Worldbuilding Challenge: Welcome To Blackbloom

Last week’s “three-sentence challenge” is ready for your eyes to behold.

This week’s challenge is a little different.

You’ll note that it does not say “flash fiction.”

It says “worldbuilding.”

Here’s the deal. You and me, we’re going to build a world. Out of scratch. This is tabula rasa, and by smashing our faces against the screen and leaving upon it a gooey streak of blood and brain matter (aka “imagination grease”) we are going to birth a world out of zippity-zero-nada-nichts. From nothing to something, from chaos comes order.

We’re not going to do it all today.

We will, in fact, do it once a month. Every last Friday of the month for one year, or… until this thought experiment fails miserably and crashes into the mountains where it’s forced to eat its friends.

Sometimes we’ll be doing some straight-up worldbuilding, other times we’ll dig deeper and start telling stories set in this world. But before the stories, the world itself must be made.

What are the aims of this weird little experiment? I don’t even know. Part of it is just to see if we can build a world that is a place where fiction can live — can a series of strangers collaborate on a world in such a way to generate a seed bed where stories can grow and thrive? I don’t know. But I’m here to find out.

We’ll play in this crazy generative playground, see what happens.

Let’s begin.

These are the only things you know about Blackbloom.

First, that is its name. Blackbloom.

Second, it is a place where human and non-humans alike dwell.

That’s it. That’s all we know. Everything else is up in the air. Everything else is suspect. Nothing is canonical. All is apocryphal. Like I said: chaos. From chaos we shall draw a deep syringe filled with truth.

Today’s mission is for each of you to provide one aspect of the world in under 100 words. This aspect is a point of status quo: it defines the world as it is now. Not as it will become.

You might say: “It has two suns.” Or, “Water is a precious resource.” Or, “Two warring factions fight over the world’s largest city.” Define the reality as it is now. Define Blackbloom’s current existence.

You can say whatever you’d like. Given that so little is defined, you’ve nothing to build from — but also, nothing to hold you back. This is the act of creation, the weird Genesis of a made-up world.

Thus, feel free to be as creative as you’d like. As weird as you must be.

I will pick… we’ll say 10 of these, but if I see more that are really awesome, I’ll up to… let’s say “20.” That’s my job in all of this: to serve not as deity but rather as adjuticator.

I’ll pick those by the time the next Worldbuilding Challenge rolls around.

Which will be…

October 28th.

Now, get your pick-axes and encyclopedias.

Go nuts.

Create a world.

And welcome to Blackbloom.

122 responses to “Worldbuilding Challenge: Welcome To Blackbloom”

  1. Re: Joshua D:

    In the world of Blackbloom, there is no death, there is life and there is unlife.
    Upon death, the rare flower is placed in the mouth of the deceased. Three days later, brain function has returned and the person is alive once more, though they no longer grow older.

    Those that can afford to pay for the Blackbloom may go about their lives again as they once did. Those who can’t afford the flower are revived to a period of indentured servitude until they can earn their freedom once more.

    –Love this, want to add:

    Nobody–human or any other race–who has been bloomed may leave the planet. Their faces (and any area that visibly flushes or blushes, like upper chest and genitals) are marked with a fine black lace that comes from staining of the blood (or other bodily fluid, in non-humans).

    The Unbloomed, or people in their first lifespan, are often used as surrogates if a Bloomed needs to conduct personal business offplanet. This often is used to pay for the Bloom.

    Any Bloomed who leaves the planet starves to death; only the planet can provide the Bloom. However, the blood of those who have left the planet contains the pollen that, if awakened, becomes the bloom. Horrible atrocities have occurred when starting Bloomed meet a compatriot.

    Blackbloom is sought by the dying and smugglers. The flowers won’t grow elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for the pollen across the universe.

