What are some unusual lich phylactery ideas?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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A split diamond turned into a locket. Perhaps keep some pictures in it. Throw in with other valuable items in what ever murder hole hidaway. Keep it durable but simple, plan for it to be taken at some point but do your best to prevent that.


My favorite idea for a soul cage is that because you're some genius about metaphysics, semiotics, and the like is to somehow figure out a way to trap your soul in an idea, but at the point of the campaign it's an obscure idea that has fallen out of society but is still understood by several academics.

Are the "heroes" going to brain damage or murder innocent scholars? Burn books? How does the Lich promulgate understanding of the thing that keeps them in existence?


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I liked some of the 3.5 libris Morris examples. To wit: a wooden spoon and a charm on a cat’s collar.


OrochiFuror wrote:
A split diamond turned into a locket. Perhaps keep some pictures in it. Throw in with other valuable items in what ever murder hole hidaway. Keep it durable but simple, plan for it to be taken at some point but do your best to prevent that.

For what it's worth, people really over estimate the durability of diamonds.

Diamonds are hard, but you can't confuse that with other measures of material strength.

Hardness measures resistance to abrasion or indentation (like scratching).

However, diamond is a crystal and can easily be smashed to dust by a hammer.

It would be resistant to the average decay of time, but so would a lot of things.

That said, I wonder if it would be possible to make a volume of water your phylactery and then pour it in a river/ocean (and if it would still function).

Good luck finding that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Claxon wrote:
OrochiFuror wrote:
A split diamond turned into a locket. Perhaps keep some pictures in it. Throw in with other valuable items in what ever murder hole hidaway. Keep it durable but simple, plan for it to be taken at some point but do your best to prevent that.

For what it's worth, people really over estimate the durability of diamonds.

Diamonds are hard, but you can't confuse that with other measures of material strength.

Hardness measures resistance to abrasion or indentation (like scratching).

However, diamond is a crystal and can easily be smashed to dust by a hammer.

It would be resistant to the average decay of time, but so would a lot of things.

That said, I wonder if it would be possible to make a volume of water your phylactery and then pour it in a river/ocean (and if it would still function).

Good luck finding that.

Since I believe that no soul cage should be unreachable by characters who put in the work, I'd probably say that the weight of a soul bound into the volume of water make it heavier and it tends to stick together wherever it sits. So, you might have to wait a few weeks or months for the water cycle to deposit it somewhere, but you'd be able to find it.


If the setting was more sci fi, say in Starfinder where Necrovites are a thing, one idea would be to place your soul in a matrix of nanytes and have a self-repairing, replicating soul cage.


Perpdepog wrote:
If the setting was more sci fi, say in Starfinder where Necrovites are a thing, one idea would be to place your soul in a matrix of nanytes and have a self-repairing, replicating soul cage.

Yeah, I love that idea and thought about suggesting it but I think it doesn't fit in the context of Pathfinder. But absolutely someone should do this sort of thing.

Of course, I honestly believe the best way to reach "eternal" life is to sacrifice a few levels to being a reincarnated druid. Maybe not as much fun as putting it also into wizard, but also doesn't require you to be evil and paint a big target on your back for people to come looking for you.

I simply wish a similar option was open to other character classes for the concept. Game balance wise it's actually very low power to allow a character to reincarnate when they die. But narratively it's pretty cool.

Edit: Oh, what if you could make a reincarnated druid your phylactery somehow.

OH! Or what if liches just made phylacteries out of existing liches? Like the lich who teaches and trains you allows you to use him, but in return he now controls the most important thing to you. But it's also super hard to destroy.

I mean, the rules don't support using creatures in this manner, but I think it's an interesting idea.


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Gray Goo Soul Cage can absolutely work in the context of Pathfinder... just under particular circumstances. Android Lich, or just a general Numerian Lich, could get away with such a thing. The further you get from Numeria, the harder it becomes to justify.


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Alling Third might have some insights in that direction. I hope he shows up in an adventure proper, rather than an optional encounter.

Claxon wrote:
OH! Or what if liches just made phylacteries out of existing liches? Like the lich who teaches and trains you allows you to use him, but in return he now controls the most important thing to you. But it's also super hard to destroy.

