5E Bank Security

ZenBear

Villager
What sort of security measures would you expect a bank to have in this setting? Assuming well-organized and educated management, what measures can be taken to, for example, ensure the stash of silver they just exchanged for gold isn’t actually wood that has been transmuted via Minor Alchemy?
 

Iry

Explorer
What sort of security measures would you expect a bank to have in this setting? Assuming well-organized and educated management, what measures can be taken to, for example, ensure the stash of silver they just exchanged for gold isn’t actually wood that has been transmuted via Minor Alchemy?
Small army of Shadesteel Golems, some Warforged tellers that double as security, with a 15th level Sorcerer as a hostage negotiator.

You play in the Tippyverse, right? B-)
 

MarkB

Hero
A small 10x10' permanent Antimagic Field across the entrance - any visitor must pass through it. Removes any temporary transmutations, dispels magical disguises, disrupts wards and countermeasures against detection.

The interior is Hallowed, using the Extradimensional Interference effect, so nobody can bypass the entrance via teleportation.
 
Demi plane.

Strong boxes are purchased and the goods are put in a Leomand’s secret chests. Rentals are paid monthly.

Vaults don’t have doors. They can only be accessed via passwall.
 

Aenorgreen

Villager
I am going to assume a fairly low magic world. Lead-lined vault room and all transactions have a 24 hour escrow period. I bet that would stop the majority of problems. Also banks are not designed to stop all possible attacks. If the cost of prevention is more than the loss from the theft, economics says to allow an occasional theft.
 

Arvok

Explorer
The bank is run by an order of paladins (kind of like the Templar Knights of history). No issues of being swindled by the bank and anyone who tries to steal from or swindle from the bank soon finds himself being hunted by a group of powerful paladins (likely with a cleric and/or wizard who is allied to the order).

The bank probably also has what would be standard magical protections for a FRPG world. Effects of a hallow spell, for example, since it's in a monastery, et al.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
What sort of security measures would you expect a bank to have in this setting?
In what setting? Makes all the difference. An Eberron bank that was a brnach of House Kundarak would be a heck of a lot different then am underground bank for rebels and shadowy types not under the eye of the Sorcerer Kings in Dark Sun vs. a Dwarven Clan's bank in FR that's not open to non-dwarves.
 

Kurotowa

Explorer
In what setting? Makes all the difference.
Indeed. Heck, if you're using a standard issue pseudo-Medieval Europe setting, public banks in the modern sense probably don't even exist. Those were an invention of Renaissance Italy. In less settled circumstances you've got the Royal Mint issuing official coinage and then Letters of Credit, which are basically a fancy IOU which can be issued by any person or organization with the clout for others to accept it.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
To open an account, you must accept a geas spell that you won't attempt to swindle the bank or rob it.

Leomund's tiny hut is actually super useful as a vault door.

Detect thoughts, possibly as a medallion of thoughts, could be pretty useful too. Maybe hire a mind flayer or a doppelganger for this role. Flumphs can't actually read minds, but they can eavesdrop on telepathy, so they could keep an inner eye on the mind flayers. Actually, even if you aren't hiring mind-reading monsters, it's probably a good idea to have some flumphs around just in case. You never know when you'll need one.

Wand of magic detection and wand of enemy detection are not too rare.

Glyph of warding can be loaded with all kinds of interesting non-lethal options, like "suggestion: Instead of risking further magical traps, why not go to the local constabulary and confess to breaking and entering?"

Many of your magical defenses could be hidden by Nystul's magic aura, which is easy to make permanent.

Sending, or sending stones, are great for transmitting simple messages long distances, for example, to update ledgers. But sending is a 3rd-level spell. A cheaper version is animal messenger.

Bank branches can also mail each other the old fashioned way, but the mail can be secured cheaply using illusory script. But that spell only lasts 10 days. A cheaper way to secure a message might be to record it on a small clay tablet, then smash that to pieces, and send the pieces with different couriers. Once all the couriers are at the destination, a few hours of mending cantrips should restore the message. That works for messages over 25 words, too. Or, you could grab a stone and ritually cast magic mouth on it, containing the message you want; the recipient would need to know how to trigger it. If the message is longer than 25 words, I don't see why you can't put multiple magic mouths on the same stone. Of course, each one costs 10 gp, so it's not the cheapest postal system.

Illusory script also has some interesting applications for creating cashier's checks, letters of credit, promissory notes, certificates of deposit, bearer bonds, etc., in ways that are difficult to forge. The hidden message could contain secret code words, numeric hashes, or your signature, and the "creatures you designate" could theoretically be open-ended, like "registered agents of the Royal Bank of Geldland." It's castable as a ritual, too.

Unfortunately, it only lasts 10 days. If we want to step slightly outside of RAW, I think it's reasonable to assume that a dedicated bank can research a version that lasts indefinitely, maybe for a modest material component that gets consumed; say, 1 platinum piece (which is on par with magic mouth). Or just make it a 2nd-level spell; but, that makes it harder to cast. An interesting variant would be a ritual that allows someone else to write the hidden message when you cast it: This would allow you to create traveler's cheques, with the signature hidden. The bearer could then counter-sign the cheque and present it to the bank agent, who would compare the two signatures. A forger wouldn't be able to copy the signature from the cheque because it's hidden.

