Lich

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KR 12 bard lich.jpg
An actual bard lich, courtesy of Ravenloft.

Liches (from Leiche, German for "corpse") are spellcasters, typically necromancers who have mastered their self proclaimed 'art' to blur the line between life and death, becoming undead creatures of immense mystical power. After decades of research, practice, gathering of rare-materials, spell components and forbidden dark-lore, a lich-to-be performs a ritual that extracts the soul/'life force' from its body and places it in a phylactery. This object is often an ornament of value to the lich in its past life, barring that it's usually appearance-wise on par with the like of a reliquary, a small sealed box with bindings on it with varied iconography, sometimes with an item inside. This transformation process in tabletop tradition is left vague but given various implications it is an evil act, though many sources have gone on to explain and detail the process of such a transformation.

After culminating the ritual with the caster's death and sometimes a brief period of inactivity following reanimation, the lich comes to be. The new lich sports the unique benefits that the undead are privy to, and should the lich's physical body ever be destroyed, it will reform at its phylactery, though in older works this has been limited to the concept of possessing actively present corpses to return to unlife, and this is possible so long as the phylactery remains intact. This makes liches nice persistent foes for a DM to throw at an adventuring party. Other benefits of lichdom include the ability to (un)live without eating or sleeping, giving the lich that much more time to 'get things done', though in some cases there is a type of maintenance that must be performed by the lich for it to retain its hold on the world of the living, and in addition the phylactery offers protection against various magics and effects that could be used to harm the soul.

The ritual/ceremony for becoming a lich (and many other applications of necromancy) tends to involve sacrificing innocents, trafficking with evil outsiders, using a freshly cut out heart of a sentient being, desecrating holy ground to perform the 'art', abusing the souls of the dead, worshiping evil gods, and generally being a bigger dickhead version of Prometheus in the grand cosmic scale- often with all of these examples playing into one another, so it's a given that in various mediums liches are generally of evil alignment, especially since the transformation into this state of being also accommodates the fact that turning into an undead creature tends to erase mortal trappings and turns its subject into something more akin to an unfeeling uncaring machine.

On the other hand, a person who neither eats nor sleeps, dies or suffers from fatigue can certainly do a lot of good seeing as it is part of a fantasy genre where magic benefits others. Liches with all time in the world, continuously developing magic in a state of pure academia, taking the arcane to heights unreachable in measurable generations. Depending on the setting, it may be possible to become a lich without doing anything irredeemably evil (or even mean-spirited) for the good of all. And even in some settings where Lichdom is in the general standing of- if the local citizens hear of it, an army is raised to combat it- because it is that much of a social taboo, there do exist good variants of this Undead creature.

To note- Phylactery use does not explicitly mean or make a lich a lich, as this is fiction and at the most strained view of the concept, a lich is fundamentally an undead/undead-like spellcaster who has extended their lifespan via unnatural means. Extended from this, "unnatural" may constitute unholiness or otherwise something about the being that clearly earns it its name, due to it being a walking withered corpse missing its eyes, instead having unnatural glowing pinpoint lights in the eyesockets presenting to an onlooker a clear negative visual stimuli.

Liches in Dungeons and Dragons[edit]

Osterneth, the Bronze Lich, a rare example of a female lich

Liches have always been a staple of Dungeons and Dragons, following through the tabletop system and its settings and editions continuously up to the 5th edition. Historically they were the most difficult to Turn, before the "Specials" (i.e. demons). In the lore they are deities, adversaries, characters in novels, and more with later editions featured as playable options for players seeking means to retire his/her characters ingame- through OD&D-AD&D to 2e, and 3.5, liches have followed a progressive evolution in form, functionality and inclusion, peaking at 3.5 before 4e came in and returned the state of this creature to its older rules and regulations in the first edition, as an evil undead creature that maintains its imperfect immortality through the consumption of souls.

Back in 2e D&D, liches came in multiple types depending on what kind of magic was used to create them. Your common lich was a former wizard, with separate stats in other splats for clerical, bardic and psionic liches (though that last one is derided by Psionics fans, despite the fact it's actually been around a long time) . There was also the Archlich, which was a lich of any of the previous varieties that wasn't evil, stated to be "as rare as Roc's teeth." The "must periodically sacrifice the souls of mortals to phylactery to stay around" aspect of lichdom was probably tacked on in later editions because the writers realized that there would otherwise be no logical reason for the Archlich to be so rare. Other splats added their own unique lich variants, mostly those books relating to Ravenloft.

3e simplified things, boiling away most of the race or class-based variants of the lich into a single, readily applied template. This is an idea that both 4th and 5th edition preserved, though each put their own spin on it.

Liches in Pathfinder[edit]

Like most 3.5 OGL monsters, Liches are relatively unchanged in Pathfinder except for system wide changes, but they have some minor tweaks in a few areas. The one change to the template itself is that lich no longer have d12 HD for everything and instead, like all undead in Pathfinder, they can now use their Charisma score instead of their non-existent Constitution to determine bonus hit points per level. With a Charisma of 14 before transformation, this works out to the same, with a Sorcerer, Bard or Oracle entry being even bulkier. In the PC's favor is that lich are no longer immune to polymorph effects except their own.

Fluff wise they are also near identical with one major change: The ritual to become a Lich is unique to every individual and must be researched but is pretty much always evil. Since D&D was incredibly vague on this subject, even beyond OGL, other than that it was absolutely something that made you Evil aligned this doesn't change much. One consequence of this is that people can become part lich by accident as shown by one Oracle curse.

Liches in Warcraft and World of Warcraft[edit]

While Liches existed before the Third War, the most notable and possibly the first Lich of the setting is the Lich King, created by the demon Kil'jaeden after merging the tortured soul of the former Warchief and shaman Ner'zhul into a set of armor and the runeblade Frostmourne, then encasing it inside a magical ice-crystal.

