Lich, 3rd Variant (5e Class)
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It truly doesn't matter how you became a lich, what matters is what you choose to do now. A properly created Lich will always have a powered phylactery that sustains the Lich and reconstructs their body when they die, and the proper method for creating a lich is a closely guarded secret. However, there are many ways a "lesser lich" can be created. These liches have phylacteries that are simply random objects that were near their bodies when they died, and they can be created in a wide variety of ways.
Ways a person could become a lich, or a lesser lich, which don't necessitate being evil:
- Turned into a lich to serve a greater purpose, willingly or unwillingly
- Succumbing to your fear of death and seeking immortality at any cost
- Dying in a haunted land where most are brought back as zombies and skeletons
- Created as a byproduct of a flawed human sacrifice, or a backlash from wild necromantic magic
- Transformed into a lich by a cursed artifact
- An ancient and once great evil lich, brought back after being sealed away from a long time and willing to turn over a new leaf
A New Lease on Life Those who become a lich unwittingly may find themselves missing their humanity, but now they have new tools at their disposal to make the most of their situation. A lich can choose to branch out, focusing on spellcasting, fighting, or simply being an artist. Either way, they take advantage of their resilience as they do not have to fear the consequences of hitting 0 HP, as well as their ability to drain life from the living. Even as a dedicated spellcaster, a lich can be surprisingly hard to kill!
Social Pariah That said, being a lich is not all fun and games. It takes a good number of great deeds to be able to walk around a town without inducing fear and suspicion amongst those who once considered them kin. Add on to the fact that they can only easily sustain themselves through grisly means and it becomes quite hard for them to earn trust.
Creating a Lich
Why play a lich?
- You want to be a nightmare on the battlefield that feels supernatural in a way a warrior does not
- You want to be a morally ambiguous trickster and deceiver
- You want to explore morality and make a character who might be good but selfish, or a character who suffers from a traumatic experience and still holds fresh scars
- You want to die and be brought back to life enough times it becomes a running joke
- You're kind of edgy
- Quick Build
You can make a Lich quickly by following these suggestions. First, Intelligence should be your highest ability score, followed by Constitution or Dexterity for your armor class. Second, choose the Hermit background. Third, take a Staff and a scholar's pack.
As a Lich you gain the following class features.
- Hit Points
Armor: Light Armour
Weapons: Simple Weapons
Saving Throws: Constitution and Intelligence
Skills: Choose any three from Arcana, Deception, Investigation, History, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Persuasion, or Religion
You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:
- (a) scholar's pack or (b) diplomat's pack
- (a) A short sword or (b) A light crossbow or (c) A quarterstaff
- (a) Leather Armour or (b) 50 gp's worth of unholy relics
- A spellbook
|Features||Cantrips||—Spell Slots per Spell Level—|
|1st||+2||Forbidden Path, Phylactery||3||2||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement||4||4||3||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|5th||+3||Forbidden Path Feature||4||4||3||2||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|6th||+3||Traits of the Undead||4||4||3||3||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement||4||4||3||3||2||—||—||—||—||—|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement||5||4||3||3||3||2||1||—||—||—|
|13th||+5||Forbidden Path Feature||5||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||—||—|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement||6||4||3||3||3||2||1||1||1||—|
|18th||+6||Forbidden Path Feature||7||4||3||3||3||3||1||1||1||1|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement||7||4||3||3||3||3||2||1||1||1|
As a Lich, your knack for magic and casting spells, combined with your new powers, allows you to cast your spells without needing a spell book. Although, you can keep a book if you wish. You can copy spells down for the same cost as you would in a Wizard’s spell book, although to learn the spell you will need to study it and memorize it during a long rest. You gain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.
- Preparing and Casting Spells
You prepare the list of Lich spells that are available for you to cast. To do so, choose a number of Lich spells equal to your Intelligence modifier + your Lich level (minimum of one spell) at the end of each long rest. You may cast those spells until the end of your next long rest, when you choose new spells to prepare.
At 1st level , your spellbook contains six 1st-level Wizard spells of your choice. Your spellbook is the repository of the spells you know.
- Spellcasting Ability
Intelligence is your main spellcasting ability for your Lich spells, as you have spent your time practicing spells and learning as much as you could before the rituals. You use your Intelligence modifier whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Intelligence modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a Lich spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.
Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier
- Ritual Casting
You can cast a Lich spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell in your book. You don’t need to have the spell prepared.
