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An arch-lich, L, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is the strongest type of lich, and has the highest monster difficulty of any randomly-generated monster, as well as the second most after non-unique monsters behind the high priest.

An arch-lich is covetous, has a powerful cold touch, and the ability to cast mage monster spells. Arch-liches are breathless, poisonous, and have enhanced regeneration and infravision like other liches, along with resistance to cold, sleep and poison - they also possess fire resistance and shock resistance as well and seek out the Book of the Dead.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Arch-liches that are not cancelled can now raise monsters killed by them as zombies of the corresponding type; if they have one, they will be raised 5-20 turns after they are initially killed. This also applies to you if you are polymorphed into an arch-lich. They will also grudge living monsters that can be turned into zombies.

Monsters with digestion attacks can gain intrinsics from swallowing monsters whole, making it possible for them to gain cold resistance from an arch-lich that is digested.


Arch-liches are only randomly generated in Gehennom, and are a valid form for polymorph. Randomly-generated arch-liches are always hostile, and never leave a corpse when killed - if killed by any method that ordinarily leaves a corpse, a message is printed about their body crumbling to dust.[1]

Though arch-liches cannot be randomly generated outside of Gehennom, class-specific monster generation may generate an arch-lich in the Castle. Arch-liches may also be generated by the summon nasties monster spell when it is cast by a hostile spellcaster that is either chaotic or in Gehennom. A master lich can grow up into an arch-lich.

Randomly-generated arch-liches have a 13 chance of being generated with either an athame (23 chance) or a quarterstaff (13 chance) that has a 14 chance of being erosion-proofed, and will have its enchantment raised by 1-3 points if it is below +2.[2] There is a 113 chance to call the function for making the weapon into an artifact if possible[3] - in practice, this means that an arch-lich has a 11170 chance (less than ~0.086%) of generating with Magicbane, the only artifact weapon eligible to be generated in this manner. Arch-liches are not eligible for random offensive items.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Castle monster generation is adjusted so that no master or arch-liches can be created there using class-specific monster generation. Spellcasters casting summon nasties can no longer summon monsters of equal or higher difficulty than themselves, i.e. arch-liches cannot summon more arch-liches.

If a genocided monster with a pre-grown form (that is not explicitly a baby form) is chosen, and this form is not also genocided, it will appear in place of the genocided monster; this also happens if the chosen nasty is inappropriate for the location, such as an arch-lich outside Gehennom. When the difficulty is high enough for the spell to summon arch-liches or Archons (e.g., the Wizard casting it or via random harassment), at most one arch-lich OR one Archon will be created by a single summon nasties. See commit 3eed500 for more details.


The arch-lich is one of the most fearsome spellcasters that you can randomly encounter: at its lowest possible level, it is guaranteed to be able to cast touch of death. A polymorph trap or shapeshifter (e.g., chameleons and doppelgangers) can very rarely result in an arch-lich appearing far earlier than intended - engrave a semi-permanent Elbereth, drop a scroll of scare monster, or secure your escape via other means as quickly as possible, or they will likely visit a swift doom upon you.

Arch-liches can be prevented from warping by throwing a potion of paralysis as a high-dexterity character (which can be boosted with worn gauntlets of dexterity), or by wielding one and hitting them with it while wearing a ring of free action, giving you time to either flee or wear them down. The general strategy for dealing with covetous monsters also applies if you plan to fight and kill an arch-lich: occupy or block the upstair (e.g. using teleport control to teleport yourself there), and try to keep it out of melee range where possible if you want to avoid the brunt of its spellcasting.

Stoning, disintegration and digestion will deal with an arch-lich if you are pressed for time or want to avoid as many nasties and item curses as possible; a blessed scroll of genocide can eliminate them and the rest of their kin. Arch-liches are worthwhile targets for throne genocides as well.


The arch-lich first appears in SLASH 6, and makes its vanilla debut in NetHack 3.3.0.


In fantasy works and media, a lich (which comes from the Old English līċ, meaning "corpse" or "body") is a type of undead creature. Previously used as recently as early 20th-century fantasy fiction to refer to any corpse (animate or otherwise), media such as Dungeons & Dragons has spurred the portrayal of liches as powerful undead spellcasters that are proficient in necromancy, and typically undergo the transformation in order to defy death, allowing them to retain their intelligence and magical abilities and command lesser undead. Dungeons & Dragons in particular also takes inspiration from sources such as H.P. Lovecraft story "The Thing on the Doorstep" and Gardner Fox's titular mage of "The Sword of the Sorcerer".

