My RAW Necromancer (pure Wizard) wants to become a Lich.
What's the surest path to becoming one?
He is OK to change alignment and spend lots of coins, but not to worship any god or sell his soul with an infernal contract.
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By RAW, the surest way to become a Lich is to use the occult ritual : Eternal Apotheosis
The main problem is to find a way to learn this ritual.
Depending on your GMs approval, a DC 24 Intelligence check might be enough to learn it from scratch.
Learning a ritual from hidden clues or from scratch takes a week or a month per ritual level (GM’s discretion). At the end of this period of study and contemplation, the person attempting to learn the ritual must succeed at an Intelligence check (DC = 15 + the ritual level if learning from clues or a coerced teacher, or DC = 10 + the ritual level if learning from an instructor eager to teach).
If you GM approves, this is the easiest way.
If you GM does not approves, there's a longer but surer path.
Who could teach it without taking your soul or devotion in payment ?
Your surest bet is the Greater True Name Feat (taken at lvl 15)
With this feat, you can learn the true name of a Lilitu Which has just the right number of HD to be called in this manner.
As per the True Name description :
It must obey you to the best of its ability, without pay or bargaining for its services, for its fear that you might release its true name to the wider world is enough to bring even the most recalcitrant of outsiders to bear.
Which means the Lilitu will do everything in her power to help you for free.
Now how can you be sure that the Lilitu knows this Ritual ?
Well. Orcus, the arch demon of undeath and patron of Liches happens to have lots of Lilitu at his service
In his Abyssal realm of Uligor, Orcus is served by strange demon-undead hybrids, powerful liches, and lilitu demons.
Also, Lilitu are demons of sin, they will try to push mortals to commit sins by granting them Wishes. And becoming a Lich is typically the kind of "sin" Orcus encourages.
So, use the feat to find the True Name of a Lilitu that worships Orcus and ask her to use her "Wish" ability to explain you the Eternal Apotheosis ritual and threaten to spread her True Name if she doesn't. (or tries to trick you in any way.)
Once the Occult Ritual is learnt, all you have to do is perform the ritual and make your Phylactery.
Beware that the ritual is inherently a heinously evil act and involves a number of DC 34 skill checks. And in case of failure, your character will turn into a forsaken Lich and die in matter of months.
This is the safest path I could find to Lichdom, which doesn't mean that it is safe at all. The Lilitu might try to get revenge on you and purposely give you a false ritual destined to fail or come during the ritual to prevent you from succeeding in it's accomplishment, all of this is at your DMs discretion of course.
The kind of wizard who wants to become a lich isn't a playable character. The best way is to retire it and ask if the DM can give you some skill checks once a game year, to see how things are going. Or maybe ask the DM to play it as an NPC. Your next characters may get a mission from your old wizard to retrieve some ancient scrolls from an evil cult. That would be fun.
The reason is that liches aren't merely a thing wizards can turn into. They're a thing an insane, obsessed one might do. From the lich template ob the pathfinder D20 site:
While many who reach such heights of power stop at nothing to achieve immortality, the idea of becoming a lich is abhorrent to most creatures. [...] the spellcaster gives up life, but in trapping life he also traps his death [...] he can continue on in his research and work without fear of the passage of time.
Even power-mad mages think wanting to be a lich is raving bonkers. Especially when they cackle and proclaim "at long last I can ... continue on in my research ??".
Onto becoming one. The Pathfinder Wiki lich entry has this to say:
[...] The process itself is a quite difficult and lengthy one [...] researching the process is expensive in the extreme, requiring the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of gold pieces, and requires months, years, or even decades of research.2 [...]
That seems to have been partly copied from the lich monster template, which says this about becoming one:
The exact methods for each spellcaster’s transformation are left to the GM’s discretion, but should involve expenditures of hundreds of thousands of gold pieces, numerous deadly adventures, and a large number of difficult skill checks over the course of months, years, or decades.
Put those together and it seems you could do research for decades (if we can trust the wiki). That's the safest way. Or you could speed it up to mere months with deadly adventures and riskier skill checks.
So firstly, pre-liches are mages who only want to do research. Even worse, they've given up on normal research for now, becoming obsessed with being able to do research forever. And they've stopped caring about anything in the world -- that's why a living death as a cold, passionless abomination in a lair seems like a good idea. Even mad scientists want to show up everyone who ever laughed at them; and vampires like being around people; but liches, even pre-liches, have no interest in the affairs of the living.