  2. There is a slough where once an animal shelter stood in the eastern division of Blackboom. There among fumaroles and geothermal steam pots the feet of buried dogs face the sky. It is the duty of Woodruff Harbach to find the last living pair of trumpeter swans living off the hydrothermal algae. Woodruff knows swans are not kind elegant creatures, they are vicious and refuse to return to the frozen western landscape. He steers his craft around the landscape, and spots through his gas mask, the female perched on a crumbling cinderblock wall.
    “Stay girl I won’t hurt you.”
    Caroline Gerardo
    (exactly 100 words)

  3. Blackbloom is not so much a place as it is a state of mind. All across the sector, wherever that insidious weed is found, there also you will find those, human and alien alike, that imbibe it’s narcotic nectar and drift into a world of dreams without rules, a galaxy spanning literal meeting of minds where anything can happen and often does.

  4. The destinies of several pairs of warring races are intertwined: as go the Orcs so go the Elves. Dwarves and Goblins rise and fall together. Therefore, each race is presented with the dual struggle of surviving the emnity of their hated foes while coexisting with them to ensure survival.

  5. In Blackbloom there grow on the mountain cliffs great monstrous flowers, sprawling bulbs with nightshade petals and a fleshy pink interiors. On hot summer nights they open, letting loose black clouds of malignant pollen that blot out the sun in the following weeks and force the People on the Plain to shut their doors and huddle inside around old storytellers and great prophets.

    There comes then, the Time of Madness, when children chant in tongues on the floor and new kings are raised at their decree.

  6. A race of beings exist hidden from most of the world. No one has ever reliably reported seeing them, but nearly everyone has felt their effects. They tangle and knot loose cords and threads, spoil food too quickly, leave mysterious patterns in dust, spontaneously order disordered objects, etc. Their reasons for doing these things and level of sentience are unknown.

  7. Building off of what oldestgenxer and Miranda Cardona brought to the table:

    These gods work to their own ends, and grant boons, abilities, talismans, magicks, or knowledge to those mere mortals, be they human or otherwise (though who’s to say the gods don’t play favorites with the denizens of Blackbloom), who find them, and would follow the old ways once again.

  8. Blackbloom is a small world, further from its sun that Earth is from Sol. It’s also tidally-locked, which gives it only a thin strip of human-habitable land along the edge between a brutally-hot side facing the sun and an ice-cold endless darkness. At the darkness-side edge, strange fungi grow. They are nourishing and tasty enough for xenoflora, but the humans eeking out an existence on Blackbloom’s livable surface are always wary of ‘others’ who live in the cold – silcon-based lifeforms that do not seem to have any connection to the life forms we know from Earth.

  9. Blackbloom’s original name was lost to the eons, along with the civilization that sculpted its polyhedral temples or its gridiron of canals. Its first settlers, the humans, named it Blackbloom for the continent-spanning blast pattern that resembled a charred black flower with five serrated petals. Some theorized that a comet or a meteor had ended Blackloom’s original civilization. Human archaeologists studied the blast’s epicenter and concluded the blast pattern was caused by a massive energy discharge. Upon this discovery, dozens of races embarked to Blackbloom, eager to discover, and possibly master, an energy that murders worlds.

  10. …Blackbloom is a city that lost the sun.

    It is unknown how – or why – the sun was taken from them, but on the far side of the world it is rumoured that another city has it, a place of light and colour; a place the children of Blackbloom are told in stories is called Illumibloom.

    With no sun, the citizens of Blackbloom are forces to live under generated light that need giant generators and power supplies to keep them functional. Because of this, the city is heavily industrial, a place where every parent works for the power company or works for the state. Most are content under the thumb of those in power, but some want more – want light. Want to find Illumibloom.

    (Note* When I typed rumoured, spell check wanted me to change it to Rumsfeld. Oh dear…)

  11. Blackbloom has the most brutal and harsh enviroment thinkable. There’s no way for human and human-kind to survive outside – radiation, sun flares, metane storms, electrical fields, magnetical anomalies, fields of fluctuating gravity and time… All living species gather in various enclaves – either gigantic glass domes, made with long-forgotten technologies of our ancerstor or deep caves, where strage kinds of fungi substitute the sun.

