Nifflas: Where Librarians Mean Business

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This setting is the product of a large pile of ideas that had been fermenting in my head for some time. Occasionally, I would open the creaky little door to my subconscious and peek in at the whole mess, perhaps giving it a stir, but otherwise leaving well enough alone. One day, however, I decided to dump the whole mess onto these boards, and many extremely imaginative people said all sorts of very nice things about it. With their gentle care, said mess now supports several new species of fungi, and has even sprouted feelers. So it is that, in its third revision, I present it once more to the lovely folks here, in the hope that I can snag a few more crazies into contributing their strange and wonderful ideas.

Thus, without further ado, here is:

Nifflas: Where Librarians Mean Business


Floating Chunks of Rock

The Day and The Night

Yggdrasil, The Great Library

The Skerries and The Strange Things That Happen There

Strangers and Strange Men, Organizations, Motleys, and All Sorts of Dangerous Folk

Influences and Sources of Shameless Theft

Disclaimer: please feel free to riff on, steal, mangle, distort, twist or do unspeakable things to any ideas presented here, so long as you give credit and don't make any money off it.

Now, there's also a wiki!
Role of adventurers: there is a thoughtful TV series called Mushi-Shi that follows a doctor of the supernatural around as he encounters and attempts to treat various cases; most of the challenge involves riddles of symptoms, causes, the mystery of how it came to be. Besides garnering knowledge and yielding aid, he often keeps the infecting specimen as payment, sells small medicines, and hocks strange mementos of his travels to collectors.

If the PCs are reporters, the fruit of reporting would be uncovering of knowledge and broadcasting it. Broadcasters might pay for their stories of exploration or lost documents. Governments could conscript them to search phenomena scenes for clues. They might have to track down a famous recluse (or more cliché heroes-on-duty) and interview them. I don't see how they couldn't hock odd wares while they're at it to pay for paper plane money, especially if an unfond scissor witch wrecked their last one (with them in it)! The action can derive from avoiding, dealing with, and recovering from the hazards of travel (natural disasters, wildlife, streetlife, costs, misdirected deliveries, ...) uncooperational interviewees, rival reporters, off-course islands, or more mundane fare, such as conspiracies and extraplanar take-over-the-world nonsense.

Floating islands:A gimmick doesn't get past its own existence. Your setting develops so much beyond the the original idea of islands floating that the set could soar even if it didn't literally. The personality, mythology, and culture of the setting all complement each other.

Junkfolk: It remains to be seen what warforged racial feats entail, but I'd imagine one might accessorize oneself ("Oo, fancy that bit of clunk!") and solder it on without much effect in the way of mechanics, like glasses, clothing, jewelry, or tattoo.

Sphinxes: That is directly Mirrormask. Ponder that perhaps "sphinx" and "jinx" are alike by more than coincidence. The Greek Sphinx was a creature of ill luck & misfortune. Maybe you can add something.
I had figured they do things along those lines, plus get embroiled in village troubles occasionally and have to act as de facto policeman in the manner of Dogs in the Vineyard. Also, they would be Librarians, and though they would mainly be compiling entries for the almanac, they'd have to track down those sorry souls who do not return their books on time...

Junkfolk: It remains to be seen what warforged racial feats entail, but I'd imagine one might accessorize oneself ("Oo, fancy that bit of clunk!") and solder it on without much effect in the way of mechanics, like glasses, clothing, jewelry, or tattoo.

I definitely like that image. Consider it yoinked.

Sphinxes: That is directly Mirrormask.

Yep =] I shamelessly stole a fair number of things.

Ponder that perhaps "sphinx" and "jinx" are alike by more than coincidence. The Greek Sphinx was a creature of ill luck & misfortune. Maybe you can add something.

Mmm. That's a good thought, you know.

The TV series looks very cool as well - I'll definitely check it out.
You sir, have been bookmarked.
Wow, just wow. Had to add this to my sig, cause it's amazing.

That said, how rare is vegetation among all this junk and floating rock? If it's fairly rare, you could use seeds and good soil as currency. Of course, if it's too rare, you've got to worry about how people eat.
Holy Crap...
Please tell me you live in Phoenix.
I wanna be in this campaign sooooooo bad...
Thanks for all the compliments everyone.

