The fantasy genre can most easily be summed up by describing any classic medieval tale such as the stories of Camelot & Beowulf. Examples include the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, R.A. Salvatore & George R.R. Martin (a lot of initials there, I know).
Reading a story about a group of knights destined to save the kingdom from a horde of dragons?
Watching a movie about a sorcerer's apprentice desperately trying to save his sister from a witch's curse?
Playing a video game about a thief attempting to collect parts of an ancient relic meant to undo all the wrongs of his past?
Any of these could be a fantasy story.
Fantasy often includes (but is not limited to) swordplay, magic, demons, undead, dragons, trolls & far too many more things to list.
Examples of literature directly associated with fantasy settings include: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, American Gods by Neil Gaiman & Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
Examples of fantasy films & games include: The Princess Bride, Willow, Pan's Labyrinth, Neverending Story & the Elder Scrolls series.
A few other role-playing games suitable to this setting include: Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder & Legend of the Five Rings.
Steampunk is a parallel shift in machinery & technology set in 19th century Victorian Europe. This particular genre of science fiction is often credited to Jules Verne & H.G. Wells but also draws its influence from Fritz Lang, Mary Shelley & many others.
Steampunk assumes steam-powered & retro-futuristic machinery came into vogue & stayed there. Instead of more advanced forms of power, such as nuclear energy, being discovered, the world continued to make advancements of steam-related machinery. Machines were infused with various means of using electricity to produce a more anachronistic form of technology.
Eventually the rise of steampunk technology gave way to extremely advanced, though antiquated in appearance, machinery & weaponry such as ray guns, airships & even sentient, albeit clockwork, robotics.
The Victorian era also remains in full swing regarding attire & attitude. Wearing armor makes one look barbaric & anything other than a suit or dress stands out in a crowd. Top hats, bustles, petticoats & suits remain the height of fashion. Women are treated as ladies & men as gentlemen. Only the fringe elements of society curse like sailors or live like animals.
Examples of literature directly associated with steampunk settings include: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling, Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa & Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.
Examples of steampunk films & games include: Howl's Moving Castle, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Last Exile, Dishonored & the Thief series.
A few other role-playing games suitable to this setting include: OGL Steampunk, Iron Kingdoms & Deadlands.
Dieselpunk on the other hand, steps right out of the war torn battlefields of World War I & II's European fronts. Its coining is often attributed to Lewis Pollak & has been an up & coming force in "punk" literature & games. Dieselpunk is a sub-genre set somewhere between steampunk & cyberpunk.
Dieselpunk focuses very heavily on the war machinery of the World Wars & plays upon the modern deco style seen in many movies based upon this era. Machinery in this genre has more of a sleek, futuristic design than does steampunk but compared to today's technology, it can still be called retro-futuristic.
Airships shift towards airplanes, ray guns become machine guns & the sky becomes the focus of cities of the future. Military uniforms are the choice of the day, ladies in classic 1940s pin-up apparel & men in the leathers of an aviator.
The most common themes prevalent in this setting include Noir & Pulp. If it's seedy, dark, rainy & involves trench coats, detectives & dames, it might be Noir and/or Pulp.
Examples of literature directly associated with dieselpunk settings include: The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, Sin City by Frank Miller, Hellboy by Mike Mignola, The Watchmen by Alan Moore & The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore.
Examples of dieselpunk films & games include: Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, Final Fantasy VII & the Bioshock series.
A few other role-playing games suitable to this setting include: Cosmopol, War Hammer 40,000 & Children of the Sun.
Cyberpunk is the often called the granddaddy of the "punk" movement & is usually considered to be the precursor to the myriad of its sub-genres, despite its presence within the timeline of the evolution of the "punk" settings. Gardner Dozois, William Gibson & Isaac Asimov include just a few of the genre's most often referenced authors.
Cyberpunk most often focuses on a near-future existence where technology has taken leaps forward such that concepts such as artificial intelligence, biomechanical machinery & even cybernetics are pretty much commonplace. Yet these advanced machineries are often beaten, broken, or rigged to work due to the degradation of society. Cyberpunk is often dark & shadowed by the presence of overwhelmingly powerful corporate syndicates where the average person's life is meaningless amongst the wheels of the machine.
