Without the current events and conflicts a world setting is nothing but a collection of people and places. In Cronia there are several things currently causing conflict among the shards.
First, something is destroying shards. It is occurring mostly in the lower tier shards, skimming just above the storms. One moment the shard is there and fine. The next moment the storms swell up, lightning lashes out, and when it is all over, the shard is gone. This is driving lower shard dwellers out of the lower tiers and up into some of the higher shards. This is in turn trickling up, making space a premium amongst the shards.
Individual collections of shards that form small city states, or alliances are at each other’s throats, attempting to push each other off of bordering shards. Others are developing through collection of other shards, lashing smaller shards to larger ones with struts and bridges, and building out and up from their current places.
All in all this conflict is making things easier for the steamers. Like the pirates of our own Earth, steamers are nasty pieces of work that general carry only how much you have to offer them and how valuable your ship or its component parts are. To them, you are nothing but storm fodder. While many steam ships exist that use steam power for extra propulsion over their own magical engines, the steamers reliance on them to help catch their prey means they often billow massive black clouds up from their boiler rooms, giving them their distinctive soot covered look and the name they now embrace. Other forms of pirates exist as well, the steamers are just the most well known.
In addition, the fights between the various schools of magic are heating up. The destruction of Gerond by the School of Earth has the School of Wind up in arms and threatening all out war. The School of Nature, usually a peaceful loving bunch has threaten outright hostility after the expansion of the Chaar Empire that surrounds the School of Fire. Alliances are tenuous at the best of times, and the natural enmity the elementalists feel of their opposition casters due to the effect their magic has on each other is boiling over to the point of near outright war.