The Arcane Lich: Exotic Undead)

Copyright R. Dan Henry © 2010

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Their belief that magic is the only power of importance is usually supreme in their characters"


Level: 30G
Base Move: 40
Max Pace: FSpt
MM Bonus: +20
Hits: 300G
Crits: LA#
AT(DB): 18(75)
#Enc.: 1
Treasure: xvv
Bonus XP: L
Attacks: 150We[Void]/Spells/Special
Climate: (-)-EKNX#,(-,-,-)-9
Outlook: Cruel(EX)

Description: The Arcane Lich is skeletal, with bones that glow faintly in darkness or shadows. Their finery may be rotten, but if they wear conjuring robes, these will have been carefully preserved. Jewelry will not be worn unless it is magical. In the eye sockets of an Arcane Lich, there burns an unholy green light. The chill around them is different from that of a normal Lich. Anyone who has experienced the cold of a Lich will instantly notice that, while superficially a chilling aura like that of Lich, the aura of an Arcane Lich is significantly different. It is frequently described as a "spiritual rather than physical" cold.

Lifestyle: Like other Liches, Arcane Liches are frequently hungry for power, although they are generally much less interested in schemes and building organizations. Their belief that magic is the only power of importance is usually supreme in their characters. They will seek to acquire magical knowledge and items of magical power or utility. Any servants will be kept purely to guard the lich and its valuables or to seek out more items. Those sent to seek out items are usually the less useful, and therefore expendable, resources. For example, if a group of bandits began operating nearby, the Lich might intimidate them and insist that they seek targets with items of interest to the Lich. They will either be killed, ridding the Lich of a potential annoyance, or pay tribute to the Lich, enriching its store of magical collectables. Arcane Liches will make deals if taking what they want is not trivial, and will usually keep their side of the bargain, since betrayal could lead to escalating conflict and unnecessary distraction from magical learning.

Combat: Any being must make an RR against Fear when they first come within 100' of an Arcane Lich or panic and flee at maximum pace until exhausted. This effect will continue whenever that individual comes within the 100' radius until an RR is finally made. If an Arcane Lich chooses to attack with a weapon (which will always be magical, as it considers non-magical weapons beneath contempt), it will deliver an additional Void critical of equal severity to the normal critical. If an Arcane Lich touches a victim, this has the effect of a +80 Void Bolt, as well as draining 5 Constitution points if an RR (at --20) is not successful. An Arcane Lich drains 5 Power Points from any living thing within a 20' radius each round, unless an RR (at --30) is made. This final power can be suppressed by the Lich with minimal concentration (10% activity), and it will do so in order to train apprentices it hopes to corrupt with offers of magical power or to conduct diplomacy at close quarters.

The Arcane Lich will know all Evil Arcane lists, all of one Arcane profession's Base lists, and at least eight more lists from Open and Closed Arcane Lists and Evil lists of Channeling, Mentalism, and Essence. These will be known to the Lich's own level or possibly higher. The Arcane Lich has 20 PPs per level, as the process of becoming an Arcane Lich binds it to some powerful source of magic.

The Arcane Lich itself is hard to influence by magic, as it is of rather high level and has a +25 bonus to all RRs against spells of any type. An Arcane Lich will have very good magical skills and may use powerful rituals or spell-mastered spells, and it can generally use all magical items in its possession.

Background: Arcane users are rare. Evil Arcane users are rarer still. Evil Arcane users who reach high level are even more rare. Thus, as you might imagine, the group of those who choose lichhood is vanishingly small. In a low magic world, an Arcane Lich could easily be unique.

The Arcane Lich typically achieved its status by means of a ritual whereby an Earthnode or similar place of power was corrupted and placed in a mystic bond with the new Arcane Lich. The magic of such places takes on a darker manifestation than normal, haunted by particularly nasty monsters or suffering under some form of curse. Still, while the Arcane Lich is a sinister figure, it is intelligent and may be bargained with. It may even welcome trading its secret magical knowledge, in the belief that this will bring the recipient closer to the Lich's own point of view.

To permanently destroy an Arcane Lich, the bond between the Lich and its power source must somehow be severed. Dispels cast on the Arcane Lich can accomplish this, but these will be resisted at the Lich's level, with a +25 RR bonus, and all three Realms must be Dispelled by a single caster. Any magic that can purify the Arcane Lich's power source will also sever the bond, although the bond resists any such attempts based on either the level of the power source, or the level of the lich, whichever is greater.

Finally, there will always be some method of breaking an Arcane Lich's bond that is specific to that manner in which the bond was formed. If the library of an Arcane Lich is completely searched, somewhere will be found the notes on this procedure. Using these notes, a knowledgeable investigator will be able to determine the steps needed to sever the bond.

Adventure Ideas: If a GM is looking to introduce Arcane magic to a campaign that has not previously used it, the Arcane Lich can be a source of Arcane knowledge, either directly as a teacher, indirectly through the looting of its library, or indirectly through some intermediary (e.g., the player characters meet an apprentice of the Lich or find a tome or some scrolls it traded in exchange for something it wanted more). The Lich may not even demand anything that the characters would be loathe to offer in exchange for teaching. They are evil and power-hungry, but they are not nihilistic. Their magic may make them aware of existential threats that could destroy or seriously inconvenience them, as well as slaughter thousands of innocent lives that the Lich is unconcerned with, and the Arcane Lich might teach some of its lore in exchange for missions that could be described as heroic, allowing the Lich to act as a plot hook that will have the players looking for the sinister motive that (possibly) does not exist.

An Arcane Lich is a terrible foe that can threaten high-level characters in combat. However, direct confrontation will do little good unless the Lich can be destroyed permanently. Unless the Lich's enemies are powerful spell-casters able to Dispel the Arcane Lich's bond, characters will need to identify the weakness inherent in the bond in order to undo the Lich.

Simply discovering an Arcane Lich can be the product of several encounters. They are extremely rare and tend to remain in isolated study. Player characters may find hints of the Arcane Lich's existence and follow the trail of clues in order to discover the location of the Lich and details of its nature.

Attacks on some town or other location may be caused by agents of an Arcane Lich seeking to claim some item for their master. If this is discovered, the location may be protected by destroying the item (the Lich will probably just move on to something else), sending the item away to some distant location (hoping the Lich will decide it is too far away to bother with any more), or the brave may try to negotiate and barter the item for something the Lich possesses and values less.

Before the player characters become aware that the Arcane Lich even exists (if they ever do), they may still encounter its influence by passing through the area corrupted by its ties to the Lich. This is a chance to use unique monsters, bizarre and threatening magical effects, or simply engage in disturbing flavor text. If investigated, the area is not technically cursed nor under the effects of any spell. Discovery of the cause of this corruption may lead to a confrontation with the Lich by the powerful or foolish, or it may lead to a mystery solved followed by a prudent withdrawal from the area.