Today was the second game of the new campaign. Last session, the PCs had discovered that the town constable was acting strangely, and were asked to investigate. They discovered that the constable's new lieutenant was an aswang - a shapeshifting creature.
This session, they followed up a few leads and set out for the desecrated shrine on a map they found among the lieutenant's stuff. Despite hints from me that they could hire men-at-arms, the party just went in on their own. Despite setting off an alarm at the gates of the shrine, they proceeded anyway. Despite the kensei falling in a pit trap and losing half of her hit points (and no healing spells), they pressed on.
When they found captives tied up in a locked room, there was a little bit of suspicion, but they came to the decision that these were in fact captured farmers from the neighborhood and set them loose. Then when they were about to go through the next door, the "farmers" revealed themselves to be aswang and attacked. [They'd been warned by alarms and set the ambush for the PCs.]
Now we had some unlucky dice rolls. The aswangs (bog standard doppelganger stats, revised description) got surprise on the party. With 4HD and 1d12 damage, and a couple of good rolls, they managed to kill the party wu jen and thief in the surprise round. One of the fighters was wounded.
Instead of surrendering or retreating, the other party members fought on. They managed to kill one of the aswangs, but then the sohei and kensei and one fighter were killed. The other fighter, a cat hengeyokai, transformed and fled the combat.
Most of the players have been playing in my West Marches game, so they know that old school play can be deadly, and that I'm not pulling punches. The kensei's player had played a bit of WM back when I was still using 5E rules, and she's mostly played 5E since then. She was a bit surprised that nearly everyone died, but took it in stride. She was at least satisfied that her character achieved a noble death in battle. A previous version of her PC in a 5E campaign run by a friend had a less than satisfying end, so this gave her character concept some closure at least!
I did try to warn them by suggesting multiple times that they hire some men-at-arms. Also, bad luck that they were surprised by the aswang. If the wu jen had not been taken out in the surprise round, he likely would have put two or three of them to sleep, making the encounter manageable without the men-at-arms. Oh well, two of the PCs (wu jen and kensei) were still at 0xp since the players couldn't come last week. And the other three that died didn't have that much collected yet. They can roll up some new PCs and play will continue in two weeks.