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The Alarm spells reads as (emphasis mine)

You set an alarm against unwanted intrusion. Choose a door, a window, or an area within range that is no larger than a 20-foot cube. Until the spell ends, an alarm alerts you whenever a Tiny or larger creature touches or enters the warded area. When you cast the spell, you can designate creatures that won't set off the alarm. You also choose whether the alarm is mental or audible.

A mental alarm alerts you with a ping in your mind if you are within 1 mile of the warded area. This ping awakens you if you are sleeping.

An audible alarm produces the sound of a hand bell for 10 seconds within 60 feet.

If I choose to cast an audible Alarm targeting a door or a window, the description is pretty clear: the sound can be heard within 60 feet from that object, i.e. within a sphere\$^\dagger\$ centered in the object and with radius 60 feet.

What will the sound's origin be if I target a cubic area whose side is strictly greater than 5 feet?


\$^\dagger\$ I always consider the 3rd dimension.

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The alarm is audible up to 60 feet from any point inside the cube.

The question as I understand it is "within 60 feet of what point"? The answer is all the points in the cube.

The sound is heard within 60 feet of the target, whether that target is a door, a window, or an area. So a creature will hear the alarm if you can draw a line from that creature's space to a point inside the space occupied by the target, and that line is 60 feet long or shorter. The space within which the alarm can be heard will never be exactly a sphere, but a shape like this:

enter image description here

For example on the map below, the area of effect might be a 20' cube around the bridge. The alarm is audible at any point in the highlighted area around it, which is 60 feet in all directions from the cube.

Alarm AOE and audible area

(Map provided by Seafoot Games)

The sound doesn't come from any particular direction.

As for whether creatures can tell where the sound is coming from, the spell does not say so it's up to the DM. A straight reading of the rule implies that it doesn't sound like it's coming from anywhere in particular.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How does this address OP's question, about what is the origin of the sound? Do you implicitly mean the origin is the cube? What about if you're inside the cube? \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Jan 27 at 16:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Under this interpretation, I agree that the affected area won't be a sphere: it will be the union of the spheres with radius 60 feet and whose centers are on the sides of the red square that you depicted. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 27 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Secondly, the more I read it, the more I am convinced that the interpretation of @SeriousBri is correct: nowhere in the description it is said that the sound is audible within 60 feet, but it is produced within 60 feet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 27 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ The spell description is intended to tell you how the spell works. I agree that the wording is not great, but it's trying to answer the question of how far away the sound can be heard. Otherwise, what is it really telling you in game-mechanical terms? The wording was better in previous editions. For example in AD&D 2e, the wording is "the alarm spell lets out a loud ringing that can be heard clearly within a 60-foot radius." \$\endgroup\$
    – Apocalisp
    Jan 27 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're inside the cube, you're definitely less than 60 feet away from it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Apocalisp
    Jan 28 at 3:24
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There is no specific origin

The way I read this, is that the sound of the hand bell occurs everywhere within 60ft of the alarmed area, so no specific source.

This doesn't mean that it can only be heard within that radius either, it can be heard at whatever distance would be appropriate to the situation, probably a long distance on a quiet night.

If it had a source or was limited in range it would say something like

An audible alarm produces the sound of a hand bell for 10 seconds that can be heard from anywhere within 60 feet of the alarmed area

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean that there is no clear origin within the X-foot cube the caster determined? Because it seems logical that in the 60ft radius, the source is clearly the chosen area. I wonder if I misinterpreted your answer \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Jan 27 at 13:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 I mean that the origin is everywhere, including the alarmed area and the entire 60ft radius around it. To be fair I accept that this is wide open to interpretation, but it is how I have always read it. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jan 27 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I understood well, your reading suggests hence that the origin is in the center of the cube, but this leads then to have a radius of 70 feet and not 60. Or am I missing something? \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 27 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how more specific I can be, my title says 'no specific origin'. The entire area is lit up with bell noises. As for the radius, that is around the alarmed area, not from a specific source, so will be different shaped based on how the alarm was set. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jan 27 at 14:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think I got it: per your reading, the sounds originates within 60 feet of the door/window, the object is not the source of the sound. Same happes in case of the cubic area: the sounds again originates all around the area and it has no specific (pointwise) origin. It sounds (ah ah) very reasonable, by spell's description. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 27 at 14:54
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The sound doesn't originate

There are two parts to this and you have to read the whole description to get the correct picture.

You set an alarm against unwanted intrusion. Choose a door, a window, or an area within range that is no larger than a 20-foot cube. Until the spell ends, an alarm alerts you whenever a Tiny or larger creature touches or enters the warded area. When you cast the spell, you can designate creatures that won't set off the alarm. You also choose whether the alarm is mental or audible.

A mental alarm alerts you with a ping in your mind if you are within 1 mile of the warded area. This ping awakens you if you are sleeping.

An audible alarm produces the sound of a hand bell for 10 seconds within 60 feet.

Note the similar phrasing of the last two sentences. They both describe how the alarm will "go off" and they need to be read as a continuous thought.

If it's a mental alarm, it's a ping and can reach the caster up to a mile away. If it's audible, then the sound can be heard within 60 feet.

Consider the following phrase: "Go to the store and buy one dozen eggs. If they are on sale, buy two."

The first sentence talks about eggs. The second does not, but it is inferred that the speaker is still talking about eggs. So if we apply that same inference to the spell...

A mental alarm alerts you with a ping in your mind if you are within 1 mile of the warded area. This ping awakens you if you are sleeping.

An audible alarm produces the sound of a hand bell for 10 seconds within 60 feet of the warded area.

Since the description doesn't specify where the sound comes from (center, top, where the intrusion happened, etc), for it to universally reach exactly 60 feet out, it must come from every point within that 60 feet.

Remember that this is magic. There is no spoon, er, bell.

Unlike spells such as Thunderwave, which state "...emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet," this is a strict delimiter; 59 ft out you hear it fine, 61 ft out and it's silent.

So the sound must just "exist" anywhere it's heard.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, it means that the sound exists inside the area covered by the spell (refer to the excellent 3D figure of @Apocalips) without any specific origin point. But I am not sure that you cannot hear the sound when you are more than 60 feet far away from the affected area, since indeed there are no indications like the one that you mentioned for the Thunderwave spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 28 at 8:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage, the wording of Thunderwave says the sound is audible out to 300 ft. As in the sound extends outward. It also uses the phrase "out from" in the first sentence as well as pushing object away. It has a definite origin from which things radiate out. Alarm has no such wording; just "within 60 ft". Which puts it closer to a spell like Pass Without Trace that states that "...each creature you choose within 30 feet of you..." as a hard limit. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jan 28 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, I got your point now, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 28 at 15:19

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