At 1st level, you can choose between your three Forbidden Paths; the Arcanist, Archlich, or the Death Knight. Your choice grants you features at 1st level and again at 5th, 13th, and 18th level.
Your Phylactery is where your essence is stored, it can be any small object like a ring or an amulet. If it is destroyed, you are permanently dead.
- As an Undead, you are immune to poison damage and the poisoned condition. You do not require food, air, or sleep. You require a 4-hour trance to regain your spell slots, which counts as a long rest.
- You no longer age and cannot be aged magically.
- When an attack would reduce you to 0 HP, you may make a Constitution save with a DC of 8 + 1 per damage taken. If you succeed, you fall to 1 HP instead. You cannot use this ability again until you take a long rest.
- If you fail the Constitution save, then your body is destroyed, excluding anything you are wearing. At that point, your phylactery will require 1d6+2 days to create a new undead body for you. You will reform within 10 ft of it without the equipment your previous body had.
- Your phylactery can't bring you back infinitely, after your 5th "revival", you must spend 24 hours meditating with your phylactery in hand, if you are disturbed for any reason, you must restart the meditation from the beginning, afterward your phylactery will regain it uses. If you don't do this, then the next time your body is destroyed, the strain will shatter your phylactery, ending your existence.
- Your phylactery functions as an Arcane Focus for spells, but you aren't restricted to using your Phylactery as your only Arcane Focus.
- You do not need to carry your Phylactery on you to survive, you only need to ensure that it remains undamaged & safe.
Choose one of the following:
- You are remarkably well preserved. Other than pale skin, and sunken eyes, there is little to distinguish you from a living member of your species... though the lack of breath and heartbeat is a dead giveaway. If someone has a reason to suspect you aren't alive, a Investigation check with a DC of 8 + your proficiency + your Charisma modifier is needed to tell you are undead, unless they know to check your pulse.
- The only preservation you're interested in is self-preservation. Your flesh is falling off and you're rocking it. You gain proficiency in Intimidation. However, you are bound to be treated poorly for being a known Lich, and if your Lich status lowers someone's trust, you roll Persuasion checks towards them at a disadvantage.
Beginning at 2nd level, you get the ability to siphon health from living creatures. At the cost of one hit dice or one spell slot, you may make a melee spell attack, or drain a willing creature. On a successful hit, you deal 1d8 + your Constitution modifier necrotic damage, and heal for the same amount of damage dealt. You may increase the cost of this feature by spending more hit dice or spell slots(the same used to use this feature), increasing the damage by 1d8 for every hitdie or spell level.
Your natural mastery of undeath grants you control over lesser Undead. At 3rd level, you can make any Undead that you can see within 60 feet of you roll a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC or fall under your complete control for 1 hour. Undead with an Intelligence above 16 have advantage on their saving throw. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier.
This feature is stronger at the 6th level, allowing you to double your control time for this ability as well as the spell Animate Undead or Create Undead. And at the 9th level if they fail the saving throw they will fall under your complete control permanently. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier and regain all uses once you finish a long rest.
Ability Score Improvement
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.
Traits of the Undead
Being Undead gives you plenty of benefits. At 6th level, you now have resistance to necrotic damage, advantage against being Charmed and Frightened and on your Wisdom Saving Throws against Turn Undead, as you’re above the ranks of the lesser undead. You get this feature again at 10th level, gaining resistance on being Paralyzed and full Turn Resistance, and again at 15th level, gaining immunity to the Charmed, Frightened, and Paralyzed effects.
When you reach level 7, your power increases to the point that your unfinished phylactery can no longer support you. You augment your phylactery, gaining new abilities, but at a cost. You must power your phylactery.
Upon reaching level 7, you get 10 days worth of power in your phylactery for free. After spending a number of days equal to 3 + your Constitution modifier with no power in your phylactery, you begin taking one level of exhaustion per day. If you die while your phylactery is powered, you revive after 24 hours with 1 hit point. Each phylactery uses its own unique resource pool.
Choose one of the following
- This is the path that is traditional amongst liches.
- As an action, you may trap the soul of a creature that has died in the last hour in your phylactery. Doing so allows you to consume its essence over a number of days equal to the creatures Challenge Rating plus your proficiency bonus.
- Soul Protection: As a reaction to failing a save, you may choose to roll a d10 and add the result to your saving throw. This reduces your phylactery's power by a number of days equal to the number rolled, and cannot be done if there is less than 10 days of power in the phylactery.
- Your phylactery is powered by blood. It requires 10 pints of blood from any living creature every 7 days. Blood from a creature with magical origins or innate spell-casting, (elves, dragonborn, etc.) lasts for 14 days instead.
