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I'm running a pathfinder campaign and the party just defeated a lich. In looting the area, they found its phylactery, but didn't recognize it as such and kept it as normal loot. So now they're scampering about the countryside with a lich's phylactery in their backpack.

The rules on phylacteries state that the phylactery will begin reconstructing the lich's body "nearby", but since this phylactery is now mobile, "nearby" can change rather frequently.

  1. Are there any rules or historical examples that might cover a situation like this?
  2. In the absence of rules, what suggestions do you have for how to resurrect the lich while on the move?
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At some point the players will have to take some down time which will keep them within the same area long enough.

You are correct in that a body starts to grow nearby. It doesn't say that the phylactery needs to remain in the area, so once the body starts growing you could deem that it continues. Once the lich has come back, it starts hunting the party down looking for his phylactery.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I did place a small town in need of some help against goblin raids nearby. That should keep them busy for a week or so game time. Another option I thought of was to have the phylactery gather energy and then "poof" the lich back after 1d10 days. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Sep 23 '15 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just having him pop back on top of them seems a little wrong. They should be given a chance to know he's out there. Some NPC comments to them that a dark stranger was seeking information about the heros who defeated the oddly charismatic lich of the decimated graves of Ruthfort. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Sep 24 '15 at 3:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ In this case he poofed inside their room at the inn while they were out helping townsfolk. I intended it to look like a break-in and robbery. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Sep 24 '15 at 16:02
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Here's a good historical example: in Order Of The Stick, when Xykon gets killed, he starts regenerating by growing out of the phylactery itself.

http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0147.html http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0190.html

I don't think it explicitly says this anywhere, but I would expect a phylactery to have a strong aura of necromancy and evil. Even if it didn't have this at first, I would expect it to start having that aura when it started regenerating the lich. It seems like the characters should be able to notice that pretty easily.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The 5e MM says already what the visual effect is, and it would support this answer's point. I'm not sure what value there is in citing something that contradicts the MM. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '15 at 20:18
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You could argue that the lich regenerates inside the phylactery, and spawns "nearby" when the regeneration is complete; kind of like an egg. (I know, this is not the official method, but when the rules fail, a DM can and should improvise).

This will allow for a nice ambush type encounter during a non-eventful session

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Don't worry, it'll find some materials to work with.

Most of the phylactery's surroundings are constantly changing, but not all. This is why you don't mess around with phylacteries, kids. Leave it where you find it and tell a grownup.

(Everything that follows should be read in the voice of Wayne June, voice actor from the acclaimed video game Darkest Dungeon.)

To the phylactery and its recently discorporated inhabitant, the world is now a blur of matter and spirit--no place for the delicate work of reconstructing a paranormal body. But at the center of the shifting chaos, there is a backpack, and orbiting the backpack is a circle of self-styled adventurers who, in their delusion, believe that what they carry is dead.

Any one of these fools will serve, to start. The Thing asserts its will on one with a weak mind and sturdy flesh. The work begins cautiously, to avoid alerting the others--the priest of Sarenrae could do real damage to the Thing in its current state. Through its new host, the Thing gains faculties: awareness, memory, speech. It learns that they plan to sell the bauble to a local merchant. It riles the party's greed: this monger's purse will hardly suffice for their trouble. No, they must travel on, to the great city of Absalom, where the gods of the markets are strong and all things sell for their full value.

The host suspects nothing, but the hedge-witch among them is a bloodhound for any whiff of occult power, and confronts him one night outside the camp. She is not carrying her book of magic, or her wand. The Thing has grown comfortable in its new flesh, and the host's muscles are trained to execute this task.

She was possessed, the Thing whispers to the host, in his own voice. The phylactery was in her pack, and it took her mind. She would have killed you. Best you take it and keep it safe. The Thing takes a moment to appreciate the symmetry of the lie, then permits the host to scream.

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A Lich's Phylactery is normally the most enchanted thing a Lich owns as it contains his soul. A smart litch would normally have no less than 10 abjurations to protect it from damage of any kind, and its normally kept in a safe place where meddling adventurers aren't likely to find it, such as behind a stone wall or cast inside of a large statue, something unlikely to be searched.

In Dragon Magazine Issue #26 a writer named Len Lakofka wrote “Blueprint For A Lich” detailing the original requirements for creating a lich, the process necessary to create a phylactery and trap the soul, what happens when the lich dies and so on. This could easily be converted to a modern edition of Dungeons and Dragons without any trouble.

Anyway, the article proposes that if the Phylactery is moved that the lich possesses any recently dead body within the radius of it if it fails its save versus magic. This runs contrary to the 5E Lich mechanics, but it does solve the issue of your mobile phylactery, which is why it was mentioned.

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There are stats for fighting a half-regenerated lich for pathfinder, so I'm guessing it starts creating the body, wakes up, and then tries to re-obtain the phylactery before it is destroyed by trickery because he's still weak

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please, when you say rules exists, provide some reference to allow people to look it up. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot 7 hours ago
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The One Ring is a good example of a phylactery that moved, but the lich in which it lay remained in its original stronghold, needing to be reunited with its phylactery and trying very hard to get it back once it had found where it was hiding.

You might want to start crafting your story around such a circumstance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ But Sauron isn't a lich and the Ring isn't a phylactery. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 18 '15 at 22:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: Well, at any rate the lich/phylactery connection is very dubious. It's hard to say he flat-out isn't, but given that he was a maia/immortal spirit to start out with, and given that we're not informed of any time or even way for him to actually die, and given that the ring's primary function was active mental domination... it seems a real stretch. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Sep 18 '15 at 22:48

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