Lich Species in Cairne | World Anvil


The undead masters of the arcane, those rare few that are powerful and ambitious enough to reach beyond the veil of possibility and clutch at the secrets of forbidden power, the Lich is a creature of both fearful legend and nightmarish wonder. They exist at the fringe of existence, hiding among the ruins of the worlds they once knew, or occasionally in plain sight using powerful necromancy to obscure what they truly are, but either way these fell souls are the pinnacle of sorcerous and necromantic achievement.   There exist only a few of these in the world at any given time, the method and means of becoming a secret so black and terrible that those seeking the forbidden path to this achievement are sought after and destroyed by both the living and the dead, should their designs be discovered in time. While there are a number of ways for this type of creature to come into being, none of them are simple, and all require tremendous power, an extremely high cost, and no small degree of luck.

Basic Information


While a Lich retains most if not all of its former knowledge gained in life, the act of becoming one, no matter the way it happens, requires the stripping away of humanity. Time moves in a different manner for the undead, seasons and years passing without much notice at times, and the lives and spans of the mortal world quickly become trivial for the creature. It is only a matter of time before the trappings of life become more of an exhaustive act to maintain than anything to be held on to out of endearing memory. These quirks manifest in the following ways:    
  • The skin of the undead is always cold to the touch. It retains a soft but underlying rigidity not typical to the living. No matter the disguise, a successful perception check upon touching bare skin may alert the observer that something is amiss.
  • While able to control the manifestation of the façade of being alive (provided they have consumed a soul recently enough), the eyes of the undead in their normal state show as an eerie, green glow, often referred to as the ghostlights or ghostfire. When allowing their true form to be visible, their vision sharpens, nearly highlighting the living in their field of view.
  • The undead are not actually reliant upon the physical body they inhabit to speak. While holding the façade of being alive, they are able to engage the vocal cords, tongue, and respiratory organs to produce true speech, but if needed or desired, they can let the façade drop and allow their true voice to manifest, issuing forth as a hollow, spectral emanation of their true form.
  • In the Lich in particular, this true voice is a culmination of all the voices of all the souls they have devoured speaking at once.
  • When the body of the undead is prepared or created, it is exsanguinated and the blood replaced with a specially prepared ichor that is dull, greenish brown. It is created using a mixture of animal ichor, resins, oils, black lotus, demon blood, and a powerful alchemical base, making it toxic if imbibed by humans and causing nausea and vomiting in supernatural creatures.
  • This does allow the undead to still be susceptible to bleeding out, however they will go dormant if they lose all their ichor this way rather than “die”.
  • This ichor causes the skin and hair of the undead to lose the natural pigment over time, turning the hair and skin lighter and lighter until they are eventually stark white. By this same process their eyes slowly turn green as well, a side effect of the ichor’s preservation of the physical form.

Growth Rate & Stages

Aqua Mortis: The Lich and their followers are able to repair the damage done to their bodies by soaking in a vat of the ichor that runs in their veins, the Aqua Mortis. This substance is extremely toxic to the living, and if the undead that soaks in it has not already lost the pigment in their skin and hair, it will be gone following the first soak. This practice will completely repair a damaged body.

Ecology and Habitats

  • The lich's touch causes plants to wither and if prolonged, die. This makes maintaining a garden impossible, and therefore will require them to utilize another to do so if they wish to grow reagents.
  • Animals are spooked by the undead, and riding an animal that is still living will require an animal handling check, all rolls are made with a -2 penalty. If the undead fails, the animal is spooked and either runs home, or freezes up and refuses to move.

Dietary Needs and Habits

The undead no longer require the need to eat food. They do not hunger for it or crave it, and the ability to even enjoy it fades rapidly after the change occurs. If, in order to maintain the façade of being alive, they do eat, the food will sit inside of them and rot. In order to combat this, most maintain a large enough degree of control over the muscles in the body to bring the food back up, effectively vomiting it out, however, those that do not, will need to remove it via incision in the belly, or suffer the effects of having a mass of rotting matter inside them creating an obvious smell that cannot be hidden.   That being said, the Lich does still need to sustain it's outward existence, and that is done through the procuring of living victims and devouring their souls as described below:   Feeding: Every month, the Lich must devour the soul of a living human being in order to maintain the façade of being alive. The method of how this is done may differ from individual to individual, but the end result is the same. The devoured souls remain locked into a hellish mockery of half existing, lost and trapped within the spectral void of the Lich’s power and forced to lend their spiritual vitality to the creatures evil machinations. The souls are painfully aware of everything the Lich does, forced to watch and endure the horrors before them, knowing their own spirit is empowering the deeds they see done. Should the Lich exceed two weeks without feeding, the façade of what they are will drop, and the physical form will decay into what it truly is, an animated corpse.

