I am planning a plot that involves

  1. an evil wizard who reached lichdom,
  2. was defeated by another (good) wizard (his phylactery was also destroyed),
  3. was resurrected by a resurrection spell (he wasn't a lich for too long),
  4. awakened with a Helm of Opposite Alignment already on his head.
  5. He failed the saving throw.

The result is a good wizard, remembering his old life until he reached the lichdom, but nothing after that. (As we know, resurrecting undead results in the person who once lived, and not the same undead this time in a living form.)

The main problem with the story that this Helm allows a saving throw and such a high level wizard probably wouldn't fail it. I am looking for a way to negate or significantly worsen his chances to his saving throw.

My current best idea if the effect of this Helm had been "boosted" by another spell: by a limited wish. Unfortunately, I can't find any canon reference about its efficiency.

I prefer the in-game solutions on canon rulebooks, because he will be an NPC manipulating the evil/neutral party to help him to investigate what happened. The party will be much happier if they are investigating things grounded in the rules, because it makes much easier for their roleplay. If there is no written rule about this, then analogy based on the canon is also acceptable.

The action should be doable by a level 13 wizard capable for limited wish, but without external help. (He is an outcast, and can't simply call his high-level cleric friend to help. The resurrection spell is coming from a stolen magic item.)


5 Answers 5


You are overthinking this especially since it's backstory, not a real situation in play.

A 17th level wizard has a +10 Will save base. (He loses a level from the rez, but it's still +10.) That's a 25% chance to fail the DC 15 Will save, assuming he's not super wise (most wizards that embrace lichdom aren't). So... He failed it! Done and done.

You're depicting a past event, so why does it matter? How does it change things if his chance to fail is 25%, or 50%, or 95%? It's never zero or 100% (since 1 always fails and 20 always succeeds) so you are trying to push precision into something that doesn't need it.

If you're looking for background color, then sure he "cast various spells to lower his Wisdom/Will save/resistances/whatnot," though it's mostly impossible RAW to land them while he's dead (readied action or quickened before slapping on the helm, perhaps). Or slapped another cursed item on him to that effect (vary something like a robe of powerlessness to hit Wisdom instead of Int). But in the end, it really doesn't matter what the real number is - you are as the GM just saying "he failed," whether he had an effective +20 Will save or a -10 Will save.

It's easy to get stuck in a rabbit hole as a GM - you have a lot of more important things to prep, a lot of things that will make real different to your players' enjoyment of the game, than this kind of obsessive detail. You are effectively making your game worse by choosing to spend your time in the hole. Pull yourself out, write the backplot, and move on.


There's Mind Fog which grants -10 to Will saves, if the target fails a Will save against it. Your L13 wizard probably casts Mind Fog with at least a DC21 Will save, and your L17 wizard probably has a +10 or +11 to Will when not wearing his equipment, so Mind Fog has a 50% chance of helping here.

Limited Wish itself lets you give someone a -7 penalty to their next saving throw.

There's Bestow Curse which grants -4 to Will saves, if the target fails a Will save against it.

To be clear, all of these spells would be cast at the corpse as it was being resurrected. It's not clear at what point someone in the process of resurrection counts as a "creature", but at the minimum you could cast Mind Fog beforehand and Limited Wish as a readied action.

But the lowest-effort way to make your L17 wizard fail a Will save is to just spam the helmet at him. Every time you take it off and put it back on his head, he gets to make the Will save again. Resurrect him restrained (including Dimensional Anchor so he can't Silent Dimension Door his way out), then keep taking the helmet off and putting it back on until he fails the save.

If you're feeling super paranoid about the guy escaping, you can resurrect him in a Robe of Powerlessness. This is another cursed item, similar to the Helm Of Opposite Alignment you're already using; it grants -10 to Strength and Intelligence with no save. Your L17 wizard's intelligence is at most 22, so this drops him to 12, which will make it much harder for him to wizard his way out of being restrained. The drawback to this is that the -10 penalties require Heal to undo, and Limited Wish can't replicate that spell...

