This document dates to an earlier instance of this wiki and is very likely not current with the metaplot.
Puzzlebox is more than just the world. Puzzlebox is more than just the terrain. Puzzlebox is more than just home. Puzzlebox is a mind, a machine, and quite possibly somebody's idea of a joke. Nobody ever tries to talk about how big Puzzlebox is, unless they're being ironic. It folds in on itself in such arcane patterns, trying to measure it would be an exercise in neurosis. It's big, that's all, big enough that nothing outside it really matters. And it's still growing.
Puzzlebox has been growing since before the oldest written record— probably since before the oldest biological life. There is no record of its builders, if it had any. It seems to build itself, and it may have created itself. It's not unusual for Puzzlebox to extend another 50,000 km into the void in a single day.
It is, however, most unusual for Puzzlebox to display artistic ambitions. Its titanic crystalline shoots and planet-sized seedpods constantly mutate into new materials and patterns, giving it a certain natural majesty. But only once has it displayed a sense that its construction meant anything to its inhabitants. Only once has it expressed a sense of style. The result is now known as "the Mess".
The Mess was named by its discoverers, who failed at first to recognize anything but uncharacteristic disorder in it. The area is like nothing Puzzlebox has ever extruded before. Instead of hospitable but empty seed-worlds, the Mess came prepared with cities, buildings, rooms, even furniture. There are signs of civilization, though no being had ever lived there. The architecture references cultures long forgotten, and some that only existed in stories. Clearly, Puzzlebox had a point to make. It was as if it had recognized its inhabitants' need for mental stimulation, and created an environment optimized for nothing but.
Most of the beings who live on Puzzlebox have long since evolved past fear and uncertainty and are in no hurry to evolve back. After all, who knew what the Mess was supposed to be? A gift? A prank? A test? A trap? The new outgrowth is otherwise unremarkable— a long, easy life can be had almost anywhere— and few have been willing to take such a risk for the sake of mere novelty. Only a tiny handful of colonists have accepted Puzzlebox's invitation. But there's room for many more...
Puzzlebox is set in a distant future of artificial evolution, surreal technology, strange fashions and decadent leisure. Technology has been woven intimately into the world and the bodies of its inhabitants, blurring the lines between biological and artificial life. New modes of consciousness flower in an environment of near-infinite resources and reality-warping technology. The sentient inhabitants of this artificial Eden no longer need to toil to survive; they posess freedom from scarcity, from biological limits, even from death.
This world's denizens, in all their diversity of thought and form, do more or less whatever they like. Some join factions that express their ideological or aesthetic values, giving them a space to test their theories or just have their own idea of a good time. Although physical violence is virtually extinct, conflict and rivalry often develop between incompatible factions, which settle their differences through artistic terrorism, media blitzing, and psychotronic warfare. Some beings devote themselves to altering or replacing their bodies, transforming themselves into living machinery or living art. Others custom-build new states of consciousness through chemical, electronic, or surgical means.
Most of Puzzlebox's residents know next to nothing about the construct/creature/sentience/whatever-it-is that shelters and provides for them, and those who try to learn more are often frustrated by the paucity of available information. Puzzlebox is huge, probably alive in some sense, probably very old, and may be sentient, but apart from further expanding itself, and casually providing for the wants and whims of the immense numbers of sentients and postsentients who inhabit it, Puzzlebox seems content simply to be, making it extremely difficult for observers to ascertain its motives; the creation of the Mess was a shockingly, and to some, maddeningly, unusual and inscrutable act.
It is also known that Puzzlebox has and will act to defend itself in some circumstances: it will not allow the use of any known weapon of mass destruction anywhere near it. Various factions with motives malicious, suicidal, or unknown, having attempted the use of a panoply of terrifying weapons, have inevitably discovered that those weapons were ineffective: antimatter bombs, hostile nanotech, singularity generators, all have become resolutely inert and harmless when the trigger was pulled. The implicit message has largely permeated Puzzleboxian culture, although every few decades someone makes another unsuccessful attempt. Perhaps typically of three-dimensional sentient life, everyone thinks they're the exception.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of Puzzleboxian existence is that reality can become surprisingly ductile in its proximity. In this sense, there is magic on Puzzlebox; but it's not generally the fireballs-and-newt-tongues style that you see in D&D and Harry Potter. It's more like the dreamlike "magical realism" found in the work of William S. Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, and Grant Morrison, and in films like Being John Malkovitch and City of Lost Children. There are "glitches" in Puzzlebox's reality, loopholes in physical causality that can be exploited by sentient beings. Symbolism and metaphor take on physical reality and myths act as if they were real. Pseudosciences like alchemy and orgone studies work on the basis of belief— if enough sentient beings see a strong enough pattern in something, it'll become a new physical law. This is another reason why surreal things— psionics, genderswapping guns, energy vampires, etc.— can exist in Puzzlebox.
On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult to tell what's "real" and what isn't, particularly in the Mess. Free real estate, shapechanging at will, the power to do almost anything you can put into words... Life for citizens of the Mess is an awful lot like, well, life on a MUCK. And there's a good reason for that— virtual sensory technology is ubiquitous there. Simulated and real experience are so seamlessly integrated for most people that the locals don't concern themselves too much with the distinction. This is why we discourage people from nitpicking "impossible" actions— if somebody seems to do something cartoony or surreal, like turn themselves inside out or blow levitating goldfish from their mouth, hmm, maybe they just transmitted the image to the simites in your bloodstream....