Enter his soul-harvesting funhouse, if you dare.
After the grueling trials, we stopped short upon a monstrous beast packed tight into a crystal cylinder, looking out at us like meat at the market. He was preserved immaculately, as though an honored guest. Then, the cold voice through the ether: ‘I see you have met my father’.
Table of Contents
Who is Acererak in 5e?
Acererak is the original Demilich in Dungeon & Dragons lore. This classic DnD BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy) was first created by DnD founder Gary Gygax for his Tomb of Horrors adventure in 1975, and most recently rehabilitated by Wizards of the Coast for DnD 5e’s Tomb of Annihilation in 2017, in collaboration with Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward.
In editions of DnD prior to 5e, a Demilich was a lord of lichs. In 5e, the lore was changed to make Demilichs become lichs without physical form, and thus less powerful. In 5e, Acererak is a Demilich when he astral projects into the cosmos and his body turns to dust but becomes a lich again once he feeds his phylactery and regains his body. In Tomb of Annihilation, Acererak is a lich, not a Demilich.
Acererak scours the multiverse for artifacts, lore, and riches to lure adventurers to his tombs. In Tomb of Annihilation, the artifact Soul Monger has initiated a Death Curse that is sucking the life force of any Toril inhabitant that perishes, as well as any soul resurrected in the past. Acererak’s hope is that the most powerful adventurers will come to the tomb to try and stop it…and have their souls mongered too.
There are also rumors he is trying to a raise a god…
Tomb of Annihilation Acererak stats
- Size: Medium
- Type: Undead
- Alignment: Neutral Evil
- Armor Class: 21 Natural Armor
- Hit Points: 285 (30d8+150)
- Speed: 30 feet
- Skills: Arcana +22, History +22, Insight +12, Perception +12
- Senses: Truesight 120 feet, Passive Perception 22
- Languages: Abyssal, Common, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Infernal, Primordial, Undercommon
- Damage Immunities: Necrotic, Poison; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from nonmagical attacks
- Condition Immunities: Exhaustion, Paralyzed, Poisoned
- Immunities from Staff of the Forgotten One: Blinded, Charmed, Deafened, Frightened, Petrified, Stunned
- Challenge Rating: 23 (50,000 XP)
Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Acererak fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead. He basically gets 3 mulligans for powerful spells that might otherwise wallop him.
Turn Resistance. Acererak has advantage on saving throws against any effect that turns undead.
Things you should know about the Acererak fight in 5e
Here be spoilers! Skip this section if you plan on playing Tomb of Annihilation in the future
- You’ll encounter Trickster Gods during the Tomb of Annihilation adventure.
- If a party member is possessed by a Trickster God, they get 50 extra temp HP at the start of their turn. It doesn’t stack.
- If a party member is possessed by a Trickster God, attacks that hit Acererak deal an extra 3d6 psychic damage
- If you take damage while standing on an adamantine strut, you must pass a DC 10 Dexterity save or fall into the lava for 10d10 fire damage.
- Acererak Teleports away if he goes below 100 HP.
Acererak has an action that can paralyze you. Don’t get too close!
Paralyzing Touch. +15 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (3d6) cold damage, and the target must succeed on a DC 20 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
Acererak’s special equipment in 5e
Acererak carries some special equipment in 5e’s Tomb of Annihilation that are sources of much of his power. If you can find a way to disarm this equipment, you can weaken him. If you can take control of the Sphere of Annihilation or Staff of the Forgotten One, you have a good chance to send Acererak back to the stars.
Staff of the Forgotten One. Carved from bone. A skull of an archmage sits atop, embedded with Acererak’s rune. Can be used as a +3 quarterstaff that deals an extra 10 (3d6) necrotic damage on a hit.
While the Staff of the Forgotten One is on Acererak’s person, he gains the following benefits:
- 2x proficiency bonus to Intelligence (Arcana) and Intelligence (History) checks.
- Can’t be blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, petrified, or stunned.
- Undead with CR 2 or below will not threaten or attack unless harmed first.
