So I've ended up writing about an undergraduate dissertation's worth of words about Liches of all things. Most of it is just weird and wild forms of Liches, non-standard stuff to be sure.
[Pontification Warning: Flee while you can]
I think this was mostly fuelled by some guy (or gal, who knows) on reddit who dismissed the idea that you could have a level 1 Lich, or that a level 1 character could become a Lich. To this I say POPPYCOCK AND BALDERDASH!!! A Lich (for my purposes) is a being who's soul has been removed from its body, and thus is reduced to an undead existence, immortal and undying yet sustained by its Phylactery, which contains the last dregs of its old life. I don't see why this has to be the purview of only high-level wizards, or even that the person who becomes the Lich is even necessarily the person who made them a Lich. It opens so many doors and opportunities (some of which have been explored below).
And please, this isn't an attack against that person. We are all free to like what we like, and who am I to impose rules on other peoples imaginary elf-games? If you like the "purity of what a Lich is" as presented in monster books of your system of choice, just ignore all mentions of Lich, and just steal the ideas you like (if any). I think that's kind of the point of ever doing anything in a public DnD blog like this one. Take what you like, leave what you don't.
Any, enough self-righteous pontificating; Liches.
I've got a mere 8 tables/idea mines for you today:
- Types of Lich
- Special Liches (more like unique Liches, those who twist the idea a little less than the ones above)
- Lich Phylacteries
- Lich Ambitions
- Lich Madnesses
- Lich Lairs
- Lich Weaknesses
- Lich Powers
The Types of Liches are twists on the formula (well 18 or so of them at least are) of a crazy old magic-man with his soul in a box in the basement. Sometimes its the box, sometimes its the old man. One of them is a druid, one of them is a monk, and a Paladin too. I tried to represent as many classes as I could. The other main goal was to present the idea that there are many different ways to become a Lich. Not all of them as "good" as others, but not all of them will be available to any given person. Sometimes you have to make do with what you have, and deal with the consequences later. But they are all, loosely at least, Liches.
The Special Liches are more like unique Liches, those ones who followed the instruction manual, but added their own special steps, rather than reinventing the wheel. Just, read them and see.
Lich Phylacteries are just that, a list of potential objects a Lich might use as a Phylactery. These are ones for those Liches who want to last. The more personal the object, the more connection the Lich has to it, the stronger the bond the Phylactery forms with the soul within. Of course, a Lich could make a random grain of sand in the desert its Phylactery such that it can never be found, but the Phylactery will not hold the soul for long, and lose it eventually, bringing mortality back into the question for the Lich. This might be the point.
Lich Ambitions are similarly straight forward. When forever is your time-frame, only the grandest of goals will ever do.
Lich Madnesses are the quirks that wrack the Lich as the weight of uncountable years sets in. Even the most secure of Phylacteries can't be water-proof (or soul-proof I guess) and as such, tiny bits of the Lich leak out over the centuries. These are how that might manifest.
The list of Lich Lairs is honestly the weakest part of all this I think. They are loose and flapping like flags in a gale. They are just the seeds of ideas where I'd love to give near-full-grown saplings. But we're already at a dangerous density of words, so seeds will have to do I think. Maybe for some of you that's a good thing.
Every good Bad Guy needs a Weakness and while this list could easily be one of the most expansive here, I've kept this one a little briefer than maybe I should, because I think most people can think of at least 1 or 2 really, really good and poetic and gameable and whatever weaknesses. This one is really just a springboard for ideas. But there you go, I can't give you everything! Freeloaders!
And finally, the various Lich Powers listed in this post are kept as short descriptive titles only, any stats you may want to give them, even what they actually do at all is totally up to you. They don't have to totally replace spellcasting for Liches, but they could. I'd say have 2d4 powers per Lich, with a modifier on those dice based on the power-rating of your lich, and whether you're giving them any special powers if they are a different type of Lich to the standard "True" Lich.
Types of Lich1 - True Lich
2 - False Lich
3 - Scrag Lich
4 - Wraith Lich
5 - Totem Lich
6 - Cinders Lich
7 - Sanction Lich
8 - Mitotic Lich
9 - Lichiarch
10 - Lantern Lich
11 - Umbralich
12 - Grey-Child
13 - Scavenger Lich
14 - Hollow Lich
15 - Scapulan Lich
16 - Ghoul Lich
17 - Henge Lich
18 - Blizzard Lich
19 - Sacred Lich
20 - Pact Lich
These are the truly dangerous ones; the ones who have mastered life and found death wanting. These are the classic undead immortals. They wield magic like a swordsmaster a blade, they warp reality like gods do; they are used to their word being law. Their power is terrible, their ambitions mighty, their patience legendary. But you know much of this already.
True Lich Powers
No unique powers, roll on the list of Lich powers additional times.
False Liches are those who successfully wrought themselves a new undead existence, but who didn't quite reach eternal life. They are lesser than True Liches, but still formidable. They may exist for some few centuries, and wield strange and terrible magics; but one day, they will run down, and die. Most go insane as their minds are worn away by the march of years. Their Phylacteries are slightly flawed, their powers subtly unstable, always grinding down little by little the energies that sustain them. Every few decades or so they are wracked by the imperfections that mar their immortality, sometimes disabling them for a few years, never less than a few months. No matter how hard they try, their efforts aren't quite enough, they can't repair the damage done. Many a driven to the edge by anger and frustration; sometimes they can be more dangerous than true Liches, as their rage boils over and they take it out on the mortals around them. If nothing else, they often have more drive and motivation to accomplish things than their more perfect brethren. This does not make things any better for anyone of course.
False Lich Powers
No unique powers, roll on the list of Lich powers additional times.
Sometimes, the method is discovered by one not capable of handling it. They somehow stumble through it, chicken blood for vital fluids of dragons, virgin earth for virgin flesh, copper for gold. To their dismay, it goes totally, horrifyingly wrong.
They lurk now in graveyards, in dank sewers, and other such rank nooks. They crouch like children, gait like apes, teeth gnashing and foaming from the mouth. In one hand they might clutch their imperfect phylactery, broken nails scratching the surface which leaks foul smoke. They are as utterly inhuman as it is possible to be whilst still clad in the form of man.
