Lich (5e Class)
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In order to be a lich, you cannot be a race that is a construct or undead by default.
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 deciever
- You want to explore morality and make a character who might be good but selfish, or a character who suffers from a tramautic 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 if you plan on being a Dark Mage. If you plan on being a Death Knight, Strength should be your highest stat, followed by Constitution or Intelligence. Second, choose the Hermit background.
As a Lich you gain the following class features.
- Hit Points
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons
Saving Throws: Constitution, 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 Armor or (b) 15 gp's worth of unholy relics
- A spellbook
|Features||—Spell Slots per Spell Level—|
|1st||+2||Spellcasting, Phylactery, Drain Touch, Archetype Bonus||—||—||—||—||—|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement||3||—||—||—||—|
|6th||+3||Ethereal Walk Traits Of The Undead||4||2||—||—||—|
|7th||+3||Greater Phylactery Paralyzing Touch, Soul Reaper||4||3||—||—||—|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement||4||3||—||—||—|
|10th||+4||Improved Drain, Archetype Bonus||4||3||2||—||—|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement||4||3||3||—||—|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement, Master Resistance||4||3||3||2||—|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement, Immune||4||3||3||3||2|
|20th||+6||Absence of Life||4||3||3||3||2|
Starting a 1st level you become an undead who uses an unfinished phylactery, with the following advantages and disadvantages
- 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.
- 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.
- When you fall to 0 HP, you do not get any saving throws. You die. However, your soul gets stored in your phylactery.
- Your phylactery is not powered enough to bring you back on its own. A spellcaster can revive you by expending spell slots that total 5 levels or more on your phylactery. The spell slots can be expended over a long period of time. Doing so will cause you to revive in 1 hour with 1 HP after the last spell slot is used.
- Other methods of revival will cause you to lose your Lich status (see: losing your lichdom)
- Your phylactery functions as an Arcane Focus, but you can acquire a second one.
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.
At 1st level, you also 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 plus your Constitution modifier Necrotic damage and heal for the same amount of damage dealt. You may increase the cost of this ability by one hit dice or one spell slot (can not use both at the same time) to increase the damage by 1d8, a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus.
At 2nd level, you gain the ability to cast spells. If you chose the Dark Mage subclass, you get the following at 1st level instead.
At 2nd level, you know the cantrip prestidigitation. If you are a Dark Mage, you know your choice of three cantrips from the Dark Mage spell list.
At 2nd level (1st if you are a Dark Mage), your spellbook contains six 1st-level Lich spells of your choice. Your spellbook is the repository of the Lich spells you know.
- Preparing and Casting Spells
The Lich table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell's level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.
You prepare the list of Lich spells that are available for you to cast. To do so, choose a number of Lich spells from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier + half your Lich level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots. If you chose the Dark Mage subclass, you add all your Lich levels instead.
You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of Lich spells requires time spent studying your spellbook and memorizing the incantations and gestures you must make to cast the spell: at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.
- Spellcasting Ability
Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for your Lich spells. You use your Intelligence 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.
- Spellcasting Focus
You can use an arcane focus as a spellcasting focus for your Lich spells.
- Learning Spells of 1st Level and Higher
Each time you gain a Lich level, you can add two Lich spells of your choice to your spellbook for free. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots, as shown on the Lich table. On your adventures, you might find other spells that you can add to your spellbook.
Your natural control over Undead grants you many bonuses. 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 12 have advantage on their saving throw and any Undead with an Intelligence above 16 are immune to this effect. 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. These features replenish after a long rest.
Ability Score Increase
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.
Starting at 6th level, you can use your bonus action to hover off the ground as per the levitation spell. If you are attacked while levitating this effect ends until you use it again. You can use a reaction to reduce fall damage to 0 by expending a use of this feature. You may use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier + your Intelligence modifier These features replenish after a long rest.
Traits Of The Undead
Being Undead gives you plenty of benefits. At 6th level, you now have advantage against being Charmed and Frightened and on your Wisdom Saving Throws against Turn Undead, as you’re harder to crack. You get this feature again at 10th level, gaining resistance on being paralyzed and full Turn Resistance, and again at 14th level, becoming immune to exhaustion.
