Master lich

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A master lich, L, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. The master lich is a stronger type of lich that is breathless and has regeneration and infravision like other liches. Master liches are covetous and seek out the Book of the Dead.

A master lich has a cold touch attack and will attempt to cast one mage monster spell during each of their turns. Master liches possess cold resistance, sleep resistance, poison resistance, and fire resistance.

Master liches are poisonous to eat, which primarily comes up if they are digested by another monster.

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.

Master liches that are not cancelled can 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 master 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 a master lich that is digested.


Normally-created master liches are always hostile, and are only randomly generated in Gehennom. A demilich can grow up into a master lich, and a master lich can grow up into an arch-lich.

Though master liches cannot be randomly generated outside of Gehennom, class-specific monster generation may generate a master lich in the Castle; it is also possible for a demilich outside of Gehennom to become a master lich if it generates with or comes across a potion of gain level. There is a 13 chance of generating a hostile master lich by reading the cursed Book of the Dead, which respects genocide but not extinction.[1]

A master lich has a 113 chance of being generated with either an athame (67 chance) or a wand of nothing (17 chance).[2] They are not eligible for random offensive items.

A master lich never leaves 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 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 using class-specific monster generation, making demiliches the strongest and most likely type of lich to generate there at level creation - a demilich may still grow up into a master lich if they come across or generate with a potion of gain level, or else kill enough of the living denizens to gain the necessary HP.


Master liches may be the first monsters you encounter that can cast the touch of death, and are very likely to be the first covetous casters of the spell: they usually generate with the level required to cast it by the time you encounter one normally in Gehennom. If you spot a master lich before you obtain magic resistance - which is often the result of polymorph traps or shapeshifters such as chameleons and doppelgangers - engrave a semi-permanent Elbereth, drop a scroll of scare monster, or secure your escape via other means as quickly as possible, lest your character meet a quick end.

Master 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 a master 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.

If all else fails, stoning, disintegration and digestion will instantly take out a master lich, and a blessed scroll of genocide can wipe out them and other liches completely.


The master lich first appears in NetHack 3.0.0.


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.



In SLASH'EM, master liches need a +3 or better weapon to be hit, and hit monsters as a +3 weapon themselves.

Master liches can be generated by the summon nasties monster spell, replacing arch-liches.[4] Master liches may also appear among the random L generated in the Chaotic Quest.


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

Four master liches are generated within the central stronghold section of the second floor of Vecna's Domain at level creation, and one is generated on an island in the midst of lava near around Vecna's lair on the third floor. Vecna's presence in the dungeon prevents the genocide of master liches - once he is destroyed, they can be subjected to genocide as normal.

Master 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 at higher levels - 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 master liches it hits. The Sword of Kas is an artifact gemstone two-handed sword that deals double damage versus L, including master 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 ]