Speaking of Asberdies, if the party encounters the lich, there's a chance he'll be casting time stop. At his level the duration will be 10 + 1d8 segments of time. The rules are vague. What can you do in that time? How many attacks can you make? How many spells can you cast? I assume 1 attack per segment is not correct, and allowing spells with combined casting time equal to, or less than the duration for a 20th level spell caster seems like a campaign ender. What are your thoughts?
My interpretation has always been that regardless of casting time, a spell caster cannot cast more than one spell per round. So the first 10 segments would take up one round allowing the lich to cast a spell without interruption -- assuming it has a casting time lower than the duration of the time stop. In the second round, the time stop wears off after the 1st to 8th segment of the round, possibly allowing the lich to cast a second spell without any interruption. I'd still let the party roll initiative but with a penalty (of one for each segment of time stop in the round it wears off) to see what segment of the round they act on (I add the characters' casting time to their initiative roll, which I think I got from you). So, most likely the lich is getting off two free actions which may still be a campaign ender. But that is as it should be when battling a 20th level lich arch-mage! In BALDUR'S GATE II there were some parts of the game obviously inspired by the GD series, with a trip through the Underdark and several possible combats with liches. These were some of the toughest fights in the game causing me to have to reload often. The time stop spell was a real killer, and I remember my characters all being frozen as I had to watch the lich cast several spells in a row all to build up and immediately take effect as soon as my characters came out of stasis. There were typically spells like cloudkill and area of effect magics that wouldn't affect the lich itself.
Last Edit: Aug 12, 2021 11:37:57 GMT -5 by GRWelsh
It can be a campaign killer, but it has some limitations. Long casting time and an immobile, smallish area of effect. And if the party gets close enough, it's very unlikely Asberdies will be able to cast a higher level spell without the party disrupting it. The only "official" example I know of is at the beginning of Vecna Lives, where the Circle of Eight is basically wiped out with a time stop. But I consider the source dubious at best. I go with the 1 spell a round interpretation also. I don't see Asberdies as being inclined to mix it up in melee, so I'm not too worried about that right now. If any characters got stuck in the area of effect, it's probably death for 1, or possibly two, depending on duration and initiative, but using this option would probably mean the lich would be toast soon after the spell expired. Casting time stop before the party knows what's going on, and then Monster Summoning VI, and mirror image seems like the most effective strategy.
I've never liked the idea of a 20th level magic-user lich getting into a melee with a party of adventurers like an ordinary monster. The party is going to gang up on him and spoil most of his spell casting. He couldn't have got to 20th level and survived for centuries by doing that sort of thing. So, I'd think the lich would have contingencies or devices to allow him to get away fairly easily when ganged up on. It should be very difficult to corner and kill a lich!
I found an example of a lich casting time stop in NOTES FOR THE DUNGEON MASTER by Frank Mentzer (#8 OCT 1982):
What does the 30th level mage do after the Lich the party is looking for has found them first, teleported in nearby (invisibly) , cast a time stop, and stolen all the spell components (including holy symbols) , just for a good laugh? Or when the fighters give all their weapons (vorpal, sharpness, holy, etc.) away to a Nilbog, without even a saving throw for consolation?
Yes, the way the encounter is set up, Asberdies is almost a sacrificial lamb for the party: no meat shields, no devices, etc. If the first round of the encounter doesn't go well, the ancient, 20th level spell casting lich could very well end up a pushover. On the other hand, the lich could TPK them with a few rounds of successful spell casting. An iconic encounter, but not very well designed, in retrospect.