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As an eternal fan of necromancy (get it? ahahaha *sigh*), I’ve always wanted to play as a Lich. But alas, it is far more difficult to convince one’s DM to let them take the template than to actually acquire it in the first place. And on that note it would seem the Demilich is beyond mortal gamer means… But I shall try to legitimize the dearly beloved, yet forsaken, template we call the Lich… Over time, I hope to establish this as a prime resource for pursuers of this often vague milestone in the art of necromancy.
A lich is a spellcaster of the necromantic persuasion who seeks to gain immortality and greater power through evil magics. By constructing and storing one’s soul within a phylactery via these dark rituals, that spellcaster can live forever as an undead creature. To qualify, it takes a spellcaster (not including spell-like abilities) of caster level 11 or higher, 120,000 gp, and 4,800 XP. This doesn’t include the various materials for the ritual.
The template comes at a +4 LA, however there is a 4-level template class available from Wizards of the Coast on their website. See the last link at the bottom of this guide for more information. With it, you may be able to bargain for access to lichdom.
So You Wanna be a Lich? Rites of the Lich:
Once the phylactery is completed, it must be placed on an altar to a death god which you must construct from black onyx (500 gp) in a process that takes 8 days. With all the etchings and enchantments done, requiring you to expend 6 hours and two whole levels of spell slots each day, you are ready to transfer your soul to the phylactery. With an evil outsider watching over (it is impossible for them to interfere, via the power of the ritual), you must sacrifice one of your race who is twice as young as you and another who is twice as old (to a max age of the maximum age for your race), as per the ritual. Their souls are consumed by the black onyx altar where you will slay yourself using your most potent necromancy spell. Your soul will travel through the black onyx into the phylactery where it will be activated, coming your passage into lichdom. The evil outsider is automatically dismissed to wherever they came from and the black onyx altar dissipates from the site. The altar becomes a tribute to the death god you dedicated it to, your name being engraved throughout it as your soul was channeled through it.
Who Can be a Lich?
Core Base Classes
Fighter or Barbarian 6/Blackguard 7*
Monk or Rogue 8/Blackguard 7*
Monk or Rogue or Fighter or Barbarian 5/Assassin 7*
Wizard 3/Cleric 3/Mystic Theurge 8
Wizard 3/Cleric 3/Mystic Theurge 5* **
*with Practiced Spellcaster
**it would seem like W 3/C 3/MT 4 would qualify for the CL 11, but Practiced Spellcaster only allows a maximum caster level equal to your HD.
Notes: For Assassins, Blackguards, Mystic Theurges, and PrCs that a melee character could achieve to get spellcasting levels, the Practiced Spellcaster feat (Complete Arcane) will come in handy. This is also important to PrCs with unique spellcasting lists like Assassin or Blackguard.
Relative Phylactery Sizes
Due to the size difference between various species who partake in lichdom, a phylactery is usually build two size categories smaller than its creator (to a minimum of Fine). A Colossal+ creature would thus have a Gargantuan phylactery.
A lich can automatically sense if its phlactery is being attacked or has been destroyed. When a phlactery is destroyed, the lich feels a sensation of pain which stuns it for 1d4 rounds. As long as a phlactery does not move from where the lich put it, a lich can automatically sense exactly where it is (even if memory is altered or it somehow forgets). The lich receives +2 bonus to the CL and DC of divination spells centered on its phylactery.
Reforming from the Phylactery:
Since the MM is rather vague on this, allow me to offer up my own detailed outlook on this process.
Upon being destroyed, your perspective is shifted back to your phylactery while you await to be reformed in 1d10 days. Any effects are immediately terminated as your remains are reduced to inert ash. The energy of this fading form is used to fuel the regeneration of your new one. As your body reforms, you lack any control over it physically but your mind is allowed to think and plot. Here is an eight-day progression of your reformation. At times where you regenerate quicker, this timetable is accelerated.
While being reformed, you receive blindsight 5′ to detect any presences of living or unliving creatures (like with magic jar to see such presences and their strength). You may cast any touch spells or short range spells (limited to a range of 5′) you still have memorized through your form if they dare touch you. During this time, you cannot regain spent spells. You can communicate through telepathy but its range is limited to no more than 30′. Any other senses do not function until the process is complete.