  12. Blackbloom is a plague that is turning all living things evil — plant, animal and human. It feeds off of magic and those strong in magic are hunted by those infected. There are various theories on how it started, but nobody is certain. Magic is outlawed by many governments. Fear feeds prejudice against magic weilding worldwide and those that have the power have started to band together.

  13. To the outside observer, Blackbloom City is a tangled maze of narrow streets, alleys and dilapidated houses. It takes living there amongst the people to understand the order that arose from chaos; the streets all named in alphabetical order, general color coding of the buildings.

    This all started to keep humans from going into Xeno areas. The Xeno had proven themselves to be peaceful aliens, but different from us. Humanity has never been good at playing nicely with those who are different. Some humans were compassionate to the visitors. For their trouble, they were sentenced to Blackbloom.

  14. Blackbloom is the place were mass is born. Situated between universes, this nether realm facilitates all the universes physics in a smorgasbord of ideas and rationales. Humans are new to Blackbloom. Learning about it after many centuries of smashing atoms, until one day they discovered the rarest of all particles.

    The Black particle: a sentient particle living outside of all known physics, it’s capable of almost anything, and yet man is unable to crack its code, but simply follow it’s journey between universes. Mankind and infinite other races intermingle in their quest to unlock the secrets of the Blackbloom.

  15. The Gods of the various Blackbloom cultures are real, physically real. They walk the earth and interact with both sentient and non-sentient species. They are several times the size of the beings who worship them and they cannot be killed or harmed by any known method. The Gods can work miracles or just sit and lecture. Sometimes a God will not be seen for years, then show up again. Having Gods who exist in the here and now has made religion on Blackbloom very different from religion on Earth.

  16. Re:Deanna; Re:Joshua D

    The cultivation of Blackbloom falls under the Kavanni’s jurisdiction – a pseudo-priesthood.

    The cultivation is particularly dangerous because if Blackbloom is harvested too early or too late it is deadly poisonous.

    There are groups of people (both peaceful and militant) who oppose the use of Blackbloom to extend life. The peaceful lobby against it through the government while the militant attempt to destroy Blackbloom fields and havests, even going so far as to attack the Kavanni.

  17. Near the outer edge of the galaxy orbiting a dim, red star is the world known as Blackbloom. Positioned at the outer edge of the star’s biozone, Blackbloom receives little light, plunging the world in perpetual twilight. Despite this curse, life thrives in ways only perceived by the imagination.

    Carpeted by forests of gargantuan mushrooms, the vast majority of the planet’s flora is various forms of fungi bursting forth from Blackbloom’s fertile soil. Some of the larger stalks have been measured to be near 30 meters in height.

    Blackbloom’s fauna, unlike its fauna, is quite diverse. Ranging from tiny fish swimming the world’s rivers, lakes, and oceans to large beasts that roam the plains, all of the native creatures share one uncommon trait: they are blind. Scientists who have studied the planet’s animals living on the surface have concluded that they use a form of echolocation as a means of “sight” to make up for their lack of eyes. Investigations into Blackbloom’s aquatic creatures is still ongoing.

    Despite (or because of) the exotic ecosystem, Blackbloom hosts three major starports, whose lights are the brightest locations in the entire solar system. The starports are inhabited by a number of sapient races. Among the races living there are a fair number of ashara, bilingi, humans, and landasta, the four major races of the Interstellar Coalition.

    When reports from a scout vessel stated the discovery of Blackbloom and the rare mineral quasinite, the Coalition moved quickly to claim the world as their own and protect any of its citizens from the Dasta Confederation’s military advances. So far, the Dasta Confederation has not indicated any interest in the planet, but the Coalition’s military advisors suspect that may change very soon.

