…When you inscribe the glyph, choose one of the options below for its effect. Once triggered, the glyph glows, filling a 60-foot-radius sphere with dim light for 10 minutes, after which time the spell ends. Each creature in the sphere when the glyph activates is targeted by its effect, as is a creature that enters the sphere for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there…

Based on the spell’s description (of the 7th level spell: Symbol), how would you handle a creature triggering the spell that isn’t entirely contained inside the 60ft-radius sphere? I’m imagining how a colossal monster would react.

Would merely having part of its body inside the area count for suffering the effects?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that this same issue exists for any spell with an area of effect. I'd recommend searching past questions, as this has likely been asked and answered before. \$\endgroup\$ May 24, 2022 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually looked around, but did not find anything for 5e, just for pathfinder. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2022 at 6:08

2 Answers 2


The rule is on p.249 of the DMG

Many spells and other game features create areas of effect, such as the cone and the sphere. If you're not using miniatures or another visual aid, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who's in an area of effect and who isn't. The easiest way to address such uncertainty is to go with your gut and make a call.

So, RAW, “go with your gut and make a call.”

Note that if you exclude creatures that don’t entirely fit within the AoE, you effectively make them immune to that spell. I’m not saying that’s good or bad but it will make things more difficult for the players if dragons are effectively immune from most AoE effects.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the section is only for when you are not using a battlemap with miniatures and hence are not sure if someone is in the area of effect at all, as positions and distances are not clear. That's what you make the gut call about. I still think it is a great answer for that case. Especially the last paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2022 at 17:31

With a battlemap any overlap between creature and area of effect is sufficient (but ask your DM)

Dale's answer covers the case for if you are not using a battlemap.

The general rules for Cover in the PHB p. 196 state:

A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws. (...) A target with three-quarters cover has a +5 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws.

Many area-of-effect damaging spells such as Lightning Bolt require Dexterity saving throws. You use the rules for cover to determine what bonus applies to that save. In any case where it is not full cover, the creature will make a save, which means it is affected by the spell.

Now, how many squares of a multi-square creature need to be affected, for the creature to be affected?

If you are using a battlemap, the DMG on page 251 gives a chart for the area taken up by creatures of various sizes (large 2x2 squares, huge 3x3, gargantuan 4x4) and defines Areas of Effect for a spell on the map:

Choose an intersection of squares or hexes as the point of origin of an area of effect, then follow its rules as normal. If an area of effect is circular and covers at least half a square, it affects that square.

The page provides rules on how to determine cover on the map for such an area of effect:

To determine whether a target has cover against an (...) effect on a grid, choose a corner of (...) the point of origin of an area of effect. (Details about affected squares based on lines blocked by cover follow)

If not all squares can be included due to cover, you will need to save as approriate for that cover. Even if you are behind an arrow slit that would only expose the single square directly behind it: 3/4 cover, save at +5. And since you only must make a save if the spell affects you:

If there is any overlap of the spell's area of effect with the creature's space, it will be affected by the spell.

It is not necessary for the entire creature to be in the spell's area of effect to be affected by the spell, or the rules for cover would make no sense. As soon as you had any amount of cover you would be effectively immune to the spell, and have no need to make a save at all.

Now, this is only stated for spells that require a Dexterity saving throw, but it would seem logical that this then also applies to other area of effect spells.

For what it's worth, our DM has not been playing it like that. They determine the overlap, and count a creature in if at least half its squares are covered in the area of effect. I guess they like their monsters, and that is also a reasonable way to do it.

So, because the rules for this are not very explict in the DMG, best ask your DM how they handle it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There’s nothing in there that says how many squares of a multi-square creature have to be exposed to affect it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    May 25, 2022 at 9:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That is correct, but you can infer that if even one square is accessible (even through a arrow slit, for 3/4 cover), then the creature gets a +5 bonus on its save which means that it must make a save, and that one square exposure is sufficient to need to save. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2022 at 10:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a bit indirect, but I think it is conclusive. At least for Dex-Save spells. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2022 at 10:33

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