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Old 02-21-2019, 04:30 PM   #11
Dalin
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
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Default Re: Lich in a dungeon

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Originally Posted by b-dog View Post
I was hoping for a special ops kind of situation . . .
This would work well if the PCs had some sort of information source. Perhaps, unbeknownst to the lich, the spirit of the head security engineer (who was, of course, killed after construction), has been contacted or brought back somehow. Or there's another leak in the organization somehow. This gives the PCs some intel about the situation (like a good action movie) and then they can plan accordingly.
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Old 02-23-2019, 05:20 AM   #12
maximara
 
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Default Re: Lich in a dungeon

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Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
I haven't run a game with a lich since the Tomb of Horrors (a long, long time ago), but here are some quick thoughts off the top of my head:
Minor point of order, Acererak is a demi-lich not a lich. "All that now remains of Acererak are the dust of his bones and his skull resting in the far recesses of the vault." In fact, after having his tomb built (and killing all the slaves that built it) he "went to his final haunt, while his soul roamed strange planes unknown to even the wisest of sages."

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A lich that just wants to be alone could be nearly invulnerable, lairing in a pocket dimension or something that only it could access with its custom spells. But why would anyone care about such a loner lich?
Same reason the PC bothered Acererak - stories of fabulous wealth and power.

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Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
The main reason a lich would have an accessible "dungeon" at all is that it is up to something that requires contact with the regular world. Maybe it is engaged in research and needs books or rare reagents. Maybe it needs bodies to raise into minions (or worse). Maybe it has political aspirations (or it may already be the power behind the throne). Maybe it needs to consult with sages, wizards, and clerics. Maybe it wants to be worshipped by mortal beings (to achieve godhood?). Figuring out the main goals of the lich help to indicate both its points of contact with the real world (book merchants, etc.) and what types of powers it may have. A political lich, for example, may have lots of mind control spells.

These bits may also indicate likely locations for the dungeon (or one of many dungeons). Perhaps it has a secret hideout beneath the largest library in the kingdom and the rare collections librarian is in its employ (see the library crawl thread for other possibilities here). Perhaps it is connected with an evil temple and has a lair there. Maybe it needs to tap into the raw energy of a volcano to power its Domination Device.

Then I would think hard about what type of adventure would be fun for the players and what type of vulnerabilities their PCs might be able to plausibly take advantage of. Maybe they have a mystical gadget that gives them an edge (lich kryptonite). Maybe the lich has a time limit before it must complete a ritual; this gives the PCs a reason to hurry, but it also means that the lich is busy and provides a plausible explanation for why a genius might make mistakes. Maybe there's another major entity gunning for the lich so the PCs aren't on its radar.

I know this is short on specific tactics and whatnot, but this is how I would unpack the problem. The details emerge from the intersection of the lich's story and the stories of my specific PCs.
I wrote up a little piece on how to create an D&D inspired lich that goes beyond the skeleton in rotting robes cliche.

Last edited by maximara; 02-23-2019 at 05:28 AM.
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Old 02-23-2019, 07:51 AM   #13
Dalin
 
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Default Re: Lich in a dungeon

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Originally Posted by maximara View Post
Minor point of order, Acererak is a demi-lich not a lich.
Right! Totally forgot that detail. Well, then I can safely say that in four decades of GMing, I've never run a lich.

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Same reason the PC bothered Acererak - stories of fabulous wealth and power.
Granted, one can always create a rationale for it, but Acererak clearly wanted people to come visit. Why create a tomb of deathtraps leading to your actual resting place if you don't want people to come and die? Acererak might have benefited from some introspection and reflection on what he really wanted out of undeath. (New Profession: Therapist for the Everlasting Dead.)

If you don't want adventurers knocking at your bedroom door, a better bet would be to invest your time and intellect into erasing your legend, staging your true death or whatever, and then vanishing from history altogether.

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Originally Posted by maximara View Post
I wrote up a little piece on how to create an D&D inspired lich that goes beyond the skeleton in rotting robes cliche.
Cool! The lich lenses idea is great. I may try to get my "GMed a Lich" badge by building an Intact Lich NPC in my next campaign.
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Old 02-23-2019, 09:06 PM   #14
maximara
 
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Default Re: Lich in a dungeon

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Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
Granted, one can always create a rationale for it, but Acererak clearly wanted people to come visit. Why create a tomb of deathtraps leading to your actual resting place if you don't want people to come and die? Acererak might have benefited from some introspection and reflection on what he really wanted out of undeath. (New Profession: Therapist for the Everlasting Dead.)

