Liches are undead spellcasters, usually wizards or sorcerers but sometimes clerics, who have used their magical powers to unnaturally extend their lives.
As a rule, these creatures are scheming and, some say, insane. They hunger for ever greater power, long-forgotten knowledge, and the most terrible of arcane secrets. Because the shadow of death does not hang over them, they often conceive plans taking years, decades, or even centuries to see fruition.
A lich is a gaunt and skeletal humanoid with withered flesh stretched tight across horribly visible bones. Its eyes have long ago been lost to decay but bright pinpoints of crimson light burn on in the empty sockets. Even the least of these creatures was a powerful person in life, so they often are draped in grand clothing. Multiclass fighters or clerics may still bear the armor of a warrior. Like its body, however, the garb of a lich shows all too well the weight of years. Decay and corruption are its constant companion.
Liches speak Common plus any other languages they knew in life.
Creating A Lich
"Lich" is a template that can be added to any humanoid creature (referred to hereafter as the "character"), provided it can create the required phylactery (see The Lich's Phylactery, below). The creature's type changes to "undead." It uses all the character's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Hit Dice: Increase to d12
Speed: Same as the character
AC: The lich has +5 natural armor or the character's natural armor, whichever is better.
Damage: Creatures without natural weapons gain a touch attack that uses negative energy to deal 1d8+5 points of damage to living creatures; a Will save with a DC of 10 1/2 lich's HD + lich's Charisma modifier reduces the damage by half. Creatures with natural attacks can use their natural weaponry or use the touch attack, as they prefer.
Special Attacks: A lich retains all the character's special attacks and also gains those listed below. Saves have a DC of 10 + 1/2 lich's HD + lich's Charisma modifier unless noted otherwise.
Fear Aura (Su): Liches are shrouded in a dreadful aura of death and evil. Creatures of less than 5 HD in a 60-foot radius that look at the lich must succeed at a Will save or be affected as though by fear as cast by a sorcerer of the lich's level.
Paralyzing Touch (Su): Any living creature the lich touches must succeed at a Fortitude save or be permanently paralyzed. Remove paralysis or any spell that can remove a curse can free the victim (see the bestow curse spell). The effect cannot be dispelled. Anyone paralyzed by a lich seems dead, though a successful Spot check (DC 20) or Heal check (DC 15) reveals that the victim is still alive. This power works in conjunction with the lich's damaging touch (see above).
Spells: The lich can cast any spells it could cast while alive.
Special Qualities: A lich retains all the character's special qualities and those listed below, and also gains the undead type.
Turn Resistance (Ex): A lich has +4 turn resistance.
Damage Reduction (Su): A lich's undead body is tough, giving the creature damage reduction 15/+1.
Immunities (Ex): liches are immune to cold, electricity, polymorph, and mind-affecting attacks.
Saves: Same as the character
Abilities: A lich gains +2 to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, but being undead, has no Constitution score.
Skills: Liches receive a +8 racial bonus to Hide, Listen, Move Silently Search, Sense Motive, and Spot checks. Otherwise same as the character.
Feats: Same as the character.
Climate/Terrain: Any land and underground
Organization: Solitary or troupe (1 lich, plus 2-4 vampires and 5-8 vampire spawn)
Challenge Rating: Same as the character + 2
Treasure: Standard coins; double goods; double items
Alignment: Any evil
Advancement: By character class
The process of becoming a lich is unspeakably evil and can be undertaken only by a character's own free will. The lich retains all class abilities it had in life.
The Lich's Phylactery
An integral part of becoming a lich is creating a magic phylactery in which to store its life force. Unless the phylactery is located and destroyed, the lich reappears 1d10 days after its apparent death.
Each lich must make its own phylactery which requires the Craft Wondrous Item feat. The character must be a sorcerer, wizard, or cleric of at least 11th level. The phylactery costs 120,000 gp and 4,800 XP to create and has a caster level equal to that of its creator at the time of creation.
The most common form of phylactery is a sealed metal box containing strips of parchment on which magical phrases have been transcribed. This typically has a leather strap so that the owner can wear it on the forearm or head. The box is Tiny and has a hardness rating of 20, 40 hit points, and a break DC of 40. Other types of phylacteries can exist, such as rings, amulets, or similar items.
Advancement: Same as the base creature
Certain liches in the FORGOTTEN REALMS setting have unusual powers described below.
