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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    BlackDragon

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    Default How to make a player-lich?

    Hi there!

    I DM for a group of players once a week. We recently switched to 5e, and one of the players, the forest-gnome wizard, wishes to become a lich, eventually. His character has specialized himself in the necromancy school and he basically wants to control an army of undeads.

    I was wondering how we could implement this into a playable template/(race?), for his little gnomette, as the MM doesn't have stats for a player-lich.

    The gnomette is quite the insane, creative, cute but unstable character already, who is looking for her long lost mother in the Abyss. I thought of involving her family as a part of the ritual/sacrifice needed to make her phylactery...
    Kind of like "You finally meet your mother again, bond with her after all those years, maybe even present her to your new family, then you realize that the process involving the transformation to a lich would mean sacrificing all of your family, including your newborn daughter, and mother."
    I'm pretty sure this would work as a "ultimate evil ritual", as the only she desires even more than finding her mother, is power, and mostly, knowledge itself.
    With immortality, she could go on studying the mysteries of the world and arcane, a thing she would greatly aspire to do.

    What would you suggest be the ability score bonuses, for a lich?
    What special actions/ bonus spells should i add?
    What would you recommend as a prerequisite to becoming a lich?
    Any ideas on how to proceed with the phylactery ritual?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by MissJynx; 2016-11-03 at 11:34 AM.
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    I would keep everything exactly the same, except:

    The gnome becomes a Lich when it creates a phylactery. The phylactery is a magic item that grants resistance to necrotic damage, vulnerability to radiant damage, and gives the character an additional descriptor of 'undead'. After the PC dies while the phylactery exists, the player will resurrect within 1d4 days (or whatever you would like) wherever the phylactery is. The phylactery is noticeably magic. An evil creature can attempt to control the PC if it has the phylactery with a DC25 Arcana check.
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    There's a lot to unpack here...

    A lich is an extremely powerful individual who has a massive effect on the world around them. Do you really want that in a PC? Are you willing to give the other PCs something equally awesome? How would you challenge them afterwards? Perhaps you have answers to these questions, but if you don't the obvious answer is that the gnome becoming a lich (or choosing to save her family instead) is the end of their story. That represents their victory, at which point that character is retired or made into a recurring NPC.

    If you are going to implement lichdom and you don't want to play it as a kind of super-powered True Polymorph, I'd suggest making it an epic boon. Or even a series of epic boons - first you gain super-powerful necromancy, then you gain some of the MM lich's offensive abilities, then you complete your transformation, become immortal, gain a phylactery (and the associated requirement to feed on the souls of the living) and some of the MM lich's defensive abilities. That way, the rest of the party is keeping (approximate) pace because they're getting their own epic boons at the same time. For reference, I wrote up similar rules for becoming an archfey in my Forests and Faeries supplement.

    Then there's the question of the lore. I totally agree that an unspeakable ritual where the character must choose to do something both personally painful and morally repugnant is necessary, and I think sacrificing your family is a good way to go. Especially if the PC is given an irrevocable choice between lichdom for herself or rescuing her mother from eternal torment. But where will the PC learn the ritual? Traditionally, the secrets of lichdom are known only to liches, gods, archdevils and demon lords (maybe a few others), so it would make sense for the PC to have to earn or steal the secrets from a very powerful entity. That's a campaign arc in itself. But of course, your setting is your own. You're free to make the secrets as easy or hard to find as you like.
    Last edited by Ninja_Prawn; 2016-11-03 at 12:14 PM.
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by MissJynx
    Hi there!

    I DM for a group of players once a week. We recently switched to 5e, and one of the players, the forest-gnome wizard, wishes to become a lich, eventually. His character has specialized himself in the necromancy school and he basically wants to control an army of undeads.

    I was wondering how we could implement this into a playable template/(race?), for his little gnomette, as the MM doesn't have stats for a player-lich.

    The gnomette is quite the insane, creative, cute but unstable character already, who is looking for her long lost mother in the Abyss. I thought of involving her family as a part of the ritual/sacrifice needed to make her phylactery...
    Kind of like "You finally meet your mother again, bond with her after all those years, maybe even present her to your new family, then you realize that the process involving the transformation to a lich would mean sacrificing all of your family, including your newborn daughter, and mother."
    I'm pretty sure this would work as a "ultimate evil ritual", as the only she desires even more than finding her mother, is power, and mostly, knowledge itself.
    With immortality, she could go on studying the mysteries of the world and arcane, a thing she would greatly aspire to do.

