This question is asked under the assumption that the DM will allow spells with a range of "Self" to be stored in a glyph of warding1. The top answer to "What are the targeting range limitations of Glyph of Warding?" states:

That's it: the spell is cast with all its normal statistics including range.

While the trigger of the glyph can be unlimited in range ("Trigger when I move 12,000 miles away") the spell that is cast is cast from the gylph with all its normal limitations.

Spells with a range of "Self" do not have a numerical range limit on them, and as stated above, there is no range limit on the trigger either. So, using glyph of warding, could I effectively trigger a "Self" range spell from any distance?

I cast fire shield into a glyph of warding in my home with the trigger "When I speak the command word 'flame on'".

Could I then speak the command word to have fire shield cast on myself when I am 100 miles away in a dungeon, or on another plane?

1 An unofficial series of tweets from Jeremy Crawford would rule otherwise.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems this question is really about the limitations on the trigger for the glyph, right? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 25 '20 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov A limitation on the trigger from the rules would certainly answer this question. Mostly this is something that seems like it shouldn't work, but I don't see any reason in the rules why it wouldn't, other than a DM saying so. But I am open to hearing otherwise. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 25 '20 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that, Rules-As-Intended, you cannot cast spells with a Range of "self" into Glyph of Warding: sageadvice.eu/2017/12/30/… - despite the more popular ruling of the accepted answer (likely popular because people enjoy being OP, I would guess) on the relevant RPG.SE question... \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    Aug 26 '20 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH I think the reason people tend to rule that way is because self-targeted spells follow all of the restrictions of the spell given in the rulebook. Crawford's tweets are merely his opinion at the time and he sometimes changes his mind on things, so they are not considered as official rules. While they can give an idea of "rules-as-intended", they do not supercede the rulebooks. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 26 '20 at 16:13

Technically? Not Quite, but close.

The Glyph trigger cannot specify an individual. The best you can get is to specify creature kind, alignment, and described physical characteristics (height and weight, etc.) If you get to the point where the description no longer accurately describes you, you would be unable to trigger it. If someone else who fit the description happens to say the command word before you (very possible if you make the area large enough) then they'd be the one to get the benefit. Still, these things can be worked around enough to cheese it.

Practically? Depends on how much the DM is willing to let you get away with.

This is pretty clearly abusing a fuzzy point in the rules. As such, it is pretty much exactly the sort of thing that Rule Zero was designed for. Indeed, there are all sorts of exploits for Glyph of Warding that you can come up with. Your DM can and should give a ruling on this for their own game, based on the needs of that particular game, and probably based on things like how clever you're being, how entertaining it is, and how hard they think you're likely to try to abuse it in the future.

Pragmatically? Think about whether or not you want to open that can of worms.

There are a lot of DMs out there that won't pull cheese until you start pulling cheese. There are a lot of enemies out there with access to 3rd level spells. PCs generally get into combat a lot more often than random potential enemies do, which means that said enemies can afford to spend more time building up an arsenal of "just say the command word" Glyphs of Warding, for both themselves and their allies. You might want to think twice before trying to bring this particular exploit into being.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for won't pull cheese until you start pulling cheese. If a player wants to stretch the rules to the breaking point, I generally won't forbid it, but don't complain if the other side also manages to find halfling Hulking Hurlers with keen greatswords of returning. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26 '20 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you think there's anything to be said regarding what Please Stop Being Evil brings up that triggers must be related to the glyph in some way (i.e. all the suggested triggers in the PHB use some form of "on the glyph/object", "of the glyph/object", etc.)? \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 26 '20 at 22:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @smbailey I think that it is a valid DM interpretation that might or might not apply at your particular table. This part of the rules is pretty fuzzy, after all. I also think his answer has that position covered well enough that there's no real need to include it in mine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Aug 27 '20 at 13:06

'Self' spells will not run into range restrictions, but don't work like you suggest

This is highly related to this old answer of mine regarding dead men's switches. That one addresses pre-errata glyph of warding, when surface glyphs weren't subjected to the spell's movement limitations, but in games using the errata the same principles apply here. Quoting from there:

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.

So, you can get the glyph to cast fire shield on you from any distance, but only if you can interact with the object/area it is warding from that distance.

You could instead get it to cast the spell on someone interacting with it contingent upon you taking some distant action (like, e.g., dying or having at any point since the glyph's creation said "flame on"), but it will then go off on the next person who meets the rest of the trigger (e.g. touching it), not you.

