After doing a little homework, I’ve realized that the comparison between Liches and Vampires may be apples to oranges, at least if we’re looking at B/X. I’ve only recently begun looking back at the D&D/OD&D rulesets. Liches from one edition to another are VASTLY different (OH MY!). This may throw a bit of a wrench in my plans to play out some B/X scenarios
See, I’m mostly familiar with Liches from 2nd edition AD&D. Based on the Lich entry in the Monstrous Manual, a magic user of around 16th level or so could turn oneself into a Lich. It took some digging, but I finally found where Liches stood in B/X (the Master set, to be exact), and it’s pretty damn near the top, suggesting a character level of between 27 and 36. Sweet Jesus! Fortunately, B/X Liches’ hit dice are restricted to their class, because they’re treated almost like a prestige class(!) rather than a monster. That figures out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 HP (with a generous average of 2.5 per hd roll) for magic users and 50-60(avg. 3.5 per hd role) for clerics. Despite being level 27-36, they’re about 10-12 Hit Dice monsters, at least in terms of HP, since Characters top out on actual dice around level 9 (I’d overlooked this initially; without using Character HD caps, they’d have around 70-100HP, putting them on par with AD&D Liches). They do, however, have an additional 20 levels of wealth, legendary items and epic level spells. Plus, B/X Liches can snap their fingers and have 2d4 Vampires show up. Don’t forget that even random Vampires take some storylining (kill & destroy at LEAST one coffin) to actually kill off.
It is interesting to see the difference in power between the B/X lich and his AD&D counterparts, or his 8HD (roughly 36 HP) OD&D counterpart. Also, I think it’s important to point out that in B/X an Elf cannot be a Lich. This means that the Vampire route is still probably the best for an Elven mage wishing to increase his powers further. And some of the B/X Lich’s immense power might simply be from the desire to hold back some iconic monsters for the higher level sets. But who really plays at those levels? Even Tomb of Horrors, which features D&D’s second most famous Lich, is recommended for levels 10-14. Yes, it’s AD&D and Acererak is a Demi-Lich, but I think the point still stands: high end of Expert set levels ought to be appropriate for Lich hunting.
It’s not atypical for parties to be fighting monsters a few hit dice above their level. There are a number of experiments that could be set up to see how 8th-10th level B/X parties fared against a B/X Lich and a converted AD&D Lich.
I still intend to go forward playing out some scenarios, but I know now that I should probably include both an OD&D Lich AND a B/X Lich. While a standard B/X Vampire could probably take an OD&D Lich, I seriously doubt he could hold his own against a B/X or AD&D Lich.
So, here are some experiments to run through:
1. A level 8-10 party against an OD&D Lich
2. A level 8-10 party against a B/X Lich
3. A level 8-10 party against a B/X Vampire
4. A level 8-10 party against an Elven B/X Vampire
5. A B/X Vampire vs an OD&D Lich
6. An Elven B/X Vampire vs an OD&D Lich
7. A B/X Vampire vs a B/X Lich (I have the feeling this will be short and brutal)
8. An Elven B/X Vampire vs a B/X Lich (This may last a bit longer, but I still feel it will be very one sided)
In doing these experiments, there are some assumptions I need to make about the mechanics of Vampires. How many of a Vampire’s hit dice are determined by their pre-Vampire life? Any persons killed by the Vampire may be raised as Vampires, so do we assume that even a low level character would return as at least a 7HD Vampire. There’s nothing to indicate any relationship between a Vampire’s Hit Dice and the Hit Dice of whoever the Vampire was beforehand, other than that we’re given a range of 7-9 Hit Dice for Vampires. Because I don’t want to turn B/X into some d20 point-buy twink BS, I’m only going to extrapolate high level Elven or magic user Vampires based on other undead who retain spellcasting abilities (such as mage wraiths). At most, I’ll throw in an extra Hit Die. Vampires’ abilities already put them +2 Dungeon Levels/XP tiers over normal monsters. A normal fighter-build Vampire (7-9HD) would be Dungeon Level 9-11. Therefore, a 10 HD Elven Vampire would be Dungeon level 13, adding an extra level for the spellcasting ability. I think this is more than reasonable to throw against an 8th-10th level party.
I still can’t get over the stats of the OD&D Lich. Both the OD&D Vampire and Lich are 8 HD monsters. The Vampire has remained more or less the same (the B/X Vampire mostly just moves a bit faster), while the Lich has more than doubled in power.