Lich (monster class)

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For the monster, see Lich.

The lich is a monster class that appears in NetHack, and is represented by an uppercase L glyph (L). Liches are designated internally by the macro S_LICH.[1]

The monster class contains the following monsters:[2]

Common traits

Liches are chaotic, medium-sized undead humanoids that are intelligent spellcasters. A lich is breathless, inediate, poisonous, and has enhanced regeneration and infravision; the stronger liches (informally called "purple Ls") are also covetous. All liches possess a cold touch attack and the ability to cast mage monster spells once per round. Liches are slow-moving, and have resistance to cold, sleep and poison like most undead monsters; they also convey cold resistance when eaten, but lich corpses and tins do not exist.

If chatted to, a lich will "mumble incomprehensibly".

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.

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 a lich. Liches will also grudge living monsters that can be turned into zombies. Players killed by a lich will arise in bones as a zombie of the corresponding type - as of commit 3c421da7, the zombie will have the same intrinsics as the former character.

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

Generation

Randomly-generated 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.[3] The master lich and arch-lich are only randomly generated in Gehennom.

Random liches appear among the throne room monsters placed in the center of the Castle on level creation - the class-specific monster generation used here makes it possible for master liches and arch-liches to generate outside of Gehennom. A random lich is generated within the Valley of the Dead at level creation outside of bones, while another random lich is placed somewhere within the left side of the inner rooms of Asmodeus' Lair at level creation outside of bones.

Each of the Fake Wizard's Towers has a random lich dwelling inside, while two random liches inhabit the first floor of the real Wizard's Tower, including one in the tower-like structure that houses the up ladder. Two random liches are generated within Moloch's Sanctum at level creation, and three random liches are placed around the Astral Plane at level creation.

Strategy

Liches are generally annoying at best and incredibly lethal at worst: Many of them will frequently cast monster spells such as curse items, use aggravate to awaken other hostiles, and severely weaken your defenses with destroy armor - the stronger covetous ones can freely warp towards you (including on no-teleport levels) and even use the touch of death on you. Liches are often the target of genocide by many players that are not observing genocideless conduct, and it is often considered worth a blessed scroll of genocide to remove them all from the game.

One of the best ways to deal with a lich in combat is to have a source of magic resistance, which dampens the effects of its spells and prevents the higher-level ones from instantly ending your game: Magicbane in particular will absorb a mass majority of curses from the curse items monster spell. Even covetous liches will respect Elbereth and the scroll of scare monster, though the former does not allow you to fight while standing on it and will not work in Gehennom - additionally, neither method prevents liches from casting certain ranged spells at you, and one particular spell, summon nasties, may generate monsters that do not respect Elbereth or the scroll, such as captains, minotaurs and Elvenkings.

All liches minus the arch-lich do not have shock resistance, making Mjollnir an excellent option to deal with most of them; similarly, strong non-elemental artifact weapons like Excalibur and Sunsword (which deals double damage against liches and other undead) also work quite well. Liches are especially vulnerable to stoning, disintegration and digestion attacks, all of which can reliably instakill them - their summon nasties spell can generate monsters with such attacks, which can be turned against them using conflict.

All types of lich can be pacified by reading the blessed Book of the Dead, and it is additionally possible to tame liches and demiliches this way if done as a chaotic character.

As pets

Liches are generally strong pets with some trade-offs that are quite inconvenient. Their solid AC and increasingly powerful MR score make them difficult for most other monsters to kill and can prevent polymorphing, but said MR score also makes them difficult to tame. Covetous liches in particular cannot be tamed magically, though a tame lich can grow up into a covetous one as normal, and an existing pet can also be polymorphed into a tame covetous lich. Liches are also quite slow, with demiliches and stronger forms reaching a peak speed of 12 after casting haste self.

Liches cannot cast spells against other monsters, forcing them to rely on their cold touch to deal damage. They cannot wield weapons to counteract this due to lacking a weapon attack, and their cold touch may destroy potions in the target's inventory and renders them unable to kill any cold-resistant monsters, such as winter wolves or zombies - this is applicable even to their stronger forms, and requires you to kill such monsters yourself. Fortunately, their AC, MR, and resistances combined with their regeneration and ability to cure self makes them difficult for monsters to kill, and liches gain more AC, MR and resistances as they grow up.