They are not truly immortal, their life slowly slips away as before, just more slowly; the tides of life stymied a little by the phylactery. But their mind has not survived the process. Scrag Liches are horrifying wretches, life has abandoned them, man has abandoned them, and they wish they could do the same.
That is not to say they are as pathetic as they seem. They are still Liches; they are as tough to kill as a Lich, and they can regenerate their bodies if destroyed as long as their phylactery survives, though this often costs them much of the life they bought with their transformation. Some small modicum of magic also clings to their frail and withered forms, just not much.
Scrag Lich Powers
1 - Madness Scratches
2 - Ungodly Howl
3 - Filthy Grip
4 - Cage of Ribs
5 - Babbling and Groaning
6 - Vomit Darkness
7 - Wild Transformation
8 - Slink Unseen
9 - Grasp Heart
10 - Supernal Strength
Some Liches let go of more than just their lives, some let go of all existence. These are Wraith Liches, more like ghosts, or intangible spirits than any other kind of undead. Their mind lives on, sustained by the phylactery they crafted, but any material connection to the world is gone, not even a corpse remains.
Why they would choose this kind of existence perplexes many, but some choose it for one reason or another, or sometimes even because it is the only option they have. Over time, the Wraith Lich might be able to manipulate the real world with magic, or possess someone and steal their body, even if only for a time. Wraith Liches also find it much easier to manipulate the minds of living things, intangible fingers reaching into the mind and twisting the strands of thought found within.
They are also, by their very nature, the most subtle of Liches. Many villages host to a Wraith Lich may never realise the source of their corruptions. Only a tingle on the back of the neck, a surety that there is something unwholesome watching, but never being able to find it.
Wraith Lich Powers
1 - Possess Mind
2 - Possess Body
3 - Control Swarm
4 - Draining Mists
5 - Manipulate Weather
6 - Ghostly Hands
7 - Manifestation
8 - Ravage Spirit
9 - Decaying Presence
10 - Intrusive Thoughts
Amongst the tribes of the great meadows and plain who recognise the might of the earth, some among them carve totems as tiny charms that conduct the power of the thing that they resemble as part of a bargain with the world.
Some subvert it, and carve an image of their own heart, and their mind (somehow), and their own soul, surmounting the world itself at the base. They bind the earth to their will, and live eternal, as long as the totem stands. They are regarded as some as being somehow lesser Liches than others, but the truth is beyond that, their powers are in relation to the carvings they have made. The more artistry and skill in the Totem, the more solid their hold on their mind, on life, on the things they carved.
Many Totem Liches carve other things into their Totems too, to gain their powers as well. Some Totems end up grand indeed, twisted towers of abhorrent bargains with dark spirits of the wastes.
They are of course, an affront to all living things, more so than regular Liches.
Totem Lich Powers
1 - Bestial Aspect
2 - Elemental Aspect
3 - Dominate Beast
4 - Dominate Land
5 - Twist Beast
6 - Twist Land
7 - Sunder Life
8 - Absorb Vitality
9 - Blight Land
10 - Ravage Land
Sometimes, a fire elemental will find its flames dwindling, its light fading. In desperation, it seeks a new source for its life, and might choose the souls of mortals. It is a Cinder's Lich, a cold black flame in the shape of a man, radiating blue luminescence, draining the heat of the world into itself. Heaven's save you if you fall into its clutches.
Some theorise the existence of a kind of Ice-Medusa that freezes mortals with its gaze; they merely have encountered the works of a Cinders Lich. Sometimes the ruined and ragged corpse of a man is found in the woods, and the Wendigo is blamed for it. Or a blizzard flows down from the mountain in the height of summer, and hags are cursed. The Cinders Lich remains hidden.
Their Phylacteries are different as well, due to their elemental natures. They are contained within the Cinders Lich itself, a shrivelled black and silver coal, right at its heart. Pluck it out, and crush it, and the Cinders Lich will be no more. Of course it is never as simple as all that.
Of all elementals, only Flame have been confirmed to do this, perhaps due to their transitory existences. Other such elemental Liches have been theorised: Drought Liches, Dusts Liches, Miasmic Liches.
Cinders Lich Powers
1 - Master of Ice
2 - Black-Flame
3 - Necrotise Element
4 - Flash-freeze
5 - Blood-frost
6 - Blizzard Crown
7 - Hoarfrost Breath
8 - Douse Flame
9 - Corrupt Elemental
10 - Snow-Blind
For some, even a long and drawn out death is not enough, their suffering must be made eternal.
Sanction Liches are even more pathetic and puny than Scrag Liches. Their existence has been tailor-made with bespoke skill and suffering to be as miserable and unbearable as possible. Their minds broke long before they were even transformed, and now their Phylactery creaks and moans beneath the weight of the Liches suffering.
It is of course, reserved for only the most heinous of crimes. Suffering of this magnitude has been known to start wars for being inflicted even on the most truly deserving. Of course, wars have also been started due to the possibly that the Sanction Lich may escape its bondage.
If it did, it would be a terrible whirlwind of death, a pall of destruction that could devastate continents. In its wrath, the almighty powers within it would blot out the sun and cause the earth to bleed and rivers to rise up out of the earth in horror and coil and contort like snakes across the ground hissing and screaming.
The Sanction Lich has to be inundated with magic to be born, and that magic waits like worms just beneath the surface, waiting for the moment to be unleashed.
Sanction Lich Powers
Apocalyptic in the extreme. It would be the end of days. It only needs one. Pray it does not have more.
1 - Rain of Blood
2 - Ichorous Earth
3 - Blistering Sky
4 - Eclipse
5 - Weeping Sea
6 - Insect Epidemic
7 - Plague of Undeath
8 - Betrayal of Metal
9 - Wither the World
10 - Catastrophic Conflagration
Some Liches, while they have mastered most of the process of Undeath, spoiled one crucial step; the Phylactery. They function as Liches normally do, only the operative word here is they.
