On becoming a lich


Advice


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

I've got a player who wants to become a lich (sigh. there's always one). Please give me your opinion if the rules I've created (many of these are amalgamated from various sources) are too tough or too easy.

Thanks.

1) Each lich must create its own phylactery by using the Craft Wondrous Item feat.
2) The character must be able to cast spells and have a caster level of 11th or higher.
3) The phylactery costs 120,000 gp to create and has a caster level equal to that of its creator at the time of creation.
4) In order to create the Phylactery, you must cast reincarnation on the soul of a loved one killed by your own hand, funneling the soul into the Phylactery rather than into a new body.
5) Creating the Phylactery will take 960 hours of work.
6) The full price of the materials (120,000 gp) must be paid at the beginning of the work.
7) The soul must be cast into the Phylactery once the work is complete.
8) The DC to create the Phylactery is 5+caster level (currently 18). Failing means the materials (including the soul of the loved one) and time are wasted. Failing by 5 or more is considered a critical failure and results in the creator’s soul being drawn into the Phylactery and his body destroyed. You cannot take 10 on this roll. A natural 1 will always result in a critical failure.
9) The process of creating the Phylactery is an act of the utmost evil and merely beginning the process will blacken your soul to the point that any paladin in your presence would have to make a fortitude saving throw equal to your caster level or fight you to the death.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Everything seems fine except for the last two. I don't see why, 5% of the time, attempting to create a phylactery destroys you. It just feels arbitrarily harsh; they've already spent 120,000gp on becoming a lich. And murdered a loved one/trapped their soul in a magic box for all eternity. That's cost enough.

#9 is simpler; it should be a Will save, not Fortitude.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Mostly agree, I would say that having a bar 1 always be a failure is fine, becoming a lich is supposed to be dangerous, if high skill was a garuntee, you would see more liches.

But rather then immediately killing the player, I would make them a "forsaken lich" they get to be very scary for a short time (1d10 days) before their soul is inevitably consumed...

As far as 9 goes, why bother having a save? If a paladin meets a lich, they would be nearly obligated to fight it to keep their oath, unless some other duty is pressing, role play what makes sense, but a paladin shouldn't tolerate a lich.

That doesn't mean he has to be stupid, but maybe call for back up, then crusade

My 2 cents :)

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

#9 is horrible and nonsense. Who are you to force the way my character acts? Especially since I can, in this game, have a demon, a creature formed from the sins of a mortal, but I can't stop myself from attacking a lich?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Geruvurrda wrote:
if high skill was a garuntee, you would see more liches.

I guess it depends on the game. I don't go in much for the "every NPC and their uncle is a lvl10 character class" sort of setting. You could probably count the number of high level characters in any of my settings on your fingers and a couple toes. The number of lvl11 casters just isn't there.

And I still don't think they'd all be signing up for lichdom. There's good, there's evil, and then there's depravity.
But as a devil's advocate to your argument: if a powerful being wanted to achieve immortality, why use a method that kills you 5% of the time, regardless of your ability or prowess? People who want to live forever, whatever it takes, don't seem likely to be the type to roll the dice like that.

Geruvurrda wrote:
As far aas 9 goes, why bother having a save?

This. This is the real foundation of the issue. There doesn't need to be a save, so there shouldn't be. Show me a paladin who doesn't want to fight a lich and I'll show you a paladin who (a) is in a VERY unusual situation or (b) is not going to be a paladin for much longer.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Rather than charging money for the materials, have the character personally source them.

Many of the components could be highly exotic or metaphorical requiring planar excursions.

I don't like killing a loved one, which whilst theoretically poignant, is mechanically easy and besides the soul could not really be loved if they were willing to sacrifice them. Perhaps they have to fight their own soul and banish it into the phylactery. How the character goes about separating themselves from their soul is up to the player to work out. Maybe a dream state induced by a special formula would work. The player has to beat themselves in 1 on 1 PvP with you playing the soul version.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Honestly it seems too easy. No two Lich rituals are the same. Each has to be tailored to the individual. Usually it takes years of research to discover your own path to being a Lich.