When you reach 7th level, 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 7th level, 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 damage per day. If you die while your phylactery is powered, you revive after 24 hours with 1/2 hit points within 10 feet of your phylactery. Each phylactery uses its own unique resource pool.
Choose one of the following
- This is the path that is traditional among liches. If you consume souls from non-evil, creatures, (you ignore alignment restrictions if a creature is hostile to you) your alignment becomes evil.
- As an action, you may trap the soul of a creature that has died in the last minute in your phylactery. Doing so allows you to consume its soul over a number of days equal to the creatures Challenge Rating plus your proficiency bonus. Your phylactery is powered while a soul is being consumed.
- 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 the
time the phylactery's consumes a soul by 5 days, and cannot be done if there is less than that amount 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, necrotic, or force 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 damage. After 3 successful saves, consecutive or not, the bleeding ends and it regains its lost exhaustion level. 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 Int modifier, but never higher than your highest level spell slot. Doing so returns your spell slot of that level. You may only use this ability 3 times, regaining all usages after a long rest.
- Ritual of Sustenance: When making a long rest, you can choose to lose half of all spell slots in each level below 8th, rounded up, until your next long rest. Performing this ritual powers your phylactery for 14 days.
At 7th level, you can make a melee attack spell on a creature, doing 3d6 Necrotic damage on a successful hit. The target must make a Constitution saving throw against your 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 this feature after a long rest.
You have become adept in the ways of necrotic energy, being able to pull off terrifying feats of magic. At 8th level, you are able to heal yourself a number of hit points equal to half the damage you do on any spell from the school of necromancy or that deals necrotic damage. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your 1/2 your Lich level rounded down. You regain this feature after a short or long rest.
Starting at 10th level, you may add your Intelligence modifier to the damage of Drain Touch for each hit dice used. As a bonus action, you can apply Drain Touch to a weapon of your choice, allowing you to drain the next target it hits.
At 11th level, your melee attacks now deal a bonus 2d6 Necrotic damage. Whenever you strike an enemy, you can expend a spell slot to deal 3d6 Necrotic damage plus a further 1d6 for every level the spell slot was past the 1st. This does not apply to attacks made due to non-Lich class features, or attacks made without adding your proficiency bonus.
At 15th level, once per long rest, you can force any non-undead creature within 10 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. This functions alongside Soul Reaper.
Beginning at 14th level, you can reroll a saving throw that you fail. If you do so, you must use the new roll, and you can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
You have started to become a true Lich, your body becomes resilient. Starting at 16th level, you now have resistance to Bludgeoning, Piercing and Slashing from non-magical weapons. At 18th level you gain resistance to Bludgeoning, Piercing and Slashing from magical weapons.
You are now almost a true Lich, your arcane energy giving you power. At 18th level, your resistances to being Charmed, Frightened, and Paralyzed have now become immunities.
Absence Of Life
You have now reached the peak of Lichdom, becoming a True Lich indeed. At 20th level, your Intelligence knows no bounds and increases by 4 to a maximum of 24. You also can grow to a maximum of 2 feet taller than your current height. You no longer age as well but your bones will start to become dull or stained depending on what you have done or will do in the future. Your pupils will now always have a small, red glow to them, 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 the Lich take 2d8 necrotic damage per round. This damage is increased to 3d8 if the creature is below half health and is a living creature.
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 prowls and physical strength makes you a deadly foe on the battlefield, especially with an undead horde at your beck and call.
- Warrior's Proficiency
When you take this archetype at 1st level, you gain proficiency in Medium armor, heavy armor, shields and all martial weapons.
- Lich Fighting Style
At 2nd level, you may choose any of the following Lich Fighting Styles. You cannot take two Lich Fighting styles.
- Unholy Strength: You become able to wield up to one oversized weapon at a time even if you are not a Large creature, and your unarmed strikes now deal 1d4 damage. In addition, your lift, drag, and push capacity doubles.
- Nightmare Duelist: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack. When you make a disengage action, you can attack with a single weapon as a bonus action.
- Immortal Body: Your unarmored AC is now equal to 10 + your Intelligence modifier + your Constitution modifier, and you gain resistance to Piercing damage. You may have a shield equipped and still benefit from this style.
