So I’m prepping for a new game, pirates in the City of Freeport!! I’m putting things together and listening to various gaming vodcasts on the Youtubes for background noise, and I hear something about turning lockpicking into a mini game. Well that sounded neat so I minimize some windows and restart the video, (I apologize I don’t remember the guys name off the top of my head, it was a few weeks ago or maybe longer. the older I get the more nebulous my sense of time gets), and give it my attention. I think I heard him say he got the inspiration from Skryim.

So the gist of it is, is that lockpicking is boring, make a roll succeed or fail and move on with the game. I would agree unless the roll is a spectacular success or a fail I don’t think I’ve spend a lot of time on the mechanic. I know in 1e/2e and somewhat in 3e as well my players spent a lot of time protecting themselves from ear seekers and stuff like that, kitting out with all this cool thief equipment from the various splat books that would give them a numerical bonus or some sort of thing.

So the lockpick mini game is a way to create or add tension to a scene, and give that character something cooler to do than just roll a d20 for a pass/fail. The party might have to protect the lockpicker as they attempt to unlock the door before something bad happens, maybe they want to enter a steal/place/read a mcguffin without leaving a trace, or something else.

basically the DC of the lock tells you how many tumblers the lock has DC 5 =1 tumbler, up to DC 30 = 6 tumblers. if the Lock DC is 10 or less no thieves’ tools are required.
The DC also determines the seconds needed to pick that lock DC 5 = 10 seconds up to DC 30 = 60 seconds.
To pick the lock you roll a number of d6’s equal to the number of tumblers anything above a 1 is a success, but even a single 1 introduces a complication. complications can add time, show obvious signs of tampering, jam the lock to now only using thieves’ tools will unjam it,
certain character traits and abilities allow you to reroll those failed 1’s. so a rogue with 3d6 sneak attack dice could spend those sneak attack dice to reroll up to 3 failed die rolls. thieves’ tools would allow 1 free reroll, and better quality tools +1 or better tools would allow for more rerolls. expertise with thieves’ tools might allow for an additional reroll. possibly an engineering proficiency would all for a reroll if your game has that skill.

I spoke with my players and the 2 that have those skills are excited to try it so we’ll give a shot and if we don’t like it we’ll just go back to RAW.

thoughts? has anyone used it or tried something like this? i can possibly see it slowing the game down a smidge, but if it allows for some cool fun and a way to allow the players to interact more i can deal with it.



I like what ICRPG does in this arena. A lock has a number of Hit Points essentially (usually in multiples of 10) and players roll Effort (or damage) to widdle theock to zero. Meanwhile the Gm rolls a d4 for the scene. When it ticks down to zero something happens. This same mechanic is used for chopping down a door, hacking a computer, and etc.

Not a mini game like you are proposing but presents something other than a pass / fail Action logic.


I’ve heard good things about ICRPG I’ll have to check it out

I 2nd the notion by @Eric_Salzwedel to use the “effort” system showcased in ICRPG. I have incorporated this into most of my games.

Whenever the time it takes to accomplish a task has impact on the story, I ask for an effort roll. We’ve had some great moments where the guard roaming the hall will turn the corner soon and the lock needs to be picked so they can duck out of sight. I’ve also used it for how long does it take for the engineer to get the broken elevator operational while the marines are providing cover fire and blasting attacking xenomorphs. (the players were actually nervous he wouldn’t get it working in time). What a great session!

Give it a try. It worked wonders for our group.

Feelin Good about the Effort System

Any follow up on this? I’m curious.

We haven’t started our Freeport game so we haven’t gotten a chance to try it out yet. I’m waiting on one of my friends to bring our savage worlds rifts game to a halt. We alternate GM duties he runs savage worlds for a bit, and then switches to me to run D&D, Starfinder, CoC, Shadowrun, or whatever else I get the itch to run.

I’m going to run a one shot on an off day to try it out in the next few weeks, and to try out a few other alternative rules I’m thinking about, and to try out the theatre of the mind extension for Fantasy Grounds.