Liches and NPC Wealth


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


As a GM, I enjoy creating NPC's with the NPC Ability Score and Wealth rules in place - it's fun to create difficult encounters while setting those limits for myself. Right now, I'm creating a Lich, and find this to be a bit trickier, and thought I'd write my thoughts down and invite others to comment on the issue as well. (I'm not looking for opinions on the NPC's build or tactics, just looking to discuss the way GM's might have been expected to use the NPC rules when building a Lich)

So in this case, the NPC is a 14th-level Sorcerer turned Lich. According to the NPC wealth-by-level chart, this gives me 34,800gp to work with. So let's talk about some of the expenses a Lich needs to think about. First, there's the Phylactery, which must be created in order for them to reach Lichdom in the first place, which costs...120,000gp. Well, that's a pretty huge speed bump - if adhering to the NPC wealth rules, only a 20th-level NPC could even afford one, and only have about 30k left to actually spend on gear etc. The Phylactery cost aside, let's talk about hiding it - no self-respecting Lich would just leave their Phylactery just laying around. For the sake of not needing to return and refresh defensive spells out of the fear of Scrying spells giving away its location, we need to pay for some Permanency buffs; we probably don't have every single spell on hand that will go into hiding it, so we'll need to buy some scrolls. Without revealing my Lich's actual plan, let's go conservative and say they only needed 2 scrolls and spend about 2,000gp. They even bothered to learn Permanency to be responsible, but the cost of applying that spell enough times is gonna cost them another 14,500gp. So again, we're not even accounting for the cost of the Phylactery, and the Lich has sunk 16,500gp into hiding it - just under half our total, leaving them with 18,300gp.

Considering that the Lich needed to take the Craft Wondrous Item feat anyway in order to create the Phylactery, we can actually get a decent amount of mileage out of this. Creating a +4 Cha Headband and a +2 Dex Belt for a total of 10k isn't too bad, but now we're suddenly down to maybe buying a nice ring and we're done. And bear in mind that the gp they put into hiding their Phylactery is a bit on the cheap, so if they wanted to put up some more defenses, the pool of money they have left to actually outfit themselves is going to drop accordingly.

This brings us into somewhat undefined territory. Breaking down the system of Pathfinder, gold is just a means to better stats, utility, mobility, etc. On one hand, that 120,000gp for the Lich's Phylactery should just be hand-waived as something only blocking a PC from easy immortality. On the other hand, though, the Phylactery is something that improved the Lich's survivability, which in turn makes it a harder enemy, and that needs to be taken into account. Spending gp to make the Phylacter harder to get to in turn makes defeating the Lich more difficult. However, these benefits are mostly out of combat, so to speak - they won't help you kill the PC's in the moment, just give you additional attempts to, one at a time. Does this mean gp spent protecting the Phylactery shouldn't be spent at a one-to-one basis? Maybe the 16,500gp spent in the above example should only count as spending 8,250gp. It shouldn't be completely ignored in my opinion, or else they would suddenly have 10 Symbols of Death and a Quintessence Golem guarding your 14th-level Lich's Phylactery.

Still, this doesn't account for the actual price of the Phylactery, which, to me personally, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Should I just ignore it since it means I could only make a Lich at 20th-level, and even then, it would be shamefully under-geared to deal with a party of level 17-18 PC's? When making a Lich, should I just make them with PC wealth-by-level, which would give the 14th-level Sorcerer 185,000? Here, though, even after making the Phylactery, they'd still have more gp than what would be expected of a 14th-level NPC Sorcerer. How have other GM's here adjudicated gp expenditure when building a Lich? Did you only subtract gp when it went into specifically statting out the Lich? Did you account for every single defense errected for the Phylactery?

Food for thought - the 11th-level Wizard statted in the Bestiary has about 16,300gp-worth of gear (after halving the price of all his Wondrous Items with his Craft Wondrous Items feat), and 11th-level NPC's should have 16,350gp.


NPCs don't play by all the same rules PCs do.

In this case, I would ignore the cost of the phylactery. It's part of the CR adjustment for the lich template, in my opinion.

You could look at this NPC and figure out how its wealth was allocated.


Rules are for P.C.^^

Since Pathfinder is strongly combat-oriented, I have adapted my motto in this case, "out-of-combat rules are for P.C."

The story I prepare for my players to tell in their way is helped by the rules. If the current rules don't help make the story good and interesting, I amend the rules or more often ignore them as long as the story makes sense with the rest of the in-campaign universe established so far.

The rules are a tool of story-telling, a tool of which main goal is to help consistency, so as to maintain make-believe.

The lich needs a phylactery. In this universe, without a phylactery, there is no lich. Hence as Claxon wisely said, the phylactery is part of the template.

Learning to recognise where and when the rules are failing us G.M. as a tool takes experience, spotting their shortcomings isn't always easy.


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The NPC wealth should represent the gear which, under normal circumstances, the PCs might have access to using or selling.

A lich's phylactery is only going to be valuable to the lich, barring its inherent value as a quest McGuffin.

Likewise, I don't typically apply the cost of Permanency to spells on the NPC as a penalty to the loot.

The NPC wealth by level should simply be whatever the group loots once the lich's dusty bones hit the floor, provided he didn't have time to use it during the battle.


First off, I would like to say what others have said: The rules are there to limit PCs from breaking WBL. Ignore the Phylactery as it is a plot device and the PCs gain nothing from obtaining it other than the destruction of the Lich. If it was worth 150k gold because of its usefulness to the Party going forward, then it would be worthwhile to consider BUT since it exists to be found and broken it can be safely ignored.

Meanwhile, to improve the Lich Have you considered applying Automatic Bonus Progression? This reduces his wealth by 1/2 BUT gives him: +4/2 Mental Stats, +4/2 Physical Stats, Resistance +5, Natural Armor +2, Deflection +2, Armor +3, and Weapons +3 at his current level of 14. The lich can then still gain the benefits from 17,400gp worth of additional wonderous items, single use items, endless spell books, and etc

Then, when the Lich is defeated drop 34,800gp worth of loot subtracting the stuff the Lich burned through fighting the party as his additional "wealth" was stored within his person. This might not make much sense if you need the world to be 100% consistent, but I find a little bit of hand-waving is necessary to keep a story flowing smoothly. From a design perspective, its really handy to have a Chart I can use for my NPCs with class levels to build them without needing to bother with a good portion of bean-counting. I often apply ABP to my NPCs in order to keep them current with the PCs without flooding the PCs with hundreds of cloaks of resistance and rings of protection.


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ShroudedInLight wrote:
From a design perspective, its really handy to have a Chart I can use for my NPCs with class levels to build them without needing to bother with a good portion of bean-counting. I often apply ABP to my NPCs in order to keep them current with the PCs without flooding the PCs with hundreds of cloaks of resistance and rings of protection.

This is an awesome tip and I wanted to thank you for this idea. I'd never considered this route of applying ABP in generating NPCs, and I definitely agree that having unique, cool loot is far more interesting than, "you find each of the bandits has a cloak, ring and armor that detect as magical."

Definitely stealing this one. Any suggestions for a good chart for on-the-fly NPC generation? (Sorry for the derail to the OP)


I don't unfortunately, building NPCs takes a real long time so when I have to build one on the fly its usually pretty slap-dash. My first piece of advice is to anyway have your laptop open, a connection to the internet, and Archive of Nethys open. The NPC Index is excellent for grabbing pre-made characters, you won't find exactly what you are looking for but you'll find something close enough that it can be tweaked into what you want. Give them new weapons, different accents, change their spells to ones you have memorized or open in a new tab, or even slap an archetype on and go to town. Just make sure when you apply ABP to remove any bonuses from duplicate magical equipment and replace it with something worth 1/2 the cost if they are going to use it in combat or the full cost if they are going to drop it for the PCs.

When I have to build an NPC and only have like an hour or so to do it (so like pre-game, during PCs planning, or during combat), this is how it ends up working: I take the normal NPC Heroic stat array of (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8) and turn it into (14, 14, 14, 12, 10, and 10) before applying racial bonuses. This makes life easy for me as I know that all of the modifiers are going to start at either 3, 2, 1, 0 or -1 and that I can safely ignore the 4th level stat increase (only boosting a modifier if the NPC is 8th or 16th level). I try to use non-human races with multiple stat increases so that my NPC starts with two +3s, a +2, a +1, a 0, and sometimes a -1. However, I rarely give them all of the other race's modifiers only the ones I can remember and in exchange I give them either an extra feat or an extra skill point. For instance, an Oread Monk would look like 14, 16, 12, 10, 16, 8 and would have Acid Resistance 5 and Dark Vision. However, they would have a bonus feat instead of Earth Affinity, any alternative traits, and their spell like ability because I can't remember those abilities off the top of my head.

Anyway, I stuff the ability scores into the appropriate slots, high physicals for a fighter, mixed for a gish, magical for a wizard, and then figure out what gear they have by the simple process of "melee, ranged, armor, shield?, + important stuff like a character's gold pocket watch, packet of cigars, cloak of chains, or other character defining items). I have most of the armor's and common weapons memorized so once those go down I apply the Automatic Bonus Progression chart to see what the base looks like. From there, I add the basic class features the character needs to function if the PCs need to encounter them RIGHT NOW like sneak attack, evasion, bravery, armor training, favored enemy, stunning fist, or rage. The same goes for feats if the character is combat based (Power Attack, Precise Shot, Two Weapon Fighting) or skills if the character is role-play based (Diplomacy, Sense Motive, Appraise, Profession Gambler). I only give them what they absolutely need, and leave the rest to be filled in during conversation with the PCs or the next time I can sit down and plan. I do not bother with customizable class features like Ki Powers, Rage Powers, Rogue Talents, or the like until I have time to find them (or I have a cool idea that I need a specific talent for the NPC to work). This is also the point where I'll pick 1-2 spells per spell level that the NPC "prefers" (either because I know it by heart or because its open in another tab).

At this point the NPC will withstand a fairly deep inspection by the players, even if you only started with a concept as short as "old Aasimar Cleric of Erastil in charge of the local cluster of villages" or "Anthropomorphic Millipede-person Wizard named Bugsy, the result of arcane experimentation gone wrong". From there you can apply the rest of the feats, skills, class selections, spells, and gear the next time you have time or whenever something the players say inspires you.

If you're REALLY hard on time then you're best bet is to fall back to this: Last Resort

No, no, not the whole article. Just look at that chart. If you are truly desperate, that chart is gold.

Use the High attack +/- 1d6 for skill checks, 1/3rd their secondary save DC for Initiative, their AC +/- 1d6 for their CMD, their high attack for their CMB. Add anything else you can think of, like movement speeds, feats, spells, or class abilities. Change stats by rolling a dice size appropriate for your CR and the stat in question, raise AC on tough cookies and increase damage on barbarians. Reduce AC on wizards and increase their spell DCs. Write it all down as you go (notepad is your friend), try not to give it more feats or skills than it should have normally and then find some way after the session is done to make this monstrosity function properly. It will be a pain but you MUST get this things stats to match the numbers you gave it (even if its dead because you might need another one). If your PCs are relying on negative levels or ability damage to defeat their foes, good luck. You don't have any hard stats, at this point you're literally pulling all of this outta your butt, so your best bet is to move fast and hope the players don't poke your NPC hard enough that it falls over and reveal itself to be a cardboard cutout with "Insert Ennpeecee here" written on it in Orkish.

(PS: Worth noting, everything I've written applies to giving monsters class levels as well. Just remember the +4, +4, +2, +2, 0, -2 modifiers and then apply ABP.)

(EDIT: PSS: Companion pets like Eidolons and Animal Companions can be simulated for NPCs by an appropriate entry from the bestiary. I'd choose a companion 0-4 CR lower than the NPC you plan to use depending on level of your party. For instance, a 10th level Summoner NPC in my campaign has an Efreeti [CR8] as their Eidolon. This saved me from building an entire Eidolon)


Seems to me a lot of NPCs also have real estate holdings that significantly exceed appropriate NPC WBL standards. “This is Bob. He has 73 GP, art work worth 100, and a flawed ruby worth 150. And a six acre castle.”


Lelomenia wrote:
Seems to me a lot of NPCs also have real estate holdings that significantly exceed appropriate NPC WBL standards. “This is Bob. He has 73 GP, art work worth 100, and a flawed ruby worth 150. And a six acre castle.”

Pathfinder doesn't have an inheritance tax, so inheritance doesn't factor into WBL. Its like how you can choose a trait to have rich parents or a masterwork weapon to start the game. Except the NPC has a six acre castle, a wing of pleasure slaves, and a magical talking yacht they never had to work for or pay taxes on.


Lelomenia wrote:
Seems to me a lot of NPCs also have real estate holdings that significantly exceed appropriate NPC WBL standards. “This is Bob. He has 73 GP, art work worth 100, and a flawed ruby worth 150. And a six acre castle.”

Pathfinder revolves around combat. The W.B.L. is a guide to help keeping combat balanced in the hopes to keep it fun and interesting. If whatever possessions do not help the P.C. defeat their foes, usually through combat, it doesn't come into account for W.B.L.


If 10,000gp-worth of magical defenses were set up to thwart PCs' attempts to find the Lich's Phylactery, would that not count toward making the Lich harder to deal with? Because, until the Phylactery is destroyed, a determined/vengeful Lich will just keep returning to exact its revenge, getting craftier each time, until the PC's invest in the sub-adventure to find/destroy the Phylactery. I agree that gp put into an NPC's combat gear is much more relevant, and I can deal with entirely waiving the cost of creating the Phylactery (though why include a price at all then, I wonder), but shouldn't the Lich still be limited in how much gold it can throw at its out-of-combat defenses?


WBL shouldn't be used for monsters. WBL gives more gold than the Treasure Value per Encounter Table would indicate. You're 14th level Lich is a CR 15 encounter normally, CR 16 if you give him more than the normal wealth of his CR. In a normal progression campaign a CR 15 encounter has 19,500gp worth of loot.

If that doesn't float your boat as a GM, there are ways around this. Make the Lich encounter part of a linked set of encounters. You are drawn there in the first place by his skeletal stone giants who were raiding a nearby village (no loot). You encountered his Ghoul Champion and the Hell Hounds he controls (normal loot), You run into the undead created from his victims (no loot), and a summoned demon that guards his inner laboratory (no loot) before you encounter the Lich (and possible minions). 3 of the previous encounters had no loot, so you can bundle their loot into the Lich encounter. This makes the lich look wealthy and makes more sense than the giant skeletons carrying treasure, or there being a pile of valuables mixed in with the victims.

Of course a lot of the wealth the Lich has should be in non-magic items. A decent amount of gold, the laboratory supplies should be valuable. Lots of onyx for raising dead. An appropriate payment for the summoned demon. If you feel the Lich's treasure is looking a little light throw in a nest of fendish vipers and some ghosts to add more encounters worth of treasure.

Now if you are making this Lich to go on adventures with the party, carry on.


Cuup wrote:
If 10,000gp-worth of magical defenses were set up to thwart PCs' attempts to find the Lich's Phylactery, would that not count toward making the Lich harder to deal with? Because, until the Phylactery is destroyed, a determined/vengeful Lich will just keep returning to exact its revenge, getting craftier each time, until the PC's invest in the sub-adventure to find/destroy the Phylactery. I agree that gp put into an NPC's combat gear is much more relevant, and I can deal with entirely waiving the cost of creating the Phylactery (though why include a price at all then, I wonder), but shouldn't the Lich still be limited in how much gold it can throw at its out-of-combat defenses?

