[RPG] Can only Wizards become Liches


I am in the process of world building for a new game. My ultimate antagonist is going to be a lich, but the bit of research I have done so far all refers to liches having to be wizards, due to the spell and phylactery creation requirement.

I am therefore wondering:

In D&D 5e, could a non-magic user become a lich, assuming he could convince a mage to perform the rites?

Best Answer

In fifth edition, the description of liches does indeed suggest that they are specifically wizards. But... well... fifth edition has said a lot of really dumb things, in my opinion, on the subject of liches. Requiring a major artifact in The Book of Vile Darkness, forcing archdevils or demon princes to be involved in each individual lich is ridiculous, and the whole “must consume soul energy” thing kind of... defeats the entire point of the lich. So I would not recommend taking fifth edition especially seriously here. It’s kind of full of bad writing—in my mind, a lich is defined by its selfishness and its obsession with collecting all the magic possible. A lich often seeks undeath precisely to avoid having to deal with others, fiends included. (No small number are no doubt an attempt to avoid paying up in some previous infernal bargain.)

Which is more or less how liches have been since the origins of D&D. While wizards are somewhat traditional—after all, wizards tend to be the ones obsessed with hoarding knowledge, which is precisely what a lich is about—there have always been liches from all kinds of spellcasting traditions, even ones you might think are incompatible like druids.

But they have always been spellcasters, and not just any spellcaster but fairly powerful ones. Again, collecting and mastering “all the magic” is kind of a lich’s basic raison d’être. The ultimate form of a lich was known as a “demilich” because they’re “only half there,” as they transcend this physical reality in search of more magic from beyond the limits of our existence.

In short, yeah, liches kinda have to be spellcasters. Non-spellcasters tend to favor other forms of undeath—becoming vampires, mummies, death knights, etc. In fourth edition, one could become a lich with “just” Ritual Caster, and no other magic, but even “just” Ritual Caster is pretty significant, especially considering that it also requires a fairly high level (in most editions of D&D, the minimum level to become a lich is around the halfway mark to the system’s highest level).

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