This is the flavor background I gave to the party just prior to rolling up their characters. Upon reading it, we ended up with 6:
Karis of Melbourne, Half ogre Cavalier beholden to Tyr
Detheron, Human Druid of Frey
Zoltan Jhanki-Jast, Human (gypsy) Thief
Puck, Human Sorcerer
Hedonim Ursanis, Human (elven-trained) Ranger beholden to Idun
and Gwynhwyfar Rockholm, Dwarven (mountain) Fighter
A decent mix if a bit healing light. Group was very interested and I fielded (besides 4 hours that 1st night talking) about 45 emails with more detailed questions. Only one person had any long term role playing experience and one person hadn't played a rpg for 20 plus years.
Background read as follows:
This is the spring months of the year 174, of the 30th Age (as elven kind measure the passage of generations). The land you are in, as referred to by those that make their home there, is the Barony of Umbaria, the central Barony in the shattered county known as Sedaria. To learn why it is shattered, the following information is fairly common knowledge for those that have made their homes here.
In times past, this land and all around it were part of the Dwarven lands and settlements known as Retersedge. Somewhere around a hundred and fifty years ago, the dwarven thanes (rulers and king-priests) had abandoned these places, pulling their clans north and dismantled their mines, keeps, and cities. The reason why have been lost, but some families stayed behind; unable to leave the ancestral lands they loved. For the most part though, Retersedge was empty.
It did not stay so for long.
The southern human kingdom of Daro looked upon the abandoned places with eager eyes, hoping to reopen the places the dwarves had left behind. In a great show and ceremony, in the year 82, the Kingdom of Daro, awarded new land grants to the earls, and counts and barons that were waiting for their own parcels and annexed the abandoned land of Retersedge. Once the stakes were driven and the plans fulfilled, the Duchy of Reet (in honor of the Dwarves that had lived there before) was established. It did not take long for the emigration of the crowded northern provinces to move into the new places and set up homes, towns, farms, and businesses.
The people settled first those lands that the dwarves had already flattened and founded years earlier. Certain places still had trade roads crisscrossing the landscape' wide avenues of fitted stones that had withstood the test of time for centuries. As the population grew, the people expanded north and west. Rivers, forests, and mines were discovered. Small enclaves of elves and halflings, families and villages living there since the dwarves of Retersedge, were welcomed into the folds.
In the year 121, the sons and grandsons of the new Earls and Duke became enthralled with the idea of reestablishing the old trade routes with the distant dwarven settlements to the north. Gathering kingsmen and merchants, the respected Earl of Maronia sent the first group north with the duty to track a route through the wilderness and establish contact with the settlements found there. After waiting some months for the trackers to return, Earl Maronia petitioned his counts and barons to send their rangers to follow the first group and discover their whereabouts. The 2nd group went out, and like the first, did not return.
This led to what was known as the Crusade of Maronnia; a grouping of over 1200 of the best knights, wizards, and rangers that had ever been gathered in the entire Duchy. In the summer of 125, the Crusade traveled north, led by the Earl Maronia himself and his coterie of noble followers.
That fall, Ogres and Orcs numbering in the tens of thousands, boiled out of the northern sections of the Duchy of Reet. They pillaged villages, hamlet, cities, and keeps. Thousands of peasants died in the first days of the attacks. A steady stream of refugees ran south, filled with fear and wild tales of the attacks they witnessed.
The Baronies and Counties far to the north were lost first, entire families and all defending men at arms wiped out. Then the central counties fell. Lines after battle lines were drawn; outfitted with cavalry and infantry, situated to hold back the onslaught of the monstrous hordes. Each time, the lines fell. The populous now pressed into the final southernmost county (Sedaria) in the Duchy of Reet, threw their best and brightest minds into any and every tactic possible to hold the Ogres and Orcs from advancing another step.
Local artisans and warriors became the heroes of the day as tactics that turned the tide of the local conflicts were communicated to other parts of the beleaguered county. Earthen walls with no cover were popular. Stout keeps and signal fire worked as well. Brigades of valiant men struck terror into the hearts of Orcs with their guerrilla tactics. By the winter of 129, the people had stopped the advance and grew emboldened with their victories.
And then the dragons came.