When a Mitotic Lich is vanquished bodily (and many only discover their natures when this happens for the first time), then when their form recongeals from their Phylactery, where once there was one, there are now two. This is only mostly confusing the first time it happens.
It will get out of control if the phylactery is well hidden enough. It usually is.
Most of the time the Liches mind controls all of the bodies, but it is unused to it for long long aeons, and the multiple bodies move awkwardly and staggeringly. Eventually some form of control can be established, but this is again thrown off balance when a new pair of Liches tumbles out of the Phylactery. It gets quicker each time, that's nothing to say about the threat posed by the horde of Liches that appear over the centuries...
Mitotic Lich Powers
No unique powers, roll additional times on the main table.
Sometimes, a Lich will despise life and what their old life represented, that they will choose something even more vile than usual, to become their family's Lichiarch. When a Lichiarch is slain, it does not form a new body. Rather, the Liches spirit possesses another member of the Lich's family. Who ever is closest related to the Lich that still lives, becomes the next host of the undying mind of the Lich.
Another quirk of Lichiarchs is that they have none of the long life of other Liches. Each host of the Lich has their usual allotment of years, this is of only some small inconvenience to the Lich, usually. They end up spending much of their time putting in effort to unite the family such that no potential hosts end up as pariahs from their fellows in case they become the next host and render the Lich socially impotent. As much of the family will also be trained in the sorcerous ways, when the Lich possesses someone, they gain no extra magics outside of those inherent to their Lich existence.
No unique powers, roll on the list of Lich powers additional times.
It walks the world beneath the world, cowled and cowed. Hunched and hooded, it bears a staff with a hanging lantern at its top, it sheds no light, at least none that you can see. They wander the tunnels and caverns bearing a light that provides no sight to the living, and only the dead, they are shepherds of the living dead in the lands where no sun shines. Life flinches and cringes away from the invisible light, and thus the dead pass unmolested. No one knows what it takes to become a Lantern Lich, who becomes Lantern Liches, or why Lanterns Liches come to be. They are mysterious and enigmatic, they reveal nothing, and rarely engage anyone in anything, even those dead that follow them. They merely walk, and maintain the un-light that is there eternal life.
As far as anyone knows.
Lantern Lich Powers
1 - Blinding Light
2 - Draining Shadows
3 - Twisting Paths
4 - Fade
5 - Flare
6 - Ashen Storm
7 - Call Brethren
8 - Echoing Scream
9 - Sink Into Stone
10 - Pass Without Thought
Much like Wraith Liches, Umbral Liches have forsaken a physical existence, but have instead become a living pool of darkness, liquid and swirling. They are surprisingly active for Liches, often times taking active roles in advancing their schemes. Thankfully Umbral Liches' ambitions are somewhat less severe than other Liches it seems. Their plots are often on a very personal level, and the few examples of Umbral Lich writing show that they very much enjoy the intimate details that their unseen form allows them privy to. They enjoy being spies, assassins, voyeurs, stalkers. They learn their prey, inside and out, and slowly drive them mad.
Quite why they do this rather than pursue more grand designs is something of a mystery. It is speculated that as they become incarnate darkness, their minds are warped by it. Either way, it is a comfort to those who aren't the chosen prey of an Umbral Lich.
Umbral Lich Powers
1 - Animate Shadow
2 - Icy Touch
3 - Dislocate
4 - Primal Fear
5 - Something's Out There
6 - Dark Hands
7 - Shadow Strike
8 - Duplicate Darkness
9 - Looming Presence
10 - Muffle
Once in a thousand million births, a child will be born without its soul embedded in its body as is proper. Instead, its immortal spirit resides split in two, half in its mother, half in its father. A Grey-Child.
They are alone in all of Lichdom in that (as far as is known) the child has no choice as to whether they become a Lich. They have an immense capacity for magic that waxes as the child ages, with an exponential increase once they hit puberty. They are noticeably anti-social, even at a young age and treat other children and pets with sly contempt. Even their parents are given a cold shoulder, though the bond with the parents is one of the few that the Grey-Child will attempt to maintain at all. They do have vested interests in them, after all.
They are also unique in that they have two Phylacteries, technically. The drawback is that Grey-Children are the most vulnerable of all Liches, their Parents only function as Phylacteries until death. They will outlive their parents, but once they are dead, the Lich can die too.
For many Grey-Children, most will never know the truth of their condition. It even escapes them in some cases, though most will realise the truth once puberty begins and their true sorcerous potential emerges. They can interact with society, live long and prosperous lives, and only very rarely ever meet their ends at the enchanted blades of adventuring bands. They can often be found as doctors and healers, or alchemists, tending to their parents with doting, if cold, care.
Its in their best interests after all.
Grey Child Powers
No unique powers, roll on the list of Lich powers additional times.
When a Lich goes too long without feeding itself on the vital energies of the living, they shrivel and prune. Leave it too long past that stage, and their phylactery will crack beneath the pressure of maintaining the Liches' life. When it finally reaches breaking point, and it shatters, the Lich usually dies. Sometimes though, it survives as a Scavenger Lich. The trauma is oftentimes enough to shatter the Lich's vulnerable psyche, and the mad and animalistic beast often resembles a Scrag-Lich. The difference is that the Scavenger Lich is driven with wild abandon to recover their now lost Phylactery. They have presence of mind enough for that.
And they are cunning too. Eventually it will dawn on the Scavenger Lich that the old Phylactery is gone forever, and so they will seek out a suitable replacement. The next stage comes much later, as the Scavenger Lich lacks the capacity to forge a new Phylactery, so they seek to trick some unsuspecting third party into creating one for them. Most will have been destroyed at some point by this time, but the few that make it will have stitched together some vague idea of humanity again, and while still mostly insane, they can converse well enough, and the most successful will even be able to attract a meagre cult of desperate individuals to try and get themselves resurrected. There have even been stories that it worked one time. Mostly they end in violence long before that point.
Scavenger Lich Powers
None, they barely have the strength to live, let alone manifest any other magics.