Day 1: An amorphous blob of negative energy begins to slowly build up over the phylactery, much in the way that an oyster would create a pearl. For the most part, it offers no protection to your phylactery.
Day 2: The negative energy will begin to take the shape of your previous form.
Day 3: The blackened shell begins to solidify into inert flesh, much like a clone spell. The effect takes hold from the outside in.
Day 4: Bones begin to reform within the fleshy mass. The first traces of the most vital organs are coming back.
Day 5: Organs and bones are formed but unconnected as of yet.
Day 6: All organs and bones are set into place and connected. They are inert though, as you are an undead creature. The process of reformation begins to return you to the look you have previous to your undeath; this includes deformities and bodily marks (scars, birth marks, etc.).
Day 7: Hair and pigmentation have returned to normal. Nails begin to push out from the tips of your fingers. Fluids are created, but not circulated. Blood will coagulate by the time the process finishes.
Day 8-9: With your body intact, your soul begins to anchor itself back into your body. In effect, you are comatose.
Day 10: The process is complete. Your eyes snap open and you are now as you once were. As the final step, a blackened patch of negative energy remains over your ‘heart’ from Day 1. Through this hole drops your phylactery, which has acted as an impromptu heart throughout your regeneration. With the phlactery expelled, the hole is sealed and you are complete.
*You may delay the process of reforming to any amount of time between the original amount of days to the maximum amount of days.
Defense of the Soul
See the last sections of Complete Arcane: most of these defenses for your spellbook can be put to use on your phylactery (DM approval for some effects). A trapped phylactery isn’t triggered by its creator and they get always get a saving throw (even for ones that don’t allow for it; default to Fort or Will depending on the type of effect) with +4 bonus.
A phylactery can use the Will save of its creator, even if not within the vicinity of the lich. (It contains his/her soul, after all)
Symbols of spells and glyphwardsare good defenses, and are not triggered by the creator upon his/her respawn.
Destruction of a Phylactery
When you destroy a phylactery, you destroy the soul of the lich who crafted it. Without a soul, it cannot be brought back to life nor can it reform. A phylactery that is destroyed while it contains a soul is vaporized by the action of the soul being dispersed from it. Nothing can bring it back or fix it. If it is an inert phylactery that hasn’t been occupied yet, it only breaks as per the effect set upon it and can be repaired by a make whole spell of a CL equal to or greater than the CL of the crafter at the time it was made (unless it was destroyed beyond mundane means, such as a disintegrate spell, or left in a state where it make wholecannot fix it).
As a druid or ranger is in tune with the ways of animals, you may interact with undead.
Prerequisite: Empathy (Wild or otherwise) class ability, must have spoken with an undead creature and passed a successful Diplomacy check, Diplomacy 5 ranks, capable of casting a necromancy spell
You can improve the attitude of an intelligent Undead creature. This ability functions just like a Diplomacy check to improve the attitude of a person. You roll 1d20 and adds the class level of whichever class gave you the Empathy ability and your Charisma modifier to determine the dead empathy check result. The typical Undead creature has a starting attitude of hostile.
To use dead empathy, you and the Undead must be within 30 feet of one another under normal visibility conditions. Generally, influencing an Undead creature in this way takes 1 minute, but, as with influencing people, it might take more or less time.
You can also use this ability to influence an unintelligence Undead, but you take a 50% (minimum of 10) penalty on the check (reduce the outcome by 50%).
You receive a +4 circumstance bonus if you are Undead as well.
Deny Exception [Undead]
You are capable of warding off the additional effects of spells and abilities that are more effective against Undead a few times each day.
Prerequisite: Cha 13+, any amount of positive energy resistance
Special: You may be treated as a non-Undead creature for the purpose of spells that deal extra damage or effects specifically against undead (such as sunbeam and its destruction effect, or sunburst which normally deals 1d6 damage per caster level rather than the basic 6d6 damage). Positive energy, such as that of healing spells, still do damage (for example: heal will act as if you weren’t Undead, which performs healing but it will do positive damage thus hurting you still). This effect is instantaneous and can be used against a number of spells per day (automatically, at your choice) equal to your Charisma modifier. Spells that deal extra damage or apply different effects over a period of time are affected for the duration of the spell. This feat may also apply against a single use of a magical item working in the way previously described.
