Even if you ignore the city's ridiculous origin, however, you're stuck with a city that's still ridiculous in its own way. The city's government is determined by boat races, the local pirates come standard so long as they adhere to a few fairly simple rules, and pretty much everyone has an eye toward becoming the top dog. The result is a place that's refreshingly open about all of its dangers, but despite that, it's no less threatening. You'll be threatened by brute force rather than subterfuge, but you're still facing down the wrong end of a weapon.
While Limsa's pirate-happy attitude evokes recollections of the Tenshodo city of Norg in Final Fantasy XI, there's also a strong sense of Bastok in Limsa's overall full-steam-ahead approach. It's an outgrowth of the city's origins as a natural harbor that over time evolved into a fully functional city. Nothing has ever been planned in the history of Vyldbrandt's major port; every bit of social structure just fell into place almost accidentally. It's a haven for pirates who live off the high seas, due in no small part to the fact that the city was founded by an equal mix of pirates and traders.
That isn't to say that there's no law in city. The Knights of the Barracuda are meant to be the source of order, and to their credit, they do a decent job. But they're outnumbered badly by pirates, and most of the 'Cudas don't actually care about what the pirates do as long as they're not doing it within the city itself. A lot of awful things are permitted to happen provided they're happening offshore (or at least out of sight).
If you're reminded in some ways of the world's largest shady bar, you're not entirely off-target. Limsa survives off of pirates coming in and spending their ill-gotten gains, and that's given rise to some noteworthy industries. Culinarians have access to ingredients from all over Eorzea, and smiths can work with metals from the Shroud all the way to the southern tip of Thanalan. That's not counting all of the trade that makes its stops in Limsa Lominsa as a safe port of call before heading for Ul'dah, resulting in the occasional "misappropriated" package here and there.
But overall, the city's character mostly involves ignoring what isn't an immediate problem. Everyone's expected to maintain a certain level of decorum, but past that, you're on your own. This has resulted in the island's having a number of camps with woefully unsecured borders, as the 'Cudas generally think that if you're choosing not to live in the main city, it's your own problem. Farmers are left to contend with kobolds, bandits, and unpleasant wildlife without expectation of support.
And that's a symptom of the overall problem that plagues Limsa. If it's out of sight, it's considered out of mind, even though there are a lot of problems bigger than just what's immediately ahead. The city is doubtlessly the least threatened by the Empire, and as a result, the city's Grand Company making plans not just to fight the Garleas but to fight the entire rest of Eorzea.
Yes, that's really the Maelstrom's plan. Beat back Garlemald, and then force the other major cities to swear fealty. To that end, the company has press-ganged several of the more violent pirates into serving as inelegant shock troops, figuring that as long as they're pointed in the right direction, it doesn't much matter what damage they do. Merlwyb, admiral of the Maelstrom, either is unaware of how damaging this could be to necessary allies or just doesn't care.
It'd be wrong to think that Merlwyb is a fool, though. She and the officers under her in the Maelstrom clearly have their eyes on the long game, and it's suspected that her employment of pirates is more a matter of placating opponents now rather than contending with them later. There can be no doubt that she fully intends to have all of Limsa under her control when the smoke clears, possibly at the expense of the brigands who have long called the port home. And if she can kill multiple birds with one stone...
Will it work? That remains to be seen, partly because for all the ambition of Limsa's residents, the city as a whole lacks much in the way of follow-through. Everyone trusts one another so long as the weapons are out and the threats are on the table, but the trouble is that no one actually believes in helping anyone else out of altruism. That means that Limsa and her people tend to stand alone at a time when unity is the only way that any nation can hope to stand against a mighty force.
Limsa's quite close to the ships that embody the city, as it happens. On a whole, the city charts a straight course with little regard for how it disturbs the water, and when steered true, it can be quite intimidating. But all it takes is a strong enough breeze to send the mast over a touch too far, and when you're in the middle of the ocean, all your self-reliance won't keep you from drowning.
Feedback is welcome, as it always is, either at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below. Next week, I think I'll just wrap up this little bit of lore navelgazing. You might be thinking that I've already done that with this city... but I think there are still couple more places to turn a cautious eye.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds. And yes, a race to determine the leader. It's even dumber when you know where else that was used.