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think the biggest problem here is that the corpse does not qualify as a valid target for most of these, but the idea of spamming the helm on him until he fails the save is going to work. Use some spell to detect a specific alignment he had or he would gain and have a way to remove the helm from him if he passes the save. Then, once he's good, he should feel that not uncursing himself again is the right thing to do, provided he knows. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 19:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There are some good ideas here, but the spell mind fog is mind-affecting so it doesn't affect undead creatures. (It'll totally affect the resurrected wizard, though.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ The helm loses its magic once it takes effect, so it's not that important to verify exactly when that happens. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 22:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also pump a few negative levels into him via Enervation to worsen his save further. \$\endgroup\$
    – LAK
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 15:17

A Possible Narrative

Assuming the wizard 13 can't use effects that reduce saving throws on the destroyed lich's remains (a conclusion that's not totally forgone but with which most agree), the wizard 13 instead needs to use saving throw reducing effects on the lich while the lich is still a lich, and those effects must persist until the resurrection's completed and the lich's made the saving throw against the helm. The 7th-level Clr spell resurrection [conj] (PH 272-3) has a 10-minute casting time, so any saving throw reducing effect's duration must be longer than that.

Maybe deal mental ability damage...

The spell resurrection says, in part, that "the creature is immediately restored to full hit points, vigor, and health." It's up to the DM whether this vigor and health includes healing ability damage (which is specifically not healed in its entirety by the 5th-level Clr spell raise dead [conj] (PH 268) on which the spell resurrection is based), but it's safe to assume it doesn't.

Undead creatures, while immune to a lot of stuff including ability drain, aren't immune to ability damage to their mental ability scores. But such an effect dealing mental ability damage still can't be mind-affecting nor can the effect require a Fortitude saving throw unless the effect also affects objects. This doesn't leave many choices.

  • The 4th-level Diamond Mind maneuver mind strike [strike] (Tome of Battle 64) deals a creature that fails a Willpower saving throw 1d4 points of Wisdom damage. Note: A wizard can use the maneuver with a scholar ring of the Diamond Mind (ToB 149-150) (15,000 gp; 0 lbs.) after meeting the maneuver's prerequisites (perhaps with the feat Martial Study (ToB 31-2) and a novice ring of the Diamond Mind (ToB 149-150) (3,000 gp; 0 lbs.)).
  • The 7th-level Drd spell rain of roses [conj] (Book of Exalted Deeds 106) for 1 round/level, in addition to other effects, deals 1d4 points of Wisdom damage to evil creatures within an 80-ft.-radius cylinder. This part of the spell has no saving throw. Note: Again, a wizard who acquires a resurrection spell should be able to acquire the spell rain of roses.

It's possible the wizard 13 won the fight against the cocky lich by engaging the lich in battle in an area from which the lich couldn't simply teleport away (see here) and employed the skill Use Magic Device and a divine scroll of rain of roses (7th-level spell at caster level 13) (2,275 gp; 0 lbs.), getting lucky on the 1d4 roll for a few rounds. (The lich might not've seen that coming.) (Reducing a creature's Wisdom to 0 through ability damage renders the creature helpless.) Such a narrative leaves the lich at the wizard's mercy, allowing the wizard to bombard the helpless lich with saving-throw-reducing spells.

...Then reduce saving throws with long-term effects...

Then—perhaps while the lich is at the wizard's mercy—the wizard casts the following spells:

  • The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell bedevil [conj] (Champions of Ruin 29), in addition to other effects, causes the victim to suffer a −1 penalty on Willpower saving throws for 1 day/level. The spell allows no saving throw. Note: Because of its significant duration, a useful spell to have cast on lich well beforehand.
  • The 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell bestow curse [necro] (PH 203), in addition to other choices, can be used to cause the victim to suffer a −4 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, and skill checks. Note: Curses are specifically not undone by the spells raise dead et al.
  • The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell greater bestow curse [necro] (Spell Compendium 27), in addition to other choices, can be used to cause the victim to suffer a −8 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, ability checks, and skill checks. Note: Curses are specifically not undone by the spells raise dead et al. Although awfully close yet still a different source, this spell's penalty should stack with the penalty from the spell bestow curse; ask the DM. Note: See previous note. Also, a level 13 wizard must make a caster level check (DC 16) to employ an arcane scroll of greater bestow curse (8th-level spell at caster level 15) (3,000 gp; 0 lbs.).

