D&D General How are locks so hard to open?

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The basic ward lock was known to Sumerians whereas the Tumbler was invented by Romans and Chinese and pretty much stayed that way until the 18th century Pin and Tumbler (Yale) lock. Thats why gates and doors were mainly latched, barred, guarded rather than relying on locks.

of course DnD has magic Artificers and kobold tinkers who make exceptionally complex locks, that are often trapped and sometimes enchanted
 

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For a while I was doing it just to have something to fidget with while watching TV, and I got my time on that lock down to a few seconds.

Likewise, I've picked a couple locks and it's not all that easy as it's made out to be. Also, I knew that no one had a trap that could cause certain death set up on the lock. It becomes that much more difficult when you have to worry about that, plus having to be quiet about it so that anyone on the other side doesn't hear you working.

A level 1 rogue needs about 20 seconds to open it...

To add to or comment on all of this:

Yes, and a DC 20 roll means someone has 6 seconds to unlock it, not 20, not minutes. A lock they have never seen before. As others have said, if time is not a concern and failure does not mean a trap triggers, then give the rogue an automatic 20 to pick a lock.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
To add to or comment on all of this:

Yes, and a DC 20 roll means someone has 6 seconds to unlock it, not 20, not minutes. A lock they have never seen before. As others have said, if time is not a concern and failure does not mean a trap triggers, then give the rogue an automatic 20 to pick a lock.
I'm not aware of any rule that says it takes 6 seconds to pick a lock. Outside of a thief with Fast Hands during combat, my understanding is that the time it takes is up to the DM.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not aware of any rule that says it takes 6 seconds to pick a lock.

I think they are deriving that time from the basic precept that you a character may try to use a skill as their action in a combat round, which we take as vaguely six seconds. From context, the idea is that the skill check is for when the character needs to do it in six seconds, but if they have minutes, you may not need to roll at all, and can just assume it happens.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I think they are deriving that time from the basic precept that you a character may try to use a skill as their action in a combat round
That is also not a given in the rules to my knowledge except for specific call-outs like the Hide and Search actions which may or may not call for an ability check. Most actions require the DM to decide how long it takes to accomplish. The DM could say that certain tasks take 6 seconds, but it's worth noting in my view that this is the DM's call, not the actual rules, and different DMs may rule differently.
 

Thanks @Umbran yea, that's pretty much what I meant.

If you have 15 hours to defeat a locked door. Why wouldn't you take a door apart or defeat it in one of numerous ways? I'm not going to go lookup and reference the rules, but yes, if there are no time constraints, and their are no consequences for failure (triggering a trap, breaking the lock, etc), then the rules do imply that the DM should not bother to have the PC make a roll. Just tell the PCs the results (and one can again imply that this would be akin to take 20.)

Since picking a lock is an action, and the rules do not say otherwise, then yes, you can pick a lock in one round, if you make the DC check. Therefore why would you spend longer and have a DC?

But anyways, that's how I run the game and why a DC 20 lock is not unusual or unrealistic. Everyone can do otherwise.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Thanks @Umbran yea, that's pretty much what I meant.

If you have 15 hours to defeat a locked door. Why wouldn't you take a door apart or defeat it in one of numerous ways? I'm not going to go lookup and reference the rules, but yes, if there are no time constraints, and their are no consequences for failure (triggering a trap, breaking the lock, etc), then the rules do imply that the DM should not bother to have the PC make a roll. Just tell the PCs the results (and one can again imply that this would be akin to take 20.)

Since picking a lock is an action, and the rules do not say otherwise, then yes, you can pick a lock in one round, if you make the DC check. Therefore why would you spend longer and have a DC?

But anyways, that's how I run the game and why a DC 20 lock is not unusual or unrealistic. Everyone can do otherwise.
And if picking a lock is intended to take longer than 6 seconds, then the Thief's Fast Hands ability is insanely fast.
 

Bolares

Hero
See, that argument implies that realism should ALWAYS take a backseat if the gameplay aspects of anything are fun and engaging for the players. What makes lockpicking any different than other aspects of the game?
Does it though? I was talking about this specific part of the game not about realism always taking a backseat. Please don't generalize the coment. About why it's any different... well it's a major part of the rogues identity, as combat for the fighter for an example, so I think realism IN THIS CASE should take a back seat.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Thanks @Umbran yea, that's pretty much what I meant.