Even the stoutest of creatures may fall victim to your fear inducing spells.
Prerequisite: Capable of casting/using three fear-inducing spells or abilities, caster level 13
Special: You can instill fear in the most fearless of creatures. When your fear-inducing spells or abilities are put against a creature immune to fear, they receive a +4 bonus to their saving throws. If the attempt succeeds, the creature suffers the fear effect but at one category lower (to a minimum of shaken). Creatures immune to fear as per their type traits or with Intelligence less than 2 are effected as normal (or with more HD than the spell allows to effect).
Normal: You cannot instill fear in a creature immune to fear.
Dread Lord of Legend [Epic]
Your fear spells can afflict more powerful creatures.
Prerequisite: Capable of casting/using ten fear-inducing spells or abilities, caster level 21, Dread Lord
Special: Double the maximum HD of creatures your fear spells/abilities can effect. Cause fear now effects creatures with 12 HD or less, rather than the normal 6 HD. You gain a +4 insight bonus to your spells’ DC.
Legion of Undeath
Through your training with necromancy, you can command even greater hordes of the undead.
Prerequisite: Charisma 18+, can cast animate dead, CL 11+
Special: You control 6 HD of undead per caster level with animate undead or spells that use this limit. (Or add +2 to your Charisma bonus for Dread Necromancers with Undead Mastery)
Normal: You control 4 HD of undead per caster level.
Your undead power allows you to turn the tables on those who seek to turn or rebuke you.
Prerequisite: Charisma 16+, Turn resistance +4, Undead
Special: When being turned or rebuked by a creature of less than 3/4 your HD, you may make an opposed Charisma check. If successful, that creature suffers the effect of their turning or rebuking (including extra damage to undead or special effects due to your alignment). This ability can be used a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier per day.
Improved Negative Healing [Undead]
Your connection to the Negative Energy Plane has allowed you to open a greater connection to the plane through negative energy attacks and channel even more healing than normal.
Prerequisite: Undead, Heals from negative energy, Improved Toughness
Special: You heal 150% from negative energy.
Normal: You heal 100% from negative energy.
Courage-Killer Presence [Vile]
Your evil presence robs enemies of their hope and courage.
Prerequisite: Evil, HD 11+
Special: Enemies within 30′ of you do not gain the benefit of morale bonuses.
Presence of Anti-Sanctity [Vile]
Your vicious nature carries over even further into your presence, sapping divine assistance.
Prerequisite: Courage-Killer Presence, HD 15+
Special: Enemies within 30′ of you do not gain the benefit of sacred bonuses. Allies within 30′ do not suffer from sacred penalties.
Death Song [Undead]
As a performer of the dead, you know how to play specifically for your audience.
Prerequisite: Undead, Bardic Music ability
Special: Your bardic music abilities affect undead creatures for their full duration but affect living creatures for half that duration. If you have Requiem, you may choose to have either one take effect when you begin a bardic music effect.
Prerequisite: Knowledge(see below) 5 ranks
Special: You gain a +4 circumstance bonus to Knowledge checks related to your type.
Type -> specific Knowledge skill
Constructs, dragons, magical beasts -> Arcana
Aberrations, oozes -> Dungeoneering
Humanoids -> Local
Animals, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, plants -> Nature
Undead -> Religion
Outsiders, elementals -> The Planes
You do not suffer the normal ride penalty (-2) for riding an undead creature.
Prerequisite: Ride 8 ranks, Mounted Combat
Special: You do no take the normal -2 penalty to Ride checks with an undead creature. Instead, your training gives you a +2 bonus instead and your flying mount’s maneuverability increases by one category (unless it is already average or better). If it is not a flying mount, add 10 feet to its fastest movement speed. (Mount refers to any creature you ride, specifically undead for this feat)
Greater Dread Cavalier
Your skill atop an undead mount continues to increase.
Prerequisite: Ride 11 ranks, Dread Cavalier
Special: Your flying mount’s maneuverability increases by another category (unless it is already good or better). If it is a ground mount, its fastest speed increases by 10 ft again.