Special Attacks: If a special attack allows a saving throw, the DC is 10 1/2 the lich's Hit Dice + its Charisma modifier.
Cold fire (Su): The lich can produce balls of cold, blue-green fire that deal 3d10 points of negative energy damage. The lich can use a full attack action to throw two balls of coldfire in a round (the second missile's attack bonus decreases by 5) The range increment for these missiles is 15 feet.
Despair (Su): The touch of certain liches, in addition to dealing damage, has the effect of an emotion (despair) spell: Victims must make a Will save or suffer a -2 morale penalty on saving throws, attack rolls, skill and ability checks, and weapon damage rolls for the duration of the encounter.
Doom Gaze (Su): The lich can slay with a glance, at a range of 30 feet. Living creatures who meet the lich's gaze must succeed at a Fortitude save or die.
Dream Haunting (Su): The lich can visit the dreams of any individual whose exact location is known to it. The sleeper experiences tormenting dreams and suffers 1 point of permanent Constitution drain upon awakening (Will save negates). A sleeper reduced to a Constitution score of 0 dies.
Grasp of Death (Su): Once per day, the lich can surround its hands in a nimbus of black flame that remains until the lich touches some- one. A character touched by the lich (with a melee touch attack roll) must make a successful Fortitude save or die instantly.
Grasp of Enfeeblement (Su): The lich can weaken a foe by making a special touch attack. The affected opponent must succeed at a Fortitude save or take 2d4 points of temporary Strength damage.
Painwrack Gaze (Su): Any creature that makes eye contact with the lich takes 2d10 points of damage from severe, muscle-wrenching pain. A successful Fortitude save allows a character to avoid the lich's gaze.
Voice of Maleficence (Sp): If the lich speaks to a victim for 10 full minutes, the subject must make a Will save or fall into a sleepy trance. While in this trance state, the character answers truthfully any question the lich asks. The victim may attempt a new saving throw every hour, but for each consecutive hour the lich talks to the victim, the saving throw DC increases by 1.
Special Qualities: Certain liches have the exceptional ability of spell resistance equal to 12 + their Hit Dice. Others have improved damage resistance of 20/+2.
Common Liches Of The Realms
These undead mind flayers are a rising power in the twisted politics of the Underdark. They look much as they did in life, but their skins are dry and wrinkled, not slime-covered as a living illithid's is.
An alhoon possesses all the normal powers of a mind flayer. All alhoons were once wizards or sorcerers (usually at least 9th level), so they possess a deadly mixture of psionic and magical ability. They do not have a lich's fear aura or paralyzing touch, but have all the standard special qualities (undead immunities, damage reduction 15/+1, and immunity to cold, electricity, polymorph, and mind-influencing attacks). They retain their illithid spell resistance, which actually hinders their complete adaptation to the lich stare. Alhoon are plagued by ongoing skin wrinkling and tissue desiccation, which they counteract by bathing or by drinking water, soup, and other liquids.
When Bane, the deity of strife, was first establishing his church long ago, those who worshiped him were hounded to their deaths by the forces of good unless they gathered in significant numbers. Tired of his faithful becoming victims, every 50 or 60 years, Bane chose the most powerful priest within the ranks of his clerics and revealed to him or her a foul rite that would transform the caster into a powerful, immortal form - a lich of Bane, or banelich. At least thirty-five of these creatures were created over the centuries, and before the Tyrantfog the deaths of only ten had been documented. When Iyachtu Xvim sent the Tyrantfog to purge Faerûn of the last remnants of Bane's followers, most of the remaining baneliches were destroyed. Those that remain have varying agendas, some are in hiding, while others are actively moving against Xvim and his Chosen, Fzoul Chembryl.
A banelich was an evil cleric of at least 17th level before becoming undead, and these liches retain all of their class abilities. They gain a lich's fear aura, damage reduction, and immunities, as well as the touch of despair, the ability to produce coldfire, and spell resistance. As they grow older, their power increases: every 100 years, they gain a cleric level and one of the following new powers: painwrack, voice of maleficence, or grasp of death.
The liches described above are universally evil and hateful. Not all liches are so, however; a very few liches sought undeath (or had it forced upon them, in order to serve a noble cause, protect a loved being or place, or achieve a lofty goal. These good-aligned liches have most of the same powers as their evil counterparts, while a few have extra abilities.