If you have 15 hours to defeat a locked door. Why wouldn't you take a door apart or defeat it in one of numerous ways? I'm not going to go lookup and reference the rules, but yes, if there are no time constraints, and their are no consequences for failure (triggering a trap, breaking the lock, etc), then the rules do imply that the DM should not bother to have the PC make a roll. Just tell the PCs the results (and one can again imply that this would be akin to take 20.)
They do more than imply actually - they state this outright. Or rather, they lay out the conditions when a roll might occur and when automatic success might be granted instead.

Since picking a lock is an action, and the rules do not say otherwise, then yes, you can pick a lock in one round, if you make the DC check. Therefore why would you spend longer and have a DC?
It's certainly an action, but it's not necessarily an Action, unless the DM says so.

And if picking a lock is intended to take longer than 6 seconds, then the Thief's Fast Hands ability is insanely fast.
Yes, it is! (Or can be, depending on how long a DM rules the task takes.)

In my game, picking a lock is 10 minutes in the context of an exploration challenge. You simply can't unlock a lock in combat unless you're a thief. I further rule that a thief in an exploration challenge can both pick a lock and do some other task in that time span like keep watch for danger or search for traps, whereas most characters can only perform one task in that time frame.

All that to say, it's useful in my view to check one's assumptions about what are rules and what are rulings. It's easy to present a ruling as if it's a rule, particularly if it's been in use for a while.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
They do more than imply actually - they state this outright. Or rather, they lay out the conditions when a roll might occur and when automatic success might be granted instead.


It's certainly an action, but it's not necessarily an Action, unless the DM says so.


Yes, it is! (Or can be, depending on how long a DM rules the task takes.)

In my game, picking a lock is 10 minutes in the context of an exploration challenge. You simply can't unlock a lock in combat unless you're a thief. I further rule that a thief in an exploration challenge can both pick a lock and do some other task in that time span like keep watch for danger or search for traps, whereas most characters can only perform one task in that time frame.

All that to say, it's useful in my view to check one's assumptions about what are rules and what are rulings. It's easy to present a ruling as if it's a rule, particularly if it's been in use for a while.
Of course, in 5e, the difference between rulings and rules is rather fine...
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Of course, in 5e, the difference between rulings and rules is rather fine...
Sort of. We can see what's written in the books and what isn't. What isn't is where the DM needs to step in and decide sometimes. Of course the DM isn't beholden to anything in the books anyway, but in a discussion about the game, I think it's useful to draw a distinction, even at the risk of being a stickler, so that everyone's on the same page.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Sort of. We can see what's written in the books and what isn't. What isn't is where the DM needs to step in and decide sometimes. Of course the DM isn't beholden to anything in the books anyway, but in a discussion about the game, I think it's useful to draw a distinction, even at the risk of being a stickler, so that everyone's on the same page.
No I can agree with that, but I've been arguing about the rules of D&D for a very long time, and it gets really cumbersome when two people read the same sentence and come to two very different conclusions. For some reason, despite the use of "natural" language and the emphasis placed on the DM to go with their own interpretation, there seems to be just as many rules debates now as 20 years ago.

Six months ago, I'd bother to image capture text from the books and post it on the forum (I love Enworld's functionality!) to debate these things, but enough time of it just not mattering has made me just shrug; a lot of people don't even want to agree on a baseline of how the game works to begin with.

With this thread, I recently discovered that the vast majority of modern locks have exploits and a trained lockpick with proper tools (which is what I always assumed Rogues/Thieves were) can pop one open within a minute with relative ease. On top of this, I also found out that the vast majority of locks from the time periods D&D emulates were waaaaay less complex as well.

Which got me wondering about entire dungeons where you'd told things like "doors: all doors are made of thick wood and bound with iron and have DC 20 locks unless otherwise stated"- this struck me as very odd, and I got to wondering about why it's like that.

And without doing a count, most replies are "because that's how D&D is", a smaller but not insignificant number are "yes, it's kind of weird, but there are good reasons to not change it" and what's left is "why are you having people roll anyways, locks are 99% of the time a deterrent to commoners, not thieves". Or, as I said in my original post, nothing but speed bumps or time sinks, not actual challenges.

And now I'm rambling, lol. I'm sure I was working up to a point, but it's gone now. I think the takeaway here is:

D&D is strange, nothing new about that.

More specifically, complex lock and trapmaking exist, even when other innovations do not, because all D&D technology is weird.

Don't worry too much about who is making all these devices; either monsters have all kinds of time and resources on their hands, or it's remnants of an ancient civilization, or the DC's reflect things like rust and decay.

Or, to the contrary, Kobolds have a compulsive need to maintain any old mechanisms they find.

