Each fantasy fiction character is unique, and the detailed descriptions provided by authors often allow them to become engrained in our mind. Many of their stories have powerful sorcerers, that will go to any length to retain their abilities. If a sorcerer is willing to become undead, as the price for immortality, he becomes a lich. The word ‘lich’ is derived from the Old High German words ‘lih’ or ‘lika,’ both meaning corpse. A sorcerer can become a lich by binding his intellect and soul to a phylactery (soul jar) and can only be defeated by the jar’s destruction.
A lich’s physical appearance can vary from near-normal, to zombie-like or even completely skeletal and desiccated. The way they look often depends on their age, as their bodies continue to break down despite being undead. Liches differ from zombies as they maintain their ability to think, being at least as powerful and intelligent as they were before their transformation. Due to their higher intelligence, a lich often becomes the leader of groups of lesser undead such as zombies and many are necromancers. Their skill in magic makes them one of the most dangerous forms of the undead, and they are almost always pure evil.
In stories, there are two known ways to become a lich, voluntarily and accidentally. The first involves complicated rituals which are often evil in nature and require some form of necromancy. During the rituals the sorcerer’s lifeforce is stored in their phylactery which then renders them virtually immortal. Phylacteries can take a long time to craft, often several years. If their bodies are killed, they will continue to resurrect once their soul jar in intact. If the soul jar is destroyed, and the body remains, the soul will return to the lich and he can make a new one. During this point the lich will be more vulnerable, however, as their soul and body will be in a single place. To kill a lich the body and soul jar must be destroyed simultaneously. A sorcerer may become a lich accidentally, because of an unexpected spell or occurrence. These liches have no soul jar and will be permanently dead if their body is destroyed.
A dracolich is an undead dragon, that is often the partner of a necromancer. Although they are still powerful, these dragons tend to be more fragile than their living counterparts, as dragons are already long-living creatures with deeply ingrained magical abilities. Dracolichs may have their own soul jars, making it near impossible to kill them. An undead dragon’s breath of fire often becomes a blast of poison or ice.