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


log in or register to remove this ad

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It's not as easy (usually) as those YT videos might indicate. There is a huge amount of feel and experience needed to actually use picks to bypass tumblers etc.
I suppose, but people do get very good at opening them with experience. Given how slowly characters in D&D get better at anything, and we have to assume someone with proficiency in Thieves' Tools has that kind of experience (unless our world is full of Rogues of level 5 and up, lol), DC's of 20 still seem a bit high*.

*unless you assume that the Rogue can just retry every six seconds, that is.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
It's not as easy (usually) as those YT videos might indicate. There is a huge amount of feel and experience needed to actually use picks to bypass tumblers etc.
The videos tend to be locksport hobbiests and professionals yes, but just like golf zpeedsksting or swimming you don't need a hole in one or qualifying time just to get the ball in the cup or do a lap. It's a process that might take seconds minutes or even hours with most locks
 


rmcoen

Explorer
So what the consensus seems to be is:

DC 15 is a standard average lock, DC 20 is a good lock, but even an average person WITH PROFICIENCY will defeat a DC 22 lock given enough time. DC 23+ is a custom puzzle lock that no average person will succeed at picking, ever. And all of these DCs - excepting "this is beyond your skill" - are irrelevant if there is (a) no time-pressure; and/or (b) no consequence for failure. They only matter if popping the lock needs to happen fast.

Example: my rogue needed to "unlock" four elemental locks, each in a differently-charged elemental death chamber. Every round I took 2d6 damage of the appropriate element. The Fire, Cold, and Acid rooms, it mattered extremely how many rounds it took to pop the lock! (In the Lightning room, my particular lightning-immune rogue could take his time.) However, the lock on the chest in the next room, despite being DC 25, was just a 2-minute interlude (my bonus was +8; eventually I will succeed).

Even if you house-rule a failure penalty - like "you damage your picks or the lock on a Nat 1" - this mostly just leads to an exercise of dice rolling that is unfun. D&D is not a DyingLight [zombie video game] mini-game, where your twitch skills with a lock sometimes break picks and sometimes jam the lock. So this house rule needlessly complicates the task in 90% of the cases.


Having said all that, though, sometimes it can make "story-sense" that a lock is designed to counteract attempts, or break locks, or jam itself. In which case... you attack the hinges or the material of the door/container/wall, if you can! My PCs have cut the backs off many a chest, leaving the trapped lock intact and undisturbed! (Didn't stop the one chest with a contained poison gas, but it worked on most of the rest!)



In my campaign, I decided to make lockpicking less generally successful, and reward the truly skilled (i.e. rogues, and people who invested Expertise or somesuch). So instead of making "plenty of time" = "eventually get a 20", I lowered it to "2 minutes = Take 10"; insane amounts of time (like hours instead of minutes) gives Take 20 and a simple roll to see how much damage you caused your tools. A standard door or footlocker is just DC 12; a "poor" quality lock that is generally available, and easily defeated - "keeps the honest people honest." The PHB lock, DC 15, therefore means Joe Average the locksmith (DEX 10, proficiency with lockpicks) has a chance of not being able to defeat the lock without some tool damage and lots of time, but Rosie the Rogue (DEX 16) can handle it in anywhere from 6 seconds to 2 minutes.

I also increased the number of successes. Common (DC 12) locks usually take only one success, sometimes two. The PHB lock at DC 15 takes three. A Dwarven Masterlock, DC 25, might take 5 successes. Still irrelevant if your Take 10 is sufficient; when rushing or stressed (being shot at by stormtroopers, for example), failures matter. Failure 1 has no consequence, but tells you the DC and the # of needed successes. Failure 2 damages your picks (they can take 3 "hits" before needing replacement). Failure 3 jams the lock. [Nat 1 = 2 failures; Nat 20 = 2 successes]. Even then, the lock can be cleared with the application of more time... unless ... but then... oh, but, instead, you can...

See, I tried to make a mini-game of it. Instead, I created two pages of rules that no one remembers, and even when pulled out, just means the DM and the Rogue get to play "dice rolling" for 20 minutes while the other players watch. [The Thief subclass did shine here, though, because they could potentially achieve two successes a round, once with Bonus Action and once with main Action.] We used it... twice, I think? I still think it's a great idea, that just doesn't play well at the table. :.-(
 

Voadam

Legend
So what the consensus seems to be is:

DC 15 is a standard average lock, DC 20 is a good lock, but even an average person WITH PROFICIENCY will defeat a DC 22 lock given enough time. DC 23+ is a custom puzzle lock that no average person will succeed at picking, ever. And all of these DCs - excepting "this is beyond your skill" - are irrelevant if there is (a) no time-pressure; and/or (b) no consequence for failure. They only matter if popping the lock needs to happen fast.
I don't know that there is consensus on much. The books say you need proficiency to attempt to pick a lock. Beyond that I don't remember 5e baseline guidelines for DCs and attempt/reattempt times like there were in prior editions so it is generally up to the individual DM, although there are things like the fast hands class ability to pick a lock as a bonus action for thief subclass rogues.

DMG page 103:

"Locked Doors. Characters who don't have the key to a locked door can pick the lock with a successful Dexterity check (doing so requires thieves' tools and proficiency in their use). They can also force the door with a successful Strength check, smash the door to pieces by dealing enough damage to it, or use a knock spell or similar magic. Chapter 8 provides guidelines for setting the DCs and assigning statistics to doors and other objects."

