The Complete Guide to Liches


The Complete Guide To Liches

Author: Michael Ferguson
Publisher: Goodman Games
Publish Date: ?
ISBN: 0-9726241-4-7
Pages: 64
Rating: 8 out of 10
Retail Price: $14.99


As many DMs I know would, I quickly cleared the distance across the room at the game store when I saw The Complete Guide to Liches on the shelf. Liches are the penultimate big bad evil guy in just about every D&D game I’ve seen, second only to dragons in the fear the very mention of their name inspires in a group of players. However, there’s not much one can do to customize a basic lich aside from their feat selection, so I’m always open to new ideas for dealing with liches in my own game. A book dedicated to nothing but liches was simply too good to pass up, and I knew before I even picked the book up that I would be walking out of that store with it tucked safely under my arm.

The first chapter, a short five pages, deals with the physiology of the lich, possible origins of the ritual of lichdom and ideas for what happens when a lich’s ritual goes bad. It also includes a short preview of a few lich variants that will be found in a later chapter. What I found especially interesting was a detailed account of the actual ritual of lichdom, which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other book before. Lastly, there were ideas for spending more XP during the creation of the phylactery to beef it up a bit, giving it a higher hardness rating and/or hit points. I wish this chapter had been longer and more detailed. Its short length made it feel almost like an introduction rather than an actual chapter, though the information it contained was definitely above par.

The second chapter detailed the life of the average lich. It discussed how liches view the living, with their skewed perceptions of living though processes. It also dealt with the idea of lich madness, and proposed the idea that almost every lich eventually goes insane, or at least its thought processes are so far removed from anything a living being would think of that it might as well be insane. I especially liked the section that dealt with liches that go loopy because they can’t accept that their bodies are decaying around them. The last part of the chapter dealt with lich artifacts. The idea is that occasionally, a lich gets so powerful that parts of its own body retain some of that power after they are destroyed. This felt a little too “hand of Vecna” for me, but it wasn’t a bad idea, I suppose.

The next chapter was the real meat of the book, as it dealt with a lich’s strategies both to prevent combat and to engage in combat. Ideas for how to design a lich’s lair are given. Additionally, a really good puzzle trap based on a game of chess is presented. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better puzzle trap in a d20 book.

Chapter four was about the abilities a lich has above those of other beings. New spells are detailed, most of which are very good ideas because they are fear or mind-affecting based, meaning that the lich can cast them freely without worrying about whether he or his undead minions will be affected. Additionally, this chapter presented new feats that allow a lich to draw power from his phylactery at the risk of potentially damaging his soul.

The final real chapter is very short, but had extremely good ideas for including liches in just about any game. Ideas for different climates and settings are presented. Additionally, a few ideas for justifying lich-hunters are presented. This chapter makes it very easy to develop plot hooks involving liches, which is a big part of why I wanted the book in the first place.

The rest of the book was listed as a trio of appendixes, though they could easily have been chapters on their own. The first of the three details eight types of variant liches, such as the dracolich, which we all know as a dragon in lich form and the novalich, a revenant-like being that becomes a lich for a short time to complete a task that dealth would have interrupted. The second appendix is full of sample liches, each of which is detailed with a background, personality and combat strategies. There is one lich NPC for each of the eight variant liches presented in the book, as well as one “regular” lich. The third appendix contained seven new prestige classes. Personally, I didn’t like any of them, and one, the patriarch, seemed to have been included almost as a joke.

I think this book might be valuable to anyone wanting to create a powerful lich opponent to act as a recurring bad guy. The book is very well-written for the most part, and world neutral. Given the relative low cost, I’m very glad I bought this book.