Shinikama, I live in Ohio, sorry, but feel free to steal it and run it yourself.
Let's see, now that I'm done fawning, how about some questions.

What is below? Is it endless clouds, a deep ocean, or is there just simply nothing? Are the islands arranged spherically, so if you jump off one you'll fall til you eventually come out of the other side?

I especially like the tiefling's flavor and the rumor about God hiding from the paperwork.

I also feel like trying to incorporate some philosophical stuff, like roving gangs of dualists ignoring everything, odd transhumanist philosophers who sit around grafting things onto themselves, and neo-neo-luddites who are determined to incorrectly use all technology (such as wearing teapots and trying to bake thing in airplanes).
Fantastic concept and good job with the illustration choices, really helps to elucidate on what you're describing. It sounds like a glorious hotch-potch of a steam-punk Discworld meets Dr. Seuss and Miyazaki.

I'm bookmarking this now and will definitely keep it mind when I next need to run a more atypical campaign.
Nice work not my kind of world(to run) but really nice job wouldnt mind playing in it though.
James - I pictured it as endless sky, and that their surfaces are all level with one another, though they are at different elevations. It might be neat to have a different arrangement though. I like the Philosopher idea, especially the neo-neo luddites. =)
There was an anime called Sky Land that had something like this. My friend is also working on a campaign setting, but the "islands" are continent size and in a stable orbit in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. Seems like it's become a real popular style of campaign setting recently. I've seen no less than four different backgrounds for them.
I love the idea for this setting. The art is really cool and I think gives you some of the flavor of the setting.
For some weird reason, the physical details of the setting kind of remind me of the various Edge Chronicles books. Floating trees being built into flying ships, cities on floating boulders, a world of limited terrain and infinite sky, an academic/library-based ruling society... they may (or, more likely, may not) be worth a look for some more inspiration.
I have a question about this setting because I might use the base of it and build on it to make it my own. The question is: How do the warlord and warlock work into the Librarian idea. I can see every other base class so far, even the fighter and ranger, except those two. Also when other classes come in any ideas on how to work them in? Because I was thinking another Island comes within plane (depending on traveling distance), or some mode of travel, that has a large quantity of that power source on it, whatever it might be.
The_Fae - The way I imagine it, the Library hires people from all walks of life. Librarians do all sorts of things - searching through the Library itself for new card catalogues, tracking down people who haven't returned books, expanding the knowledge of the almanac. Librarians can be of any class - it's a job, and certain skills may make you better at parts of it. For example, a warlock may develop his skills independently, then become a Librarian, just as one would become an adventurer. Is that helpful?
Yes that does, thank you. So a lot of the Islands' 'adventurers' would probably be traveling librarians I take it, or at least they might be handing information to the Library after the adventure is done. I think this might be the first setting where the adventurers, although heroic and powerful, are not the only ones doing a specific job. It sounds like there are lots of people who go out and look for new information for the Almanac, which is pretty cool because I don't particularly like the whole 'the players are the only people possible to explore outside of towns' idea.

For the junkfolk you could look at I think the 3.5 MM 4 for ideas on various warforged as well as Eberron to get a feel of what racial feats you might like to create. Or I think there is talk, rumours, of the Warforged coming on DDI after the 4th edition MM comes out. If you have a subscription you could wait for that and then expand on the feats they will almost certainly give there. Hopefully this is some useful advice to you.

Maybe if I come up with something original any time soon I'll post it up here, trade ideas with someone who is going to run the campaign. It would be cool if there were more people to trade ideas with.
I think most would be Librarians. Though the pirates, mercenaries, traders, and wanderers might also fit the bill, Librarians are the only ones actively employed to explore the Islands.

The idea that the players are the center of the world is one I'd grown tired with, as nearly every fantasy setting seems to have them fulfilling some prophecy or other and saving the world/universe/multiverse from the cliched evil guy.

I think I'll do that for the Junkfolk. I just need to think up how they'd behave culturally now...
Not all the pc's need to be Librarians. Some could be assistants or guards or captain of an airship or whatever they use to travel.
I don't know if I would be giving my group an airship right away, even though I don't think that is what you meant, but I just like the idea of the characters having some common thread even if their reason for that thread is different. With that said there is nothing wrong the with librarians needing something of a 'sidekick' and a PC just so happens to fit the bill just nicely.

