This thread has been taken from an rpg.net thread. I thought it was cool, so I imported it here.
First, an overview of the setting, and details on two of the nations of the Sky Realms. Please read them, and let me know what you think! I'm interested in your thoughts, opinions, critiques, ideas, life stories, personal experiences, and everything else. The feeling I'm shooting for is kind of "high fantasy 7th Sea meets D&D at 30,000 feet."
A note: physics here are whatever we want them to be. Don't worry too much about atmospheric pressure or air friction or whatnot.
"The legends of my grandfather say that in ages past men lived on solid ground; the rock below and the sky above, wholly divided. We did not fly, then, for the soil gave us all we needed and we were content to spend our lives in its vast expanse. I wonder- did some souls even then look to the heavens, watch the soaring spirals of the hawks and see for themselves a place there?
It is difficult, perhaps impossible, for a citizen of the Sky Realms to imagine such a world. Here among the clouds it is rare to find an island that cannot be walked across in a day or two; the very notion of rolling plains and mountain ranges that stretch out for endless leagues beggars belief. Even great W'gasa, largest of the lands we know, seems small compared to the legends that our oldest books hint at.
What could have happened to destroy that world and create this one? What cataclysm of fire or water could have sundered such massive continents and left behind only our own islands, floating forever in the wind and clouds? How did we come to be here among the flying birds and fish, neighbors to dragons and so close to the stars?"
---from Akadia Gray's "History of Earth and Wind"
The Sky Realms float among the endless clouds and wind, islands transplanted from sea to air. No one has ever tried to count them all, but certainly they number in the thousands or even tens of thousands. The smallest islands are little more than rocks, hardly big enough for a man to lie down on. The largest, W'gasa, takes weeks to walk across and is home to a fully developed ecology of plant and animal life.
Only a fraction of these islands are inhabited by people. Many more are home to birds and fish, as well as more exotic creatures like wyverns and harpies. In the distant stretches of sky, far from the settlements of men, the great Dragons still rule the winds with claw and fang. Explorers from the civilized lands have mapped only a relatively small area, and nearly anything could be waiting out beyond the Ocean of Storm...
The islands of the Sky Realms achieve their magnificent defiance of gravity due to the properties of a material called floatstone. This quartz-like mineral can be found in all islands, holding aloft the other materials that surround it. There are seven colors of floatstone matching the seven colors of the spectrum. Red floatstone is the weakest, only able to keep itself aloft. Violet is the strongest- a few pounds of violet floatstone can hold several tons of rock and soil in the sky. There are rumors of other kinds of
floatstone- white and black being the most often spoken of- but no reliable evidence of their existence has been found. A Note on Directions
Navigators in the Sky Realms use the four cardinal compass directions of North, East, South, and West, based on the sun and prevailing east-to-west wind (there is no magnetic pole to indicate north). In addition, 'cloudward' indicates movement toward the Stratus, and 'skyward' indicates movement away from it. Cardinal and altitudinal directions are often combined, as in "The Shadow Islands are skyward east of W'gasa." Aerography of the Sky Realms
Travel within the Sky Realms is complicated by the necessity of thinking in three dimensions, taking into account both the horizontal and the vertical. To facilitate this difficult task, a basic knowledge of the aerographic features of the Sky is necessary.
At the lowest altitudes that can be safely reached, one finds the Stratus. This is a thick, endless layer of greyish-white clouds, peppered here and there with flashes of lightning that betray the storms beneath its seemingly placid exterior. The Stratus extends for miles in all directions- no reliable sailor has ever reported a break in its cover. Few airship crews are brave enough to descend into the Stratus, and fewer still have returned from the tempest that blows there. None have ever found the other side of the Stratus and returned with the tale.
To the east lies the Ocean of Storm, an incalculably large section of sky constantly wracked by wind and rain. It is nearly impossible to navigate this treacherous section of sky, so it serves as an effective boundary to exploration in that direction. There are no natural barriers in the other cardinal directions, and exploration is a continuous and popular activity.
A mile or so above the Stratus, one finds the first islands. So near the Stratus, most islands are little more than chunks of rock suspended by small deposits of floatstone. As you climb higher, the islands grow larger and become inhabited by several species of birds and fish. A large section of sky here lies in the shadow of vast W'gasa, where the lack of light and rain have brought about strange and sometimes dangerous animals and lichens.
Approximately 100 miles skyward of the Stratus is W'gasa, the largest island known. It is roughly oblong in shape, about 700 miles across at its longest point. W'gasa is home to many flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the Sky Realms, including many large non-flying predators. W'gasa also has the only jungle environment in the Realms, as well as several large fresh-water lakes and rivers. W'gasa is inhabited by a few primitive tribes of men, and some of its out-lying islands shows signs of previous inhabitants. The Wrecks constantly sail over, around, and under W'gasa, mining the floatstone deposits and 'collecting' ships and materials that fall from above. They tend to avoid the shadow of W'gasa, except for
hunting and harvesting parties.
