[Round Table] How do you guys handle lock-picking?

I know Zak Smith and Telecanter have touched on this and offered some fairly elegant procedures (I love it when those words are paired together!) But I'm curious how other DMs/refs/judges take this on. Which canonical/BTB or non-canonical/homebrewed system do you guys reference? I am genuinely interested.


  1. I did a write up a while ago on this subject and recently went back to it because I'm developing a campaign for my group.


  2. For a not-at-all elegant look at lockpicking, one need look no further than the D&D5e/Next rendition...

    You require Thieves Tools to pick locks. Only Rogues are proficient with them, and there's no other way to pick up proficiency.

    Proficiency allows you to roll a Dexterity check and add a d6 to the result, trying to hit a DC based on lock quality.

    Dull and a little too... lacking, in my opinion.

  3. I do it by the book (thief % roll, requires one turn), with the one slight amendment that it can be retried, taking a further turn. Thus the skill % becomes "how quickly can you do it?", rather than "can you do it at all?".

  4. I have lumped all stuff thives do to same % chance.

  5. Normal: Thief % roll. Each attempt takes one turn. 100 = broken pick, lock is jammed.

    Rush Job: Thief % roll at half chance of success (round down). Each attempt takes one round. % roll of 90+ = broken pick, lock is jammed.

    I figure that the 10% gold tithed to the thieves guild covers the cost of the occasional replacement pick.

  6. We use a hybrid from the Rules Cyclopedia skill system and 3E (basically ability score +/- modifier vs. difficulty). Thieves have access to skill mastery for relevant skills (pretty much the "dull" system described by Ian above, they get an additional die for the job...). The biggest change is that we use an endurance system. If a character doesn't beat the difficulty, he may spend Endurance to get there. The difficulty also sets the time it needs to pick a lock (a difficulty of 35 would mean a character would need 15 minutes to pick it, 25 would mean 5 minutes, etc.; if his result is higher, it reduces the time needed, but it's at least a minute). As a consequence, most tasks are doable, but might come with a cost (time and resources). Only with a critical failure the thief wouldn't be able to pick the lock and might damage it (or his tools) in the process.