  18. Blackbloom. Hmm.

    The planet is home to two sentient races. One is a human-like people. They call themselves the Watu. They are an intellectually and technologicaly advanced people.
    The other race are darkly opalescent energy creatures. These number far less than the Watu. They call themselves Roho. Not much is known about them, except their claim that they have always been there.

    The sun is blue dwarf star that has swirling, black energies coruscanting across its surface. Every three thousand years these energies flare, enveloping the planet and killing almost the entire Watu population. Those who are left are plunged back into a savage hunter-gatherer status. And the Roho guide them back (again) to their previous intellectualy and techonolgicaly advanced society.

    The Watu have no idea about the star’s destructive tendencies. But the Roho do.
    They always have.

  19. There are clouds of ink vapour which sit just above ground-level and sort of swirl oilyly* around themselves. The ink, bluish black, is permanent, and as a result, most of the humans are the same colour. The minotaurs are usually only this colour from chest-height down.

    *new word.

  20. Blackbloom has three seasons:
    – A rainy, humid hot season that spurs the growth of an algae-type organism which feeds most of the lower life-forms
    – A dry, temperate season
    – A dark season when the planet enters into a synchronous orbit with its moon, which blocks out the sun (much like an Earth eclipse) for three Blackbloomian months.

  21. Blackbloom is post-apocalyptic and vast, inhabited by humans and their mutated counterparts. There is a belt of asteroids visible both night and day from the destroyed moon that orbited Blackbloom, which itself is in a tide locked orbit, with one side always facing the sun. Civilization is concentrated in the twilight region, with the rich living in the decadent darkness and the poor living in the harsher light. Mutants live in the extreme cold and hot regions.

  22. The Anansiids are an arachnoid race, once nearly exterminated by the humanoid inhabitants of Blackbloom. Those who survived the “Du-Octo Wars” now fill the role of mercenaries, assassins and spies, mostly on behalf of the non-human races – though an Anansiid’s only true loyalty is to himself and The Brood.

    Anansiids are hermaphroditic egg-layers, extremely intelligent, and fully sentient at hatching. They’re also poisonous. Babies’ bodies are roughly the size of a chicken egg; adults can weigh up to one hundred pounds. Most speak at least five languages fluently. All can spin webs.

  23. Blackbloom is twice as large as our earth. Every person born has a doppelganger. If you run into your doppelganger, you die, but your doppelganger gains the years left of your life. Doppelgangers plan on taking over the world, as they have already in some countries. The only time a human knows they’re talking to a doppelganger is if it’s their own.
    There are “otherworldly” beings who know who the doppelgangers are, but they’re becoming extinct. The doppelgangers are killing them off one by one.
    The doppelgangers goal in world domination is….

  24. Blackbloom is twice as large as our earth. Every person born has a doppelganger. If you run into your doppelganger, you die, but your doppelganger gains the years left of your life. Doppelgangers plan on taking over the world, as they have already in some countries. The only time a human knows they’re talking to a doppelganger is if it’s their own.
    There are “otherworldly” beings who know who the doppelgangers are, but they’re becoming extinct. The doppelgangers are killing them off one by one.
    The doppelgangers goal in world domination is to …

  25. Re:Deanna; Re:Joshua D; Crystal

    The pacifist faction, the Loti, have long petitioned Blackbloom’s Magistracy to outlaw indentured servitude. Although most Indentures were treated fairly well, many have been exploited, citing their use prostitution, organ harvesting, stem cell farming and lithium mining. The Magistracy enacted an Indentured Bill of Rights, but was lax in enforcing it.

    The militant faction, the Rosary, saw the Unlife as an abomination, attacking Kavanni and Unlifes without prejudice. The Kavanni response was to form an militia of Indentures , promising them unlimited Blackbloom treatments if they were killed in battle. And die, they did.

