I'm liking this so far. I'm with the ideas as listed:
-slavery exists in some reaches of the empire and is still tolerated in the empire at large, but is banned in the central empire. Far better to replace it with contract slavery-- criminals, debtors, the desperate and impoverished people can put themselves under indentured servitude contract for determined periods to pay off crimes to society, massive debts, etc. Of course, the economic system is slanted against them. Like credit cards.
-Definitely the boomtown idea. For inspiration, I can see the roots in Deadwood (tv show based on historic town of same name). I still think we should use Phantom's fort schematic for now and tack on temporary residences, portable vendors, etc. on the outside.
-Can we use either the Purple Duck or a combination of both? I don't have the resources on the 'standard' Pathfinder pantheon, and PD is all open-source (whereas core PF has set domains, etc. but deity names and stories are proprietary). They have the domains/inquisitions, etc. all plotted out too... I'm in favor of picking a combination of what works. I'm not sure about traits though, so if a pc depends on a specific deity for background, I say we bring that deity into the mix and roll with it.
-To add onto Phantom's idea about the local crop not yet having yielded... how about this? 5 years ago there was a successful expedition. They had some successes, made some alliances with the aborigines, and started several plantations. Something unknown happened to them; two or three major ones were destroyed, their population wiped out. The empire blamed slave revolts or the natives (depending on who you ask) but it's unclear just what happened. I'd like my character to be a survivor of that-- she has very little idea what actually happened, but was sent back to the mainland to live with family for a couple years, and is plagued by missing memories, nightmares, and physical scars.
-OK, let's figure out what species seems to 'thrive' here... definitely jungle/swampland. Chulanowa's suggestions. I like the Tengu, but they're so non-human it's a challenge for me to imagine being surrounded by them. I'd support a mix of any of the followingL Lizardfolk, kobolds, Grippli, Vanara, Wayangs?
-I'm with you Chulanowa... they think "Oh, we discovered elven ruins here! no, wait... these are... ok, we found Dwarven ruins MUCH OLDER than anything we've seen bef... hold on, there's something else here... wow, look at all those eyes--"
How soon does everyone think they can have a character ready? Even just a concept?
Have I missed anything? Is there anything, other than what's above, we still need to discuss before deciding the game's starting point?