My revised setting. I'm going to let the players decide beforehand whether they want to start as rebels, agents of Midgard, freelance adventurers or something else. I'm leaving it open for all previously-listed race and class choices, and I'll set a deadline of Monday to express interest and submit characters. I'll start then whether I have one player or ten.
The best part is you don't need to write a ten-page background, just a few paragraphs or less will suffice, as long as you feel it adequately conveys who your character is. This being 13th Age, you can invent and alter the setting as-needed to accommodate your background and your Backgrounds (note the difference).
When making your characters please be descriptive, be interesting, be over-the-top. Don't be afraid to go for broke - this is the setting to do big things in. Use the icons and what little information I've given, and build on it, or even contradict it if you like.
Heironymus Brand is technically the imperial archmage and an ally of the High King, but it is a poorly-kept secret that the Archmage is less than thrilled with the High King's new policies and has distanced himself from his monarchs inner circle, rarely appearing at imperial functions and preferring to remain in his tower in Horizon pursuing the High Arcana rather than engaging in politics. Still, the archmage knows that an orderly and well-run kingdom is more conducive to the scholarly pursuits than a chaotic mess, and the High King doesn't dare antagonize the powerful wizard for fear of losing the crucial magical wards and High Arcana that keep nature firmly under the empires yoke. The High King knows that the Archmage is secretly assisting the Crusaders forces in defeating the empire - he just can't do anything about it.
The champion of the Dark Gods seems an unlikely hero, but it comes as no surprise that he defected from the kings service along with his sizeable armies when the Priestess came to power and declared all followers of the dark gods to be heretics, and even less surprising considering that he is madly in love with the now-enslaved Elf Queen Sidera, and he is one of the High King's deadliest enemies.
Shak-ti is the pre-eminent expert on infernal magics, having traded her soul and many other even dearer things to the powers of Hell in exchange for her great power. Rumor has it that the Diabolist can give you anything your heart desires if you are willing to pay the price, though reaching her or her agents can be both difficult and dangerous.
the Dwarf King
Tyr Hammerhand is the King under the Mountain, the ruler of all Dwarves in Midgard and a powerful warrior and keen general. His kingdoms resources are inexhaustible and his subterranean strongholds and mountain citadels seemingly unassailable. His people, while still officially allies of the kingdom of Midgard, have grown cold and distant toward their human neighbors, and there are unsubstantiated rumors that the dwarves are secretly aiding elements of the resistance against the High Kings forces.
the Elf Queen
Queen Sidera is the High Kings wife, and some say his slave, turned evil when her Dark Elves rose to power in the Court of Stars at the beginning of the 12th Age. She is the emperors right hand, and her dark elf spies are feared throughout the land for their cruelty and zealous pursuit of enemies of the queen and the kingdom as a whole.
the High King
Jori Dragonsbane is the High King of Midgard and a real villain's villain, having gained the throne by murdering his parents and siblings to ensure his rule, enslaving the dragons and two-thirds of the Elven race, and making his people's ancient allies the dwarves become more politically distant than they have been since the late tenth age.
the Great Gold Wyrm
Driven mad by despair and countless ages of consuming demonic essence, the Great Gold Wyrm has taken up residence in a hellhole called Oblivions Maw at the mouth of the Abyss and become a demon-devouring nightmare, sending forth his corrupted Hell Knights to scour all life from the land in the belief that the only way to save the world is to destroy it utterly.
the High Druid
From the deepest forests and hidden wilderness sanctuaries, the followers of the High Druid Tio Aman wage a brutal guerilla war against the kingdom of Midgard and its allies, emerging from the forests to strike before retreating once more into the wilds. Many people consider the High druid to be the leader of the rebellion against the High Kings new tyrannical regime, and common people from all walks of life have flocked to the green banner in search of freedom and a new way to live. The enmity between the High Druid and the Archmage is legendary, as the two are magic-users of immense power with very opposed ideologies - the Archmage controls nature and forces it to conform to patterns beneficial to the kingdom as a whole, while the High Druid uses his magic to destroy the established order and bring about a world where nature is free and untamed, which does not sit well with the Archmage.
the Lich King
Hakon Dragonsbane is the lord of the dead and an undead tyrant who was the previous ruler of the Kingdom of Midgard, once known as the Wizard King. He was knocked off of his throne and forced to retreat to his island stronghold, where he has been biding his time and building his unholy forces, awaiting the day when he could strike back at those who stole the kingdom he believes is rightfully his and make the orcish hordes pay for their role in his downfall.
the Orc Lord
With the balance of power shifted in Midgard, the Orc Lord sees an opportunity to finally bring his ravening hordes to bear and topple the corrupt civilization once and for all, and with the High King and Elf Queen both surrounded by enemies he has a chance to settle an ancient greivance with the elves as well.
Keket Aman was once a servant of light, and while she is still holds to her faith in the gods of light and remains pious and incorruptible, she has been sized by madness and become a ruthless inquisitor who seeks out enemies of Midgard and followers of 'false' gods alike, dealing out harsh punishments to those she deems sinners or heretics, and reserving a special hatred for followers of her brother Tio.
the Prince of Shadows
As always, the legendary thief known as the Prince of Shadows remains aloof from the events around him, his motives mysterious and his identity unknown. Some people even believe that there is no such being as the Prince of Shadows.
The Three used to be considered villains by default, but with the Great Gold Wyrm falling into madness and their hated enemies The High King and the Elf Queen turned tyrants they seized the opportunity set before them and rallied the members of their kind who yet remain free against the High King, declaring the Blue's city of Drakkenhall a free and independent city-state and allying with the Dwarf King and the High Druid to fight back against the empire and finally gain vengeance for the enslavement of their kind and the death of the White, free the Green from the Elf Queens clutches, and break the spells used to bind their kin into the High Kings service.
The Red dragon Cthur is a living engine of destruction.
The Blue dragon Ula is a sorceress, perhaps even the original mother of all sorcery.
The Black dragon Xela is queen of shadows and assassins.