Other Liches, like Kel'thuzad, are usually former necromancers who impressed the Lich King in some way to be resurrected as giant, magic skeletons rather than some sword fodder zombie that can cast spells. Kel'thuzad, for instance, was resurrected by Arthas for his magical know-how as well as his part in killing the majority of the largest human nation for undead soldiers; Arthas was only able to resurrect a soul like Kel's after invading the elven nation of Quel'thalas and using the magical waters of their Sunwell (with a bit help from the demon Tichondrius). After this, they both go on to create more liches, both from orcs and humans, but how is rather unclear. A few bits of information states that one has to commit suicide, and the involvement of a higher being (Lich King or Kel'thuzad for example) is necessary for their ascension.

It should also be noted that the first sapient undead of the setting were the Death Knights created by Gul'dan, which shared a similar process of creation with the mainstray lich. The soul of an orc warlock was sealed within a gem, and that gem was then placed on the body of a slain human knight. The process was fueled by the sacrifice of a few dozen orc necrolytes.

It is also possible to become a Lich independent of the Lich King, as shown with two existing Liches in Warcraft, one being Gunther Arcanus, a forsaken that you can meet who keeps to himself, and the other a part of the canonized quest to obtain Ashbringer, who became a Lich post mortem using a quite brilliant method that you should check out.

Liches are seen as evil by both the Horde and the Alliance.

Liches in World of Darkness[edit]

Depending on how generous you are with your definitions, both Worlds of Darkness are positively crawling with Liches. The most obvious are the Tremere, who fit the description of "wizards who became undead to preserve their power" despite being vampires rather than liches in the traditional sense. Likewise, the Nagaraja bloodline have even more in common with liches, being former death mages who channeled Oblivion itself in exchange for power and immortality. Of course, they're also vampires and, given their compulsion to consume flesh as well as blood, there's more than a bit of Ghoul in them too.

The magical technique used by the Nagaraja is called "Necrosynthesis", and it has been used numerous times, usually by the Order of Hermes to create liches (White Wolf uses the singular "liche", because of fucking course they do) in the more traditional sense, becoming undead without losing their Avatar and ability to do magic. They are apparently mostly Etruscan in cultural origin and, like most crazy things you can do to yourself with magic, titanic Paradox magnets.

Changeling: The Dreaming includes a variety of Dauntain (the okay C20 kind, not the pants-on-head stupid 2e kind) that is called a Lich and basically works how you'd expect, Phylactery and everything.

Meanwhile, in the new World of Darkness, we have the contents of the Immortals sourcebook, all of whom arguably qualify as liches to some degree. There are also the Abmortals of Geist: The Sin-Eaters, who are pretty similar.

Of course, the term is actually used in Mage: The Awakening as a descriptor for any Legacy that grants its adherents immortality, generally at the cost of their humanity, their morality, or both. The nWoD version of the Tremere are the most prominent of these, but far from the only ones.

Liches in Mythology[edit]

Russian mythology brings us Koschei the deathless, an archetypal lich with a rather original way of storing his phylactery. Koschei's soul (or the moment of his death, depending on who you ask) is hidden in a needle, which is hidden in an egg, which is hidden in a hare, which is hidden in a duck; all of this in a locked chest buried under a tree on the Russian equivalent of Atlantis. Aside from his original fusion of magical, culinary, and geographic defenses, he also differs from most liches in that he kidnaps princesses instead of studying magic all the time like a fucking nerd. Is the namesake for Kostchtchie.

Liches in the Elder Scrolls[edit]

Like most things involving necromancy, liches are a product of one big dick named Mannimarco. Being a bootleg Nagash, Mannimarco decided that being alive sucks and that being an immortal wizard of master race in a magical order so powerful they casually control time is just too casual for him. So with a bit of soul rape he managed to achieve (more) immortality as an indestructible lich only to be casually destroyed in Oblivion. Though his questionable achievements did inspire a lot of necromancers.

These undead mages are considered to be the most powerful among undead due to their mastery of necromancy and various magical arts. Though, given the inconsistency of the Elder Scrolls universe, lich powers and methods to become one usually depend on what game in the series you're playing.

  • In High Rock and Hamerfell(Daggerfall), liches as powerful as powerful mages and have benefits of undead like resistance to normal weapons (read “any non-fantasy weapon”), resistance to diseases, etc.
  • In Morrowind (dlc Tribunal), liches decided that magic is for pussies and with only few of spells they also utilize strong melee weapons. Combine this with undead immunity to weapons and high resistance to frost this makes them rather nasty tanks instead of powerful wizards.
  • In Cyrodiil (Oblivion), liches are the closest to classic lich. Those liches are not joke, having immunity to weapons, resistance to elemental magic save for fire(because undead), ability to reflect both magic and normal attacks. Combine this with big tier magic like summoning and protective spells and you get a rape machine... unless they didn’t see you. Despite all of this liches of Cyrodiil are fragile and two hits with non-normal weapon is enough to kill them.
  • In Skyrim (...Skyrim) they don’t have liches in normal “necromancer turn undead” way, but they have dragon priests. Those members of ancient dragon cults who sucked dragon-dong the most were given immortality in the form of undeath. A dragon priest is one of the stronger enemies the game has to offer, they cast protective magic from spell and physical damage, they fly around with staff that has adept and expert level of magic(instant death if you don’t have resistance to it), they use Storm Atronachs, the big demons that shoots lighting and hit with rock hands, and they are generally tough...and they are also a damn cowards. Seriously, fighting these guys is what a fight with a mage actually looks like: bastards with lots of protection, they use minions and always run away from you. If all previous liches did have at least some sort of close combat, dragon priests don’t want in close combat, so you just need to run as fast as you can in order to hit them. Morrowind liches think that they are nerds.

