Undoubtedly, necromancers are a popular character build in DnD. However, if you’re looking to take your game to the next level and dominate the realm of the undead, becoming a lich in 5e is a fantastic option.
Liches aren’t simply spawned or born – they are created. In this article, we’ll delve into the process of how to make your character a lich or create one. Additionally, we’ll explore how to play a lich, what to watch out for, and share some tips and tricks based on our experience!
Becoming a lich – cliff notes
Basically, liches are powerful wizards or sorcerers who have decided that mortality is not for them and have turned themselves into undead through the use of dark magic. So how do you transform into one?
First, be a spellcaster of at least level 11. Second, gather the materials and powerful spells needed. Third, perform a transformation ritual, creating a phylactery. And finally, don’t die in the process.
Follow these four steps, and you will have become a lich. Your character will now have immunity to most forms of damage, a very high resistance to magic, and access to insanely potent necromantic magic. However, your sanity will have taken quite a hit.
If you want to know everything there is to know about liches, including the transformation process, lore, history, and more, read on!
Understanding Liches: History, types, benefits and drawbacks
Liches in D&D lore
The Lich as we know it today was first introduced in the D&D supplement Eldritch Wizardry in 1976. The creature was based primarily on folklore and myth from ancient Egypt and Greece.
Liches are undead spellcasters who have achieved immortality through a certain ritual, whether through magic, a special potion, or some other means. The most important aspect is that almost everyone who chooses to become a lich does so to gain immortality.
This motivation is no different in D&D. Powerful magic users who cannot come to grips with their own mortality strive to become undead. While they remain highly intelligent and retain most, if not all, of their arcane knowledge, their personality drastically changes due to the process.
Some noteworthy liches in Dungeons and Dragons are:
- Vecna: a powerful wizard and necromancer who achieved lichdom by sacrificing his hand and eye.
- Larloch: an ancient and almost unimaginably powerful undead spellcaster. His trademark is the number of undead minions he can control.
- Acererak: best known for his deadly traps and complex puzzles, is a demilich. He is the main antagonist for the Tomb of Horrors adventure.
Types in 5e
Broadly speaking, there are 5 commonly encountered types of liches in 5e. There are many more variants, but the Lich, Demilich, Archlich, Death Knight, and Mummy Lord are the most common ones.
- The Lich: This is the standard type and is created when a wizard or sorcerer binds their soul to a phylactery. This way, they achieve immortality and gain multiple powerful abilities. They come in many forms, from slowly decaying bodies to just skeletons.
- The Demilich: This type is a rare type of lich that only exists as a skull. Despite having no body, they still have a massive amount of magical power and can control hordes of undead.
- The Mummy Lord: An interesting variant is the Mummy Lord. These undead spellcasters have a mummified body and became immortal thanks to a dark ritual.
- The Archlich: Those who have attained the pinnacle of magic and have a ton of experience can become an Archlich. These are considered to be at the very top when it comes down to mastery over necromancy.
- Death Knights: More of an honorary mention, but still worth mentioning nonetheless, are the Death Knights. These are potent warriors or paladins who have failed to accomplish what they want and are so vengeful that they are transformed into an undead.
Benefits and drawbacks of becoming a lich
- Immortality: You become immortal thanks to the fact that your soul is bound to a phylactery. You cannot die of natural causes but are still able to be killed if your phylactery is destroyed.
- Increased immunities and magical power: Thanks to your transformation, you gain a ton of resistance and immunities, making it harder to hit you. You also get an increase in magical power. You retain a lot of your magical power and experience.
- Physical prowess: Despite being a skeleton, you get higher strength, agility, and senses.
- Loss of humanity: Changing into an undead causes a significant change. Almost all liches lose their humanity and empathy.
- Change of morality: Even when a wizard or sorcerer was a shining example of morality in life, they are often corrupted by their transformation.
- Dependence on the phylactery: The main weak point of this creature is the phylactery. In theory, even a normal human can kill this powerful undead if they find their phylactery and are able to destroy it. If it is destroyed, they are killed permanently.
- Shunned by others: Who would have guessed, evil undead wizards have a hard time making friends. Their reputation is negative, and they are often the target of adventurers and heroes trying to gain reputation by killing them.
Prerequisites of becoming a lich in 5e
Level, class, and race requirements
Not just anyone can become this near-legendary creature. There are a ton of requirements to become a Lich. If one does not have these prerequisites, they will be unable to become one and may die or fail in the process of transformation.
Level: Your character will need to be at least level 18. Additionally, you will need to be able to cast high-level spells of at least the 9th tier, and have experience in complex rituals and magic.
Class: You need to be a high-level spellcaster. The three classes that can become a lich are the Wizard, Warlock, and Sorcerer. Paladins and Warriors can become a Death Knight, which is a variant undead.
Race: Just about any race can become a lich. However, some races have a much better affinity and success rate in doing so. These are those that are more familiar and talented with dark magic, such as humans, drow, and tieflings.
Special materials required for the ritual
There are many different materials needed to transform into a lich successfully. While the final word will be what your DM determines, here is a decent list to at least have some idea of what the special materials are to look out for.
