Bleaching Condition in 13 | World Anvil


Gnomes don't get old, dear. We either die pursuing fantastical dreams, from a wretched disease like the plague or, most often, by the bleaching.
— Magie


The bleaching starts affecting gnomes who have reached adulthood and have stopped enjoying the wonders of discovery and life. Those gnomes start losing pigmentation in their skin and hair. What once was a gnome with vibrant pink hair and greenish pastel skin, can become, after five years of no joy, in a white-haired gnome with streaks of pink, and white skin.   The changes to the gnomes colouration are only a reflection of the inner life of a gnome: they become more withdrawn from life and depressed. The curiosity by which gnomes as a race are known for is less and less present as the bleaching advances. The mental changes that gnomes experience during the bleaching are the most dangerous ones. For a withdrawn and indifferent gnome is less likely to seek out new experiences and pleasures of life, which is effectively the only way a gnome can stop the bleaching.  

Unaffected by the bleaching

by Kilibrandt Erstwhile
Notice the missing skin and hair colouration that can take place in just five years if the gnomes suffering bleaching don't try new experiences.

Five years suffering the bleaching


Prevention of the bleaching is relatively easy. The more exciting and vivid experiences a gnome has, the more vibrant their colours and mind alike. This doesn't mean necessarily that gnomes must try and experience new things every month. Most gnomes choose professions they are widely passionate about and as a result, they find joy in their work. A gnome which has a job they find exciting can avoid the bleaching by trying new foods, travelling once in a while, or talking with new people amongst other things.   The older a gnome gets, however, the more difficult it is to prevent the bleaching, as they have experienced a myriad of things in their life, and it gets increasingly difficult to obtain new experiences. Some gnomes eventually succumb to the bleaching, while others die trying to pursue a wild new experience or another.


The bleaching is, in most cases, fatal. After several years of suffering the bleaching, apathetic gnomes may stop finding self-preservation necessary, and thus may stop eating or drinking. These gnomes eventually wither away and die.   However, some gnomes manage to survive the bleaching and become what is known as bleachlings. These gnomes are completely pale, all of their pigment gone from their skin and hair. These beings have a completely different outlook in life than gnomes do: they are calm, quiet, centered, and pensive. Those gnomes who become bleachlings stop experiencing time the way others do, and will forever be the age they were when they underwent the final phases of the bleaching. They also gain increased magical abilities.


Bleachlings are very rare, most gnomes who suffer the bleaching do not make it out alive.   Bleachlings are a constant reminder to other gnomes of their mortality and the dangers of what is to come. Many gnomes avoid or shun bleachlings, out of fear, and some, a hint of respect. Most bleachlings do not stay within the settlements they used to live before the bleaching, but rather end up living in nature, where the state of things corresponds better with their general outlook on life, as opposed to that of a village or a city.
Plague and the bleachlings
However, the plague changed the occurrence and disposition of gnome society towards bleachlings. The plague years were hard and long. No gnome went through those years without seeing loved ones die. Elderly gnomes and children were those most affected. The pure harshness of the disease, and what it created in the villages and cities during those years caused many gnomes to lose their interest and curiosity. Never before had so many gnomes bleached so fast. Even very young gnomes were experiencing the bleaching.   Few gnomes survived the bleaching, but it became apparent that those that did were immune to the plague. Many bleachlings during the plague stayed with their communities, helping them, either by hunting animals for food, helping those few who could grow crops with their fields, preparing ointments to make those that were ill feel better, and providing a calm and peaceful shoulder on which to cry.
by Sebastian Rodriguez

Related articles

Chronic, Acquired
Danger to life

Very high, most gnomes suffering the bleaching perish from it eventually


100% of gnomes who reach middle age will have felt it at some point in their adult life, most, however, will manage to keep it at bay for some decades before it starts really settling in


The bleaching during the plague

Most gnomes at the beginning of the plague suffered a renewal, their colours brighter than they had been in several years. At the beginning everything was new. People were trying to find cures, device solutions, improvise...All of this was new, and even gnomes which were already a couple of years into the bleaching reversed from it.   But then the plague didn't leave. It wasn't a disease that came, infected us, and left. Year after year new people got infected, many of them died. Food became unavailable in most cities, as many farms were struggling to maintain enough crops to feed themselves. There's no joy in trying new foods when you are doing it to stop starvation. No joy in discovering what do putrid bodies smell like.   So, while the plague didn't affect nor kill nearly as many gnomes as it did humans, the bleaching took many gnome lives during the plague years. Most died from it, while a few became bleachlings.