- Powering your phylactery requires you to perform a ritual during a short or long rest where you dip your phylactery into the required blood. You cannot use less than the required amount.
- Arterial Slash: As a bonus action when dealing slashing, piercing, or necrotic damage to a creature with blood (that requires it), you can magically reduce their ability to clot. They take a bonus 1d6 damage immediately, and must make a Constitution save with a DC equal to your spell save at the start of each turn or take the same amount of damage. If the creature fails any Constitution save, it takes one level of exhaustion. After a successful save the bleeding ends and it loses all levels of exhaustion. You can only use this ability once, regaining its usage after a long rest.
- You can drain the blood from a creature by placing the phylactery on a restrained, paralyzed, or incapacitated creature's chest. If the creature is alive it makes a Constitution save or becomes paralyzed and loses a pint of blood. It can remake save on its turn to not be paralyzed. Creatures dead or alive lose 1 pint per round.
- Your phylactery is powered by magic; either yours or others.
- Drain Magic: Whenever you drain a target with Drain Touch, you may also steal a spell slot with a level up to or equal to your Intelligence modifier, but never higher than your highest level spell slot. Doing so returns your spell slot of that level if you have not used it. You may only use this ability 3 times, regaining all usages after a long rest.
- Ritual of Sustenance: When taking a long rest, you can choose to any number of spell slots to be consumed to power your phylactery. Each spell slot fuels it by a number of days equal to the level of each spell slots used. During this time, you cannot use this spell slot.
Starting at 9th level, you can use your bonus action to hover off the ground as per the levitation spell. You can use a reaction to reduce fall damage to 0 by expending a use of this feature, you may do so a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier, you regain all expended uses of this feature when you finish a long rest.
At 10th level, you gain the ability to open your nightmarish soul to those around you, causing their own soul to cower in fear. As an action, each creature within 30 feet of you that can see you must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
At 11th level, you can make a melee spell attack on a creature, doing 3d6 necrotic damage on a successful hit. The target must make a Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC or be Paralyzed for 1 minute, repeating its saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success. You can use this feature up to a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. You regain all uses of this feature after a long rest. Optionally, you can choose to deal no damage to the target, and have them appear dead during their paralysis.
At 14th level, once per long rest, you can force any non-undead creature within 20 feet of you to make a Constitution saving throw against your DC, taking 8d6 necrotic damage on a failed save and half as much on a success, you heal for half the amount rolled.
The amount of power you've accumulated thus far has granted your body with great supernatural resistances. Starting at 17th level, you now have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks and immunity to necrotic damage.
You have now reached the peak of Lichdom, becoming a true master of life and death. At 20th level you become the embodiment of death and power, your Intelligence knows no bounds and increases by 4 to a maximum of 24, your senses are infused with magic, giving you Blindsight up to 120 feet. Any creature that dies within 60 feet of you has their soul automatically absorbed into your phylactery. All hostile creatures within 10 feet of you take 2d8 necrotic damage at the start of their turn. This damage is increased to 3d8 if the creature is below half health and is a living creature.
The Arcanist is a powerful spell-caster, utilizing and maximizing the use of all their spells. Those who follow this Forbidden Path are often recognized as some of the most powerful and fearsome Liches, able to tear their enemies apart with a simple hand motion.
- Dark Arts
At 1st level, your attachment to necrotic energy allows you to control it easily. When you cast a spell from the school of necromancy or which deals necrotic damage, you add your spellcasting ability modifier to damage rolls.
- Wicked Recovery
Upon reaching 5th level you have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your spellbook. Once per day when you finish a short rest, you can choose expended spell slots to recover. The spell slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than your Lich level, and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher.
For example, if you’re a 4th-level Lich, you can recover up to four levels worth of spell slots. You can recover either two 2nd-level spell slot or four 1st-level spell slots.
- Necrotic Potency
Starting from 13th level, when you cast a damaging spell, you can choose to change its damage type to necrotic, making it deal two extra dice of damage and you can treat any 1 on the damage dice as a 2. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier, you regain all expended uses of this feature when you finish a long rest.
- Master of the Arcane
At 18th level, knowledge of the dark arts flow through your mind like a river, at the end of a long rest you can choose one spell from any class's spell list. Until the end of your next long rest this is a Lich spell for you and you can cast it like any other spell, this spell does not count towards your total amount of spells known. All previous spells learned with this feature are forgotten once a new one is learned.