Have the player spend time and effort on researching how to become a Lich. Let him know that he's found a method used by a necromancer that failed to become a lich. Through that he knows that he has to discover a ritual that will work for him, not just one that succeeded for someone else. Then give him several options on how to proceed.

One method would be to find a Lich and bargain for its cooperation in experimenting on his body to find the ritual for him. A second method would involve making deals with Contract Devils for a ritual that will work for him. The contract devils will want quite a few services, and if in the case your phylactery is destroyed your soul belongs to them. A third option is to attempt to make a deal with a deity, I'd suggest an Outer God. A fourth method would be to get a priest of Nethys to help the player infiltrate their vaults of forbidden knowledge to find the research into becoming a Lich stored there.

The method to becoming a Lich shouldn't depend on one evil act. It should require a series of evil acts. Stuff like separating bits of a psychopaump so your soul isn't snatched when you die. killing a priest that is attempting to resurrect you while he is casting so you can bind his soul to summoning you to the phylactery. Also needing to capture a CR 12+ fae and a CR 12+ undead so you can bleed off the essence of both to recreate your body each time you die.

Becoming a Lich grants you powers way beyond what a character would normally be able to get. This should be a full on adventure that requires a party to participate to 'pay' for such a reward.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I also just realized that the phylactery Costa 120,000 gp to make alone

This does not include the Costa for any other rituals he may need...

But in the end your gm, it's up to you


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Let's look at mechanics...

The cost of becoming a lich is 2 levels (if you're counting its CR as level equivalents) and 120,000 gp. At level 15, this amounts to exactly half of your WBL. Remember that this is one hell of a sacrifice for your player to be making for his goal. He probably won't be able to attain his goal until he is a 13th level caster (Character level 15), so unless you're starting out at this level, he's going to feel the weakness of this process.

If you're set on 9 steps, then I'd suggest giving out the powers for each step. The powers are:


    ● DR 15/Bludgeoning and Magic
    ● Immunity to Cold
    ● Immunity to Electricity
    ● Touch attack dealing 1d8 negative damage and paralysis
    ● Fear aura
    ● Natural Armor
    ● Bonus to Perception, Sense Motive, and Stealth
    ● Undead creature type
    ● Darkvision 60'
    ● Immunity to mind-affecting effects
    ● Immunity to bleed, death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, and stunning
    ● Not subject to nonlethal damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Immune to damage to its physical ability scores (Constitution, Dexterity, and Strength), as well as to exhaustion and fatigue effects.
    ● Immunity to any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless).
    ● Rejuvenation (the big one)

If we divide these into chunks, we should be able to get small bonuses that our process can grant every step of the way.


    ● Darkvision 60'
    ● +2 racial bonus to Perception, Sense Motive, and Stealth (to +4, +8)
    ● +2 racial bonus to resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects (to +4, +8, Immunity)
    ● +2 racial bonus to resist mind-effecting effects (to +4, +8, Immunity)
    ● 5 Cold and Electricity Resist (to 10, 20, Immunity)
    ● DR 2/Bludgeoning (to 5, 10, 15)
    ● Touch attack 1d8 + 1/2lvl (to add paralysis for 1d4+1 rounds 3/day)
    ● Light Fortification (to Moderate, Heavy)
    ● 2 Constitution drain that may not be overcome, cured, or prevented by any means (to 4 Con drain).
    ● Require less sleep per night (to requiring no sleep)

    ● Gain Undead Type
    ● True Lich -> Fear Aura, Full Paralyzing Touch, DR adds Magic (becomes 15/Bludgeoning and Magic)

The costs at each step can be divided (as a cumulative total):

1. 15k
2. 30k
3. 45k
4. 60k
5. 75k
6. 90k
7. 1lvl Become Undead
8. 120k
9. 2lvl Become proper Lich

... where steps 7 and 8 are particularly dangerous because you're Undead but do not yet have the Rejuvenation power.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I like the idea of a gradual change, it will help it not feel so jarring when your designing encounters, and it's a decent boon for the player too :)


Geruvurrda wrote:
I like the idea of a gradual change, it will help it not feel so jarring when your designing encounters, and it's a decent boon for the player too :)

I'm not a fan for the reason that it is a decent boon for the PC. For 15k the character can have permanent darkvision. Another 15k and they get two free feats worth of skill bonuses. They can stop at any point they want. In my mind, becoming a lich would take total dedication and ultimate sacrifice with no interim rewards.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

First, what setting are you playing in?