Monks oftentimes seek something greater than themselves, transcendence of this imperfect world. Occasionally they even find it. Some few of those who do, find the knowledge of the infinite that they have finally found to be less than satisfying, occasionally downright nihilistic. So burdened by the wright of cosmic truth, cast away their souls into the uttermost void between reality and itself, forever bereft of the need to care. They are... technically Liches, in that their soul is gone, and life eternal is theirs by virtue of their surpassing the laws of nature in their quest for perfection. They are in all regards perfect except that they lack a soul at all, and with it the desire to do anything at all.
They have no ambition, they exist only as machines, driven only to continue to exist as all things must.
They are terrifying to face, they know themselves perfectly, and their limits and techniques are honed to a razors edge. They probably know a fair amount about you, even at only a glance. And worse, you can't even kill them. They have surpassed that. Even pain is a distant memory to a Hollow Lich. They know the Underlying Patterns of reality, being run through with a sword is like a splinter to a Blue Whale. Insignificant.
The best part about Hollow Liches is that it is incredibly difficult to earn their enmity. Unless you really pose a threat to their continued existence, they often enough will merely leave you alone. You can even talk to them without fear of being crushed into paste. Some even attend monasteries, content merely to meditate when not conversed with.
When you know all there is to know, what else is there really to do?
Hollow Lich Powers
1 - Horrifying Revelation
2 - Solidify Flesh
3 - The Flowing Earth
4 - Still Thine Heart
5 - Rising Sun Strike
6 - Celerity
7 - Disrupt Ki
8 - Transcendent Visions
9 - Sunder Soul
10 - Divine Contemplation
The Surgeon-Necromancers of Scapula, the Fat-black island, are mighty in their craft, beyond what most suspect. If you could somehow ever scrape up the inconceivable fortune they would require for such an operation, they might be persuaded to surgically remove your soul from you.
Such souls are kept in Phylacteries under the care of the Surgeon-Necromancers as a courtesy to their customers, and few would even think about breaking into the Chapel-Theatres of the Surgeon-Necromancers, for risk of being caught and used for "research".
Those who can afford to actual become a Lich in this way will often have the funds to also have their mortal forms extensively modified, sometimes just as a "social indicator of status," more often than not they add deadly weapons and flesh-extensions to their forms. Why be an impotent Lich if you can afford to harness more deadly powers than anyone else in a hundred miles?
While becoming a Lich in this manner won't grant the Lich any particularly skill with magic if it doesn't already have it, it will amplify what is already there. The process leaves the body better able to channel magical energies, and at extra expense, these aspects of the transformation can be further enhanced. A few such Scapulan-Liches will even hire retainer-wizards to cast spells and enchantments upon them, able as they are to absorb even greater amounts of magic than mere mortals.
In any case, the Scapulan-Lich is not to be taken any less seriously than any other kind of Lich.
Scapulan Lich Powers
1 - Lightning Gland
2 - Flame Pores
3 - Acid Spew
4 - Poison Nails
5 - Hidden Tendrils
6 - Distension Maw
7 - Telescopic Limbs
8 - Retractable Limb-Blades
9 - Throat Spike
10 - Mutation Gaze
Ghoul-Wasps are not to be trifled with, and indeed Necromancers who master their control are widely respected and feared within the Necromancers' circles. [Editors Note: Ghoul-Wasps breed inside people, and turn them into Ghouls, flesh-hungry hosts of unhatched wasps] Sometimes one of these such Ghoul-Necromancers stumbles across a particularly vile and uncomfortable secret of Ghoul-Wasps, they can be used as a Phylactery, as long as they nest within the form of the Lich they preserve.
This does not stop many that discover this, already themselves somewhat inured to the horrors of the Wasps, and thus they become Liches with skin crawling from the masses of Wasps that slink their way through the necrotic meat and bunch up in the soft tissues of the belly and neck. Swarms of them pour from the Lich's gaping maw and the ragged holes torn in the Lich's sides, obeying the commands of their master.
Such a Lich is only vulnerable once their swarm is destroyed, and every single insect must die, else the Wasp will escape, inhabit a new person, breed, and the consciousness of the Lich will regenerate slowly with the addition of each new Wasp, a horrifying possession for the victim of the wasps by a gestalt lunatic.
Ghoul Lich Powers
1 - Command Insect
2 - Call Ghouls
3 - Infestation
4 - Gall-Cyst
5 - Chitin Storm
6 - Invertebrate Transformation
7 - Swarm Shape
8 - Bugs from Dust
9 - Plated Skin
10 - Create Hive
In elder days, the barrier between the living and the dead was not nearly as well understood, or respected. Indeed, much of their sympathetic magics nowadays would be treated by most as gross necromancy. One of the more commonly recognised symbols of the ancient sorceries (even if the observer doesn't recognise its magical potential) is the ring of standing stones, and the intricate series of banks and ditches that run runes about them.
These are of course, magical conduits; and they maintain the Lich-Guardians of the Henges as part of their function.
They are really only Liches in the technical sense, they posses none of their old memories or life, they merely remember their tasks and carry them out with ruthless, unfeeling efficiency. They are more forces of nature than individuals at this point, and they only become more so with the passage of centuries. The very oldest have lost their physical forms almost entirely, and make their flesh from the chipped and scratched stone of the henge itself, packed with earth and spiralled in vines, their cries the deep roar of stone echoing down the aeons.
Some come marching to meet you will other archaic skeletons, called to service by the Henge-Lich, clad in bronze and rotted skins, clutching wooden weapons no longer fit for service, or flint knives and blades long since blunted and decayed. They throw themselves at you with relentless abandon. Their lack of proper weapons means nothing, their hands will serve well enough until they literally grind themselves to nothing against you.
All the while, the Henge-Lich watches, urging the very stones and bones of its domain to destroy you.
Henge Lich Powers
1 - Animate Stone
2 - Implore Nature
3 - Ley-Line Convergence
4 - Ancestor's Vengeance
5 - Spirits of Old
6 - Call Lightning
7 - Wrath of the Stars
8 - Celestial Alignment
9 - Earth Arise
10 - Growth/Decay
Druids are not as incorruptible as they might say they are. Even the earth can be poisoned.