    What would you suggest be the ability score bonuses, for a lich?
    What special actions/ bonus spells should i add?
    What would you recommend as a prerequisite to becoming a lich?
    Any ideas on how to proceed with the phylactery ritual?

    Thanks!
    A Lich is a monster (behaviorially). It's inappropriate for a PC. If the character becomes a Lich, it should be run as an NPC from there on out, not a PC.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vogonjeltz View Post
    A Lich is a monster (behaviorially). It's inappropriate for a PC. If the character becomes a Lich, it should be run as an NPC from there on out, not a PC.
    Disagreed. Table-talk is about freedom. Let the players be what they want, once they've done the necessary tasks. Limiting the options for no reason is fun for absolutely nobody.

    Be aware that Liches don't get a massive spellcasting boost the moment they turn into a lich. What they do get is just immortality and the touch attack. Their powerful spellcasting is a result of century-long studies, and the day the lich is born, its spellcasting is no different from yesterday, when it was a mortal archmage.

    And, becoming immune to death by normal means has no effect on the in-combat abilities (DPR, field control, tankiness etc.) of a player character. Unlike Barbarians and Moon Druids, they don't make good tanks, because it still takes days for them to regenerate. Becoming a lich is not as powerful combat-wise as one may imagine - if anything it's the various reckless ideas a lich can put to use that might prove powerful, but that's creativity, so no problem with that.

    Perhaps homebrew a feat or boon that gives the character immortality and the touch attack as a cantrip. That would balance stuff out.

    The touch attack would never be a problem if it scales by character level like other cantrips, because it's a melee attack. Perhaps state it doesn't work with Familiars?
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Once upon a time when a player finished the ritual to become a lich there was a straight 50/50 of it working... or the person dying (no save).

    I think the quest to making a phylactery should be arduous and should include this caveat. If the gnome is truly as gung ho and insane as claimed-> this should be no issue.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    None of my characters would be willing to associate any further with a character that became a lich. The reasoning would be that given the horrible things they have to do to become and sustain lichdome, you can't possibly trust them.

    They might even set about spoiling the ritual if they know it's being attempted or slaying this lich that knows them so well.

    As for the mechanics, I'd require them to get their stats to match the ones in the MM as a minimum starting point. Then they would get the resistances and powers. I would assume their lair powers would have to be reserved for where their phylactery is stored. They would have to murder by sacrifice every living being that the feel any emotional bond to, not only killing them but doing it in a ritualistic fashion that sends their souls to be devoured by Orcus. And they would have to form a pact with Orcus for it to work as he is really the one that sustains them. Feeding souls to the phylactery sends the souls to him, and in turn he uses a small amount of power to keep you going. This is clearly fluff I'm making up for it.

    Edit: Alternately it's possible the ritual would bind the souls of the sacrificed to the lich so they haunt him and only him. Forcing the lich to unlive constantly besieged by the people he betrayed in his list for power. As he feeds his phylactery, the echos of more and more victims haunt him. Orcus might consider this a good joke.
    Last edited by Sigreid; 2016-11-03 at 10:59 PM.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Since the process to become a Lich is a monumental undertaking, I think it deserves a monumental quest to discover those secrets. You might want to consider a quest to discover the Book of Vile Darkness, which I think would be appropriate. Some liberal use of Legend Lore spells should help the player get some information about past, known Liches, which in turn allows the player to gather more information regarding some aspects of the processes involved in Lichdom, any unique 'side effects' of Lichdom (resistances, necrotic/cold based touch attack/aura and so on). All this should start setting the player on the path to ancient, perhaps lost archives of lore which might mention a certain book that puts all of it together for the final preparations.

    As someone else mentioned, becoming a Lich does not mean same day super-powers, it allows that individual time to develop the kinds of magics that have never been catalogued/witnessed....yet.
    Last edited by Norgrim Malgus; 2016-11-04 at 12:01 AM.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gastronomie View Post
    Disagreed. Table-talk is about freedom. Let the players be what they want, once they've done the necessary tasks. Limiting the options for no reason is fun for absolutely nobody.

    Be aware that Liches don't get a massive spellcasting boost the moment they turn into a lich. What they do get is just immortality and the touch attack. Their powerful spellcasting is a result of century-long studies, and the day the lich is born, its spellcasting is no different from yesterday, when it was a mortal archmage.