I remember having a similar idea, and I think it'd work really well. The idea was a kabal of casters who all made each other into soul cages, and the result was that you had to destroy all of them to truly destroy any of them. They also had some other benefits, like knowing what they were all thinking and being able to share spells or something. I forget the specifics. It'd need a lot of trust between members, even with the mutually assured destruction aspect.


AceofMoxen wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:

A simple copper coin.

Shuffled into the general economy.

You'll never find it.

Ever.

Couldn't it be melted somewhere along the way ?

It'll be melted down as soon as the local government or bank reforms and starts printing currency again. If it's continuously handed over, it'll wear down to uselessness in 100 years. For currency, your best bet is giving it to a dragon to sit on it.

Precious gems might be a better choice. Expensive and old jewelry is a fine choice. You want something traded, but taken care of.

I also like the idea of soul caging Cobalt-60. What adventurer is regularly casting detect radiation?

As a copper coin, this is possible but unlikely. Gold and silver are more likely to be reminted.

Liberty's Edge

Freehold DM wrote:
AceofMoxen wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:

A simple copper coin.

Shuffled into the general economy.

You'll never find it.

Ever.

Couldn't it be melted somewhere along the way ?

It'll be melted down as soon as the local government or bank reforms and starts printing currency again. If it's continuously handed over, it'll wear down to uselessness in 100 years. For currency, your best bet is giving it to a dragon to sit on it.

Precious gems might be a better choice. Expensive and old jewelry is a fine choice. You want something traded, but taken care of.

I also like the idea of soul caging Cobalt-60. What adventurer is regularly casting detect radiation?

As a copper coin, this is possible but unlikely. Gold and silver are more likely to be reminted.

It can be melted for creating copper cable. Hope you unlive far from any inventor.


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I have the concept of a paranoid lich whose phylactery is their own body, but for the moment, I was never able to use it in any of my adventures (as a villain, I'm DMing way more than I play).

The basic idea is that of a powerfull wizard wanting to achieve immortality, but due to unforceen problem during the ritual, his soul wasn't trapped within the book he wanted it to be, but inside of his own ossature. So of course, now he's paranoid, because he know that unlike the other lich, he don't get a second chance if he get destroyed. Ironically, when he was alive, he never really cared about being in danger, but becoming a lich really made him conscious of his own frailty (compared to other lich that is) and thus fearfull. Altho in my draft of the character, his first line of defense was trying to bluff by announcing to his foe that they can never hope to defeat him unless they first destroy his philactery, hoping that they'll search for it instead of facing him head-on.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

My favorite idea for a soul cage is that because you're some genius about metaphysics, semiotics, and the like is to somehow figure out a way to trap your soul in an idea, but at the point of the campaign it's an obscure idea that has fallen out of society but is still understood by several academics.

Are the "heroes" going to brain damage or murder innocent scholars? Burn books? How does the Lich promulgate understanding of the thing that keeps them in existence?

Specifically I think the soul cage would be something like the "Chinese Remainder Theorem" which is a thing that was known as early as the 3rd century BCA, and you could teach to 8th grade math students, absolutely. But you might never encounter it until you get to graduate school know what a principal ideal domain is or you need to do a fast fourier transform or are doing RSA encryption.

Liberty's Edge

Make it a toothbrush, like, a well-used, decade-old thing that clearly should be thrown out.

Nobody is going to touch it.


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Themetricsystem wrote:

Make it a toothbrush, like, a well-used, decade-old thing that clearly should be thrown out.

Nobody is going to touch it.

I just had a disgusting idea.

Soiled underwear.


What about otyughs?


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Perpdepog wrote:
What about otyughs?

What about them? People are less likely to touch my otyugh discharge [s]phy[s]soul cage than they are soiled underwear.


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I think a soul cage shouldn't be made out of something that will naturally decay. Like if I bury my socks in the backyard, in a century there won't be socks there anymore so if I was keeping my soul in my socks there would be trouble.


Ravingdork wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
What about otyughs?
What about them? People are less likely to touch my otyugh discharge [s]phy[s]soul cage than they are soiled underwear.

Otyughs prize, and also eat, garbage. Making a soul cage out of soiled underwear or something else disgusting isn't going to deter them.


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I'm engineering-adjacent as a programmer, so there's a temptation to find an optimal solution.

One thing I like to do is make it so optimal solutions won't work. I make it so that soul cages must be meaningful and a bit poetic to serve as such. An adamantine cube or a low-denomination coin is a bit prosaic, unless it's Scrooge's number one dime. If there's no deep connection to you, you can't trust that your soul will go there or stick- or maybe a prosaic soul cage requires regular maintenance to keep the soul bound.