I think a majority of the junk-folk for me are going to be labours, working in the Labyrinth. With their dire insomnia they need something to do and the local government of Day set them to mapping out the Labyrinth, especially has new tunnels get dug up. Some of them though leave small alleys here and there off the maps and act as if they never saw the alley if anyone confronts them on it. Some people think that the junk-folk are making war-junks in the areas that are sectioned off while no one is around. Of course no one has tried asking on the Junkers that has left material off the maps or tried to knock down a newly built wall.

Not really a cultural thing but more of a rumour for you. The junkers won't 'rebel' until Eberron comes out so this is my explanation for them being in the background.
Keep up the good work, I like what I've read here. After reading the first few paragraphs I was immediately struck with flashbacks of Abarat. <3 Barker. I caught the mirrormask reference with the cats too. It's interesting to see someone work this sort of stuff into a D&D game.

You also inspired me to include a unique library in my own CS, which is really nothing more then a single city...not that I will need more then that

Its also entertaining to myself that my city already had a group calling itself the 'Junkers' I may have to steal your appellations as nicknames
OK - Here's my attempt to synthesize the many ideas people have submitted both on the RPGnet forum and the WotC one. Some of this is my own work, but much of it is just an attempt to knit some of the ideas I've read into something somewhat cohesive.

Here's a list of the people whose ideas I stole, though I haven't listed specifically who came up with which one:



Food and Drink

"Ever wonder how the Day got to be the only city worth speaking of on the Islands? Ever wonder where the bread we put on your table comes from? It's the mills, boy. Eh - Pass me tha' bottle. Good lad. Nifflas only stands because of 'em - they're the secret heart of the city. Some say the Library has the power - pah! Can't eat paper, lest yer a Tarrie-Cat. An yer no Tarrie-cat, though ye may look like one. Nifflas grew up around the mills, when the founders figured out how they work. Now listen here, an' I'll tell ye secrets ye must never forget.

The first grinds the bodies of the dead and spits out flour. The dustmen travel the streets and walk the labyrinth the add corpses to their carts, to feed the hungry masses.

The second eats names. Titles, ceremonials, given names. Depending on the worth o' the name, the mill will grind out produce: apples, oranges, lettuce, anything that might come out of the maw of a dragon. That's why the name trade sprung up, ye know - people selling their titles and even birth names to one another. That's why the nobles have so many damn names, and that's where the Nameless come from. Sorry souls who sold every name they had to pay for food.

An' then theres the third. Not a body knows what it does. It's sat on the fifth Isle since time out a mind. No-one's gone in, least ways if anyone did, they never came out again. But the mill turns, so it must be grinding something. Though what it is, and what it's making, no-one knows...

So there's the secret of the Day, boy. That's why the only currency here is a corpse or a name, an' what else gets sold is what don't come out of the mills - magic, services, machines, meat. There's other mills scattered around the islands. Sometimes they produce something useful and a settlement'll grow up around it. Most times not. No-one knows how to build the mills, though some fools say they do. Half the time, ye don't even know what a mill grinds. Ye have to figure it out by trial an' error, or search through the Library on the off-chance that you'll find a book about it. Anyway, there ye have it, and don't ferget it...pass me another bottle, eh.

- Godric Antennae, Miller, Apparently attempting to join the Holy Order of the Inebriated Ones. (Idea taken from Speaker-to-Dreamworlds' post)

"Away from the Day, away from the safety of the mills, food is scarcer, and sometimes you can't afford to buy Dead-Bread. So a Junker has a few options. Sometimes the odd edible plant grows on the islands, but looking for them is always like trusting a sphinx - always a risky prospect. Seed and good earth are worth their weight in names out here, giving as they do a secure, reliable source of food.
In the caverns and dark parts of the Junkyards, mushrooms grow. They're pretty tasty when they're fried up right, but they don't give a body needs. For that, you need Dragon's Breath. This isn't common knowledge in the Day, but Dragons don't breath fire (I don't know how that old yarn got spread around), they breathe life. When you get a dragon angry enough, it'll breathe at you. If it gets you, you'll twist and change, mutate into something unspeakable. But a nice side effect is that in its wake it leaves trees that bear strange, but usually edible fruit, or makes new plants spring up from the ground. So, we get our dinner from angry dragons. Never a dull moment."

