Good overlords in SF & fantasy

The evil overlord is a well-worn cliche in SF and fantasy, but what about the good overlord? The strong, perhaps even absolute, but benevolent ruler, clearly admired by the author (perhaps with a bit of power-worship showing through)? The Plantagenet king-emperor of the Angevin Empire in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories comes to mind; Lucas Trask, and the king of Marduk, in H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking; Prince Lysander of Sparta in Jerry Pournelle’s and S.M. Stirling’s The Prince; and the Bear Lord Michael Havel from Stirling’s Dies the Fire and sequels. (I exclude from discussion such things as the Overlords in Clarke’s Childhood’s End, because that’s an instance of a whole alien species putting humanity under a benevolent dictatorship; I’m asking about individual overlord characters.)

And is there a list of Good Overlord Rules anywhere out there?

King Arthur of course. He could give you many entries on the Good Overlord Rules.

King Elessar Telcontar of the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor in Middle-Earth.


Here is the obligatory link to the EOL List.

In a sense, Lord Vetriani of Discworld. He’s not nice, but clearly had the interests of Ankh-Morpork in mind in his machinations.

Richard Rahl, in Goodkind’s egregious Sword of Truth series, is very much admired by his creator and is indisputably supposed to be a benevolent overlord…though he is a pompous genocidal asshole.

Would Vetenari (patrician of Ank-Morpork) count? Not conventionally good as such, but definitely not evil.


Should we start a list of Good Overlord Rules?

  1. Do a better job vetting nephews of dubious origins. (The Mordred Rule)
  2. Be wary of Frenchmen and your beautiful wife. (The Lancelot Rule)
  3. Be very careful of protecting and paying attention to your children and especially your heirs when you remarry. Especially if your new wife already has a son. (General Common Rule that is common though out legends)
  4. If your eldest son is a total git or wastrel, remove him from the line of ascension completely and pension him off out of the way. Perhaps even overseas. (A real problem for some good kings)
  5. Always, always be very wary of your Grand Vizier, especially if they have a goatee, waxed mustache or Fu Manchu. (The oldest on in the book)
  6. Wizards are often a two edge sword. Be wary of meddling in the affairs of Wizards. (Corollary to an Elven Proverb :wink: )

Never mind - species, like the Priest-Kings of Gor don’t count.

It’s fantasy (but probably not quite the genre you’re thinking):

Sarastro in The Magic Flute

Of course, he breaks a lot of rules because while he’s supposed to be this shining beacon of “good,” he does a lot of objectively nasty stuff (e.g. kidnapping Pamina, putting Tamino through various trials, keeping Monostatos as a henchman, etc.).

Selenay, Elspeth and Randale from Mercedes Lackey’s **Valdemar **serieses. (There may have been more, I’m re-reading some at the moment, and reading others in the series for the first time.)

Given that all the rulers in Valdemar are Heralds, would they count? It seems that it’s set up so that they couldn’t be anything else, which I’m not sure fits the spirit of the question. I would think more along the lines of any of the Rethwellen rulers who aren’t in a system in which it’s guaranteed that they’re good people. Or Grand Duke Tremane?

Prester John from the Memory, Sorrow & Thorn trilogy.

I can’t remember his name or the name of the series but Piers Anthony had one.

The King in Zabibah and the King, by Saddam Hussein. :wink:

I’ll nominate Lebannen, from the later Earthsea books. King of all the isles, (or at least the central archipelago,) he’s definitely a sympathetic and admired character - a firstborn son from one of the Principalities of a long-broken kingdom, who does his best to help the old Archmage save the world and then realizes that he’s fufilled the prophecy of the next King who would unite the archipelago once again.

Of course, he has a bit of a temper when it comes to foreigners playing games to trap him into a marriage-alliance, but that just gives him a bit more personality. :smiley:

Dammit, indeed - two goes at it and neither of you spelled it right, even though you linked to a place that did. :stuck_out_tongue:

My namesake is the absolute ruler under Maleldil of the planet Mars, and pretty much the dictionary definition of benevolent. There is more than one oyarsa, but only one per planet, so I think he counts.

Emperor Gregor Vorbarra from Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. The Vorbarras have often been mad, always ruthless, then here’s Gregor. More or less raised with his cousin Miles Vorkosigan (whose grandfather tried to kill him and who had a bodyguard since before he was born), Gregor is the son of a mass murdering, regicidal manic. Gregor, though, is kind and thoughtful and shy, and considered a good ruler by his subjects, including the military. And as Emperor, his word is literally law. He has a Council of Counts, but they don’t rule, although they can make laws.


Emperor Sarabian from David Edding’s 2nd Sparhawk series (The Tamuli). Very interested in doing what was best for the Tamul Empire, but not completely above being somewhat ruthless in doing so. Cared more for his lowlier subjects, at least, than for the countless lazy family members and social climbers in the upper classes.

The Eternal Emperor from Bunch & Cole’s Sten series.

At least until he was assassinated. Again.

  1. If you’ve managed to bring peace and prosperity to the universe, do not take any actions to restore “balance”.


Hope Hubris from Bio of a Space Tyrant by Piers Anthony.