Either way, if the difficult to bypass a lock or trap isn't super hard, then it must take a long time and create a lot of noise, otherwise Criminals/Rogues have no place in adventuring,
 

That said, good DMing wouldn't make a lock a fail state for an adventure. There should always be alternatives, whether they're different routes through a dungeon, only putting helpful-but-not-required items in locked chests, scrolls of Knock or -- crazy thought here -- keys.
Whenever I have a lock that gets used, I always write where the key is found (usually who's carrying it). My players look for keys, because they know someone must have them. Of course, I thew them for a loop once against a master thief, who destroyed the key and just picked it each time. Obviously an old lock that never sees use won't have a key available, but I also give those higher DCs unless oil is applied first.

Man, I was one of the first people to complain about Knock back in the day, but what they did to that spell instead of just removing it was cruel and unusual.
I disagree. Making it a meaningful choice was a good idea.
Unfortunately they didn't make it much of a meaningful choice, but rather the option of last resort. Using Thieves Tools should always be the designed ideal option, as it costs no resources and has minimal consequence (unless you failed to notice a trap). Knock has the resource cost of a 2nd level spell slot, so while you'll always succeed, you're paying for it. With the 5E "ringing the dinner bell" mechanic, you're paying a resource and suffering a consequence for using it. The only time it's useful is when you don't have the time to break down the door, or for whatever reason the door is nigh unbreakable. IMO they should have either left off the "dinner bell" mechanic or they should have made it a ritual.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
Correction: modern D&D has  chosen not to say "roll for a wandering monster to show up". That's on them.
Please go pick an OSR game. Nearly every post you make nowadays is how terrible you think 5E is, which is a perfectly fine opinion to have, but you have other options. You seem unhappy and you're bringing neither happiness nor enlightenment by spending all of your time grumping about 5E instead of picking something more suited to your tastes.

There has never been a time in RPG history with such an abundance of choices. Someone has made the ideal game for you.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Please go pick an OSR game. Nearly every post you make nowadays is how terrible you think 5E is, which is a perfectly fine opinion to have, but you have other options. You seem unhappy and you're bringing neither happiness nor enlightenment by spending all of your time grumping about 5E instead of picking something more suited to your tastes.

There has never been a time in RPG history with such an abundance of choices. Someone has made the ideal game for you.
This
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Please go pick an OSR game. Nearly every post you make nowadays is how terrible you think 5E is, which is a perfectly fine opinion to have, but you have other options. You seem unhappy and you're bringing neither happiness nor enlightenment by spending all of your time grumping about 5E instead of picking something more suited to your tastes.

There has never been a time in RPG history with such an abundance of choices. Someone has made the ideal game for you.
This is a "D&D General" thread and not a 5E one, right?
 

I've always viewed lockpicking as modern magic. It looks like anyone can learn it, and maybe they can, but very few people are able to perform a real magic trick. Even the simplest sleight of hand is impossible to someone who hasn't practiced for months.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Please go pick an OSR game. Nearly every post you make nowadays is how terrible you think 5E is, which is a perfectly fine opinion to have, but you have other options. You seem unhappy and you're bringing neither happiness nor enlightenment by spending all of your time grumping about 5E instead of picking something more suited to your tastes.

There has never been a time in RPG history with such an abundance of choices. Someone has made the ideal game for you.
My players want to play 5e (like everybody else). Level Up suits us pretty well.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
This is a "D&D General" thread and not a 5E one, right?
It is, because let's be honest, this is nothing really new to the game. Ever since DC's were added for opening locks, they've been fairly high. I can't really say how complex locks were in AD&D, since you had a % chance to open them based on skill, though I vaguely recall lock quality modifying the check somewhere- The Complete Thief's Handbook, perhaps?
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Six months ago, I'd bother to image capture text from the books and post it on the forum (I love Enworld's functionality!) to debate these things, but enough time of it just not mattering has made me just shrug; a lot of people don't even want to agree on a baseline of how the game works to begin with.
Why would agreeing on the baseline rules of D&D be a great virtue?

Each table should have its own understanding of how the rules work. So understanding the various ways you can read the rules is far more important than agreeing on what they are; that gives you the ability to move between tables, and understand alternative readings and what they do to the game.

I mean, it isn't as if people are constantly changing tables in a functioning D&D group situation, outside of West-marches or organized play. And in both of those cases, the table rules are usually shared among the DMs in a way separate than the D&D books.

The rules arguments almost always come from the perspective of "X is the right way to read the rules, Y is wrong", which ... is the wrong way to read rules. "This rule could say X Y or Z. Do any of these reading cause problems in gameplay? What are they?" moves rule-wars away from "I am right you are wrong" to "hey, if you allow simulacrum chains, you get some gonzo play like this!"
 

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