The Path of the Lich

Unlike Vampirism, lichdom is always a choice. No one has ever accidentally started down the road of lichdom. The traditional road to lichdom is a three step process:

Step One: The Secret of Immortality

There is no such thing as a “typical lich”. Everyone who takes this journey does it on their own terms. The first step along this road is deciding that it is something the character wants and then finding the method.

In the Way of the Wicked adventure path a method is provided to do this. In other campaigns, there may be divergent methods. Perhaps ancient moldering scrolls left behind by a malevolent witch-king related the method so that his minions may join him in wicked immortality.

Whatever the method, finding the secret of lichdom is always a plot moment. It never occurs accidentally but rather when a Game Master agrees that a lich would be appropriate to the campaign.

There are three ironclad requirements that must be met in addition to finding the secret. First, the seeker must be able to cast 5th level arcane or divine spells, they must not have necromancy as a prohibited school (if an arcane caster) or as an abomination of their faith (if a divine caster) and they must be evil. There is no such thing as a good or neutral lich. Why that is will become apparent soon.

Step Two: The Crafting of the Phylactery

Every lich needs a phylactery and this is by far the most time-consuming part of the ritual. The lich must possess the craft wondrous item feat or have an assistant with the feat willing to aid him. The phylactery takes 120 days and 120,000 gp in materials. There is a magical item that will decrease the time (see the onyx chalice) but nothing can decrease the cost.

Once the phylactery is crafted, it is a dangerous item for a wizard to possess. The phylactery counts as part of his own flesh for the purpose of scrying. Anyone who possesses the unfinished phylactery can cast spells against the maker with greater efficacy. The maker takes a -2 penalty to any such spell. Further if the phylactery is destroyed not only is all that work lost, but the maker takes 6d6 damage thanks to the close bond to the object.

Step Three: The Self-Excruciation Ritual

Finally the lich is ready to perform the ritual of self-excruciation. This long and arduous ritual takes 24 hours of elaborate chanting and invoking. It begins at midnight and ends at midnight the next day.

The great culmination of the ritual is the ritual suicide of the seeker. If everything has been done correctly, the seeker will rejuvenate and rise from his own death beside the phylactery. If there are any flaws in the phylactery then the ritual of self-excruciation is merely a particularly morbid and elaborate form of suicide.

Obviously this ritual is a moment of terrible vulnerability for the caster. They must have trusted agents and a base to carry out this ritual. The best time to destroy a lich is when it is first created. After that, they are almost indestructible.

Many versions of the lichdom ritual require that the caster not die alone. Some versions require the sacrifice of an immortal creature or a celestial. Some require the sacrifice of one whom the caster loved at some point in his life in order to cut his connection to mortality. Some require the sacrifice of one to three “escorts” who will, with their own deaths, distract the Harvester of Souls long enough for the lich’s soul to move into the phylactery. And some of the rituals are content merely for the caster cut out his own heart and place it within the phylactery itself.

One thing binds all lichdom rituals together – they are grisly, they are bloody and they are thoroughly evil. After 1d10 days the lich reforms and is reborn into undeath.

Once the ritual is finished, the lich must use of one its feats to gain the special feat “Lich”. If the caster has no free feats, then the next time they gain a feat slot, this one is used for this purpose.


You have undergone the rigorous and blasphemous ritual of lichdom and emerged as an undead creature of legend.

Prerequisites: You have completed the ritual of attaining lichdom, evil alignment,
must be able to cast 5th level arcane or divine spells.

Benefits: You gain the template “lich”.

The Path of the Lich

Knot of Thorns Kyle_G