Liches are undead necromancers which have embraced the power of lichdom, the most sophisticated form of Undeath. It is commonly done by transferring their soul into an object called a 'Phylactery', which is usually a jar or a chest. They are more often than not selfish and power-hungry, destroying all in their searches for souls to repair the Phylactery. Extremely intelligent and powerful, a commonly held myth is that if the Phylactery is destroyed the lich will also be destroyed; however, the Phylactery simply serves as a vessel during the transference, and once the necromancer has transcended the Phylactery is of no consequence. A weaker variant of lich is the Nether Lich, which can appear spectral in comparison to a normal lich.
Only Necromancers with the utmost mastery of the Dark Arts can turn inward in their studies, attempting to manipulate their very own soul. Lichdom requires divesting one's soul and mortal form, removing the boundaries, the checks, placed on the mortal will by it. By accomplishing this feat, the Necromancer gains access to a virtually limitless magical horizon. Of course, the process exacts a heavy toll, as travelling through the Phylactery can tear a lich's psyche apart, resulting in madness. Long separation from one's soul can lead to apathy and megalomania as well, even if the Necromancer succeeds. In almost all cases, lichdom becomes a curse in very short order for those who succeed.
Lichdom is very hard to accomplish, taking large amounts of time and effort. One method involves using the souls of innocents to achieve lichdom, the higher amounts of pain from the unwilling victims produce a purer and stronger form of lich. This method also requires a powerful magical relic, as it acts as a casting focus for 'Urelu's Loathsome Coercion', the spell used to take the souls from the victims; the higher a relic's power is, the more painful the soul tearing will be. Due to the amount of effort to accomplish lichdom, it's very rare for a traveler to encounter one, as most will stay in tombs studying obsessively. Liches have been known to disguise their true form using Illusion magic to lower the defenses of unwary travelers.
Dragon priests are a specific type of Nordic lich. Unlike the methods necromancers use, these liches are sustained from the transfer of life energy after death. Draugr in the Nordic tombs transfer their life force into the body of their master, perpetuating the "life" of the priest and giving them a powerful form of undeath akin to lichdom.
Some Reachmen clans may look to darker avenues to appease Namira, such as human sacrifices. Those that undergo such practices may seek to twist and abuse Namira's gifts to gain power, which when wielded, can cause great calamities. This brings out dark corruptions known as "voidstuff", which can empower a clan's witch, turning them to Voidmothers, also known as Void Liches, which can consume the souls of their victims. They are not traditional liches, and are considered a type of Shade, dark, hateful, and hungry spirits that have been twisted by being in contact with Namira's energy, such as that of the Dark Heart.
Necromancy can also be used to transform people into a lich even if they are not practicing necromancers in life. Notable examples of this include Prince Naemon and the Spinner Indinael, whose corpses were posthumously transformed into liches.
Mannimarco is described in a poem as the "world's first of the undying liches", despite the fact that there had been many immortal liches before him. He is known to reveal the secrets of lichdom to his followers through direct communion so that they may serve him in undeath as Worm Eremites. One lich, the powerful dro-m'Athra Arum-Khal, managed to create an entire realm of existence to use as his Phylactery.
There is a type of lich called the Demi-Lich, and the only known example was named Zaraphus.
- Based on his research of necromancy and Ayleid culture, Master Sadren Sarethi theorized that Wispmothers are a cult of powerful sorceresses who achieved a unique state of lichdom developed by a now-forgotten First Era culture. Many alternate theories as to their origin have also been presented, however.
- The Path of Transcendence — Celedaen
- Nether Liches in Oblivion
- Vastarie's dialogue in ESO
- Ascendancy: Pathway to Lichdom — Gullveig the Ascendant
- Unhallowed Legions — Phrastus of Elinhir
- Civility and Etiquette V. 5: Undead — Coristir
- Valdar's dialogue in Skyrim
- Amongst the Draugr — Bernadette Bantien, College of Winterhold
- Gwenyfe's dialogue on Voidmother Elgroalif related quests in ESO
- Rites Matron's dialogue in ESO
- Count Verandis Ravenwatch's dialogue in ESO
- Circumstances surrounding the Shade of Naemon's appearance in ESO
- Events of Fulfilling One's Fate in ESO
- Mannimarco, King of Worms — Horicles
- Events of Oblivion
- Events of ESO
- The Moonlight Blade quest in ESO
- Corim Ashlen's dialogue in Arena
- The Wispmother — Mathias Etienne