- Marich, Level 1 Magic-User [played by David]
- Anil, Level 1 Cleric of Manpac (eunuch) [played by Patrick]
- Manjeet, Level 1 Fighter [played by Nate]
- Retainers: Padma, Binod, Nagendra I, Nagendra II, One-toothed Marich ("Marich II"), Fat Sanjam
On character death, I am usually very quick to bring a replacement in for the player concerned, as soon as their new character is rolled-up. So we had Manjeet, Eki Ulele's replacement, appear as if from nowhere. He is a human fighter and son of a tea plantation owner, and Nate rolled a ridiculously luck set of stats, with a 16, a couple of 13s, and only one score under 9. He also got 8 on his hit point roll. Manjeet was travelling through the mountains on the way from his family's plantation in Sughd, with the aim of delivering some papers to the Baburam family, a clan of minor oligarchs in Silaish Vo. He more-or-less immediately threw in his lot with Marich and Anil when they promised him gold and glory, as one would expect.
The three made it back to Silaish Vo unscathed and unmolested by bandits. It was pretty clear that return to Sangmenzhang was off the agenda for now, and revenge against Manesh and his bandit clan top of the 'to do' list. (Another benefit of character death in a game: it pisses the players off and adds that extra emotional bite.) After some rest at the Madrassah of Arcanea, where the PCs have their lodgings, they immediately began investigating Manesh's history, and were introduced to Jhalak Dorji, one of the Oligarch's factotums, who told them that Manesh was known to the authorities and wanted. He promised the PCs 500 gold pieces for Manesh dead, and 1000 for him alive. They immediately set about hiring goons to aid them in bringing him down.
This time they meant business, and not only recruited 6 underlings, but kitted them out with chain mail, shields, and various weapons, spending a sizeable wedge of their gold hoard to do so. These 6 were Padma (long beard, short bow), Binod (midget, dagger), Nadaraja I (red hair, javelins), Nadaraja II (no nose, spear), Sanjam (fat, spear), and Marich II (one tooth left, sabre). While in the market, however, they were stopped by a woman who had noticed their large expenditure. This was Tara Dev, a tax collector for the Oligarch, who told them that in future any amount of gold they gained for themselves would have to be taxed - at 50%. This was in return for the safety and comfort offered by the Oligarch to all those living in Silaish Vo.
They set off into the mountains, heading back to Manesh's cave under the waterfall. They hatched a plan to, essentially, lie in wait by the cave to ambush people coming and going. Eventually five bandits appeared with a mule and a cow, heading towards the cave - they were obviously returning from a raid. After a brief skirmish the bandits were all slain to a man, with minimal harm to the PCs and their motley crew. But one of the bandits managed to run into the forest and yell to alert those in the cave to intruders before he got an arrow through the gullet.
Manesh and 8 of his men sallied forth, and a lengthy battle ensued. But the players seem to have learned their lesson: combat is war, not sport. They had stacked the odds heavily in their favour by properly kitting out their underlings, and they used pretty smart tactics, with spear-wielding troops using their better reach over machete-wielding bandits, to take down Manesh and a few of his men; the rest fled. In return, only Padma was killed.
The PCs left Marich II to search the bodies of the slain bandits, while they searched the cave and discovered a sizeable treasure hoard, including two scrolls. One, Anil discovered, contained a prayer to ward against the undead. The other was magical, and Marich would have to wait to return to Silaish Vo to discover its properties. Triumphant, they headed back to the city.
On the way, burdened with treasure and slowed by their captured mule and cow, they entangled with some giant centipedes and also came across a strange boulder-man in the forest: a galeb duhr. He was not violent, and simply insisted on being alone, offering the view that, rather than kill bandits, one could simply wait for them to die. He revealed himself to be thousands of years old.
Back in Silaish Vo they left their cronies to their own devices while they went to get their reward, which Jhalak Dorji duly paid. This, along with the treasure trove they had recovered from the cave, was enough to push Marich up to Level 2. This was the first level-up of the campaign. He got 1 extra hit point for his trouble, and the kudos of being the only PC who is still alive from the start. At the Madressa of Arcaneum he managed to persuade friendly Sujan, one of the instructors, to look at his scroll - it turns out it is a charm offering protection from beast who can become men, and men who can become beasts.
Anil decided to hire a replacement for the slain hireling Padma. On discussion with Liangyu Hui, the desert troll tea-shop owner, he learned that the hireling Marich II had been spending gold in sizeable amounts at the nearby whorehouse. This, Anil immediately (probably correctly) surmised, was because Marich II had been left alone with the bandit corpses after the battle, and had pilfered their gold for himself. He summoned Marich and Manjeet to help, and went to the whorehouse to lay down the law.
The whorehouse is a pyramid structure, and is owned by a madam called Jharana. The PCs tried to get her to reveal where Marich II was, but she proved uncooperative, maintaining that she did not like to tell strangers information about clientele. Anil threatened her with his club and she became annoyed and asked them to leave, threatening them with powerful friends and emphasising things would turn out badly if he persisted. He ultimately left, with the idea of preaching against prostitution outside and scaring away all her clients until she cooperated, but Marich decided discretion was called for and slept him.
Manjeet then went to ask Liangyu Hui about Jharana, to ask how he might make good and apologise. Liangyu Hui told him that Jharana had many extremely important and powerful "friends" in the city, and that Anil's life was probably in danger now he had annoyed her. But he also revealed that Jharana is also a wizardress of some repute, and is always interested in new knowledge, magicks, strange artefacts and documents, and so on. Such a gift might ameliorate her.
Some thoughts on the session: it was nice to see Marich level up, and good to see the players get revenge on Manesh, who was after all responsible for some amount of heartache. The players are also learning a bit more about the setting now, interacting with some of the more important NPCs in Silaish Vo, and getting to know the lay of the land. They are also probably getting an understanding that generally, there is no such thing as "excessive force" in D&D and only fools fight fair.
They came up with some creative ideas, too. Marich used his only sleep spell in the first bandit encounter, and after that came up with the notion of using his mirror to reflect sunlight in the eyes of the enemy to distract them, which I ruled would reduce a bandit's effective AC to 10 and put them at -2 to hit for one round if he scored a successful hit. Anil's idea of preaching outside the brothel was also a nice attempt to work around a botched situation, after the players realised they'd probably bitten off more than they could chew with Jharana.
Finally, Patrick, Anil's player, has come up with the notion that his cleric continually prays to Manpac for guidance; whenever he does this, Patrick rolls an encounter dice he has, which is a d6 with a face on each side (smiley face, frown, sad face, indifferent face, etc.). He then uses the result to indicate what Manpac's view on the situation is, and acts accordingly. What started as a humorous idea now seems to have taken on a certain amount of meaning, and it is amusing to watch Patrick attribute fortunate turns of events to Manpac's guidance.