...Then, finally, reduce the next saving throw

Then the wizard finishes off the lich with this:

  • The 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell sword of deception [evoc] (SpC 217), in addition to other effects, causes the victim to suffer up to a −5 penalty on its next saving throw.

And then the wizard casts the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell limited wish [univ] (PH 248) to cause the lich to suffer a −7 penalty on its next saving throw.

Then the wizard destroys the lich's phylactery, destroys the lich, puts the helm of opposite alignment (4,000 gp; 3 lbs.) atop the lich's remains, and casts the spell resurrection on those remains.


From the spell rain of roses the former lich's Wisdom is 1; from the spells bedevil, bestow curse, and greater bestow curse the penalty to Willpower saving throws is −13; and from the spells sword of deception and limited wish the penalty to the lich's next saving throw is −12.

Even if the wizard defeated the lich using a method other than the spell rain of roses, that's still a −25 to the resurrected lich's next Willpower saving throw. And even if the DM says the penalty from the spell greater bestow curse isn't cumulative with the penalty from the spell bestow curse (or if it's distasteful to have the wizard use a spell from a scroll), that's still a −17 to the resurrected lich's next Willpower saving throw.

While an optimized lich may yet succeed on such a saving throw, it'll struggle mightily for that success if, in conjunction with these methods, prior to its resurrection, it's stripped of its gear and the targeted version of greater dispel magic is employed to remove any ongoing protections.

  • Without knowing your lich, I looked at some other liches. Mael-Brigte Feórna is a lich (formerly human) Sor20 with Wisdom 15 and a Willpower saving throw bonus of +10. Tevangia Zail, Archmage of Lichdom, is a lich (formerly half-elf) evoker 13/archmage 5 with Wisdom 15 and a Willpower saving throw bonus of +17 (Libris Mortis 156). (Lower-level liches are easier to find; I ignored them.) While the latter lich is better designed (having, for example, a spell component pouch among her possessions), neither is particularly optimized and neither can withstand this assault to its Will save.
  • Consider making a better helm of opposite alignment. The saving throw DC of 15 means its effect is equivalent to a 3rd-level spell (despite most being created at caster level 12). For example, although it appears in the Epic Level Handbook, the non-epic item creation feat Enhance Item (34) is an extremely easy way to justify a more powerful helm.

Ok so as one understands it,

Main Protagonist:

  • Was resurrected by a resurrection spell (he wasn't a lich for too
  • Awakened with a Helm of Opposite Alignment already on his
  • He failed the saving throw.

If he was unconscious when the Helm was placed then his will would automatically be lower because he is not aware of a danger, when you engage another Wizard they call upon mental shields and controls where they fall into a guarded Mindset. However if you are asleep and someone casts a spell while you have some Will defence you are much more vulnerable and more so to an alignment change as it taps your unconscious and dream mind that is much more open to manipulation.

3.5 has a rule that states, spells with the "(Harmless)" tag can affect unconscious characters.

From that it would mean that an unconscious character has a Will save, but as it crosses a grey area where you open up the argument of wakes and before can think Spell takes effect, so following the rules Yes they get a save but at a disadvantage.

If you require a rule mechanic to lower will, then the easiest one would be that the inside of the Helm has been poisoned, pick one that works well against a Wizard and lowers Will, it would effect an unconscious person and do what you need with minimal fuss.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Will-decreasing poison is a very good idea! With magical solutions had it been much more costlier. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 0:58

You're the GM who determines the overarching story of the quest. It's more than within your power to create a construct item that does what you want it to do within the realms of possibility. Wish, Miracle, or Reality Revision operate within the bounds of your own discretion. So they can do anything you want them to.

I'd say your concern would be exactly what happened after his alignment changed, why would he associate with your player characters, being a good lich and all, and who exactly did the Resurrection? Resurrection spells do cost 10,000gp worth of diamonds after all. What did the person doing the resurrection hope to gain from doing this to a lich?


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