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I'm looking for a way to become essentially undead but keep my character, alignment, sentience etc. Becoming a Lich, including phylactery and all, is a bit troublesome from what I've read so far, because the process of becoming a Lich is nowhere defined.

I came up with the following solution: Use Contingency to cast Create Undead on myself upon my death and commit suicide.

It seems like using Contingency to cast Revivify or Resurrection is generally regarded as possible, but what will happen if Create Undead (or other "zombiefying" spells) are used? will I retain my memory and goals? What about my hitpoints and attributes? Is a ghoul simply a ghoul?

If not, are there other ways to become a "sentient wizard zombie"?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Only after asking this question did I find what I was looking for: Ritual of Crucimigration. But that's only 3.5e and I need it for 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Nov 18 '15 at 11:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you trying to transform into a Lich via a means that is beyond the DM's control? Or are you really just curious about going Lich-mode by RAW? If you're trying to pull this off in an actual game/campaign, it's best to give your DM the heads-up so the two of you can figure out together how it should play out. As DM, I already have ideas in mind that can't be found in any 5e rulebook. Regardless, good question! ^_^ (+1) \$\endgroup\$ – Pitzy Nov 18 '15 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pitzy I'm foremost looking for a RAW solution and mostly out of curiosity. I might build my next character around it if I can find something I can work with. However, feel free to share your ideas, I always enjoy reading interesting plots and working out something with my DM is certainly an option. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Nov 18 '15 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] Can a Warlock become a lich? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 18 '15 at 16:03
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A warlock following a patron of The Undying

In the new Sword Coast Adventurers Guide (page 139), The Undying patron is detailed. This seems to suit your needs exactly, although you might not be able to change from one class to another without your DM's permission.

Listed as example Undying are actual liches like the lich-queen Vol, Vlaakith the lich-queen of the githyanki, and "sentient wizard zombie" the deathless wizard Fistandantalus, among others.

Your alignment is not tied to your patron, and you can read about that here.

The Undying expanded spell list includes spells like contagion, death ward, false life, ray of sickness, speak with dead, and other lichy type things. The following features are paraphrased, so you'll need to grab a Sword Coast Adventurers guide to get specifics.

Among the Dead

At 1st level, you learn spare the dying and have advantage on saving throws against disease. Also, when an undead creature targets you, they make a Wisdom throw against your spell DC and can't target you on a failed save. They are immune to this for 24 hours if they succeed or if you target it with an attack or spell.

Defy Death

At 6th level, you gain 1d8 + Con hit points when you succeed on a death saving throw or use spare the dying once per long rest.

Undying Nature

At 10th level, you can hold your breath forever and don't need food, water, or sleep. You also age 10 times slower and can't be magically aged.

Indestructible Life

At 14th level, you can use a bonus action to regain 1d8 + warlock level hit points. You can also reattach severed body parts when you use this feature. can use once per short or long rest.

So, while not technically immortal, this is pretty close for RAW and requires no homebrew unless you change from your current class to a new one. An elf Undying Warlock can live to be about 7000 years old, which is really enough time for you to roleplay until you actually die of old age in real life.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely forgot about this recently-added warlock patron. Thanks for reminding me! \$\endgroup\$ – D. Sorrim Nov 18 '15 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is incredible and I wish this book was out when I made my Warlock.. \$\endgroup\$ – KeineMaster Nov 18 '15 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KeineMaster It's entirely reasonable to ask your DM to change patrons, since much of your power is tied to it, just like Paladins can be Oathbreakers, you could use the same logic on your Warlock for your setting. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Nov 18 '15 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov My warlock is too deep in terms of roleplay to change it's patron by now. He is "possessed" by a demon lord named Behemoth and the former won't let some undead take away his "protégé". \$\endgroup\$ – KeineMaster Nov 18 '15 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow! While technically neither a wizard nor really undead, I also technically never asked for that explicitly. I accepted this answer for providing the 'coolest' RAW solution. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Nov 19 '15 at 6:31
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Long Answer Short: Vampires, and careful planning.

Seeing as that the next "runner up" in terms of undeath and reanimation (via Create Undead) is a Ghoul (MM p. 148) , you likely would not be able to remain in control of yourself if you were to become one. Your only hope in the situation of becoming a Ghoul would be praying something like the following happens:

(MM p. 148 : Ghasts) Orcus sometimes infuses a ghoul with a stronger dose of abyssal energy, making a ghast. Whereas ghouls are little more than savage beasts, a ghast is cunning and can inspire a pack of ghouls to follow its commands.

One who is hopeful enough toward Orcus' boons might hope that enough abyssal energy would maintain some semblance of sentience in their person. But whichever way that goes, you still become a very smelly and unsavory type of undead.

That being said,

A vampire would likely be your best bet, as you not only become much more powerful, but you are essentially undead, and maintain your intellect almost entirely intact. The same can't be said of your humanity, of course:

(MM p. 295 : Dark Desires) Whether or not a vampire retains any memories from its former life, its emotional attachments wither as once-pure feelings become twisted by undeath. Love turns into hungry obsession, while friendship becomes bitter jealousy. In place of emotion, vampires pursue physical symbols of what they crave, so that a vampire seeking love might fixate on a young beauty. etc...