  26. Night never falls in Blackbloom, only the perpetual grey twilight of volcanic smog. We live along a volcanic belt, a huge swath of angry earth that belches ash both day and night. Most of the giants simmer, rumbling with the snores of sleeping gods, but occasionally a god awakens, and we hear stories of neighbors buried in slag. Here in the shadow we light torches. Occasionally we stare at the largest of all beasts–Mont Saren. They say it will kill us. They expect us to be afraid.

    But we are human, and humans grow bored. Even with impending death.

  27. The Orchid Colonies of Blackbloom once grew like kudzu. In the last millennia, however, the last two Orchid colonies devoured one another. In the wake of their final, silent battle, as humans began to burn away the overgrowth, seedlings began to appear around the world. The black-purple flowers did not stay still for long, soon sprouting limbs and gathering in the darkest forests of Blackbloom. Most seem to be ascetics, but occasionally, a silent plant-person wanders into a village seeking unusual supplies or rare elements. No human has ever returned from an excursion to a modern Orchid den.

  28. Blackbloom is a nexus of possibilites. Time and space are not the standards against which we judge reality. In Blackbloom, our pasts, presents and futures coexist. In Blackbloom our futures, great or terrible, are just as real as our memories of experiences long past. It is here that we swim in the magnificent and frightening seas of chaos.


  29. There’s a wormhole in synchronous orbit to Blackbloom that’s situated just above the southern equator. Unfortunately, the wormhole only seems to travel one way, from an unknown location far away to Blackbloom. Occasionally, other species will use the wormhole as a giant garbage disposal unit, throwing their refuse into the hole that invariably ends up landing onto the planet.

    A sort of cargo cult has arisen that worships the crap that falls from the wormhole as sacred relics gifted to them by their god(s). And of course, sometimes the unwanted things that are thrown into the wormhole aren’t just garbage, but dangerous, unkillable prisoners as well.

  30. Blackboom’s central civilization is built around a stringent caste system. Everyone knows readily where they stand in station compared to those around them. However, it is not an entirely rigid caste system. Every year there are great Games in which one can win elevation of their caste, find entrance into one of the great vocations, or through penalty of disgrace lose station. Thousands enter, and less than a percent actually attain actual glory. Those few who gain reward through luck and skill are handed over to the royal surgeons for modification, each caste being represented by a dominate physical trait.

  31. The nonhumans were once the souls of humans’ ancestors, poured like jelly into body-molds made of straw and scraps of tin. By now they’ve taken over their own creation, and their materials have improved significantly.

  32. Blackbloom. The planet is the fifth out in its solar system. Two moons circle around it on opposite sides, yellow and black. For most of the year, only one moon is visible, Shen. It is a mostly nondescript moon, slightly yellow and not very large. However, once a year, the secondary moon, Thornn, is fully visible for one month…or would be if anyone was foolhardy enough to step outside. Thornn is made almost entirely of obsidian, no one knows how or why. All they know is that when Thornn is in the sky…the dark ones come above ground and hunt.

    I hope my idea gets picked…I love this idea!

  33. Aethos is one of the great cities of Blackbloom. It is collloquially known as the “Sky-City” due to the various tiers and platforms containing the city proper rising from the ground to well above the cloud line. How high one lives in the city is a denotation of rank and class with the working classes living in the shadow of the city down on the ground. Even still living on the ground of Aethos holds a kind of glamour for the working classes. Aethos is the premiere manufacturing ground for ethereal technology and even the poorest in the city usually have one or two wonders that those living farther afield would die for. Water in the city is delivered via a ‘trickle-down’ aqueduct resulting in four rather spectacular waterfalls that also power the city’s hydroelectric plants. Because of this those approaching the city by airship are treated to the iconic view of the city wreathed in rainbows. Far from the ears of the ruling elite in the city there are whispers of a shadow court beneath the earth. If one finds access to “The Shade” one discovers the literal underworld of Aethos where the weak, infirm and amoral all share the shadows in a twisted mockery of the bright city. Thieves, assassins, and a thriving black market trading in stolen ethereal technology are all found in The Shade, as well as alchemists, sorcerers and other Will-Workers of great skill and little scruple.