Second, what school of thought or philosophy do you buy into or use when it comes to the nature of undeath and negative energy?

Third, how do you genuinely feel about one of your players' characters becoming undead? Does it align with the overall narrative of the campaign? Are you genuinely OK with allowing this and won't do something passive-aggressive in response?

Hugo Rune wrote:
Geruvurrda wrote:
I like the idea of a gradual change, it will help it not feel so jarring when your designing encounters, and it's a decent boon for the player too :)
I'm not a fan for the reason that it is a decent boon for the PC. For 15k the character can have permanent darkvision. Another 15k and they get two free feats worth of skill bonuses. They can stop at any point they want. In my mind, becoming a lich would take total dedication and ultimate sacrifice with no interim rewards.

Maybe more narratively appropriate in some cases and settings, but a drawn out, granular process would be the least likely to break the game and allow more on the fly tweaking of individual moving parts.

Should also generally create less friction with the player, assuming they're OK with gradual transformation, since it's generally less emotionally fraught to tweak or replace one ability at a time than to take a whole bundle of them away at once, even if the end result is the same in both cases (though it easily might not be the same due to the amount of time available to make a decision).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Losing your character is a nice boon for the PC?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I can't speak for everyone, but when I said it was a nice boon, I was referring to the gradual change, and getting some of the lich abilities early, so rather then a sudden and complete change at the end of a lot of investment, some aspects would be received gradually as they work towards the end :)


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I don't agree with the statements that becoming a lich is game breaking. Doing it mid-adventure is absolutely game breaking, but gaining the knowledge and materials over the course of many adventures gives a campaign focus and potentially structure.

After the character finally becomes a lich subsequent adventures would be based on their place in the world and ambitions.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

For anyone interested, I put together an ability cost estimation (since a "How do I into Lich" method was something I'd been meaning to work out for a while). Thought I'd toss the draft here

Ability Cost Estimation:

+1 Light Fortification Masterwork Haramaki (2) 4153 gp (or +1000 for Mithril Buckler)
+1 Moderate Fortification Masterwork Haramaki (4) 16,153 gp
+1 Heavy Fortification Masterwork Haramaki (6) 36,153 gp

Darkvision (Permanancy) 5000 gp

+2 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth 900 gp
+4 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth 3600 gp
+6 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth 8100 gp
+8 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth 14,400 gp

Resist Cold and Electricity 5 10,500 gp (6000 ea); alt 7000 gp for ring
Resist Cold and Electricity 10 31,500 gp (18,000 ea); alt 21,000 gp for ring
Resist Cold and Electricity 20 73,500 gp (42,000 ea); alt 49,000 gp for ring
Immunity to Cold and Electricity

+2 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects 2600gp? Maybe twice this?
+4 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects 10,400gp
+6 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects 23,400
+8 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects 41,600

+2 resist mind-effecting effects 3500 gp, possibly 7000 gp since it is not resist? (mind sentinal medalion)
+4 resist mind-effecting effects less than 32,000gp
+6 resist mind-effecting effects less than 72,000
+8 resist mind-effecting effects less than 128,000gp

DR 2/Bludgeoning No more than 6000, I'd say. Compare with 1/- for 5k for Adamantite Haramaki.
DR 5/Bludgeoning Compare to +1 Invulnerable Haramaki at 16,000 gp
DR 10/Bludgeoning Compare to Belt of Stoneskin at 60,000 gp.
DR 15/Bludgeoning

Touch attack 1d8 negative energy +1/2 levels ??? Somewhere between 2000 and 10000?
Touch attack 1d8 negative energy +1/2 levels, Paralysis 1d4+1 rounds 3/day 7200 gp + above (Ghoul Touch)

Require 4 hours sleep
Require 2 hours sleep (ring of sustinance) 2500gp
Require no hours sleep

