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Immortality. The goal, the very pinnacle of achievement for a great many arcane spellcasters in the world. There are warriors and knights who seek to gain everlasting fame through deeds of great valour and heroism, whilst rogues and thieves in every city constantly attempt to outmatch one another in feats of daring and superlative skill for much the same reason. Priests and clerics are assured of everlasting life in the domains of their gods, if they prove worthy followers. It is the arcane practitioner alone who seems to be particularly susceptible to the dream of eternal life, to outlive all his peers, to see all the tomorrows yet to come.
Through legend and myth, a practitioner may learn of many possible routes to immortality, many paths to avoid the death that is inevitable to every mortal creature. It is through necromancy, however, that many are drawn in the quest for this goal. There is a common presumption that through the study of negative energies, one is naturally brought closer to the understanding of the fine boundaries between life and death. With this understanding, a practitioner may uncover the lore needed to circumvent his own death and, possibly, that of others. Ultimately, there is no easy way to achieve a permanent immortality, for the universe always seems to contrive that nothing of worth is ever given easily. Many a necromancer will use spells of longevity to vastly increase their lifetimes, though such magicks must be constantly cast each and every day for the desired effect and require a continual draining of blood from subjects, be they willing or otherwise. In one way or another, time always seems to finally catch up with such practitioners. Others, however, are drawn by a morbid fascination to the undead creatures they constantly animate and create. Once past the relatively basic skills of animating automatons such as skeletons and zombies, a necromancer will become all too aware that the greater undead possess both intelligence, awareness and, were it not for his own control of them, their own dreams, hopes and ambitions. Such ponderings have consumed necromancers in the past and their studies take a much darker turn as they begin to pry into the mysteries of the art to discover how intelligence and awareness might be preserved in a body immune to the disease and ageing of mortals. This is the study of lichdom.
The decision to begin the attempt to become a lich is not one to be taken lightly and yet many practitioners rarely recognise the point of no return, even as they cross. So intense is their study and research, they may never actually ask why they pursue such a goal or whether the forfeits they must pay are worth the boons. The drive to discover, to learn, to know is a trap all too many arcane scholars and wizards brush against in their careers but the practitioner who aspires to lichdom is often bordering on the insane in his desire for long-forgotten knowledge and, ultimately, power. The lifespan of any mortal is insufficient to comprehend the greater mysteries of the universe and thus the idea of becoming an ever-living lich is appealing to some.
In attaining lichdom, the practitioner leaves behind all concerns of the flesh. Never again to eat, drink, breathe or enjoy the fruits of love, no matter how he desires them. His flesh will decay, rotting into nothingness as the husk of his body is driven by sheer willpower alone. However, he will gain tremendous power that can be focused into his continuing studies. No longer concerned with the day-to-day lives of mere mortals, he will start to conceive schemes and machinations that may take centuries to unfold. He will now be immune to almost anything that can harm living creatures, bar magic, and the years, centuries, even millennia that lie ahead of him ensure no mortal practitioner will ever be his peer. To be a lich is to become one of the walking dead but for one of determined will and conscience it is, perhaps, the only true path to the ultimate arcane power.
In keeping with the myriad ebbs and flows of magic, there is more than one method to attain the transformation into a lich. Dark artifacts of immense power may grant the undead state immediately and the use of ritual magic are at least known, if rarely used. Artifacts are things born of legend though and may be hard to find, whilst few necromancers have the benefit of knowing, much less trusting, other arcane spellcasters wishing to devote their energies so that he may outlive them all. To become a lich is possible purely through a practitioner’s own knowledge, skill and ambition but it is one of the most hazardous undertakings known to any school of magic.
Becoming a Lich
The process that leads to the transformation into a lich is lengthy, expensive and extremely dangerous for practitioners who begin before they are truly ready. Only the more powerful spellcasters may even attempt to become a lich and of those, only a very tiny fraction may actually succeed. The cold fact is that to become one of the undead, one must actually die first. One simple mistake, one tiny flaw in the preparations will end the life of the practitioner permanently. No great goal of immortality in the wretched husk of a lich will welcome, only a dark, dry grave.
Beginning the Transformation
To even begin the process of becoming a lich, the necromancer must meet the following requirements:
Spellcasting: Must be able to cast arcane spells of 6th level or higher
Feats: Brew Potion, Craft Wondrous Item, Spell Focus necromancy
Knowledge Skills: Necrology 14 ranks, Spirit Lore 12 ranks
No mere hedge wizard or tavern prestidigitator may consider, or even be aware of, this terrible rite of sorcery. Only the most powerful of wizards and sorcerers have the skill and strength of will necessary to contemplate stepping beyond the grave.
Every lich has a phylactery in which the very essence of their life force is retained. So long as the phylactery remains intact, a lich is truly immortal for the destruction of its physical form will merely cause the raising of another within days. A phylactery may take virtually any material form, though it is always a masterfully crafted item that proves extremely durable.
The creation of a phylactery is the first step a necromancer must take to begin the transformation. He must expend 120,000 gp in the process, which includes the cost of the masterworked item that will serve as the actual phylactery. The crafting takes 120 days, following all the usual rules for creating a wondrous magical item and will also cost the necromancer 4,800 XP. Magic jar and permanency spells must be cast into the phylactery as it is being crafted.
The Concoction of Death
The phylactery created, the necromancer must now prepare a potion of death, a brew so charged with negative energy it annihilates life upon contact. It is this potion the necromancer must drink to end his current life and make the transformation into unlife. One mistake in the preparation of this lethal concoction will bring only death to the practitioner when the time arrives for his passage to lichdom.
This deadly potion takes 25,000 gp, 3,600 XP and one week to brew. As it is being prepared, the necromancer must cast animate dead, chill blood, enervation and permanency into it.
The potion must be drunk at the height of a new moon, for liches are creatures of the night and it is in this darkness where their powers are greatest. Consumed at any other time, the potion will only grant the most dire of results.
Upon drinking the potion, the necromancer will fall comatose for 2d10 days with no means, magical or otherwise, able to revive him as he slowly dies. At the end of this time, he must make an Intelligence check at DC 16 in order to discover if the preparation of the potion was truly flawless. Failure will result in the death of mind, body and soul as the negative energy unleashed by this most awesome of magicks consumes him utterly. A practitioner dying in this way may not be raised or resurrected by any means.
Success, however, will grant the necromancer true immortality as he rises into new unlife as a lich. Apply the lich template in the SRD immediately. The necromancer has now truly stepped beyond the grave.