The plague anticipated the bleaching attitude for many. Gnomes don't handle depression well, and many started going into bleaching while they were still quite young.   When our baby died during the second year of the plague, my husband, who had been managing quite ok until then, crumbled. He was a shell of his former self, even before the colour started leaving his body. It only took a couple of years for the bleaching to take him away from me.
— Magie
Djir, have you noticed that those bleached gnomes are leaving Sprawling City now that the plague seems to be over? There seems to be a lot less around lately!
— Fhar

Cover image: by John Liberto


Author's Notes

The original version of this article was created as an entry for World Anvil's flagship Summer Camp 2019 event, specifically for prompt #19:
"Describe a physical condition associated with old age in your world."
  You can view my other entries from the competition here, or check out all past World Anvil competitions here.   This article and the world I am writing about have been created using Pathfinder as a base. This is a homebrew setting, inspired by Paizo's wonderful lore and creations.

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Jul 24, 2019 00:16

This a fascinating take on an emotional condition with very physical properties. I love that it came with a positive with an immunity to the plague. I would like to know more about the plague. There isn't much there about it. Were you planning on doing another article on it?

Jul 24, 2019 07:08

Hi Scaley,   There's already an article (with a link to it in the first sentence) but it's private, like the rest of my world outside of what I created for SC. But the link has a tooltip which, hopefully, provides enough information.   Anything to add about the bleaching itself?

Jul 25, 2019 01:44

Hmm, I don't see the link with the tooltip...but I've been known to be blind before. One curiosity about the bleachlings. It says the survivors stop aging. Do they die of old age still? Does this give them any resistances to aging in general?   Experiencing new things every month does sound a bit extreme. It's almost like they have to pace out their experiences to make sure they don't run out too soon. That would be an interesting culture. Delaying travel for a couple of weeks just to make it further from their last new experience.

Jul 24, 2019 08:38

Damn. For me this puts a new spin on the phrase "going grey". I like how while it is a physical disease it is more so a mental/emotional disease. The quote by Magie near the bottom I thought was a particularly nice touch. I am curious though about the bleachlings and their increased magical abilities. Is it a general increase to all spells or is it specialized?

Jul 24, 2019 17:29 by Stormbril

Damn.   Damnnn.....   This is a depressing age related effect! It's really well written, I can really feel it. I like, and simultaneously dislike (because it's TOO REAL), the part about gnomes seeing the harsh truth of reality for so long they become jaded to the world. Them losing their very colour is so poetic it hurts.   With real life, this "become numb to the world" thing happens quite often. Similarly though, people can find that spark again, and find joy in life again, getting rid of their numbness. Are there any gnomes who have done that? Re-found joy in the world, and gained their colour back? Or is it sadly only holding the Bleaching at bay, never reverting it?   There's a section where you mention about the bleachlings " [...] They also gain increased magical abilities." could you go into that more? is their magic just STRONGER, or do they gain access to other magics that regular coloured gnomes don't have?   Also, I'm not sure if you have space for it, but I'd always love to see more quotes. I really enjoy the quotes you do on your articles.   As always, fantastic formatting, excellent image choices. Great job with this article! I couldn't spot any grammar or spelling mistakes, but I'm sadly no expert in that field. I can only ask more questions about this incredibly interesting article!

Jul 25, 2019 04:07

I find it interesting that you have used Bleaching and turned into somewhat age related illness. I like the effect it had on other illnesses. Is bleaching in your setting reversible? Or once it is caught is the person as good as dead? I know in Pathfinder rules bleaching is easily reversible with new exciting experiences for gnomes but you state that the prognosis is most often death.

Jul 25, 2019 16:50 by TJ Trewin

Hi MGatta, TJ here from the World Anvil team! I just wanted to check in with you about the origins of your article as it appears to be inspired by the Bleaching condition in Pathfinder. As per the Summer Camp 2019 rules on the challenge page, would you mind listing any references? Many thanks! Your article layout is fantastic!

Journals of Yesteryear

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Jul 25, 2019 20:39

Hi TJ,   This is indeed based on Pathfinder, my whole world is. I have now added a couple of sentences about it to my author's note as discussed, I hope it suffices.   Thanks for stopping by and for the warning!