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Can the 3rd-level Clr spell glyph of warding [abjur] (PH 237-8) et al. be cast on ammunition (perhaps necessitating something like the prestige class arcane archer's special ability imbue arrow) or on a melee weapon so that when it hits a foe a spell glyph triggers or a blast glyph explodes?


Note: In comments on this answer, it was suggested that the special ability imbue arrow be combined with the spell glyph of warding to make arrows have spell or blast effects upon hitting their targets. I put forth that the target of such an arrow wasn't trying to enter, open, or pass the arrow so the glyph didn't seem to matter. This question attempts to resolve this issue rather than continue the conversation in comments.

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For my money/at my table:

Casting the spell on an object does not work.

The Glyph of Warding spell can be cast on either an object or an area. For the object version, only "opening the warded object" is mentioned as a valid trigger. As the question points out, being hit by an arrow or a sword is definitely not the same thing as trying to open an object (heck, the object is trying to open you)!

The area version is less clear, but I think it works at least somewhat.

The Arcane Archer's Imbue Arrow ability, fortunately for would be Glyph-cheese-practitioners, isn't using the object-targeting version of the spell. As a matter of fact, the ability specifically requires that it be used with an area spell, and then casts that spell with its area centered wherever the arrow lands.

Here's the relevant text concerning what can trigger a Glyph:

This powerful inscription harms those who enter, pass, or open the warded area or object. A glyph of warding can guard a bridge or passage, ward a portal, trap a chest or box, and so on.

You set the conditions of the ward. Typically, any creature entering the warded area or opening the warded object without speaking a password (which you set when casting the spell) is subject to the magic it stores. Alternatively or in addition to a password trigger, glyphs can be set according to physical characteristics (such as height or weight) or creature type, subtype, or kind. Glyphs can also be set with respect to good, evil, law, or chaos, or to pass those of your religion. They cannot be set according to class, Hit Dice, or level.

I see two possible interpretations here:

  • If "You set the conditions of the ward" means that you can have it trigger off of something other than someone trying to enter the warded area, then you can simply set the ward to the creature type of whatever you're shooting at, and it will go off as soon as it lands.
  • If that sentence only refers to replacing the password portion of the trigger, then the Glyph won't go off immediately, but will trigger as soon as the target takes any amount of movement, since I would say moving inside the area of a Glyph of Warding constitutes "passing" the ward.

I favor the first interpretation here, because "you set the conditions of the ward" reads like a blanket statement to me, and because it's less clunky to use, but I could definitely see a DM going either way on this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this answer, but I think you could improve it by noting that glyph of warding takes ten minutes to cast. The imbue arrow ability does claim "It takes a standard action to cast the spell and fire the arrow" but I don't think that was intended to apply to spells that take more than a standard action to cast. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Feb 18 '17 at 0:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dan B It was that exact interaction that inspired this question. I agree that the use of glyph of warding to shorten casting times was probably not what the designers had in mind, but it certainly does work as written. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Feb 18 '17 at 3:24
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This first answer was entirely wrong in premise. A: The beginning of the spell description states that you decide what triggers it. B: When listing triggers it says "the most typical" triggers, meaning that those are not the only ones available to the player and more exist, and in exhibit A I assume that means you can decide whatever you want. Another, extremely important note that applies even if you disagree with my first point, is that in the object glyphs one of the typical options is "approaching within a certain distance of the object", meaning you could set the glyph to activate when you come with a quarter of a millimeter of the object. You could sheath your sword and wield it regularly, and the only time anything would feasibly come in that range is when you're striking it. So yes, you can put a warding glyph on a weapon, and more specifically one that activates on an enemy you are attacking.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Is it possible that you've the wrong edition? I don't see anything about "approaching within a certain distance of the object" in the D&D 3.5 description of the glyph of warding spell, but that language is included in the 5e version of the spell. No matter what, though, thank you for participating and for trying to help strangers! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 23 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi MrHullox, and welcome to the site. Bear in mind we're a Q&A site and not a linear discussion forum. Answers are expected to directly address the question and answer it in full. If you think another answer is incorrect, the way to handle this is to provide the correct answer in full, directly addressing the question, and provide evidence as to why. It's important to frontload that part. After you've done that you can optionally address errors found in other answers if it's still particularly worth doing so given everything else you've said. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 23 at 14:50

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