Biological Cycle

The undead are effectively immortal. They do not die of old age or physical ailments, and in fact can even survive full physical destruction in the case of a Lich as is detailed below:   The Phylactery: During the creation of the Lich in all its forms, the spirit of the individual is split, the mortal half locked into a vessel relevant to the individual and its purpose, while the other half remains within the physical form of the creature. This is the Lich’s one and only true venerability. If the physical manifestation of the Lich is destroyed, the half of the spirit that remains within the body will seek out and return to the Phylactery unerringly no matter where in the world it is and from there, in habit a new body, most often prepared in advance should events go poorly for the caster. The reinsertion of the half of the spirit that remains with the body and the reanimation process takes three in-game days to complete, after which the lich will remain in a magically exhausted state for an additional 48 hours, requiring that the Lich feed soon after to complete the process or risk the new body falling to decay and no longer being able to maintain the façade Should another player find the phylactery, the item will resonate power, and a successful void magic roll can be made to determine the nature of what it is. Once the nature of the object is ascertained, then the means to destroy it will be known as well. Destroying the phylactery can be done through mundane means, but unless the item is cleansed the spirit will continue to exist disembodied and the souls devoured by the Lich will be lost forever. Should a player succeed in cleansing the item, and then destroying it, the devoured souls are released into the afterlife, free to find their rest.   The phylactery itself can be virtually any mundane item, a gem, a ring, a box, a sword, etc. The item must have some personal significance to the caster however, and be small enough to be carried easily. No self respecting Lich would carry a phylactery around on their person without just cause, (i.e. moving it from one location to another), and the magic that traps exiles in the exiled lands, severs the the connection between the Lich and their phylactery, so it cannot be kept outside the green wall. In order to return to the physical realm, the phylactery must be housed near a fresh body so the spirit of the Lich has a form to return to should the previous one be destroyed. Luckily, as is discussed below, the needs of a Lich provide a fresh body often enough that this should not be an issue.


No matter what the beginnings, the undead will eventually fall to darkness. Being detached from the realm of the living, and the perspective of immortality vs the very tangible frailty of life will eventually lead to a mindset that no longer views the living as much more than a small point in a long life, resulting in the devaluing of humanity, often to the point of cruelty. This will of course vary greatly based upon the origin, age, and nature of the undead, but come what may, this power has a high price.

Additional Information

Social Structure

The Lich will often choose after much careful consideration, a champion or knight of sorts that will serve as their immortal defender and companion. There is an unfathomable bond between the two as the very thing that keeps the Champion immortal, is the Lich's continued existence creating a symbiotic tether between the two. More than a soldier, this creature is the result of a specifically chosen mortal’s conversion to the ranks of the deathless. They maintain a great deal of the martial abilities of their former life, as well as the tactical prowess of a well trained knight or soldier. They tend to be brilliant commanders and dangerous strategists, leading legions of the undead in terrible sieges against the enemies of the Lich. While individual style and areas of expertise will reflect who they were in life, the Champion is always a terrifying match on the battlefield. They have been chosen and entrusted with the physical protection of the Lich and their interests, and in doing so, entwined their soul with that of their maker. As long as the Lich’s phylactery survives, the Champion cannot truly be killed, following the same method of returning as their master. The Lich has the ability to terminate this bond at any time.

Facial characteristics

The undead are capable of maintaining the façade of life, as long as they have fed upon a living soul recently. This façade will deteriorate quickly if this need is not met, causing the physical form to decay into the corpse it actually is underneath. To this end, a Lich can look like any mortal individual, from any culture, but will tend towards whatever culture they initially spawned from, and depending on their age, may endure a habit of acting within outdated fashion and etiquette of that culture, a subtle hint that they may not be what they seem.       When the façade drops, however, the manifestation of their true nature will become apparent in their white skin and hair, and glowing green eyes. In some cases, the undead will forgo all attempts to remain human in appearance, no longer seeing the need to play games having become secure in their power. In this case, they will retain a decayed state, looking for all intents and purposes like a rotting, ambulatory corpse, eyes aglow with ghostfire.

Average Intelligence

In order to become a Lich, the living creature must not only be extremely intelligent, but able to implement this intelligence in a precise manner as well just to risk the ascension.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

The Lich has perfect Void Sight up to 120' and can detect the living at the same distance with unerring accuracy.

Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms

The souls devoured by the lich remain within them, trapped in an endless black prison and forced to watch the horrors that the lich perpetuates, potentially forever. The liches true voice is an amalgam of these souls voices being used, and also allow the Lich to aid in its ability to disguise itself by emulating the voices and mannerisms of the souls it has devoured, much to the chagrin of the poor sods trapped within. Upon the destruction of the lich, these souls are finally released to whatever peace they have earned in life.


  • The Lich is able, through a small ritual, to transfer their spirit to a new host. This is not something done lightly however, as it requires a tremendous amount of energy and leaves the Lich weakened for a period of time afterward, and vulnerable. The Lich takes on the physical shape of the person they have chosen, but does not gain any insight into the person's memories and mannerisms. They may try to act as the person taken, but it will require deception. Should the new form take a substantial amount of damage, it will become apparent that the form is not alive, thus exposing the Lich as an undead. This does not necessarily expose the original identity of the Lich, just the nature of what they are. They are able to do this because of what they actually are. The Lich is no longer a physical manifestation, but an eldritch abomination in spirit form, only half in this world while the core of their spirit remains tied to their phylactery.
  • The Lich does not breathe and is therefore immune to drowning and gas effects. They are also not susceptible to poisons and disease. The negative reactions of Void energy can still affect their physical form, but they are much less susceptible to it and can exist in a saturated location without ill effects.
  • The Lich has dominion over the dead. As such they are able to command the mindless undead at will as long as they are in range of communication, and sentient undead may try to resist its commands, but this is very difficult and usually results in a contest of wills. 
  • The Lich radiates a fear aura when the façade is not employed, one that can cause the living to flee or, in a worst case scenario, freeze in terror.
  • Forced Possession. Should the Lich be trapped in their phylactery, they have a one shot chance at overpowering a target's psyche if they get within range, and can demand that they find a host for them, should the target fail. This will not force the target to offer their own life, but instead will send them out to seek another. The target will remember this and know what has happened after the fact, though the experience can be traumatizing.
  • The Breathless Plague. The undead carry with them the ability to infect a mortal with a wasting sickness that slowly turns them into one of the undead.
Genetic Descendants
Scientific Name
Any creature intelligent and driven enough to achieve it

Cover image: Lich by Midjourney


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