As one progresses higher and higher, one encounters more and more islands, many of them inhabited. Approximately three hundred miles east of W'gasa and 150 miles skyward from the Stratus, in an area usually thick with clouds from the Ocean of Storm, lie the Shadow Islands. More centrally over W'gasa and 50 miles higher are the archipelagoes of the Alliance of Free Isles. At about the same altitude but far to the southwest is the mighty volcano, Gruumsha. 300 miles skyward from the Stratus and to the southeast of W'gasa lie the sorcerous isles of Straval. Their exact locations cannot be mapped, because the magic of their inhabitants moves them from time to time. At the same altitude and centrally over W'gasa, one finds the most cloudward holdings of the growing Erinyan empire, including the recently conquered land Tasaj in the west. The capital of Erinya, Geryon, lies another 50 miles higher and to the south. Erinya's most skyward holdings are a further 50 miles beyond that.
At the same altitude as the upper reaches of Erinya, the long islands of Nusfjurlund can be found far to the northeast. Several large fields of red floatstone deposits are simultaneously a navigational hazard and a rich mining opporunity. Their relative isolation suits the native elven population well, although their raiding longboats are an increasingly common sight in the eastern regions of Erinya.
Finally, a full 100 miles skyward of Erinya's highest holdings and 500 miles above the Stratus, is the holy nation of Novala. Most airships cannot climb to this incredible altitude, making travel impossible without the aid of Novalan starvessels. Novala itself is a middle-sized island located almost directly above the center of W'gasa (just east and north of Erinya's capital Geryon).
While this overview notes the larger and more important nations of the Sky Realms, it is essential to understand that there are scores of other inhabited islands at all altitudes and in all directions that do not owe allegiance to any of those listed above. Resources
The people of the Sky Realms are adept at taking and using the gifts that the sky provides. Frequent rain clouds drifting from the Ocean of Storm along the prevailing winds provide plenty of drinking water, with rain-catcher barrels a common site in every village and town. Most inhabited isles have layers of soil suitable for growing crops, and the strong sunlight that most areas enjoy makes for healthy crops. The lack of ground space limits harvest sizes, though, so most people supplement their diets with fishing. Ranching is almost unheard of, and horses are very rare- pegasi are much more useful. Metal deposits are very common in islands throughout the Sky Realms, and mining is made easier by the ability to approach deposits from the bottom as well as the top.
The two most valuable commodities are wood and floatstone. Most arable soil is used for farming. Forests are rare and generally razed to make room for crops after their discovery. Only Erinya has dedicated forest-islands to provide wood for their shipyards. W'gasa also has vast quantities of wood in its jungles, but no one has been brave enough yet to go after it.
Floatstone, while extremely common, is tricky to mine effectively. The magical properties of floatstone are all that keeps the islands flying, and removing the floatstone leads to islands sinking or even falling. This poses a great danger to work crew and anyone unfortunate enough to be flying or living below the mining operations. There is also the difficulty in storing and transporting the stronger forms of floatstone. Red floatstone is neutrally buoyant- unhindered, it neither rises nor sinks and is easy to work with. Violet floatstone, on the other hand, literally shoots up into the sky when freed from its surrounding minerals. Mining and storing such a volatile material is difficult, but potentially very lucrative. Floatstone has many uses, particularly in the building of ships and as fuel for airship engines. On the People of the Realms
The Sky Realms are home to several intelligent peoples, including these:
Humans make up the majority of the Sky Realms' inhabitants. They have a wide variety of cultures and customs, with physical traits that vary from area to area. Most humans feel no special racial bond- instead, they identify along family, clan, and national lines.
Dwarves inhabit the great volcano of Gruumsha, as well as many islands surrounding it. Standing about 4'5, dwarves tend to be a bit stocky and often sport long beards, although they are also often clean-shaven or have had their beards shortened by accidental fires. Dwarves often feel a strong racial and family bond, although they bear no ill-will to other races. The dwarven society in and around Gruumsha is focused heavily on echnological and mechanical innovation and production, as well as trading/selling the results of these labors. Dwarves can also be found living in almost every other nation, often working as mechanics, smiths, or tinkerers.
Elves are not common outside their homeland of Nusfjurlund, but can be seen from time to time in human or dwarven lands. They are tall and strongly built, with large, pointed ears and eyes tilted 30 degrees up from their noses. Elves feel very strong racial and family bonds, and are generally mistrustful or even hostile toward other species. Nusfjurlund society is clannish and features constant feuds. This aggression is also turned toward other races in the form of piracy and raiding parties. Nusfjur pirates are known and feared for their ferocity.
Saurians are a race nearly extinct. These winged, reptilian men stand about 5' tall but weigh only around 80 pounds- their bones are hollow to aid in flight. Saurians arms are, more accurately, wings- with four-fingered hands at the ends. They are incapable of true flight, but are extremely talented gliders and can use thermal winds to gain altitude in favorable conditions. Saurians also have long tails that, while not prehensile, can be used to aid balance. Saurians no longer have a homeland- if they ever did, no memory remains of it. Small communities of Saurians do still exist, but mostly they live among humans and dwarves. They naturally tend to be wanderers and do not feel a strong family bond, although they are often very loyal to
and protective of other Saurians due simply to their rarity. Saurians are highly valued as airship captains, as they have an instinctual understanding of the complexities of three-dimensional maneuvering and combat.