Special Attacks: Some good liches have gained, in their own undead state, control over other undead. Such liches may possess one or more of these special attacks:
Turn Undead (Su): Three or more times per day, a good lich with this power can turn undead as a good cleric, making a turning (Charisma, check to determine how many HD of undead are affected. Some good liches can rebuke and command undead instead of or as well as turning and destroying them.
Animate Dead (Sp): Good liches can animate skeletons or zombies to serve them, using this spell-like ability at will as a sorcerer of its character level. In general, good liches have no interest in raising undead armies to serve them, but they use this power in self-defense in the heat of battle.
Special Qualities: Some good Itches have a unique ability that they use in pursuing their aims:
Projection (Su): Three times per day, for up to 1 hour at a time, a good lich can send a wraithlike likeness of itself up to one mile from the lich's actual location. The lich can see through this projection and into the Ethereal Plane as well, can hear and speak through it, and even cast spells through it. The link between the lich and the projection transcends physical and all known magical barriers, and can even cross between the Material and the Ethereal planes.
The projection is AC 20, has a fly speed of 20 feet (perfect maneuverability), and has the hit points of the lich, but it cannot carry solid objects and it has none of the lich's special attacks or qualities. If the projection takes damage, the lich takes half the damage (round down); the projection vanishes if it loses all its hit points. It cannot be turned or magically dispelled. A projection can push against or move small things, so it may push its finger through sand or ashes to write a message, or turn a page of an open book, but it cannot carry things. The lich can have only one projection in operation at a time.
Turning Immunity (Ex): Many good liches cannot be turned or destroyed by good or neutral clerics. When evil clerics attempt to rebuke or command them, they are turned or destroyed instead.
Water Walk (Su): Some good liches have the ability to water walk, as the spell of the same name, at will.
Good Liches Of The Realms
Archliches are transformed human spellcasters - as often clerics or bards as wizards - who have deliberately and carefully accomplished their own transformation into liches. They devote their undeath to the furtherance of whatever noble purpose motivated the transformation. Archliches appear as normal liches. They have all the characteristics of normal liches, including the spell ability and other class abilities they possessed in life. In addition, they can turn undead as good clerics (entitled to a number of turning attempts per day equal to 3 + their Charisma modifier). They also have the ability to animate dead and can water walk as well. They have the turning immunity defense described in the main entry for the good lich.
Baelnorns are elven liches who have sought undeath to become the backbones of their families, seldom-seen sources of magic, wise counsel, and guardianship. In ancient Myth Drannor, they stood watch against thieves, protected journeying elves, kept family lore, and tutored young wizards in magic. Since the fall of that elven city, they remain in its ruins, standing guard over deep vaults holding powerful spellbooks and magic items.
Baelnorns are tall, impressive-looking undead elves with shriveled skin and glowing white eyes. They do not radiate an aura of fear, nor do they have phylacteries (though some do make use of the clone spell), but they otherwise share the standard powers and abilities of liches. They can turn undead as a good cleric of their own level, and also have the ability to create a projection.
Sample Lich: Lich (11th-level human wizard).
Lich Template Class
By Sean K Reynolds
Feared by mortal beings for their malign magic, their intelligence, and their willingness to embrace undeath for a chance to live forever, liches are evil beings of great power. Though the lich template can be applied to a character all at once to achieve an instantaneous transformation from living to undead, allowing an enemy spellcaster to progress slowly as a lich can be even more useful to a DM. In that way, the NPC can return to foil the PCs time and again before achieving her full potential as a lich. Likewise, an evil character pursuing lichdom can experience the process in slow steps while continuing to adventure with her allies, rather than gaining all the template's powers at once and immediately surpassing her comrades in terms of sheer power.
The lich template class has two special requirements. First, the base character must have the Craft Wondrous Item feat so that she can make a phylactery to hold her life force. The would-be lich must craft her phylactery over time, as described below. Second, she must be able to cast spells at a caster level of 11th or higher. It is this power, coupled with the knowledge of the process required, that allows the transformation to occur.
|1st||+0||Int +2, natural armor +2, lich skills +2, damaging touch 1d6+5, paralyzing touch (1d4 rounds), resistances (cold 5, electricity 5)|
|2nd||+1||Natural armor +3, lich skills +4, damage reduction 5/bludgeoning and magic, damaging touch (1d8+5), fear aura (10-ft. radius), fortification (light), paralyzing touch (1d4 minutes), phylactery (1st stage), resistances (cold 10, electricity 10)|
|3rd||+2||Wis +2, natural armor +4, lich skills +6, damage reduction 10/bludgeoning and magic, fear aura (30-ft. radius), fortification (moderate), paralyzing touch (1d4 hours), phylactery (2nd stage), resistances (cold 20, electricity 20)|
|4th||+2||Cha +2, natural armor +5, lich skills +8, damage reduction 15/bludgeoning and magic, fear aura (60-ft. radius), immunities (cold, electricity, polymorph), paralyzing touch (permanent), phylactery (3rd stage), turn resistance +4, undeath|
Lich Template Class Features
All of the following are class features of the lich template class.
