On Locks and Keys: Redux

This post was originally published in 2014. This is part of an effort to update and archive these posts on the "Links to Wisdom" wiki.

So for the past year or so, we've been playing with the BURP lock system in Numenhalla.

After extensive playtesting, we've found it to be somewhat unsatisfactory.

BURP Lockpicking

In short, a lock has a number of pins. Each pin has an action that will set it, allowing you to go to the next pin. If you guess an adjacent option the pin gets stiff. If you guess an option farther distant, the pin jams.

The actions are, Bump, Undulate, Rake, and Probe.

If you have a Dragon Shadow Double Pin brand lock (BBUU), and the players record the sequence, then the next time they run into a Dragon Shadow Double Pin, then they already know how to get past it.
You can have related locks (Like a Dragon Shadow Triple Pin (BBBUUU)) allowing players to use their previous collected "Lockpick spellbook" to assist with future locks.

The process of selecting which pin is completely random and uninfluenced by player skill.

Why? There is always a "Best Option" and when there is more than one choice, there's no information to use to decide which is best, making the choice random. Since all the player choices are random, you could essentially just calculate a percentage chance of success and roll the dice to save time!
You could calculate a percentage chance of success and roll the dice to save time!

I wonder where I've seen that before?

A new solution

What we're looking for is a minigame that involves player choice and considers character skill. Mastermind seems like an excellent option (for example), but it isn't a mini-game. It's really a whole game, and would occur far too frequently in a megadungeon environment with many locked doors.

So here's my new solution!

Yahtzee locks
Locks have a set number of pins. The number of these pins is unknown to the lockpicker.
Players receive a pool of D6's. They may roll these dice once and turn in the dice in to pick a certain number of pins.

For example, if you turn in a single pair, let's say two 4's on the dice, that will set a single pin. If you turn in a set of triples, you set two pins. A full house (a pair, and triples) will set four pins.

If you have a lockpicking skill, at certain thresholds/levels/whatever, you gain the ability to reroll any number of the dice you wish, once, twice, or more. If you have a reroll and your dice come up 1,2,2,3,4,4 you could choose to reroll the two's and three's to go for more fours, or reroll the 3 to get a full house. The 1 would be pulled from your die pool.

Again, the player decides when to turn in dice to set pins and they don't know how many pins the lock has.

Anytime you roll a 1, that dice is removed from your pool for this lock. You start each new lock with a fresh pool of dice. If you fail to set all the pins, you jam the lock and it will no longer open.

Viola! Meaningful player choice, a reason to track locks, and something that takes into account player skill.

Here is the table:
Dice Set Number of Pins set
Doubles 1
Triples 2
Four of a Kind 5
Five of a Kind 8
Small Straight (4 in a row) 5
Large Straight (5 in a row) 8
Full House 4

  • Characters get a number of dice (1d6) equal to 1/2 their level (minimum 1) in their lockpick die pool.
  • Thieves/Experts get a number of dice (1d6) equal to their level + 1 in their lockpick die pool.
  • Characters get a number of bonus dice equal to their AC bonus from Dexterity added to their pool.
  • You need lockpicks to pick a lock
  • Masterwork or excellent lockpicks allow a free reroll.
  • For percentile editions, every 20% you get in your lockpicking you get an additional 2 dice and an additional reroll.
  • For Skills, the middle road: Untrained devices just grants you your dice as listed above. For each level (Skilled/Expert/Master) you gain +2 dice and a free reroll. So a master in devices would have +6 dice and could reroll 3 times. (Note that experts still get their 1 free mulligan per level, which can apply to any single die rolled in this pool)

How many pins does a lock have? Generally a number of pins equal to 1d6 per dungeon level.

If you want to help out, and can spare a dime, I've got a Patreon
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