Best of the Bestiary, D&D

Lich: Adventure Time Joke

Does that title joke show my age?

You can tell that this is a boss monster when the stats come before the lore. And when the stats take up an entire god damn page. And when the lore takes up another full damn page.

Hoo boy. This is gonna be a big one.

Lore: Corruption of Magic

Some great wizards embrace undeath in an effort to continue their research and further their powers, concocting plans that take decades or even centuries to be completed. Their thirst for knowledge has reduced their empathy to nothing and drove them to utter insanity.

Becoming a lich is far from easy. Any wizard seeking lichdom must make bargains with fiends, evil gods, or any other evil being. Some seek Orcus, Demon Prince of Undeath. Whoever they turn to, they must be prepared to swear an oath of fealty to them. Afterwards, they create a phylactery, an amulet in the shape of a small box, to trap their soul, then drink a vile poison to transform them into their immortal undead forms.

In order to sustain themselves, a lich must occasionally feed souls to their phylactery to preserve the magic keeping them alive. To do so, it will imprison one person within the box with the imprisonment spell. Only a 9th-level dispel magic spell can set the victim free. Should they be trapped within, they’ll die within 24 hours, with no hope of rescue beyond divine intervention. Should the lich fail to keep this up consistently, they’ll eventually devolve into a demilich.

When a lich dies, their will and mind will vanish, leaving only the corpse behind. Within days, a new body forms near the phylactery. Should the box be destroyed, the lich will die forever. Thus, the lich keeps it well-hidden. Though destroying the phylactery requires extremely powerful magic, a ritual, or a specialized item.

Every few centuries, the lich’s hunger for power and knowledge retract enough for it to take interest in the rest of the world, usually when something reminds it of its former life. Aside from that, they interact only with those who uphold their lairs and focus exclusively on expanding their magical collections. Most even abandon their old names, preferring to adopt a title instead.

There is plenty to work with in that lore. Perhaps the party gradually learns about a powerful wizard over the course of their adventure, only to learn that they have become a lich under a different name. Or maybe a valued NPC is kidnapped to be fed to a lich to sustain it and they need to save it. Hell, maybe you’re doing an evil campaign and your party is trying to make a lich! Whatever you choose, this guy will make for a great boss, be it a final big-bad or just the end to a quest line.

Design: Zombo Wizard

For all that lore, they sure didn’t get creative with the design.

Well, at least he has drip.

This is a perfectly fine design. It at least looks more menacing than just a zombie in robes. Its robes look cool, the gems in its head help it stand out, and its exposed ribs (that’s what his chest looks like, at least) make it pretty grotesque. It kinda looks like how I imagined Voldemort to look when I read the Harry Potter books as a kid.

Still, you won’t find much joy in describing this guy to your players. It’s a fine looking monster, but it doesn’t have any truly stand out feature. It’s an effective look, but not an especially creative one.

Stats: The Ultimate Dark Wizard

Christ. This ain’t just a boss, this is a big boss!

It isn’t the bulkiest beast of the lot. It has a high AC, but its HP isn’t all that impressive for a boss. Although that HP pool is bolstered by its resistances to cold, lightning, and necrotic damage and its immunity to poison and nonmagical melee damage. To top that off, it is immune to charm, exhaustion, fright, paralysis, and poison.

Killing it is even harder than that. It has three Legendary Resistances, which allows it to automatically succeed any saving throw. With Turn Resistance, it is immune to all effects that turn undead. And with Rejuvenation, it can regain its body after 1d10 days post death, so long as it has a phylactery. Fail to destroy that, and the lich will remain immortal.

Action wise, it doesn’t have much. In fact, it only has one move: Paralyzing Touch. This does a small amount of damage, and it leaves the victim paralyzed if they fail a DC 18 Con save. On its own, it isn’t a dangerous move.

But when put in tandem with its spell list? That’s a different story.

  • Cantrips (at will): mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost
  • 1st level (4 slots): detect magic, magic missile, shield, thunderwave
  • 2nd level (3 slots): detect thoughts, invisibility, Melf’s acid arrow, mirror image
  • 3rd level (3 slots): animate dead, counterspell, dispel magic, fireball
  • 4th level (3 slots): blight, dimension door
  • 5th level (3 slots): cloudkill, scrying
  • 6th level (1 slot): disintegrate, globe of invulnerability
  • 7th level (1 slot): finger of death, plane shift
  • 8th level (1 slot): dominate monster, power word stun
  • 9th level (1 slot): power word kill

Fucking. Christ!

