Banality and Bedlam
Sooner or later, all Changelings acquire Banality. It’s impossible to escape from it if they spend any time at all in the Autumn World (also known as Earth, the Gaian Realm, or reality). It is everywhere throughout the World of Darkness. Mortals are infused with it, dead to the magic all around them, unable to see the faerie world. It is the force of disbelief, and it is one of the greatest threats that Changelings know.
Gaining and Losing Banality
Banality is gained through multiple ways, and it severs the Changeling’s ties to the Dreaming inch by inch, making it harder to cast cantrips, see the Dreaming, or remember much about his faerie life. When a Changeling acquires too much Banality, he loses his faerie mien for the rest of his life and is Undone. He’ll have to die and then reincarnate into a new body to start over as a Childling.
And yet, Banality is necessary to counteract Bedlam. All Changelings have to dance the knife’s edge between boring and bonkers. It’s not easy, and so far, it has always ended with tragic results. No one can keep up the delicate balancing act for all of their lives.
It’s pretty easy to gain Banality:
- Whenever you use your own Banality to resist a cantrip, you gain a temporary point of it.
- If you attempt to overcome another character’s Banality and fail, you gain a temporary point of it.
- Destroying treasures and some chimera can cause a changeling to acquire temporary Banality.
- Killing a Changeling’s chimerical form so that they forget that they are a Changeling gives you a point of temporary Banality. Killing their mortal form as well grants a second point of temporary Banality.
- Spending time in the company of high-Banality characters will rack up some temporary Banality. This is fairly arbitrary and determined by the GM, but expect to gain a point of temporary Banality for each point over 7 that the other person has, for every scene that you interact with said individual. For example, Simeon has tea with a Technocrat whose Banality is rating 10. Not only does Simeon feel cold, nauseated and headachey, but for that single scene, he gains 3 temporary Banality.
- If you go about RPing doing too many mundane things, the GM may assign you temporary Banality for it. Paying bills, sorting through your taxes, acting in ways that foster disbelief in the chimerical… these are all worth some temporary Banality.
- Voluntarily retreating into your mortal seeming so that you can hide from chimerical threats or for other reasons. This causes a temporary forgetting of the faerie nature and incurs 1 point of temporary Banality. A changeling gets one chance to escape from the mortal seeming by rolling Willpower or Glamour (whichever is higher) against a difficulty equal to the Banality rating. Failure indicates the changeling remains trapped for a length of time according to the Mists chart. If the roll gets at least 1 success, she may resume fae mien. Exposure to Glamour of any sort will also reawaken the fae mien.
Every time a character gains 10 temporary points of Banality, it is converted into 1 permanent point. Banality is tracked on the character’s sheet and it may be viewed when typing +sheet/pools. You cannot adjust your own Banality. Raven (or whoever else is GMing) will give and take according to your character’s actions.
In chargen, when you pick your Seeming (Childling, Wilder, or Grump in most cases), you will have a Banality rating that varies according to your choice. Being young and irrepressible, Childlings start out with the least amount of Banality, whereas the older and more bitter, responsibility-laden Grumps have the most of it.
While it’s very easy to gain Banality, it’s much more difficult to lose it. There are ways, however:
- Instead of taking a point of temporary Banality, you may choose instead to gain a Nightmare die to your cantrip pool.
- When you gain a temporary Glamour point, you may instead remove a point of temporary Banality. The only time you may do this is at the exact moment you’re being infused with Glamour.
- You may undertake a quest to reduce your permanent Banality. This will involved a GMed plot, and the quest itself usually involves your character swearing an oath to bind him/her to the completion of the task. If you fail the quest, you will gain another point of permanent Banality instead of losing it. There are three types of quests you can undertake: Quest of Deed — you must undertake a task, such as rescuing something or someone; Quest of Inspiration — you must spend months or years indirectly inspiring and guiding a chosen individual to greatness; Quest of Dreaming — you must attempt to bring the Dreaming into a mortal’s life, generally someone who is firmly entrenched in Banality, and refill this person with a sense of joy and wonder.
Different types of people have different types of Banality ratings. The more open-minded the individual, the more likely she is to have lower Banality. Although there are exceptions to the general rule, the table below illustrates what you are likely to find, Banality-wise, when dealing with a certain type of character.
|Character Type||Banality Rating|
|Marauder Mage||0 to 2|
|Mystic Mages (Verbena, Cult of Ecstasy, Hermetics, Dreamspeakers)||2 to 4|
|True Believer Mages (Nephandi, Celestial Chorus, Akashayana, Euthanatos, most Disparates)||4 to 6|
|Modern Cynical Mages (Society of Ether, Virtual Adepts, Hollow Ones, most Orphans)||6 to 8|
|Technocrats||8 to 10|
|Normal Children||3 to 5|
|Normal Humans||6 to 7|
|Mystic Werewolves (Black Furies, Children of Gaia, Fianna, Silent Striders, Stargazers, Uktena, Wendigo)||4 to 6|
|Traditional Werewolves (Get of Fenris, Red Talons, Silver Fangs, Shadow Lords)||5 to 7|
|Modern Werewolves (Bone Gnawers, Glass Walkers)||6 to 8|
|Wyrm-Ridden Fomori or Black Spiral Dancers||7|
|Non-Malkavian Vampires||8 to 9|
Locations and land also have banality ratings, determining how difficult it is to use your cantrips against your location.
