I'm making a homebrew campaign that is heavily inspired by Kinloch Hold (the Mage Tower / Ferelden's Circle of Magi) from Dragon Age Origins. (Here is a partial video of the source material, if you require more background. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHMKb2g9sK4&list=PLL5LBLM9GP5fG0R1PSKge v4K1UMH27EWF&index=16&t=0s)
In my version of the story, it is an Arcane Prison, where primarily Paladins guard captured evil casters, demons, monsters, etc. in prison cells on the 3rd+ floor. There was a mass jail break, and many of the guards were slaughtered.
Originally my plan was to have the BBEG be a powerful creature that's sealed at the top of the tower, but after they seemed to really get into the roleplaying with an enemy NPC who begged for her life, my group is usually heavily into combat and not very interested in roleplay, I thought, "What if I downgrade the top of the tower combat a CR, and add in a new BBEG, a guard who set the inmates free with the intent of the more moderate and the "bleeding heart" reformist guards being killed by the inmates, who are then killed by like-minded outsiders he can recruit, in the hopes of cleansing the tower of evil, then moving on to making the world a better, safer place for the innocent by any means necessary, a Well Intentioned Extremist trope, https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WellIntentionedExtremist. (Like a Light Yagami from Death Note type character. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBvddAGc3Uc )
With this new final battle being they can chose who to side with in the end, and have to fight the non-extremist NPCs, or tell him to shove it and fight him and his minions.
So, here's my problem, assuming they don't side with him. Is a high level Paladin even a decent combat for my players? (And would he still be considered a Paladin, despite his murderous zeal because he believes he's doing it for the greater good)? My group consists of one LG, and the rest are mostly NG or CN, so I'm worried without being able to Smite, would he be pretty much neutered? Should he be changed from a Paladin to another class (there are Clerics and Wizdards, but not many), or would become corrupted by his deeds and turn Anti-Paladin?
My big question for all this is why the Warden/BBEG is going through the extra step of freeing the prisoners to kill off the moderates so he can kill them in turn rather than just invoking the Rite of Annulment equiv and just executing them en masse. Just feels like there's a missing piece of context there.
That aside, a high level paladin would more than likely be a poor challenge overall vs a non-evil party being mostly a martial with good saves and a self heal barring significant overleveling or templates galore. Of course that's presuming he even had his class abilities at all which I'd well say he wouldn't. Wanting to purge the worst scum of the world? Sure, fine. Having a convoluted plan that involves them killing your (also probably Good) compatriots as a pretext to do so? Fall.
Course not every bbeg needs to be a challenge narratively, although if you have a more hackmaster style group, I'd settle for either a load of minions or templates (or just not making him a paladin) to keep them engaged in the very likely event they decide to give him an involuntary walk through the nearest window.
Well, in my scenario, it's a jail, more along the lines of your local IRL jail with magical cell components, so I didn't write in any sort of Rite of Annulment substitute. DAO's story was used as a base idea, but it's not set in the same world, or have the same rules, it was just a magical jail, where bad magical users and creatures are kept because a plain old jail wouldn't be suitable, so I didn't translate the backstory into this beyond the most basic parts, magic prison goes to crap, PCs subdue/kill baddies, victory.
Originally it was going to be some guard with the hots for a succubus let her out, she mezzed him, and opened all the others, because again, the PCs are more stabbity death players than Roleplayers, so the story was intentionally vague since until recently, they didn't care much about story. I'd given up on a few of them even paying attention to me and not their phones when I went into background story, so to save myself frustration, I went with the K.I.S.S. method of storytelling, so they could just roll dice to kill things.
The BBEG before this event wasn't anyone special. Imagine him as more of surviving higher ranking peon with a major zealous streak. The higher ranking people were killed off by the inmates so he took control.
Would a zealot lose his powers or not? It could be viewed as taking the law to Extremes, I had a former DM complain that I played a "White Knight" style Paladin, that was boring in his eyes, why not use a "Wrath of God" extremist, and used the Bible quote used in 'Pulp Fiction' and said that would be more interesting story to tell, someone so bent on righteousness they would do whatever it takes to make things "right".
The whole point of me changing my mind, and making a new ending, is that I had a prisoner begging for her life, claiming she wants to have a second chance to start over. Half the group was IMMEDIATELY "Kill her!", but the small minority wanted to hear her out, and eventually the moderates changed enough minds that they added her to the party, and if she proved she turned over a new leaf, then they'd let her go. So, that made me wonder, "If the situation was reversed, and a zealot wants you to kill anyone not up to their moral standards, would you still feel the same way, of kill them, they aren't capable of being better?"
This is my 3rd time making a home brew and GM-ing, so I'm not very skilled with templates and GM skills above newbie level, so not sure how to do that easily. There are more than Paladins as guards, there's a small amount of Wizards, and Clerics, and I'm open to adding other classes that would fit the theme set. If a run of the mill Paladin would be a push over, any recommendations what else could fill the story role that would be more of an appropriate challenge?
Regarding Falls anyway, your table is your table, but about the best way I can sum up Paladins as PF intends is that the ends absolutely do not justify the means. That's why you (the paladin) fight with honor, don't use poison, etc, etc because you are to achieve a capital G Good end while acting in a capital G Good manner. While I also don't particularly care for the turbo granola "give everyone a chance to reform and sing kumbaya" interpretation of paladins either, I also don't believe that a good goal justifies any and all methods, especially purposefully causing large losses of life among your comrades to do so (regarding PF paladins anyway). In other words I'd give leeway to logic along the lines of "The choices you have made have led you to this place, now suffer the consequences of such" *summary execution of insert evil-doer here* I'd be less tolerant of freeing ancient demons to prove that they were better off dead all along.
That aside, the rest of the context is appreciated, but at the end of the day, it's hard to see the bbeg as offering a real decision for any table I'd imagine. On paper the general premise of "these things we imprison could cause mass chaos and destruction if they get free so they're better off dead" is a stance that makes some sense, but when you actually release those things you're going to lose pretty much all sympathy and just cross the plane into "deranged lunatic" and virtually anyone not looking to be contrarian is going to put a mad dog like that down.
At least in my mind, if you actually do want to drop a choice at the players, don't have the guy let the lunatics run the asylum. The wards just mysteriously fail, a crazy lich manages to find a loophole, or something else along those lines. The party battles up to the top and are given the choice to either reseal everything or activate the Rite of Annulment failsafe that will purge everything using the master prison control macguffin. Let them decide if the chance to reform as per the prisoner or if the paladin's argument for absolute security by killing them all wins out. Natch the paladin can still try to stop them if they choose otherwise but then its an actual choice in my mind that doesn't necessarily have to be a difficult one (add enough backup casters to provide buffs/control effects as desired).
Anyway, that's my thoughts on the manner, the actual encounter mechanics generally are easier if you have a prebuffed caster than a paladin and having backup certainly makes things better than being alone, but as said above, enough backup can make anything intimidating, even if they're effectively just a dude with a greatsword.