- Greth Oldwatch

"And yea, the Inebriated One did sometimes eat his lunch in the junk room, and rather than chucking them in the trash he did sweep the leftovers onto the forgotten remains of his world. And thus it is the task of his followers to seek out the Sweepings from the Divine Plate and eat of them, so that they might commune with our Lord.

And they shall be hidden amongst the junk. They shall peek out from between matresses and old doors, and they shall be good to eat. And thou shalt not suffer to live those not of His church, who attempt to poison the communion by consuming of his holy leftovers."

-Libir Inebrius 13:27-36


Legends speak of islands composed of a hard biscuit whose taste could drive one to tears of wonder. In ancient times of unrest, a young warlord by the name of Trohan hired a town's worth of bakers to make enough biscuits to build a small island, then set it loose to float near an enemy city he was blockading. When the starving inhabitants fell upon the feast they released the hungry creatures Trohan had concealed inside the hollow structure and were slain to the last child. These days, when someone speaks of infiltrating another's defences disguised as something they would want, one speaks of Trohan's Horrors.

Some think the Junkfolk are planning war, building Battle Machines in secret corners of the Gear Forests.

There are bands of roving philosophers who ply the Islands. Nihilists attack everything on sight, while Transhumanists graft technological enhancements to their bodies, and neo-neo-luddites are determined to incorrectly use all technology (such as wearing teapots as hats and trying to use airships as baking ovens, often to their owner's consternation).

Myths and Beliefs

"Ah. Yes. You'll be wanting Prayer Request Form 27B-6. Yes. No, no. That's the Blue one, that's 28A-7. You want the goldenrod. Right. Now, name here. Here, as well. Now I'm going to need to check all the boxes that apply. Finished? Right. Now fill the same form out again twice. Why? Well all offical forms have to be in triplicate, don't they? Right. Now we offer a special deal to all members today - raise your afterlife status for just a little extra. Wonderful. Now if you'll just fill out these forms..."

- Overheard at the Diety Information Headquarters in the Yebba Dim Day

"We are the junk. It is our father and our mother. We arise from it, putting new bits of it onto ourselves and taking old pieces off, and one day return to it completely. We all arise from the same source, and though we may walk and speak, we are never apart from it. In truth, we are all One. We are moments in an enternal stream - the junk flows through us all."

-Tick-Tock, Junk-Priest


I can't figure out what the value of books would be. What is in the Library books? Why would people want to borrow them? I like the idea of players hunting down those whose books are overdue, and I want the Library to have an important place in the world, but I can't figure out what it would be.

I'm wondering what The Parliament of Rooks, the Government of the Yebba Dim Day, would actually do. Would they regulate trade? How would they connect with the Librarians? They would have to have control over the mills to have any real power, I should think. Ideas? (I'm not so great a figuring out the logistics of politics/economics, so help is appreciated.)

Note: First post edited to include the update
I just thought of a possible way to solve the "importance of the Library" problem and Parliament of Rooks problem simultaneously. In Nifflas, people do not eat food as we know it, but they do require sustenance. Rather than consuming fruits, vegetables, and meats, people on the Islands eat stories. The library lends out books, and people read through them, often reading them out loud to their neighbors and families. Thus, it is important for Librarians to make sure people return the books so that others can use them. The Parliament of Rooks controls the flow of books, and have realized that sooner or later the Library's stores will run out. Thus, the Librarians seek out new stories in their travels, not simply for the academic joy of it, but because it literally is their bread and butter. The sphinxes, for one reason or another, can only eat the stories directly, chewing up the pages and making them useless - thus, they are the natural enemies of everyone else.

Of course, this gets rid of the images of lettuce pirates, dragons breathing life, hunting flying pigs, and mills grinding up names. So, now I have to find some way to use it all, or change it to fit.
I'd be careful with the stories as food thing. Maybe have stories be the spices instead.

A soup that was made while reciting old poems might be a heady stew, a steak cooked over a fire whilst told of lost loves might be smoky and just a touch bitter, a cake that was whispered hopes and dreams might be a light, though unfilling, confection.

