I'm running my players through a modified version of Serpents Skull - Racing into Ruin, which has them leading a caravan/barge upriver. The scenario is a race with a rival party doing the same, which so far is in the lead, though the PC's are rapidly gaining.

At some point, the two parties are likely to intersect; since they're on the same set path (eg the river) there's no obvious opportunity to bypass the lead party without encountering it. There are a bunch of nasty things I can think of that will keep the rivals in the lead; rebuffing the party, but if the party can engineer their voyage to overtake them, they should be entitled to do so, so I'd like to figure out a way that the parties can pass each other / encounter each other without one of them wiping out the other...

The parties sponsor has already asked them not to overtly harass the rival faction, however the rival faction has been less scrupulous; and the PC's are getting understandably enthusiastic about "what we're gonna do when we get our hands on them". They are currently a long way from their sponsors, and may or may not remember or care about this order...

It is acceptable to me (and the sponsors) that the PC's rough up their rivals, the rivals have been a pain and deserve some comeuppance, the party deserves an opportunity to vent. BUT, the rivals still have parts to play, so if the PC's do attack, I need a way to prevent them from totally scuttling the expedition... (As an eg here, I have been making a big deal of caravan supplies as a method of threatening their pace and injecting drama, so it is reasonable that they could attempt to steal and/or destroy their opponents supplies, which would knock them out of the plot. Likewise, should they turn their mind to it and somehow manage to scuttle their rivals barge it will be a similarly final blow.)

I'm at a loose end, looking for inspiration. Other GM's, how would you deal with the situation?

For the reference; Players party: 4x level 6 characters (cleric, witch, barbarian, psychic warrior), playing custom kobold races; with the support of ~20 'expedition support' NPC's (sailors, low-level mercenary guards, etc)

Rival party still up in the air, can be 'retroactively' adjusted as needed to support needed strategies...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Parts to play in the sponsors' plans you mean? Probably you can just let them do what the will, reminding them about the sponsors' request if appropriate, and then have them deal with the consequences later. But do you mean parts to play in something else? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 25 '15 at 5:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, no. Sponsors are as inconvenienced by the other party as the PC's, but they are already dealing with serious world events, and PC's being overtly and openly super hostile would open them up to conflict on another flank when they can't really afford it. I guess I meant the rival party is still important from a plot/pacing perspective \$\endgroup\$ – crcroberts Apr 25 '15 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probable duplicate: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/59920/… (the answers seem to be identical to this one, if inverted as to cause) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 25 '15 at 7:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Roberts, is this a requirement of the module you're running? Or just a preference of your plotting? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 25 '15 at 8:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is caravan sabotaging an example of an okay or not okay solution? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 25 '15 at 16:12

If you need the encounter to be non-fatal for either party, stage it so that the encounter happens in an area where violence is frowned upon.

Encountering the other party at nightfall when both barges arrive at a city seems like a good thing to enforce your rules. The parties can scheme and have some cloak and dagger action with sabotage or espionage missions and one party will get off in the morning with the other waking up with their barge sabotaged and needing another day to repair it.

The adventure path looks like it's out in the wilderness, maybe the parties meet at a spot at nightfall that is so dangerous, that travelling further is only possible at dawn. The spot may be so dangerous that killing each other openly will result in the survivors being eaten by something that is only kept at bay because of the many people with pointy things.

Maybe the other party is meeting up with allied tribesfolk at the riverbank at dusk. The best option would be to sneak around them and hurry to get upstream and at a distance while they have docked for the night and are resting.

So whatever scenario you chose, if you can make sure that open hostilities are suicidal , you are good to go.

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