The technology available can accomplish miracles & many of them at the speed of thought. Entire body replacements, backing up minds onto data cores & virtual web space accessible directly by the mind are available to the populace. Even nanomachines are on the verge of being reality. Trench coats, slightly futuristic versions of modern clothing & stylized adaptations of modern styles tend to be dominant in cyberpunk.
Like dieselpunk, cyberpunk focuses very heavily on the Noir setting & the concept of an anti-hero is quintessential to the genre.
Examples of literature directly associated with cyberpunk settings include: Neuromancer by William Gibson, Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow, Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro, Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo & Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
Examples of cyberpunk films & games include: Blade Runner, The Terminator, Johnny Mnemonic, the System Shock series & the Deus Ex series.
A few other role-playing games suitable to this setting include: Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020 & Etherscope.
Dystopian settings are best described as a false or a darkly gilded utopia (a utopia being a perfect place).
Most often some aspect of society is considered undesirable, perhaps even terrifying, by the majority of the populace. In many cases society completely overlooks it, ignores it, or is complacent concerning it, no matter how horrible it may be. Cyberpunk settings, by definition, are often found in dystopic societies.
Totalitarian governments, corrupted military regimes, untouchable corporations, economic collapse, dehumanization & cataclysmic events leading to the slow degradation of society are the norm within these settings.
Examples of literature directly associated with dystopic settings include: Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Make Room! Make Room! By Harry Harrison, Logan's Run by William F. Nolan & George Clayton Johnson, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley & V for Vendetta by Alan Moore.
Examples of dystopic films & games include: Brazil, Repo Men, The Matrix, the Portal series & the Borderlands series.
A few other role-playing games suitable to this setting include: Paranoia, Dark Conspiracy & Call of Cthulhu.
It's exactly what it sounds like. A post-apocalyptic setting revolves around the world after the end of the world.
Just about anything could cause the apocalypse: magic, nuclear war, artificial intelligence, disease & even aliens. In the end, a great many things have been attributed to the end of the world in literature & film so the genre itself has no clear definition on how the world ends, only that it does.
Post-apocalyptic settings focus most often on the world shortly after the fall, although this is not entirely the case. The gritty rise from beneath the ash heap that was the world often produces the most interesting stories regarding a fallen society. Some settings, however, focus on a world decades, centuries, or even millennia beyond the collapse of the world's original societies. These settings often reference an ancient world & use the remains of the previous civilization for various reasons, from mystery all the way to tongue-in-cheek humor.
Examples of literature directly associated with post-apocalypse settings include: The Stand by Stephen King, Judge Dredd by Rebellion Developments, I am Legend by Richard Matheson, The Postman by David Brin & Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle.
Examples of post-apocalypse films & games include: The Book of Eli, Resident Evil, Mad Max, the Fallout series & the Wasteland series.
A few other role-playing games suitable to this setting include: Rifts, Eclipse Phase & Gamma World.
How does Ether put them all together?
A fine question!
Ether primarily focuses on a strict blending of steampunk culture evolving from the remains of a post-apocalyptic fantasy world sliding into a dystopia as a result of the aftermath of the fall.
Society has stepped away from the crass ways of old & has mostly accepted the social expectations & pleasantries of Victorian Europe. Those who haven't are thought of as barbarians & are remnants of a dying civilization.
Many of the leaders of the surviving world have taken advantage of their positions & are manipulating society's directions for their own ends. The lives of an individual man or woman mean little to the top brass & their ends always justify their means.
The world outside the cities which survived the fall remain untamed, hostile & filled with fantastic creatures, magic & unexplained dimensional & even temporal distortions.
Alchemy remains a force of stability in the war between magic & machine. Magic is often considered the fault for the fall & machinery is believed to be the world's savior.
The steampunk technology of Ether is quickly advancing towards the highly artistic & stylized image of dieselpunk, albeit changing mostly aesthetically. And all the while, its practitioners test the bounds of their skill by touching certain aspects of cyberpunk such as cybernetics & artificially intelligent robotics by using steampunk-level technology.