Narratively, it means you will always have a soul cage that tells you something about the lich.

Also, I think a soul cage should have just about the strongest necromantic aura there is, outside of Galt's guillotines. I don't think that's something you can just slap a fake aura on.

In the end, you want a good story, so any excuse for why the lich wouldn't just shove their soul in a generic rock and leave it on a remote mountain should be considered.


QuidEst wrote:

I'm engineering-adjacent as a programmer, so there's a temptation to find an optimal solution.

One thing I like to do is make it so optimal solutions won't work. I make it so that soul cages must be meaningful and a bit poetic to serve as such. An adamantine cube or a low-denomination coin is a bit prosaic, unless it's Scrooge's number one dime. If there's no deep connection to you, you can't trust that your soul will go there or stick- or maybe a prosaic soul cage requires regular maintenance to keep the soul bound.

Narratively, it means you will always have a soul cage that tells you something about the lich.

Also, I think a soul cage should have just about the strongest necromantic aura there is, outside of Galt's guillotines. I don't think that's something you can just slap a fake aura on.

In the end, you want a good story, so any excuse for why the lich wouldn't just shove their soul in a generic rock and leave it on a remote mountain should be considered.

This needles me to put more description and creativity into my copper piece lich soul cage idea, thank you for the number one dime idea. I like evil characters that have a reason for getting out of bed for reasons other than moustache twirling villainy, and even the most dull witted miscreant should get a somewhat esoteric satisfaction from breaking knees than the simple rush of violence that people who do not share that alignment might dismiss it as. I'll come back to this later.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The neutral lich I'm working on was murdered in sacrifice by a cult and transformed against will. Her soul cage is the sacrificial dagger that was run through her heart.


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The poetry angle is a good one. It'd explain why so many soul cages are really obvious, gaudy bits of jewelry, like rings and crowns. Assuming that we run with the premise that soul cages are meant to represent the souls trapped inside, you could express it syllogistically like "souls are important things, and I am the most important person, therefore mine is the most important soul. Soul cages need to represent the souls within, and my soul is the most important and valuable, therefore my soul cage should be as important and valuable as I can possibly make it."


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A cymbal-banging monkey toy with an evil grin, eyes that follow you and randomly starts banging it's cymbals. Place along side a few dozen other toys that are similarly creepy.


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Freehold DM wrote:
QuidEst wrote:

I'm engineering-adjacent as a programmer, so there's a temptation to find an optimal solution.

One thing I like to do is make it so optimal solutions won't work. I make it so that soul cages must be meaningful and a bit poetic to serve as such. An adamantine cube or a low-denomination coin is a bit prosaic, unless it's Scrooge's number one dime. If there's no deep connection to you, you can't trust that your soul will go there or stick- or maybe a prosaic soul cage requires regular maintenance to keep the soul bound.

Narratively, it means you will always have a soul cage that tells you something about the lich.

Also, I think a soul cage should have just about the strongest necromantic aura there is, outside of Galt's guillotines. I don't think that's something you can just slap a fake aura on.

In the end, you want a good story, so any excuse for why the lich wouldn't just shove their soul in a generic rock and leave it on a remote mountain should be considered.

This needles me to put more description and creativity into my copper piece lich soul cage idea, thank you for the number one dime idea. I like evil characters that have a reason for getting out of bed for reasons other than moustache twirling villainy, and even the most dull witted miscreant should get a somewhat esoteric satisfaction from breaking knees than the simple rush of violence that people who do not share that alignment might dismiss it as. I'll come back to this later.

Absolutely part of the intention. X) If you get a better story out of it, then so much the better.

Personally, if I made a Scrooge McDuck homage with a number one silver piece soul cage, he'd never let it just circulate. Even if the aura could be reliably hidden, coinage tends to not last more than a century- it might get melted down, re-stamped, or used as emergency ammunition. (Even in modern times when there are few issues of restamping or melting, and almost none of magical projectile usage, coins are only expected to circulate for 30 years.)

But... if the nature of the soul cage is an intentionally poorly kept secret, people will definitely assume it's in circulation, and be looking for it amongst the world's many, many silver pieces. Then the real one can be hidden away in a more reliable method without having so many people looking for it there. Once a generation, a decoy can be circulated.