I definitely like the name-currency idea. One of the things that the books could be used for is names. Almanac Name Encyclopaedicum Vol. XXXXXXI (they're not so good with roman numerals), Rocks (V) and Small Fuzzy Things (I). Including Coprolite, Orichalcum, and Gerbil

About the mills: Do they just grind up the name once? Or can they be used by multiple people? Can I use "Jacob" if someone did last week? Maybe the mill grinds up stories.
As a (future) libtech, I would like to say that your setting makes me warm and tingly inside. Thank you.
I just thought of a possible way to solve the "importance of the Library" problem and Parliament of Rooks problem simultaneously. In Nifflas, people do not eat food as we know it, but they do require sustenance. Rather than consuming fruits, vegetables, and meats, people on the Islands eat stories. The library lends out books, and people read through them, often reading them out loud to their neighbors and families. Thus, it is important for Librarians to make sure people return the books so that others can use them. The Parliament of Rooks controls the flow of books, and have realized that sooner or later the Library's stores will run out. Thus, the Librarians seek out new stories in their travels, not simply for the academic joy of it, but because it literally is their bread and butter. The sphinxes, for one reason or another, can only eat the stories directly, chewing up the pages and making them useless - thus, they are the natural enemies of everyone else.

Of course, this gets rid of the images of lettuce pirates, dragons breathing life, hunting flying pigs, and mills grinding up names. So, now I have to find some way to use it all, or change it to fit.

Hmm, I think the idea of the mills that transmute names and the dead into food are more compelling though... the idea of corpses and names as currency, and of the number of names one has denoting one's wealth and social class, is one that I find very provocative. Perhaps there is another way to manufacture a "need" for stories... maybe airships and other technology are powered by stories? Remember too the adage that "knowledge is power"... perhaps it has a more literal application in this world. Stories and books might also be a source of names, as could new knowledge: as one learns more about the world, one learns more names? One might read Earthsea for further inspiration on this idea; the wizards in the series use magic by invoking the truenames of the objects, creatures and places in the world. Perhaps the world itself has a truename, comprised of elements of the truenames of all of its inhabitants... knowing this could be the ultimate power sought by the Parliament of Rooks.

All in all, this is a very original and inspired effort. I'm interested in seeing where you take it, keep up the good work!
Great! This is where I'd like my world to be in another month.:embarrass

Have you read the book Un Lun Dun by any chance? And watched the film Mirror Mask?
I have watched Mirrormask - I own it, as a matter of fact. I haven't read Un Lun Dun, but I've read some other stuff by China Miéville, and I love his work.
While we are mentioning China I think that if this ever took a dark touch to it, for one reason or another, it might be similar to Peridido Street Station, not that I have read all of it so don't tell me what happens, and the setting. The horribly grafted creatures, can't remember their name, and the bird-folk with their odd 'choice theft' laws I think it was. It holds the same nonsensical amazingness in it, just lightheartedly so far.

On to the food! I vote for James' idea, if it comes to voting, because that pig is nice and all but adding anything that comes from the naming mill makes a disastrous mess as well as disastrous taste. Singing to your milk tastes better than putting stuff from the ground in it any day. I see two odd things with this, what happens to people that have to return a book but need it to spice up food? Do they memorize 'spice' paragraphs or something? *Master chefs might be poets, possibly even making their own spice poems or combining flowing poems into one to make a rich delicacy* And the second is; Do people copy these books? Is it illegal to copy the books or to even sell books? *This goes for the general idea of the campaign as well not just the spices*

I like the idea of using seeds for currency as a lesser form to names. I can see a Firefly like split where seeds/soil goes well outside the city and names are the official currency of the Day and any other 'major' cities.

Edit: I know that for my version of this setting food can be spiced by stories and books can't be copied, only handed over to the Library after being written, so this is a bit of info I came up with, figured I would share.

Chefs use library books to spice up the foods they are making. They sing to the food, or whisper, or in some way recite to the food to give it a specific taste. Master chefs often memorize entire pages of text just to get the right taste for a hamburger.

Wizards are similar to chefs in that they to gain power from reading and reciting books. The poems often times can even be the same ones, leaving some to wonder whether the universe is not just one giant food-stuffs that can be flavour however one likes. Legal wizards must go through the Parliament of Rooks and the Librarian League of Artful Mastery of the Arcane, or LLAMA for short. But those that know a friend of a friend of a friend who knows some one that copies books might be able to learn the Arts without the Parliament or the Llama knowing.
Just throwing this out there, Ghostly, but maybe one of the main jobs of the Parliment of Rooks is to keep books from being copied. This is going off of The_Fae's idea about the wizards.

