Roll 1d12 for a random lich phylactery:
- The Philosopher’s Stone. (or similar stereotypical powerful item) It’s a precious tool that the Lich wants to keep safe and secure for his own use, but that the players might have trouble destroying to end the Lich’s reign. Bonus points if you tie in the whole “Elixir of Life” thing with the Philosopher’s Stone to be either part of the Lich’s immortality and youthful appearance, or a gift he grants to his most loyal henchmen.
- Their family line. The Lich has passed on his soul through his offspring, and every time they have children, his soul is likewise stretched across the generations. While this may cause the Lich’s family to live depressing, cursed lives as they think they keep seeing the Lich out of the corner of their eye, at least the Lich can rest assured that any do-gooder would have to basically wipe out the entire family tree to finally drive the Lich’s soul to extinction.
- A ghost ship. The Lich’s soul resides in a magical, cursed pirate ship piloted by the souls of the damned. These undead pirates would sail the seas and make it a dangerous place that few would want to try to meddle with the ship. Furthermore, all of the undead crew’s victims would become undead themselves, eventually amassing a hidden, undersea, undead army for the dread-pirate-lich.
- Another Lich. Two (or more) Lichs that have created a pact to keep each other’s souls safe. Thus, even if a Lich’s body is destroyed, it regenerates with the other Lich’s soul still attached. You’d have to destroy both Lich’s at the same time! Bonus points if the Lichs start to fall in love with each other as a side effect of having the other’s soul attached to them, but they cannot follow through with that love because they must never be in the same place to protect their souls.
- Gates of Hell. (or any other terrible plane of existence) This Lich either tragically and accidentally attached his soul to a gate he helped create to stop the tides of evil and accidentally made themselves a Lich, or they knowingly sealed it away so that any adventurer would have to open up a doorway to a dark dimension and let the evil denizens there freely invade the material plane in order to destroy the Lich’s soul.
- A Future Artifact/Ancient Relic. Basically, use a modern day item and have it sent into your fantasy world somehow. Maybe the Lich was once a kid from the 90’s that got sucked into a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Now his Nokia phone certainly won’t work to make calls…but surely it’s a nearly indestructible container for this soul. Bonus points for cheesey 80’s, 90’s, and/or early 00’s references from the Lich.
- A Golem’s Heart. The Lich has crafted a golem to stay hidden or act as loot for any adventurers that would slay him. Then the Lich will slowly start regenerating inside the hollow golem and attack adventurers once he’s studied their weaknesses up close and finds them in a vulnerable spot. Alternatively, perhaps the golem is a gigantic, clockwork monster that the Lich uses as an indestructible tank that the party must infiltrate and destroy it’s core to get the Lich’s soul.
- An Entire City. This Lich has been planning his immortal ascension for some time. He’s put in the hours and helped plan and construct major parts of a city, secretly craft arcane symbols and shapes into the very streets and city layout. Once completed, the Lich locks their soul into every piece of cobblestone, plank of wood, and mound of dirt within the city limits. Perhaps this also leads to the Lich slowly turning every city dweller into an undead citizen of a new Necropolis.
- Deck of Many Things. This is a personal favorite of mine for the huge McGuffin storyline it can have. Basically, come up with some reason a Lich wants to put his soul into the deck (my Lich was trying to assert some level of control over it to allow him to use it’s more powerful cards), and then have the process of becoming a Lich cause the deck to scatter to all the corners of the world. Now your party has to track each card down one by one and decide which party member is going to grab each card without knowing for certain which card it is whenever they find one. (will the party member suddenly lose all worldly possessions or will they get a huge chunk of EXP?)
- The King’s Crown. (or whatever headgear your ruling person(s) of any gender your world has) Basically, this Lich uses the crown to influence the ruler over time. And finally, once the Lich is slain, he will slowly start to regenerate within the ruler’s body before taking it over. Imagine the horror as the king’s flesh starts to fall off and reveal the Lich underneath!
- A Comet. This Lich has created their lair inside a comet that only passes over the material plane every ‘x’ amount of years (DM’s choice). This sets up an interesting story possibility where every so many years the kingdoms of the world must be prepared for whatever the Lich’s next evil plan is as the comet comes into view, and if your party is ambitious it offers a tough challenge for figuring out a way onto the comet to destroy it and kill the Lich once and for all.
- The Tarrasque. The unkillable Tarrasque is now a Godzilla shaped soul container for this Lich. Your party will now have to deal with whatever the Lich’s plans are as well as figuring out how to kill or otherwise banish from this reality one of the most unstoppable monsters in the Dungeons & Dragons mythos.
Art: 5e DMG
I love the “city” idea. The “family line” one is super messed up and you’re a horrible person for advertising it and I’m probably gonna use it in the near future.