As for transformation into one, it’s pretty much the same as in D&D: varying on an individual basis. It can go from being cursed to suck on souls, to a classic phylactery, to a pact with demons, hell you can combine the wrong ingredients and create poison that will strip the flesh from your bones and increase your magical power and this will count. One interesting note is dragon priests, who have the most original way of obtaining lichhood. When dragons transform cultists they also create draugr (Viking zombie). While it can be created without a dragon priest's involvement, draugr serve both as bodyguard and as daily meal. To put it simply, you can’t fully kill draugr while their dragon priest is around because they are connected, and while draugr slumber they accumulate what is basically life-energy that allows the priest to keep themselves not-fully-dead and powerful while the draugr receive just enough to be mindless zombies with only goal: protect the dragon priest.

Overall, being a lich in the Elder Scrolls universe is kinda a bummer, considering that in the same games you have 9000 options to become immortal. Sometimes you don’t even want to, considering the fact that there are several different heavens and with right cards, you can get access to all of them.

Liches & their Variants[edit]

Basic Lich[edit]

3.5's Lich and his Phylactery

The common lich all come to know through the Monster Manual. Said to be made by committing an evil act left up to the GM- but later publications throughout each edition always give actual detail that is either overlooked in later publications- or used, causing additional and sometimes conflicting fluff- said fluff evolved through the first edition until 3.5, before 4e & 5e took a step back to 1e. Is only possible for non humanoids to become this lich through patronage to Orcus, Demon Prince/Lord of the Undead- bar certain races who have a variant of their own. There is also a rule in savage species which says this lich can be good, at the expense of no longer having a fear aura, and needing to go through a ritual of alignment to retain it's original alignment or making a will save prior to transformation to avoid moving towards the alignment of the average Lich- though given what happens as a part of the ritual, it's preparation, transformation/gradual transition becoming aligned with evil is almost unavoidable.

Archlich[edit]

Archmage 1st, lich 2nd, introduced in Spelljammer, having lessened spellcasting capacity depending on edition, later becoming a Epic Destiny in 4e, the archlich is the mentor of mages past its twilight years, moving on to higher levels of knowledge, cheating death, and the hungry evils of the lower planes that would seek to claim it's soul. Nothing is stopping the zealous from trying to purge their 'oh so benevolent' not-evil asses, mind you. Well, clerics can't turn them, though it's not like immunity isn't mistaken for resistance- oops. As the answer to the question of "/tg/! /tg/! can there be good liches?" they're pretty rare, often out the way retirees of the intrigues of mortal planes. Despite this, in the face of threat from higher undead controllers, the archlich is kind of a downgrade from a regular evil lich, as they can't obtain the goodies a lich would obtain in Van Richten's Guide to the Lich, and demilichdom is out of the question too. They still get to cast spells as a generalist & specialist... technically. Another thing that doesn't work in the favor of these would-be good guys is the fact that the term 'Arch-Lich' is often used to describe incredibly powerful normal liches, with Vecna, Acererak & Demios all having been referred to as such, and all of them being thoroughly evil. Tough break.

Arch-Shadow[edit]

A spellcaster who attempted to become a lich and failed, and instead become a ghostly undead connected to a random magic item instead of their intended phylactery. If they drain enough life energy from people who have touched the item it is bound to, they can regain a solid body, becoming a Demi-Shade.

'Good' Lich[edit]

Found in the Libris Mortis, this Lich is immune to turning due to it's good nature, and can turn Undead as a cleric of a level equal to it's hit die. Essentially an anti-lich with the same motivations as say, a Baelnorn or Archlich.

Baelnorn[edit]

A good-aligned elf lich, created willingly from an elf who wants to be undead only to guard something very important or who wants to stick around beyond death to keep watch over their family, or is made so by their racial deity. Despite being of good alignment, they're just another reason to hate elves, and they often act as Elven Mossad, covering up the usual cosmic elf fuckup that tends to bite everyone else in the ass in whatever setting they're based in. If you're planning a trip to a ruined knife-ear civilization, watch out for these guys, because they might just kill you for trespassing.

Banelich[edit]

Introduced in the Forgotten Realms 2nd edition, Baneliches are clerical liches devoted to Bane, who was really big on identity branding in that edition. They're slightly more powerful than the standard clerical lich, and gain access to unique salient powers, including a pain-inflicting gaze-attack, a hypnotic voice that compels truthful answers from enthralled victims, and a 1/day death touch attack.

Bardic Lich[edit]

A lich who was originally a bard. This was originally introduced in Ravenloft 2nd edition as a single unique monster - a half-elf named Andres Duvall who was transformed into a lich-like, magic-eating monster in an accident involving Azalin, a lightning bolt spell, and a really powerful grimoire full of evil magic.

Due to the simplified means of attaining lichhood in 3e, bardic liches are fully plausible, but never really explored.

Kobold Press revived the idea as the Virtuoso Lich for 5e in their Tome of Beasts II splatbook.

Boneclaw[edit]

In fifth edition, boneclaws are the result of a failed attempt to become a lich. If the soul fails to go into the phylactery, it instead binds to a random evil humanoid, whom the boneclaw becomes enslaved to. The boneclaw is permanently destroyed only when the humanoid it is bonded with dies or stops being evil. This connection is a complete 5e retcon; boneclaws first appeared as a fairly generic-fluffed undead mook in the Monster Manual 3 for 3rd edition, and were refluffed an undead construct created by hags, using the assembled carcasses of ogres and trapping the spirit of a slain oni in it for brains/motivation, in 4e's MM1.

Bone Sage[edit]

Originally from Pathfinder, these guys really came into their own in its sister setting, Starfinder. The Bone Sages are the deceased inhabitants of the blasted worlds of Eox, the last members of a race known as the Elebrians. Through a combination of their mastery of magic and technology, some were able to rebuild themselves as what are essentially cyber-liches after the backlash from a superweapon destroying their planet's atmosphere. Mechanically, they're a dead ringer for more conventional liches, except with an affinity for bionic implants and a phylactery that acts as its own spellbook.

