The Isles of Aetherea do not rest upon the ocean.
There is a general lack of curiosity as to why this might be, as it seems obvious to anyone with a mote of common sense that some primordial wizard or god raised the lands high into the sky and set all the people on them to escape the devastating winds below. For most people, the question doesn’t really come up. People live on rocks that float above an unending storm, and that’s the way it’s always been.
Sociologically speaking, Aetheria is a bronze-age culture with emerging codes of law and governance. In practice, there isn’t much difference between indentured servitude and slavery, and land is at a premium. City-states are the norm, with dozens and even hundreds of islands tethered together with rope-and-timber bridges around a Petraepolis (rock city). Some are estate-sized expanses where the wealthy live in relative luxury, some are just barely big enough for a grown man to sleep on, provided he doesn’t turn much in his sleep.
As land is at a premium, those with the means and skills to do so are often hired to strap sails onto house-sized rocks and fly to the turbulent volcanic regions to capture new lands with the aid of powerful sorcery.
Thyellemagi (Storm conjurers) control the winds, calling up powerful gusts from the ever-blowing storm in the abyss below. These are often hansomely paid for their role in filling the sails of the rock-island ships.
Aimasideri (Bloodsmiths) use the essence of life itself to shape weapons, tools, and homunculi. They tend to be pretty hardy, as their magic creates tools which they must then use.
Psykeratoni (Soul Holders) Legend says that in ancient times, these mages could make men into puppets and bend them to their will so completely one would never know they were ensorceled. In these enlightened modern times, everyone knows that even the best psykeratoni leave obvous traces, and are employed by city-states for their role in maintaining order, by determining truth and enforcing exiles.
Playing the Game
Expected play will be a group of mercenaries or Breakers who, though of questionable ethics, find themselves fighting against an evil conspiracy or wicked tyrant and are therefore, nominally speaking, ‘good.’ The ‘you meet in a tavern’ moment may be played as ‘You wake up, as if from a long sleep, on the crumbled remains of a ship you don’t remember owning. You’re older than you last remember and you have only the vaguest memories of those around you, who look similarly confused…”
Players will piece their lives together, deduce or murder their way to the truth and, Conan style, destroy the evil kingdom because it offended them personally.
Dungeons and Dragons would be -good- acceptably for this system, although there was a disagreement about whether 3.5 or 4 was more deconstructionist. This is a setting where the extreme fluffiness of Fate works quite well, and if you go that route we suggest checking out The Dresden Files RPG which has a fairly fleshed-out magic system you could easily adapt. And though it didn’t make it into the podcast, 7th Sea was ratified after the fact by the Gang of Two on the basis of swashbuckling, bloodline magic, byzantine conspiracies, and nautical themes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Leiber_bibliography Fafhrd and Grey Mouser
Music Stellardrone Airglow http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Stellardrone/