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The Glyph of Warding spell description (PHB p.245) states that:

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.

The glyph is nearly invisible and requires a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC to be found. You decide what triggers the glyph when you cast the spell.

There is nothing in the spell description that says what happens if someone physically breaks the glyph, say by snapping the object in half or scratching the surface the glyph is on when that event is not covered by the caster's definition of the trigger. Is the effect triggered or does the magic end without being triggered? Or something else?

While my feeling is that the spirit of the spell is that the effect is released as if it was triggered (otherwise it is too easy to disable and is inconsistent with fantasy tropes about magical Symbols), I want to know if there is there anything official written that answers the question: does breaking the actual glyph trigger the effect of a Glyph of Warding?

Specifically, I am looking for official "default behaviour" when the triggers on the glyph itself do not include breaking the glyph.

As an extreme example to test answers by, what if the object was totally disintegrated? "The glyph is nearly invisible" which means it is just visible, so if the object it was inscribed on has totally gone what happens to the glyph?

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The spell does say what happens.

...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...

I would apply this to breaking the object in half or scratching the glyph. As for it it being too easy to disable, keep in mind the glyph is nearly invisible. You're not going to spot it just walking past. You have to be looking for it, or at least investigating the area. It's not going to be easily found.

There's also the idea that you can set one of the triggers to be if the glyph is tampered with so it does go off if someone tries to disable the glyph.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Cheers, I would agree that the spirit of the spell and symbols used in fantasy fiction and games suggest exactly this behaviour, but I am looking for rules or sage advice etc. based support rather than opinion (of which I have too much of my own probably). \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Oct 10 '17 at 17:01
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Breaking the glyph only triggers the effect of Glyph of warding if you specify that as part of its triggering condition.

The spell glyph of warding gives you a huge amount of leeway by not stating the limitations of the spells triggering. It only states that if the object which glyph of warding is linked to is moved away from the location by which the spell is cast that the spell ends.

Due to the freedom by which the spell allocates to the caster, any one of the following could be specified, or added to the triggering condition, there are no limits to the triggering condition when you cast the spell.

You could:

  • Set the glyph to trigger when someone enters the proximity
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when someone tries to destroy the glyph
  • Designate those who can safely enter the proximity without triggering the glyph
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when an enemy discovers the glyph
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when someone searches for things within the glyph's area of effect
  • Designate the glyph to activate upon creatures of a specific subtype entering the area
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when the time of day becomes noon
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when someone speaks within its area of effect
  • Designate the glyph to activate upon someone attempting to cast a spell within its area of effect
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when someone attempts to destroy the object the glyph has been scribed onto
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when someone sneezes in its vicinity
  • Designate the glyph to trigger when someone thinks about glyphs of warding
  • Designating to trigger when another glyph of warding has triggered
  • Require those entering to say a passphrase to prevent setting off the glyph
  • Require those entering to have a keystone or some other specific item to not set off the glyph
  • Desginate the glyph to trigger randomly for no reason at all

The glyph of warding spell gives you complete freedom when determining what conditions will actually trigger the spell, which is one of the reasons why glyphs of warding are so hard to approach properly. If a glyph of warding is set up to defend an area that isn't normally accessible or easily accessible you could set its trigger condition to be something that would render it unable to be tampered with.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not looking for adding it to the triggering conditions, I am looking for "default behaviour". Further, breaking the object is not covered, even by "extrapolation". I agree that the spirit of the spell suggests this is true but I am looking for "official" evidence rather than opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Oct 10 '17 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow... the fifth bullet seems awfully metagaming, which would not be allowed, with that wording at least, at some tables. Something to keep in mind. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 10 '17 at 18:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Sandwich sure it is... at least at some point you could have been told that a wizard might have cast them. Making a roll is out of game entirely. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 10 '17 at 20:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ "when someone thinks about" is an interesting one, and possibly the beginning of a slippery slope. A glyph can Detect Thoughts? What else can it determine that would not be obvious to a creature at its location? Can I abuse one as a lie-detector when interrogating an enemy? How about Divinations? "The glyph activates when the one who will deal the killing blow to Big Bad Guy enters its area of effect." \$\endgroup\$ – aschepler Oct 11 '17 at 12:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aschepler Agreed, the DM would decide what the Glyph can perceive, personally I would rule against that condition. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 12 '17 at 13:31
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That depends on how you define glyph of warding.

If you only define glyph of warding as a spell, then unless otherwise noted (such as the movement bit in the glyph description), you can safely assume that only those effects that disable spells (dispel magic, antimagic field or the like) will take down a glyph. If, on the other hand, you decide that when you cast glyph of warding you are in effect making a magical trap, you can use this lovely bit from the DMG:

Any character can attempt an Intelligence (Arcana) check to detect or disarm a magical trap, in addition to any other checks noted in the trap's description.

In most cases, a trap's description is clear enough that you can adjudicate whether a character's actions locate or foil the trap. As with many situations, you shouldn't allow die rolling to override clever play and good planning. Use your common sense, drawing on the trap's description to determine what happens.no trap's design can anticipate every possible action that the characters might attempt.

So which way should you rule on glyph of warding? DMG, p. 120:

Some magic traps (such as the glyph of warding spell)...

It looks like a clever use of Intelligence (Arcana) would allow a character to know how to mar the glyph without setting it off. Conversely, when failing a check sets off a trap, it would also set off a glyph.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note: Conditions in the spell itself about movement ending the effect count as "unless otherwise noted" for purposes of my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Oct 10 '17 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should put that note in the answer. Site conventions here are that comments are transient. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 10 '17 at 21:21
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No, but it also doesn't stop the glyph from working

Glyph of Warding triggers only when its triggering condition is fulfilled, or when another effect specifies that it causes it to trigger. Breaking the glyph does neither of these things, unless breaking the glyph fulfills the triggering condition of the spell. Some of the default triggering conditions would trigger on this, and some wouldn't, and some would only do so if the glyph was defaced in a certain way.

That said, the Glyph of Warding, should it not be triggered by defacement or destruction of the object or glyph, would continue to protect against the triggering condition despite its host's physical destruction. The spell ends and also the glyph is broken if the object version of the spell is chosen and the object is moved more than 10 feet, but just breaking the inscribed glyph after casting has no effect on the magic whatsoever.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "The glyph is nearly invisible", i.e. it is visible (if only just) and part of the spell as it is part of the spell description. So what happens if the object it is on is disintegrated completely? What is "nearly invisible" if there is nothing there? \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Oct 12 '17 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's nearly invisible and a glyph when you make it. If you make it visible, invisible, or no longer a glyph that has no bearing on the spell and the spell has no bearing on your ability to do or not do that. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 13 '17 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ If that works, then why doesn't everyone scribe the glyph and then erase it, making it completely invisible? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jul 27 '18 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells Cause that'd make it easier to see, for many characters. It also wouldn't make it more invisible, in most cases. It's also not clear how you would erase it, since it's not clear in what manner the glyph is inscribed. Note also that the object version keeps the glyph inside the object, which is usually equally invisible as an erased glyph. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Jul 27 '18 at 18:26

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