- Invoke Curse, which is Acererak’s most powerful action in 5e:
Invoke Curse. One action to target one creature Acererak can see within 60 feet. The target must succeed on a Constitution saving throw (using your spell save DC) or be cursed. While cursed in this way, the target can’t regain hit points and has vulnerability to necrotic damage.
Acererak gets 7 charges of Invoke Curse, and will use them to make you unable to heal and weak to necrotic attacks…which the staff just happens to deal. Avoid the curse by any means necessary.
Talisman of the Sphere. Double proficiency bonus on checks for the Sphere of Annihilation (Intelligence, Arcana). If you start your turn with control over a sphere of annihilation, you can use an action to levitate it 10 feet plus a number of additional feet equal to 10x your Intelligence modifier. Can move the sphere up to 5x your Intelligence modifier on success.
Sphere of Annihilation. A floating black sphere that obliterates all matter it passes through, or that passes through it. Touching it is 4d10 force damage.
These two pieces of equipment are used in conjunction to send your party to the abyss. Acererak will try to get his personal black hole near you any way he can. Don’t stare into it!
Acererak spells in 5e
Acererak is a 20th-level spellcaster, so he packs a legendary punch. His spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 23, +15 to hit with spell attacks).
- Cantrips (at will): Mage Hand, Ray of Frost, Shocking Grasp
- 1st level (at will): Ray of Sickness, Shield
- 2nd level (at will): Arcane Lock, Knock
- 3rd level (at will): Animate Dead, Counterspell
- 4th level (3 slots): Blight, Ice Storm, Phantasmal Killer
- 5th level (3 slots): Cloudkill, Hold Monster, Wall of Force
- 6th level (3 slots): Chain Lightning, Circle of Death, Disintegrate
- 7th level (3 slots): Finger of Death, Plane Shift, Teleport
- 8th level (2 slots): Maze, Mind Blank
- 9th level (2 slots): Power Word Kill, Time Stop
Finger of Death and Disintegrate are classic lich spells, and can easily endanger your crew or knock someone Unconscious. And Power Word Kill does exactly what it says…kill a creature with a single word.
Acererak Legendary actions in 5e
Acererak can take 3 Legendary Actions per round, at the end of another creature’s turn. He can only use one Legendary Action at a time. Acererak regains spent Legendary Actions at the start of his turn.
- One at-will spell.
- Either Paralyzing Touch or a staff melee attack.
- Frightening Gaze (2 Actions). A target within 10 feet Acererak can see must succeed on a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw or become Frightened for 1 minute. While Frightened, you get disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls if you can see Acererak, and you can’t move closer to him. You can try again at the end of every turn. If you succeed, you are immune for 24 hours.
- Talisman of the Sphere (2 Actions). Acererak uses his Talisman of the Sphere to move the Sphere of Annihilation under his control up to 90 feet.
- Disrupt Life (3 Actions). Each creature within 20 feet of Acererak must make a DC 20 Constitution saving throw against this magic, taking 42 (12d6) necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
GameCows Tip: Disrupt Life will disrupt your life pretty fast if it’s used with Invoke Curse. Make sure to keep some spell slots open for Greater Restoration or Remove Curse to keep Invoke Curse at bay.
Tips for Fighting Acererak in 5e
Fear the Sphere. Wall of Force can separate you from your party, and then Sphere of Annihilation can cut you down.
Control the Sphere. You can try to take control of Acererak’s sphere with an Intelligence (Arcana) check against Acererak’s Intelligence (Arcana) check. The winner of the contest gains control of the sphere.
Set the sphere spinning. If the sphere touches another plane, such as with the Gate spell, or an extradimensional space, such as that within a portable hole, it can cause some random events:
Cantrips can rip you apart. At 20th level, Ray of Frost and Shocking Grasp do 4d8 damage.
Counterspell and Shield reactions. 1 reaction per round can be used to negate a spell of yours, or get +5AC.
Invoke Curse + Disrupt Life combo. This devastating Acererak combo can do 12d6x2 Necrotic damage to the cursed target.
Time Stop + Sphere of Annihilation + Wall of Force combo. Acererak can Stop Time, move his black hole of death near you, and then isolate party members so there’s nowhere to go.
