You remember the whiney little guys that just about every 1st level D&D has to kill about 20 of to get to 2nd level? Yeah, you know the ones that fall over when you look at em right, but if they get lucky they can cream you with a couple shots?
They're back, and they are vicious.
Tiefling Warlord: Brand new of the brand new (as far as core goes). This was my character, and he was built around tactics, and dang good at it. He has an intelligence of 18, and uses his keen tactical mind to lead the other PCs in battle. He feels exactly like what you'd think a part-demon battle lord would feel. He inspired his allies with his commanding presence, gave them opportunities to work together, and stayed right in the thick of things. In short, this character is really cool... haven't had so much fun with a single PC build in my life.
Dragonborn Paladin: This holy warrior lent a powerful presence to combat and non-combat alike. His companions were in awe of his ability to control the battlefield with radiant light and electrical breath. At the same time, he also aided his companions with healing and inspiration.
Dwarven Ranger: Yes, thats right, this earth dweller has chosen the path of a wanderer. His Battleaxe and hammer cut through opponents quickly, but his armor was too weak for the front line. His dwarven resilience came through to keep him standing and fighting despite being a constant target by his enemies.
Elven Ranger: Another ranger with a totally different style and feel. This one was light and his feet and Fast... his arrows pierced many hides with an amazing accuracy and deadly precision. He could easily dance out of the way of the most determined attacker. I wonder if he even got hit once?
Dwarven Fighter: A brute with a massive Maul, this Dwarf stood her ground, locking enemies up with a presence that was impossible for them to ignore. She became the Warlord's right hand ally, landing powerful blows as the Warlord provided openings for her. As has been mentioned elsewhere, Fighters are really sticky, making their opponents focus on them... or else bad things happen.
In the first encounter, the intrepid adventurers were ambushed by kobold minions. 4 of these marauders came from behind rocks and trees and attacked the party. This felt like the classic battle between 1st level characters and kobolds, only the PCs were a whole lot cooler. We quickly dispatched a few of them, charging boldly forward. But this was just the setup.
After our PCs were drawn out by the fodder, more Kobolds ambushed us: two had large Dragon scales they used as shields, and a third had a number of flasks it launched with a sling. Caught by surprise, the Dwarven Ranger was pelted by a vial of sticky substance which locked him to the ground. Vulnerable in front of the party, both of the Kobold shield bearers charged him, hurting him pretty bad. Then the slinger hit him again with another vial, this one filled with burning liquid.
The PCs were able to best the kobolds, but it wasn't easy, and it required some of us to use action points, though none of us used dailies. The shield bearers were resilient and were hard to hit, so they lasted in a full fray with the PCs for a couple rounds against 5 PCs, but finally fell. The slinger got away after seeing how bad his odds were. Licking our wounds and tending to the injured dwarf, we didn't pursue.
After this initial encounter, the PCs arrived at a village, talked with several villagers in the local inn about strange local happenings, and then had an uneventful night sleep (though the DM made us make some rolls to keep us on our toes). We talked to the town leader, who offered a reward to find and stop the kobold marauders, who had been cutting off their trade with other towns. The players agreed and were off again.
While on the road, the PCs were ambushed again, failing miserably to notice something was amiss. This time the players met more of the shield bearers, a kobold skirmisher, and a wyrmpriest. They got a surprise round in which they moved to engage us, focusing on the Dwarven Ranger again, who happened to be closest target. The kobolds all bested our initiative as well, so even after the surprise round they got another free round of attacks, and they made good use of it.
Then the PCs reacted. In one round, the paladin breathed on a few of the kobolds, then used his daily ability on the closest for a powerful radiant blow. The Dwarven Ranger broke free and charged after the Wyrmpriest, while the Warlord and Fighter entered toe to toe with the kobolds and the Elf laid down covering fire (missing terribly with his daily).
The Wyrmpriest led his kobolds well, giving them the ability to shift around the battlefield outside their turn and receive temporary hitpoints. When he wasn't doing that, he was pummeling the party with magic, retreating steadily from the angry Dwarven Ranger (who played out and acted much like a 3.5 barbarian).
In the end, with the use of a lot of our daily resources, the PCs again prevailed to search the bodies and claim our bounty.
Of the group of players playing, only myself and one other had had a taste of 4e, and then it was with pre-fabricated characters. The DM himself had never played. Two of the others were well versed from following its progress closely, but the final one was completely new to the system.
Despite this, and the fact we constantly had to stop for a second to look up something or other (which the DM enforced so we could really learn the system while we were playing, instead of winging it), all of the above battles and encounters took up only 3 hours.
From my perspective, this was probably one of the most fun sessions I've played in. Of course this is my first time playing in years (I've been the DM for the most part). On the feel of 4e, this was much different this time, because we each created our own character (except for the new player, who used a pre-made PC), and that alone made a big difference. On top of knowing about the tactical feel and rapid pace of 4e, I added the feeling of ownership of a PC, which to me is the D&D experience.