The basic idea of the world is this:
This world isn't your standard D&D world. It is one that is made up of landfalls that float through the air as islands exist in the sea. There is a strong naval/marine influence on the culture, not in water but rather on ships that float through the air. The typical myths and background of maritime cultures will pretty much be in place though, such as stories of deep sky monsters that torment ships and crew as well as things like magical flotation devices powered by temporary 'fly' spells. There are many landfalls populated with many creatures. The dominant creatures are humans, elves, and dwarves, but the world basically supports all other creatures supported by the D&D framework.The Context
Currently, in the area that the campaign takes place, there are three 'realms' (the term realm pretty much means kingdom or empire) of concern to you guys. In the ancient dwarven language they are Tookwen, Fliegt, and Flageh. Tookwen is the most ancient, steeped in autocracy and bureaucracy. They have huge fleets of giant 'greek fire' spouting battleships that are carried aloft by great sacks of heated air. The fleet moves slowly, but purposefully, and its women and men are quite skilled. Tookwen is an elven empire, but all races make up its people (but mostly elves). Their cities are made up of great buildings with domed roofs in the fashion of old Russia.
Fliegt is a human empire that is relatively young. The people of Fliegt are crafty and adaptive. They are also much more adept at magic than any of the other races, and so their fleets are carried through the expanse of space between the landfalls on ships magically flown. They move quickly but often rashly and have ever been at odds with the empire of Tookwen. The cities and dress of Fliegt are also akin to domed styles, although their domes are typically plaster and not ornate metal like Tookwen. The dress of the people of Fliegt resembles a cross between the nomads of Arabia and north Africa (the Beduin) and the Mongolian nomads. Much of the population is in fact nomadic, both on land and air
Finally Flageh is a dwarven empire. Also quite ancient the dwarves have no use for hot air and magic (or at least not as much!). They have, since time immemorable, used their alliance with dragon kind to have their airships pulled through the expanse by great dragons. To see a fleet of Flagen ships is to see great chariots pulled by fiery dragons bursting through the air. Indeed a sight to be seen. Although the armies of Flageh are much more well suited to raiding than to head-to-head warfare, some say that waging war through raids is the only way to do it!
In any case, you will all start as conscripts of the Tookwen army. Not the Tookwen navy, but the army. The army in Tookwen is the lowest social level in the realm, often made up of slaves like yourselves, while the navy is held in highest esteem. Your characters can come from pretty much anywhere, either Tookwen itself, Flageh, or Fleigt. Just email me and I will provide more background where needed.
If you would like to venture beyond the realms I have already outlined that is fine. There are many smaller realms on the hundreds of little landfalls throughout this world with distinct cultures and so on. All of them at one time or another were/are under the control of one of the main realms however. So, feel free to dream up whatever you like and I will try to fit it in...
This world is made up of the landfalls of the many strata that orbit the 'Center' (tuman tongue(elvish): Chyentayir, Flagahn tongue(dwarven): Kentrum ) of this world. The Center is a very powerful light source and the origin of the force that keeps the world together. Each landfall revolves around the Center in a similar orbital fashion as the planets revolving around our sun. These orbits are numerous, but they are split into what are known as strata. Each strata represents a particular group of landfalls that share orbits that have a similar distance from the center.
There are many strata, although only the first two are known to the lore of the realms. The first is Atwah, it is a hot, dry strata, filled with small, numerous, and quickly revolving landfalls. Hetwah is the second strata, and it is where the three realms of Fleigt, Flagah, and Tookwan (Tuman in elven) reside. Here it is warm and wet and steamy. Great clouds and mists flow along the air currents that dance around the landfalls of Hetwah. Between each strata there is a great storm, where wind currents are brutal and storm clouds deadly. Many have gone into those clouds, few have returned. That being said, there is still minimal contact with the lands in the Atwah strata. Once, long ago, trading was common between to two strata, but now it is all but ended.
The landfalls hang in the air, their surfaces facing away from the Center. Many people and animals inhabit the landfalls, all living according to their cultural norms. The people of Tookwen relish the hieghts as the realms of the gods, and so only the most wealthy build their towers high into the sky, while the poorest of the poor mine the insides and undersides of the landfalls. In both Fleigt and Flagah, the heights are not for only the rich. The humans of Fleigt are largely nomadic. They erect their buildings throughout their anual nomadic journeys with the use of magics and crafts unknown in Tookwan. The dwarves of Flagah live as much on the surface of their landfalls as they do within and withunder, building bridges that hang in mid air and tunnels that connect the withunder lands with the surface.
The days and nights in the realms are not as those of the standard fantasy worlds. Days on the surface of the landfalls are lit by diffuse light, much like those days spent under light clouds in standard realms. That is of course until one leaves the surface of the landfall, where the Center burns brightly on the ships that sail through the air (as such, the wealthiest of Tookwan recognize their classes by the paleness of their skin). Nights are dark and eerie on the landfalls, while in the airways they are masked in a dark umbra or shadow. The days and nights are governed by the cycles of the great storms that seperate the strata.