D&D 5E Is it possible to have a good-aligned final boss in a good campaign?


In Dragonlance there is a character called the Kingpriest, he is the epitome of lawful good...

-At the onset of his reign he created an order of "Knights", and tasked them with rooting out worshipers of evil gods and those who performed evil deeds.

-Years later he decided that worshipers of Neutral gods are just one step from Evil, because sometimes they perform Evil acts. His knighthood then began rooting out the worshipers of Neutral gods.

-Years later he decided that Wizards were evil, even if they followed the God of good magic. His knighthood then began destroying wizards in the Lost Battles.

-Years later he decided that if you don't worship the good gods in the way that he believes is the way they should be worshiped, you are a heathen and should be eliminated. His knighthood then began eliminating those who worshiped the good gods in ways that were different from his church.

-Near the end, he decided that evil acts are not the only evil, evil thoughts are also evil waiting to become deeds, so he began drafting edicts of "Thought control" to make sure that people weren't even thinking of "evil" things.

He wasn't being evil, he was being lawful good. Lawfully the only way to worship/act was the way he determined is the right way, and if you were doing it any other way, thinking any other way, then you were violating the "Laws of the Gods" and were therefore not good.

So yes, a "Good" character can be the enemy, because at its most extreme good is indistinguishable from evil. You just have to reflect on how someone could perform "Good" acts that would harm others.

(Yes, I'm leaving a lot out of the story of the Kingpriest. They're amongst the best Dragonlance books written and I don't want to spoil the story if there is someone who hasn't read them but might want to)

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I'd look at history for inspiration. Plenty of examples of medieval conflict where the combatants are, if not Good, not overtly Evil.

How about a nation where the king dies, with no wife, no siblings, and no heir. The rules of succession are vague. The king's two uncles both want the throne. They raise armies to fight. The PCs work for one of the uncles. Their foes are mostly other humans, who are mostly Good.

Or how about a region where the rightful king capitulates to a neighboring kingdom. The capitulation is totally lawful and would be of benefit to the inhabitants (increased trade, protection of a better army, etc.). Some folks don't agree with the capitulation and take up arms to resist it/stay independent. The PCs could be part of that resistance, or charged with putting it down.

Or a kingdom is colonizing a new land to exploit its resources and bring wealth back to the kingdom, thereby enabling it to better protect itself from its warmongering neighbors. The new land is inhabited by folks who don't want their resources shipped overseas. The PCs could be charged with securing those resources, or charged with convincing the colonists to leave.

The problem with this sort of campaign is you quickly get into discussions about D&D's alignment system and how that meshes with realistic motivations/cultures. If I'm Good, and you're Good, but we're soldiers for opposing armies at war and one us kills the other in battle... is that an Evil act? Sure doesn't feel like it'd be a Good act. Is it even possible to be Good, and be at war? I don't think D&D's alignment system is really robust enough to handle these questions. :)

As with all things, talk with your players before investing too much time in this. Might be, they just want to kill monsters and take their stuff.

EDIT: actually, looking over the 5e alignment section... it might work. If you presume that most humans are Neutral, and reserve Good and Evil for truly cosmic-level affiliation. In other words, go beyond the common D&D criteria of "All it takes to be Good is to not be Evil."
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First Post
I'd say that by the traditional rules of D&D alignment a villain who is willing to do great evil in the service of good... isn't really a good villain. A lot of what's written down about alignment actually explicitly says that the ends don't justify the means within the game's definition of good, so a well-intentioned extremist is really more neutral than good.

That being said, a good villain might still be workable, particularly if you play up the dichotomy of law vs. chaos. Additionally, a good-aligned villain might be unintentionally evil; that is to say, serving evil purposes unknowingly through what they perceive to be good actions. This is a bit like the well-intentioned extremist example, except the antagonist isn't actually doing anything explicitly evil by their own hands: they're just enabling/empowering evil unknowingly. Or maybe they're not even serving evil but are merely threatening to destabilize the cosmic order through what appear to be perfectly good actions.

I might look to Kaelyn the Dove from Mask of the Betrayer as a potential example. Her crusade against the Wall of the Faithless in the game seems ripe material for a good-aligned antagonist fighting against the forces of cosmic order (lawful neutral and lawful good entities in this case).