    And, becoming immune to death by normal means has no effect on the in-combat abilities (DPR, field control, tankiness etc.) of a player character. Unlike Barbarians and Moon Druids, they don't make good tanks, because it still takes days for them to regenerate. Becoming a lich is not as powerful combat-wise as one may imagine - if anything it's the various reckless ideas a lich can put to use that might prove powerful, but that's creativity, so no problem with that.

    Perhaps homebrew a feat or boon that gives the character immortality and the touch attack as a cantrip. That would balance stuff out.

    The touch attack would never be a problem if it scales by character level like other cantrips, because it's a melee attack. Perhaps state it doesn't work with Familiars?
    I would like to second these suggestions as well as add my own balancing suggestion.

    An item as powerful as a phalactery to revive a character indefinitely should probably take up an extra or even all of the characters attunment slots.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gastronomie View Post
    Disagreed. Table-talk is about freedom. Let the players be what they want, once they've done the necessary tasks. Limiting the options for no reason is fun for absolutely nobody.

    Be aware that Liches don't get a massive spellcasting boost the moment they turn into a lich. What they do get is just immortality and the touch attack. Their powerful spellcasting is a result of century-long studies, and the day the lich is born, its spellcasting is no different from yesterday, when it was a mortal archmage.

    And, becoming immune to death by normal means has no effect on the in-combat abilities (DPR, field control, tankiness etc.) of a player character. Unlike Barbarians and Moon Druids, they don't make good tanks, because it still takes days for them to regenerate. Becoming a lich is not as powerful combat-wise as one may imagine - if anything it's the various reckless ideas a lich can put to use that might prove powerful, but that's creativity, so no problem with that.

    Perhaps homebrew a feat or boon that gives the character immortality and the touch attack as a cantrip. That would balance stuff out.

    The touch attack would never be a problem if it scales by character level like other cantrips, because it's a melee attack. Perhaps state it doesn't work with Familiars?
    I was referring primarily to the utterly monstrous requirement to eat the souls of other creatures or devolve into a mindless undead.

    Players are supposed to be the heroes, not the villains of the story.

    Yes, you can let a player become one, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by RavensLand View Post
    I would like to second these suggestions as well as add my own balancing suggestion.

    An item as powerful as a phalactery to revive a character indefinitely should probably take up an extra or even all of the characters attunment slots.
    Not trying to be adversarial, but your recommendation would be unfair. Would you apply this same 'balance' to a mortal Wizard making use of the Clone spells? Two different processes, granted, but they both try to achieve the same end, which is Immortality.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vogonjeltz View Post
    I was referring primarily to the utterly monstrous requirement to eat the souls of other creatures or devolve into a mindless undead.

    Players are supposed to be the heroes, not the villains of the story.

    Yes, you can let a player become one, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
    That's just your preference. You can play an evil character (even in AL) else there wouldn't be the option to be a willing fiend warlock, necromancer (always evil to raise undead), spell like unhallow, etc. Zentharim wouldn't be an option in pretty much all the official campaign.

    Players are supposed to be what was decided at session zero by the players and DM. The players can all be evil and full PVP/backstabbing allowed. Or they are evil but no PVP/backstabbing for X reason decided by everyone (to keep with the teamwork goal of D&D). Or only one player is evil but mostly helps the group/fallow the questlines like Belkar.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    If anyone's interested, I formed some thoughts on how I'd implement lichdom and wrote them up here. If you like them, you're welcome to use them!
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    A Lich has lots of powers, as others have said, make it an Epic Boon.
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Norgrim Malgus View Post
    Not trying to be adversarial, but your recommendation would be unfair. Would you apply this same 'balance' to a mortal Wizard making use of the Clone spells? Two different processes, granted, but they both try to achieve the same end, which is Immortality.
    I could have phrased that better, there would possibly be a lot more going on for the player becoming a lich depending on what the do is planning to give them over time.

    Personally I also don't think clone is comparable here, it takes 120 days for the new body to mature and I don't know any dms that are okay with that long a of a down time.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    If this is what you want to allow in your game, throw out some of the lore.

    Make it fit your game, don't make your game fit the lore. In my game, I have a Lich that was created from a magic experiment. He's not evil (though he doesn't hold life as inherently valuable), and it works for my game. I make crap up. I only care what the DMG says to the point that I find it helpful.

    Easy adaptions: tell your player that once that PC is a Lich, it is not going to be inherently powerful. Most Liches hide out and create a lair for forty or fifty years while they consolidate their power and really discover how to use their Lich-iness. If that is the route the PC wants to go, push the sheet across the table - this adventure happens now.