Master liches and arch-liches in particular will constantly warp towards your position, making them easier to keep nearby without a magic whistle and lowering the risk of abandoning one - unfortunately, this also makes it incredibly dangerous for them to be confused, so be sure to give any lich you tame a unicorn horn as soon as possible. The warping will also make it nearly impossible to keep them away from aligned priests and shopkeepers, and makes navigating around traps such as level teleporters difficult. A covetous lich will often warp away to the up stair at the slightest sign of damage, which can be annoying; they are also inediate, making it near-impossible to raise tameness. Most annoying of all is the fact that even the strongest liches are still vulnerable to various instadeaths: stoning, disintegration, digestion and sliming will all make short work of a pet lich.

Reflection is not as vital for a higher-level lich due to the amount of resistances they can gain, but it is still useful to protect against the breath attacks of black dragons in particular - this is the best use for their amulet slot, since they cannot use the amulet of life saving. Similarly, while a lich has nothing to fear from death magic, magic resistance is still good to protect against stronger magical attacks such as an Angel's magic missile.

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

Per commit 8d2407f8, monsters can gain intrinsics from eating corpses, making inediate liches slightly weaker pets, though a lich can still gain useful resistances from becoming an arch-lich; pets that are polymorphed into liches also retain any intrinsics they gain from eating corpses as well.

As a polyform

Lich polyforms can wear all armor, and have similar strengths and weaknesses to pet liches: you have at least a few useful intrinsics and your base AC improves with the stronger polyforms chosen, but your base speed is lower, you cannot use your wielded weapon, and your only attack is a cold touch that does nothing against resistant monsters. Fortunately, you have access to spellcasting several other forms of offense that can compensate, and your defensive qualities (including a resistance to death magic) are more than enough to ensure survival against all but the most powerful or nasty monsters.

History

The base lich, demilich and master lich first appear in NetHack 3.0.0, and the arch-lich is added in NetHack 3.3.0.

Origin

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.

There are various other types of liches as well: demiliches, advanced liches who took to astral projection to traval other planes for knowledge and no longer had need for a body, concentrating their power into a single body part and leaving the rest to crumble away; elven archliches, or baelnorns, whose undeath was gifted to them by the Seldarine in order to act as sources of magic, wise council, and guardianship; alhoons, illithids who had achieved a limited form of lichdom and were considered deviant among their kind; and even dracoliches, dragons that tied their soul to a phylactery and could use their spirit to inhabit the body of any reptilian corpse upon death, though they were at their most powerful inhabiting the corpse of a dragon.

Messages

<The lich> mumbles incomprehensibly.
You chatted to a lich.
<The lich>'s body crumbles into dust.
A lich was killed in a way that would normally leave a corpse.[3]

Variants

SLASH'EM

SLASH'EM adds one new monster to the monster class:

Vecna and seventeen other random liches are generated across the Chaotic Quest at level creation.

UnNetHack

In UnNetHack, a random lich is generated among the many monsters inhabiting the middle level of Sheol at level creation.

dNetHack

dNetHack adds several new monsters to the monster class:

Of the undead that make up 17 of the randomly generated monsters on the Anachrononaut quest, approximately ~4.69% of them will be liches. The Binder quest generates a random lich tending to the unaligned altar that is unlocked once you have converted all three temples.

SpliceHack

SpliceHack adds two new monsters to the monster class:

EvilHack

EvilHack adds one new monster to the monster class:

Players killed by any type of lich will arise as a revenant instead of a ghost in bones files.

Various liches are generated across the floors of Vecna's Domain, a three-level branch where Vecna resides. Vecna's presence prevents the genocide of liches, as well as alhoons - once he is destroyed, they can be subjected to genocide as normal.

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 liches it hits. The Sword of Kas is an artifact gemstone two-handed sword that deals double damage versus liches except for Vecna: the sword instead deals three times the damage when used specifically against him.

SlashTHEM

SlashTHEM adds one new monster to the monster class:

Hack'EM

Hack'EM adds a few monsters to the monster class from other variants:

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

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 ]

References