I had made an assumption in an answer and am wondering if your own death is a legitimate trigger for a Glyph of Warding spell you have previously cast.

The requirement simply states:

You decide what triggers the glyph when you cast the spell.

The PHB lists the following as 'typical triggers':

opening that object, approaching within a certain distance of the object, or seeing or reading the glyph...You can further refine the trigger so the spell activates only under certain circumstances or according to physical characteristics (such as height or weight), creature kind (for example, the ward could be set to affect aberrations or drow), or alignment. You can also set conditions for creatures that don't trigger the glyph, such as those who say a certain password.

The common theme on these triggers is proximity, but is that an actual limitation?


4 Answers 4


A Glyph wards an area or an object. While the trigger can be refined to be conditionally dependent on (almost) anything you want it still probably necessarily needs to interact with the area or object you've warded:

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. For glyphs inscribed within an object, the most common triggers include opening that object, approaching within a certain distance of the object, or seeing or reading the glyph. Once a glyph is triggered, this spell ends.

The above quote, preceeding the section on refining the trigger, does not indicate that the trigger can be anything but rather that it can be lots of things and also lists several things it definitely can be. If you go outside that list for the basic trigger, you need to confirm with your GM that the new trigger is possible. Unlike the open-ended section on refining triggers, it is not the case that the basic trigger can accomplish what you want.

Furthermore, there is historical precedence for it not doing so; Glyph of Warding in earlier editions of the game, while always very open ended, specified some version of the following clause (taken from AD&D 2.0):

A Glyph of Warding is a powerful inscription magically drawn to prevent unauthorized or hostile creatures from passing, entering, or opening.

which indicates the general scope of potential triggers-- they must in some way relate to the warded object or area. Refinement, however, is not nearly so limited.

This means the following death triggers are possible:

  • This Glyph, placed above a doorframe, triggers upon any creature entering if Aroden is dead.

  • This Glyph, placed upon the floor of the room, triggers if Aroden is killed while inside the warded area.

  • This Glyph, placed upon the surface of Aroden's back, triggers upon his death

But the following triggers probably don't work:

  • This Glyph, placed upon the wall of the study, triggers upon Aroden's death

  • This permanent Glyph, placed upon the ceiling of the sitting room, creates a bright flash of light each time a creature dies.

In conclusion it's not proximity but interaction that matters, but proximity is usually a prerequisite of interaction. Non-local parts to trigger's refinement are fine, but the trigger itself (very probably) has to involve the warded object or area in some way.

Addendum for the specific purpose of dead-man-switching a WMD:

You can do this with the spell, and it is very appropriate. What you want is a glyph on each weapon that triggers "When a person not bearing the Royal Seal attempts to move, activate, or dispel the object, or if the object is moved, activated, or subjected to dispelling forces in any way and I am dead", and then you just tell the kingdom about the first part. You can't make the devices trigger upon your death but you can make them (and any other devices you feel so inclined to affect) work fine until you die and then turn upon their masters if they are ever used past that point. Basically, you are creating a cursed item whose curse's activation is delayed until your death.

This kind of warding, though, is still somewhat risky, since the glyph can be dispelled if the dispelling is done carefully, and then replaced with you none the wiser.

You could also ward yourself with a (surface, and thus mobile) Glyph that triggers when someone approaches or strikes the surface with the intent to kill you, and have that Glyph somehow remotely trigger the deadman operation via your choice of long-range communication spells and recievers, but you should be aware such a measure can be triggered against your wishes by a clever opponent of your home nation, or bypassed via clever assassination methods (e.g. poison for the specific wording I mentioned)

Basically, this does almost exactly what you want it to for your linked answer, but is a lot less infallible than you might have first thought.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm still deciding on an answer, but I think this is the intent - it's just that the language is loose enough to make it seem allowable. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 14:38
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that warding yourself does not work if you plan on moving more than 10 feet. rpg.stackexchange.com/a/128275/45430 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlakeSteel Yeah, it be errata'ed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ The errata is certainly worth an edit, in this case? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 19:06

Based on the spell text, yes, that's a valid trigger.

As long as the object holding the glyph isn't moved.

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.

When the glyph is triggered, the stored spell is cast. If the spell has a target, it targets the creature that triggered the glyph.

I'm not sure if that should be interpreted to mean the target is you, as your death triggered the spell, or your enemy, as killing you triggered the spell. I can see arguments for both sides, and the text isn't clear. (Is your death the root cause, or is your killer killing you the root cause and your death merely a symptom?)

FWIW, I take this as an unintended use of the spell, but one that isn't technically against RAW.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The text you quoted doesn't really support the answer, it's just a side note. \$\endgroup\$
    – stannius
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 21:13

From the GM perspective, I'd say no

In 5e spells do what they're meant to do, not more nor less. Glyph of Warding is an abjuration spell, not a divination one. It protects, it wards an area, but it doesn't perform clairvoyance.

How would the Glyph know if the caster is dead?

If we assume that it is "just magic" and any criteria is valid for the Glyph of Warding trigger, we effectively turn it into a scrying spell, which contradicts its design.

For instance, a complex detective scenario can be completely ruined with a couple of Glyphs with a trigger like "when the schemer enters the room".


It's death AND another condition. Because the spell is designed to prevent unauthorized or hostile creatures from passing, entering or opening--as the dark wanderer has beautifully illustrated.

But I do disagree that it can be placed on a living, mobile creature because:

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. SOURCE

So it has to be on an object or an area.

It's only focused on a creature or person if they trigger it.

A high level spell-caster might make the condition his blood being spilled over a glyph or specifically his death within a certain area OR, the glyph only activates after his death triggering on whoever leaves the area.

Older versions of D&D left it more open ended, yes, but D&D 5 is a little more specific.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant meta: Why is an answer being downvoted without any comments? Users can downvote for any reason or none at all. They can choose to explain their downvotes in comments, but they are not required to do so. The place to ask why they're doing it is not within the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 21:57

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