Whoops...that will teach me to pay more attention to both on-line "handles" and the name signed at the end of posts....DOH!
Anyway; to respond to your post: I have no idea what/where/who the small enclave of Claren Elian is...so I can't respond to this.....I'll do some googling though and get back to you!
For the monks idea; mainly because I'm setting the game right at the begining of the War of the Lance; there really shouldn't (in my opinion, anyway) be much knowledge of the Gods.....though, as I mentioned before; I was thinking of a small group of mystics following a book of philosophy based on the God Majere (though the monks themselves probably wouldn't know that Majere is actually a God). It ended up being a moot point as the player decided to go with a Kender anyway; but when I tend to think of DL; I tend to think of Chronicles and the DL series of modules.....and monks don't really fit this version fo the world too well; in my opinion.
As for some of your other points; I've always been a house-rule person; I like to tinker; though the older I get; the more I realize that I should only tinker a little and only in a "balanced" manner.
I've never had any problems with "established" non-human races; I get VERY wary of potentially game-breaking non-human races....for example; while I might allow a PC Minotaur or Hobgoblin; I don't think I'd allow a shape-changer or a Dragon or even a Pixie as I think too many encounters/adventures would have to be re-built/modified to take thier abilities into account and that's just annoying to me as a DM.
As for Level Limits; I think 1st sets the mark a little low for many of the race/class combos; but not by much. I've always been mystified by how/why they came up with some of thier numbers though...for example; why can EVERY race except Half-Orcs have unlimited advancement as Thieves...and Half-Orcs do the same as Assasins? Why are Elves ALWAYS so much better than the other races? (This is a SORE point with me; I really, really hate it when one race is CLEARLY superior in almost every game-mechanic to others) Etc., etc. For me; in 1st/1nd Edition games; I usually put the Level threshold mark somewhere in the 9-12 range for Demi-humans; and usually have Humans top out somewhere between 16-20th. As I've allready mentioned; for my DL BECMI/2nd version; non-humans are between 8-12 (well, Half-Elves at 11-14, but they are EXTREMELY rare); and humans between 14-17.
Most of my games usually spend the majority of thier time in the mid-levels (say 3-8 or so)...which is the "sweet spot" for my personal tastes anyway. Occasionally, characters reach the 9-12th point; but that's about as high as I've ever gone. I usually have NPCs represent the High level range (say 12-20).....and I don't think I'd ever really run an Adventure for PCs this high since I think the characters' are so powerful at this point that it'd be tough to do justice to having a truly challenging adventure for them.
I never cared for Dark Sun; but I've heard good things about Birthright...never played it though; best of luck to you!
Anyway, just some thoughts out loud here; thanks for the comments and next session is set for this coming Monday.....hopefully the report will be coming right after that!