If that is all peachy with you, then you have to figure out how to become one... Namely, finding a vampire who is honest enough to turn you into a Vampire Spawn, and then let you feed off of their own blood. Otherwise you could just get turned into the equivalent of a powerful ghoul and be stuck in servitude for ever. Luckily, vampires are lawful evil by default. So perhaps drafting a contract could seal the deal, or arranging some other method of trade in order to secure your own vampirism? Regardless, the rules for a player character as a vampire are as follows:

(MM p. 295 : Player Characters as Vampires) The character's Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores become 18 if they aren't higher. In addition, the character gains the vampire's damage resistances, darkvision, traits, and actions. Attack and damage rolls for the vampire's attacks are based on Strength. The save DC for Charm is 8 + the vampire's proficiency bonus+ the vampire's Charisma modifier. The character's alignment becomes lawful evil, and the DM might take control of the character until the vampirism is reversed with a wish spell or the character is killed and brought back to life.

What's that? You don't want to lose control of yourself, or become evil? Not a problem, you need only locate a Helm of Opposite Alignment to keep yourself on a "righteous" path. Best of luck finding one, of course, let alone subjecting yourself to it at the right moment. Also, convincing a vampire to convert you to one and then becoming potentially Good-aligned is probably not something any vampire will want to do to begin with.

With that out of the way, here's why you can't use Contingency.

Contingency - 6th level Evocation : Choose a spell of 5th level or lower that you can cast, that has a casting time of 1 action.

Firstly, Create Undead has a casting time of One minute. Secondly, Create Undead is a 6th level spell. So that is physically impossible to do from the getgo.

The only resurrecting spell you can use this with is Revivify, since it is level 3, and has a casting time of 1 action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Whoops, looks like somebody didn't read the spell descriptions properly. Thanks for your answer. Though I have to admit, the whole vampire flair isn't really what I'm looking for. I commented about Ritual of Crucimigration, was that completely removed? Do you know of some module somewhere that has something similar perhaps? \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Nov 18 '15 at 11:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ But since it is old-edition content, it likely has not had its equivalent version created in 5th edition yet. I can think of plenty of instances in which wizards are preventing themselves from dying. But none of them are going to net you anything close to the life you had previously than vampirism will. Again: You'd need a helmet of opposite alignment before you could even think of achieving this if you ended up becoming a vampire. It's not for everyone of course, but you can recreate the vampire aesthetic into what you want if it helps. What book was the ritual in? \$\endgroup\$ – D. Sorrim Nov 18 '15 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I only found a dandwiki.com entry about the Necropolitan which specifies the ritual. It seems to be in 3.5e homebrew, but I just took up d&d and 5e at that so I have no Idea what that means. The bit about the aesthetic is a valid point though, so depending on whether my DM will help me getting one, I might go with it. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Nov 18 '15 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Homebrew is player-made content not official to the Forgotten Realms or other worlds that use the D&D ruleset. So the ritual is not something that is technically canon. Depending on your DM they may be willing to help you build a concept of a new ritual that they would accept to achieve this end, but you would need to come up with how to achieve that yourself. Let me know how it goes, I'm curious what you settle on. \$\endgroup\$ – D. Sorrim Nov 18 '15 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Necropolitan is located in the Libris Mortis, an official 3.5 D&D supplement so if used in 3.5 it would not be homebrew. Converting it to 5e would make it homebrew, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Dobbins May 13 '17 at 6:02
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On DMG p222 there is an artifact called the "Book of Vile Evil" which has a feature called "Vile Apotheosis" which states that

The book could hold a ritual that allows a character to become a lich or death knight.

This way your character can actually become a Lich, however, finding the artifact and obtaining it is another story.

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Becoming a lich is simple. It's magical item creation. The DM and you the player need to work out the level of the spell the item and then work out how long to create the "formula" then the creation of the magic item (your phylactery) will be a separate endeavor of time and money.

I'll try and be brief in my summation. First you need to determine the minimum level for the creation cost. Now, since liches are 11th+ you need to be 11th minimum. So the item (your phylactery) is very rare and will have a creation cost of 50k gp. The formula to make the item is one step rarer (legendary), so it is at a value of 500k gp to create.

You can craft a magic item at 25gp per day, 50000gp/25gp per day = 2000 days, for your singular effort; I suggest you get a friend or three to help make yours.

The recipe would take you 20k days… that's abut 55 years. You're better off meeting a lich and asking him for the recipe or buying the recipe.

The following pages should be helpful to you:
DMG, page 128, “Crafting a Magic Item”
PHB, page 187, “Downtime Activities - Crafting”

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does an optional downtime activity which involves the player and DM engaging in a homebrewing exercise really get to the root of what is being asked for here? It would be simpler to just ask the DM to homebrew a spell which applies a lich template and hope for the best. Really, this comes down to "just ask the DM to make it up", which isn't much of an answer \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Nov 29 '16 at 7:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 VOTES?! I listed the god damn pages and how to do it mechanically. I spoon fed somone the answerand "tuggy" over here gave me a neg? really? \ \$\endgroup\$ – Tom Birmingham Dec 4 '16 at 5:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's no way to know who gave a vote or why. He only edited your answer. Also, considering I voted it up, there must be multiple people who did not find this answer helpful. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how well written an answer is, if multiple people find it misleading, then it's a poor answer. This kind of discussion also isn't the intended purpose for comments, so I'll say this: the most likely issue comes from my concerns in the first comment I left here: Your answer is effectively a roundabout way of saying "ask the DM to make it up." I'm OK with that answer, but not everyone is. \$\endgroup\$ – JAMalcolmson Dec 4 '16 at 5:55

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