While the overwhelming majority of liches were evil, an archlich was not. Archliches were able to memorize spells through intuitive nature and did not need spellbooks; they also remained in their form for eternity. An archlich focuses less on their undeath and the summoning of undead, but rather on the immense well of arcane power they acquired in their unholy ascendance.
- Innate Magic
When you pick this subclass at 1st level you replace your Intelligence saving throw, spellcasting stat, and any other Lich feature that utilities Intelligence with Charisma , as your magic comes from within, not unlike a Sorcerer. You have no need for a spellbook, instead each time you gain a level you may pick one spell from the Sorcerer or Warlock spell lists, these spells count as a Lich spell for you and do not count towards your amount of spells known. You may still cast ritual spells you know as a ritual. Additionally, you can choose an Eldritch Invocation from the Warlock class, you can choose another at 5th level, 10th level, and again at 15th level. You must meet the requirements of the chosen Eldritch Invocations save for a Patron.
- Time Skip
Starting at 5th level your assimilation with the weave of magic allows you the ability to jaunt across small fractures in time. You can use your bonus action to briefly stop time until the end of your turn, applying the same restrictions as the time stop spell. Alternatively you can choose to step out of time, disappearing for a number of rounds of your choice (to a maximum equal to your proficiency modifier) and reappearing afterwards on your turn, having traveled forward in time.
- Wisp Form
Once you reach 13th level you're able to let go of your corporeal form, turning into a ghostly version of yourself. As a bonus action, you gain resistance to all types of damage and the ability to pass through solid objects but not end your movement within them or you will be immediately shunted to the nearest unoccupied space that you can occupy. During this transformation you can use your action to teleport up to 30 feet in any direction. This benefit lasts for 10 minute. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, you regain all expended uses of this feature when you finish a long rest.
- Ebb and Flow
Once you reach 18th level, the ebb and flow of magic courses through you as blood once did. You learn telekinesis which doesn't count against your spells known and can cast it at will, without expending a spell slot or material components. The spell requires no concentration to maintain. When using this spell you can affect multiple creatures or objects at the same time, but require an action per target and cannot exceed 1000 pounds spread across all targets, you may also target liquids and non-solid objects such as water or sand. Additionally you can choose to crush a creature with telekinetic force, causing them to make a Constitution saving throw or take up to 8d6 force damage, you can only perform this attack when targeting a single object or creature. When casting this spell, you can also consume spell slot, which will multiply the duration and weight limit of the spell a number of times equal to the level of the spell slot used.
The unholy strength coursing through your body invigorates you. Instead of focusing solely on building your spell casting abilities, you take up a weapon and physically hone your undead body as well. Combining your magical prowess and physical strength makes you a deadly foe on the battlefield, especially with an undead horde at your beck and call.
- Warrior's Armaments
At at 1st level, you gain proficiency in medium and heavy armour, shields, as well as martial weapons. Additionally, whenever you finish a long rest, you can touch one weapon that you are proficient with and that lacks the two-handed property. When you attack with that weapon, you can use your Intelligence modifier, instead of Strength or Dexterity , for the attack and damage rolls. This benefit lasts until you finish a long rest.
- Unholy Smite
Starting at 5th level, once per turn when you hit a creature with a melee attack, you can expend a spell slot to deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage to the target, plus another 1d6 per level of the spell slot.
- Call of the Master
Once you reach 13th level you learn the animate dead spell if you do not know it already and can cast it as a bonus action. When casting this spell you can choose to also consume a spell slot to increase the power of your undead, increasing its AC, Hit Points, attack and damage modifiers by a number equal to the level of the spell slot used, to a maximum of a 5th level spell slot. You can apply this benefit to any undead you summon or take control of. When an undead is affected by this feature, you can use your action to drain it of its life, healing you for 1d8 + your Constitution modifier.
- Army of the Dead
Starting at 18th level, you lead legions of undead, as an action you can cast a spell which creates up to 30 Undead, Zombies or Skeletons being your choice or the DM's based on your surroundings. This feature lasts up to 10 minutes or dismiss it as a bonus action. Undead you created with this spell then die. You can use a spell slot to give all of these summons the benefit from Call of the Master. You regain the use of this feature after a long rest or if you expend half of your phylactery's stored power.
The Lich Spell List
You can learn all of the spells on the basic Wizard spell list.
You can cast spells as a full caster, able to go to 9th level and can use the spell slot table from the Wizard's base class.
Prerequisites. To qualify for multiclassing into the The Lich class, you must meet these prerequisites: Intelligence 13 and Constitution 13. You must be within the class restrictions listed at the top of the class page.