On the very blackest of days, a Druid that feels the call of Naturalisation but who abhors the idea will concoct a plan; they will take the very soul of the earth for themselves. They will amalgamate the earth with themselves, no the other way around. This of course, never quite works out as they imagine it will, not that this is enough to ever deter such individuals from trying it.
The resultant abomination is called a Loam-Lich. Their soul resides in the earth of their grove, but the grove has lost its connection to the World. They are one, but cut off from the greater whole. They despise what they are, what they could have been; and so feed off of what is around them. They drain the earth and feast on rotten beasts and trees, they waste the wilderness to allow them to survive, and they do it with a hateful glee.
The Loam-Lich still has their powers over nature, though now it is a result of their domination of nature, rather than their symbiosis with it. They still command the animal residents of the grove, but they are no longer alive. They aren't quite undead either, but they slowly slip towards it as the long decades drag on. The trees and plants survive too, but they are dry and twisted by their new lives too. They feed on the night and darkness rather than the sun, which now they merely endure. A Loam-Lich's grove is now an oasis of dull brown amongst the dead and dying wilds around it. Most Loam-Liches that live much more than a century will often reduce the surrounding lands to desert.
Growth still continues within the grove, but in a twisted reflection of what it was before. Brambles and thorns, dry twigs and bushes, emaciated and ferocious animals, unnaturally strong and vital for how thin they look.
And of course, the Loam-Lich itself (or more properly, the physical manifestation of the Lich's old body) remains, a grey-brown ghost that haunts the thickets and trunks. Its skin is dried and rotten leaves, its flesh is desiccated earth, and its teeth and eyes are chunks of rough flint. It comes and goes as it pleases, the earth is it as much as it is the earth, and so attacking the form of the Lich is about as useless as trying to kill the sea with a sword.
No-one quite knows how to kill a Loam-Lich. Destruction of the Grove seems to do the trick, but inevitably the earth beneath it regenerates with time, and the Loam-Lich returns. It might be centuries later, but the earth measures its life in aeons, not centuries. It seems that unless they very earth of the grove itself is destroyed (and no-one knows what that might even look like, let alone what efforts it would take), the Loam-Lich is as immortal as the world itself.
Loam Lich Powers
Note: These are not so much manifestations of magic like other Lich powers, these are merely the Loam-Lich's command of the grove-corpse itself. They are more like you flexing an arm than casting a spell.
1 - Hateful Plants
2 - Animal Monsters
3 - Desiccate and Wrack
4 - Viney Grasp
5 - Stone, Awaken
6 - Awaken Primality
7 - Wooden Prison
8 - Wind of Thorns
9 - Dust-Storm
10 - Insect Abomination
As much of an oxymoron it sounds, some gods pride themselves on their superior practicality, and occasionally reward their followers with Divine Lichdom.
The Sacred Lich was probably once a Paladin, or high-ranking Cleric of a particularly pragmatic church. They are most often driven by dogma rather than morals, though this need not necessarily be true. Sometimes it can a great desire to continue their works on earth that prompts their transformation. Either way, once the Sacred-Lich emerges, their soul has gone to heaven, but their body continues their grand commission, wreathed in glory and power.
To a one, they are imperious and cold and distant. They continue to act as they did in life, but their motivation is now mechanical rather than morally derived. They do so because that is what they do, why they exist, not because it is what they want to do. This callousness to their works is not particularly liked, but it is tolerated. Sacred-Liches are exceptionally good at what they do.
They might be captains of invincible warrior-priests, sent to hunt down the most grand evils imaginable, or they might be spell-casters without compare, better able to channel the miracles of their gods than mortals; their dead flesh more resistant to being seared by the holy power that surges through them.
Their divine status is not enough to keep them from making enemies of course. There are those that abhor the undead in whatever form they come in, doubly so when it is done in the name of a god. And of course, some people think that whatever good the Sacred Lich might do, the way they do it is kind of dickish. They always do what is right, whatever the cost.
If a Sacred-Lich dies, it is up to their god if they are regenerated back on earth. Sometimes it just isn't worth the bother. Sometimes, the corpse of a Sacred-Lich will be made into Relics on par with those made from Saint-bones, much to the annoyance of the Lich if it returns to the world while its body is divided up.
Sacred Lich Powers
1 - Divine Pronouncement
2 - Shackles of Faith
3 - Zealous Immunity
4 - Wrath of God
5 - Abjure the Heathen
6 - Undying Servant of God
7 - Blinding Light
8 - Cleansing Flames
9 - Binding Proclamation
10 - Perfect Judgement
The Ethereal Fluke is a very slightly unreal parasite, which swims invisibly through the air before latching onto a victim's soul, and become real inside their body. This process is incredibly painful, and many don't survive, which is a big reason for the Ethereal Fluke's rarity. Unfortunately, it seems that wizards and other such spell-casters are particularly well suited to surviving an Ethereal Fluke's attack, and living on as a Hostage Lich.
Removing the Parasite is instant (and eternal) death as the soul is shredded in the Parasite's death-throes, it cannot survive reality without the soul it clings desperately to. Leaving the Parasite alone leads to a slow and tortuously long decline as the soul is gnawed to nothing; thus those poor souls have little option but the fuel the Parasite with the souls of others, rather than allow themselves to die slowly, and by inches.
While for some, this does not seem so bad, the full extent of the Liches' suffering only comes later. The skin begins to soften like jelly, flesh turns translucent, muscles atrophy to stringy chords. The Lich's body changes around it, until it becomes completely incapable of anything at all except to slop mournfully where it sits. The process has been described as some of the worst pain possible, it stings right into the heart of the soul. The only way to appease the Fluke (who causes the transformation) is ever increasing quantities of souls; eventually to the point that no amount is ever enough, to the doom of both Lich and Fluke.
These are all parts of the Ethereal Fluke's survival strategy. Swallow the soul of a Sorcerer or other Magic-User, then devour them slowly, destroy their flesh if they do not find further souls to feed it, hold them hostage in the most fundamental way possible. Even total bodily death is not the end of a Hostage Lich, they are reborn again by the Fluke, which regenerates the body much in the same way as a Phylactery. This is not a particularly pleasant experience for either of them. They are just slightly not Liches, but certainly are for all intents and purposes.
