ok. Potential Rules Break here. Playing a gestalt 3.5 game. I am a Cleric and Dread Necromancer. At level 15, I have 9 levels of Walker in the Waste from cleric on one side of the progression, 12 levels of Dread Necromancer and three levels of Emancipated Spawn (Savage species PrC) on the other. I have already been slain by a wraith, rose as it's spawn, was liberated by my fellow party members destroying my wraith-sire, and took emancipated spawn to get my old class abilities back. I bought off the LA for becoming a wraith already, but am now 4 levels behind the rest of my party due to buy-off (possibly house ruled version, as LA buyoff can be done at any level gained).

Now the issue: I am ALREADY a Wraith. My next level of Walker in the waste grants me the Dry Lich template. Level 20 of Dread necromancer also grants the standard lich template. The Phylactery AND canoptic jars are already made for my character (In-game we had 2 months of downtime at level 12, so i spent resources to craft both key items). However

"Dry lich" is an acquired template that can be added to any living creature (referred to hereafter as the base crea-ture), provided it can create the required canopic jars and undergo the Sere Rite (see below).

Lich uses the same wording. I am already undead. My DM refuses to make a decision about house ruling a template stack, and only the Dread Necromancer had been my own decision (Situation forced my character to become a "disciple of the dessicating wind", a deity of the barren desert, or face total-party-kill by creatures more than 10 CR higher than the party). So. If I reach 1oth level in Walker in the waste, would I still gain the class capstone? And would level 20 of Dread Necro give me the standard lich template? Or did my party dismantle my entire build when they summoned that wraith in the first place?

The party Sorcerer/spellthief used a scroll of "gate" to summon aid to kill something. It brough a writh from realm of the dead. Then Cleric/Samurai called on any deity who would listen to aid them in getting rid of the wraith. The "Dessicating Wind" answered her prayer by sending an avatar to banish the wraith, but would have ALSO destroyed the rest of the party if I (succeeding on a will save to recall who I was temporarily) had not agreed to become a priest of the Dessicating Wind......

Original concept was melee necromancer with undead body guards. Dread Necromancer was a way to get free lich template WITHOUT gimping my caster ability..... this game WILL go into epic levels, likely HIGH into epic levels.

Will the templates stack? or have I been unmade?

  • \$\begingroup\$ How is it even playable to be a wraith? Daylight Powerlessness should make the character remarkably incompatible with most groups. (Also, “high into epic levels” is impossible, the epic rules are broken and the system simply does not work.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 8, 2014 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


Extremely Ambiguous

Unfortunately, the walker in the waste’s capstone is a notorious source of a great deal of confusion. This is a somewhat unusual case, but every walker in the waste wants to know the answer because it also affects Level Adjustment.

Exception-based rules, or “specific-trumps-general”

The d20 System is an “exception-based rules system.” The way it’s designed, there are general rules for how everything works, but then specific items break those rules in specific ways, as delineated in their text. Wizards of the Coast had and has extensive experience with such rules from Magic: the Gathering, of course, which has general rules like a creature cannot tap or attack on its first turn (unless it has haste), a creature must tap to attack (unless it has vigilance), and so on.

Within the d20 community, this is usually referred to as “specific-trumps-general,” referencing a phrase in the core errata document.

The class features of the dread necromancer and the walker in the waste are specific cases, relative to the general templating rules. Thus, they should take precedence. But the question is, how much precedence?

Dread necromancer: specifically and explicitly doesn’t work

Dread necromancer, at least, is easy:

Lich Transformation

When a dread necromancer attains 20th level, she undergoes a hideous transformation and becomes a lich. Her type changes to undead, and she gains all the traits of the undead (see page 317 of the Monster Manual). She no longer has a Constitution score, all her existing Hit Dice become d12s, and she must reroll her hit points. A dread necromancer need not pay experience points or gold to create her phylactery.

A dread necromancer who is not humanoid does not gain this class feature.

(emphasis mine)

Here, the specific case directly addresses this question, and everything is clear.

Walker in the waste: specifically.... not mentioned at all.

Walker in the waste, on the other hand, does not:

Dry Lich

On reaching 10th level, you learn to apply the secrets of waste preservation to your own body, becoming a dry lich. You must undergo the Sere Rite, overseen by another dry lich, which includes preserving your flesh, removing your organs and storing them in special canopic jars, and imbuing your body with foul magic to make it undying. See the dry lich template, page 155, for more information.

As a dry lich, you cannot be permanently killed unless the canopic jars containing your life essence are destroyed.

That’s the entire text, with no mention of requisite types. This specific case says that you “[become] a dry lich,” and “must undergo the Sere Rite,” leaving no room for that to not work or be impossible, but it also specifically references the dry lich template.

