Okay, so I have this big sexy hook for my D&D story, and I want to know if there is a way that I can do this while still following the rules.

The history for this is that 100 years ago in my campaign's past, there was a powerful wizard named Egan. He ruled over a group of pure evil named The Black Hand, and was stopped in the past by the five glorious heroes (my party's old heroes).

I want Egan to make a return as a form of lich. Is there a possible way? I would base it around the idea that some of the descendants of the original Black Hand were trying to bring the 100-year-old corpse of their former leader back to life in a form of ritual or other legal mechanism.

The group that is attempting this is level 8, with a few members at level 10. However, they have enough gold/resources to be able to fund anything they require that they don't currently have. Egan was not originally a lich, but I would like to see if there is a way to bring him back and then turn him into a lich.


5 Answers 5


By the rules, becoming a lich is a willful and voluntary action on the part of the would-be lich. You can’t do it for someone, and you can’t have it done to you. You cannot even be forced or tricked or mind-controlled into it:

The process of becoming a lich is unspeakably evil and can be undertaken only by a willing character.

Furthermore, the rules also state that

"Lich" is an acquired template that can be added to any humanoid creature

Which means that raising him as some other form of undead isn’t useful.

Thus, you are left with resurrection or similar; resurrection is a 7th-level spell, so the caster has a minimum of Caster Level 13th, which means anyone who died in the last 130 years, minimum, is a valid target. That includes your guy. He could then become a lich through the usual process.

A 10th-level cleric could cast resurrection from a staff, or from a scroll with an easy Caster Level check (DC 14 and he’s got a minimum of +10).

If the body is unavailable, you need true resurrection, a 9th-level spell (minimum Caster Level 17th), and that’s a somewhat more difficult DC 18 Caster Level check (still a 65% chance to succeed)

Narratively, though, that might fall a bit flat. I know of no direct raise-as-a-lich spell. However, depending on the details of the afterlife in your setting, there may be another option. A character must be humanoid to become a lich, and must create his own phylactery. Nothing says he has to be humanoid when he creates his phylactery. Perhaps his spirit creates the phylactery, before being raised, and then there’s a combination ritual: a cleric casts resurrection on him as he performs the ritual to become a lich. This seems more interesting and dramatic. He’ll still briefly return to life, but only briefly. Easily explained as trying to limit his vulnerability (I imagine a scroll of resurrection is a bit tricky to come by).

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    \$\begingroup\$ While the process of becoming a lich is normally undertaken by a living creature, as long as the creature is truly willing - just like they have to be willing to be raised or resurrected - their cultists or minions should be able to bring them back that way. Maybe the character created his phylactery and instructed his cult in what to do in case of his death while he was still alive. Maybe a powerful cultist researched a "create greater undead: lich" spell. Maybe his ghost was just so powerful it functions more like a lich than a ghost. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2015 at 20:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 Sure, you could easily houserule something in, or do it by DM fiat. But in this case, I think playing by/playing with the rules leads to a kind of interesting scene that I, for one, wouldn’t have thought of on my own. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 16, 2015 at 20:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, not trying to diminish your answer, I love it. I just feel "raise the dead" magic is... thematically inappropriate. Assuming the would-be lich had prepared for this eventuality (he WAS a powerful wizard) and then working mostly within the rules just opens some more possibilities for interesting story, I just wanted to add to it. Although looking below I think Cthos and CatLord have actually already made my points, I didn't read every answer before I commented on one I liked. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2015 at 20:14

There's nothing in the rules which covers this.

KRyan's answer covers this well.

In the Pathfinder Campaign setting, there is precedence for this

Note, Pathfinder's campaign setting is a 3.5 compatible world, not talking about the Pathfinder rules system directly.

Arazni was a demigod, and herald of Aroden. She was summoned to fight alongside some knights during the Shining crusade. This didn't go so well:

[...] but she was ultimately humiliated and slain by the tyrant in 3823 AR.