Anyway, now I'm thinking about a tengu bard lich, so thank you for that.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The Lich writes a tome which, while detailing the details of the lichens life, contains a series of clues which hint to location of the Soul Cage.

The tome points to several locations, far and wide. In each location is a series of riddles and objects, all encrypted, which provide more details about the Lich’s past or additional hints at the location. The keys needed to decrypt the riddles are in the book.

Any of the locations could work as a possible site of their soul cage, but with the real goal being to make provider anyone who comes across the tome with a lengthy diversion.

The real soul cage is the tome.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Paizo would never do this, but a really evil lich could have a soul cage in the form of a phylactery. Now that the two terms have been separated, this is the only way that they could ever overlap.


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Since someone mentioned Starfinder, I was thinking a lich there could use the black box from a spaceship as it's soul cage. I would guess they would have a lot more hp and hardness than usual, considering how tough they are in real life. Plus, I assume a black box from a futuristic space ship would be a lot more advanced than one from a modern-day airplane


Yqatuba wrote:
Since someone mentioned Starfinder, I was thinking a lich there could use the black box from a spaceship as it's soul cage. I would guess they would have a lot more hp and hardness than usual, considering how tough they are in real life. Plus, I assume a black box from a futuristic space ship would be a lot more advanced than one from a modern-day airplane

I'm pretty sure it would be a program at some point.


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Freehold DM wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
Since someone mentioned Starfinder, I was thinking a lich there could use the black box from a spaceship as it's soul cage. I would guess they would have a lot more hp and hardness than usual, considering how tough they are in real life. Plus, I assume a black box from a futuristic space ship would be a lot more advanced than one from a modern-day airplane
I'm pretty sure it would be a program at some point.

A program residing on an advanced 3D printer which prints the lich a new body anytime it's destroyed.

A program that has potentially infected millions or billions of such equipment because the lich was a CEO of a company selling this equipment, at a cheaper price than anyone else was offering for a comparable product.

And now the players have to go through the process of figuring out, oh it's not a physical object but digital information residing in millions of places. You can't reasonably physically destroy it.

Instead you have to do a firmware update that will remove the offending program from base operational ware contained in the equipment.

Subverting the normal expectation that violence will solve everything, the party has to spend a bunch of time and resources on writing essentially a very specific antivirus to counter the lich.

F&*$ I love this idea already.


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Claxon wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
Since someone mentioned Starfinder, I was thinking a lich there could use the black box from a spaceship as it's soul cage. I would guess they would have a lot more hp and hardness than usual, considering how tough they are in real life. Plus, I assume a black box from a futuristic space ship would be a lot more advanced than one from a modern-day airplane
I'm pretty sure it would be a program at some point.

A program residing on an advanced 3D printer which prints the lich a new body anytime it's destroyed.

A program that has potentially infected millions or billions of such equipment because the lich was a CEO of a company selling this equipment, at a cheaper price than anyone else was offering for a comparable product.

And now the players have to go through the process of figuring out, oh it's not a physical object but digital information residing in millions of places. You can't reasonably physically destroy it.

Instead you have to do a firmware update that will remove the offending program from base operational ware contained in the equipment.

Subverting the normal expectation that violence will solve everything, the party has to spend a bunch of time and resources on writing essentially a very specific antivirus to counter the lich.

F!## I love this idea already.

...and then they manage to do that, and also sneak into the lich's lair, and kill the guy via surprise attack... and then hear the horrifying sound of a bioprinter in the next room spooling up, because he had one emergency backup that he kept air-gapped, with the wi-fi disabled. There's no way they'll get through that vault door fast enough to stop him from reforming. Time for round 2!


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If I'ma put writing glasses on for it I guess my lich's Anima would be his university thesis on unified source, a singular origin of power from which to pull any spell from any tradition given the proper study. He dedicated his life, and eventually his maddening undeath to transition it from the theoretical to the practical.

Sovereign Court

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I remember in D&D 2e when liches didn't regenerate new bodies out of nowhere, they animated the nearest unused skeleton within a few miles of their soul cage and went from there.

But why stop at an unused skeleton? Hide your soul in an important document that lots of people see, like a declaration of independence or something. Mask its magical aura thoroughly. If your body gets destroyed, hijack the skeleton of some hapless person eyeing the display case. Relax - the person is still alive and their muscles are moving what are now your bones. Let them act normal, they have no clue. Then, a month later, tear free from their body. It'll be really hard for people to figure out where you've hidden your soul.