You may nevertheless be able to do this-- several spells let you interact with objects at a distance-- but it is much more expensive to activate (probably takes an action and spell slots) and much more vulnerable to failure (could be prevented via counterspell or otherwise stopping whatever you are using to interact with it) than you seem to be supposing.

It's also unlikely to work across a 100-mile gap-- the only spell that would work at such a distance that I can think of off the top of my head is Gate and at that point Wish to duplicate whatever the Glyph of Warding is holding is cheaper.

That said, this is absolutely a potent and legal use of Glyph of Warding, and one which will likely become significantly better as more material is published for 5e and more theoretical optimization is developed.

Really the only missing piece for free action spellcasting is a reliable player-generatable free-action remote-activation system, and frequent improvements are made on that front regularly at this time.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I did read this answer when I was researching this question, but the proximity restrictions don't seem to be largely agreed upon. The fact that one of the suggested triggers is "within a certain distance of the glyph" implies to me that direct interaction with the physical location of the glyph is not necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 25 '20 at 21:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @smbailey I think it's pretty clear the trigger is supposed to be people interacting with the warded area or object. I think a trigger that has nothing to do with the area or object is clearly against the intent of the spell and the GM should consequently deny such a trigger. Regardless, though, any trigger not on the list requires explicit GM approval. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26 '20 at 5:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ "You decide" seems to be pretty open-ended. The rules as written don't apply any limits to what the trigger might be, or even particularly suggest that there are any limits. While it's certainly a valid (and perhaps even wise) DM interpretation to say that that means that activation methods beyond those commonly used are starkly limited, it's not particularly in the rules. Even the strongly implied "interacting with" can be managed pretty easily. If the trigger is "move towards while saying activation word" then all you need to do is remember which direction the glyph is in. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Aug 27 '20 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden No limits are placed on what the trigger may be, but neither is permission granted to make it whatever you want. Rather, the text says "You decide what triggers the glyph when you cast the spell." and then gives a presumably incomplete list of possible options. My contention is that "you decide" doesn't actually mean you can pick anything but rather that you get to pick from among all possible options. What is in that list beyond the examples is up to the GM and I agree the text makes it sound like it should be quite expansive. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 27 '20 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden Your suggested trigger would, I think, work fine, but you gotta keep in mind that 1) that's really easily hacked and 2) depending on cosmology (i.e. how many people are in the universe) may go off before you want it to even without deliberate hostile effort and 3) can only be used on your turn when you are capable of moving that direction. But, yes, that basically works and can be used at distances greater than 100 miles at the cost of reliability and security. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 27 '20 at 18:12

The rules don't exactly say, but probably not.

Glyph of warding does not, contra the answer to the linked question, have unlimited detection range. It doesn't say what its detection range is.

The spell does specify, though, that the glyph can "cover an area no larger than 10 feet in diameter". This may look, on its face, like it limits the physical size of the glyph. But there is no reason to limit that, since the triggering conditions can include coming near the glyph (or, if it's concealed in an object, looking at it). The interpretation that makes sense is that "cover" here means something like "protect" or "keep under observation", and that the glyph only responds to triggers within an area up to 10 feet in diameter, regardless of its physical size.

This is not a sure thing, based on the spell description, but otherwise it's not clear why it would mention the maximum size at all.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, interesting. In my Player's Handbook (an older printing), the wording is "the glyph can cover an area of the surface no larger than 10 feet in diameter", but I can see that in the current version they have removed that wording. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 25 '20 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @smbailey This spell has had some changes since the early printings. However, I think the same reasoning applies--the assumption is that the triggering condition involves standing on or touching the surface the glyph is written on. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Aug 25 '20 at 22:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are absolutely right that the rules don't say anything about a range restriction or lack thereof, and that the linked answer is wrong by virtue of its excessive incompleteness. However, your interpretation of "cover an area no larger than 10 feet in diameter" is so incredibly forced and misleading I feel I must downvote this answer anyways. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 26 '20 at 5:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ The intent seems clear that Glyph of Warding is triggered by something in proximity to the glyph. That's what a Ward does, after all: acts as a line of defense against an intruder (verbiage used by the spell description). You can't move the glyph more than 10 feet, you can't make the glyph more than 10 feet wide, and you can't put spells with a range of Self in them for when you're out adventuring & need a quick Fire Shield, for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    Aug 26 '20 at 16:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH If you can find some support for that in the rules, it would make a good answer. This is why I don't rely on Crawford: he often doesn't answer the question at all (as you see here--it takes a followup question to get him to actually say "No") and when he does, doesn't explain his reasoning. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Aug 26 '20 at 16:18

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