It had been wondered by many why the Ogres and Orcs had fought with reckless abandon. Why did they not retreat and count their booty from the fallen cities? It has been said that there is still a king's ransom in unclaimed riches out amongst the ruins, on the other sides of the battle lines. What would spur the monstrous races to fight their way across scores of unfamiliar miles, driving them against the spears and swords of the people of Reet?
The dragons pushed the Ogres and Orcs.
Unable to fight the flying lizards, they monstrous humanoids had abandoned their homes in an effort to find others they could hide in. The selfsame homes that the people of Reet had lived in. The dragons' attacks did not fall on monster alone. The great beasts blew their breaths on the towns and people of Sedaria as well. Diving from the skies, they routed the armies of men and monster. Their hunger knew no bounds. Their destructive appetites could not be sated. And then, after a month and a half of constant barrages, the dragon's departed.
What they left was countryside and county burned clean. No family neither noble nor peasant went unscathed from the onslaught. With grain stores over 90% burned and field torn asunder, famine and starvation took its toll on the survivors. The only saving grace was that the monster armies had been similarly destroyed, posing little threat to those that still lived. Over 75% of the population of the county of Sedaria had been killed during the 4 year conflict or died that cold hungry winter.
The noble ranks were thinned drastically. Count Kassen Sedaria had been lost, along with the heir apparent and the 2nd in line. The family line had been reduced to two very young cousins: Erik and Delarrin.
The dragons awakening was something that was discovered in years of later learning to occur roughly every 100 years (according to recovered dwarven texts). The greater beasts would take flight, ravenous and angry, seeking food, magic, and treasure to fill their larders. When they had finished their rampage, they would return to their caves to rest, count their riches, plot, and sleep again. But never had they come out this numerous, this destructive, this voracious.
The few years following the draconic attack were hard. Count Erik Sedaris was forced to levy new taxes on the already stretched economy and people. 3 Baronies were all that remained habitable: Dilabria (virtually abandoned, home to banditry, and a haven for lawlessness), Umbaria (the heart of the shattered county), and Rohn (southernmost barony and principle location of the best craftsmen still in the county). Many families left their homes and traveled south to the civilized and stronger duchies in the Kingdom.
Erik gave birth to 4 children, 3 girls and a son – Cedric. He died shortly afterwards during a skirmish and his younger brother Delarrin took over as regent until such time that Cedric was old enough to rule. As what happens though Delarrin grew comfortable with control of the county, using many of its resources to fund his love of women and drink. When Cedric was 12 the young heir was spirited away from his family home hidden. Delarrin grew angry. Claims were made that the line of succession was broken due to no living heir between the former late count Erik and his heir Cedric.
Delarrin solidified his grip on the County. He had tax collectors that were skimming from his coffers drawn and quartered. Any who did not pay their taxes were impressed into slavery. A ban on travel was placed for parts south of Reeter's Trod and the main kingdom below. All families had to offer their first son's to his military as vassals. He was cruel, tyrannical, harsh, and merciless.
When he had the High Guild mage put to death for inability to magically scry out the whereabouts of the young Cedric and replaced with a puppet mage to run the guilds, he caused the entire Wizard's Guild to schism to internecine conflict. Half the guild fled, turning renegade to avoid his impressers and brute squads.
Cedric resurfaced far to the north, in the city of Northedge, in the Barony of Dilabria at the age of 21 in the 164. He came forth as a paladin of Heimdall, God of Guardians. Delarrin refused to accept Cedric's claim to the throne. Cedric was however a kind man and with the backing of various Mage Guild members that had fled years earlier, he was able to undertake many tasks for the common people, endearing them to him as his fame and influence grew. The young heir was repeatedly targeted for assassination and luck and skill saved him each time. Finally, 2 years ago, Sir Cedric Sedaris held the legendary ancestral family heirloom known as the Dragon Helm and confronted his uncle for the throne. Since only a true member of the Sedaris family could wear the helm, and Cedric did so without injury. Delarrin attacked his nephew but was vanquished. Cedric was crowned as Count of Sedaria.
Since then the shattered county has seen some small return of prosperity. Fields have grown fat, hunger has diminished, tax coffers have swelled, and the road south to Daro and points beyond have been opened, allowing fresh trade and people to flow once again into the battered County. With the new budding riches throughout the county there has been a growth of interest in the ruins and histories of the fallen keeps, castles, and cities that the dragons and monsters had attacked and abandoned.
It is in this time of exploration and heroic quests that your story will take place.