Plus, there isn’t any general case to trump

Worse, achieving 10th level in the walker in the waste prestige class is the only listed way to become a dry lich. The template cannot be applied to a creature who has not already done that, which makes it bizarre for it to have general rules that the specific walker-in-the-waste case is meant to trump.

This comes up occasionally in discussion forums on the question of whether or not the walker in the waste class feature applies the Level Adjustment found on the dry lich template. It is generally assumed that “rewarded” templates like these do not apply the LA, since if they did there’d be no point to the reward: the original case, the dragon disciple, explicitly lists the effects of gaining the half-dragon template, and does not mention the LA. Since a character could just start with the half-dragon template if they were going to take on the LA +3, there’s no reason for it to be applied. Dread necromancer is a similar case for the lich template, though in a non-epic game gaining LA +4 at 20th level means nothing. But the walker in the waste is the only way to get the dry lich template. Why would it even have an LA if that were to be waived?

Ultimately, there is no satisfactory answer. The class feature’s very existence implies that it’s supposed to be a reward, supposed to be an exception, supposed to allow you to do something you generally couldn’t. It’s not much of a reward to let you do something you could do anyway. But the case of the walker in the waste make all of this very murky, since you generally cannot become a dry lich at all.


Your DM should allow you to benefit from the walker in the waste capstone. You’d already started on that path, and the prestige class is basically there for the purposes of getting the dry lich template; there’s no point to it if you don’t. To completely waste your levels in the class by making you wraith-spawn and thus barring you the template, would be an exceptionally jerk move on your DM’s part. The wraith thing seems like it was a reasonably cool and interesting plot twist, but it shouldn’t screw you over like that. If you didn’t have walker in the waste, I’d encourage the same for the dread necromancer’s lich transformation, even though the class explicitly bars it, for the same reasons.

I probably would not allow you to simultaneously be a lich and a dry lich, though. Dread necromancer’s got plenty going for it, plus you could just take a prestige class instead of dread necromancer levels towards the end if you wanted.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I started, stopped, started, then stopped again an answer to this question because I didn't--and still don't--know what to do about the character being a wraith and a lich, which should be impossible, too. Dude took 3 levels in empancipated spawn; seems a shame to have to lose wraithity to gain lichdom. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 8, 2014 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan With Daylight Powerlessness, playing a wraith in a group not exclusively comprised of similar creatures (or in the Underdark or something) seems... near impossible? Or at least a lot of time spent separated from the party. But anyway, eh, I’d have no issue applying typical stacking rules. 18 HD (effectively) for the benefits of both dry lich and wraith doesn’t seem like too much to me; for 18 levels, it seems like too little. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Sep 8, 2014 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I, too, got stuck on daylight powerlessness, but for a different reason. How does a character take levels in walker in the waste--you know, from Sandstorm, the desert source book--with daylight powerlessness? Maybe it's an Arabian Nights game. Har har har. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 8, 2014 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, you guys are not wrong. The desert we are currently adventuring through is SO dangerously hot that it is only truly safe for living creatures to travel at night. DM let us stumble across an artifact in a desert ruin that, for 12 hours at a time, grants immunity to the harmful effects of the sun to ANY creature who can activate it. My wraith was the only one in the group who could speak the specific language that activates it. So, as long as I dont get seperated from said artifact, my wraith sunlight-powerlessness is not an issue \$\endgroup\$ Sep 8, 2014 at 14:43

I think you have answered your own question there. As a wraith, you are not a living creature, and thus, do not qualify for Lich/Dry Lich by the rules, no matter their source. In the same vein, the second Lich template would also not stack or overlap on the first. (After all, how can you store your soul in two phylacteries at once? Unless you went to Hogwarts).

That said, you could delay levelling up to the capstone until you get your companions to agree to kill your undead form and then resurrect you. As a living creature, you could then acquire one of the lich templates. As your party is already fairly high level, that should not be too difficult an operation to pull off.

Overall, it sounds like you should talk to the DM a bit more about this anyways, especially about having your character being taken in a different direction from what you had planned (even if you like it). You could also maybe examine your reasons for wanting to be a lich at all, since you have already "achieved" life past death, which is a primary reason for pursuing lichdom in the first place (RP wise and for the Undead type).

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for suggesting the resurrection as a way out of the "already dead" problem. That can also contribute for great tragic roleplay - where a character who went to great length to escape undeath ends up drawn to it enough to seek it once more by different means... \$\endgroup\$
    – G0BLiN
    Sep 8, 2014 at 12:45

Humanoid is a creature type, as is Undead. They are mutually exclusive. By becoming a Wraith you traded your Humanoid type for Undead, disqualifying you from adopting any other template that "can be added to any humanoid creature..." As for the Dry Lich Template, that one requires you to be a "Living Creature" so being an Undead would disqualify you from that as well... I would recommend your DM replace it with a Template that works with Wraiths or just ignore that level ability. (Similar to when a class gives you +1 Caster level to a type of casting you don't already possess….)


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