Death Knight[edit]

Essentially the gish version of a lich, an undead warrior-wizard. Originally just the next step up from the skeleton warrior by gaining some increased HD and spell-like abilities, they got more lich-like in 4th edition, complete with their chosen weapons doubling as their phylacteries. In 5th, a Death Knight is what happens when an evil paladin dies. Every time they die, they come back again until they atone for their sins. Which is completely optional.

Deathless[edit]

A race of goodly lich-like undead created in 3rd edition for the Eberron setting. They're fueled by Positive Energy rather than Negative Energy and are basically "reverse liches".

Defiler Lich[edit]

Exactly what it says; a defiler who managed to avoid being lynched long enough that they were able to study necromancy and turn themselves into undead defilers. They're also known as Kaisharga, which is how they were originally introduced in Dark Sun, where they could be found in psion, templar, wizard, fighter, ranger and gladiator variants. It was in Ravenloft where the Wizardly Kaisharga, or Defiler Lich as it was called there, truly was focused on.

Defiler liches essentially combine the standard abilities of a high-level lich with the Defiling Magic trait and a number of wild talents. They can also ascend to their own unique form of demilichhood, which has the special ability to utter baleful curses on victims - a side effect of which is that cursed individuals slowly kill all plant life around them, in a manner similar to a defiler using their magic.

Demilich/Demi-Lich[edit]

A lich who derped around for so long that his body is just a flying bit of skeleton (usually a skull) full of soul gems. Despite their small size, they're much nastier than a normal lich; their spellcasting is even stronger, they have oodles of opportunities to cast Soul Trap and bone you, and they like to fly juuuust out of players' easy reach. They are also immune to most spells and magical effects, except for a few holy-powered ones and one derpy second-level spell called shatter that screws them something fierce by blowing out their soul gems. Their lore's flipflopped between editions, going from the next step in lichly evolution to a weakened form caused when a lich either gets too bored with existence (Pathfinder), or fails to eat enough souls. Fifth edition goes both ways, stating that most liches eventually become demiliches after failing to devour enough souls for their phylacteries, but that some like the infamous Acererak prepare for this by fitting their skulls with gems that devour souls while their spirits cruise through different planes of existence in search of greater knowledge.

Dracolich[edit]

Lichified dragons, mostly associated with the crazy Cult of the Dragon from Forgotten Realms who want to create dracoliches to rule the world/fulfill their every scaliefag desire/forge the greatest metal album covers in history. They still have phylacteries, but need to possess a dragon's physical remains to come back rather than just rejuvenating in full, this is due to complications due to the fluff surrounding the nature of dragonsouls- but a workaround is just having minions prepare remains to possess- possibly through transmutation. They can also possess a variety of prepared draconic corpses, so if a true dragon won't do- the 100+ 'lesser dragon' variants are also on the menu- even some large lizards may suffice. Most Dracoliches' existence tend to be as a means of extending a dragon's pride/lifespan rather than the actual terrifying prospect of being practiced dedicated spellcasters- which is a blessing in itself, as next to innate sorceries, dragons have access to a small library shelf worth of splat for unique magical spells, and now the addition of the expanse necromancy and undead only spells on offer. That said, there are Dragon DEMILICHES in canon- but as to why such beings have not otherwise been detailed as major players on the grand cosmic scale is anyone's guess. Some mediums use Dracolich as the synonymous word to refer to an 'undead' dragon.

Drow[edit]

Drow and Driders got their own lichly variants back in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, due to that ruleset not being able to handle slapping templates on existing creatures. Drow liches were divided into wizardly liches, who were pretty standard, and Lolthite priestess liches, who had the unique ability to transform swarms of normal spiders into swarms of giant spiders.

Drider liches also have both wizard and cleric variants, but they don't have the same abilities as their drow counterparts. Instead, regardless of magical class, drider liches lose their innate ability to control humanoid undead to instead be able to control insectoid undead (they can still use spells to create and control humanoid undead). Also, they can communicate with spiders, and hock up a web effect 3/day.

Drow liches, wizardly and priestly, can become demiliches, retaining their unique abilities and adding them to the standard demilich powers. Nobody knows if driders can also become demiliches.

Dry Lich[edit]

Basically a mummy lich, and the ultimate result of the "walker in the waste" prestige class. Can't be good aligned, but doesn't have to be evil aligned either. They also get some cute Con-draining and desiccating attacks liches don't, and five phylacteries in the form of canoptic jars containing their organs, all on top of getting the template for free as part of their advancement, in addition to acquiring a planar touchstone that provides them with regenerative capabilities.

Elemental Lich[edit]

The Elemental Lich is another Ravenloft unique breed, created from elementalists who went nuts and became obsessed with studying the way that elementals are mutated and transformed by the fundamental energies of the Demiplane of Dread. This gives them a number of variant powers, including four different touch attacks based on the dread elementals (each Touch can be used 1/day) that replace the normal at-will paralytic touch ability, an innate ability to summon dread elementals, the instinctive loyalty of dread elementals, and lacking the ability to intuitively control the undead.

The Touch of the Grave is a hyper-deadly attack that forces a save vs. death magic. On a success, the victim "merely" takes 1d10 damage. On a fail, the victim dies one round later as their bones shatter into pieces and tear their way out of their body - unless a Heal spell is cast on them before this happens. Even then, they need to pass a System Shock roll, or die anyway!

The Touch of the Pyre deals a burning hit that causes the victim's clothes or armor to ignite in a supernatural blaze that will continue burning until magically expelled or it completely consumes their clothing.

The Touch of Blood requires the victim to pass a save vs. paralysis or their blood begins oozing from their pores, causing ongoing damage and level drain until magically healed.

The Touch of Mist forces the victim's alignment to change to Chaotic Evil, renders them the elemental lich's charmed slave, and gives the lich a telepathic link to control them through.