    Take what the player wants and make it interesting and engaging and that is the key to running any good game. The PC wants to become a Lich? Make it interesting and engaging. Make it a central part of the story. DONT make it overpowered. Give it inherent vulnerabilities. That makes it interesting.
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Personal suggestions:

    1) Change the Litch requirements. It should be an act of great evil, but not necesserally taxing to the PC. Something with some fluff about 13 souls needed to complete the phylactery, discovering your true name to bind your soul to it, and learning a secret spell that is a combination of the magic jar spell with the clone spell and contigiency spell. The 3 spells mentioned before should be known by the wizard who wants to be a Lich.

    2) All you need to add the template is the entry from the MM, and work normally. Put away the legendary actions, and calculate the saving throws: Instead of the proposed values, use the PC's ability scores +their proficiency bonus. Add proficiency to Con saving throws.

    3) Give them double proficiency in Arcana

    4) Damage resistance to cold, lightning and necrotic

    5) Damage imunity to poison and bludgeonig, piercing and slashing from non magical weapons (the latter at your option, and depending how rare it is in your campain for monsters to carry magical weapons. Feel free to remove if necessary)

    6) Truesight 120 ft. Double proficiency in perception.

    7) Rejuvenation. This is your top priority. If a PC wants to become a Lich, he wants so mostly for this ability. Considering the PC can have a number of clones (as the spell) already, it's not game braking, so you don't need to worry about that. All the other bonuses the Lich (custom) template gives are merelly... well, bonuses. This is the central ability, and you can make a lich template with just this ability alone, if you fear the rest is too much. You can also justyfy this (to yourself mostly) as the PC being a new Lich, and that the rest of the abilities are developed over time, not just by becoming a Lich.

    8) Spellcasting: The PC retains his class and spellcasting trait. No need to adjust anything there.

    9) Turn Resistance. It's logiacal to have the PC Lich protected against an atempt to turn it.

    10) Paralyzing Touch. Use the regular bonus to hit with a spell attack. Treat it as a regular Cantrip Melee Spell Attack, that deals 3d6 cold damage. The DC for the decondary effect is set by your spell save DC.


    Finally, feel free to remove abilitied of the template as you feel you should. Overall, this is a template on the very strong side. Here is a list of prioritised abilities in order from most to least importent. If you want to remove things, start from the bottom and up, as the higher the ability is placed in this list, the more tied it is to the core Lich concept (this list does not include the spellcasting trait, witch it assumes you keep, as removing it changes the whole character):

    Rejuvenation (the most important ability)
    Paralyzing Touch
    Damage imunity to poison
    Condition Imunity to Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Poisoned
    Double proficiency in Arcana
    Add proficiency to Con saving throws
    Damage resistance to cold, lightning and necrotic
    Change Damage imutity to damage resistance to bludgeonig, piercing and slashing from non magical weapons
    Damage imunity to bludgeonig, piercing and slashing from non magical weapons
    Truesight 120 ft. Double proficiency in perception.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    In 3.5, the Lich template is +4 LA (which is painful for a caster in D&D 3.5).

    Now, in 5e, the Lich has legendary and lair abilities, as well as that whole environmental impact thing. You can probably safely remove those from a PC version; call it not being ancient and steeped in enough necromancy, or something.

    I'd use the 3.5 template and the 5e monster entry as guidelines for how to build this transformation. Look to how 5e handles lycanthropy, as well, as it's another "afflicted" state that can come about and change the PC's balance.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by RavensLand View Post
    I could have phrased that better, there would possibly be a lot more going on for the player becoming a lich depending on what the do is planning to give them over time.

    Personally I also don't think clone is comparable here, it takes 120 days for the new body to mature and I don't know any dms that are okay with that long a of a down time.
    I consider it comparable because both means try to achieve the same end. The Phylactery is a magical construct that binds a Liches essence to it so it can reform, whereas a mortal Wizard is using magic to construct a new body, or several, so that the Wizards essence(soul) can transfer to it. An attempt at Immortality.

