If it is possible, which to me just does not seem at all fair to a lich, are there ways to avoid this silly little thing? If you have the feat or spell and the lich rolls badly, he is essentially dead, because the next question the controller would ask is "where is your phylactery?" This reduces the effectiveness and fear of the lich.


5 Answers 5


Yes, this spell will control a lich.

Control Undead states:

This spell enables you to control undead creatures for a short period of time. You command them by voice and they understand you, no matter what language you speak. Even if vocal communication is impossible, the controlled undead do not attack you. At the end of the spell, the subjects revert to their normal behavior.

Intelligent undead creatures remember that you controlled them, and they may seek revenge after the spell's effects end.

So "Intelligent undead" can be controlled; however the Lich has several lines of defence against this spell.

  • Max 2 HD/Level spell limit. Although admittedly not much of a barrier.
  • Will save. The lich is going to have a VERY large bonus for this.
  • Spell resistance. And probably this as well.
  • Spell Immunity, Greater. Any self-respecting lich will know this spell and have "control undead" as one of the spells it's immune to. Wouldn't you?

Note also, any lich is going to know this spell and have ways around it. The only thing the lich is restricted from (initially) is attacking the caster this isn't going to stop them (until commanded) from...

  • Teleporting away.
  • Casting silence around themselves so they can't hear you
  • Attacking any of your allies.
  • Perverting the words of anything you say. "Where is your phylactery?" (The lich answers in Abysmal, which the player doesn't speak.) "Tell me in Common where your phylactery is?" (The lich says "It is under the sacred cloth of my father.") and so on... all buying it time to get away.
  • And so on.

It's not a hands-down game winner against a Lich,

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent "in setting thinking". If the players know a lichs weakness, well guess what; so does he :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Undreren
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 14:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking that, similar to dominate person, commands against the Lich's nature would probably give it another saving throw. But if you dominate/control someone what's to stop them leaving? Nothing I can see in the spell - seems a good idea to me! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do non-answers actually buy time, though? Talking is usually a free action that can be taken even out of turn... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer If the Lich is under the control of the Caster and is being interrogated (implying it has no allies left to attack the Party for it), then Combat sort-of stops, since there's no more fighting going on. Regular time would elapse instead of Combat Time, meaning that the Lich could just wait it out. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 23:20

Yes, the seventh level spell Control Undead can control a lich, as long as it fails its SR and will save. This is like how say any living guy can be controlled by the fifth level spell Dominate Person.

If you mean an evil cleric channeling and using Command Undead, the answer is yes there too, but you have to have more cleric levels than the lich's HD which is unlikely.

A real "boss" lich would of course have fake liches, illusions, magical safeguards, buffs/defenses, etc. designed to prevent this or the 100 other save-or-die spells from being used on him (is being Disintegrated any better?)

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    \$\begingroup\$ In a lich's case being Disintegrated is actually quite a bit better than revealing the location of his phylactery, since the latter can be used to make him stay destroyed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 12:30

The CR 12 example Lich has a Will Save of +11. DC Target for the spell will be 10 + Spell Level (7) + ability mod (say 4) so 21ish. So yes a party of 13th level or better has a 50/50 chance of using Control Undead on an equal or lower encounter.

Shame it will not happen. The party meeting a CR 12 Lich would probably be 7 level or so and stand no chance of having the spell; or I would expect the Lich to be CR 20 or so and have other protections if the party was 13th and could cast the spell.

So basically if you encounter a Lich of equivalent CR you stand a good chance of defeating it and that is the point of the CR rating so nothing strange there at all.


First of all, if its that important to you, then just say that he made his save. I think that is way better, then having the lich teleport away or similar, that would make the players feel screwed in a bad way. The Wizard has prepared this 7 lvl spell and now that actually has a usage the DM screws him - bad idea In my opinion.

Secondly a lich doesn't have SR, http://paizo.com/prd/monsters/lich.html so its just a will save. To me control undead lvl 7 is (and should be) a lot more powerfull then the 5 lvl equvilent of dominate person. Dominate person has days for duration and you can see through the eyes of the victum etc. BUT you can't however make it do harmfull stuff to it self. IMO you CAN ask an undead to jump of a cliff or whatever with this spell including telling where the phylactery is. In the spell description it says that its usually a stored far away from the lichs location - thats what makes the lich that awsome creature. Let your players beat him, knowing that they only have a short time to reach the destination of the phylactery or he will be hunting them and now with a vengence.

If you were the lich you would have it stored somewhere with some teleport protection, traps, minions etc. to keep it safe. Congratulations you now have 3-8 gaming sessions where the players are super focused on beating the lich to the phylactery and if not being hunted and chewed at by smaller undeads untill he reappears and now more ready for your party because he has been scrying on them and depleting there ressources etc.

  • \$\begingroup\$ SR is just a spell or equipment away \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 22:57

For Command Undead in Pathfinder the spell states that giving a command to an intelligent undead requires an opposed charisma check. So, you'd have to pass that first. Then, it also states an intelligent undead never obeys suicidal or obviously harmful orders, but might be convinced doing something dangerous is worth doing. I would call being told to tell where it's phylactery is AT LEAST dangerous to the lich, and therefore requiring some fast talking and convincing, if not obviously harmful, and therefor something it WILL NOT do.

I'm playing a game where my character plans on becoming a lich, so I've been thinking of stuff like this myself :)

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE, Rocky. Nice addition with the suicidal or obviously harmful orders, though you'd have to source it for it to be relevant (and to get a +1 from me), as the default spell description doesn't seem to include it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 0:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wrong spell. Command Undead is the undead counterpart to charm person. This question is about Control Undead, the counterpart to Dominate Person. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 12:23

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