On 10 Ways To Open A Chest

"But assuming it was a treasure hunting expedition (and the lower floors of the tower were reasonably cleared, with a path of escape blocked only by wandering monster rolls) what would a party need to do in one of your games to safely open a chest?"

Here are 10 ways to open a chest safely!

10. Pour acid in the lock.
9. Use a pick and chisel to break apart the lock mechanism.
8. Use a crowbar and specialized tools to pry the lock out of the chest.
7. Saws!
6. Carry the chest back to town and pay the thieves guild to open it.
5. Hammers!
4. Knock!
3. Unscrew the lid hinges.
2. Pry off the back of the lid!

And the number one way to open a chest safely?

1. Have the thief open it, there's always more where they came from!

Why don't they just do these things by default? They are time consuming, loud, or require heavy encumbrance penalties.


  1. You might need to get some accompanying music for these list, including a drum-roll for the reveal of #1.

  2. I don't think many of these are safe. What if the chest trap activates when you move it? What if the Thief doesn't have a 100% chance to find/remove trap? Does Knock specifically say it negates any traps in your game? The rest of them involve effectively bashing the chest open carefully, which should activate any traps.

    Safest way to open a chest safely is to back up and Lightning Bolt it.

    What, you wanted the potions and scrolls that were in it?


    1. Well, I think it just highlights the fact that there IS no fool-proof way to open a chest. Chest are, after all, designed to keep valuable safe, especially from other people. Ergo, they are very likely to be trapped. Opening a chest is supposed to be a tactical decision. You know there is most likely something valuable and probably easily transportable inside, but at the same time it probably has something around it that will kill you. Do you leave it alone, or get the thief to open it?

      Not fair for the thief? No, not really. He should really ask for a bigger share, since he's taking more risks...

  3. You've convinced me. Players have plenty of options for how they open chests. Unless I can find some entirely new way to handle trapped chests, I'll continue using the trap check roll.

    1. @LS

      Crowbar was the first thing that came to my mind when I was reading your post about this situation.

      Personally, I like the trap check roll but think that it is important to think of it as always a suboptimal (or perhaps "last chance") strategy, much like picking at random on a multiple choice test. Or, as has been discussed before, as a kind of saving throw.

  4. Fails to include some of the obvious options we've used in the past...

    Drop it down a flight of stairs, most traps are on the fragile side unless magical.... this may also open it if its got a built in lock.

    If it's a padlocked chest then a a metal spike and a hammer, mallet or the blunt end of an axe will break most hasps.

    If time is not an issue,a hacksaw works on most period padlocks.

    1. I really like the stairs option.

    2. And after the first time or two that the players did that in my game, I suspect that the percentage of potions in the treasure chests in my dungeon would increase dramatically. ;-)

      In fact, they learned that lesson when they smashed open a chest and saw all the potions in the bottles they also smashed leaking all over the floor. At least I got to roll on the potion miscibility table!

    3. @ Joseph - Don't forget the ornate crystal. ;)

  5. A long, 3 to 5 foot mwtal rod with the end shaped inro a thin pick. stand about a foit away from thw oock inorder to line up the long pick. Then just ram into the key hole. My hope is that this well set off any traps at the lock while evryone is a safe distance away. You could even use some kind of stand, like a small stack of cut planks, ti help posotion the rod instead of a person holding it up a foot from the chesr.

    1. It is very hard to type on a phone.


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