    Keep in mind that a player that is trying to attain Lichdom will have lengthy downtime as well. Research alone can take years, at least, and not all of that is going to involve traditional 'adventuring'. I get that you think that there should be mitigating factors so that balance is maintained in your mind. By virtue of turning into a Lich, that player will also have a number of cons in addition to the pros of such a state. Undeath tends to balance itself in reasonable fashion when weighing the cost/benefits that come with it.
    Last edited by Norgrim Malgus; 2016-11-04 at 10:29 AM.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    It's also worth noting that the typical way to use clone is pre-emptively. Cast it and then put the grown product in stasis somehow, such that when you die, you wake up immediately in the cloneed body.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    It's also worth noting that the typical way to use clone is pre-emptively. Cast it and then put the grown product in stasis somehow, such that when you die, you wake up immediately in the cloneed body.
    Yes, you start the process with an expectation that you might need to use it at some point in the future.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    The most fun I've ever had with clone was as a DM. The party was raiding a githyanki fortress on the astral plane, and somebody did something to plane shift it to a Prime world. The elderly wizard they were arguing with (not yet fighting) had been on the astral for a VERY long time, and immediately collapsed to dust and bones as time caught up with him. His clone - made when he was in his prime, ages ago - woke up and was QUITE annoyed. The party didn't even recognize the naked githyanki that came storming out of a secret room until he started ranting at them about their carelessness.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    The most fun I've ever had with clone was as a DM. The party was raiding a githyanki fortress on the astral plane, and somebody did something to plane shift it to a Prime world. The elderly wizard they were arguing with (not yet fighting) had been on the astral for a VERY long time, and immediately collapsed to dust and bones as time caught up with him. His clone - made when he was in his prime, ages ago - woke up and was QUITE annoyed. The party didn't even recognize the naked githyanki that came storming out of a secret room until he started ranting at them about their carelessness.
    lol, I'm picturing this Githyanki shaking his cane(staff) at the party and telling them to get off his lawn(plane).

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    There is actually a way to become a Lich in Curse of Strahd.

    The first and biggest requirement to becoming a Lich in 5e is that the caster needs to know how to cast Imprisonment. Then they just have to find out how to make the Phylactery and the Potion that kills them and causes them to be reborn as a Lich.

    Orcus knows and asking him seems to be the easiest way of finding out.
    Last edited by Envyus; 2016-11-04 at 02:55 PM.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Envyus View Post
    Orcus knows and asking him seems to be the easiest way of finding out.
    Orcus is basically that one kid who hangs out in the corner of the playground and knows how to 'procure' certain 'items'. Everyone knows he knows, but he's so skeevy that no one really wants to deal with him.
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    biggrin Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ninja_Prawn View Post
    If anyone's interested, I formed some thoughts on how I'd implement lichdom and wrote them up here. If you like them, you're welcome to use them!
    That's awesome!

    Thanks for the help :)
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    In 3.5, the Lich template is +4 LA (which is painful for a caster in D&D 3.5).

    Now, in 5e, the Lich has legendary and lair abilities, as well as that whole environmental impact thing. You can probably safely remove those from a PC version; call it not being ancient and steeped in enough necromancy, or something.

    I'd use the 3.5 template and the 5e monster entry as guidelines for how to build this transformation. Look to how 5e handles lycanthropy, as well, as it's another "afflicted" state that can come about and change the PC's balance.
    Aren't Legendary Actions and Lair Actions something one gains over time? A PC wouldn't have enough time to develop something like that.
    Last edited by DragonSorcererX; 2016-11-06 at 12:39 PM.
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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by DragonSorcererX View Post
    Aren't Legendary Actions and Lair Actions something one gains over time? A PC wouldn't have enough time to develop something like that.
    I assume the lair actions occur wherever the lich hides their phylactery. Which I base only on the idea that it's the real source of their power and they would be stronger near it.

    Legendary actions are just part of the deal.

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Whatever you do, make it gradual.

    A human boy doesn't become an Archmage the day he starts training as an apprentice wizard.

    So, a necromancer doesn't become the MM version of a Lich just as soon as he completes the ritual. He gets a phylactery.... and an auto-resurrection... but keeping the phylactery charged takes ingredients that cost just as much as a Resurrection spell would have cost. And so on...

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    Default Re: How to make a player-lich?

    Quote Originally Posted by ClintACK View Post
    Whatever you do, make it gradual.

    A human boy doesn't become an Archmage the day he starts training as an apprentice wizard.

    So, a necromancer doesn't become the MM version of a Lich just as soon as he completes the ritual. He gets a phylactery.... and an auto-resurrection... but keeping the phylactery charged takes ingredients that cost just as much as a Resurrection spell would have cost. And so on...
    That seems like a bit of a jerk move, honestly. "You've undergone this expensive and plot-driving ritual and invested time, money, and magical power into it, but it doesn't give you a better effect than paying a cleric to resurrect you the next time you die."

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