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Say a wizard wishes to have his ship able to repair itself mid-combat. Were he to have multiple glyphs of warding storing the Fabricate spell cast on the hull of his ship, alongside sufficient spare planks of wood and other materials, and specifies the hull as a surface, would the spell break as soon as the ship sets sail?

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Fabricate cannot be stored in glyph of warding

So that part of your question will not work from the get-go.

Glyph of warding (spell glyph) says:

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... If the spell has a target, it targets the creature that triggered the glyph.

However, fabricate is not a valid spell to store with glyph of warding because it targets materials (objects) and not a creature or an area and thus cannot be stored in the glyph.

Choose raw materials that you can see within range...

But assuming you chose a different spell, I'll answer the core of your question.


It depends on how your DM defines your location

Glyph of Warding (as of the post-errata 6th printing)

You inscribe [the glyph] either on a surface either on 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 the surface or object is moved more than 10 feet from where you cast this spell, the glyph is broken, and the spell ends without being triggered. (PHB p. 245)

There are no rules guidance for what is considered a location or not. There is a good discussion of it here, but what it really comes down to is a DM decision.

Case 1: Location relative to planet - Yes, spell is broken

In this case "where you cast the spell" would be the spot that you can see on the ground (or wherever you are casting it). Basically think GPS coordinates.

If the ship moved more than 10 feet from the GPS coordinates of where you cast the spell, the spell will be broken.

This is a very straightforward reading, but could possibly prevent usage of the spell on cloud giants' flying castles and other such large significant moving areas. However,

Case 2: Location relative to ship - No, spell is not broken

This reading means that since the ship is the point of reference it can really never be broken because the hull of the ship, barring some terrible failure, should never be more than 10 feet from the ship itself.

This reading is more generous, but could be prone to hijinks in how small that relative motion is defined.

Experienced-based recommendation

In my games, I generally opt for option #2 in areas that are big enough that PCs normally feel comfortable calling the setting for a scene. So an enormous boat substantial enough for its own map, generally would be considered the frame of reference for the scene whereas a one-person minecart would not.

Just note that there is no reason you have to pick an option and stick with it for every case in every situation. It is a case-by-case, scene-by-scene ruling and the key is to try to go with what feels naturally like the frame of reference for the scene.

I've found that this aligns with players' often subconscious expectations and causes less confusion and friction at the table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Where did you get that quote from? It is not how my PHB is written and I cannot see an errata... \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jan 2 '18 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Errata: media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/PH-Errata.pdf \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jan 2 '18 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd change the GPS metaphor to something about the center of mass of the planet, but only if you feel up to it. \$\endgroup\$ – doomtwig Jan 2 '18 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure if this is wrong as written or no longer true, but the text of Glyph of Warding now contains "when you cast this spell at a higher level" wording for handling higher level spell slots. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua May 28 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch It has to do with what feels naturally like the frame of reference for the scene. A carriage could be a frame of reference for one scene, but then when they are jumping off of it have it not be. It's not a slippery slope issue because it is about going with the most natural and frictionless interpretation for the situation is inherently case-by-case, scene-by-scene determination. Most of the time it never even comes up as a discussion because I make it work behind the scenes according to their intentions. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 29 at 17:20
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Moving a Ship Shouldn't Break Glyphs of Warding

... but moving a boat probably would.

Although it's a DM call, there is precedence for things like this not being dispelled if cast in a sufficiently large, moving environment like a ship, floating island, iceberg, cloud castle, earthmote, planet, etc.:

  • Rise of Tiamat has a moving iceberg dungeon that has glyphs
  • DDEP5-02: Ark of the Mountains is a Flying Ship that has glyphs in it
  • DDAL06-02 The Redemption of Kelvan has an earthmote with glyphs in it
  • Hoard of the Dragon Queen features a moving cloud castle with glyphs in it
  • Tomb of Annihilation has a moving earthmote that contains a permanent teleportation circle

It'd be odd if players couldn't cast say, Tiny Hut in such moving adventure environments. Quoting from the accepted answer here:

Rules As Written: There's no specific definition of "stationary" in the game. Depending on your point of view, nothing is stationary, because planets whip through the cosmos at thousands of miles per hour. [...]

Advice: Personally, my ruling is based on mapping: if it's big enough or elaborate enough that a battle can take place on it, then it's big enough to count as a stationary object for spells that require them (like teleportation circles onboard ships).

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you are saying the ship should count as a location that would mean that your answer would be that the spell does not break? You should probably flesh this out a bit more. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 2 '18 at 20:02
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Sorry, the spell breaks

The version of the spell you're reading is (probably) pre-errata.

5th edition and prior versions of the PHB (and the SRD) say...

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.

This is where the lack of clarity over whether or not a Surface can be moved without breaking a glyph usually comes from.

The sixth printing errata clarifies this...

Glyph of Warding (p. 245).

The first sentence clarifies that the magical effect needn’t be harmful. The final two sentences of the first paragraph now read as follows: “The glyph can cover an area no larger than 10 feet in diameter. If the surface or object is moved more than 10 feet from where you cast this spell, the glyph is broken, and the spell ends without being triggered” (6th printing).

Thus, that block of the spell description should actually read as...

When you cast this spell, you inscribe a glyph that later unleashes a magical effect. You inscribe it either on 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. The glyph can cover an area no larger than 10 feet in diameter. If the surface or object is moved more than 10 feet from where you cast this spell, the glyph is broken, and the spell ends without being triggered.

So, sorry...soon as your wizard's ship moves, all the glyphs are broken without being triggered.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not to be pedantic, but OP does not cite any sources. We have no idea what printing they are using. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jan 2 '18 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose True... \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jan 2 '18 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ If I'm right, and only for completeness, it might be worth including that Fabricate cannot be stored in a Glyph of Warding as it does not meet the targeting requirements. \$\endgroup\$ – doomtwig Jan 2 '18 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pretty sure the intent is in relation to the location it is in... example: This answer would preclude Glyphs from being used by Cloud Giants in their flying castles. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jan 2 '18 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Motion and position are relative concepts: a thing is only "stationary" relative to something else. Even were one to suppose an underlying absolute space, it would be impossible to tell whether any given thing was moving or not, no matter the physics of the world. To "make sense" of movement, one must define the relevant relative comparison. This choice is entirely arbitrary, which in this context basically means "up to the DM." Whatever the choice, guildsbounty's answer tells us that if the ship as a whole is found to be moving relative to <whatever>, then the Glyph breaks. \$\endgroup\$ – doomtwig Jan 2 '18 at 20:32

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