Elemental liches who attain demilichhood are especially deadly, because the body of anyone affected by their innate soul-trapping abilities becomes a random dread elemental under the elemental demilich's control!

Fireliches[edit]

They come from the Spelljammer setting and are what happens when an idiot wizard undergoing the lich transition ritual casts a fire spell in the Phlogiston... which is, essentially, an entire dimension full of flammable gas. The result is a cursed undead who basically exists as a giant free-floating sapient fireball with a skull in its center. Said skull is perpetually screaming in pain, as their existence is one of endless burning torment from the fire engulfing their very soul. They have the bad habit of crashing into spelljammers like sapient missiles in a futile attempt to end their tortured unlife.

Grey Shivers[edit]

Spiders that take up residence inside the skulls of destroyed liches, and absorb fragments of the lich's soul, turning them into sapient, spell-casting monsters. Whilst still being little spiders hiding inside skulls.

Illithiliches[edit]

Sometimes synonymous with Alhoons. These are Mind Flayer liches, and the inevitable result of any illithid that chooses to abandon the Elder Brain, as they're all terrified of the idea of ceasing to exist after death. 5e distinguishes them from alhoons, with illithiliches being the much-more-powerful and dangerous version and alhoons being illithids who were not powerful enough to become illithiliches and so took an alternative method of becoming undead to escape death. A true illithilich is a full CR or two above a normal lich thanks to having an even larger spell selection, and psionic resistances as well.

Inheritor Liches[edit]

Hailing from the Red Steel setting, they are what happens when one of the local Inheritors turns into a lich.

Lichfiend[edit]

Also found in the Libris Mortis. The result of a fiend becoming a lich. It seems pretty unnecessary because fiends are already immortal and can return from death if killed outside their home plane, so they don't get much benefit from becoming a lich.

Master Liches[edit]

Another Spelljammer creation, they were turned into liches by pacts with Demon Princes or Arch-Devils, but then betrayed their master and fled into Wildspace to avoid paying their debt. The big difference is that they don't have a phylactery, but have a fairly potent regeneration ability.

Power Liches[edit]

In the world of Might and Magic, they were the long skirted bone dudes, who were the only shooters of the Necropolis town. And they were such badass shooters. They appeared in Might and magic 7 as well.

Psionic Liches[edit]

Also known as Mentalist Liches, these were introduced in Ravenloft, getting both their own dedicated segment in Van Richten's Guide to the Lich and a dedicated monster writeup at its end, both of which were repeated in Van Richten's Monster Hunters' Compendium Volume 2, and with the monster writeup being repeated in the 3rd Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix.

Basically, these are as close to a standard lich as you can get when you're replacing the arcane magic with psionics. One of the biggest changes is that transforming into a psionic lich leaves the mentalist very vulnerable, as they must steadily "divorce" their psionic abilities from their own body and seal them into the phylactery, rendering them unable to use those powers until and unless they successfully complete the transition into undeath.

Priestly Liches[edit]

Clerics and druids being able to turn into liches goes all the way back to AD&D and the Forgotten Realms, where they could be of any alignment. They got their own section in Van Richten's Guide to the Lich, which basically iterated that the major differences between the two is the types of magic they use and that priestly liches are more likely to have salient abilities. Oh, and in Ravenloft, such liches are always evil.

Scroll Mummy (Grisgol)[edit]

A construct created by destroying a lich's body and then trapping its phylactery inside of a construct made out of broken magic items and pieces of magic scrolls. The lich will reform in a few days if the Scroll Mummy is destroyed.

Shadow lich[edit]

A rare variant lich with little coverage or backstory. There have been four instances of this monster throughout D&D. (This section has been put into a collapsible because somebody decided to go into way too much detail and it made this entry too long)

The first shadow lich is in Dragon Magazine #261| Conjuring in the half-dark |July 1999.. The means to become a shadow lich are found in shadowbooks- named thus as they don't open in lighted conditions, and are to be read with darkvision. The details of becoming the creature are omitted by the publisher, a 'long-gone' illusionist by the name of Heriabgher, the 'Midnight-Mage'. Heriabhgher metions thusly before the ommitted content: "What follows is the formula for the transformation of an archmage into a shadow-lich.". The shadowbooks contain new spells, many of which are incredibly useful and indicative of the research Heriabhger undertook to become famous, as well as common ones found in splatbooks. New spells include:

  • Hide shadow, allowing a caster to roll up their shadow to store and avoid effects that target it(or play vampire).
    • Shadow weave, allowing temporary creation of semi-solid shapes from shadows, ropes,(4ftxCL) ladders,(8ftxCL) nets & blankets as big as the shadow used to make them trap a whole room why don't you? Trick someone to thinking a darkmantle is attacking! Concealling cloaks, and containers.

To note, one could use the rope to garrote, blankets to smother(possibly make a new variation of a sheet phantom in the process) and containers to quickly hide objects.

  • Shadow warrior, a spell that allows the casters shadow to attack a target's shadow to inflict harm, avoiding all but natural AC.
  • Shadow replay, a spell that is Jojo's Moody blues, but with shadows- past events of up to 2 hours ago by level 20.
  • Death shade, a spell that extends a mile per caster level, dealing 1 point of damage to anything humanoid including giants, caught in the darkness that cannot be restored without the spell heal or restoration. Death Shade, theoretically could be stacked with other effects to make it more deadly it could be used to soften up a large enemy force with multiple castings.
  • Shadow trap shoves a person inside their own shadow, trapping them inside as a moving shadow stuck to whatever darkness inhbits a room, and magical light harms them until death, in which they fall out of their own shadow, dead. victims cannot communicate or cast spells in the trap, but can fight shadows or 'slow shadows' as the spell- shadow warrior, and casters using the shadow warrior spell; they cannot interact with other shadows outside these conditions. True seeing and divination reveals the nature of a victim and dispel magic, remove curse and limited wish can save them.