Deadly Touch [Undead]
Getting in touch with your undead lich brethren, you may also make a evil-charged touch attack.
Prerequiste: Undead, Natural weapon
Special: When you successfully hit a living creature with your natural weapons, they must make a Will save (DC 12+Charisma modifier). If failed, half the damage becomes negative energy and all of the damage is treated as evil for the purpose of bypassing DR. This ability is optional.
Purveyor of Death [Undead]
Prequisite: Undead, Smite class ability
Special: Your smite ability becomes Smite Living, taking effect on creatures that are not undead, constructs, or oozes. You gain an extra use per day.
Unholy Toughness [Undead]
Your unholy power has granted you dark vigor.
Prerequisite: Undead, Evil alignment
Special: You gain an additional number of hitpoints equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1) times your HD. (This feat has showed up in a lot of recent books but was never mentioned in Libris Mortis.)
Commander Among Dead [Undead]
It takes one to know one, and you put this to good use when deadling with undead comrades.
Prerequisite: Undead, Charisma 18+
Special: Your receive a +4 bonus to Charisma checks with fellow undead. Add +2 to your Leadership score for Undead Leadership.
Study of the Damned [Undead]
Your penchant for study in your undeath has led you to acquire vast training in the magic arts.
Prerequisite: Undead, spellcasting ability at 21+, CL 11+, three metamagic feats
Special: Treat your spellcasting ability as if it were four higher for the purpose of acquiring extra spells per day. You gain +4 to Knowledge checks when dealing with a school of magic of your choice and/or the undead.
Suture the Soulless
Your skill in healing allows you to repair the Undead physically, at least a little.
Prerequisite: Heal 10 ranks
Special: By succeeding on a DC 25 Heal check, you may spend a number of rounds equal to the HD of the Undead creature you wish to patch up in order to restore some of its hitpoints. When finished, the Undead creature has hitpoints to equal its Charisma bonus (to a min of +1 and a max of +4) times its HD (only if this number is greater than the previous amount).
Rekindle the Soul [Lich]
You may rebuild a phylactery, and repair your missing soul, when the rest have been destroyed.
Prerequisite: Lich template, CL 15+
Special: When your phylactery is destroyed, you may rebuild it using the souls of others and the ones who originally destroyed it. To do this, you must construct a new, empty phylactery as you normally would. Once it is completed, you must sacrifice one intelligent creature (Int 8+) for every caster level you have attained (including levels lost to draining effects). In addition to these offerings, you must also sacrifice the creature most directly responsible for the destruction of your last phylactery*. These souls work to rebuild your soul which had been destroyed along with the phylactery. It now takes you an additional day to reform yourself upon being killed (1d10+1 days, and so on). You only need to take this feat once, but can reuse it multiple times.
*If natural forces destroyed your phylactery, sacrifice an appropriate Elemental with at least as many HD as your own. If you are most responsible for the destruction of your phylactery, you must petition a death god (most likely Vecna) and complete a quest to be forgiven of your folly.
You Don’t Look So Good:
As your body begins to decay from its original look, it becomes easier to spot you as the undead scourge you are. The base DC is 12. A Heal check of half this DC (halving the modifiers as well) can identify your undead form by checking your pulse, vital organs, etc..
+1/day spent reforming in last reformation (max +8)
-3/full week after reformation (casting gentle repose or spells of similar effect negates the days of those effects from this modifier)
When using the Disguise skill, the DC is either the previous or the result of your Disguise check (whichever is higher) when a Spot check is being used. It is no use against a Heal check.
When using Disguise Self, add half the CL to the DC (a max of +10). Not effective against a Heal check.
When using Alter Self, add the CL to the DC of both the Spot and Heal checks.
Home is Where the Heart is… [Variant]
Polymorph Any Object, when cast upon a phylactery will allow you transform it into a heart. With this, you may perform a special ritual. A DC 30 Heal check will allow you to replace a living creature’s heart (of equal scale to your own heart; a Medium lich must cast a permanent spell to double the heart’s size for use in a Large creature). This creature becomes a Lichthrall, gaining this afflicted template (‘the lich’ refers to the lich who added this template). This template is also applied whenever a phylactery is within another creature (either by ingestion, surgery, etc). For DM variants such as the entire person is a phylactery, use the Lichthrall (as in the case of Professor Q in the first Harry Potter; Voldemort is, in effect, a lich with a slow recovery time).