Ascalaphus wrote:

I remember in D&D 2e when liches didn't regenerate new bodies out of nowhere, they animated the nearest unused skeleton within a few miles of their soul cage and went from there.

But why stop at an unused skeleton? Hide your soul in an important document that lots of people see, like a declaration of independence or something. Mask its magical aura thoroughly. If your body gets destroyed, hijack the skeleton of some hapless person eyeing the display case. Relax - the person is still alive and their muscles are moving what are now your bones. Let them act normal, they have no clue. Then, a month later, tear free from their body. It'll be really hard for people to figure out where you've hidden your soul.

This is where I got my thinking with respect to soul cages from, thanks.


Keep forgetting to post this but: how about something like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction? I've always had a tongue-in-cheek theory that Marsellus is a lich and the thing is his (whatever you want to call it), and that's why it glows. I'm not sure if there are briefcases in Golarion, but there must be something similar.


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Yqatuba wrote:
I'm not sure if there are briefcases in Golarion, but there must be something similar.

In the 14th century on earth they had leather satchels that were the predecessors of the briefcase, they called them "budgets" from the Latin "bulga" (meaning "leather bag") and they were used to carry money and valuables; this is in fact where the modern sense of the word "budget" comes from.

They didn't have hinges on earth until the 1800s, but Golarion has clockwork automatons so I'm pretty sure they can manage a hinge.


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An idea that would be fun for a lich would be a twist on that usual story :

"Many generations ago, a great evil was sealed, yet not completely defeated. If the MacGuffin that was used to put an end to it's reign of terror was to be destroy, it would rise to plague the world once again. To make sure this never happen, the MacGuffin was entrusted to a familly of guardian, that will protect and hide it, generations after generations."

The lich is the last member of that familly and decide to make the macguffin itself it's soul cage. That way, it's actually deeply tied to who the lich is, but it's also some kind of dead man switch : if the soul cage is destroyed, then an (apparently) bigger evil than the lich will return. It force the protagonist to be creative, or to face the consequences of their recklessness if they destroy the cage.


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Scarablob wrote:

An idea that would be fun for a lich would be a twist on that usual story :

"Many generations ago, a great evil was sealed, yet not completely defeated. If the MacGuffin that was used to put an end to it's reign of terror was to be destroy, it would rise to plague the world once again. To make sure this never happen, the MacGuffin was entrusted to a familly of guardian, that will protect and hide it, generations after generations."

The lich is the last member of that familly and decide to make the macguffin itself it's soul cage. That way, it's actually deeply tied to who the lich is, but it's also some kind of dead man switch : if the soul cage is destroyed, then an (apparently) bigger evil than the lich will return. It force the protagonist to be creative, or to face the consequences of their recklessness if they destroy the cage.

Even better if the lich is only mildly evil. Keeping its phylactery protected is effectively a form of paying rent - making sure that it's always far enough down on the priority list of the "crusading goodguys" as a whole.


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Sanityfaerie wrote:
Even better if the lich is only mildly evil. Keeping its phylactery protected is effectively a form of paying rent - making sure that it's always far enough down on the priority list of the "crusading goodguys" as a whole.

The turn to lichdom might even have been fueled (in part) by a desire to "continue the watch". If they're the last remainning member of their family, with no heir, they may have interiorised it as "well, I can't die and leave the McGuffin unchecked, if I become immortal, then I'll be able to protect it forever". Of course, there would still be some kind of arrogance tied to it, because even if they're the last of their family, they could just try to find someone willing to accept the charge, so it would be in part fueled by the idea that "only them are strong/righteous enought to keep it".

Actually, it may not just happen because their last of the line, but because they deem their successor (which would probably be their own child) unworthy of the task, and thus they simply "had" to become immortal. The lich ritual require the sacrifice of something of very great importance for the lich... The sacrifice of the chosen successor (once again, probably their own child) would fit the bill perfectly.

And once undead, it's pretty easy to imagine how the lich would start slipping further "just to protect the MacGuffin, honest". Drive the living away by any mean necessary because "they might want it", search and plunder for secret and powerfull magic "to protect it better"...