The article is published alongside Me & My Shadow and 'Wizards of Dusk & Gloom - Shadow Mages, all in DMG261 both are tied to the Shadow Mage from 2e's Player's Option: Spells and Magic, offering new kits and spells to this type of spellcaster. For more on 'slow shadows' see Me & my Shadow.' All three articles are intended for use toghether.

The second instance of the shadow-lich is in October 31st 2000's Ravenloft netbook: 'Book of shadows', and is by far the most substantial of the sources, providing a means of creation, powers, and an archtypical villian to suitor such a being and it's motivations. Umbran, the shadow lich. The story goes that Marcus Shadowmehr, a rich kid, blows his money on magic research into shadow magic as a shadow mage, and one day, when turning himself into a shade in his workshop wine cellar with an "instant spooky" alchemical version of 9th level spell to become a shade, (how that got into the demiplane of dread is another story entirely) accidentally snags an unwelcome surprise for his spell components- an undead shadow infected with the shadow virus. This infects him, causing his shadow to shatter and he to start fading away. Desperate, Marcus quaffs his would-be shade potion, which, had an adverse effect on him due to his being infected with the undead contagion, turning him into a shadow lich, now going by Umbran. A shadow lich appears as one would expect a typical shade to appear, bar the exception that the eyes of the creature are nothing but black pits, this is quite the boon, a it allows the creature to pass off as living far more than any other version of a lich. Umbran has a fear aura like other liches- but the aura has the additional ability of being tied in with a shade's natural ability to dim light sources, material & magical, which allows the user to cast shadow-magic more effectively in any given location, including direct sunlight. The touch of a shado lich is no longer a paralytic touch of death, but is the same as an undead shadows strength drain- though it does not produce spawn. What's more notable is that in addition to the default resistances a lich benefits from as undead, shadow liches are not affected by illusions of any kind. Due to having a trio-planr link, shadow lichs like umbran are turned as 'special' undead. If tht wasn't enough, next to the obscurity of such a creature granting it probable impossiblle means to scry or learn anything about it to slay, the rejuvanation method differs entirely from the traditional means a lich recovers from defeat, and is so obscure, that it is extremly unlikely anyone could vanquish it- here is the means in which the shadow-lich retores it's broken form- it's a treat.

"Destroying Umbran is a bit more involved than destroying other liches. Umbran keeps his life in his shadow, which remains intangible and unable to be affected on the Prime. The process of transformation caused the lich’s flesh to be replaced with shadowstuff, so when enough damage is inflicted on the lich to “kill it, the shadowstuff around his bones dissipates, causing his skeleton to fall to the ground. His shadow remains unaffected and hides under the bones. When the lich’s life is totally in his shadow, he is said to be in shadowform. While he is in shadowform, he is mobile and should be treated much as a standard shadow, save with its original lich aura and damage capability and greater immaterialness (still takes +1 to hit). After 1d3 days, Umbran manages to accumulate enough shadowstuff to wrap around his bones and reanimate them. If his skeleton is destroyed as well, (Truly destroyed, such as by a disintegrate or wish spell, not simply chopping up the bones—if the bones are simply broken up, the lich can “glue” them back together with shadowstuff) the lich’s shadowform retreats to his lair or some other place of darkness, away from the adventurers that damaged him so. After 1d3 weeks, he regenerates enough of this shadowstuff substance to return to the Prime. There he will search for a new set of bones to wrap his shadowstuff around and reanimate over 1d3 days. The only way to destroy him is to trap his shadowform in an area he cannot slip out of, and use a combination of continual light, bless, and dispel evil to completely dissipate his spirit.

The third instance is in the Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide campaign, where the player encounters a shadow lich, an archmage who, due to overexposure to the plane of shadow, became such a creature. It uses the same model as an undead shadow, and is described as having the traditonal lich glowing red-eye sockets and is fought alongside it's shadowvar students. It is unknown if the creature was a lich, then became a shadow lich, or was human before. It wears the robe of vecna, which may be chalked up to the encounter being a side-mission before the final encounter- this is also plausible, as in realmslore, the extended mutliverse is accessible through some means found only in the plane of shadow as some deities of the realms ae found in other campaign settings- this may also be related to bioware's hand in NWN, as Baldur's gate featured the robes of Vecna. Other extraplanar items are lootable as well, leaning towards this possibility. The other intrigues of this shadow lich, is that it came about through means of decay- and it holds similarities with the process that the older 1e-2e versons of the demilich possessed when matters of it's astral self or spirit came into play- it is perhaps likely that this shadow lich is what happens if a lich decays annd trasitions into a demi-lich in the plane of shadow- but this is debatable, as the Kharlat Jhareg quest in Neverwinter indicated that lichdom was following the procedures detiled in the 3e savage progression Lich & weretiger web article, with the half-lich state. It also hold links with the rules for Umbran's shadowform.

The fourth and final instance of a shadow lich is in 3.5s Tome of magic- though said lich is most likely a lich shadowcaster using the shadow-weave. He lives in a tower, researching the sphere of annhilation as some perfect idealized darkness, like a villain from Kingdom Hearts. Darkity darkity darkness.

Suel Liches[edit]

Originally from Greyhawk, Suloise liches are a sort of lich-ghost hybrid; they were once wizards who turned their souls into Negative Energy, which isn't really a good idea- because as they say, "Xeg-yi, Xag-Ya." but when facing imminent nuking during the Rain of Colorless Fire, you take what you can get, winding up as ghosts needing to possess living hosts, killing them and making them into their undead bodies. But, hosts decay at a rapid pace because these desperate wizards are literally rot them inside-out thanks to turning their life-force into an energy-type that breaks-down all life and destroys it- including their own. Suel Liches, are far more desperate and deadly versions of the lich because of this- their survival is tied to possession, and their lich abilities find themselves augmented, with their fear aura becoming an aura of terror that can insta-kill those that fail, and fear those that save, as well as being able to channel their own negative energies as blackfire, dealing necrotic damage and fire damage- something that shares ties with a type of spell used by a demon lord slain in the early eras of the blood war, when the lord of the 10th was still active in the hells- said demon lord becoming a vestige thereafter- vilefire as it was called, the abyss's answer to hellfire. That, or a side-effect of the rain of colorless fire from the era they hail from.

