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Friday, November 15, 2013

Auto-Lockpicking... By The Book?

I was looking again at the way Supplement 1 (Greyhawk) describes thief abilities (in preparation for another post.) Specifically, I was looking at this thief ability: "open locks by picking or foiling magical closures". I've made a big deal in the past about the last bit, the "magical closures". Pretty much every version of D&D after Greyhawk, and all the retroclones (so far as I know,) drop the ability to open a magically-locked door or chest.

But now I'm thinking there is more than one way to parse it. I was looking at it as "(open locks by picking) or (foiling magical closures)" -- two related abilities. But what if it's really "open locks by (picking or foiling magical closures)"? What if it is specifically the ability to pick magical locks and devices, and not mundane locks, which are assumed to be automatically openable by the thief?


  1. Interesting interpretation, especially when you consider how some editions restrict finding and disarming traps only of a magical nature to thieves. Picking an ordinary lock should be a fairly simple task that's probably not fun to play out (unlike traps), so it'd be reasonable to reduce those to a simple check or auto-success. Noticing and removing magical glyphs or seals, however, requires a greater degree of training, represented by the thief class, it isn't guaranteed

    Ugh, now you've got me reconsidering the thief class!

  2. I have two answers:

    1. In your game, as DM, you can rule that as you see fit. As a player, you can try to con the DM to ruling that way.

    2. It comes to me in reading your post, that many of the early versions of each edition of D&D are Alpha/Beta products. Untried and untested, until the mass release to the public. The "White Box" and all of it's expansions, combined, are clearly Alpha products. 1st Ed. did not come out of Beta until Oriental Adventures and the Survival Guides added the last of the rules needed to make the game "whole". 2nd and 3rd Eds. needed revisions to make them truly "work", and 4th is/was in a state of flux from day one.

    Yet, many of us keep going back to these old, error ridden, poorly worded, apprentice works, and try to wring out the true meaning of "how the game should be played". Not to say this is a bad thing. If old Dave had not taken a second look at the siege rules for Chainmail, we might not even have D&D in the first place. And, if Chainmail had been out of Alpha/Beta, Gary wouldn't of needed to write those siege rules to begin with.

    The point is, don't look at the early rules as holy writ, perfect in it's nature. Look at them, and ask why we don't do "it" "that way" any more. Did it just not work, or did they come up with a better method. Or, did someone just forget. Maybe there were camps on one side or the other, and one side won out when the next version of the game came out. For instance, it could be that the thief lost out to the niche protection of the magic-user, who has spells to deal with magic traps/locks. (note: I am not a fan of niche protection, but many were and are, and many decisions were made because of it. This is also one reason I dislike some of the old class names like thief, and magic user, as they say "only I can do this thing".) Or, it could be that the author(s) may have only had a vague idea of what the rules should have been, at the time.

    1. "2nd and 3rd Eds. needed revisions..." Not sure how much of a revision 3.0 needed. Not to say it's perfect (it's most definitely not), but I'd consider it the best of the new school games. The revision it got completely ruined everything there was to love about 3E. I'd say the changes it needs are more of an OD&D-inspired overhaul, but that's an entirely different kind of beast

      I actually love the name "thief", and I've come around to "magic-user" and even "fighting-man" (the latter after reading the term in proper context, somewhere in the Kingdoms of Kalamar: Campaign Setting Sourcebook, so that it finally clicked). "Thief-acrobat" on the other hand...

      I don't think Talysman's looking at the LBB's or original supplements as though they were the Word of God or anything. At least, not seriously (I've certainly indulged in the practice as a kind of game). Most look carefully at the rules to better understand the intentions behind them. "Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively." "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." You're right that we should ask why we don't do things the same way anymore, but why they were done the old way is just as important. Besides, interpreting these texts in new ways can get you out of a rut and inspire innovations. The original rules seem to have that effect moreso than any others

    2. ProfessorOats wrote: The revision it got completely ruined everything there was to love about 3E.

      Slight derail, but I'm curious what changes were ruinous. I'm not an expert on 3E at all, but I honestly can't tell the difference between 3.0 and 3.5. The few differences that have been pointed out to me seem entirely inconsequential, other than the overall expansion of options (which I agree is somewhat deleterious, but is really just a function of the number of supplements).