If you don't want adventurers knocking at your bedroom door, a better bet would be to invest your time and intellect into erasing your legend, staging your true death or whatever, and then vanishing from history altogether.
When you get right down to it as Shadiversity points out there isn't much logic in "dungeons".

As for the tomb remember that for about a century the Egyptian Pharaohs built pyramids which were effectively giant 'hey I'm here, break in and loot my stuff preventing/FUBARing my journey to my reward' signs. Acererak may have had a Khufu sized ego and wanted everybody to know aobut him even if he was bopping around the multiverse.

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Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
Cool! The lich lenses idea is great. I may try to get my "GMed a Lich" badge by building an Intact Lich NPC in my next campaign.
There is a fanwork called GURPS Mummy based on White Wolf's A World of Darkness setting which can help with some ideas as Khapesh is so human looking that he fools a vampire.

Last edited by maximara; 02-23-2019 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:59 PM   #15
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Default Re: Lich in a dungeon

The lich character I liked the most in my RPG days was Azalin, the king of the realm of Darkon in the Ravenloft setting. He was run a few different ways in different campaigns, but generally he was presented as a distant aloof ruler who was concerned with obscure arcane things and resented being dragged into the campaign's petty squabbles.

1. Invasion by militant neighbor - Darkon is sort of a familiar fantasy nation, and to its south lies Falkovnia, a stand-in for a medieval sort of Nazi Germany. A few of my campaigns have focused on the dichotomy of whether you side with the lich, whose distant plans are likely horrendous to contemplate, or you side with the Falkovnian forces and their dictator, who are very immediate and very close and very violent.

2. Dungeons or strongholds. Azalin had his private castle far from civilization where he conducted his mystical experiments, and one official Ravenloft product (From the Shadows) featured that castle, which had a few neat magical themes.

I also set up a lower-level royal apartments, rarely occupied by the lich, and then only when he had to make occasional public appearances in the capital under guise of a mortal leader. (He had one Stalinesque appearance in the capital in a show of defiance, rallying the troops as the Falkovnian forces reached the outskirts.)

Finally, I had a dungeon complex set up essentially to house the magical stuff that Azalin couldn't find immediate uses for, but which he didn't want to discard or allow to pass freely around his nation. Physical items were housed on three or four levels of the "Black Vault" (quasi canonical) which could be accessed through a few secret surface installations, including the Royal Apartments. This was a fairly traditional dungeon crawl, although it was designed largely for functionality to separate and store dangerous artifacts rather than to "haha, challenge for you intruders!" style gameplay.

Azalin also had a more exotic containment system (called the "Shifter levels" after a Deus Ex mod I liked) for the really dangerous stuff, which was a more dispersed set of unconnected complexes ranging from a small room to a vast cavern in size. These could only be accessed by teleporting from one designated spot to another within them, and otherwise were separated by great distances. Some were airtight and deep underground or even underwater. (These complexes featured very esoteric clues to move around them, in the form of very complex puzzles. One might reasonably ask "why would the designer put these puzzles in when a simple yes/no access system would be better?" My response relied in part on a canonical feature of Darkon where newcomers lose their memories. Azalin feared the possibility of losing his memory - unlikely though it would be - and so designed a few workarounds that he himself could re-deduce painstakingly through clues if he ever got "locked out". One example of such a puzzle is to arrange stars in a starfield based on how it looked like, from Azalin's outworld home planet, at the time that Azalin himself was removed from that planet.)

The most dramatic portion of the Shifter levels was suspended above an ethereal void. Azalin had experimented with a false religion, and then discovered that something was actually granting the clergy their prayers. He found deep underground that the false prayers and religious energy was creating a monstrous dead god-fetus which grew in power at an alarming rate. He moved it to the observation complex above a void, with various failsafes built in so that if things really went awry, the entire complex would break away from the cliffside and fall into the ethereal void, taking the dead god-fetus with it.

One group of my PCs faced Azalin in combat at the end of From The Shadows, which was pretty much a magical shoot-em-up with no dash or panache. It was tough, and beating him in that fight was pretty memorable, but it wasn't really the fight that made him into a supervillain.

The real measure of his threat was the sheer scope of his plans and how many plots and crazy processes he had going on at once.

And, of course, the fact that a lich comes back after you kill it, dusting off its robes and muttering about getting back on schedule after that unpleasantness.

Edit: One campaign end plan for the lich (which the campaign ended early before we got there) was for the lich to seek to convert the entire realm into energy to power its transdimensional escape from Ravenloft. Obviously this was not great news for anybody other than the lich itself, but the sheer scope of its ambitious plan (and its bleak utilitarian nature) struck me as fun traits for a villain.

Last edited by SolemnGolem; 03-02-2019 at 06:04 AM.
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