The alignment system doesn't mean that everyone with the same alignment works together. They might have a difference of opinion on how to achieve a goal, or even have wildly differing goals. They might disagree on what should be done (what to do with the One Ring) or disagree about what parts of the problem should be tackled, leading to different objectives for each faction ("sadly, we can't save Rohan, and if we waste our previous resources, we doom our entire effort" vs. "we have to stand by every ally, no matter the cost").


First Post
That's true, but again, you can't really have a "(good) ends justify the (evil) means" character in D&D and still have them be good... at least not in the long-term.
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There may not be "evil" ends involved, per se. It's not always clear-cut what the "best" course of action is. Perhaps there are two equally unpalatable choices, or perhaps the short-term "good" would lead to certain defeat.

And anyway, an "evil" end for a greater good is arguably the more "good" act. This is where it all gets into a big philosophical debate, and it's one reason why I don't use alignment in my campaign. I'd rather get on with it, rather than make judgement calls about players' decisions and have to label them "right" and "wrong". As such, I'm delighted that alignment is very minimal in 5e.

Edit: it puts me in mind of how much I disagree with Gygax's take on "good" behaviour. In a forum thread, he once made a "ruling" that killing "evil" prisoners was unequivocally a Lawful Good act. Not something I philosophically agree with, to say the very least. Morality is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, and we all have very different ideas about what "good" actually is. I also have similar problems with law/chaos in old school: people thought that Lawful Good was the "most good" and Chaotic Evil was the worst evil. But I digress from a digression...
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Wednesday Boy

The Nerd WhoFell to Earth
I'm not very familiar with Les Miserables but it seems like Inspector Javert (an officer hunting a criminal) and Jean Valjean (criminal who broke the law for a good cause) are an example of a Good vs. Good conflict. Maybe you can do something similar by having a Good adversary pursuing the party instead of the party pursuing the Good adversary.


You could devote an entire campaign to how the good god of JUSTICE and the good god of MERCY go to war with each other over how they treat the losers of a war that just finished before the start of the campaign.


I'm not very familiar with Les Miserables but it seems like Inspector Javert (an officer hunting a criminal) and Jean Valjean (criminal who broke the law for a good cause) are an example of a Good vs. Good conflict.

Javert has always been my closely held example of a Lawful Neutral character. He only cares for the law, not letting small things like starving people be an excuse for someone having to serve a 5 year sentence for breaking a window and stealing a loaf of bread.

Jean Valjean, however, is pretty clearly Chaotic Good, as he is willing to break a window and steal bread to feed his sisters starving child.

Still, however, you have a good point in that its possible to have not-evil characters being both sympathetic and the "bad guy".


There can be a conflict between a Chaotic Neutral cause and a Lawful Neutral cause.

For instance... Pirates vs. Navy.
Both sides can have evil characters. Maybe one side is controlled by an evil character but has a lot of good characters fighting for it while the other side is controlled by a good character but has a lot of evil characters fighting for them.

Because it isn't about good or evil.... it is about people who wants absolute freedom to go whereever they want, whenever they want, answer to no one and contribute nothing to society and they are going against a group that is all too painfully aware that people running around doing whatever they want means a lot of people committing a lot of crimes against innocents, conquering local districts and possibly unleashing great dangers that can destroy the world and they have been so zealous about enforcing it that they to have caused the death of hundreds of innocents bolstering their enemy's cause.

In this sort of conflict where there isn't a clear right or wrong, but two paths that are probably both going to stop evil while bringing other evil into the world... well... absolutely.

You could also have two sides that both require some sort of McGuffin to survive (hell, maybe not survive-- merely thrive if they get it and decline if they don't), neither of the sides are wearing black hats and therefore evil and deserving of total extermination... but rather, each side has its good and bad elements. There just isn't really any room for comprimise. One side will win and be exulted, the other will lose and be destroyed. In such a conflict one could easily have it end up where the PCs will fight someone good aligned regardless of their choice of side.


One way to go about it is that the good boss knows something the PCs don't know. He's trying to save the world, but if the macguffin is released, then everybody is doomed. But because he's trying to save the world, sometimes his actions might not seem good.