- Spell book to reference the ritual and magic needed
- Unholy water which has been made through dark magic
- Multiple high-quality gems for the phylactery
- Precious metals such as gold, platinum, and silver for the phylactery
- A specially prepared toxic poison to separate the soul
- A sacrifice that is an intelligent creature, most often used are humans and elves
A bit more about the Phylactery
So what exactly is a phylactery? In essence, this is some sort of container to bind the lich’s soul. This is needed to separate the soul and the mortal body during the transformation. As long as the phylactery is not destroyed, a Lich will be able to come back and regain his power after being defeated.
Hiding and protecting the phylactery is thus essential if you want to survive the many foes you will encounter in your naturally long life. One way many liches protect their phylactery is by making a lot of fakes and protecting the real one behind multiple magical wards and traps.
The Transformation Ritual to become a Lich
1. Obtain the materials needed
The first step is to make sure you have everything that is needed in the right amounts. If you lack something or are using inferior materials, things can go horribly wrong. Make sure that you have all your spell components for the various spells needed to transform into an undead.
2. Make a phylactery
The second step is to use the bulk of your collected materials to make a phylactery. This phylactery is a physical object that can stand the test of time and does not decay. The material most suited for this is high-quality gold and platinum. Gems are also a very good pick.
The imbuing and preparation of these materials can take several months. When this step is (almost) complete, you can go to step three.
3. Prepare the sacrifice
As mentioned, you need a sacrifice to do the transformation. The intelligent creature must be slain first. This is most often done by using necromancy spells. When the sacrifice has been killed, it needs to be drained of all fluids and embalmed. After it has been embalmed, you need to cast the required necromantic spells to prepare it for your transformation.
4. Transfer the soul to the Phylactery
When the phylactery is fully ready and your sacrifice has been prepared, you have to transfer your soul into the phylactery. Separating your soul from the physical body and transferring it is by far the most dangerous step of the process. Once this part has begun, there is no way back, as the original body will die and decay.
5. Bind your spirit to the new body
Once the soul is contained, it needs to be bound to a new undead body. Most liches choose powerful humanoid undead, but you can also use other creatures, like an undead dragon. This binding process can take several hours. It is vital that the soul and the target body stay very close to one another.
Note that during steps 4 and 5, the magic caster is completely defenseless.
Things to consider
Once you’ve become a lich, your existence will undergo a drastic change. You will quickly become a target of heroes and adventurers seeking to earn glory by slaying a powerful undead. In the meantime, governments will attempt to prevent you from gaining power to avoid any potential mischief you may be plotting. Therefore, you will require minions, a hideout, allies, and traps to ensure your safety during your extended and unnatural lifespan.
Strategies for dealing with enemies
If your phylactery is destroyed, you die. So you better come up with a good strategy to deal with any and all enemies you might encounter. Here are a few things you should consider to make sure you don’t get destroyed.
Seek allies: There is strength in numbers. Many other creatures will see the benefit of working with a powerful lich. While some will join you without questions, others will need a bit of persuasion and manipulation to see the benefits of serving your goals. Some great allies are necromancers, dark wizards, other powerful undead, and demons.
Use diplomacy and deception: Sometimes it is better to avoid a fight. Try to keep your evil deeds away from your vicinity and go do your dealings further. Try to foster good relations with the local populace by giving them riches and blaming others for the evil you do.
Create fakes: While expensive, creating fake phylacteries and using misdirection is a great way to protect the original one. While your enemies are losing valuable time, you can flee or bolster your ranks.
Have many minions: Minions, both weak and strong, help you protect your phylactery. They waste your enemies’ time, resources and can warn you when danger is coming. From skeletons and zombies to undead dragons, the more, the merrier!
Concealment and protection: Make sure that your phylactery has been hidden and is well-protected from threats. Some bury it, others make it a mundane item, but all use magical and regular protection to keep it safe. Both magical and regular traps, in combination with invisibility spells, are strongly recommended.
Some final words
As you can see, there are plenty of things to consider when you want to become a lich in DnD. You don’t just need a high level, but also sacrifice plenty of your sanity and morals. There is also quite a financial cost in gathering the materials.
The most important aspects to consider are to understand the consequences of your transformation and have a way to protect the phylactery you have made. If you are traveling with a party, then protecting it can become quite difficult. Once you have transformed, there is no way back. So, make sure your allies are cool with having an evil undead in the party!
We hope this guide helped you in your pursuits of the arcane arts of necromancy!
How can a Lich be defeated in 5e?
There is only one way to fight and kill a Lich, and that is to destroy the phylactery. Even if you destroy the body of this immortal wizard, they will slowly regain power and rise again as long as the phylactery has not been destroyed.
What are some good spells to have as a lich?
As a high-level spellcaster, you have access to at least level 9 spells. So, you have plenty of magical attacks to choose from. Some of my favorites are Power Word Kill, Wall of Force, Control Undead, Cloudkill, Dominate Person, Time Stop, Disintegrate, Finger of Death, and Circle of Death. This selection is just a few of the options you have.
How do you destroy a phylactery?
After you have found the phylactery, a simple stroke of the sword is not enough to destroy it. Often you will need a combination of spells like dispel magic and antimagic field to lower the defenses. Then you will need to have a powerful weapon or magic spell to destroy it. A surefire way to destroy it is to use Wish on it and simply wish it destroyed.