Characters: Human paladin, Human barbarian, Halfling rogue.
Character creation times:
Paladin: 2 hours (player reading through paladin spells and channel divinity)
Barbarian: 30 minutes (pretty quick'n'easy, not too many choices)
Rogue: 10 minutes (used pre-genned rogue, tweaked weapon choice slightly and changed isolated strike to backstab)
Since the characters are starting at level 3, I explained that the three of them had already done some adventuring together in Baldur's Gate, culminating in them slaying the Dire Rat King and cleaning out the sewers (of dire rats). Unfortunately, they have not received much notoriety from this from most people, most townsfolk seeing them as glorified septic waste engineers. When they were offered 1500 gold by a ship's captain to help guard him and his crew while opening a new trade route on a newly (re)discovered island, they jumped at the chance. The rogue also brokered a deal with the Cartographer's Guild to provide them a map of the island for another 1500 gold.
Sadly during a violent storm, the ship they were on, Mystra's Blessing, ran afoul of a reef and sank. The players made it out on a shore boat, but got separated in the storm from the rest of the crew. Following a red glow (an active volcano), they made it to shore with limited supplies (one barrel of fresh water, one barrel of salted pork (5 days’ worth), one 10-foot pole, their weapons, three flasks of oil, and their adventuring kits).
While the barbarian was scavenging for food, she found three giant crabs, which she immediately charged. By the time the rogue and paladin got to her, another three crabs had snuck up on her from the ocean and surrounded her. During her turn she killed one crab and Cleaved, doing damage to but not killing another. She raged, which prevented quite a lot of damage (gives resistance to pretty much all physical damage, which from my understanding means she takes half damage), but was grappled by two of the crabs, giving advantage to hit her. The rogue and paladin were able to kill one of the crabs behind her, but were each hit (and grappled) by a crab.
Here's where an odd part of the rules came in to play. Because the rogue was grappled, he had disadvantage to hit the crab. Because the crab was next to the rogue's ally, the rogue had advantage, cancelling disadvantage (using Backstab). However, Sneak Attack can be used when the character does not have disadvantage, and grants disadvantage to hit as well as extra damage. According to the rules, any time the character has at least one advantage and at least one disadvantage, it just defaults to no advantage, even if there are two disadvantages and only one advantage. So the rogue was able to use sneak attack without taking disadvantage. Am I interpreting the rules incorrectly?
Anyway, the three characters each took some damage but were able to fairly easily defeat the six crabs, and cooked/smoked the crab meat on a fire made out of driftwood to add 5 more days’ worth of meat (one of the crabs had been completely pulverized. In the morning, they noticed a ship marooned high on the cliffs surrounding the volcano and decided to investigate it. It took them several hours to navigate through a small jungle, during which they noticed some tracks belonging to Dire Rats. All three of the players decided that their characters would have no more to do with Dire Rats, and ignored the tracks.
Once the characters had made it up to the marooned ship, they saw it had a hole in the bottom where someone had set up camp in the ship's cargo hold and seemingly lived there for some time, but not recently. The rogue and barbarian scavenged some supplies (mostly a few more lengths of rope) and found a journal. The paladin heard a noise and climbed the stairs to investigate.
It turns out that a Troll had made its home in the ship as well and was asleep. The paladin made no attempt at stealth, awoke the troll, and promptly lost 2/3 of his HP to an attack. The barbarian and thief ran out of the ship and attempted to set up a tripwire with rope. The barbarian used Lay On Hands to patch himself up, then slammed a door in front of the troll and ran down the stairs. During his next turn he opened one of the three flasks of oil and dumped it in the ship next to the entrance, and the barbarian lit a torch and dropped in into the oil. The ship, which had been right next to an active volcano for decades, was very dry and immediately lit on fire. The troll, fearing the fire as one of the few things that can hurt it, started running back up the stairs to get to the deck and jump off. The paladin made a crude Molotov cocktail with the flask of oil and another torch and threw it on to the deck.
Once the troll realized he was trapped on both sides by fire, he started using his turns smashing himself on to the wall of the ship to try to burst through. The rogue had the bright idea that since the troll was trying to smash through the wall that was downslope, if the party could go upslope of the ship and push, maybe they could dislodge the ship. Synchronizing to the next time the troll bashed the wall, the paladin and barbarian rammed themselves in to the ship just hard enough for it to be dislodged, slowly tilt end over end, and roll its way, still flaming, into the jungle at the base of the volcano.
The session ended with the three of them taking a much needed break, and reading the journal of "R.B." that they had found in the ship. The rogue was delighted by tales of 5 perfect emeralds, and a partial map of the main island (they discovered they were on a tiny volcanic island not connected to the larger island). They planned to start making their way to the main island, and some form of civilization, the next day.
Overall, the first session of D&D next was fun for everyone. There are less 'powers' than in D&D 4, and this seems to have led to the players being a bit more creative. During the first night, the rogue wanted to try weaving a basket from palm fronds to store water, so I had him roll a dex check (which he critted on). Little things like that were lots of fun. They also had fun with first setting the ship on fire, and then rolling it down a mountainous volcano.
The three classes that my group are playing seem fairly balanced, with the rogue using backstab to hit more OR sneak attack to do more damage (I like that the there's a choice that needs to be made between better hit chance or more damage), the paladin buffing and healing while doing good damage, and the barbarian just utterly murderizing enemies while raging. I am somewhat concerned that the challenge may be low because the characters are on a large island and will probably not be fighting more than one or two battles a day between travelling. The buffs seem to last a long time as well. Bless and Rage both last up to 10 minutes, which is probably the entire battle. The barbarian can rage two times a day starting at level one, and three times a day at level 5. Will it reach a point where the barbarian can just rage through every battle?
I'll be running this campaign on Saturdays, so assuming this gets any response I’ll write up the following sessions as well. Feel free to ask me questions, or tell me if you think I’m DMing something wrong.