• The window for editing your posts has been extended from 48 hours to about two weeks or so. Please report any problems with this in Trouble Tickets.

[Any] What is the purpose of a demilich?


Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
I know mechanically it is meant to be the baddest of the end bosses, but I mean in setting. A lich that has gone plane hopping with its mind shouldn't need to be concerned about its skull anymore. Hell it could break its phylactery and turn itself into a super ghost with an epic version of rejuvenation that only the gods and epic mortals can stop.

So why should it still be concerned with its remains?


Be inspired!
Validated User
In a lot of versions of DnD, becoming a Demilich isn't a conscious choice, but something that happens when their body deteriorates over time from dissues and ennui.

So in some cases its less a choice of becoming a Demilich and more something that just happens.

Terry Herc

RPGnet Member
Validated User
In a similar vein, I see it as a form of magical transcendence. Liches are horrifying in that they bend the actions of the living to fuel their quest for power. Demiliches have shed their physical form and are now twisting reality itself to suit their own will. They are more than just an enemy to be fought, they are a primal force of nature that must be reckoned with. Like the tide, in some sense they can be sheltered from, but perhaps never truly conquered.


Registered User
Validated User
Imagine that someone is super focused on a project on their computer and a group of kids playing games outside bugging them to the point that they need to stop working on the project to deal with the kids. The guy on the computer is the demilich and the group of kids is the average group of adventurers.

David Howery

Registered User
Validated User
maybe their purpose is to park their skulls in horrendously lethal death-trap dungeons that will lure dozens of adventurers to their awful deaths. Which sounds like fun, actually....


Still Frozen
RPGnet Member
Validated User
A lich is not just an immortal mage, it's a mage who became immortal through specific dedication to Necromancy. So any further advancement is more likely than not to be along those lines. And remains are important to Necromancy.

Also, the "remote items" thing is a pretty nice setup. Yes, it's a point of weakness that you have to guard, but in exchange it removes one of the biggest disadvantages of getting slain - losing your stuff.


Registred User
Validated User
A lich that has gone plane hopping with its mind shouldn't need to be concerned about its skull anymore. Hell it could break its phylactery and turn itself into a super ghost with an epic version of rejuvenation that only the gods and epic mortals can stop.
The Immortals Handbook, one of the wackiest D&D books ever made, had a pretty cool take on the concept.

Undeath taken beyond the cadaverous, beyond even the bone, when all that remains are the baubles of yesteryear empowered by the spirits of its unfortunate victims. Akaliches, or more commonly shadowliches, are demiliches so ancient, that any remnants of skull and bone have long since eroded to dust. Only their soul gems remain, empowered by malevolent will and captured immortal spirits. These cosmic terrors prey on immortals as it is their spirits that sustain it.
The mechanics are somewhat questionable, though.


Be inspired!
Validated User
IIRC, in one sequel to Tomb of Horrors, it turns out that the "demilich" is just another trap and not Acererak at all.
Yeah,IIRC that was the 3e version of the Dungeon, because they went and made Demiliches epic level monsters in that era, and so Acereak was literally too powerful to be run in an adventure with characters level 10-14. Which kind of illustrates the issues with making monsters needlessly overpowered.

IIRC they also included a bunch of undead from Libris Mortis in that version of the dungeon which is a nice touch, but I feel like maybe it misses the point of the dungeon ( The point being its supposed to be relatively light on combat, with more of a focus on problem solving and bypassing all the instakill traps).


Registered User
Validated User
A Lich is a wizard who has given up their flesh in pursuit of greater power and immortality.
A Demilich, then, is a Lich who has given up their body in pursuit of yet greater powers, greater immortality.
Magic is a thing of the mind, after all, so the body is superfluous -when not even the skull remains, presumably they will have completely ascended into a higher plane of existence.

Or they're just that old: much like a Lich symbolizes something ancient, a corpse far past its due date, a Demilich is a body even more decayed. How much time would it take for a Lich's bones to grind to dust, until only their skull remains? How powerful would such an old wizard be? (This isthe original justification, by the by: Acererak was just so old that even his undead life force was fading away, and so he created the eat-foolish-adventurers plot of the module.

And also, well, why would you assume that the (golden, bejeweled) skull is theirs? Might it not just be an expensive phylactery/Mind Jar of sorts that the Demilich has temporarily moved their soul into in preparation of something greater still?
Top Bottom