+1 Natural Armor (as per Amulet of Natural Armor) 2000 gp
+2 Natural Armor 8000 gp
+3 Natural Armor 18,000 gp
+4 Natural Armor 32,000 gp
+5 Natural Armor 50,000 gp


Path from 1-9:

Cumulative costs are in (parentheses)
1. (15k) Darkvision, Light Fortification, +2 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, +2 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth
2. (30k) DR 2/Bludgeoning, 5 Cold and Elec resist, +2 resist mind-effecting effects, +1 Natural Armor
3. (45k) 2 Con Drain, Moderate Fortification, +4 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, Require only 2 hours sleep
4. (60k) DR 5/Bludgeoning, 10 Cold and Elec resist, +4 resist mind-effecting effects, +4 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth
5. (75k) 2 Con Drain, Heavy Fortification, +6 resist death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, +2 Natural Armor,
Touch attack 1d8 negative energy +1/2 levels
6. (90k) DR 10/Bludgeoning, 20 Cold and Elec resist, +6 resist mind-effecting effects
7. (1lvl) Become Undead, Touch attack 1d8 negative energy +1/2 levels, Paralysis 1d4+1 rounds 3/day, +6 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth
8. (120k) DR 15/Bludgeoning, Cold Immunity, Elec Immunity, +8 Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth, +3 Natural Armor
9. 2lvl Become proper Lich, Rejuvination, Natural Armor +5, Fear Aura, Paralyzing Touch at will, DR 15/Bludgeoning and Magic,


blahpers wrote:
Losing your character is a nice boon for the PC?

I do agree that a player should lose control over their character if they become an undead, or are transformed into a type of monster. After all that is what happens if a player gets transformed into a shadow, ghoul, or vampire. The major personality shift associated with the transformation takes the character out of the realm of a player character and moves them to being a NPC under the GM's control.

Though there is an exception to that. If a player takes the Agent of the Grave prestige class the final ability does say the player remains in control after their transformation.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

While undead created by any sort of spawn ability lose themselves, liches are transforming themselves, and retain their old, evil personality, I wouldn't make them into an NPC. It defeats the point

Also, while there is no standard way to become a lich, it's not forbidden by the rules, it's definitely in "work with your gm" territory, but there are rules for playing as a monster

They are going to be spending a LOT of their gold.on this.

If your still worried about the lich being too powerful, you can give the other party members some Homebrew artifacts or abilities to compensate for any disparity. And up the difficulty of encounters


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Geruvurrda wrote:
While undead created by any sort of spawn ability lose themselves, liches are transforming themselves, and retain their old, evil personality, I wouldn't make them into an NPC. It defeats the point

I think defeating the point was their point and desire. Due to hating the concept.

A lot of players who have taken up PF have bought into the company philosophy on undeath even if they perhaps started out with a different philosophy from other games or even old hands who came over with the switch from 3.5.

To the point where quite a lot of vitriol has been spewed on various forums because someone else expressed an alternative way to treat things, even outside of playing in Golarion.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Balancing a Lich character with other PC characters can be trickly, leaving aside any conflicts that the other characters might have about running around with an evil undead.

My first option would be to talk to the player and see if they are heartset on playing a lich, or would be satisified to have that be a goal their character is working toward, but would be ok with during the actual play of the campaign it is just an adventure hook (i.e. they will be able to find information on the process, providing motivation and progress toward their goal) but they won't actually reach their goal during the campaign (or possibly right before the end, adding something in like that for the climax of the campaign isn't so bad.)

If they were really set on playing a lich, and if the other players characters would go along with it, then I would look at something to balance it so that all the PCs would get similar benefits to try and keep some degree of balance.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

In addition to the various points made in the thread keep in mind the CR+2 is not for a PC controlled Lich but for the monstrous creature as a foe for PCs.

Just how much those various abilities are worth for a PC needs to be addressed and included. And I don't think 2 levels and 120k at 18th level is ... correct. For one it's an "NPC" with PC wealth, that's another +1. The ability to gain further levels is also not in the calculations. A monstrous Lich isn't expected to survive an encounter with PCs so a static CR value makes sense, but fails to account for the fact a PC Lich the exact opposite is expected to occur including the ability to gain levels. Unless, of course, the PC doesn't expect to gain further levels (doubt this is the case).