Thicket Dryad Lich[edit]

This is what happens when a Dryad becomes undead. The Dryad's favorite tree becomes their phylactery.

Vassalich[edit]

A lesser form of lich introduced in the Ravenloft setting - mages who couldn't get the mojo to transform themselves, so they submit in service to existing liches to become weaker knock-offs by sucking on their bone-daddies liquefied blackened bone marrow. They can turn into real liches by forging their own phylactery in time, but it's not easy as their masters keep a tight grip on the lesser phylactery made linked to their own- capping the servants XP gain and loss, and using it for themselves. They're essentially to liches what vampire spawn are to true vampires.

Void Lich[edit]

Sometimes the ritual that transforms a person into a lich attracts the attention of an evil spirit from the Far Realm that hijacks the ritual and steals the would-be lich's body.

Notable Liches, famous and named[edit]

  • Acererak: Demilich cambion creator of the infamous Tomb of Horrors and Tomb of Annihilation. Apprentice to Vecna who attempted to subvert the will of the plane of negative energy to subsequently control all undead planeswide, failed and became a vestige. Is now someone almost entirely different in the 5th edition.
  • Erandis d'Vol: Probably better known as Lady Vol or The Lich Queen (to us at least. Not a lot of people know about her in her setting). She is an NPC in Eberron and is the leader of both the Blood of Vol and the Emerald Claw.
  • Gharnef: The secondary main antagonist in the first Fire Emblem games, made Immortal through the use of his dark tome, Imhullu.
  • Kel'Thuzad: Disgraced mage of the Kirin Tor turned necromancer and Archlich of the Undead Scourge, and final boss in both versions of Naxxramas from Warcraft and World of Warcraft. If not for China, he'd still be relevant.
  • Koschei the Deathless: A character from Slavic folklore who predates the homogenized concept of a lich but matches the description to a T. His phylactery is a needle inside an egg, inside a duck, inside a hare, inside a chest, under a tree on a mythical teleporting island. Good luck finding it. He spends his time kidnapping maidens to literally bone.
  • The Lich: An absolutely terrifying villain from the goofy world of Adventure Time. Is the personification of a nuclear bomb who seeks the extinction of all life. As if that weren't metal enough, he's voiced by Ron Perlman. Brings existential dread to anyone who watches him ramble about "The Begining".
  • Larloch: The ancient and powerful Netherese Sorcerer-King of the Forgotten Realms setting, who resides in the Warlock's Crypt a superdungeon within the Troll Hills. Is essentially a veteran oldfag with all the best ingame premium items that will never be available to newer players, sporting abilities such as almost total magic immunity, as well as having a repertoire of netherese spells, and a filled capacity of wish spells used to gain every advantage in the book. At the same time, he's not super proactive, and is content to sit in his crypt not bothering anyone, and even when he does occasionally rouse himself it's for the greater good, such as defending Mystra so that magic doesn't collapse, even earning a kiss from an elf queen that would've had him blushing if he still had cheeks.
  • The Magian: One of the awnshegh from the Birthright setting, the Magian is a lich who absorbed another creature's Azrai blood through bloodtheft, removing many of the disadvantages of his undead condition, while still looking like a semi-fleshed corpse. The Magian is a bit of a visionary, for an awnshegh warlord anyway, driven not by ambition and lust for power like his rivals the Gorgon or the Raven, but by a desire to destroy chaos and impose order, a perfect, one world order that would, in his own mind, justify any means used to attain it. Of course, given this means conquering all other nations, killing all other awnshegh, and performing all kinds of horrible experiments on innocent people in the bargain, whether this actually makes him any better is debatable. His people do ultimately love him for the peace and prosperity he brings, in a Dr. Doom sort of way where they don't exactly have a ton of choice.
  • Mannimarco, King of Worms: Acclaimed as the first lich, Sload hero, god, and pioneer of modern necromancy, this High elf necromancer turned terrifying immortal with a globe-spanning influence is a leading narrative force in the world of the elder scrolls as the founding focus of the world-spanning mages guild and is the general prime argument against necromancy in the setting.
  • Momonga/Ainz Ooal Gown: Villain protagonist of the Web/Light Novel- Anime & Manga Overlord. A Japanese salaryman living in a post failed /pol/ uprising cyberpunk dystopia who got trapped in the body of his MMORPGVR Character and sent to another world with all of his NPC minions and belongings, his minions gaining personalities based on their Bio information present in the game, often conflicting with fluff their levels, classes and races were published with- is kind of a merge with Larloch and Ssazz Tam if played by a clueless social shut-in wageslave.
  • Nagash: First Lich, creator of vampires and the all around evil-badass of Warhammer Fantasy.
  • Osterneth, the Bronze Lich: Vecna's most powerful and trusted servant, who became a lich by implanting herself with Vecna's heart. She uses her beauty (actually an illusion) and charming personality to tempt powerful men into worshiping Vecna.
  • Sauron: The titular lord of Lord of the Rings. Not really a lich, but is an early example of the archetype of a powerful villain who can only be killed by destroying a certain item. Sauron is a fallen angel who created 19 magical rings and gave them out as gifts to the rulers of the elves, dwarves, and humans, but secretly made a 20th ring that had the powers of all the rings and would allow him to corrupt the owners of the other rings into wraiths under his control. This ring would also act as his phylactery, which had to be destroyed by throwing it back into the volcano where he forged it. His ring also had a mind of its own and would make anybody who owned it more like Sauron and eventually turn them into a wraith as well.
  • Sharlee the Enchantress: The epic level demilich leader of The Order of the Book. She is on a holy mission to gather every single arcane spell in the multiverse into a single tome called The Last Book. She spends nearly all her time franticly writing new spells in The Last Book because even as a disembodied hand that never needs to rest, The Order of the Book is constantly bringing her new spells faster than she can copy them.
  • Szass Tam: Zulkir of Thay, lich and a dead-ringer for Ming the Merciless in life, this fellow is the master of Valindra Shadowmantle, the titular Lichess villain of Neverwinter online, Szass Tam is the ruler of an entire country, governed by other Zulkirs, featuring an economy of slavery, unique specialist spellcasters, and a standing undead army in search of world domination through any means necessary, namely through use of embassies in other countries to undermine and subvert them, and is the only person in Forgotten Realms to meet with Larloch and strike a working relationship with him. Usually gets into fights with the Harpers and adventurers.
  • Vlaakith CLVII: Lich-queen of the Githyanki, secretly eats the souls of anyone over level 15 in her kingdom as to not be overthrown.
  • Vecna: Lich who became a god and almost came close to rule the DnD Multiverse, as he bypassed the Lady of Pain's wards of preventing gods to enter Sigil. His divine presence in Sigil was enough for the multiverse to start breaking down.
  • Valindra Shadowmantle: Villainess of Neverwinter online, and second-hand woman to Szass Tam, Zulkir of Thay - a rule breaking nutjob with a phylactery a 9 ft tall purple crystal that breaks conventional rules of lore and undeath on a regular basis- such as vampire ghosts, for example.
  • Voldemort: Villain of Harry Potter. Although he is never called a lich, he is barely human because of how he split his soul into pieces which are placed in seven objects called horcruxes to keep him alive. According to Rowling, the process of doing this is incredibly vile that only one person who asked her has heard it, and was nauseated by the information. One thing that the books do say about the process is that the first step is murdering somebody because murder damages your soul and makes it able to be split. Unlike liches in other fiction, he isn't able to fully reform his body on his own when it is destroyed and needs a servant to create a potion using body parts of different people to complete his regeneration.
  • Xykon: The Big Bad Evil Guy of the webcomic Order of the Stick, or at least thinks he is. Is an epic level sorcerer planning to take control of a god killing monster. A charming psychopath who misses being able to drink bad coffee.