Ability Score Changes: The indicated ability score increases or decreases by the amount noted. These changes are cumulative. At first, a would-be lich gains an intellectual understanding of the process necessary to become a lich (represented by the Intelligence increase at 1st level). Then she gains the intuitive understanding of what the process entails (represented by the Wisdom increase at 3rd level). Finally, she gains a surge of confidence as the process is completed (represented by the Charisma increase at 4th level).
Natural Armor Replacement: At each level of the lich template class, the character uses either her existing natural armor bonus or the value given in Table SP-12, whichever is greater. A character that does not normally have a natural armor bonus (such as a human) is considered to have an initial natural armor bonus of +0 for the purpose of this ability. Thus, a human's natural armor bonus would become +2 at 1st level, +3 at 2nd level, +4 at 3rd level, and +5 at 4th level.
For example, a bugbear normally has a +3 natural armor bonus. Thus, a bugbear wizard 11 who chose to become a lich would gain no benefit from this ability until she attained 3rd level in the template class, since only then does the natural armor bonus granted by the template surpass that granted by her race.
Any item or effect that provides an enhancement bonus to natural armor functions normally for a lich -- that is, its bonus is added to the lich's base natural armor bonus. Thus, an amulet of natural armor +2 would give a bugbear wizard 11/lich 1 a total natural armor bonus of +5 (+3 base for bugbear, +2 from the amulet). That same bugbear as a wizard 11/lich 4 would have a natural armor bonus of +7 (+5 from the template class and +2 from the amulet).
Lich Skills: At 1st level, a lich gains a +2 racial bonus on Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Sense Motive, and Spot checks. This bonus increases to +4 at 2nd level, to +6 at 3rd level, and to +8 at 4th level.
Damaging Touch (Su): At 1st level, a lich's touch deals 1d6+5 points of negative energy damage to any living target. A Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 lich's HD + lich's Cha modifier) halves this damage. A lich who attacks with a natural weapon may deal this damage in addition to the normal damage for that attack. When the lich reaches 2nd level, the damage for her touch increases to 1d8+5 points.
Paralyzing Touch (Su): Any living creature hit by a lich's touch attack must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 lich's HD + lich's Cha modifier) or be paralyzed for 1d4 rounds. A lich who attacks with a natural weapon may deal this damage in addition to the normal damage for that attack. Remove paralysis or any effect that can remove a curse frees the victim, but the effect cannot be dispelled. Anyone paralyzed by a lich seems dead, though a successful DC 20 Spot check or DC 15 Heal check reveals that the victim is still alive.
At 2nd level, the duration of this effect increases to 1d4 minutes. At 3rd level, the duration increases to 1d4 hours. At 4th level, the effect is permanent until removed.
Resistances (Ex): At 1st level, a lich gains resistance to cold 5 and electricity 5. Each of these resistances increases to 10 at 2nd level and to 20 at 3rd level.
Damage Reduction (Su): At 2nd level, a lich gains damage reduction 5/bludgeoning and magic. Her natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Her damage reduction increases to 10/bludgeoning and magic at 3rd level and to 15/bludgeoning and magic at 4th level.
Fear Aura (Su): Beginning at 2nd level, a lich is shrouded in a dreadful aura of death and evil. Any creature in a 10-foot radius that looks at her must make a Will save if it is within 10 feet of her and has fewer than 5 HD. Failure means the creature is affected as though by a fear spell (caster level equals lich's character level). A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by the same lich's aura for 24 hours. The lich can negate the effect of her aura by concealing all of her withered flesh and hiding her glowing eyes, usually by means of clothing that covers her entire body coupled with some sort of deep cowled cloak or visored helmet.
The radius of this effect expands to 30 feet at 3rd level and to 60 feet at 4th level.
