From well-meaning nobles, to protectors of nature that abide no fools, here are a collection of adversaries that aren’t evil, but still pose a threat.
The best villains come from unexpected places. They could be a trusted friend, or brother in arms that betrays you at the most heart-wrenching time. Or they could be someone caught in the collateral damage of a great tragedy who has decided no one should suffer such tragedy again, and the only way to prevent that is to rule everything.
But sometimes the best villains aren’t really villains–they’re people who are nominally on the same side as the heroes, or are opposed to them but only because they want whatever the heroes are after for a different, not-evil reason. These are daring swashbucklers who just want the treasure the PCs are after, or a powerful druid who permits no humanoids to set foot in her grove, or a paladin, convinced the PCs are on a path of destruction and trying to protect the lives of people caught in the middle of it.
Here are five villains that aren’t evil, but are still perfect antagonists for “heroes” of any alignment.
The Protecting Paladin
Vir Othric is a paladin of an order sworn to protect the downtrodden peoples of the world. They personally look after a single village or city, and when the adventurers roll in, they are wary of them. Adventurers often bring danger because of their thoughtless actions. And, if the adventurers ignore warnings to leave the ruins that house an ancient evil alone, Othric might take action against them, trying to prevent them from accidentally unleashing a great evil upon the nearby village.
If Othric should fight with the players, it is to subdue, and not to the death.
The Defender of Nature
Another option is a druid who protects a grove of seemingly unearthly beauty. This is because civilization is kept at bay, and pure, primal magic has taken hold of it–magic encouraged and tended by Kethran Durillin, a druid of the Circle of Land. They do not permit humanoids to enter their sacred grove and will fight to protect the local wilderness from the actions of the PCs. Things like untended fires or fighting the local wildlife might draw Durillin’s wrath–the same can be said if their adventures put them in conflict with nature spirits or the like.
Bartholomeus Kel is a hero of great renown in another land. This barbarian has walked the world, seeking fame and fortune and glory. And the adventurers have set their sights on a prize that Bartholomeus covets–it could be a massive jewel or a statue or an artifact squirreled away in a deep, dark dungeon. Bartholomeus will turn up at inopportune moments to try and get ahead of the players as they fight for the same treasure.
There is nothing that the Spectre cannot steal. From the queen’s crown jewels to the single most sentimental treasure in a green dragon’s hoard, the Spectre has stolen treasures big and small, all in the name of proving themselves the greatest thief in the world. When the adventurers take possession of an item that the Spectre wants, the game is afoot.
Kilv Ventross wants nothing more than to be the greatest swordfighter in the world. Kilv is constantly on the search for opponents of great skill and renown to fight to see if they can be bested. So far Kilv has not lost a match, and when they witness the PCs accomplish some great feat, they know they’ve found their next challenge.
Grab one of these adversaries the next time you want a villain that isn’t necessarily evil, but can still challenge the party for personal reasons.