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Sanityfaerie wrote:
Even better if the lich is only mildly evil. Keeping its phylactery protected is effectively a form of paying rent - making sure that it's always far enough down on the priority list of the "crusading goodguys" as a whole.

The tricky bit is that while a Lich honestly seeking redemption and becoming non-evil is canonically a thing that can happen, a Lich doing a bunch of unequivocally evil stuff in order to become a Lich in the first place is a thing that must happen for there to be a Lich in the first place.

So who is this mastermind that thinks "I'm going to do a bunch of the most awful things imaginable in order to rip my soul out and stick it in a box, but then I'm just going proceed to be sort of a low-key tolerable villain so as to preserve my unlife. Like what specifically motivates you to not just keep doing really awful stuff after you've done a bunch of it in order to become a Lich?


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Sanityfaerie wrote:
Even better if the lich is only mildly evil. Keeping its phylactery protected is effectively a form of paying rent - making sure that it's always far enough down on the priority list of the "crusading goodguys" as a whole.

The tricky bit is that while a Lich honestly seeking redemption and becoming non-evil is canonically a thing that can happen, a Lich doing a bunch of unequivocally evil stuff in order to become a Lich in the first place is a thing that must happen for there to be a Lich in the first place.

So who is this mastermind that thinks "I'm going to do a bunch of the most awful things imaginable in order to rip my soul out and stick it in a box, but then I'm just going proceed to be sort of a low-key tolerable villain so as to preserve my unlife. Like what specifically motivates you to not just keep doing really awful stuff after you've done a bunch of it in order to become a Lich?

Usually its love. But it could also be that you were cursed (geas/quest is weird).

Liberty's Edge

Bidding their time.

Liberty's Edge

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The more I think of it, the more I love the concept of the Soul Cage.

The Lich does heinous things just to become an undead and exist forever. And then they are shackled to an object that has the potential to ensure their final destruction.

I think that is enough to make the sanest person a raving paranoid. If they want to keep on surviving, which is the goal for which they gave everything, they have to expect the worst from anyone and anything.

Forever.


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The Raven Black wrote:

The more I think of it, the more I love the concept of the Soul Cage.

The Lich does heinous things just to become an undead and exist forever. And then they are shackled to an object that has the potential to ensure their final destruction.

I think that is enough to make the sanest person a raving paranoid. If they want to keep on surviving, which is the goal for which they gave everything, they have to expect the worst from anyone and anything.

Forever.

When you think about it, it's not even really "an object that has the potential to ensure their final destruction", destroying the soulcage in itself don't really affect the lich, it just remove it's "always come back" power. The nuance may not seems really important, but when you look at it this way, a lich whose soul cage was destroyed is still immensely powerfull and immortal magician, the only difference is that now, it die if you kill it. It don't destroy them, it don't even remove half of the power they gained upon becoming a lich, it just make them less invincible, which is still enought for most lich to go completely paranoid at the thought of losing their soul cage.

I do think the sacrifice they have to make to become a lich is a big factor of why they obsess so much over protecting the soul cage, even if most lich aren't conscious of it. In a way, the soul cage is the embodiment of everything they sacrificed to come this far, so the thought that it may be "all for nothing" if the cage is destroyed might be a big drive to protect it so much. Kind of a sunk cost fallacy in a way "I already did so much to create it, why shouldn't I go even further to protect it?".


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Sanityfaerie wrote:
Even better if the lich is only mildly evil. Keeping its phylactery protected is effectively a form of paying rent - making sure that it's always far enough down on the priority list of the "crusading goodguys" as a whole.

The tricky bit is that while a Lich honestly seeking redemption and becoming non-evil is canonically a thing that can happen, a Lich doing a bunch of unequivocally evil stuff in order to become a Lich in the first place is a thing that must happen for there to be a Lich in the first place.

So who is this mastermind that thinks "I'm going to do a bunch of the most awful things imaginable in order to rip my soul out and stick it in a box, but then I'm just going proceed to be sort of a low-key tolerable villain so as to preserve my unlife. Like what specifically motivates you to not just keep doing really awful stuff after you've done a bunch of it in order to become a Lich?

Let us suppose someone who really, really doesn't want to die, and is pretty amoral. They decide that their plan is to become a lich.

They look at the list of horrible things they have to do to get there, shrug, and do it anyway. They don't have any particular desire to do horrible things to innocent people, but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes you know? Regrettable, really, but it is what it is.