There are only two ways to destroy one. Firstly, you could kill the fluke; tear it out of the flesh and grind it into paste. Try not to thin of the poor sod you just obliterated. In all likelihood, they would probably thank you.
The second is to simply leave one, or hopefully, starve them of souls. They will waste away eventually, driven to the edge by the Fluke's ever-growing avarice.
Hostage Lich Powers
1 - Liquefy Flesh
2 - Ethereal Tendrils
3 - Souls Suction
4 - Drain Essence
5 - Weep Blood
6 - Infest with Worms
7 - Helminth Servant
8 - Deform Flesh
9 - Wracking Hunger
10 - Flense Innards
Specific/Special Liches Subtable1 - The Chain
2 - The Tyrant
3 - The Tangled-Web
4 - The Shiv-Liches
5 - The Page Liches
6 - The Lich-Smiths
7 - The Lich-Wardens
8 - The Philosopher's Lich
9 - The Lich-Saint
10 - The Blizzard Lich
The Liches of the Chain are mysterious, and apparently even more unkillable than regular Liches. A group of 8 who as far as anyone can tell all became Liches as one, have been residing in their conclave for well over 800 years, maybe even exponentially more time. Many have attempted to destroy them, some have even partially succeeded; but one always manages to escape, and then slowly the rest return as well.
The secret, as some scholars have guessed, is that the Chain have gamed the system. They arranged themselves as a circle of 8, and when the time came to dig the knife into their flesh to transcend this frail realm of life, they made their Phylactery the Lich next in line to them.
The result is this, the only way to destroy the Chain, is for each of them to be destroyed as one. If even one survives, it will resurrect the next in line, who will regenerate the next, and so on.
Of course, the logistics in destroying 8 Liches simultaneously is tremendous and herculean, and so they continue to reign from their towers and libraries.
Luckily for us, they seem to be somewhat benign. None have seen them act in anger in living memory; they seem content to remain within their lair for the most part.
But that doesn't mean they aren't up to something. All Liches are, inevitably.
The Tyrant is a uniquely cruel and wicked individual with a uniquely cruel and wicked method for ensuring his survival; he turns others into Liches, and makes himself their Phylacteries. Much like the Chain, this means that his Servitor-Liches cannot die unless he is destroyed, but in doing so, their own destruction would be guaranteed. The Tyrant has made it so.
And so the Servitor-Liches are the Tyrant's greatest servants, though they wish they were not. They must defend themselves lest they see themselves and the others destroyed for their master's sake. There can be no rebellion against the Tyrant without mutual death, and since the Tyrant has been subtly playing a few of the Servitors against the others, there will be no mutual rebellion; if some rose up, others would try to stop them. If those others attempted to rebel, the first group would be at their necks in an instant.
The Tyrant itself however is just a Lich like any other, just one with a particularly sadistic bent with regards to its servants. Its Phylactery is the one of its Servitors that it loves most of all, but the identity of which one it is, has long since been lost.
This Lich never originally intended to become a Lich, they originally wanted to be a Warlock. However, any prospective Warlock needs an eye for opportunity to be successful, and this Warlock saw one, and took it.
In life, they made pacts with otherworldly beings, demons, devils, angels, old gods, fey lords, one and all that they could. They were a master of hiding their own manner from prying eyes, none of their Patrons even knew what was going on until it was too late. Finally, a small bit of the soul was given to each Patron in turn, for safe-keeping of course, a semi-Lich servant that they can collect whenever they wish. Finally, after many bargains, the whole soul was gone, and the Tangle-Lich was born.
It is a careful balance the Tangle-Lich keeps, they have their immortality; none of their patrons can move against them to claim them for fear of reprisal of the other Patrons (which they have only now realised have had a claim on the Lich's soul as well), and no Patron holds enough of the Lich's soul to cause any particular harm to the Web-Lich. As long as it can maintain the balance, they are unkillable.
Known amongst the common folk as The Knives, the Shiv-Liches are a band of Orcish assassins, or at least they were. Now they are Liches, and their souls are bound within the Knives from which they take their titles.
The job goes like this, a king or noble or official or anyone really is gifted a knife. Nothing particularly horrid, but also nothing particularly glamorous. The gift is accepted, with wrinkled nose, and stored somewhere out of sight. Acceptance without acceptance. The Shiv-Lich, confirming the acceptance of the knife, casts their body into a flame, utterly destroying it. A new body forms with the knife, deep inside the defences, out of sight of the guards. Nothing is suspected until the butchered body is found. Even if they find the Lich, the knife is long-gone back to the others in case of this very eventuality, and besides, no-one was looking for that hack-rag anyway.
The Knives are tremendously effective, and though they are known in many parts, few if any know their particular method.
They are of course, masters of hiding in plain sight.
The Ivory Library is an institution that has survived the ages, wars, pestilence, flame, none have touched its hallowed walls, and the Page Liches are in large part responsible for that.
The Page-Liches, whilst stern and ill-suffering of fools, are not hostile in any manner. They have bound themselves body and soul to the Library, to serves its needs and requirements, and as a magical repository the density of which has not been seen anywhere else ever in the history of the world, the needs and requirements are many.
Only an immortal being has the patience to learn and navigate the ever-changing and shifting referencing systems. Only an immortal being of great magical capacity can deal with the occasional arcane avalanches that can spill from the upper levels. Only they who are dead can navigate the black abysses of the basements.
The library is vast and deadly, and so Liches are what it needs to maintain itself.
Who they were is no longer known. There are none who remember them as anything other than the ancient undying near-dead. Even the older Fey-Lords are reticent to speak on the subject, and will only offer conjecture, even though they may well know the answers.
Some work for art. And some will do it forever, as these have and will. In the ruined and gutted corpse of some ancient and now-nameless city, the Lich-Smiths toil over their furnaces, hoarding silver and bone.
