Eventually, the people of this world built airships to travel to other islands, and came to call their world Azure. Around the same time, (about 1980 in our world) the first airplanes were invented, and came to rule the skies, often deployed from airships, now suspended by floatstone, the same material that allows the islands to float, and powered by diesel, extracted from the thick,unbreathable clouds that lie below the clear blue skies of Azure.
It is the year 2039, and you play as a rookie pilot for the Fighter Guild, a mercenary organization comprised of the best pilots Azure has to offer. Being a Guild pilot has its perks. Even the lowest rookie is moderately famous, you fly one of the best planes in Azure, and get to shoot people for a living.
Azure itself is composed first of the Murk, a turbulent "sea" of inert gases and abrasive dust. Plane engines choke, humans cannot breathe, atmospheric dust rips apart any vehicles that enter, and the pressure rapidly increases as you go down. However, some streaks of murk contain heavy hydrocarbons, from which diesel can be refined. Emerging from the Murk is the Eye, an invisible yet powerful updraft, that serves as a magnetic North Pole, a point for the islands of Azure to "orbit" around, and as a massive source of Radio interference. First up around the Murk is the lowlands, only about 12km above the Murk, orbiting the Eye 4 times a year. The lowlands are composed of much of Florida, renamed Tegesta, and is mostly untamed, populated by a few pioneers. Alongside Tegesta, there is the Yucatán peninsula, home to a resurgent maya population. Next up are the midlands. Orbiting twice a year, 100km above the lowlands, they are composed of Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Santiago, the last of which is the half of Cuba that broke off during the Storm. The midlands have the majority of the population of Azure, but are short on resources and their nations are often at odds. Over 200 kilometers above the Murk are the uplands, orbiting one a year. Consisting of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, various small islands, and the Florida Keys, the latter more or less owned by the Guild. They are wealthy and tropical, and constitute the upper crust of Azure. More distant from the Cenral Islands are Nassau, one of the last bastions of pre-storm traditions, and the pirates tangle, the source of the Sky Pirates the Guild formed to combat. There are various errant isles often following highly elliptical orbits.
The optional rules have room for mad science, catholic mysticism, Haitian vodou and mayan ritualism. Warbirds has 4 sourcebooks. You Must be Mad extends rules for mad science and provides examples of projects and organizations, Space Age is just the game Recycled In Space, and World War II and Jet Age are self explanatory. The rules system is cinematic and streamlined. The game's page is here
Tropes appearing in Warbirds include:
- Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The Guild has its so called "drop carriers' which are speedy versions of this trope, intended to bring Guild pilots to the action as fast as possible. Each has capacity for six planes, and can deploy all of them rapidly. Justified by the lack of ocean and need for long range transport for planes. Like most airships in Azure, they are lifted by floatstone, the same mineral that allows the islands to float.
- Ace Custom: You are able to choose a few modifications for your plane from the beginning, and as your kill count grows, you add more and more, such as rotary engines, converting your plane's airframe into a radio antenna to cut through the Eye's interference, bigger bombs and that is only a small sampling of the stock options. If your GM allows mad science, you can make jet engines, 20mm chainguns, RADAR and radio that don't need to be massive, and if your GM allows crazy mad science, just grab your nearest comic book for ideas.
- Ace Pilot: You play as a member of a guild of these, and will rapidly become an ace within the Guild, as you become dogfighting ace after your first 10 dogfighting kills and strafing ace after your first 10 strafing kills, and elite ace after 50 of either. It is, however, rare to become both a starring ace and a dogfighting ace. Being a pilot in this game means being a celebrity who shoots people, and you may find yourself negotiating with potential sponsors, starring in movies and commercials, and fending off stalkers or scandals.
- Cool Plane: What would you expect in a game where you play an Ace Pilot?
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Just having the mad science skill gives you a disadvantage that prevents you from patenting your inventions or recieving any legitimate academic awards for them, probably because even with the best possible success only you can replicate your results.
- The Empire: Santiago certainly has this feel. It's an oppressive dictatorship, is aggressive and expansionist, and is the only nation that won't use Guild contracts
- They Called Me Mad!: The sourcebook on mad science is called "You Must Be Mad!".
- Diesel Punk: The technology in Warbirds is about up to WWII levels, and the Guild has a few pieces of 50's tech like titanium and bulletproof glass
- Humans Are Warriors: In the Space Age sourcebook, the other species of Azure's region of space consider humans this way, as Earth and Azure have higher gravity than most other inhabited world, giving humans higher than average resistance to G-forces, and have generally faster reflexes than most other species.
- Mad Scientist: The rules allow you to play one and include them in the game, and mad science is the subject of the sourcebook You Must Be Mad. Plausible mad science allows you to more or less bring the technology up to modern day, while crazy mad science is well, crazy.
- Private Military Contractor: The Fighter Guild is a Private Airforce originally formed to fight sky pirates.
- Recycled In Space: The purpose of the Space Age sourcebook.
- World in the Sky: Held up by "floatstone" which loses this property when heated. Taken advantage of to make airships.