  34. The gods in Blackbloom are not worshiped. They are dead.

    They were killed.

    They were killed when mortals decided that enough monuments were built.

    Monuments built with mortal sweat and mortal blood.

    They were killed when mortals decided that the god’s laws for them were unfashionable.

    Unfashionable laws that demanded mortal sacrifice and mortal pain.

    They were killed when mortals decided to stop fighting.

    To stop fighting each other for divine favor.

    They were killed when mortals discovered the true laws of the world, and that the gods had no claim to their dominion.

  35. @Jared

    Love that, of course then there would have to be hidden cults that consider the gods to have been martyred and seek to resurrect them and will willingly commit any atrocity in the name of their cause.

  36. Sunrise spills yellow light across fields of wildflowers. For a moment, the world is bright patches of color, is calm and quiet. Soft.


    In the seconds that follow, the calm is broken apart. Blackbloom’s beautiful violence.

    Claws coated in dark ooze dig through petals and leathery bodies rip open blossoms, splattering black ichor over the field. Thousands of wings stir up a shrill buzz. Fair warning: Our little monsters wake up hungry.

    Fields left ravaged, broken stems and naked dirt drink up the sludge and get ready for tomorrow.

    It’s a beautiful place. If you can survive the morning.

  37. Each species has a branch of government, based on what they do best. The Lex’na handle the legislation. They communicate telepathically, and don’t waste time in debate. The Kellia, with their long tradition of leadership through combat, decisive thinking processes, and ability to regenerate limbs, lead the executive branch. The humans? The humans are judicial. The humans made the compromise, and it was obvious what they had to be.

    Only the humans could even attempt to understand where the other sides were coming from.

  38. The planet Blackbloom, overrun by humans, is dying. The dominant factions of the humans are the Faithful, who live by the books of various religions, and the Scientists, who live by Experimental Method. Recently, the Scientists have solved the problem of fusion power.(When you say humans and non humans dwell on Blackbloom, I see living creatures that are not human, but not necessarily humanoid, or sentient.)

  39. The black bloom is an easily cultivated dark, fragrant flower. When it’s seeds are crushed and burned, it generates ecstatic visions. Many people spend their days lost to the black bloom. A few struggle to revive their crumbling society from the lethargy of the black bloom.

  40. I neglected the alien and wanted to revise my entry:

    Blackbloom is a plague that is turning all living things evil — plant, animal, human and alien alike. It feeds off of magic and those strong in magic are hunted by those infected. There are various theories on how it started, but nobody is certain. Magic is outlawed by many governments. Fear is the catalyst that feeds prejudice against magic wielding worldwide and those that have the power have started to band together. Factions of aliens and humans allied and factions of haters on both sides, independent of each other and hating all the other groups.

  41. This is a fantastic idea! Here’s my entry:

    “The peace of Blackbloom is shattered after the Blooming: thousands of people are marked by the Blackbloom, an eldritch force suffusing the universe, allowing them to warp their physical realities. Races and factions contest with each other to control or free the Bloom Bearers and their powers. Other just wish to answer the questions brought up by the Blooming: What is the Blackbloom? Why were the Bloom Bearers chosen? Is there a limit to their powers? Were there noticeable events preceding the Blooming?”

  42. Blackbloom is Earth, long from now. The name is from a psychotropic fungus that escaped after being developed in the lab, and now affects almost everybody.

    The fungus increases the lifespan, creativity and intiuitive capacity, lowers inhibitions and sends its bearers irrevocably mad.

    Blackbloom is ruled by the oldest and maddest. A small cabal has found a cure.

  43. Very interesting concept—collaborative world-building.

    We’re trying out story telling in a shared world…66 writers would write stories in a shared setting in the four weeks of October:)

    We’re calling it the Rule of Three, and today is the last day of sign-ups!

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