Mind Blank. You deal bonus psychic damage if you are possessed by a Trickster God, but Acererak can become immune to the bonus psychic damage with Mind Blank.
Set the sphere spinning. If the sphere touches another plane, such as with the Gate spell, or an extradimensional space, such as that within a portable hole, it can cause some random events.
Roll a d100 percentile dice:
01-50 — The sphere is destroyed.
51-85 — The sphere moves through the portal or into the extradimensional space.
86-00 — A spatial rift sends each creature and object within 180 feet of the sphere, including the sphere, to a random plane of existence.
Acererak is a thousand-year-old wizard and demonologist who became a lich after binding his soul to a phylactery, which is a contraption that stores a lich’s life force by feeding on human souls. Acererak’s main method of entrapping souls is luring powerful adventurers into tombs full of elaborate tricks and traps. Eventually, Acererak became a Demilich when he left his body behind to astral project to other planes.
Acererak encased himself in a tomb and studied for hundreds of years to bind himself to his phylactery and become a lich. No one knows where Acererak keeps his phylactery, which is the only way to destroy his soul. Acererak has slain many minor gods, and even imprisoned his own demon father in a crystal vessel.
Acererak could ascend to godhood if he chose, but his main obsessions are toying with adventurers and gaining as much dark knowledge as possible.
How is Acererak related to Vecna?
Vecna saved 10-year-old Acererak after Acererak’s mother was slain by a mob due to Acererak’s half-fiend blood. Vecna took Acererak as an apprentice, instead of slaying him as his advisors recommended. Acererak once saved Vecna from death in the Siege of Fleeth and was promoted to general of Vecna’s undead armies. Acererak was inspired to become a powerful undead through his master Vecna’s influence.
Who is more powerful, Vecna or Acererak?
In current DnD lore, Vecna has ascended to the status of a Greater God, while Acererak is only a Demilich. As far as base power goes, Vecna is more powerful than Acererak. But, how much power Acererak has gained from his research expeditions into ancient artifacts throughout the multiverse remains unknown. Acererak is a trickster who shields his true power.
Was Acererak a human?
Acererak is a cambion, the half-fiend offspring of a human and a balor. A conjurer summoned the demon Balor Tarnhem, who then ate the conjurer and took Acererak’s human mother Kecethri by force. After barely surviving the birth, Acererak’s mother hid him for over a decade, until she was eventually burned alive by a lynch mob who disapproved of Acererak’s cambion nature.
Why is Acererak a Demilich?
Acererak is a Demilich because he neglected to maintain his physical form and instead astral projected his consciousness into the multiverse to research other planes and plunder their powerful artifacts. When Acererak is astral projecting, he leaves behind a soulgem skull with ruby eyes and diamond teeth. When Acererak fills his phylactery enough, he can become a lich with physical form again.
Acererak 5e FAQ
How strong is Acererak?
Acererak in 5e has a CR (Challenge Rating) of 23. A party of 4 should be about level 11 or 12 to face Acererak for the Tomb of Annihilation adventure module. A CR of 23 is usually too strong for a party at level 11 or 12, but the boons your party attains from the Nine Gods entombed in the Tomb of Annihilation should make the fight winnable.
What race was Acererak?
Acererak was a cambion, half-human and half-fiend. His father was Balor Tarnhem, ruler of the 489th layer of the Abyss, also known as the Noisome Vale. Tarnhem was conjured by a wizard, and after killing the wizard, took the wizard’s human servant Kecethri by force. Kecethri then birthed Acererak in secret. Acererak appears human, but carries half-demon blood.
Is Acererak a necromancer?
Acererak studied under Vecna, who was a powerful necromancer and taught Acererak many tricks of the trade. Acererak regularly raised the dead to help build his tombs and carry out atrocities. Acererak also controlled armies of the undead as a general under Vecna. After building the Soul Monger, his Death Curse sucked the life of all resurrected souls on Toril.
Is Acererak a god?
Acererak is not a god nor does he aspire to be one. His father is a Balor, but his mother was a human. Acererak is happy to sadistically torture gullible adventurers, conduct his research, and travel the multiverse to scour the minds of the dead.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages. She is also a professional content writer at SlashGear.com