And I agree with Quixote and others about the last couple points.
For an evil character and someone wanting to play a Lich killing a loved one is pretty much a non-penalty mechanically speaking. And the last should be a roleplaying event maybe triggered by a Will save.


I disagree on #9. The Paladin can sense the lich and certainly wants to attack but they have free will, they may choose to gather reinforcements, especially if they are close at hand. (I can't imagine a Paladin that is part of an adventuring party attacking alone rather than as part of the group.)

I also disagree on #8. Yes, it's a dangerous thing but skill should matter. I'm not sure how I would do it but I wouldn't make a flat 5% chance of utter failure.

While I do agree that the required sacrifice isn't actually meaningful I think it's appropriate--it makes it clear it's an act of extreme evil.


Let's look at the older rules.

Dragon Magazine # 26
- Must be 14th level or higher
- Must have magic jar, trap the soul, enchant an item
- must create the phylactery with at least 2000 cp worth of materials (insert 1e ad hoc crafting rules). The phylactery is called a 'jar'.
- create a potion consisting of:
- 2 pinches pure arsenic
- 1 pinch belladonna
- phase spider venom less than 30 days old
- wyvern venom less than 60 days old
- blood of a dead humanoid infant killed by phase spider venom
- blood of a dead humanoid infant killed by a mixture of arsenic and belladonna
- the heart of a virgin humanoid killed by wyvern venom
- 1 quart vampire blood
The potion is mixed by the light of a full moon, added to each other in the order listed.

Roll percentile dice!
% result
1-10 all hair falls out. no other result
11-40 coma 2-7 days, but potion works
41-70 Feebleminded. Each attempt to remove the feeblemind has 10% chance of killing target. Potion works
71-90 Paralyzed 4-14 days, 30% chance of 1d6 Dex drain. Potion works
91-96 Permanently deaf, dumb or blind. Wish to remove condition. Potion works
97-00 Dead. Hope you can be resurrected.

This version doesn't create new bodies, it inserts the soul of the lich into corpses near the phylactery. Corpses receive a saving throw, modified by their in life alignment. Lich can retry once per week until successful on its own corpse, but other corpses are immune after a successful save. If in a body other than its own, the lich has limited abilities until it finds the remains of its original body and consumes those. The only way to completely destroy the original body is to disintegrate it. Returning to a jar costs a level and if its level went lower than 11 the lich died the next time it is returned to the jar. They cannot level up or use scrolls.

Wizard's Spell Compendium
Mostly the same as above, but they added Nulathoe's ninemen to required spells and a 100 000+ gp research cost.
The ingredients are the same as above except that they removed the infant blood (wussies!) and change them to:
- heart of a humanoid killed by the arsenic/belladonna mixture
- reproductive organs of 10 giant moths, dead less than 10 days.

Potion is sparkling black with blusish radiance and must be drunk within 7 days of creation, and over the course of six rounds the changes occur. Once a potion works, you don't die or transform quite yet. Craft the phylactery in no more than nine days (insert 2e crafting rules), using EAI, then TtS, and NN and MJ within 10 minutes of each other. Your soul is drawn into the phylactery and you lose one level and the top three spell levels are wiped clean from your memory until you have rested 1d6+1 days in your own body. Now you are a lichnee (I'm not quite dead, sir) until you die. After this, the same as the DrMg version, including failure chance for potion. No mention of inability to increase level or use scrolls. Phylactery can be anything.

Van Richten's Guide to Liches
Phylactery must be an amulet worth at least 1500 gp, The interior (it must be able to contain things) is engraved with the wizard's sigil and filled with silver. Spells required are enchant an item, permanency, magic jar and reincarnation.
The potion is less specific, but said to contain arsenic, belladonna, nightshade, heart's worry, the blood of any number of rare venomous creatures, then the following spells must be cast: wraithform, cone of cold, feign death, animate dead, permanency. No fancy table, just a System Shock to survive the process and hope you don't fail because if you do you are dead and gone for good. No Wish can help you now.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / On becoming a lich All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.