A lich will respawn from its Lichthrall as it would from a phylactery (the Lichthrall is a phlactery, in effect). During this time, the thrall glimmers with dark energies and when the process is finished the lich parts from his thrall as a shadowy form that solidifies into itself (instantly). The lich will sort of look like its thrall, sharing a few minor physical traits (eye/hair color shifts slightly). In return, the Lichthrall acts and thinks more like its master.
When reforming the master, it takes a DC 25 (minus 1 day for everyday the respawning process has gone on) to realize that something is wrong with the Lichthrall. (as noted below, detecting the Lichthrall’s aura will show that there are two overlapping auras – one for the thrall and one for the lich, though they are the same in quality)
Alignment: Shifted to the lich’s alignment (influenced to act as the lich would)
Gains DR/magic and bludgeoning equal to half the lich’s HD.
Healed by negative energy.
Spell-like Abilities (Granted to Lich, used on Lichthrall only; no saves, no SR): At will – Greater Scrying, Detect Thoughts, Major Image (of lich, visible only to thrall),
Requires an opposed Int, Wis, or Cha roll, as chosen by the Lichthrall; if successful, lich cannot use any of these effects for an hour.
Channel the Master(Su): In mirrors, the thrall’s reflection is that of the lich. When any presence is sensed or its aura is being checked, it is exactly the same as the lich’s. When respawning the lich, anyone checking the thrall’s aura will notice there are two identical ones. The lich may use Cha-, Int-, or Wis-based skills via its thrall.
Familiar-like Traits: The lich may use most (at DM’s discretion) of the familiar-based spells such as transfering spells and spell-like abilities as per the appropriate spells. The Lichthrall as is affected by Share Spells, to a distance of 100 feet.
A lich can cast any ranged spell on its thrall from any distance (no saves or SR), so long as it is accepted willingly or the lich suceeds on an opposed check (see Spell-like Abilities section above for this check).
You Can‘t Take It With You
Being in the presence of its phlactery empowers a lich due to the dark powers that it channels. While there is a risk in keeping its phylactery close, sometimes it is needed. The reforming powers of the phylactery also aid in minor damage to the dark creature.
While within 30′ of its phylactery, a lich receives:
- +2 bonus to caster level for necromancy spells
- +2 DC to necromancy spells
- +4 bonus to turn resistance
- Fast healing 2
- Resistance 10 against positive energy
A truly evil lich obsessed with the goal of gaining immortality may wish to try and ensure its unlife. By creating multiple phylacteries,a lich can gain ‘extra’ lives. A lich will only reform at the oldest phylactery it has.
To craft an extra phylactery, the lich goes about the same process as creating another phylactery but the costs are increased by 10% for each phlyactery it has (it must have one to start with; making the first exta phylactery costs 10% extra, a second is 20%, a third is 30%, etc.). Every phylactery the lich has must be present when an extra is made. Extra phylacteries cannot be repaired by Rekindle the Soul, which only works when the lich has no phylacteries left. In addition to its cost, a phylactery requires a permanent sacrifice of one base ability point (there is no way around it).
Extra phylacteries are also affected by Phylactery Empathy (see above).
When making the transition to Demilich, you may spend 8 hours and expend all spells of your highest spell level to combine two of your extra phylacteries into a soul gem.
You must have at least one phylactery to make additional ones.
Soul Long and Goodbye
A lich is immune to all soul-based spells such as magic jar, imprison soul, trap the soul, etc. Its soul is within its phlactery and can only be affected if the magic is cast upon the phylactery. With multiple phylacteries, each one must have that fraction of the lich’s soul contained before the lich suffers the effects. If the soul is captured, the body dissolves and the phylactery is rendered inert until the soul is released. A lich and its phlactery has full immunity to magic jar and similar effects where a soul is switched because the intruder has not been prepared to enter a soul vessel. The unique link between the body and soul of a lich also renders it immune to the effect.
