A good part of the disconnect for me comes from the fact that the murmurs and lich appearances are isolated to their own missions. The lich doesn't feel like any sort of menace, it's just a loot bag that you choose to hunt down at your leisure. The ritualization of the process of murmur farming and stabbing leveling them up doesn't help either, it feels like you're just going through motions to move from lich to lich.
How about making it so that there are no controlled territories, and no leveling (or maybe a vastly tweaked setup that doesn't heavily punish you for insufficiently planned stabs). Thralls can appear anywhere, and give you murmurs when you kill them. The lich can appear anywhere as well, and when it does, it takes all of the loot from that particular mission. When a lich appears, there's no penalty for taking a potshot at it with whatever parazon mods you have equipped, meaning that even if you don't know anything you can still start figuring out the first mod you need more organically.