And of course, because the PCs eventually defeat the good boss, it then sets up the next campaign where the doom has been released into the world and the PCs need to stop it.


Of course! Why couldn't you? Ultimately "good" and "evil" are just tropes. What matters is the perspectives of the characters and how they react to the world around them. It would be very easy to have a lawful good "boss" that simply had a different perspective of how the world should work than the players, and is trying to enforce that vision in a way that leads to conflict.

As you already suggested, anything that includes "but it's for the greater good" is a potential source of much conflict.


I'm not very familiar with Les Miserables but it seems like Inspector Javert (an officer hunting a criminal) and Jean Valjean (criminal who broke the law for a good cause) are an example of a Good vs. Good conflict.

Javert is pretty much the quintessential example of an LN character. Jean Valjean is CG.


Basically, I want the PCs to have plenty of motivations to stop this person, but to have this person fight for a cause that allows him/her to remain good-aligned. Possible?
Certainly. My recommendation would be to set up a situation something like what you mentioned: The boss must sacrifice a thousand lives to save the world. The PCs have found an alternative solution, which will save the world without having to kill all those people.

The PCs have proven to themselves that their solution will work. However, they have no way of proving it to the boss, who flatly refuses to gamble the entire world on an unproven hope. From the boss's perspective, the only responsible thing to do is to make the sacrifice and save the world in the way that is known and certain to work. (You might throw in that the boss is one of the people who will die in the "sacrifice to save" solution, so it's clear the boss is not just throwing away other people's lives - his/her own is on the line as well.)

If you don't feel like sacrificing a thousand lives to save the world can qualify as "good," then maybe it's not lives that are at stake: Instead it's a great library where thousands of years of learning are collected, or something of the sort. The point is that, if there were no alternative solution available, making the sacrifice would clearly be the correct thing to do. Since the PCs cannot prove their alternative solution to the boss, they have to defeat the boss instead.
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You could have a scenario where the big "bad" is assembling a "wine to water" magguffin that will turn all the booze in the world to water to "end the scourge of drunkenness and addiction." It is pretty easy to imagine a good party (especially in Pathfinder) who would be opposed to this strategy to achieve a good goal.


First Post
In a fantasy story, the villains are very often one-dimensional characters bent on destruction for the sake of destruction and no other reason.
In real life and any decently realistic literature, no person thinks of himself as evil. Good, believable, multi-dimensional villains ALWAYS believe that they are good and that they are doing the right thing. So a good villain is not only absolutely possible, it's entirely realistic and awesome.

There are many ways in which this could work. A villain could believe any number of things that would cause him to commit an act of evil while still being fundamentally compatible with his good intentions.

Perhaps he believes in a particular set of rigid rules that require him to do something, or prevent other people from doing something and the result is that lives will be lost for the sake of rules that don't necessarily make sense in a specific situation.

In Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn books, Lord Ruler is the bad guy. In the last book of the trilogy, the reader finds out who Lord Ruler is and was and why he's doing what he's doing. After reading his motivations, and the limited options he had to choose between, I call him "Lawful Good" by D&D alignment, though with a very strong draconic despotism.

Similar to situations posted earlier in this thread, the protagonists in the book have better solutions to the problem but Lord Ruler isn't willing to try them, because he doesn't believe they will work.

Another example from media, in the movie Hero, the emperor appears to be the bad guy, justifying an assassination attempt. As the story progresses and we learn more about the emperor, things become less black-and-white. The emperor's armies have done violent things, but the emperor loves his country and believes he is doing what is right for the good of the nation.



Assuming you're okay with "good" being relative, then yes. It's not unreasonable to see gods or powerful minions of gods doing horrible things for the "greater good". Like....the orcs are usually the instigators of war in the world, say 7/10 of the wars in the last 1000 years were started by orcs. So the divine soldiers of good see them as evil and think the best solution is to kill them all.


In another thread here, we're debating a thing in FR called the wall of the faithless. Essentially it's a wall where, if you don't believe in a god or don't believe that the gods deserve worship, then when you die, you are mortared into the wall and gradually lose your identity while being tortured. The players could either be for tearing down the wall (siding against all the good gods of the pantheon, who currently seem to believe that it's a necessary part of the afterlife) or against it. Whether the wall is actually necessary or not is then up to you.

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