|Area||Typical Banality Rating|
|Science Lab, Mall||Impossible, no naturally occurring material present|
|Suburbs, City Park||8|
|Forest Preserves, Wilderness Habitats||5|
|Deep Forest, High Desert||4|
|Unknown Cavern, Atop High Mesa, Nunnehi Freehold||3|
|Pristine Forest, Lonely Sea Island, Pure Stream, Mountain Top, or other Place of Power||2|
The flip side of the coin, the opposite of Banality, Bedlam is a state of being where the Changeling has lost his mortal reason. It is a sort of madness, as dangerous as Banality, brought about from an overload of Glamour and too much time spent in the Dreaming rather than reality.
There is no system to determine when your Changeling is entering Bedlam. It is all decided by the Storyteller. However, there are warning signs that herald the approach of Bedlam, and there are threshold stages through which one might pass before Bedlam is a full-blown, irreversible problem. There are also some known triggers for Bedlam, and the more of these your character possesses, the more likely it is that Bedlam will touch him/her.
- Your Glamour is higher than both your Willpower and Banality ratings.
- You spend more nights in the freehold than in the real world. If you never spend a night outside of the freehold, 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 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.
At this early stage, Bedlam is curable and recoverable. It generally requires some Banality therapy, which is pretty much just exposure to Banality: getting a job in the mundane world, resigning one’s position at court in the freehold, renouncing Changeling connections and Glamour until the madness passes, etc.
But in the first threshold, the affected Changeling’s perceptions become skewed. Differentiating between real and chimerical becomes far more difficult, and she or he may begin to hallucinate chimerical things that aren’t there… neither reality-wise nor chimerical-wise. For instance, Simeon begins talking to a dancing guinea pig that not even his Changeling friends can see… Because it’s all in his head.
Other flaws include:
- Colour changes — Reality just starts changing colours, either randomly or in patterns.
- Whispers — Auditory hallucinations, imparting secrets, prophecies, or just absolute rubbish.
- Dread — A feeling of dread engulfs the Changeling and won’t go away.
- Lights — Flashing lights, nimbi, auras and other such hallucinations plague the Changeling.
If the Changeling doesn’t take heed of the warning signs from the first threshold and continues to spend too much time in the Dreaming or in freeholds, then he proceeds to the second threshold of Bedlam. At this point, it gets more severe and more debilitating. It should also be bloody obvious to his friends that the Changeling is slipping in his sanity. Not only has the character changed, but the character’s Glamour has taken on a different quality.
It is also at this stage that the Changeling is reacting to a reality of his own making.
This is the point when Raven is likely to pull you aside and give you an OOC warning that your Changeling needs to get out more in the mundane world. A changeling in the second threshold of Bedlam can recover and heal, but it is more difficult. It requires the use of the Primal Art and Banality Therapy to recover, since Bedlam has begun infecting the faerie soul and has gotten deeper inside.
Some example symptoms of second-threshold Bedlam include (but are not limited to):
- Don Quixote Syndrome — The character believes everything to be from ancient times or a high-fantasy realm. EVERYTHING.
- Delusions of Grandeur — The character sees everyone only as an underling fit to serve him. No matter what insanity he spouts, he expects others to laud his ideas and cater to his mad whims. Think Caligula, if you know your Roman history.
- Social Darwinism — Everyone is either predator or prey, and the Changeling is the ultimate predator. This can go undetected for awhile, until the psychopathic Changeling leaves a trail of blood, death and devastation in her wake.
- The Walls Have Ears — Everything is alive. Everything. The Changeling may have entire conversations with fence posts or apologize to every stone she steps on while crossing the street.
You are pretty much fucked.
No, seriously. This is the point where your character is so crazy that there is not much hope of saving him or her. It CAN be done, but it is dangerous and pretty much never happens. Third-threshold Bedlam can be cured only by drinking from the Cup of Dreams, a faerie treasure said to be lost within the Dreaming. Some dragons are thought to possess lore of how to cure third-threshold Bedlam, but if it exists, they aren’t talking. Banality cures don’t work, neither do psychoactive drugs or mundane therapy.
It’s highly posible that a Changeling in third-stage Bedlam just disappears into the Dreaming, losing all free will, all rationale. He or she simply ceases to be.
Not only that, but at this stage, the Bedlam becomes highly contagious. The Changeling can spread his madness to other Changelings around him, plunging them into first-threshold Bedlam if they remain in contact for too long. The mad Changeling may birth nervosa (Chimerical creatures borne of madness and malevolence, spreading plague, fear, and malice) which will act to protect him.
The most likely outcome for the Changeling at this point is death. Other Changelings will, with great remorse, put the character out of his misery.
Some examples of third-threshold behaviour:
- Berserker — The character attacks anything and everything around her with whatever she can grab as a weapon.
- Autism — The character retreats within herself and does not recognise the outside world at all.
- Feral Cunning — The character reverts to animalistic behaviour with deadly cunning and homicidal intent.
- Perversity — The character falls into the depths of her own darkness and commits acts of inhuman depravity.