
- You have no mortal friends.
- You have no mortal job (or other attachment, such as school)
- You are almost exclusively nocturnal.
- You drink alcohol or use drugs or have sex to excess.
- You spend more than half of your waking time creating art of some kind.
- You have no mortal family.
- You have no mortal possessions.
- You are in a state of unrequited love.