Here's the one-page background sheet. Everything above the "***" is me; the rest is minutely changed Gary.
Eons ago, the world was a place of wonder, a dreamland unimaginable to those who now toil beneath the uncaring skies. It was said that Man knew magics then that rivaled the gods, and that hunger, suffering, and war were unknown.
Then came the Dragons.
Screaming from out of the void beyond the stars, they came to the world without warning, burning all they encountered and poisoning the land with their caustic breath. Cities were incinerated, the seas became choked with ashes, and the skies blackened with smoke. Mankind took up their arms—weapons of unimaginable power—and struck back at these unworldly foes, bringing their awesome might to bear against a near-indestructible enemy. The legends call this time The Burning, an era which almost brought about an end to all life.
The destruction was catastrophic. Both the dragons’ breath and Man’s weaponry shattered the world in a desperate attempt to destroy one another. Mankind fled back to the caves that birthed them as the dragons reveled in the ruins they had created. The world plunged into an endless winter and small bands of desperate survivors huddled around fires as ice reclaimed the world.
The dragons, with nothing left to burn and little to devour, turned on one another, wreaking further destruction as they battled. Finally, when only the strongest of wyrms remained, they laid clutches of eggs in the ashes and returned to the void from whence they came.
That was three millennia ago. Man and his cousins—the elves, dwarves, and halflings—struggle to reclaim their shattered world. Much has been lost and many wonders will never again be seen, but civilization is again rising from the ruins. Through hard work, constant struggle, and endless vigilance, Man has again left the caves behind to reclaim the world it once owned. And although the Great Dragons have fled, there are other threats to Man’s future.
When Man emerged from the safety of the mountains, he found that a new enemy awaited, one spawned from the primal forces of Chaos that roiled across the destroyed paradise he once called home. In the lands to the East arose the Cruels, beings of dark and malicious power who wish to keep the world embroiled in turmoil and strife. Locked in constant struggle with the forces of Law, it is now these Chaotic Lords that threaten the Realm of Men.
The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always certain exceptional and brave members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies - dwarves, elves, and halflings - who rise above the common level and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land. Bold adventurers from the Realm set off for the Borderlands to seek their fortune. It is these adventurers who, provided they survive the challenge, carry the battle to the enemy. Such adventurers meet the forces of Chaos in a testing ground where only the fittest will return to relate the tale. Here, these individuals will become skilled in their profession, be it fighter or magic-user, cleric or thief. They will be tried in the fire of combat, those who return, hardened and more fit. True, some few who do survive the process will turn from Law and good and serve the masters of Chaos, but most will remain faithful and ready to fight chaos wherever it threatens to infect the Realm.
You are indeed members of that exceptional class, adventurers who have journeyed to BLUESTONE KEEP in search of fame and fortune. Of course you are inexperienced, but you have your skills and a heart that cries out for adventure. You have it in you to become great, but you must gain experience and knowledge and greater skill. There is much to learn, and you are willing and eager to be about it! Each of you has come with everything which could possibly be given you to help. Now you must fend for yourselves; your fate is in your hands, for better or worse.
Ahead, up the winding road, atop a sheer-wailed mount of stone, looms the great KEEP. Here, at one of civilization’s strongholds between good lands and bad, you will base yourselves and equip for forays against the wicked monsters who lurk in the wilds. Somewhere nearby, amidst the dark forests and tangled fens, are the Caves of Chaos, the Shunned Stronghold, and the Haunted Keep where fell creatures lie in wait. All this you know, but before you dare adventure into such regions you must become acquainted with the other members of your group, for each life will depend upon the ability of the others to cooperate against the common foe. Now, before you enter the grim fortress, is the time for introductions and an exchange of information, for fate seems to have decreed that you are to become an adventurous band who must pass through many harrowing experiences together on the path which leads towards greatness.