373 Rival Adventuring Party

Getting to the topic we didn’t get to last week, Rival Adventuring Party!

Being recorded tonight at 8pm CT.

Otherwise you can find it in your podcatcher soon enough.

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I tweeted this too but it was pretty cool to hear my song “Save or Die” at the end of the broadcast!

On topic of rival adventuring parties: I used them in campaigns where there is a race to secure key resources and McGuffins. The characters are making decisions on what item to go after and when. Sometimes the rivals would go after a different item and it would be gone when the players finally went looking for it. In one campaign, there was a great social interaction between the party and rivals trying to convince each other that they were rightfully the “chosen ones” and should be given all the items.

Hear more RPG rocksongs: Abandon At My Place - Gamer Rock Tunes - Carl Davis. See music videos and RPG advice content at https://www.youtube.com/asavageworldsgm


I have included the verbiage in text on Patreon and Show notes, Carl. They may not appear in podcatchers if they downloaded it before today. That’s my fault.

I have a big beef with this because a huge detail of rpg’s that I feel like is always inferred in the books, but practically never implemented in game, is the simple fact that the party members are not the only adventurers out there. It’s a huge plot hole I feel like, and I find it in most games. It bugged me so much that I wrote an entire campaign about it. Some notable details from my now mostly lost campaign notes included:

  • The players are rookies and not well known
  • They know of several famous adventurers who have been around for a while
  • The history of the world has been heavily influenced by previous adventurers who are long since or recently deceased
  • The players will meet or interact with around 15 other adventuring parties of varying level and alignment all through the campaign. Their interactions will influence future quests
  • They can create allies that will help them or even ask for their help later, create enemies that will seek revenge either through violence or defamation, and over the course of the campaign the rookies become famous, well known adventurers
  • Some quest patrons hire multiple parties and insist they work together to handle more difficult quests. For example, the second quest, following the players’ small increase in notoriety, was an invitation to join a party of 50 adventurers hired by the kingdom to deal with a dragon. Spoilers, it ended with a double cross by one particular band of miscreants who steal the dragon’s egg and flee to a neighboring rival kingdom
  • Past adventurers rise from the dead, misinformation and rumors lead the players to misjudge various other characters, and even NPC’s can change and evolve over time whether the player characters choose to believe it or not

I’ve always thought about using a rival party in an adventure or campaign, but never got around to it. But I can definitely think of a couple groups where rivals would have kept them on track, for fuck’s sake. The number of shopping sessions we could have fast tracked because while our intrepid heroes were out looking for matching capes (yes, this actually happened), maybe there are far less vein heroes who cracked the first vault’s code and are gonna make off with all the glory.

One alternate version of this that has been on my mind for years is to play the criminals pulling off a heist in one session… then play the detectives in the next. Use the clues you left behind to track down the culprits and play off your own memories of the heist rather than relying on interpreting what the GM tells you. One of these days…

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Most systems come with pre-gens that would be really easy to take and use as the rival adventuring party, assuming your players didn’t pick from the pre-gens already.

It isn’t hard to find pre-generated characters online for the most popular systems. Pathfinder Society gives characters for levels 1, 3, & 5 in every class and the digital dungeon master website has every class at every level. Just change up the names and roll. This way, as a GM, you can skim the sheets if the party only shows up for a few encounters, but all the information you need is there if things devolve into combat.

Lastly, some players LOVE coming up with characters and will even start a campaign with 3 ideas or filled out sheets that they need to decide between. Why not ask them if you can “borrow” those characters, or if they’d like to flesh them out so that they can show up in the adventure as an NPC?


I look forward to running “Curse of Roslof Keep” sometime, and one of the focal points is the other parties. I think this was mentioned a couple times in the pod, but the set up is that there are other sponsors, which is why there are multiple parties. But I do think it could be fun.

Also, I was disappointed there was a “listen after the credits” warning, because I love when the bloopers are there, and I feel like I got in on a secret. BUT, then when I got there, oh hell yeah! Glad he primed everyone for that!!


I’d like to share my very pleasant DMing experience with the Rival Party in the D&D 4e adventure: Madness at Gardmore Abby

I followed the basic guidelines:

The Rivals were statted out, just like monsters. No need for cumbersome fully-developed PC-like characters.

The adventure provides 4 rival encounter templates, with the locations randomly determined. I only used 3 of these templates (I didn’t use the 4th final “boss fight” formula for the final encounter, as I had this adventure linked with my grand epic campaign arc, and had something else in mind.)

You can see how I handled the encounters below…

The Forsite Irregulars encounter Rivals in the Madness of Gardmore Abby

They first encounter their rivals mopping up some monsters in the a dungeon.

Other after some parley and bluster, they learn that the rivals are collecting as well. The parties go their separate ways, agreeing to meet up in town later.

Days later they find out the Rivals have been trash-talking them about town. A large number of innocent bystanders and local constabulary at the Inn meant “entering initiative” was never really an option. This made an awesome opportunity to have some real role-playing and individual spotlight time on pair-wise and subgroup encounters - with both parties trying to measure each other up, and determine what collectables might be in play.

This really built up the rivalry!

The final meeting was again in an encounter area, where the rivals had set up an ambush - though it turned into a three way battle unexpectedly and quickly.

Defeat for the rivals came in the form of surrendering the collectables, and leaving town immediately.

I think this formula, for establishing rivals as an intermittent but ever evolving force is great for plot development and PC buy-in. It can really help bring the world to life.