Chaotic and Collaborative Worldbuilding

So, years ago on a site best left un-named I used to participate in chaotic worldbuilding threads.

These threads had only a few simple rules:

  • Each post adds only a few details to the world.
  • Posts should not outright contradict other posts.
  • When possible, any conflicts should be handled by making both facts partially true.
  • Eventually, when there is enough information, somebody summarizes the thread.

I’ve always thought that the format has a lot of potential, and could work well here.

Do not be afraid to post facts that could have wide reaching consequences, making them work with other established facts about the world can lead to interesting outcomes.

I’ll start with the first fact, something a bit basic:

A large part of the world’s surface is dotted by isolated islands. The vast distances between them means that they can develop in vastly different ways.


It is not seawater that isolates the islands.


What exactly it is people cannot agree upon, but some facts have been found out:

  1. Prolonged exposure causes a type of madness in most people where they claim to be able to see and speak with the dead. Not everyone agrees this is a type of madness, but the majority of scholars does.

Monsters live in the clouds.


Sailors call whatever separates the islands “The Void”. Void behaves less like matter and more like emptiness distilled into a liquid. It flows and falls like a liquid, but stick your hand into it and you will only feel a vacuum.


There is a species of “void shrimp” that seem to thrive in this environment. They are edible but not very tasty. Long-term effects of consumption are unknown.
One of the larger islands is controlled by an Alchemist who has funded a minor industry of catching large amounts of these void shrimp. Has she discovered something that the Academy doesn’t know? Part scientist, part capitalist, part crime lord – her agents have been known to sail great distance in search of other alchemical ingredients.


Sorry if I went overboard, btw.

Nah, i think there is a lot to build off of there

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The void, being an absence, does not provide any sort of buoyancy on it’s own. It may flow like water, but it does not exert a similar pressure on objects inside of it. If a sailor falls off of a voidship with no equipment, they will find themselves quickly falling into the airless depths beneath. A water-ship, such as the ones used on Lake Ehoan, proves completely useless upon the Voidsea.

Voidships do not rely on buoyancy, they instead use the substantial surface tension at the edge of a body of void to support themselves. They most closely resemble waterskitters in shape, with great voidrophobic limbs stretching out on each edge. A small raft will normally have 4 limbs, while a ship of the line can have dozens.

Voidships are primarily propelled using sails, although recently the Industrialist Union of Islands has been experimenting with steam-powered fan voidships.


There are rumors that this world is a kind of afterlife or hell, but no one knows for sure. People are born, they age, and die, but they occasionally experience fleeting memories of a greener world with a lot more land.


Among the monsters that live in the clouds are a species of gigantic spiders who weave shimmering, semi-corporeal webs. A theocratic nation in the north considers these ‘divine’ spiders to be benevolent. Not everyone agrees.


Wizards in bathyscaphs report that strange creatures lurk in the void depths, strange biolumscient gaping mouthed eels as long as barques and other things of more incomprehensible description that have never seen the light of an island’s artificial sun.


Artificial suns are maintained by an island’s inhabitants. Normally they are placed atop a tall lighthouse at the center of an island’s settlement.

Each lighthouse requires a source of power for it’s artificial sun. In the Industrialist Union, this is electricity. On other places, the inhabitants make offerings of fish or grain to a spirit. Some islands even have been known to sacrifice their own inhabitants to keep the sun burning.

Lost, uninhabited islands often have burned out artificial suns built by ancient inhabitants. Some of these islands have still-running suns, maintained by some truly great sacrifice made deep in the past. In either case, these islands are generally uninhabited for a reason, and should be approached cautiously.


Voidships are not the only thing to exploit the surface tension of the void. In the warmer parts of the world, huge insect-like void-skaters are a hazard to shipping - while not apparently carnivorous, they are very curious, and their attention often damages the delicate ships.

For some reason, these creatures are never encountered close to the islands which sacrifice their own to feed their suns.


One particular wizard, Libel Gum, has claimed to have found a voidfloor deep beneath the void edge. She has said that across that floor are strewn the traces of another world. Architecture strange and yet uncannily familiar. No other wizard has managed to build a bathyscaph capable of withstanding the ontological pressure of such a deep void exploration.

Soon after she claimed to have discovered this voidfloor, she and her entire staff disappeared. The pale grey artificial sun still burns on her seemingly abandoned atoll, but no one has yet dared to visit the distant islet.