So probably the DC would use the typical DC chart and be based on the DM's call of how tough it is for a trained lockpicker to pick a lock or how tough the particular lock is judged to be.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
:DC 15 is a standard average lock, DC 20 is a good lock, but even an average person WITH PROFICIENCY will defeat a DC 22 lock given enough time. DC 23+ is a custom puzzle lock that no average person will succeed at picking, ever [it may even require custom lock specific tools]. And all of these DCs - excepting "this is beyond your skill" - are irrelevant if there is (a) no time-pressure; and/or (b) no consequence for failure. They only matter if popping the lock needs to happen fast.
That wording there is pretty much perfect, I'd add that bold bit. It doesn't matter if you roll a 20+4+5+12* if you don't have the right tools or the right tool is a not so discrete thing like this or this simply because the lock is tougher than the structure containing it.

* d20(20) + guidance(+4) + 20 in attrib(+5) + maxed expertise(+12).
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Out of the fiction. Rogues have niche protection and the designers assume rogues will have a high DEX and pick expertise in stealth and thieves' tools.

In the fiction. All the easy to pick locks have already been picked over the long centuries since they were placed.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Out of the fiction. Rogues have niche protection and the designers assume rogues will have a high DEX and pick expertise in stealth and thieves' tools.

In the fiction. All the easy to pick locks have already been picked over the long centuries since they were placed.
Exactly. Either a lock is made to be picked or it's an excuse to go adventuring for the special key/tool/widget/back door. Real locks are pretty much the same way.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
It is worth mentioning that a quality lock is far easier to pick than the cheap knock-offs. The cheap parts and poorly fit mechanical gizmos inside an off-brand lock may be occasionally irritating to open with a key, but they are a son of a gun to open with picks.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I will not stand for this kobold slander.

Kobolds are the most technologically advanced of the so-called monstrous humanoids. They should be cranking out the high-difficulty locks and traps.

Maybe a goblin or orc dungeon should have DC 10 and 15 locks and trap bypass difficulties, but traps and locks are kobolds' thing. They should be creating the hard ones.

And as for the basic question, of whether this stuff should be so hard, a DC 10 lock is close to pointless. Even at level 1, characters will essentially walk straight through them. Lower than DC 10 shouldn't even be a skill check, since making people roll on things you intend for them to succeed on just sets the players up for slapstick and is a waste of everyone's time as a DM (IMO).

So the only place to go is up.

Maybe DC 15 locks should be the standard, but when you're up against the thieves guild or kobolds or -- worst of all -- kobold thieves guilds, DC 20 is appropriate, IMO.

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.

Even in AD&D orcs were stupid the typical kobold and goblin iirc was as smart as an average human.
 

Voadam

Legend
Even in AD&D orcs were stupid the typical kobold and goblin iirc was as smart as an average human.
1e Monster Manual listed Intelligence ratings:

Goblin: Average (Low)
Kobold: Average (Low)
Orc: Average (low)

INTELLIGENCE indicates the basic equivalent of human “IQ.” Certain monsters are instinctively, or otherwise, cunning, and such is accordingly noted in the body of the descriptive material. The ratings correspond roughly to the following character intelligence scores:
0 Non-intelligent or not ratable
1 Animal intelligence
2-4 Semi-intelligent
5-7 Low intelligence
8-10 Average (human) intelligence
11-12 Very intelligent
13-14 Highly intelligent
15-16 Exceptionally intelligent
17-18 Genius
19-20 Supra-genius
21+ Godlike intelligence

2e Monstrous Compendium 1 Intelligence listings:

Goblin: Low to average (5-10)
Kobold: Average (8-10)
Orc: Average (8-9)
 

Zardnaar

Legend
1e Monster Manual listed Intelligence ratings:

Goblin: Average (Low)
Kobold: Average (Low)
Orc: Average (low)

INTELLIGENCE indicates the basic equivalent of human “IQ.” Certain monsters are instinctively, or otherwise, cunning, and such is accordingly noted in the body of the descriptive material. The ratings correspond roughly to the following character intelligence scores:
0 Non-intelligent or not ratable
1 Animal intelligence
2-4 Semi-intelligent
5-7 Low intelligence
8-10 Average (human) intelligence
11-12 Very intelligent
13-14 Highly intelligent
15-16 Exceptionally intelligent
17-18 Genius
19-20 Supra-genius
21+ Godlike intelligence

2e Monstrous Compendium 1 Intelligence listings:

Goblin: Low to average (5-10)
Kobold: Average (8-10)
Orc: Average (8-9)

May have been Book of Humanoids. Iirc they didn't have a penalty to intelligence unlike Orcs.

Kind of implies Kobolds and Goblins are nurture vs nature.

I've never really seen those two as stupid anyway perhaps due to warcraft goblins and Kibilds always been clever with mechanics. I started 93 though ymmv.
 




Micah Sweet

Legend
It has magic and elves and dragons etc. Logic went straight out the window the moment your Fae Warlock got stabbed with a sword and didn’t bleed out and die.
I don't accept that. Every world uses established real world physics for every situation that isn't handled explicitly in another way. Gravity still works, water is still wet, fire hot, etc.
 



DarkCrisis

Legend
I don't accept that. Every world uses established real world physics for every situation that isn't handled explicitly in another way. Gravity still works, water is still wet, fire hot, etc.
Yet in some of those worlds certain established real world laws don’t function.

Like on Krynn, gunpowder doesn’t work. Certain metals don’t conduct electricity like the do in the real world. Which is why Gnomish machines are still steam powered monstrosities

And hey locks just work a bit better.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top