"Hear the barmies howling in the Mazes?
If you're here to learn the secrets of the multiverse,
you might as well save yourself some time and go join 'em,
'cause that's all it means--that and nothing else."
--Factol Lhar of the Bleak Cabal
Also known as:
Bleakers, the Cabal, Madmen, the Pointless
Home Field: Pandemonium
Sigil HQ: The Gatehouse (Hive Ward)
What's the common Bleaker's feeling on the meaning of The Multiverse? That there is no meaning to it! Just give it up, this faction says, stop trying to hard to understand the infinite craziness that is The Multiverse. It has no point, no plan, no ultimate dark. The only people who say it has to are those that delude themselves and attempt to create some meaning out of none.
The Bleakers wish everyone to take a look around them. Millions of primes, planars, petitioners, proxies and powers, and not a single one of them has The Answer. This faction wants you to stop trying to impose a meaning on The Multiverse and instead just look inward. There's no higher purpose for your existence, there is only what you make of it here and now.
That attitude of looking inward and making a difference in the here and now makes the Bleakers one of the most charitable factions in the entire Cage. Unlike most factions, they don't refuse to help people based upon their faction allegiance; to the Bleakers, all namers are equally delusional and any faction member might just realize how meaningless everything is and join the Cabal.
Many Bleak Cabal factioneers find themselves drawn to the plane of Pandemonium. Its caves, which howl with the winds of madness, are the site of many a Bleaker retreat. In Sigil, the Bleak Cabal makes their headquarters in the Gatehouse, the insane asylum located within the Hive Ward. From here they try to make a difference in a meaningless multiverse, assisting the orphaned, the insane, and the poor in anyway they can.
The Doomguard and the Revolutionary League, both enjoying the collapse of great things (The Multiverse and the factions, respectively), appreciate the Bleak Cabal's nihilistic attitude and lack of desire to rule over others. And while they ally with the Bleakers often, they do patronize the faction for its lack of participation. The Dustmen also frequently accept the Bleakers' fatalistic attitudes, since it is similar to their own. Even the Xaositects and Ciphers sometimes ally with the Madmen. The Xaositects work with the Bleak Cabal to show how little sense The Multiverse makes, and the Ciphers agree that the best work is done in the here and now. However, the factions intent on building up institutions or people often dislike the Bleak Cabal's apathy. The Fraternity of Order is upset by the Bleakers' general disregard for their "meaningless" laws and the Harmonium and Mercykillers are equally distraught because they feel the same way about instituted peace or enforced justice. Even many Godsmen have a problem with the Bleakers, because they refuse to make an effort to ascend.
The Bleakers will take anyone who realizes that the multiverse has no plan. However, lawful characters can not stomach the idea that there is no greater order of things, and so they never join the Cabal.
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.
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 trying 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 he is 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 Uing, 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.
Any and all races are accepted as long as all other prerequisites are met.
Because of the sheer fugue of their nihilism, Bleakers are naturally very resistant to attacks that attempt to change their mental state. In game terms, this translates to a +2 to all Will saving throws. Also, Bleakers are immune to any spell effects which attempt to drive them mad (because, some say, they already are). This includes confusion, feeblemind, Otto's Irresistible Dance, and Tasha's Hideous Laughter. However, while their own nihilism may be a boon sometimes, it is always a bane. Bleakers sometimes suffer periods of total nihilism in which they can not be motivated to do anything unless a friend is able to philosophically convince them. If these periods last too long or happen too often, the Bleaker must be committed to the Gatehouse Mad Bleakers' Ward. Just as often the Bleaker may be hit with a period of intense euphoric mania. During this time, they are extremely happy and generous, but these periods unfortunately are much shorter than the apathetic ones, lasting no more than a day at a stretch.
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.
Sigil - Planar Legends: Members of the Bleak Cabal can cast Clarity 1/day.
Bleak Cabal Membership
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”.