Something has been bothering me quite a lot for a few weeks, and I can't find the answer.

In the Harry Potter saga, it is stated that one can prevent one's own death by making one or more Horcruxes. One shatters one's soul in parts, and "buries" part of the soul into an object, turning it into a Horcrux.

I've only recently read about liches in Dungeons & Dragons, and not much about phylacteries. I know that a lich is an undead creature, and that's not the case with Horcrux users.

So I was wondering how, not in the making but in usage, do Horcruxes differ from a phylactery? Are they identical, except that one works with living beings and the other with the undead (and thus Rowling would've "just rebranded" the concept of phylactery)? Would it be okay if I explain phylactery to D&D players as "oh, it's just a Horcrux", or are there important differences?

  • 4
    You can find out more about phylacteries from forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Phylactery - they appear to me to be similar enough that a D&D player who was familiar with Harry Potter but not with liches and phylacteries in the game could reasonably be told "if you think of them as being like horcruxes, you'll be in the right ballpark". Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 13:33
  • Maybe if you take some time to read more about phylacteries you'll find your answer. If not, you can update your question with where your confusion lies. (Not the down vote, but I can imagine that could be the reason.)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 15:30
  • Is this for 5th edition or a different edition? Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 18:52
  • 1
    Phylactery is also and originally a reference to a real-world religious paraphernalia used by some Jews. So a Christian author (who, I believe, was not a D&D player) not calling "horcruxes" "phylacteries" gets some points for not veering towards the anti-Semitic.
    – Lexible
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 21:26
  • @EkadhSingh-ReinstateMonica I'm afraid that goes beyond my limited knowledge of D&D former editions. But I assume that a lich form 3.5 is the same kind of monster that the lich from 5E
    – Tloz
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:19

1 Answer 1


They are very similar.


A wizard who wished to create a Horcrux would then use that damage to their advantage by casting a spell which would sever the damaged portion of the soul and encase it in an object.



...their soul and vitality were successfully stored in the jar...


So a phylactery contains the lich's entire soul1 and its vitality where a horcrux contains a damaged sliver of the soul.

Their effects are slightly different as well. As noted in your question a lich is undead as a necessary component in the phylactery's creation. Voldemort was still alive after the creation of his horcruxes.

A lich whose physical body is destroyed pops back up after a few days near where their phylactery is hidden. They may also possess a dead body in the phylactery's vicinity.

If a lich's physical body was destroyed, it could regenerate itself where its phylactery was located within a tenday, with a new body appearing adjacent to it. ...reemerge and possess any dead body in the vicinity, whether their own, another's...


Voldemort was trapped in an incorporeal form.2 He could latch onto a willing person, as he did with Quirrell, or a ritual to regenerate himself.

flesh - of an amount about as large as a person's hand - willingly sacrificed from one of his servants


Someone using a horcrux seems to be less self-sufficent than a lich as they need willing participants to fully come back from having their body destroyed.

A lich must feed souls to the phylactery to keep it sustained or else they fade away or become a demilich. There is no indication that applies to horcruxes.

To sustain the power of the phylactery and their undead existence, a lich needed to fuel it with the souls of others.


In summary they are basically the same, unless you're really diving into the details of how a lich operates they are functionally the same thing.

1 There is a spell that can be used to create more phylacteries, presumably that would mean a portion is in each.

2 I'm unsure if that is inherent to horcruxes or if Voldemort is a special case due to the damage he did by creating so many.

  • Well, thank you. That's what I needed, and even a bit more
    – Tloz
    Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:21

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