So now they're a lich. They're not going to die of old age. They're powerful enough that they're not going to die incidentally from a random wandering bear or whatever. Really, the greatest threat to their continued existence still out there is that they might be destroyed by a group of heroes who've come to end their evil ways. So... maybe try not to let it get that far? like, if you keep the evil down to a dull roar, put a bit more time and effort into getting your corpses sourced ethically and so forth, you can really reduce your year-to-year risk of death by adventurer party. You can afford to take the time to do things the somewhat less horrible way. You have time, now.

I mean, sure, becoming a lich actively requires that you do terrible things. Cost of doing business. Once you're done, though, why would you go over-the-top evil if you don't have to? What's the gain?

...and the thing that specifically motivates them is pretty much exactly what you said. It's "to preserve my unlife". That's why a lot of them went in for lichdom in the first place, isn't it?


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Sanityfaerie wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
Sanityfaerie wrote:
Even better if the lich is only mildly evil. Keeping its phylactery protected is effectively a form of paying rent - making sure that it's always far enough down on the priority list of the "crusading goodguys" as a whole.

The tricky bit is that while a Lich honestly seeking redemption and becoming non-evil is canonically a thing that can happen, a Lich doing a bunch of unequivocally evil stuff in order to become a Lich in the first place is a thing that must happen for there to be a Lich in the first place.

So who is this mastermind that thinks "I'm going to do a bunch of the most awful things imaginable in order to rip my soul out and stick it in a box, but then I'm just going proceed to be sort of a low-key tolerable villain so as to preserve my unlife. Like what specifically motivates you to not just keep doing really awful stuff after you've done a bunch of it in order to become a Lich?

Let us suppose someone who really, really doesn't want to die, and is pretty amoral. They decide that their plan is to become a lich.

They look at the list of horrible things they have to do to get there, shrug, and do it anyway. They don't have any particular desire to do horrible things to innocent people, but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes you know? Regrettable, really, but it is what it is.

So now they're a lich. They're not going to die of old age. They're powerful enough that they're not going to die incidentally from a random wandering bear or whatever. Really, the greatest threat to their continued existence still out there is that they might be destroyed by a group of heroes who've come to end their evil ways. So... maybe try not to let it get that far? like, if you keep the evil down to a dull roar, put a bit more time and effort into getting your corpses sourced ethically and so forth, you can really reduce your year-to-year risk of death by adventurer party. You can afford...

To me, I've held the opinion anyone that achieves the state of lichdom is sacrificing that part of their personality that would preserve that aspect of "not wanting to be extraordinarily evil".

The acts you have to commit and the literal ripping of your soul from your body fundamental will change who you are. Even if you enter into it with the mindset of "I'm only doing this for enternal life" along the way you will become so crass and indifferent to those around you, they become only tools and objects and you will treat them in the way we stereotypically think evil people treat others. That's the cost of doing business.

Now, particularly smart liches might realize that doing abundantly obvious and evil acts will get them caught and are more likely to incite adventurers to come after them. So they might have a lot more discretion about actions that they take. They might hold back on the evil they would otherwise be inclined to do, but not because they care about others or don't want to do evil. But because they're worried about their own survival.

So maybe this lich instead of taking and killing multiple villagers from one village, teleports all over the world taking random villagers in the middle of the woods and staging it to appear like they got lost and attacked by wildlife. And they do this in a given location only once every 10 years or so. So it doesn't become too suspicious.

Liches can be cold and calculating and smart about when they exercise their evil. But they are EVIL.


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Claxon wrote:

To me, I've held the opinion anyone that achieves the state of lichdom is sacrificing that part of their personality that would preserve that aspect of "not wanting to be extraordinarily evil".

The acts you have to commit and the literal ripping of your soul from your body fundamental will change who you are. Even if you enter into it with the mindset of "I'm only doing this for enternal life" along the way you will become so crass and indifferent to those around you, they become only tools and objects and you will treat them in the way we stereotypically think evil people treat others. That's the cost of doing business.

Now, particularly smart liches might realize that doing abundantly obvious and evil acts will get them caught and are more likely to incite adventurers to come after them. So they might have a lot more discretion about actions that they take. They might hold back on the evil they would otherwise be inclined to do, but not because they care about others or don't want to do evil. But because they're worried about their own survival.

