I wiped out the party again. Fortunately they were considerably quicker to generate Ruins and Ronin characters rather than the AD&D Oriental Adventures type I killed off last weekend. I am having a hard time figuring out exactly what went wrong here, but I suspect it comes down to two things.
First, the party failed to hire any hirelings of any sort. The reason for that is that AD&D players were discouraged by the AD&D rules from bringing along too much help because of the expense and the XP drain, both of which are absent from OD&D/S&W/R&R, but the attitude is hard to break. OD&D characters are basically the officers of their party of soldiers not really stand alone adventurers. AD&D characters can not afford to hire help at level one and are significantly tougher, so they don't really need to as much.
Second, I think they made a pretty big mistake after their first battle when they didn't retreat to safety and instead pressed on ahead. They had won the battle but got pretty hurt in the process. They looted the corpses and kept going. All of their Bujin were pretty hurt and the Shugenja used her only spell. OD&D, and by extension, S&W/R&R are much more games of resource management than AD&D because AD&D characters have more resources to work with, like 1st level clerics having at least one spell which the Sohei does not.
When I suggested that they should have retreated to my wife after the game she got kind of mad at me and said that every time they have previously retreated in my games I have punished them, either with pursuit or restocking the dungeon or both. This is true to a point. I have pursued retreating parties when they were running from encounters, and I have generally restocked dungeons when I found it likely to have happened. I have also done the opposite of both cases when I thought it logical to do so, so I don't really know what the problem is here except that Mona might be trying to read me for hints as to what to do too much maybe.
Last week the party died partly based on the fact that Mona did as I suggested through the village headman Gobo. I suggested it because I was thinking of what Gobo would do, trying to get in his head and play the role of Gobo- a peasant farmer responsible for the well-being of the rest of the villages farmers. I figured the last thing he would want was a big fight in his village where the people he was responsible for could get caught in the crossfire or punished by the Black Riders for getting help from the PCs. Deaths, property damage and worse extortion were on his mind and it caused him to beg the samurai to hide until they left.
Mona also said to me that, if the adventure is going to be tougher than I think they could handle, she expected that I would supply back up NPCs to give them extra firepower. I actually was hoping that they would try and hire on some 0-level help for the adventure, but I didn't suggest it. Maybe when I play old school I try to be a little more like an impartial referee and less like the guy trying to help the party along? I don't know. I just know that I want the party to start coming up with ideas on their own instead of having Harvey the helpful NPC suggest stuff to them (or have noticed the clue, or had a handy healing spell memorized, or whatever). I also have been rolling all of my dice in combat out in the open to stop myself from feeling (or acting upon)the urge to fudge the rolls in favor of the party. I really want all XP to be earned here.
I know they can do this, but I can't help feeling that I have coddled my players for years now with all of this later edition stuff and the advice I read about advancing story lines and making sure everyone is having fun and making death rare and memorable and not punishing the players for having bad luck. I have now torpedoed my own dream campaign two weeks in a row to show that I am not afraid to let the dice fall where they may and that caution, thinking and planning are more useful than excellent AC or a ton of stat bonuses (although I did alter the universal stat bonus to be in line with later editions of D&D).