There might be public books, like the almanac, that everyone can use and copy, but there might be other books, books of law or magic or geography that it is a crime to have without permission. The lowest might result in a fine, maybe a few pounds of flour or a song, while more valuable texts could carry penalties of the stocks, slavery, or even exile to the most harsh and remote islands.

They say that there are books so rare and valuable that it is a crime to even remember what they say. The Parliment employs secret searchers, black robed creatures with stork or crow like masks, to find these thought-crimes and ensure that they never be shared.

A group of ravens is sometimes known as an 'unkindness', so maybe these creatures are known as The Unkindlies.
I can see them also being called Conspiracies, another name for a group of ravens. It would be interesting to have a soothsayer in the game come up to the players and say 'The Conspiracies are conspiring around your thoughts...' or something like that and the PCs would not really know what is going on until they were attacked. Both would be whispered, Unkindlies most often whispered to NPCs and Conspiracies most commonly whispered to PCs just to make it more interesting.

Edit: Are we all using the same site? I see the Parliament of Rooks here, the Unkindness and the Conspiracy. Or is this just a happy coincidence?
This is so bookmarked.
I didn't use that site, sorry (although that's a good find there, mate).

I like both the name Conspiracies and Unkindlies. Since they stay as little more than a rumor to most people, it wouldn't be improbable for them to go by dozens of different monikers.

Also, the site said the collective noun might change depending on what they are doing. So while it's in Parliment it's a Conspirasie, but once you're being chased it's an Unkindlie.

Edit: Ok, scanned. Picture quality is a little low, but basic idea comes across.

Ghostly, have you read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman? It might have a couple of good examples for the Labyrinth.
Mostly Ghostly, I really dig your approach to world-building—being sparse with details so as to activate the reader's imagination—as well as your style of writing. I almost cracked up after reading "A Guy We Met in a Bar".

I'd be careful with the stories as food thing. Maybe have stories be the spices instead.

That's a brilliant idea. Historically, spices have always been very coveted, and it makes sense that it would hold true in your setting as well.

Even then, books don't have to be important for one sole reason. History in general and the last century in particular have shown us just how beneficial knowledge can be if used wisely, and just how dangerous it becomes in the wrong hands. Ambitious politicians and generals have much to gain by acquiring knowledge, especially when it's as comprehensive and centralized as that in the Library. I would expect to see numerous attempts at organized thefts, some of which may well succeed to varying degrees. A flat-out takeover would also be imaginable; from a gameplay point of view, the Library makes for a very interesting battlefield. The victors could use the conquered knowledge to build superweapons or acquire lost treasures, or they could even set all of it on fire in an attempt to forge a future of their own (examples of which can be found in history).

Keep up the good work!
I really like the "stories as spices" idea, but I want to give the Library some real weight and power. Here's my take on ideas people have come up with:

Nifflians must eat both real, solid food and stories, songs, and poems - the richer and more complex the story, the more "food" it provides - and the two compliment one another, with stories acting as spices for food in various ways, making them even more desirable. A single story can be stretched out, but every time it's repeated to someone who has heard or read it already, it loses some of its power. A story can be created, but it has no value to the creator, only to the listener. Stories can be written down, and gain power and permanency from this, but each successive copy is less powerful.

Stories are not the only things of value on the islands, and thus are not the basis of currency, but one can buy a tale from a vendor for a certain fee. Though stories are certainly valuable, names are even more so, being a sort of story about a person, and one reinforced and given meaning and power throughout their life. Titles, even birth names can be sold, and even eaten if one is desperate - a name can be stretched out into a months food, though only a few sorry souls go that far, for when a name is eaten, it is gone forever.

The poor get by on a regular diet of bread, scavenged food, and folklore, the tales stretched thin, only occasionally supplemented by a wandering Librarian. Artisans and such can afford slightly better fare, like a few daily vegetables and perhaps a Library card. As books lose their power eventually, people tend not to keep them very long, but may try to sell them. It is one of the jobs of a Librarian to prevent this from happening.

