The demilich, an epic monster originally from the Epic Level Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition and nominally updated to Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 by the SRD and Conversion Book, has the extraordinary ability magic immunity which says

Demiliches are immune to all magical and supernatural effects, except as follows. A shatter spell affects a demilich as if it were a crystalline creature, but deals half the damage normally indicated. A dispel evil spell deals 3d6 points of damage (Fort save for half damage). Holy smite spells affect demiliches normally.

However, a demilich also has as spell-like abilities at will astral projection and harm, the latter noted as often used on itself to repair hp damage. Can the demilich, technically, even use these abilities on itself? Further, can a demilich cast its spells on itself?

Note: Split from a question about astral projection here. As the tags indicate, this question may require knowledge of how special abilities and magic function in both Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition and Dungeons and Dragons 3.5.


4 Answers 4


This Answer has been updated to reflect newly found material

Yes, the Demilich can use Astral Projection, even on himself. Infact, from reading the spell you HAVE to go with your intended travelers if you want to use the spell at all.

As my other answer clarified, "Magic Immunity" is not the same as "Spell Immunity," and while I would argue that they are nearly identical that doesn't matter for the Astral Projection SLA as it's own definition is enough to allow the spell.

As I stated in my other answer, the definition of "Magic Immunity" is (Emphasis Mine):

(Creature) is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells and effects function differently against the creature, as noted in its entry.

This clearly states that magic immunity is not 100% set in stone. This is what allows the Demilich to use it's 'At Will' Harm SLA on itself. Since both Harm (which explicitly states it is mainly used to 'heal' itself) & "Astral Projection" (again, normal casting requires the caster to be the primary target) are listed in it's SLAs then RAW they are able to be cast on itself. Someone might ask why it didn't explicitly state how this spell would work on the demilich, the answer is simple, "it doesn't have to." The only time it HAS to list how something interacts with something else is if that interaction is different from normal. So, had the writers intended to allow the Demilich to cast the spell without it being the primary target (& avoid traveling) THIS exception/variation would have had to have been stated. However, listing the spell without modifications means simply that it was to be cast as usual.

Some may ask, "was it simply an oversight?" And while none of us can disprove a negative, I can state they WotC deliberately & explicitly removed it's "Alter Self" SLA 1 (which ironically doesn't require Spell Resistance) but left this spell! The fact that exists in the first place is enough to infer that it was intended to be usable, but the fact that the definition explicitly allows it cements the usability in the affirmative. Hence meeting the RAW requirement.

Bottom Line: The rules explicitly (maybe not too clearly) allow the Demilich to use it's Astral Projection SLA on itself.

1 The SRD is not updated to reflect that "Altar Self" has been removed from the Demilich's SLA, but according to the errata dated 2/6/2006 it has been removed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer no, a golem (or other creature) can not lower their immunity to magic: A creature that has immunity to an effect is never harmed (or helped) by that effect. A creature cannot suppress an immunity in order to receive a beneficial effect. See my other answer for detailed breakdown \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 3:57

1Please read the entire entry including the notes at the bottom before downvoting this answer! I don't like this answer in principle but the tag RAW requires this answer that I strongly disagree with in implementation!

No, going strictly Rules-As-Written2 a Demilich can NOT use Astral Projection on itself (and by extension can NOT use the ability at all.3)

Extra Unintended Consequences: Not only can the Demilich NOT use Astral Projection on itself, it can't use numerous other self buffing spells from it's Wizard's spell list. However, it actually can use it's at will Harm ability! It sounds contradictory but is explained below4

IMHO, Such a strict & narrow reading of the rules weakens the creature so much one would have to ask what Lich would ever seek to "progress" to this level! Surely with these restrictions placed on it it wouldn't be worthy of a CR29?5

So, if I dislike this answer so much and it seems so contradictory, where do I get the data for this answer? And why is it so difficult to get a straight answer? Well, since it's never specifically & independently defined, we get into the several rule issues such as: "Specific takes precedence over general rules" & "Primary Source" specific which might get murky when dealing with mixing 3.0 & 3.5.

On to the "Meat & Potatoes"

To get our answer first we have to look for the definition of "Magic Immunity." The first & only place it is defined is in the "Rules Compendium." While this is not a "Primary Source" when it comes to deciding which book takes precedence during a rules conflict, since there are no other definitions, let alone any that conflict, that doesn't matter and it's ruling stands. Furthermore, we do see it in the 3.0 -> 3.5 conversion guides listed several times & each time it is giving the exact same definition as this:

(Creature) is immune to any spell or spell-like ability that allows spell resistance. In addition, certain spells and effects function differently against the creature, as noted in its entry.

4 Since the "Immune" block specifically says that "certain spells & effects function...as noted in it's stat block" this allows it's Harm ability to be used as it's stat block specifically mentions that it uses this ability to "heal" itself. At exactly the same time it makes no mention in it's stat block as how the Demilich is to make use of it's Astral Projection SLA, which as we've already established requires the caster to be the target, makes the SLA unusable.

From this updated definition, we can see that "Magic Immunity" was updated to be defined as Immunity ONLY against spells with Spell Resistance. However, it was NOT updated to be defined as "Spell Immunity". This is a Very important distinction!