67 years later:

After the end of the crusade in 3827 AR,[4] her body was finally interred by the Knights of Ozem in their new citadel in the new nation of Lastwall. Her body did not remain there for very long, however, as it was stolen in 3890 AR at the behest of the ghost-king Geb in retaliation for a failed assault on his kingdom by the Knights of Ozem. She was swiftly brought to his nation, where he transformed her into a lich and named her his Harlot Queen.

So Golarion sets the narrative precedence that this is (at least in their campaign setting) something that's been done at least once before to a corpse.

Unfortunately, they don't provide any rules text as to how they accomplished it, so you're stuck with either hand-waving, or following the resurrection pattern outlined in KRyan's answer.


So I can't help but think of a Certain Comic Strip in relation to how far things can fly. You can always say that a specific Dark God(ess) allows it, ergo this one exception exists. You can also say that the planets, stars, and one particular old crone get into position and it allows the otherwise impossible.

However, if you want to bypass the Phylactery condition

Each lich must make its own phylactery, which requires the Craft Wondrous Item feat. The character must be able to cast spells and have a caster level of 11th or higher. The phylactery costs 120,000 gp and 4,800 XP to create and has a caster level equal to that of its creator at the time of creation.

You need a willing and living participant. In which case, you can cast True Resurrection and as long as the caster is 10th level or more, they can cast the spell far enough back to target Moldevort... Er... Egan. Once revified, he makes his phylactery and ascends to lych-dom.

Additionally, after some further reflection it does in fact matter how he died and what happened to his... Let's call it a soul. You could assert that Egan is in a hell-like dimension and the keeper of that place is allowing him to craft a somehow even worse phylactery with materials in that dimension and all Egan really needs is someone on the other side to use a Plane Shift, a Gate, or something similar.

Lastly, he could have already made his phylactery before he "died" and just needs to be uncovered to finish the process, preserved by magic the whole time.


As others have mentioned, according to the rules, Egan can't technically be brought back as a lich, since liches make themselves. Since liches are undead, however, they don't age [Tome of Necromancy]. It could be possible that Egan actually (secretly) survived the encounter with the five heroes, but after his brush with death, decided to become a lich as an evil form of psuedo-immortality. This may also explain why the Black Hand is still around, 100 years after being stopped. I don't know what you have planned, or if this fits with it, but it may be an interesting way to develop your evil organization.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that [Tome of Necromancy] thing a book citation? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2015 at 6:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Yes, it was. Although it was a book a friend of mine had in PDF form, and after a quick look-up, it's apparently not an official supplement. I would assume it's still true that undead don't age, but I'm not certain if it's stated in any of the official rule books. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neato
    Mar 6, 2015 at 6:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tell you what: I was given Libris Mortis a few months ago as a gift. I'll dig it out of my moving boxes and look it up this weekend, and see if it expresses a default stance on this stuff. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2015 at 6:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Libris Mortis doesn't seem to say much. However, this is one of those cases where it's a matter of good story or not, and attempting to have possible RAW (it's unclear) override that wouldn't make sense. I suggest we can just assume the undead in this story can survive for a very long time. :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2015 at 0:54

The rules for becoming a Lich say that Lich must make it's own phylactery, so arguably a bunch of minions couldn't do that for him.

However, you could retcon that Egan made a phylactery shortly before his untimely death, but that he was unable to finalise the rituals transferring his soul into the vessel. (Maybe he was unwilling to give up his mortality just yet? Or just wanted to finish his bucket list while he still felt like a mortal? Who knows).

Thus his minions could be either in the process of looking for / or have recently found his phylactery, and are going to summon his soul into his phylactery so that he may re-manifest as a Lich. Or something.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember being told that one way of getting rid of a Lich whose phylactery had been enchanted to be indestructible was to throw it into some plane where there was little-to-no incidental matter for it to form a new body from when destroyed. Perhaps Egan could've put his phylactery on such a plane himself as a security feature, without realising it was such a bad idea? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Mar 6, 2015 at 6:16

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