They were once the premier artists of their day, as they will gruffly spit at you. Their time is precious, and so they removed themselves from the mortal world so that they might focus on and utterly perfect their arts. They are smiths, but also jewellers, bone-carvers, painters, etchers, enchanters, there are many many artistic disciplines and between them they have mastered them all.
These days, they find themselves growing bored, when they mastered all the skills they could, when they had made the most sublime and inscrutable works they could, they simply ran out of things to do. It is the final curse of Lichdom, at least as they will put it.
So they find that the last few things they enjoy taking on are commissions. Few hold the vast fortunes the Smiths require for their services. Most are kings, emperors, and of course, adventurers. They come to the Lich-Smiths requesting weapons, arms, and armour; equipment and implements; conduits and mechanisms. The Lich-Smiths demand silver and bone, and if the price is paid then the work begins.
The Lich-Smiths don't really need the vast fortunes they receive; its mostly to make sure that their customers really mean what they ask, and are of sufficient stature and import to ask for what they do, but also the Lich-Smiths use Silver and Bone in their works; they are their favoured mediums for their crafts and magics and enchantments. No matter what is requested, it is always delivered as bone inlaid with silver, and it is always sublime and beautiful, and indestructible (as far as any have dared test). The Lich-Smiths have only few customers, but none ever leave dissatisfied.
The Lich-Wardens of the God-Pharaoh
They gave up their lives to serve him, figuratively and literally. Their flesh was a willing and euphoric sacrifice for their deity, their frail and pathetic existences trade in for new, glorious, and eternal bodies with which to forever serve their master.
They are near-empty suits of armour now, their frail forms withing swaddled in bandages and scored with sacred charms and amulets. Their weapons and armour are golden and blazing with radiance, and their new artisanal leather-skin that contains their ancient bones is immaculate, and only slightly uncanny. They protect the God-Pharaoh with their un-lives, certain in the knowledge that if struck down, they will return, and earn ever greater rewards in the service of their lord. Their Phylacteries are stored deep within the vaults of the Blazing Palace, never shall the Pharaoh's guardians taste death until he shall demand they do.
Only rarely do they leave the palace; only the most dangerous missions can demand such power, and the risk to the God-Pharaoh's mortal form.
The Philosopher's Lich
As much a work of theoretical construct as the stone itself (at least, it is hoped), the Philosopher's Lich is merely a Lich, except for the fact that they (in theory) have taken the stone itself for their Phylactery.
Quite what this would mean, is the subject of much speculation. No-one truly knows what powers could be leeched from the stone by a Lich; true and perfect immortality is a common guess, no more of this soul-gathering business.
Certainly none have ever achieved this. Not a one. Certainly not this alchemist, he has only been alive a few decades. Certainly his potions and unguents are incredible, and well worth the price, but the accusations that he has lived for many centuries are scandalous in the extreme! He is content with his limitations, he would never pursue the stone, he certainly is not granted life eternal, even beyond mortal blow, nor have his magical capacities doubled in the last decade alone, nor has he a cadre of immortal and addicted death-knights to carry out his biding. His health tonic is a protected and secret recipe, and he will not give it up to the likes of you! He has to make a living somehow you know.
Of all the names in the Blessed Canon of saints, there is one that is reviled, struck from its pages as much as ink can harm the names of those chosen by gods. Aedric was once the Saint of Restful Places, where the dead might find blessed peace, where respite would be sacrosanct, where nightmares would be held at bay. Then he broke the concord, took his own life (and the lives of all in his band of attendant-paladins at the same time) and became a Lich.
He is wreathed in terrible black-flames, grey light flickering across the ground around him, black smoke creeping at his feet. His eyes are dark, and his flesh ashen and dead. A cracked stone halo circles above his head, brittle and broken.
While his divine powers have fled him, screaming and crying for salvation, his void is filled now with despotic Lich-magics, he has not been diminished; dark powers have propped him up to raise him as a dark eidolon for the damned, and then he surpassed even them, shackling them to his own will.
Many have attempted to end his dark reign, and so the ranks of his Death-Knight honour-guard grow. He is an expert at breaking prisoners.
If the world has a villain, it is Aedric, the Lich-Saint.
The Blizzard Lich
On cold white nights on mountain tops, or in the arctic wastes, listen a while for moaning on the wind. If you hear it, run. You may yet outrun it.
The world has forgotten it, no tales of its origins, no suggestions of its end. It merely haunts the wild and wasted white-storms of the world, howling with the wind for the flesh and fluids of the lost and desperate.
If its prey are ever found, they are as drained and dry as it is, frozen and brittle.
One thing is for sure, it is a Lich. The few that have encountered it and survived have confirmed as much. Sometimes they strike it down, it always returns. Sometimes it fights with sorcery, sometimes with its cracked nails and shattered teeth. Always the cold-of-the-soul settles in the nooks and creases of the mind before it strikes.
Its mark is that it can dwell only in storms of snow and ice. Even on the mountain tops it has been confirmed to haunt, when the sky is clear, you are safe (from the Blizzard-Lich at least). Any suggestions as to its Phylactery have never been adequately investigated, its goals have never been satisfyingly inferred. It is merely left alone, and any who seek the lonely peaks it calls its lair have been urged to challenge other obstacles, like farming, or perhaps knitting.
1 - A Rod or Stave, there's a chance its even the real thing.
2 - A Pendent, bearing a picture of someone the Lich once held dear
3 - A Scroll in a crystal tube, bearing impossible arcane knowledge
4 - A withered old Heart in a Sandal-wood box
5 - The aged and creaking remains of the liches' Childhood Home
6 - A Tome, beautifully bound and crusted in precious stones
7 - A gnarled and twisted Tree, curled like an old man's hand
8 - The liches' own Spellbook, the pages all blank but for a faint smudge of ink
9 - The rune-scribed Bones of one of the liches' family members, glowing a soft blue
10 - The rune-scribed Bones of one of the liches' old pets, creaking under the magical weight
11 - A Portrait of the Lich, which changes and warps with age and is marred by corruption
12 - An enchanted Silver Mirror; it never quite shows the truth, only a crooked imitation
13 - A Black Canvas, framed in gold; clearly there was something beneath once, but what?
