5th Edition Spells – Alarm


Artificer, Ranger, Wizard - 1 Level Spell

School: Abjuration
Casting Time: 1 Minute
Range: 30 ft
Components: Verbal, Somatic, and Material
Duration: 8 Hours
Attack/Save: None
Reference: EEPC 150

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.

Mage casting 1st level spell alarm

This excellent art comes from Jakub Jelínek. Find more of their art here.

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.

Components: a tiny bell and a piece of fine silver wire.

My Comments: When it comes to utility spells, I’d give Alarm a score of 100%. The main reasons are the fact that it’s a ritual spell and the components aren’t used up in the spell, so as long as you’ve got your spell pouches, book, and an extra ten minutes of free time, you can cast it any time.

Now for the nit-picking where I try to dissect the wording for any interesting bits, some obvious, some might not be.

The first sentence mentions “against unwanted intrusion” and then later it says you can designate creatures that won’t set off the alarm. It occurs to me that these could be separate things. For example, suppose our intrepid explorers are exhausted, wounded and everyone needs sleep, so they set up Alarm with the condition that party members won’t set off the alarm and hope for the best. Now, suppose a friendly fey comes by and decides to step in and heal everyone in their sleep. It’s outside the designation of “party members” but is it unwanted? Maybe the creature is able to sneak in, do it’s very wanted healing and then leaves without a trace.

Okay, very fringe situation, but possible.

Okay, next up is “door, a window, or an area within range that is no larger than a 20-foot cube”. I personally think the best use of this I’ve seen was when a party wanted to spy on an NPC and set up Alarm to trigger mentally when that person left their room at night. Even better, the caster was able to cast Alarm as a ritual, so no spell slots wasted. It did involve standing 30′ down the corridor and mumbling for 10 minutes hoping nobody came by to ask what they were doing, so some luck was definitely involved.

UPDATE: The following comment is in error in regards to D&D 5th Edition because there are no creatures smaller than “tiny” so “tiny or larger” really means “any creature.” In 3rd edition there were 2 size categories smaller than tiny, so I was thinking of that.

Now we’re to “tiny or larger”, which makes sense because you don’t want every mosquito passing through camp to wake you up. However, how hard is it to change shape to tiny and then back again? Yes, we’re looking at you, Druid of the Moon! Druids can pretty easily pass right through an Alarm by wild-shaping into a spider and just walking right through.

Next up, “touches or enters”: So what about a creature that is already in the area? One thing to notice is that the spells area of effect isn’t the radius or edges of the spell, it’s the entire area. On a small ship and wondering if you’ve got stowaways? Cast alarm until you’ve covered the whole ship. If the unwanted creature is inside the area, it’s automatically touching the warding, so the Alarm spell triggers. I can see DMs ruling differently on this but this is how I’m reading it.

And now, “creature”. It’s been established that Mage Hand won’t set off Alarm because it isn’t a creature. Stepping away from magic, it also means that arrows, rocks, dynamite and falling pianos also would not set off the Alarm, just creatures.

The last thing I’ll mention is an interesting aspect of the range. While casting, the target area has to be within 30′ of the caster. After that point, however, the caster can go wander up to a mile away and still get pinged if someone enters the area.

Well, okay, one more thing. If you are able to make magic items and want to befriend a merchant, how cool would it be to have an enchanted door that rings a bell every time someone enters? It would be just like that annoying bell that goes off when someone walks into a 7-11. 🙂

Let me know if I’m missing anything in the comments.

[pssst… want to draw a card from The Deck of Many Things?]

[P.S. Check out the Wacky Dungeon game just above the footer!]

Dave Goff

Writing and creating in my spare time to avoid going crazy in this mad, mad, world. Check out some of my materials on DMsGuild and let me know what you think! subscribe to keep up with new posts and leave comments to keep the conversation going.


  1. Josiah on February 3, 2021 at 11:18 am

    About the sizes and druids, it does say that a creature tiny or larger trigger the alarm and if you look at the beasts in the monster manual there is nothing smaller than tiny. As far as I know there is no size category smaller then tiny in 5e which makes me wonder if tiny or larger is supposed to include all creatures.

    • Dave Goff on February 3, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Absolutely right! I’ll add an update. I seem to remember in past versions there were smaller creatures, like diminutive and fine, and it made sense since the bothered to mention the sizes rather than “ANY creature.” It seems, though, that “tiny or larger” actually does mean “any creature.” Interesting.

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