Image from the Kara-Tur Monstrous Manual - It's a Goblin Rat.
Spoiler alert- they still haven't made it to the Mura of Hondo, if that's all you were waiting to see you can skip this post.
It should be noted that Paul couldn't make it to the game because he had car trouble, so my son John ran Date Karasu for him, as well as his own character Katsuo the Wu Jen.
When we left off last time they were asking if anyone knew whose head it was they were carrying around, the ramen shop owner told them they should probably ask the Doshin (police) or a Yoriki (investigator/boss cop). Ami then took the head and dropped it near the bathhouse where the fight had taken place and started screaming like she was just some poor peasant girl that had stumbled over a severed head. Roleplayed to the hilt, the cops took her to a nearby tea house and bought her some tea to calm her down.
The Samurai and the rest of the party, except for Aiko the Kensei and Misaki the Shugenja, headed back to the nice section of town to the inn where they were staying. Aiko and Misaki stuck around to make sure that Ami was going to be OK, then joined her for tea after the cops left. Eventually they rejoined the rest of the party at the nice inn and got to meet Karasu's army of servants (12) as well as Masaru's pair of servants. Some time in the night travel permits were left in Masaru's room, by whom he does not know, but he suspects they may be forged. He is more than a little paranoid.
Ami spends the next several days getting under Masaru's skin as they travel down the coastal road, she begins to subvert his authority with the servants. They roleplay off one another pretty well. Misaki, is an intelligent cat that shapeshifts into human form, she is being roleplayed pretty well too, if more than a little strangely. Several days pass pretty much uneventfully, although the party is forced to sleep outside one night when the only inn is fully occupied by vastly more important people than them, and the retainers and staff of those important people. Masaru accepts this stoicly.
The very next day I roll a random encounter that I fear may TPK the party- Goblin Rats. Nasty 3HD buggers, they attack travelers and live near human settlements. I rule that the encounter will take place a couple of miles before they reach the village they plan on sleeping in, OK, fine. I figure they're opportunistic, like bandits, so they'll probably want to attack from ambush. Then I roll to see how many only four, it could have been up to twenty. As I am considering this encounter in my head I think to myself, they probably would have set up to attack travelers from a concealed position near the road, maybe some brush; but this party is pretty big, 7 PCs and 14 non-combatant NPCs. They're already in position, but would 4 of them attack a party that big? I let the dice decide, I roll to see if the Cat Hengeyokai detects the Rat Men hiding just off the side of the road. She does. Misaki goes absolutely ballistic on them. As it turns out Goblin Rats are terrified by felines or cat like creatures- I figure a Cat Hengeyokai probably has to count there, right? All four of them fail their saving throws and start to flee in terror. The party opens up on, and takes down (barely) their leader, the one carrying their only significant treasure- a magic trident. The rest escape, I agonize over whether or not to give them the full XP for this encounter, in the end I do because it could have just as easily gone the other way.
After all the back slapping and happiness is done they decide to award the trident to Ami. They ride into town and get themselves to the nicest rooms in the local inn, well aware that starting the next day the travel is going to get harder over worse roads that are less well traveled, maintained or patrolled. Ami seeks out and finds using her Yakuza skills a place to sell the trident. I feel it was an unwise move, and asked at the time "Are you sure you want to do this?", she was and she did. Ami is now, by far, the wealthiest character in the party. She uses this money to buy stuff for the servants and to throw parties for them. She also kills and prepares as food the guard dog that Masaru bought for her last time we played. Her character is from Koryo. Lee herself is 1/2 Korean and I think just likes messing with all of these pseudo-Japanese dudes. Everyone ate the soup she made. Misaki actually ate the Goblin Rat too, raw. Well, part of him anyway. Everyone just assumes she is a crazy Shugenja.
The next thing of major note that happened was a fierce storm whipped up while they were moving up the mountains that cost them a day of travel and while they were waiting there a bedraggled Ronin wandered into their camp so Masaru (who had been looking to hire some extra muscle all along the way unsuccessfully) offered him a job. The Ronin, now restored to Samurai status, was named Otomo Hikaru and is Masaru's Henchman. They bonded.
After striking camp the next day, they ran into some actual Bandits that did attack them from ambush. They got 9 (out of a possible 20) Bandits for the encounter. A surprise round wounded Masaru and Hikaru fairly badly and killed one of Karasu's servants outright. After that though things didn't go well for the Bandits, they lost initiative and got seriously beat down. I made them check morale and was shocked that they decided to stick around and fight (I use B/X style morale for AD&D, it's just easier). The only PC that didn't get to really kick some ass in this fight was the Wu Jen Katsuo, he had memorized Elemental Burst again and all of the targets were either too close and would cause collateral damage to the party or out of range, he was forced to resort to throwing darts and missed with every single one.
Aside from a small amount of cash, the Bandits just had normal equipment, although their leaders Katana will be nice for Hikaru, and three horses and some supplies, including some odd stuff I threw in just because the party asked me what they had, and I quote from the game's Facebook page-
"3 light war horses, with saddles, saddlebags(large), bit & bridle and stuff; 1 chainmail, 2 do-maru, 6 hara-ate, 1 daikyu, 2 hankyu, 1 katana, 1 yari, 1 naginata, 3 wakizashi, 45 days of ricecake rations, 3 pounds of tea, 5 jars of sake, 15 days grain for horses, 1 jar of pickled ginger, 2 jars of beer, 1 large sack of horseradishes, an iron pot, 3 quivers (24 arrow capacity), 57 arrows (standard), 2 small tents, a tobacco pipe, 5 pounds of tobacco, a hammer, 1 pound of nails, a 2 man timber saw, 3 green bath towels and an 8 pound sledgehammer."
That was in addition to 108 tael in cash. We broke for the evening after the fight, before I gave them the tally of goods, which is why I gave it to them over Facebook I also sent them their XP totals. They are half way to the Mura of Hondo, it doesn't seem like we are getting much done from a mission standpoint, but they are all roleplaying their characters quite well, which is not something I see in every group and honestly is one of the reasons I really love OA, the randomly generated backgrounds create a character for you to jump into and play. The unusual way in which random encounters are handled in OA took a little bit for me to get re-accustomed to, but that's working well too. The travel from Tamanokuni to the Mura of Hondo may actually level the characters up with random encounters, if it doesn't TPK them first, it's possible I should have just done what EGG did and started the characters at the edge of the village, we'll see.