14 - A Painted Sea-Shell, twisted and flaking, within you hear the faintest of heart-beats
15 - A Reliquary bearing a gold-plated saint-remnant, any holy symbols blackened and charred
16 - An old Instrument, bending under the weight of years, all but useless now
17 - An ancient Carving of an Animal, some of the knife-scores still visible in the wood grain
18 - A lonely Pearl, still shining bright beneath the grime and scratches
19 - A small Stone, smooth and unassuming; one side of it has been rubbed truly flat
20 - A stern Stone Sarcophagus, filled with black liquid; the souls which invigorate the Lich
1 - Godhood, nothing less
2 - A better form of Immortality than Lichdom
3 - Perfecting their alchemical minions
4 - Developing ever-more advanced technologies
5 - Mastery of Magic
6 - Creation of their perfect Utopia
7 - The downfall of a Civilisation
8 - To learn, literally everything. Everything.
9 - To become the best at their chosen craft/skill
10 - The total destruction of their nemesis
11 - To rejuvenate their frail and decaying form
12 - To undo what they have done and to finally die
13 - To reshape the world into a more pleasing form
14 - To reshape the world into a more efficient form
15 - The resurrection of a loved one
16 - To push the boundaries of thought and knowledge
17 - To alter the fundamental rules of the world
18 - To destroy all life, everywhere
19 - To create true, pure, objective beauty
20 - To create all new forms of life and being
1 - That they are frail and weak, anything could destroy them, even a bird dropping from the sky
2 - Their loved ones remain with them, telling them that what they are doing is right and proper
3 - Their spells are alive in their head like worms, sometimes they have to pick them out to cast them
4 - The passage of time has worn thin around them, they can't trust it, especially not its secret agents!
5 - That writing is poisonous to it, show it a word, it will writhe, show it a book, it will drop comatose
6 - Cats are the guardians of the afterlife, any cat they might encounter might drag its soul away
7 - The Lichs' path is not its own to follow, it must head the signs and portents of the future
8 - The Lich has one it cherishes beyond all others, that it loves with all its withered forsaken heart
9 - All must be remade as the Lich was; they shall, one way or another, become Liches
10 - The Lich can form no memories since becoming a Lich, once it leaves the short-term, it is gone
11 - The Lich has twin personalities, each one rising and waning with the phases of the moon
12 - Nothing is worth it, nothing.
1 - A tower of ice and bone, a knife that gouges the clouds
2 - A twisting cone of dying and necrotised plants
3 - A crystal palace of sand, death knell of millions of ancient creatures
4 - A castle twisted from petrified creatures
5 - A cave system stitched throughout the many worlds of the world
6 - A pit into the black and weeping earth
7 - A grand crypt complex, each tomb a eulogy to a race the Lich has destroyed
8 - A stern monolith, slowly sinking into the mire of a slaughtered city
9 - A twisted nest of crooked fingers of black stone
10 - A buoyant island, chained to the earth, tectonically screaming for release
11 - An enormous fortress-palanquin born atop the shoulders of an army of the dead
12 - The immense corpse of a butchered star-beast, veins for tunnels, organs as cathedrals
13 - A town brought to life, limbs of earth, a hide of broken and crumbling buildings
14 - A twisting vortex in the sea, revealing the corpse-landscape of the sea-bed
15 - A crown of jagged stone, liquid flame pouring from the hands of carven titans
16 - A cavern of crystal, drained and brittle and stained grey by the Liches' inexhaustible hunger
17 - An almighty and blighted tree, weeping amber; enemies of the Lich bound within
18 - A howling plain of grey-scale dusts, endlessly tumbling
19 - The tomb behind the tomb, the house behind the house, the city behind the city
20 - Roll twice and Combine
1 - Alchemical Silver
2 - Blessed Water
3 - Salted Flames
4 - The Lich's own knife, with which it slew itself to become what it is
5 - Magical Light
6 - Worked obsidian, glistening like glass
7 - Cat's fangs
8 - Living Wood
9 - A weapon that has never taken a life
10 - The thorn of a rose
11 - A golden needle
12 - A unworked stone with which a man's life has been taken
13 - A shadow
14 - A weapon wielded by a person who has less than a day to live
15 - A weapon wielded by a person who knows the Lich's true name
16 - A weapon wielded by a person who has never killed any living thing
17 - Sunlight reflected from a tin mirror
18 - A ten-thousand year old spear
19 - Melancholy
20 - Song
1 - Raise Dead
2 - Drain Life
3 - Icy Touch
4 - Snuff Soul
5 - Necrotise Flesh
6 - Devour Shadow
7 - Mortal Puppet
8 - Sunder Mind
9 - Destroy Metal
10 - Wither Plants
11 - Desiccate Land
12 - Desecrate
13 - Unholy Words
14 - Snuff Flame
15 - Command Earth
16 - Master of Blood
17 - Fundamental Forces
18 - Pall of Darkness
19 - Zone of Silence
20 - Irresistible Commands
21 - Mutate Foe
22 - Unbearable Agony
23 - Vast Presence
24 - Induce Fear
25 - Soldiers from Stone
26 - Flesh to Bone
27 - Bone to Flesh
28 - Malevolent Doppelganger
29 - Instill Corruption
30 - Portal to the Outer Dark
31 - Shadowy Step
32 - Invisible Passage
33 - Seal Throat
34 - Crow Storm
35 - Searing Chains
36 - Ten Thousand Needles
37 - Gut-Shred
38 - Implacable Suggestion
39 - Shroud of Dusts
40 - Spear of Night
41 - Unwind Time
42 - Ironfire
43 - Crushing Depths
44 - Deluge
45 - Grasping Air
46 - Shadow Demons
47 - Entomb
48 - Seal of the Mind
49 - Ageing Gaze
50 - Final Moments
51 - Sunder Earth
52 - Grave-bound Titan
53 - Rend Divinity
54 - Command Vermin
55 - Call Demons
56 - Unseeming
57 - Devour
58 - Baleful Polymorph
59 - Blessings of Blood
60 - Bestow Immortality