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.
Ok, cool, it seems the dragon that was guarding this treasure died- it’s just a decaying corpse! Oh wait, did it just move? Ah yes, what better way to spell certain death for your players by combining two of the most deadly monsters in the game; the dragon and the lich. Not a monster in its own right but rather a template applied to your choice of adult or ancient dragon, the Dracolich changes enough about our familiar, eponymous monsters to make them foreign and scary to our players. The ritual that a dragon needs to take part in to transform requires outside assistance, as the dragon consumes a poison that kills it instantly, and their attendants must transfer the dragon’s spirit into a gemstone that is more or less a phylactery. That requires a lot of trust of a generally paranoid creature, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s also worth noting that younger dragons cannot take part as they are not powerful enough to survive the ritual intact, so all Dracoliches you find will have been powerfully and full grown in life.
There are a few key changes that occur when a dragon turns into a Dracolich. The first and most obvious, is it becomes undead and no longer requires food, drink, or sleep to survive. The next is they gain resistances to necrotic damage, as well as advantage against spells and other magical effects. And lastly, they become immune to poison in addition to any other immunities it had in life, and also cannot be charmed, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned, or exhausted. Not in their statistics but worth noting, due to their phylactery-like gemstone they can come back to life after being destroyed so long as the gemstone is on the same plane as them and intact. Also, they can take possession of the corpse of another dragon to become a new Dracolich.
Both the Lich and Dragon come later in this series, so I will say go check those out for more ideas as they will be applicable to the Dracolich. However, unique for the Dracolich is the idea that it keeps corpses of dead dragons in its lair, allowing it to continuously restore itself against intruders but possessing the plethora of bodies. This could become obsessive, and is something that a Metallic dragon could ask for the party’s assistance in stopping later in the campaign. It could even be something that temporarily unites chromatic and metallic dragons as both Tiamat and Bahamut see the act of becoming a Dracolich as turning their back on their kin and themselves.
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