On top of all that, it has Legendary Actions. These allow it to cast a cantrip or use Paralyzing Touch (which costs 2 actions). Or it could use Frightening Gaze (another one that costs 2 actions), which frightens one creature it can see within ten feet of it, should it fail its saving throw. And, at the cost of all three Legendary Actions, it can use Disrupt Life, which deals a monstrous amount of damage to any non-undead creatures that fail a save within 20 feet of the lich.

Finally, it has the Lair Actions. One allows the lich to regain a spell slot. Another tethers the monster to a player, splitting whatever damage it takes between the two. The last allows it to summon evil spirits that can deal a monstrous 52(15d6) necrotic damage on a failed saving throw.

All of this combines to make one of the most varied and deadly boss fights you could offer your players. Between his shit ton of spells and abilities to regain them, highly dangerous lair actions, and his pension for status ailments, the lich is an easy pick for any DM seeking to truly challenge their players and their limits.

Placement

This is a really strong boss monster. It has some incredible lore and stats. The only real weakness is in its design. Aside from that, it’s a great entry!

With all that in mind, let’s place the Lich on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Dragon Turtle
  4. Green Dragons
  5. Red Dragons
  6. Blue Dragons
  7. Black Dragons
  8. White Dragons
  9. Silver Dragons
  10. Couatl
  11. Behir
  12. Aboleth
  13. Sea Hag
  14. Lamia
  15. Bronze Dragons
  16. Brass Dragons
  17. Copper Dragons
  18. Gold Dragons
  19. Chuul
  20. Kuo-Toa
  21. Gibbering Mouther
  22. Kraken
  23. Intellect Devourer
  24. Chimera
  25. Death Knight
  26. Fomorian
  27. Bone Devil
  28. Dracolich
  29. Faerie Dragon
  30. Lich <——————————–
  31. Kobold
  32. Kenku
  33. Hobgoblins
  34. Night Hag
  35. Green Hag
  36. Ankheg
  37. Hook Horror
  38. Storm Giant
  39. Hill Giant
  40. Empyrean
  41. Efreeti
  42. Grimlock
  43. Dao
  44. Cloud Giant
  45. Drow (all four of ’em)
  46. Shadow Demon
  47. Marilith
  48. Drider
  49. Aarackockra
  50. Azer
  51. Demilich
  52. Spectator
  53. Hydra
  54. Marid
  55. Harpy
  56. Werejackal
  57. Half-Dragon
  58. Cambion
  59. Fire Giant
  60. Animated Armor
  61. Banshee
  62. Basilisk
  63. Yochlol
  64. Bulette
  65. Cloaker
  66. Darkmantle
  67. Doppelganger
  68. Ghoul and Ghast
  69. Ettin
  70. Pit Fiend
  71. Erinyes
  72. Chain Devil
  73. Bearded Devil
  74. Barbed Devil
  75. Spined Devil
  76. Ice Devil
  77. Djinni
  78. Nalfeshnee
  79. Glabrezu
  80. Chasme
  81. Grell
  82. Barlgura
  83. Horned Devil
  84. Balor
  85. Shadow Dragon
  86. Vrock
  87. Dretch
  88. Gnolls (all three)
  89. Goristro
  90. Hezrou
  91. Manes
  92. Frost Giant
  93. Duergar
  94. Quasit
  95. Dryad
  96. Flumph
  97. Goblin
  98. Githyanki
  99. Planetar
  100. Imp
  101. Clay Golem
  102. Flameskull
  103. Displacer Beast
  104. Carrion Crawler
  105. Githzerai
  106. Grick
  107. Invisible Stalker
  108. Rug of Smothering
  109. Bugbear Chief
  110. Bugbear
  111. Flesh Golem
  112. Vine Blight
  113. Twig Blight
  114. Needle Blight
  115. Bullywug
  116. Hellhound
  117. Ettercap
  118. Gas Spore
  119. Cockatrice
  120. Lemure
  121. Homonculus
  122. Solar
  123. Deva
  124. Gorgon
  125. Hippogriff
  126. Griffon
  127. Cyclops
  128. Centaur
  129. Ghost
  130. Fire Elemental
  131. Water Elemental
  132. Air Elemental
  133. Stone Giant
  134. Deep Gnome
  135. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  136. Iron Golem
  137. Stone Golem
  138. Earth Elemental
  139. Galeb Duhr
  140. Helmed Horror
  141. Flying Sword
  142. Crawling Claw
  143. Violet Fungus
  144. Shrieker
  145. Gargoyle

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