Is it possible to inscribe Undead Ward on an item, and if so what would the effect actually be? For example, inscribing it along the edge of a shield, around a belt, or around the outside of a helmet or circlet? Or along a staff, club or sword?

Unlike Magic Circle, which specifies it is inscribed on the ground within the rules text, the only part of the text of Undead Ward which suggests this is the fluff text.

The ritual Undead Ward has text as follows:

Undead Ward The line you etched in the floor shines like ivory in moonlight, and the skeletons stop advancing.

Component Cost: 35 gp Market Price: 130 gp Key Skill: ArcanaLevel: 3 Category: Warding Time: 30 minutes Duration: Until broken

You create a magical barrier against undead creatures. This barrier can be a closed circle, with an inscription time of 1 minute per square inside the circle, or a line, requiring 1 minute per 2 squares of length. An undead creature whose level is lower than your Arcana check result – 10 cannot pass through the barrier, affect creatures through the barrier, or affect the barrier in any way. Any other undead creature takes radiant damage equal to your Arcana check result when passing through the barrier, but doing so breaks the barrier and ends the effect. Any creature able to pass through the barrier can take a standard action to obscure the inscription and thereby break the barrier.


I'd say that this answer is very much up to the DM to decide.

  • Oblivious Sage makes a good answer in favour of item-inscribed wards, and you can see that a lot of very interesting game situations can arise from what is effectively enchanting items with extra powers.

  • Some DMs however might wish to restrict the realm of possibilities, so that they can better predict where the PCs actions will take them. In that case I'd argue that a ward is not a mobile ritual--one cannot attach it to a surface and have it moved around at will, rather a ward is attached to the underlying magical structure of the world and is effectively immobile once created.

In the first case you have a rule that allows for very interesting gameplay that can result in such things as portable undead barriers and potentially undead-proof wagon-tanks. In the second case you have no tanks, but (therefore) there is also a much smaller chance of game-ruiningly-overpowered situations occuring.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The wagon-tanks would never come up in our campaign, as it involves stairs. But the possibility of putting it on a platform and putting that platform on a Tenser's Floating Disc did. Weight and space-restrictions weren't a problem for a Gnome Wizard, but obviously the rest of the party gained no benefit and couldn't easily use the same approach. \$\endgroup\$ – Ananisapta Jun 11 '12 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ It brings to mind lots of fun ideas, but also some sad memories of my time spent as a fighter in 3.5, where our magic user used his spell casting in such creative ways as to render any non-magic-casting player redundant. Provided everyone's happy then I say do it! \$\endgroup\$ – ioanwigmore Jun 11 '12 at 1:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Luckily the overshadowing issue rarely comes up, as my wizard has the lowest defenses, attack damage, speed, strength and HP in the party, the rest of whom are mostly invested in being really good at killing things. My wizard just tries to fill in the gaps... and save his own skin when everyone else is too busy to do it for him :P. \$\endgroup\$ – Ananisapta Jun 11 '12 at 1:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't say it would be too much to make a higher-level variant of Undead Ward that could work on mobile items, IMO. \$\endgroup\$ – Cobalt Apr 22 '14 at 0:49

The text say the inscription acts as a barrier. I would rule that if whatever it's inscribed on isn't position in such a way as to align the inscription like a barrier then it has no effect at that time.

For example, if you inscribed a circle around the edge of a shield, it would have no effect on undead during combat, but if you put the shield on the ground with the inscribed side facing up and stood on the shield inside the circle, then the barrier would protect you.

Likewise, if you inscribe a line on a belt, it has no effect while the belt is being worn, regardless of whether the inscription faces out or in (well, if it was facing in, it might stop an undead creature that was impaling you from reaching into the other half of your body, but if it comes to that you're probably already dead). You could, however, take the belt off and lay it on the ground with the inscription facing up to create a line barrier (though the belt would need to be longer than whatever corridor you're trying to block, or the undead will simply go around it). You might even be able to lay multiple such belts together end-to-end to create a single larger barrier, though that's likely to be weaker than a single unbroken line (use the lowest arcana check of any of the involved belts for the whole line?).

The other concern is that a inscription on the floor is fairly durable, which is why it takes a standard action to remove it. A shield, however, is going to get smashed and scratched quite a bit in combat, so the inscription may be randomly broken at some point. A belt is safer from abuse, but also less durable, so a time limit might be more appropriate.

In summary: It's up to the DM; either you outright can't do it, or it should have limitations on it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Surely a worn belt acts like a closed barrier that would injure any undead that makes contact with you? I mean, there're finer details such as shoulder width extending past the boundary, and if the undead uses a weapon or not, but this is how I'd expect it to work if you could also use the belt as a line boundary when laid out. \$\endgroup\$ – ioanwigmore Jun 10 '12 at 23:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ And if it's on one of the edges? A belt is not a purely 2D construct. But my point is that a PC or DM can come up with a lot of uses for this way of inscribing wards. They are not wrong, but they do make the game more complex, which I'd argue sends the game more towards the 3.5E way of playing than 4E. \$\endgroup\$ – ioanwigmore Jun 10 '12 at 23:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ True. That's why I don't think your answer's wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – ioanwigmore Jun 11 '12 at 0:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ With the problem of damage vulnerability, inscribing it with Eternal Chalk would fix that. Technically, if you took a REALLY long time to do it, you could multi-cast Arcane Mark and make it permanent and invisible. \$\endgroup\$ – Ananisapta Jun 11 '12 at 1:00

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