Using any combination of spells or items from any official 5e source books, is there a way a character's death can trigger a secondary effect? I am looking to build a deadman's switch that will unleash a biological weapon back upon the kingdom who created it.

Let's say there are no limits to gold or components or magical items. Let's say there are no limits to class, as my character could potentially hire those skills from NPCs. Anything PHB, DMG, Elemental Evil, Unearthed Arcana, let's say those are all on the table. The only limit I would say is that we take Wish off the table, and nothing homebrewed.

Additional Notes: The biological weapon is a necrotic ooze. It will be stored in a glass jar. Theoretically, destroying the jar should be all that is needed to release it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Despite your request, @Alaric, I have deleted my answer because it doesn't work. That said, I'm failing to find any spell that's truly useful in conjunction with contingency within it's limits of "only affects the caster" and 5th level spells. I was toying with the idea of teleporting your dead body to the golem, but teleportation circle requires you to walk into a portal. It'd work with teleport, but it's too high level to work with contingency. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. May 31 '17 at 18:55

Glyph of Warding - PHB 245-6

Please note: This requires a very broad ruling by the DM on this spell. The text only requires a 'trigger', but given that it is an abjuration and not divination spell, triggers not in presence of the glyph seem unlikely without DM approval.

Although there is a material cost 200gp of powdered diamond, this spell contains all that you're looking for.

It will enable you to place your device(s) anywhere and set the glyph on them to be triggered upon your death. Caveat Emptor: Once placed, the glyph/object cannot be moved more than 10' from point of casting. You'll need to place your device at it's final location, cast the glyph, and hope no one moves it or the glyph will be broken and the trigger stopped.

When you cast this spell, you inscribe a glyph that harms other creatures, either upon a surface (such as a table or a section of floor or wall) or within an object that can be closed (such as a book, a scroll, or a treasure chest) to conceal the glyph.

If you choose a surface, the glyph can cover an area of the surface no larger than 10 feet in diameter. If you choose an object, that object must remain in its place; if the object is moved more than 10 feet from where you cast this spell, the glyph is broken, and the spell ends without being triggered.

You decide what triggers the glyph when you cast the spell. For glyphs inscribed on a surface, the most typical triggers include touching or standing on the glyph, removing another object covering the glyph, approaching within a certain distance of the glyph, or manipulating the object on which the glyph is inscribed

You'll still need to discuss with your DM if "your death" qualifies as a trigger.

Once triggered, you can choose the standard Explosive Rune, which should be more than enough to unleash that weapon:

When triggered, the glyph erupts with magical energy in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on the glyph. The sphere spreads around corners. Each creature in the area must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 5d8 acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage on a failed saving throw (your choice when you create the glyph), or half as much damage on a successful one.

If it doesn't seem to fit, you can use other spells such as Shatter for a similar effect or really anything else you'd like that fits the requirements.

You can store a prepared spell of 3rd level or lower in the glyph by casting it as part of creating the glyph. The spell must target a single creature or an area. The spell being stored has no immediate effect when cast in this way. When the glyph is triggered, the stored spell is cast. If the spell has a target, it targets the creature that triggered the glyph. If the spell affects an area, the area is centered on that creature. If the spell summons hostile creatures or creates harmful objects or traps, they appear as close as possible to the intruder and attack it. If the spell requires concentration, it lasts until the end of its full duration.

Not Foolproof

As noted in the beginning, if the item is moved 10' from your point of casting, the glyph will not trigger upon your death. In addition, someone can (if they can find it) dispel the glyph. However, it's not easy to find:

The glyph is nearly invisible and requires a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC to be found.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I had thought he just needed a way to trigger it remotely? And the question was about the trigger mechanism? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 31 '17 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I added a comment under the question asking for more detail on the biological weapon that is being set off \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 31 '17 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Redacted my comment. The weapon appears to be separate from the question, so this is a valid answer without the explosion. But, it still fits as the explosion can be part of the trigger, if indirectly. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov May 31 '17 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would detecting the death of the caster be a reasonable trigger? All of the examples are of things happening in the immediate physical region of the glyph, as opposed to you dying on possibly another plane of existence. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk May 31 '17 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk That is a good point and could/should be it's own question. I'll ask it, but I have a feeling it falls into DM fiat territory. My reasoning was mostly around you are the caster and have a connection to the spells you've cast. The suggestions are just 'suggestions' and just rely on a 'trigger', some of which can be a set distance from the Glyph, so it doesn' thave to be close/touching. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 31 '17 at 19:05

Clone - PHB 222

"Is there a way a character's death can trigger a secondary effect?"

Yes, the spell Clone triggers a secondary effect on the caster's death, a clone of the original creature awakes with all the memories. At this moment, the clone could easily open the doom jar.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I had thought of this as well, but then the character isn't really dead :) But so far, it's also all i can come up with that is purely legal. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 5 '17 at 16:24

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