Putting one lich’s soul in another lich’s empty phylactery acts as a soul gem in trap the soul (regardless of HD). It is a soul vessel by design, allowing it to contain the lich, but it is not attuned to that specific one, so it acts as a soul gem to imprison it.
Tome of the Stilled Tongue (Complete Divine; pg. 103; 34,850 gp)
This book is of great value to the lich-to-be. It boosts caster levels, teaches spells, and looks great on a mantle. Sure, that +2 CL comes at the cost of Constitution, but you’ll be undead soon enough and that won’t matter. One of the most relevant features of this Vecna relic is that it “contains instructions for constructing a lich’s phylactery”. In effect, this reduces the XP requirements by 1/3 (after calculating the total price, in the case of extra phylacteries) whenever you create a phylactery with this book in hand.
- Basic Lich (Monster Manual)
- Suel Lich (Dragon Magazine #339) A ghost-like incorporeal version of the lich, as developed by the people of Ancient Suel
- Dracolich (Draconomicon) A draconic lich
- Lichfiend (Libris Mortis) An outsider lich, usually a devil or demon
- Good Lich (Libris Mortis) Turns undead, and can’t be turned. But can be rebuked/destroyed.
- Demilich (Epic Level Handbook) An epic lich, very powerful and has eight soul gems (that function much like extra phylacteries)
- Archlich (Monsters of Faerun)
- Dry Lich (Sandstorm) A sort of mummy-like lich, where your organs are kept in special canopic jars instead of having a phylactery; the Walker in the Waste PrC allows you to become one, much like the Dread Necromancer works for the Basic Lich.
- Banelich (Forgotten Realms) Powerful followers of Bane achieve this template.
- Baelnorn (Forgotten Realms) A elf turned into a lich; not necessarily evil.
- Illithilich (Basic Lich + Illithid) The race with alternative names galore, mind flayers can become illithilich (or alhoons) by taking the lich template.
Templates to Consider
- Evolved Undead (Libris Mortis) While not a lich variant, this is something to consider for an old lich (as many of them are bound to be), boosts stats and gives fast healing as well as a spell-like ability
- Spellstitched (Libris Mortis) Gain a bunch of spell-like abilities and some DR! It costs gp/exp to make an undead spellstitched but it might be worth it.
Gods to Worship (Core, Complete Divine, and Libris Mortis)
Of these gods, almost all the bases are covered for supporting a lich’s motives for achieving undeath whether it be for power, love, or a fascination with death.
** = the big three of necromancy
- Vecna** (Evil, Knowledge, Madness, Magic) NE
- A classic god of death and magic for the rather common necromancer; he is a lich himself. Followers of Vecna are more tactical and sly, keeping to the shadows.
- Nerull** (Death, Evil, Pestilence, Trickery) NE
- A more radical god of death for those who actively seek to bring ruin upon the living. There is a hatred of the living among his followers.
- Wee Jas** (Death, Domination, Law, Magic, Mind) LN
- The death goddess Wee Jas has an veneration to death and the funeral, with respect and structured training. Death is not necessarily an aspect of evil but a part of life.
- Boccob (Knowledge, Magic, Mind, Oracle, Trickery) N
- The god of magic and knowledge is appropriate for many liches who only seek eternal life to continue studying; would work will a Cloistered Cleric lich.
- Afflux (Deathbound, Evil, Knowledge, Undeath) NE
- A death god of knowledge like a combination of Boccob and Vecna. Favors torture to learn about a creature and unveil its secrets. Features two nifty domains as well.
- Doresain (Chaos, Evil, Hunger) CE
- King of the Ghouls; appeals to the consumers of life. Good for the sort of feral undead.
- Evening Glory (Chaos, Charm, Good) N
- More of a tragic, love continues in death, sort of appeal to this goddess. Love and passion beyond death are her biggest platforms.
- Orcus (Chaos, Darkness, Death, Evil) CE
- A demon prince similar in his policies to Nerull but even more chaotic and aggressive. His followers stage frequent attacks on the altars of rival gods. He seeks to further himself rather than his domains. More about causing death than undeath itself; he is not truly aligned to much a lich would care about that isn’t covered better by a different god, the only exception being lichfiends.
More Information for the Necromantically Inclined…