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Several Pathfinder sources indicate that gnomes don't exactly die of old age in the traditional sense. Instead, gnomes who don't regularly experience new and exciting things undergo "The Bleaching", which causes their hair and skin to turn gray and their minds to deteriorate. I'm trying to find more information about this process, particularly...

  1. How long does it take? Does a gnome notice himself going gray over months or years, or can a gnome suddenly wake up bleached?
  2. Once it starts, can the progression be halted? For example, what happens if a bleaching gnome suddenly discovers a new passion?
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The actual length of the timeframe varies by Gnome (and potentially GM), but Bleaching is a multi-year process.

Every year that gnomes fail to find new and exciting experiences, the process accelerates: they become more depressed and withdrawn, and their dulled curiosity leads to them having less desire to seek out new experiences, which leads inexorably to further bleaching.

  • Gnomes of Golarion p7

Additionally, based on Gnomes of Golarion p7 and 25, it seems like the rate of Bleaching is inversely proportional to age.

Mechanically, in Pathfinder 1e, Bleaching is "treated as a Curse" that cannot be removed with magic. Details are provided on p25 of GoG for GM's that wish to have mechanical rolls associated with the Curse. It forces an annual check starting at Middle Age.

Also on GoG p25, it is confirmed that a gnome given proper stimulus can halt or even reverse the process of Bleaching. There is even a society (GoG p12) called the Wonderseekers that commit themselves to identifying Bleaching gnomes and presenting them with opportunities to save themselves.

Additionally, it is possible to survive Bleaching through a stroke of luck (or other reasons). However, the alternative to reversing the Bleaching is becoming a Bleachling

Those rare few who manage to survive the affliction’s ravages and come out the other side as the dreamy, pale beings known as bleachlings...

  • GoG p7

For more information, the sourcebook would be Gnomes of Golarion (GoG). Information here is from the Pathfinder Wiki portions that directly reference GoG.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm asking a friend to borrow their copy of Gnomes to do some actual source research to see if there is more information about timeframes \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Oct 17 at 5:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Page 9 has wording that would indicate that the process of bleaching takes years, from onset to death, and it also implies that it can be reversed indeed when a gnome starts having an exiting life again (which they don't want to do due to the effects of bleaching, but still) \$\endgroup\$ – ThisIsMe Oct 17 at 7:08
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I think Ifusaso answered the questions originally listed well, but to add to that answer, and provide confirmation that PF2 fits the same lore:

From the PF2 CRB, pg 43:

A Gnome can theoretically live to any age if she can stave off the Bleaching indefinetly, but in practice Gnomes rarely live longer than around 400 years.

Which strongly suggests that bleaching can be resisted.

Additionally, in the Oblivion Oath official PF2 game (GM is Jason Bullman - lead designer at Paizo), they encounter a Gnome in danger of bleaching (Which was mostly evident due to his health and behavior, rather than his colour) due to being stuck in a situation that meant he was unable to sate his obsession - he was trapped in a city under quarantine, and had had to sell his books in order to eat.

In other words particularly bad situations can speed bleaching up - a Gnome abandoned in a cell with no outside interactions might bleach much faster, but starvation is still likely to be the more pressing issue (which suggests that going from not-in-danger to bleached within a week would be too fast, even in the worst situations).

Bleaching is a slow process, much like aging, that the Gnomes do sense coming on and can halt or reverse it. However, as one of the effects of bleaching is that it dulls their curiosity, resisting it isn't trivial.

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