Yep, you heard right, after MONTHS of being excited about this game I've finally gotten a chance to play it! Character creation took around 2 hours with everyone sharing the screen with the PDF and with a lot of the story elements needing to be explained. It was longer that I'd expected, but there was a lot of side conversation and people waiting around so I guess it wasn't totally unexpected. We ended up with 2 Rangers (melee and ranged), a Barbarian, and a Cleric. A Fighter joined the party about halfway through. In hindsight I probably should have made some pregens, and just had players fill in Backgrounds, Icon Relationships, and One Unique Thing. Oh well, hopefully they understand the game better now.
I guess the first thing I'll say is that everyone LOVED the system. So much, in fact, that they asked me to run another session later today (we played yesterday evening). Which is cool. I actually felt like my GMing was pretty sub-par last night, through a combination of not having done it for several months and being kind of new to the whole improvisational plot points thing. I didn't plan a single thing, I just went off of the characters' backstories and icon rolls. Speaking of icon rolls, the start of session rolls resulted in FIVE icons getting a result of at least 5 or 6 (Crusader got both). Note to self; when that happens, don't worry too much about fitting everything in. I feel like my High Druid, Dwarf King, and Orc Lord stuff was just filler. So yeah, gotta work on improvisation. I imagine that'll just take a whole lot of practice.
Combats are short and sweet. Well, I think I under-challenged the players (though the melee Ranger might disagree with that!). I used all level 1 enemies and built "fair" fights. I'll definitely up the stakes a bit next session, since everyone has a better sense of the rules now. Twenty minutes for a balanced fight with 5 players and a healthy dose of side conversation is awesome, though. Combat isn't as dynamic as 4th Edition D&D but moreso than 3rd, and much shorter than either. We used minis but not a grid, and I think that's key. When I've run Theater of the Mind without minis (for The One Ring), sometimes describing the surroundings and positioning can take time that is saved by simply plopping a mini down. I like this middle ground.
Here's an overview of the characters we ended up with (note that I gave everyone 8 background points):
Lan (can't remember his own last name) - Human Cleric
-2 Relationship with Crusader, -1 with Diabolist
OUT: Sent to hell because his family broke an oath with the Crusader, and he managed to escape (minus his memories from before hell).
Backgrounds: Abyssal survivor +4, Ex-priest +4.
Gorthar - Drow Ranger (ranged)
+2 Relationship with Prince of Shadows, +1 with High Druid
OUT: Has been in enemy encampments without being seen or caught, and he can't necessarily explain why.
Backgrounds: Tracker (via Talent) +5, Assassin +4, Linguist +4
Mertle McTurtle - Dwarf Barbarian
1 (Conflicted) Relationship with Dwarf King, -2 with Orc Lord
OUT: Can make beer out of ANYTHING. Exiled from his clan for accidentally poisoning them with turtle beer (he doesn't always know how it'll turn out!)
Backgrounds: Chef +4, Miner +2, Cartographer +2
Whisp - Human Ranger (melee)
+3 relationship with Prince of Shadows
OUT: Has a perfectly round wooden ball that his father told him was from an ancient treasure horde (he doesn't know what it is or does).
Backgrounds: Orphan +2, Treasure Hunter +2, Member of The Silence (a secret society) +4
McKeff - Human Fighter
No icons since he joined mid-session and had zero interest in them (whatever).
OUT: Has a talking dog.
Backgrounds: a list of 4 overlapping ones, I remember two were Street Thug +2 and Gladiator +2.
Not bad, especially considering none of these players really have any story-game experience, mostly having played D&D (4E and 3E).