Some of the books in the Library are books of magic. They are stories about stories, and those who read and understand them gain the power they hold. These books of power are alive - their words can move and twist around the page, the more cantankerous ones can bite or even fly, and some say they have a secret language of their own, spoken through the whisperings and rustlings of their pages. Wizards who have harnessed the power of stories can use them for their ends, making paper airplanes out of words (more than one wizard has frantically told a fairy tale to repair a failing craft in midair), and sometimes even making their words solid and visible. Wizards in training wear raven masks to denote their status, and thus Wizards are often called "Unkindlies" (I like your Unkindlies, James and Fae, but I feel like it would be an impossible task to keep books from being copied, so it makes more sense to me to have them naturally resist it. I Love the sketch, by the way.)

How's all that sound?
I don't really like the stories as food thing in any of its forms, just not really my cup of tea. It's really imaginative and cool and such, just doesn't seem right to me. As for the library's importance, I was thinking that in addition to whatever information each individual book holds, it can also be used as a wizard's spellbook. The person casting spells from it must also possess the card catalog corresponding to that book. Wizards are closely regulated by the Council of Rooks, and must have a special license to gain permanent custody of their spellbook until their death. I like this because it provides a new twist on the overdue book adventure, like maybe a librarian went renegade and stole a book and card catalog to become a wizard. The PCs have to hunt him down and recapture the book. Once a book has been used as a spellbook, it can't be used in that way by someone else, so the amount of wizards is carefully regulated. Also, I like the idea of the books as semi- or even completely alive. The idea of a wizard arguing with his spellbook makes me smile immensely.
P.S. Awesome setting by the way, I definitely want to play this at some point.
So can you starve to death if you aren't told stories? Does every hermit need a well stocked library in order to survive?

I do like how you worked out the repeatability thing. This was bothering me, but the answer you worked out is pretty elegant.

I had originally thought the Unkindlies would only work with thought-stealers and have some sort of way to smell and track down memories (and then rip them out of people's skulls) while lower level clerks would work with the people.

I do, however, like the idea of the Unkindlies as wizards. This lends a ton of flavor to wizards in your setting. I was basing them off of the original plague doctors (this) the image of which would work pretty well for wizards here.
I have to add my applause as well. This is really a fascinating idea for a setting.

A thought to add.

Perhaps, below the Labyrinth, there are people who live on the bottom of the islands. Perhaps gravity is reversed for them, perhaps they just build down from the bottom (and can fall with a missed step.) These people might deny that there are any people on top of the islands, and claim anyone who says so is crazy. Maybe they're strange in other ways, in that they don't need stories to survive (heck, maybe they're even illiterate). Not really anything specific, but I thought the idea of someone living on the bottom of the islands would be kind of neat.

Anyway, something I mentioned while talking about that made me wonder. Are there people who can't read? This seems like it would be a serious problem in the world as you describe it. Perhaps there's even a crazy sect of illiterates who think reading is blasphemous?

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Definitely want to play a cleric of The Inebriated One someday, though. :P
Junkfolk may shun humans and other races because of their need for literature. Perhaps they draw power from the junk that Inebriated One tosses around. Maybe the junk they are built from eventually grows old or bad and they have to replace it with any junk they happen to find in front of them (this would make for some interesting junkfolk).

Just an idea. I really like the setting but I'm not so sure I'll run it right away. Might weird my new players out.
A cultural note for the junkers: When Junkers look at others of their kind the first thing they both look for is how artistic the others use of junk is or how practical, and eccentric, the use of junk is.

Day Above (The part of the city above ground) Junk-folk look for artistic qualities in the use of junk. They might look for rhinestones or vendor trash that is fluidly worked into the frame of the Living Junk. Some Junkers even have stories written into their pieces, such as a line from a love poem in a circle on their finger or a Ballad of Courage on their chests. (The possible equivalent of magical armor and what not if the warforged can't wear armor, or just if they want a cool/different description of their characters)

In the Day Below the Junk folk are less worried about the fancy and artistic and are more worried about what is practical for the work the Parliament has employed them to do. The junkers look for junk that can be used as shovels or to make other contraptions of an eccentric nature. These are what the Day Below Junkers look for, the oddest but best working thing around. They also have maps etched into their frames, or on pieces of parchment that are stuck to them. Some say that these maps show all the sectioned off areas of the Labyrinth so that the Living Junk know where to go to hide or to do whatever it is they do behind those walls.

Note: I write this material in definites because this is what I am using. I just put it up here so others might benefit from it.