Once fine robes hang in tatters from this withered corpse’s frame. A pale blue light shines from where its eyes should be. A wizard whose insatiable desire for arcane power eclipsed their mortal life, the lich is a truly devious and versatile spellcaster.
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Liches spend a good deal of their downtime crafting magic items. In particular, a lich will create items that help it defeat and overcome known problems. This fact can prove especially dangerous if the PCs encounter one but fail to destroy its soul cage, for the next time they encounter the lich, it will likely have just the right tools to overcome their defenses.
It has placed its soul cage inside an animated object that fights fiercely to defend itself, or at the very least to elude capture. If its body is destroyed, the lich can control this animated object directly, although they can’t cast any spells while inside the vessel. The body is often restored inside this object, being ejected from the animated object after 1d10 days in the normal manner for a soul cage. The animated object is usually at least 4 levels lower than the lich, but it doesn’t engage in combat unless directly threatened or if the lich is in control of it.
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The lair of a lich is usually filled with several magical treasures, particularly items that the undead can use based on its spellcasting abilities. Scrolls, wands, and staves are quite common, as are books of lore and tomes containing entirely new spells.
The ritual to become a lich is unique to each character, but they frequently have similar elements. The ritual is at least 6th level, but it’s always heightened to as high a level as possible for the primary caster. The skill check is tied to the primary caster’s tradition (Arcana for arcane, Nature for primal, Occult for occult, and Religion for divine), and the caster must be a master in that skill to attempt this ritual. Secondary casters are rarely required.
Before starting the ritual, the caster must construct the soul cage, which costs a minimum of 100 gp per level of the caster (often more) and a Crafting check with a hard DC for the caster’s level. Aside from these base requirements, the ritual also has at least three unique requirements. The first is a significant sacrifice crucial to the life and experiences of the primary caster.
The second is a source of great power related to the caster’s tradition, to be consumed during the ritual. The third is a poignant means to end the primary caster’s life, consumed in the closing seconds of the ritual. If any of these are absent, or improperly performed, it reduces the degree of success for the primary caster’s skill check to complete the ritual by one level for each missing requirement. Each of these should be difficult to obtain, requiring a significant quest or great personal sacrifice.
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The Undead Army
The players come across a group of adventurers who have attempted to raid a lich’s tomb but have been trapped inside. It has raised an army of undead to guard the tomb, and the adventurers are slowly being overwhelmed. The players must find a way to enter the tomb, defeat it and its minions, and rescue the trapped adventurers.
The players are hired by a powerful wizard who needs help defeating a lich that was once his mentor. The wizard’s mentor became obsessed with immortality and became a lich, and has since turned to dark magic to gain even more power. The players must track it down and confront it, all while fending off attacks from the lich’s minions.
The Lich Castle
The players are hired by a group of villagers who have been terrorized by a lich that has taken up residence in a nearby castle. It has been raising the dead and using them to do its bidding, and the villagers are living in constant fear. The players must infiltrate the castle, defeat it and its minions, and restore peace to the village.
The main door into this castle could be in room 17 at the bottom of the map. The castle is filled with undead villagers and other beasts that the lich has been using to serve and protect him.
I would put the final conflict in room 4 with potentially any hostages being held in room 22. Will they be able to kill it, rescue any survivors and hunt down the soul cage and destroy it?
About the Author:
Dwight Scull has been playing tabletop role-playing games (starting with Dungeons and Dragons 3.5) back in 2001. He started being a dungeon master around 2005.
He loves to play many different types of TTRPGs, including Pathfinder, GURPS, Shadowrun, Vampire: The Masquerade, Mage: The Ascension (and other White Wolf Games), Nights Black Agents, and others.
Fan of mysteries, light horror, co-op board games, true crime, sci-fi, and fantasy.