A lich is generally depicted as a revenant with an undecaying body that is cadaverous, desiccated or completely skeletal, and has glowing lights in place of their eyes. Liches are often capable of sustaining tremendous physical damage, and are immune to disease, poison, fatigue and other effects that affect only the living; they were also quite resistant to various forms of magic, and the mere sight of them often compelled the weak-willed to flee. The lich's most dangerous asset, beyond even its undead gifts, is their vast intellect, mastery of sorcery and limitless time to research, plot and scheme. Dungeons & Dragons introduces the lich in 1975 as part of its first supplement, Greyhawk.

In Dungeons & Dragons settings, a mage that becomes a lich usually gives up some portion or the entirety of their soul to form "soul-artifacts" (also referred to as "soul gems" or "phylacteries") that are the source of their magic and immortality. Many liches take precautions to hide and/or safeguard them, as they anchor a part of a lich's soul to the material world: if their corporeal body is killed, those portions of the lich's soul within it will continue to exist in a non-corporeal form capable of being resurrected from that "soul-artifact" in the near future. However, if all of the lich's soul-artifacts are destroyed, then destroying the lich's body will kill it permanently. Most forays into lichdom often require the creation and consumption of a deadly potion on a full moon; the exact details vary, but almost universally involves acts of utter evil and vile components. Despite this process and their commonplace detachment from mortal morality, it is possible for liches to ascribe to any alignment - in very rare instances truly good liches can arise, either from possessing a more noble purpose for seeking lichdom or from having lichdom forced upon them; these were known as "archliches", not to be confused with the arch-liches of NetHack.



In SLASH'EM, arch-liches need a +3 or better weapon to be hit, and hit monsters as a +3 weapon themselves. They cannot be generated by the summon nasties monster spell.

Arch-liches may appear among the random L generated in the Chaotic Quest.

A statue trap of an arch-lich is always generated in the middle of the swampy maze within the Lawful Quest, with a cursed -9 set of gray dragon scales on its square. The arch-lich statue is created with a wand of fireball, a cockatrice corpse and a cursed -1 pair of leather gloves, alongside wands of create horde, speed monster, and make invisible that all have one charge each. While the arch-lich cannot actually use the cockatrice corpse due to lacking a weapon attack, and wearing the scales will greatly weaken their defenses, their natural spellcasting prowess and the wands are still more than enough to give even well-prepared characters serious trouble.

There are various ways of dealing with the arch-lich statue without animating it:

  • Zap the statue with a wand of teleportation, and then find the loot with a blessed potion of object detection. This can be done from outside the swamp, and is probably the easiest and safest method.
  • Pull the arch-lich statue towards you with a fishing pole.
  • Genocide arch-liches (or L if you have a blessed scroll).
  • Throw a statue of a weaker monster onto the square before stepping on it.
  • Have a super-strong pet such as an Archon, Planetar or Solar fight the arch-lich.
  • Lure a monster to pick up the dragon scales, which will not set off the trap. A cursed figurine (e.g. any orc) and Elbereth can be handy here. Most pets cannot be used for this: they will try to pick up the arch-lich statue before anything else in the stack, and few monsters smaller than giants will be able to lift it. Pets will also be reluctant to step over the cursed dragon scales and will not pick them up until the scales have been uncursed.


In dNetHack, an arch-lich may appear within one of the rooms in Demogorgon's lair if his dwelling appears as the third Abyss level.


In EvilHack, players killed by any type of lich will arise as a revenant instead of a ghost in bones files.

An arch-lich is generated in front of Vecna's room on the third floor of Vecna's Domain at level creation. Vecna's presence in the dungeon prevents the genocide of arch-liches - once he is destroyed, they can be subjected to genocide as normal.

Arch-liches are much more dangerous compared to vanilla NetHack, since they have access to several new monster spells, including cancellation, reflection and stone to flesh - this also makes them much better pets and polyforms, with full access to their repertoire of monster spells when fighting other monsters.

Sunsword now has a chance of instakilling any arch-liches it hits. The Sword of Kas is an artifact gemstone two-handed sword that deals double damage versus L, including arch-liches.

Encyclopedia entry

But on its heels ere the sunset faded, there came a second apparition, striding with incredible strides and halting when it loomed almost upon me in the red twilight-the monstrous mummy of some ancient king still crowned with untarnished gold but turning to my gaze a visage that more than time or the worm had wasted. Broken swathings flapped about the skeleton legs, and above the crown that was set with sapphires and orange rubies, a black something swayed and nodded horribly; but, for an instant, I did not dream what it was. Then, in its middle, two oblique and scarlet eyes opened and glowed like hellish coals, and two ophidian fangs glittered in an ape-like mouth. A squat, furless, shapeless head on a neck of disproportionate extent leaned unspeakably down and whispered in the mummy's ear. Then, with one stride, the titanic lich took half the distance between us, and from out the folds of the tattered sere-cloth a gaunt arm arose, and fleshless, taloned fingers laden with glowering gems, reached out and fumbled for my throat . . .

[ The Abominations of Yondo, Clark Ashton Smith, 1926 ]