You grew up in a small village on the southern border of the empire. There is a cove with a light house on the edge down the street from your village square. Alfronzia is a nice a pleasant place about 700 people live there full time but you have 3-4 two masted sailing ships and a whaling ship stationed out of there traders come and visit regularly. The city sits on a gentle slope leading down to the water where two piers jut out into the bay. All of you have grown accustomed to living near the water and on and about ships and as such each one of you automatically knows how to swim and how to climb fairly well. The ships take all regardless of race Dwarves are prized for their ability to be the rocks during storms. Elves are prized for their ability to climb the rigging with ease. Halflings and Gnomes are awesome as they can fit in the small places and particulary usefull for the whaling boats they sit at the front and are responsible to ensure that the harpoon guns hit targets. As they are small it enables a full compliment of rowers and a bigger weapon in the bow of the chase boats. Humans are good as they are the all around most adapatble race. Half Orcs are much sought after for their brute strength.
Slavery is not uncommon in the realm. It however illegal to force someone into slavery. They can be sold into slavery to pay of debts for the family. They can be put into slavery as a punishment for crimes commited. However, it is always opean season on the slavers themselves. Most people despise them but enough agree to their precepts that they are protected when in large towns and cities.
Magic has started acting a little crazy in the last 20 years and as such most praticoners are regarded as a little crazy themselves.