I did some minor snooping about liches and one idea popped into my brain for a enemy idea: "What if an old friend of the party (NPC) turned into a lich for a noble reason and when he started to feel his humanity slip he stopped looking for souls to turn dormant and fade away without causing trouble."

Now of course, if a lich stops feasting, they turn into a demilich and that's what this encounter is for. So, do demiliches retain memories like the lich or do they just become floaty skelebones?

I don't really mind what edition the answer comes from but I'd prefer if it was unchanged-slightly changed through the editions.

Tl;dr when liches turn into demiliches (the weaker kind) do they remember anything?

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The 5e demilich is quite different from the demiliches of previous editions.

From the 5e Monster Manual:

Few liches seek to become demiliches, for it means an end to the existence they hoped to preserve by becoming undead. However, time can erode the lich’s reason and memory, causing it to retreat into its ancient tomb and forget to feed on souls. The spells it once knew fade from its mind, and it no longer channels the arcane energy it wielded as a lich.

This describes a weaker entity than a Lich. The idea here is that they forget to eat souls and their life force decays, and they begin to forget even how to use their magic. This is also reflected in the differences in abilities between a Lich and Demilich, as well as their challenge ratings (21 vs. 18).

In contrast, here is the entry for demilich from 2e:

The demilich is not, as the name implies, a weaker form of the lich. Rather, it is the stage into which a lich will eventually evolve as the power which has sustained its physical form gradually begins to fail. In most cases, all that remains of a demilich's body are a skull, some bones, and a pile of dust.

When it has learned all that it feels it can in its undead life, the lich will continue its quest for power in strange planes unknown to even the wisest of sages. Since it has no use for its physical body at this point, the lich leaves it to decay as it should have done centuries ago.

Here we see Demilichdom as the next step in gaining power for a Lich.

So if you’re using 5e lore, then a demilich very well could be an empty shell of its former self. But using lore from 2e, a demilich is an even more formidable enemy retaining all of their memories.

See this answer for a more complete history of Demiliches in D&D.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that 5e does have two kinds of demiliches, the more powerful one being more like 2e demilich. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Aug 23 at 21:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WakiNadiVellir Where can I find this second type of demilich? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Aug 24 at 14:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Monster Manual, under "Demilich" (page 49 in my copy). Green Box titled "Acerak and his disciples". That version still doesn't have spellcasting, but an additional action and their reasoning skills intact (though I'd probably change it to add spell options because there's no reason for this variant not being able to use spells). \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Aug 24 at 15:43

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