In fantasy fiction, a lich is a type of undead creature. Often such a creature is the result of a transformation, as a powerful magician or king striving for eternal life uses spells or rituals to bind his intellect to a phylactery and thereby achieve a form of immortality. Liches are depicted as being clearly cadaverous, their bodies desiccated or completely skeletal. Liches are often depicted as holding power over hordes of lesser undead creatures, using them as soldiers and servants.
Unlike zombies, which are often depicted as mindless, part of a hivemind or under the control of another, a lich retains revenant-like independent thought and is usually at least as intelligent as it was prior to its transformation. In some works of fiction, liches can be distinguished from other undead by their phylactery, an item of the lich's choosing into which they imbue their soul, giving them immortality until the phylactery is destroyed. Various works of fantasy fiction, such as Clark Ashton Smith's "Empire of the Necromancers", had used lich as a general term for any corpse, animated or inanimate, before the term's specific use in fantasy role-playing games. The more recent use of the term lich for a specific type of undead creature originates from the 1976 Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game booklet Eldritch Wizardry, written by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume.