Monday, April 8, 2024

Dragonbane Kin: Citizen Lich

Note: The citizen lich originally appeared in the Operation Unfathomable Players' Guide and was created by Jason Sholtis.

I am an avowed fan of the "internally consistent gonzo fun house module" Operation Unfathomable (as well as the companion volume, Odious Uplands). I have threatened to run it ever since it was released in 2018, but have never actually done so -- and still haven't, in fact. Part of the hang-up for me is that it's designed for use with Swords & Wizardry, a more-or-less retroclone of the original edition of D&D. While I still have some appreciation for ye olde school, I found that I am not a big fan of running D&D regardless of edition. (There's also a version for Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I appreciate the aesthetics of, but otherwise isn't my cup of tea, either. If you enjoy it, cool!)

Anyway, considering its emphasis on "mirth and mayhem," I feel like I might be able to do Operation Unfathomable justice and have fun running it with Dragonbane. To do that, there are a few things I'd want to convert over, including some of the character options that are unique to Jason Sholtis' whacked-out, 70s sword & sorcery-comic-influenced setting. One of which is the citizen lich. Operation Unfathomable designer Jason Sholtis introduces them as follows:

"In civilized areas of Planet Uluros, where magocracy remains the predominant form of government, magic-users frequently attempt to extend their lives by making a transition to an undead condition. These attempts succeed often enough, but more commonly end in the magic-user’s destruction, or, more rarely, in a transformation to a lesser form of lich called a citizen lich. As the name implies, citizen liches are recognized members of their communities (though true liches regard them as second class)."

There are further details, but I really enjoy the idea of having a semi-undead character in an adventuring party. Dragonbane kin don't have as many special abilities as a D&D race usually would, but luckily for me, citizen liches don't really have a ton of them. They lack the usual suite of undead immunities; their main ability is that they have "limited immortality" in the form of being hard to kill permanently. In fact, that's literally what the ability is called in the Operation Unfathomable Players' Guide. So, I will give it a go. I haven't had a chance to try this out at the table, so incorporate the citizen lich into your game with caution.

Citizen Lich
Citizen liches are semi-undead beings created when a powerful mage's attempt to achieve immortality via arcane ritual is not fully successful. As a result, they retain only a small fraction of the sorcerous power they possessed prior to undeath. While not necessarily malevolent, when traveling in lands less cultured than the magocratic cities from which they hail, citizen liches usually conceal their shriveled, skeletal features from others. They tend to be grandiose in their behavior, driven by a desire to restore their lost wizardry.

Citizen liches are automatically considered Old, with the attendant skill and attribute modifiers for that age category. They are affected by spells or items that work against the undead.

Ability: Hard to Kill (Permanently)
Willpower Points: 3
When reduced to 0 hit points, you can activate this ability to stop making death rolls and immediately regain D6 hit points. You can also activate this ability to ignore additional damage when at 0 hit points. This ability does not prevent severe injuries.

GM Notes
As presented in the original Operation Unfathomable Players' Guide, all citizen liches are effectively magic-users. Given their background, if you wish, you may limit a citizen lich's profession options to mage. Alternately, you may give the player the option to replace their profession's usual heroic ability with Magic Talent and allow them to slowly learn spells as described under that heroic ability.

Lastly, in the original description, citizen liches were once human magic-users, but if one wanted to adapt them to a different setting using the Dragonbane rules, I would probably allow them to have been mages of any kin before becoming a citizen lich. In that case, whatever their kin ability was in life would be replaced with Hard to Kill (Permanently). Alternately, one could use the Hard to Kill (Permanently) ability for a different quasi-undead kin concept.

No comments:

Post a Comment