- Extra Attack
At 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the full Attack action on your turn.
- Corporeal Manifestation
Starting at 10th level, you are now able to control the necrotic energy that manifests your physical form. Taking damage from your foes has forced you master the art of weaving your physical form to better counter their attacks. During a short or long rest, you can choose to channel your energy into altering your undead body.
- Skeletal Form: you gain + 1 to your AC and resistance to slashing and piercing but vulnerability to bludgeoning. You lose the "remarkably well preserved" trait in this form but gain proficiency in intimidate.
- If you already had resistance to piercing, due to Immortal Body, you gain immunity to non-magical piercing damage, instead.
- Cadaver Form: Your normal cadaver form gains +2 to AC.
Starting at 18th level, as an action, you materialize necrotic energy in your weapon, and you can strike all foes within a cone with a single melee attack. The range of the cone is equal to your weapon's reach + 10 ft. If you are wielding a ranged weapon, this attack instead strikes one target within range and all targets within 5 ft of it. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Constitution modifier, and you regain all uses after a long rest. You may expend one hit die to heal 1d8 for every enemy brought to 0 HP
Fully embracing magic, you now work tirelessly to fill your bones with dimension rending power. Will you defy the mistakes that made you an abomination? Or wholly embrace them and become a dark god?
- Pursuit of Power
When you take this archetype at 1st level, you become a three quarters spellcaster and can also learn spells from the Dark Mage spell list.
At 1st level, you know three cantrips which you may choose from the Dark Mage spell lists. Cantrips are fixed in your mind and not stored in your Spellbook.
- Blood Magic
Starting at 2nd level, whenever you reduce a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack or melee/ranged spell attack, you may cast a cantrip as a bonus action.
- Strength of Will
At 5th level, you may add your spellcasting modifier to the damage roll of any cantrip you cast.
- Potent Evocation
At 10th level, you may spend an action empowering the next spell you cast. If you cast a spell as an action next turn, you may cast it as if it were 1 spell level higher.
- Dark Arts Mastery
At 18th level, you learn two 8th level spells and two 9th level spells. You may cast one of the 8th level spells and one of the 9th level spells once per long rest. You may also instead cast a lower level spell as an 8th or 9th level spell using this feature.
Losing your Lichdom
There are two ways you can lose your status as a Lich: Either by being killed in battle and willingly revived with a Revive spell, or through a Wish. When this happens, you lose all of your levels in the Lich class as you are wholly alive again. However, if your phylactery is still intact, becoming a lich is easy again; all that requires is for you to die, and have your corpse be animated through an Animate Dead spell. Doing so will turn you back into a lich instead of its original effect. Should you be revived and your phylactery destroyed, you must perform a full lich ritual to regain your status.
To multiclass as a Lich, you require 13 Intelligence, and 13 Constitution. You must also be involved in an event that would cause you to become a lich.
Lich / Death Knight Spell List
You know all of the spells on the basic Lich spell list.
- 1st Level
alarm, bane, bodysnatch, chromatic orb detect evil and good, detect magic, entangle, lich armor, magic missile, magechain, net of shadows, protection from evil and good, shield, sleep, thunderwave, venomous ray
- 2nd Level
acid arrow, blindness/deafness, detect thoughts, enhance ability, enlarge/reduce, enthrall, fiendish claws, flaming sphere, invisibility, mirror image, moonbeam, pulling shade, ray of enfeeblement, sonic implosion, create guardian, raise mount
- 3rd Level
animate dead, bestow curse, bonesword, crushing despair, counterspell, dispel magic, fireball, glacial pass, phantom steed, protection from energy, frostball, speak with dead, unholy weapon, vampiric touch, conjure wraith
- 4th Level
- 5th Level
animate objects, antilife shell, cloudkill, contagion, dimension door, dispel evil and good, hold monster, insect plague, iron flesh, mislead, raise dead, scrying, hold monster telekinesis, enlighten undead, imbuing ritual
Dark Mage Spell List
If you take the Dark Mage archetype you may also learn these spells.
- 6th Level
- 7th Level
- 8th Level
- 9th Level