3E actually had a great spell to prevent forgery and counterfeiting, arcane mark. The mark was unique to each caster. 5E prestidigitation has a similar function but it only lasts an hour. Also I think there's a sidebar in SCAG that recants the "uniqueness" aspect. Still, I'd imagine a dedicated bank would research some magical way to create a hard-to-forge seal for its documents, similar to how modern currency has holograms and hidden messages and so forth. Sympathetic magic might work: maybe each bank branch has a hair clipping from the manager of every other bank branch; important financial documents are signed in blood by a bank branch manager; and then there's a low-level spell to detect whether two biological samples came from the same creature, and is used to compare the blood to the hair. (A spell like this would have tremendous implications for forensics, too.) Of course such magic could be fooled; Nystul's magic aura can fool lots of things.

Finally, if you don't mind consorting with devils (and why would you? You're a bank! *ba-dum ching*), I'd expect imps to be relatively easy to summon and bind. With the right motivation, these creatures could become the bank's information network, delivering reliable messages for keeping ledgers up-to-date. Heck, the average imp has Int 11, Wis 12, and Cha 14 -- sounds like management material!

EDIT: I totally forgot about find familiar. Your telepathy with your familiar, and your ability to see and hear through it, extends to a range of 100 miles. That's reasonably far. As long as each bank branch was within 100 miles of another bank branch, the branch manager could leave their familiar at another branch and communicate telepathically through that, relaying messages back to the home office.

All this stuff about using magic to transmit messages sounds time-consuming and tedious, but in pseudo-medieval fantasy times, I'm guessing the bank caters mostly to a few rich customers, and so there would only be updates every few days or so.
 
Last edited:

Dausuul

Legend
What sort of security measures would you expect a bank to have in this setting? Assuming well-organized and educated management, what measures can be taken to, for example, ensure the stash of silver they just exchanged for gold isn’t actually wood that has been transmuted via Minor Alchemy?
Generally speaking, high-level magic is not required to deal with most threats of this kind. Mundane or low-level solutions will suffice. For example:

  • If someone wants to exchange coins or other precious materials, and the amount is significant, the exchange goods must be left at the bank for 1 hour. You get a receipt. After 1 hour, you can exchange the receipt for the thing you wanted to trade for.
  • Anyone entering is scanned by a 1st-level wizard whose job is to stand there ritual-casting detect magic over and over all day long. The wizard notifies bank staff if there are any suspicious magical auras on you or the items you offer for trade.
  • Vaults are lined with lead against detection spells.
  • When a vault is closed and locked, a specially designed wooden cart is first wheeled into it. The cart is light but bulky, designed to take up all of the open space inside the vault. This makes it impossible to get inside via teleportation magic.
  • Multiple keys, held by multiple people, may be required to open certain vaults. Detect magic scans are used on key-holders in case of enchantment.
  • Elves and half-elves are often enlisted as guards or sentries, since they are resistant to charm magic and can't be put to sleep.

Now, for really valuable stuff--very rare and legendary magic items, artifacts, dragon-sized hoards, etc.--you would bust out the heavy-duty magic. Enchantment and mind control are probably the biggest threats, so guardians that are immune to charm effects are highly favored. Constructs are ideal. A dragon would also make an excellent guardian, if the bank could work out a deal with the beast that allowed them to make withdrawals when needed. (Remember that bank management has to be able to get through its own security! There's no point locking up your treasure so tight that you yourself can't get at it.)
 

ZenBear

Villager
In what setting? Makes all the difference. An Eberron bank that was a brnach of House Kundarak would be a heck of a lot different then am underground bank for rebels and shadowy types not under the eye of the Sorcerer Kings in Dark Sun vs. a Dwarven Clan's bank in FR that's not open to non-dwarves.
Fair point. I’m usually thinking about Forgotten Realms, since that’s become the default setting for D&D.

Thanks for all the responses thus far, you have given me lots of great feedback!
 

rgoodbb

Explorer
At the very least an Elf or Half-Elf 2nd-level Warlock as your floor manager

Darkvision, Magic Vision (always on), difficult to charm and cannot be put to sleep. Add in a Zone of Truth....zone from somewhere and you have a lot of cons covered. I like the idea of some Magic Mouth's used for something as well. Though not sure exactly what.
 

jgsugden

Explorer
The best defense is a good offense. Having someone on the payroll that can hunt down the thieves, slay them, and recover the goods means you only need minimal defenses (mundane locks) to keep out the foolish. If it is well known that the local archmage is on payrol from the bank to hunt down and destroy thieves, few people will brave stealing from the bank.
 

MarkB

Hero
The best defense is a good offense. Having someone on the payroll that can hunt down the thieves, slay them, and recover the goods means you only need minimal defenses (mundane locks) to keep out the foolish. If it is well known that the local archmage is on payrol from the bank to hunt down and destroy thieves, few people will brave stealing from the bank.
But some will be foolish enough to try to frame people for stealing from the bank. :)
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Fear the bank has reasonably mundane security. The local assassin's guild or archemage is on retainer though.
 

aco175

Explorer
I think that FR was thrown back into a more Dark Ages feel for 5e. The Spellplague caused most static magic to fail and all the cool 'modern day' things failed as well. Hot plates, ice boxes, telephones and such that gave the world a bit fantastic were gone and people huddled in the larger cities until today when adventurers are needed once again.

I do not really see this as having or needing all the big spells and extraplanar beings just to protect money. I can see the buildings having no windows and having turns to prevent seeing into the vault to prevent teleporting, and maybe lead sheets or dust in the mortar but dragons and devils would scare the normal person from using it in the first place.

You could have a couple levels of banks where the top bank is known for having a knight order recover all goods and the lowest bank could be little more than a front for a thieves guild.
 

Advertisement

Top