Monster Optimization: Rebuilding the Lich

by Mike Shea on 13 September 2010

Liches are my favorite monster in D&D. They are ancient beyond imagination and twisted by black magics older than any living mage could even begin to understand. They've forgotten more lore than most living sages would ever know and they have had centuries to perfect their art.

I'm not happy with the way 4th Edition lichs came out in the first Monster Manual. They focus exclusively on necrotic damage with no way to counteract resistances. They fall into the trap of an at-will Stun condition that just pisses off players. They have no real protection in combat.

Today we're going to rebuild the standard Lich with a level 18 and a level 28 version of the masters of undeath.

Beginning with basic stats, we'll give the lich reduced fortitude and reflex for enhanced will. These guys have the will of the greatest spellcasters even if they're physically weak.

For an aura, we'll give the lich an Aura of Undeath that reduces healing effects and eliminates necrotic resistance. When the Lich becomes bloodied, it also adds 10 necrotic damage to its aura as its essence of undeath begins to break apart.

For standard actions we'll give the lich a Touch of Undeath that mimics the older edition Lich's paralyzing touch. We'll also give him a necrotic ray that splits to two targets - important for an elite controller.

The entropic burst is the Lich's main control mechanism. The lich can break up the battlefield or rid itself of a nasty ranged attacker for a little bit. It can also do it a few times in a battle which is nice.

Sundering Word is the Lich's main big badass attack. It smashes down an opponent's defenses, leaving the opponent open to additional horrible attacks. We also made it reliable so it's not blown if it misses, important for an encounter power.

For the Lich's minor action we have Master of Elements which turns the lich into an elemental master of one particular element such as Fire or Poison. This makes every lich unique both in flavor and in attack power. This also helps the lich break through resistances since every attack now hits two elemental types.

For another minor we'll give the lich Curse of Ages, an escalating necrotic curse. This mimics the lich draining the life force from an opponent and aging them at an alarming rate. This might cause a permanent effect on a character (such as a lock of permanently grey hair) if it reaches its full maximum.

For a move action, we're giving the lich an escape both from physical attacks and from status effects. This helps protect the lich from getting ganged up on and gives it a chance to shake status effects it doesn't like.

What's left is a much more deadly and sinister lich that truly acts the part as a master of undeath. As an elite, it will still have many undead and demonic minions to protect it, but there is no reason that it couldn't end up as a solo master lich, but that is a tale for another day.

Let's look at the stat blocks:

Initiative +14

AC 32; Fortitude 27; Reflex 30; Will 34

HP 340; Bloodied 170

Immune disease, poison, sleep; Resist 20 necrotic; Vulnerable 5 radiant;

Speed+2 saving throws; 1 action point

Speed 6; Hover 6

Aura of Undeath; Aura 5

Any enemy within the aura loses necrotic resistance and receives 1/2 healing from any healing effect.

Breaking Bonds; Aura 5 when bloodied

Any creature that enters or begins within the aura takes 10 necrotic damage.

Touch of Undeath; At-Will

+23 vs AC; 2d8+10 necrotic damage and the target is immobilized (save ends). First failed save; the target is restrained (save ends)

Black Ray

+21 vs Reflex; range 20, one or two targets; 3d6+14 necrotic damage and ongoing 10 necrotic damage (save ends).

Entropic Burst; Recharge 4,5,6; sustain minor

Burst 2 within 10; +21 vs Reflex; 3d6+14 necrotic damage. The burst creates a zone that completely obscures vision. Any creature beginning within or entering the zone takes 15 necrotic damage.

Sundering Word; Encounter; reliable

range 10; +21 vs Fortitude; 2d12+19 necrotic damage and the target gains vulnerability 10 damage and -4 defenses (save ends both).

Master of Elements, encounter power

The lich adds one elemental keyword of the following list to all damage types: fire, cold, lighting, acid, poison. This affects all attacks and the lich's aura.

Curse of Ages, Recharge 4,5,6

range 20; +21 vs Will; ongoing 5 necrotic damage. First failed save; this increases to ongoing 10 necrotic damage. Second failed save; this increases to ongoing 15 necrotic damage.

Shadow Walk, recharge 5,6

The lich teleports 12 squares and removes one status effect. Any creature adjacent to the lich when it performs this action takes 2d8+10 necrotic damage.

Skills Arcana +21, Diplomacy +19, Insight +15

Str 12 (+10) Dex 16 (+12) Wis 12 (+10) Con 20 (+14) Int 24 (+16) Cha 20 (+14)

And now the Lich Spellmaster, a level 28 version.

Initiative +21

AC 42; Fortitude 36; Reflex 36; Will 42

HP 506; Bloodied 253

Immune disease, poison, sleep; Resist 30 necrotic; Vulnerable 10 radiant;

Speed+2 saving throws; 1 action point

Speed 6; Hover 6

Aura of Undeath; Aura 5

Any enemy within the aura loses necrotic resistance and receives 1/2 healing from any healing effect.

Breaking Bonds; Aura 5 when bloodied

Any creature that enters or begins within the aura takes 20 necrotic damage.

Touch of Undeath; At-Will

+33 vs AC; 2d12+14 necrotic damage and the target is restrained (save ends). First failed save; the target is helpless (save ends)

Black Ray

range 20, one or two targets; +31 vs Reflex; 3d10+19 necrotic damage and ongoing 15 necrotic damage (save ends).

Entropic Burst; Recharge 4,5,6; sustain minor

Burst 2 within 10; +31 vs Reflex; 3d10+19 necrotic damage. The burst creates a zone that completely obscures vision. Any creature beginning within or entering the zone takes 15 necrotic damage.

Sundering Word; Encounter; reliable

+31 vs Fortitude; 4d8+28 necrotic damage and the target gains vulnerability 15 damage and -4 defenses (save ends both).

Master of Elements, encounter power

The lich adds one elemental keyword of the following list to all damage types: fire, cold, lighting, acid, poison. This affects all attacks and the lich's aura.

Curse of Ages, Recharge 4,5,6

+31 vs Will; ongoing 10 necrotic damage. First failed save; this increases to ongoing 20 necrotic damage. Second failed save; this increases to ongoing 30 necrotic damage.

Shadow Walk, recharge 5,6

The lich teleports 12 squares and removes one status effect. Any creature adjacent to the lich when it performs this action takes 2d12+14 necrotic damage.

SkillsSkills Arcana +29, Diplomacy +28, History +29, Insight +28

Str 12 (+15) Dex 16 (+17) Wis 16 (+17) Con 26 (+22) Int 31 (+24) Cha 28 (+23)

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