So maybe this lich instead of taking and killing multiple villagers from one village, teleports all over the world taking random villagers in the middle of the woods and staging it to appear like they got lost and attacked by wildlife. And they do this in a given location only once every 10 years or so. So it doesn't become too suspicious.

Liches can be cold and calculating and smart about when they exercise their evil. But they are EVIL.

You seem to be insisting the liches must do evil things, or want to do evil things. Why? I mean, for me, even if I had the ability to teleport around the world ganking random villagers, and no particular moral objection to it, that wouldn't make it worth doing. So, lets say that becoming a lich turns you into a psychopath - someone with no moral restraints. Okay. Sure. Current estimates are that between 4% and 12% of current-day CEOs are also psychopaths, and (so far as we can tell) they aren't generally kidnapping and murdering innocent villagers.

The point about being a psychopath is that you're utterly indifferent to whether or not your behavior is "evil". So a lich that wanted to live a nice, long unlife might decide to take projects that were less likely to require antisocial behavior. They might set up their lairs with obvious posted warnings, so that when trespassers do fall into the pits of horrible agonizing deaths they can point to said warnings and say that it wasn't their fault. Often, adjusting things to that you're not so virulently antisocial is actually easier than being just as virulently antisocial but hiding it better.

Indeed, a lich would probably be *better* at this than your standard run-of-the-mill psychopath because they'd have lost many of their glands along with their morality. Many of the emotional drives that might cause them to be pointlessly destructive would be diminished or removed.

Now all of this is predicated on the lich in question having some respect of the ability of local mortal society to end their existence... but a lich that actually respects the usefulness and danger associated with the local populace can actually go as far as a reasonable facsimile of enlightened self-interest most of the time. They're still entirely willing to be an utter monster if the situation calls for it, but that doesn't mean that they arrange their unlives so that the situation calls for it with any frequency. Among other things, having the backing of the locals can come in handy if and when some other lich shows up hungering for the lore in your spellbook... just like the local villagers might appreciate that the local alpha predator monster is one who mostly keeps to themselves and has reason to value their relationship with the town rare books seller.

It's entirely plausible to imagine a lich who has no desire for redemption and yet still is someone you don't want destroyed because (while they are quite evil by the alignment scale) they do not generally have cause to be all that horrible at any given time.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don't care if a lich spent 100 years performing good deeds. That does not erase the horrible atrocities that they committed to achieve lichdom, to say nothing of their crimes outside said ritual.

We don't release murdering bank robbers back onto the streets just because they found God. They still face some kind of justice.

So liches gotta' die.

At best, the lich can outlive everyone who remembers or cares about their past crimes, and thus escape the justice they so rightfully deserve to be condemned by.

Even then though, anyone who knows what a lich is, what they have to go through to obtain lichdom, and can identify a lich, will know that the ancient lich standing before them is a horrible abomination deserving of nothing less than complete destruction and erasure.

Liches know this what's more, so I don't believe their incentives to do good are as strong as some might indicate.


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Ravingdork wrote:

I don't care if a lich spent 100 years performing good deeds. That does not erase the horrible atrocities that they committed to achieve lichdom, to say nothing of their crimes outside said ritual.

We don't release murdering bank robbers back onto the streets just because they found God. They still face some kind of justice.

Liches gotta die.

At best, the lich can outlive everyone who remembers or cares about their past crimes, and thus escape the justice they so rightfully deserve to be condemned by.

Ah! ...and that makes sense when you can afford the luxury of justice. Certainly, if the lich performs multiple atrocities, and then promises not to do any more when the angry mob comes for them, it's not going to do but so much. However... they need not outlive. Not really. They can just leave. Travel to some very distant place and set up shop there, far from those who'd have any sort of personal investment in whatever horrible things they did. Perhaps even go so far as to perform their atrocities among the ancestral enemies of their people and then return.

So then they return, and they're a lich, so you know that they did something horrible to someone at some point, but no one in the immediate area has the ability to do anything about it, even leaving questions of inclination aside. A generation later, the lich still hasn't done anything all that bad and (in one fashion or another) they do perform some sort of service to the local community... while also (let us recall) having The Keystone That Binds That One Demon Lord as their phylactery. Are you going to unleash a great evil on the world just to get revenge for the lich's unclear crimes against an unknown people?

Liberty's Edge

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Evil is addictive.

What's the point of being immortal and having all this power if you can't even use it to squash the insects that bother you ?

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