Why is it such an important distinction? Because "Generally" speaking the rules state:

A creature that has immunity to an effect is never harmed (or helped) by that effect. A creature cannot suppress an immunity in > order to receive a beneficial effect. emphasis mine

This means that the creature can't benefit from any beneficial spell it is immune to, even if it were to cast it itself! However, Spell Immunity has "Specific Rules" which over-rule the "general rule" explicitly allowing the creature the option/ability to receive these benefits. Neither of these "Specific Rules" for Spell Immunity comes into play for our Demilich because his Immunity was specifically NOT redefined to do so. (in order to avoid confusion, I left out the referenced rules as to avoid unnecessary confusion in an already lengthy and somewhat convoluted answer, however, the links to the abilities and my other answer both go into detail)

Bottom Line: Rules-As-Written prevent the Demilich from using it's Astral Projection

1 I generally don't like to post multiple answers, especially contradicting myself. However, I can't include this information and make the previous answer, or this answer coherent, they simply are at odds with eachother & as such requires a separate answer.

2 While this answer is definitely 1 interpretation of the RAW, I believe that considering the conversion from 3.0 -> 3.5 & all the erratas that these rules in-particular are written along a much larger grey line than most others. That said, I think this is a solid answer but would still recommend sticking with my previous answer ruling in the opposite.

3 When reading the spell, Astral Projection we can see the the spell requires the person casting it to be the primary target, with the option of adding additional "travelers" as desired, up to the limit based on CL. So if "You" are no longer a valid target then sadly, nobody can go.

5Final Note If going 100% RAW & ruling the Demilich can't cast this (Astral Projection) or any of it's own spells on itself I think you have to rework the CR. There is simply no way that a Demilich who can't cast many of it's own "Self Buff" spells (whether from it's own spell casting or magic item) can be a CR29! (the list of spells that allow spell resistance is quite expansive, too much to type here, and this list only grows with every splat book added)


In Pathfinder, which is not 3.5, these sorts of immunities are the same as spell immunity (i.e. 'effectively unbeatable spell resistance) and a case could be made that golems et al. could lower their resistance voluntarily.

In 3.5, magic immunity is just that: an immunity, and this is not how the ability works.

Magic Immunity in 3.5 is defined per creature and often includes a few exceptions. The Demilich is fairly typical in this regard:

Magic Immunity (Ex):
Demiliches are immune to all magical and supernatural effects, except as follows. A shatter spell affects a demilich as if it were a crystalline creature, but deals half the damage normally indicated. A dispel evil spell deals 3d6 points of damage (Fort save for half damage). Holy smite spells affect demiliches normally.

No exception is made for the creature to be able to continue using its own abilities upon itself, so it can't. Worse yet:

Phylactery Transference (Su):
Headbands, belts, rings, cloaks, and other wearable items kept in close association with the demilich’s phylactery transfer all their benefits to the demilich no matter how far apart the demilich and the phylactery are located. The standard limits on types of items utilized simultaneously still apply. The sample demilich “wears” bracers of armor +8, headband of intellect +6, pink Ioun stone, ring of wizardry I, ring of protection +2, and gloves of Dexterity +2.

The demilich can't actually use this ability, because it is a supernatural effect targeting it. This means the sample demilich should have 10 less AC, 6 less INT, and 2 less Dex.

It would also lose half its first level spell-slots, but the spellcasting ability of the sample demilich was calculated completely incorrectly. Among other things, you will note that the lich has much less spells for most levels than it is entitled to, the exception being 2nd level spells, which is actually has too many of. It also has extra helpful descriptive text telling you how it's 3 10th level slots work, but it actually has 3 9th level slots and no 10th level spell slots at all. Furthermore, it should have 10th level spell slots because it took the feat to have them. Basically you're gonna have to recalculate the whole spellcasting thing from scratch.

It would also lose 2 Constitution, but it's undead. Why does it even have a pink ioun stone? Who thought this was a good idea? There are many questions we could ask about the demilich, but there aren't really any good answers for any of them.

In sum: the demilich is a spellcaster who isn't allowed to target itself with its spells. It sits in a big pile of treasure that it wishes it could use, but can't and is more or less completely immobile. It is quite vulnerable to an extremely common second level spell (Shatter; ~8 castings needed to destroy the lich), and has no real way to protect itself from such (other than judicious use of at-will summon monster IX), being unable to use defensive magic or regain hit-points in between bouts with 3rd level clerics. It itself is made of treasure, necessarily possessing ~2,000,000 gp worth of 'wondrous quality' gems. Remember that, as a trade good, gems can be converted to cash at full value.

The demilich is thus the mid-to-high level adventurer's version of the 'Mountain of Suspiciously Wealthy and Weak Goblins', RAW, and can't do much but sit and regret the incredibly stupid decision to stop being a high-level lich. And cast Summon Monster IX/Create Greater Undead en masse. But that's about it.

House-rule errata would probably be a good idea.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no idea why Pathfinder’s being brought up here. The question is not tagged with Pathfinder, and since Pathfinder came after 3.5, it could not have influenced 3.5. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I was explaining why certain other answers might (and at the time did) think Magic Immunity = infinite spell resistance. I thought responding to that belief might be useful. It's not really relevant to the actual argument here. THink I should remove it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:19

If you look in the Description of the Demilich on the SRD, it specifically stats that it normally uses Harm to heal itself. That and the Spell astral projection specifically states that you have to go with the the party, it would seem that its magic immunity is against any but its own magic.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely a demilich is intended to be able to use its abilities on itself—I mean, you're right, the demilich has those special abilities, and the description says that it uses one of them on itself—, but whether the demilich actually can use those abilities on itself is why this question is tagged rules-as-written. Sometimes writers make mistakes, and I want to know if this is a mistake I must house rule or if there's something ruleswise that I'm not seeing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 7:04

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