Monster Manual A-Z: Demilich

Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.



So we know liches be trippin’, but how can you trip if you don’t have a body? That’s one benefit of the Demilich, the former skull of a lich that has, either on purpose or by accident, stopped feeding souls to its phylactery and allowed its body to deteriorate while it either continues its quest beyond the mortal plane or accept an empty peace- at least until its remains are disturbed. While some liches simply forget or fail to feed souls to keep its body, others seek out this state. They know their bodies will not last forever and would rather prepare for the inevitable. Some famously place soul trapping gems in their skulls so that if need be, intruders can be captured and fed to their phylactery, restoring them to a full lich state. But even without that, and without their vast spell books, Demiliches have many abilities to take on any foolish adventurer who ventures into their lair.

Just because they have no body, doesn’t mean a Demilich has any glaring weaknesses. They can hover about at a fair pace, meaning they don’t just lie there and take punishment. They also are unusually hard to hit thanks to a natural toughness they possess. And while their hit points sit on the lower end, their vast amoung of resistances, immunities, and other defensive abilities ensure their longevity; being able to succeed faving throws, immunity to being turned, and taking half damage or no from saving throws help immensely. On the offensive, they can emit a howl that strikes fear into those who resist- and outright strike down those who fail. Beyond that they can drain life from 3 targets at once, healing up all the life that they stole. They then have legendary actions that allow it to fly about, swirl up dust that blinds, permanently lower the maximum hit points of an enemy, or curse their enemies. Quite the arsenal! But wait, there’s more! If a Demilich is within its lair, they can cause it to tremble, knocking down opponents. They can also create an antimagic field that follows one creature of their choice, or block any healing of those who are too close to them. Additional rules are suggested about the aforementioned soul trapping gems, but I’ll let you explore that yourself!

Truth be told, I can’t think of a crazy amount of ways to use the Demilich. It is very obviously an “end-game” monster and I think scaling it down would be a bit of a disservice to it and its former full lichdom state. But what I can offer is play up said former state. A lich has terrorized the land for centuries, and your heroes set forth to stop it. After plenty of time, they will finally head out to face their foe, only to find their skull- the Demilich. If they can conquer it, great! If not… maybe have it absorb a soul. Have it restore its body and terrorize once again! Especially if they know what a Demilich is and their aim changes to be stopping the reformation of the full lich form, the Demilich can become a ticking time bomb of a plot device!

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