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Is it possible to store a Glyph of Warding in a Glyph of Warding spell? And so on, so that it casts X times spells on a triggering effect?

Why? For example, I could trigger 4 level 3 Glyphs of Warding at once to regain 24 hp on my Abjuration Wizard's Arcane Ward.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain what the trigger would be? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Any trigger, maybe standing on it \$\endgroup\$
    – Elvenis
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure that this specific interaction between Arcane Ward and Glyph of Warding triggers on the triggering, rather than the casting, of the glyph? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 22:32

2 Answers 2

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No

Only spells that target either a creature or an area are eligible to be stored:

Spell Glyph. 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. ...

Glyph of Warding is a Touch spell that targets a surface or an object that can be closed. Eligible spells must target a single creature (like eg. Witch Bolt) or an area (like eg. Fireball).

While Glyph of Warding does cover an area in a sense, it does not target an area. There are three important locations for the spell:

  • Where the spell was cast (unimportant otherwise, but the glyph's undone if it is moved far from its original site)
  • Where the glyph is (actually determines when the glyph is triggered)
  • Where the creature triggering the glyph is (determines where the resulting spell is cast)

Seeing that the Glyph can be moved from its original location, my interpretation is that the target of "Touch" means the spell's target is the object or surface that has the glyph. However, the object or surface can move and the glyph moves with it (functioning only up to a small distance, but still!) suggesting that indeed the spell doesn't target the abstract area, but the concrete object, be that wall, door, book or floor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why can't the area contain the object for the glyph? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Spells that target areas have the area specified in their "Range/Targets" section. GoW specifies "touch" instead, as I note. Any ideas on how I could clarify that? \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think should be explained the line on the spell description stating "If you choose a surface, the glyph can cover an area of the surface no larger than 10 feet in diameter". \$\endgroup\$
    – Elvenis
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the stored GoW triggers at same condition (standing near of it, for example) it has to trigger too, immediately or at the beginning of the next turn, so that it can be chained to cast multiple spells without taking actions \$\endgroup\$
    – Elvenis
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 20:26
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Can you do this via rules-as-written? Yes.

The sole limit on the spell that is attached to a glyph of warding is,

The spell must target a single creature or an area.

Does glyph of warding target an area? One important thing to consider is that neither "target" nor "area" are keywords for D&D 5th ed. In this rule set, words don't have any special, codified meaning. There's no such thing as something that is targeted with a spell that isn't a target; there is no such thing as a spell that affects an area that is not an area effect spell. From https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/wolfgang-baur-girl-scouts-midgard :

If the rules do not specifically add or change the meaning in a significant way, the word means what it means in regular idiomatic English.

This is a quote taken out of context, and if you have time, I'd recommend listening to the entire source, but I think you'll find that the context supports that reading as well.

So then, does GoW target (affect) an area? The spell itself answers:

If you choose a surface, the glyph can cover an area of the surface no larger than 10 feet in diameter.

Is an area no larger than 10 feet in diameter an area? In plain English? Yes, it is an area. Tautologically so.

Is "covering" an area the same as affecting that area? This is more ambiguous, but I believe that it is. Would you say that the Web spell affects an area or covers an area? Is that question hard to parse because, well, they're kinda the same thing?

So a glyph of warding spell, when cast on a surface with an area, can be nested in this way.

Is this rules as intended?

It was not intended for GoW to be cast nested. There are numerous other cases where the designers have made rules that could be misunderstood clear; this is a clear case where the rules could be misunderstood; therefore, they just didn't imagine this possibility.

But what is intended is that players try to be creative in problem solving. And one of the things that means is that they're going to stumble upon solutions to problems that the designers never imagined. That's the reason for having such a crunchy rule set! So it is very much rules as intended that you use spells in ways unforseen by the designers.

Are there ambiguous questions about this particular situation?

Yes, absolutely. One of the ambiguities is casting time. A GoW has a casting time of 1 hour. Does the stored spell add to the cast time, or is it fully contained in it? I'd make it add to the cast time, because using this to cheese cast time is the likeliest use. So nesting four glyphs of warding would take four hours (and, presumably, a round, for the final spell.)

What happens when the trigger is met for the first spell? Is it automatically met for the nested spells? That could very easily depend on the exact conditions. A concerned GM might reasonably institute a 1-round delay for each nest. If the second glyph triggers on the same conditions as the first, is an instantaneous condition still met, or is an instantaneous condition now expired? Like I said, ambiguous.

Is this abusable?

Other than potentially via the casting time, which I mentioned above, no. Nesting four GoW costs you 800 GP in components and four hours. With those 800 gp and 4 hours, you could cast four independent GoW, which gets you four "free" spell effects, much more powerful than a few measly abjuration ward HP. (Those other spells can still be abjuration spells....) Nesting GoW is probably the least effective imaginable way to use this otherwise extremely powerful spell. Doing this allows your player to exercise their creativity, but in this particular case, it's not a wise decision on the player's part.

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