I'm thinking of using the following setup for a long-term villain in a campaign I'm planning:

A Lich, for whatever reason, has a prepared Clone spell hanging around (maybe paranoia, maybe a forgotten remnant of pre-lichdom, doesn't matter why). Assume the Lich is physically destroyed, and the phylactery is found and destroyed before the Lich manages to fully re-corporate nearby. Would the soul of the Lich then transfer to the Clone and become alive again? Do any rules or lore exist to say this combination would or would not function?

Note that I am not interested in answers where the phylactery is destroyed before the Lich is destroyed, and the resulting unsureness of where the soul would go.

Related answer here, related question and answer here. D&D 5e answers preferred, but rules/lore from earlier editions or PF will be given consideration for guidelines if 5e has nothing.


3 Answers 3


Liches can't transfer into clones.

A Lich is an undead which means it is not alive, as explained in Type (MM, p6):

Undead are once-living creatures brought to a horrifying state of undeath through the practice of necromantic magic or some unholy curse.

Because a Lich is undead, it can't create a new clone:

This spell grows an inert duplicate of a living, Medium creature as a safeguard against death.

Moreover, even if the Lich has a clone created prior to becoming an undead, the spell will never draw the Lich's soul into that clone, for two reasons:

At any time after the clone matures, if the original creature dies, its soul transfers to the clone, provided that the soul is free and willing to return.

  1. A Lich (like every undead) is not alive and its destruction does not qualify as death. Infact, being a Lich means being already dead:

    With its phylactery prepared, the future lich drinks a potion of transformation [...] The wizard falls dead, then rises as a lich

  2. The Lich's soul is not free, and can only reside in its phylactery:

    its soul is drawn into the phylactery, where it forever remains.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I legitimately appreciate the step-by-step spelling it out, thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ It can be argued that the soul is free after the phylactery is destroyed. However, as you mentioned, the process of becoming a Lich involves dying, so the clone would already trigger (and fail) at that point. \$\endgroup\$
    – Egor Hans
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Different point: It could also be possible to make a clone of the phylactery to prevent its disapperance. Since it contains the soul of the Lich, it might qualify as living for the purpose of the spell. The question remains how it would possibly qualify as a creature, but since golems and Elementals AFAIK are creatures, I wouldn't rule it out entirely. Or the Lich could have a living being as phylactery, which isn't impossible either. Whether or not the Lich's soul would be transferred along with the living phylactery's own soul is doubtable though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Egor Hans
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ErgoHans "A phylactery is traditionally an amulet in the shape of a small box, but it can take the form of any item possessing an interior space into which arcane sigils of naming, binding, immortality, and dark magic are scribed in silver." The phylactery is not creature, it is an item, so it cannot be cloned. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @EgorHans You've assumed that dying to become a Lich will trigger the Clone. This isn't for certain. Having a phylactery, something that is done before dying to become a Lich, means that you soul isn't free. Unfree souls don't trigger Clones, so your clone will remain. The actual problem with the "make a Clone, then become a Lich, then have your phylactery destroyed, then die as a Lich" trick is already in the answer: Liches don't die; they're destroyed. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 21:25

This wouldn't work

1. It can't happen after becoming a lich

From Clone "This spell grows an inert duplicate of a living creature ..." - the lich is not living and is an invalid target for Clone.

2. It can't happen before becoming a lich

"... if the original creature dies, its soul transfers to the clone, provided that the soul is free and willing to return"; the guy or gal wants to become a lich so their soul isn't "willing to return" - they want to put it in the phylactery.

After that, there is no longer an "original creature" that can use the clone; just the lich - a new creature.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, however, as a DM I would put the procedure of becoming a lich as dominant over the clone spell effect since you are essentially doing a long, arduous ritual suicide. But that is just a table variation. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 2:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think i follow. The spell doesn't say it is discharged if the user dies and refuses to come and i an pretty sure the lich who gets destroyed wants to inhabit the body. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asserting that the clone spell becomes invalid/fails at the point of the lich-becoming ritual? That the transformation potion would somehow override it? I don't follow your argument quite yet, elaboration would be nice. The point is that the clone wouldn't come into play until after both lich and phylactery are destroyed, so there's no phylactery for it to go into... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 13:05

I think the clone will work independently of the current status of the source if the sample is maintained fresh via temporal statis or flesh to stone. At the point the sample was taken from a living source.

I would also say that a lich like any powerful caster could possesses anyone via a magic jar if he know the spell

Ghost can possesses living being as well

In the case of a clone spell it's a body without a soul to resist any possessions but capable of allowing a soul in

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Karin, welcome to the site! You may want to take the tour. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raj
    Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 13:57

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