Bacteria inhabit diverse environmental niches and consequently must modulate their metabolism to adapt to stress. The nucleotide second messengers guanosine tetraphosphate (ppGpp) and guanosine pentaphosphate (pppGpp) (collectively referred to as (p)ppGpp) are essential for survival during nutrient starvation. (p)ppGpp is synthesized by the RelA-SpoT homologue (RSH) protein family and coordinates the control of cellular metabolism through its combined effect on over 50 proteins. While the role of (p)ppGpp has largely been associated with nutrient limitation, recent studies have shown that (p)ppGpp and related nucleotides have a previously underappreciated effect on different aspects of bacterial physiology, such as maintaining cellular homeostasis and regulating bacterial interactions with a host, other bacteria, or phages. (p)ppGpp produced by pathogenic bacteria facilitates the evasion of host defenses such as reactive nitrogen intermediates, acidic pH, and the complement system. Additionally, (p)ppGpp and pyrophosphorylated derivatives of canonical adenosine nucleotides called (p)ppApp are emerging as effectors of bacterial toxin proteins. Here, we review the RSH protein family with a focus on its unconventional roles during host infection and bacterial competition.