Monstergirls[edit]

The MGE's take on the lich-as-monstergirl.
LamiaMonstergirl.pngThis article or section is about Monstergirls (or a monster that is frequently depicted as a Monstergirl), something that /tg/ widely considers to be the purest form of awesome. Expect PROMOTIONS! and /d/elight in equal measure, often with drawfaggotry or writefaggotry to match.

Whilst being one of the two most famous free-willed undead - the other being the vampire, unlike their fellow "willful dead", liches are almost never seen in a sexified light. This probably has to do with the fact that, whilst the vampire has both obvious monster traits and a long history of being presented in a darkly eroticized light anyway, a lich is hard to define as anything more than an undead wizard. Not helping is that whilst even non-monstergirl vampires are traditionally portrayed as sexy, voluptuous women with red eyes and elongated canines clad in gothic dresses that flatter their figures, the traditional depiction of a lich is... a skeleton clad in moldering ragged robes. Worse yet, liches are usually depicted as being indifferent to their physical form - even Osterneth, one of the few named female liches of D&D, has her vanity end at conjuring up a beautiful illusion, then plating her bones in bronze and studding them with gemstones. None of this makes them particularly boner inducing.

This, then, presents a would-be monstergirl maker with quite the dilemma: how to actually make a female lich look sexy? Preferably without going the copout of either "they look just like sexy living women, but that's an illusion to disguise that they're skeletons" or "they just look like sexy living women and their lichdom manifests in their powers". Many ultimately go with routes similar to the Flesh Golem or Zombie, relying on a "sexy preserved corpse" or "artifical" theme for the lich's body, representing how the lich's physical form is a shell that it can wear and discard as it likes. Others more or less take the vampire route, and make them beautiful and pale-looking but essentially fleshy undead, which actually has some mechanical support. (At the level at which lichdom becomes a possibility, a once-per-day gentle-repose spell is a magical pittance.)

In the Monster Girl Encyclopedia, the lich is presented as just a dead-eyed human woman with corpse-grey skin and an ominous-yet-sexy "wizardly" robe. They are described as being, essentially, pervy female nerds who turned themselves into undead so they could better study and master the diffuse array of perverse applications of magic in their world.

That being said, the titular Magical Girls from Puella Magi Madoka Magica are sometimes jokingly referred to as liches outside of the show due to their "undead" nature and being tied to a soul gem. But there are some non trivial differences between them and D&D liches. For example if a D&D lich were to have his phylactery destroyed he would be fine until personally destroyed (and would fail to regenerate as a lich with a functional phylactery would). Magical girls from Madoka Magica on the other hand die instantly if their soul gem is destroyed. Not only that, but a Magical Girl's body goes limp and decomposes if it isn't close enough to its proper owner's soul gem. Another factor is it seems that Magical Girls do continue to age (as humans do), despite Sayaka's claims of zombie-hood.

Gallery[edit]

See Also[edit]

  • Death Knight, the surprisingly badass fighter version of a Lich.
  • Drew the Lich, a Quest where /tg/ played a lich.
  • The Millennial King, a story and setting inspired by /tg/ speculating on what a good necromancer would be like. To make a long story short: he becomes a lich and leads his kingdom to an era of prosperity with a skeleton-powered industrial revolution.
  • Deep Rot, a skeletal supercomputer constructed by a mad lich.
  • Dreadnought, which, when a Librarian is entombed within, is basically a mecha-lich.
  • Heucuva, the lamer Cleric version of a Lich.
  • Nagash, everyone's favourite Warhammer lich.
  • The Bank of Liches, what happens when a bunch of liches decide to pool their phylacteries in a safe and secure location.
  • Vecna, a god that is a lich.