Fortification (Ex): When a lich attains 2nd level, her internal organs begin to shut down as she continues her metamorphosis into an undead creature and starts to transfer her life energy into her phylactery. Thus, she is treated as if she had the light fortification armor property (25% chance for any critical hit or sneak attack against her to become a normal attack). If she has any version of the fortification special ability from another source (such as a spell or magic item), use the better value. At 3rd level, she is treated as if she had moderate fortification (50% chance for any critical hit or sneak attack against her to become a normal attack).
Phylactery: To complete her transformation to a lich, the character must create a phylactery using the Craft Wondrous Item feat. The phylactery is crafted in three stages, and the lich transfers a bit more of her life force to it at each stage. It does not, however, grant her any of the normal benefits of a phylactery until it is fully completed.
Paying the cost of each stage of its construction is a prerequisite for the corresponding level in the lich template class. Thus, to take the 2nd level in this class, the lich must invest 40,000 gp and 1,600 XP in her phylactery. She must spend the same amount again to take the 3rd level, and once again to take the 4th level (for a total investment of 120,000 gp and 4,800 XP). She can complete the phylactery early if she wishes, though doing so does not grant her any additional abilities until she takes the appropriate levels in the template class.
For the purpose of determining item saving throws, the phylactery has a caster level equal to that of the lich at the time she completed the most recent stage of work. For example, if a human wizard 11/lich 1 crafts the first stage of her phylactery, it is caster level 11th. She gains three more wizard levels before finishing the second stage of construction, giving it caster level 14th. At that point, she takes the 2nd level of the template class. She then takes one more level of wizard and completes the phylactery, which is thereafter caster level 15th.
The most common physical form for a phylactery is a sealed metal box containing strips of parchment on which magical phrases have been transcribed. The box is a Tiny object with 40 hit points, hardness 20, and a break DC of 40. Other kinds of phylacteries can also exist, such as rings, amulets, or similar items.
Once the phylactery has been completed, the lich can avoid permanent destruction as long as her phylactery survives. If she dies or is destroyed, she reappears 1d10 days after her old body's death. She gains her new physical form by grafting her undead spirit to a humanoid corpse, mindless undead, or some weak-minded creature within a few miles of her phylactery. The new body has all the abilities and powers of her old one, though any items she used to carry are lost (probably taken by those who slew her old body). Likewise, any spells or effects bound to her old body with permanency do not spontaneously appear on her new one. Most liches who recover from death spend a year or more tracking down their items and learning more about their attackers, and it is not unusual for a lich to wait decades before exacting her revenge.
If the phylactery is destroyed while the lich is still active in a body, her undead life force automatically joins that body. She takes no penalties of any kind for that joining, but without a phylactery, she cannot recover if her body is subsequently destroyed. She may create a new phylactery to replace a lost one if she has the time and resources to do so.
Turn Resistance (Ex): At 4th level, a lich gains +4 turn resistance. She is treated as an undead with 4 more Hit Dice than she actually has for the purpose of turn, rebuke, command, or bolster attempts.
Immunities (Ex): A 4th-level lich is immune to cold, electricity, and polymorph, though she can still use polymorph effects on herself.
Undeath: Upon reaching 4th level, the lich becomes fully undead. Her type changes to undead, and she gains all the normal benefits and drawbacks that go with that type. She no longer has a Constitution score, so she loses any Constitution bonus or penalty to hit points, saving throws, and skills. She also becomes immune to many attacks (including critical hits and sneak attacks, rendering her fortification ability redundant), but she is subject to turn and rebuke attempts and is immediately destroyed if brought to 0 or fewer hit points (though her phylactery prevents "permanent" destruction). All of her Hit Dice (current and future) increase to d12s. (Rather than rerolling all her Hit Dice, just add 4 hit points for every d4 she previously had, 3 hp for every d6, 2 hp for every d8, and 1 hp for every d10.) In addition, her alignment immediately changes to evil if it was not already.
A lich cleric becomes an ex-cleric at this time if her deity does not allow evil clerics. However, she can remedy this situation either by offering her allegiance to a god that does accept evil clerics or by devoting herself to an evil cause or a source of evil divine power (selecting new domains if appropriate). A lich cleric who could previously turn undead loses that ability but gains the ability to rebuke undead. Likewise, a lich cleric who could previously spontaneously cast cure spells can now do so with inflict spells.
Upon gaining the undead template, a lich sorcerer or wizard is shunned by her familiar unless it is a bat or rat, but she can acquire a bat or rat familiar to replace her previous one in the usual way.