Would you charge the Lich's wealth for every trap set up in his lair and every undead creation in the dungeon? Do the golems guarding the Lich's sanctuary get made by the create construct feat and cost the Lich money? The costs for Undead, Constructs, and Traps are all laid out across various books. Does the lich pay taxes on his property? Wages to his human assistants? No, each of these things is an encounter on its own with its own budget.

In the same vein, The phylactery defenses are an encounter in their own right. They should, frankly, be just as challenging as the Lich's original fight (albiet more in an exploration and dungeon crawl/puzzle solve way rather than a straight out fight)

Also, Don't forget that every time the Lich regenerates it has lost:
All items on its person
All the monsters/setup as his previous hideout
All the work he had set up at his previous hideout
Up to 10 days of time

Unless you are refilling the Lich's treasure pool every encounter with the PCs (a viable choice depending on the age of the Lich and the number of treasure stores he/she might possess across the planes of existence) then he should get easier every fight as he runs out of consumables and tactics the PCs haven't seen. Especially as a Sorcerer who cannot readily change their spells known.


ITT I learned that wealthy merchants are all high-level.


blahpers wrote:
ITT I learned that wealthy merchants are all high-level.

In the same way that skilled craftsmen are all able combattants as well, no?^^ Can't have the skill ranks without the B.A.B.

- rules are for P.C. -


ShroudedInLight wrote:
Cuup wrote:
If 10,000gp-worth of magical defenses were set up to thwart PCs' attempts to find the Lich's Phylactery, would that not count toward making the Lich harder to deal with? Because, until the Phylactery is destroyed, a determined/vengeful Lich will just keep returning to exact its revenge, getting craftier each time, until the PC's invest in the sub-adventure to find/destroy the Phylactery. I agree that gp put into an NPC's combat gear is much more relevant, and I can deal with entirely waiving the cost of creating the Phylactery (though why include a price at all then, I wonder), but shouldn't the Lich still be limited in how much gold it can throw at its out-of-combat defenses?

Would you charge the Lich's wealth for every trap set up in his lair and every undead creation in the dungeon? Do the golems guarding the Lich's sanctuary get made by the create construct feat and cost the Lich money? The costs for Undead, Constructs, and Traps are all laid out across various books. Does the lich pay taxes on his property? Wages to his human assistants? No, each of these things is an encounter on its own with its own budget.

In the same vein, The phylactery defenses are an encounter in their own right. They should, frankly, be just as challenging as the Lich's original fight (albiet more in an exploration and dungeon crawl/puzzle solve way rather than a straight out fight)

Also, Don't forget that every time the Lich regenerates it has lost:
All items on its person
All the monsters/setup as his previous hideout
All the work he had set up at his previous hideout
Up to 10 days of time

Unless you are refilling the Lich's treasure pool every encounter with the PCs (a viable choice depending on the age of the Lich and the number of treasure stores he/she might possess across the planes of existence) then he should get easier every fight as he runs out of consumables and tactics the PCs haven't seen. Especially as a Sorcerer who cannot readily change their spells known.

Interesting. It hadn't occurred to me to think of the Phylactery as its own separate dungeon crawl. That's a huge shift in perception and makes a lot of sense.


Fun thought experiment.

Don't let thought experiments get in the way of making a fun adventure for your PCs. WBL is a guide (IMHO) that should be thrown out in actual play.


I seem to remember some earlier version of the npc wealth by level (possibly something from 3.5) would include things like the price of a farmer npc's farm as part of their wealth- I would imagine it was mostly as a way to explain "why your rogue can't doesn't find 900 gp worth of gear on that lvl 1 npc he just murdered".

The current wealth table in the 'creating npcs' area is probably far more helpful for just focusing on the 'things that players use' parts. The rest can just be written off as background props or dungeon infrastructure that doesn't get countered.

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