In light of the D&D Next playtest thief/rogue being the only class capable of lockpicking, I thought it prudent to repost this look at lockpicks and the contents of a thieves toolkit.
“Can’t you guys keep them occupied in silence for 30 seconds, while I get this blasted door open?”
In some ways, the thieves roll at opening locks, disabling traps and generally doing thief’y stuff has been massively dumbed down compared to previous versions. On the flipside, i’ve heard horror stories of 3e thieves who could move silently, but not hide in shadows. So what are the tools that a thief uses? What exactly are in their toolkits.
There are many types of locks in Nerath, and at its heart, the thieves toolkit contains an assortment of lockpicks, crowbars and wires needed to overcome these common designs. However, as the threat of rogues and thieves stealing your treasure increases, so does the security used. In turn, the toolkits have changed, and those of successful thieves include hammers, chisels, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers.
A kits contents:
The common contents of a thieves toolkit are detailed here.
Lockpicks, the core of a thieves tools, contain 10 or more thin yet hard metal wires with various tips on handles. These picks are used for the fine manipulation of the internal pins of a lock, moving pins in turn until the lock releases.
Tension Bar, it’s not enough to prod and poke a lock to manipulate the pins, you need a tool to hold the picks in place and provide tension as you turn the lock.
Master keys, most locks come from well known blacksmiths in the major towns of Nerath, and as such, there are common designs used throughout castles and keeps. Master Varn’ogesh from Vor Rukoth always uses a high 4th pin, and a low, but tense spring, chisel pin for the 1st pin. Master keys, used in conjunction with lock picks, decrease the time needed to pick a lock.
Screwdrivers, generally come in 2 sizes within the thieves toolkit, from the fine almost needle point sized screw drivers needed to open the hinges and locks of jewellery cases to the larger ones needed to remove masonry screws from door and window hinges.
Lifting rods, various rods, typically of wood, though some thieves carry metallic ones, are used for poking into gaps, keyhole and other small entrances, and can be used to lift latches, activate pressure plates, block triggers and the like.
Wrench bar, typically used as a last resort, and often handed over to a friend with the muscle to facilitate the bars ability to rip a door from its hinges, almost all thieves carry one of these, and of course, it doubles as a club in an emergency.
Chisels, and with them, a small hammer, come in various sizes, and for various materials. Tempered steel tips allow the thief to quickly, if noisily, remove the wood, stone or metal surrounding their target lock or trap mechanism, or simply to force the lock itself.
Hacksaw, the small saw fits easily into the small confines of the thieves tool kit, and can be used to cut through wooden beams, or just as easily, through iron chains.
Files, while not used often, can be used, albeit slowly to remove excess metal or to work through metal bars, or to file down existing keys to fit in a different lock.
Pliers, most thieves kits contain at least 2 pliers, a needle nose set for fine work, and a larger pair for pulling nails or stubborn screws from wood.
Wire cutters, are often included within the head of pliers, but some thieves carry additional ones, capable of cutting wire, or small thickness’s of metal, such as ornamental padlock loops.
Drills, are useful for thieves with the time to patiently drill through either the mechanism of the bolts holding the lock in place. From a simple drill bit on a wooden handle, to a proper crank handle and interchangeable drill bits for wood, stone or metal.
Magnifying lens, some carry a handheld glass, some carry a lens that can be worn as a monocle, some have elaborate mounting arms that can be nailed into doors or stood on the ground, but the general principle remains, if the thief can see the workings of the lock or trap in more detail, they will find it easier to disable or bypass it.
Folding listening cones, are uncommon and of limited use, but can give thieves with a perchant for espionage an edge, by amplifying the conversations going on, on the other side of a door.
Oil and funnel, some locks grow rusty with age, or disuse, while door hinges can squeak. The wisest thieves carry small amounts of lubricating oil in squeezable bladders, to which they can fit wide mouthed or thin dart like funnels, directing the oil as needed, reduced the noise of squeaking locks and hinges, and releasing the tired internal workings to move freely again.
Collapsible pole, made from rare bamboo, these canes contains a hollow interior, into which each of the foot long sections of this 5 foot long poles collapse. Notches in the wood allow the thief to twist the sections, locking them in place, giving them a variable length pole with which to poke and prod at nearby items.
Weapon black, this thick oil-based tar like substance can be used to darken a thieves skin, and reduce the metallic gleam of their weaponry, improving their ability to hide in the darkness.
Strapping, this leather straps are commonly found wound around a thieves arms and legs. Loosened or unwrapped when needed, the thief can wrap them tightly around items, strapping them close to his skin, reducing the items range of free motion and thus, the noise they make.
Rosin bar, this block of sticky resin, made from the sap from pine trees makes the thieves fingers slightly tacky, improving their ability to hold onto items that they have ‘appropriated’ from the confines of a targets pocket.
Wax block and soft metals, the wax block is used for taking an imprint of an existing key, and then, by heating the soft metals, the imprint can be cast into a rough, but workable key.
Residium powder, is a rare component in a thieves toolkit, but some find the properties of the magical dust, when blown into a lock, can disrupt magics placed upon the lock or the door, and can overcome, however briefly, anti-magical fields, or spells of silence.
Metal eating acids, made from the blood of rust monsters, are rare due to the inherent risks in carrying them, but also the stigma of their use. It is a desperate thief who pours such an acid into the lock, an acid that has only a slim chance of working in a way you need, and a desperate thief is a danger to all thieves. Repeated use of acid to break or ruin locks will see a thief rejected from all thieves guilds, and actively hunted by such organisations that maintain their own assassins.
At the core of the thieves tools are it’s picks. Most thieves keep these in a roll up leather sleeve, kept separate to their bulky toolkit.
The ‘finger pick’ is the commonest item in the tool kit, and each thief will have multiple copies of this medium length pick with a slightly curved tip, each one personally crafted to fit the thieves hand shape, so that the feedback from catching and manipulating the locks pins or wafers are passed through the wielders hand in just the right way.
The ‘high-low hook’ is harder to use, but its short angled profile is essential for working on locks that have pins that operate from one extreme to the other.
The ‘needle pick’ is a chunky tool, designed more for brute force lockpicking, damaging the internal workings rather than biting and manipulating internal pins.
Similar to the needle pick is the ‘jump pick’, an almost master key like design that is used with force, causing many pins to bite quickly, so that typically only the most difficult one needs to be picked manually.
‘Diamond tips’ are not literally crystal coated, rather the shape of the picks tip is shaped like the sharp sides of the precious gem its named after. The diamond tip pick is essential for the delicate work needed on multiple level security pins.
Opposite to diamond tips are ‘half balls’ whose rounded tip moves smoothly through the internal workings, and what it lacks in precision, it makes up for in versatility.
As lockpicking incidents have grown, the internal workings have altered, with some designed to ruin the picks needed. ‘Notched picks’ take the basic finger pick design but remove small amounts of metal on and around the tip, producing a greater flex and more tactile feedback while allowing manipulation of the chisel tipped pins of modern locks.
‘Deep curves’ are long and rounded, which, by levering against the base of the lock, allows the thief to reach and work on the deepest pins of large locks.
Finally there are the rakes, jagged picks that come in similar and complimentary ‘king rake’ and ‘queen rake’ designs, that work together as a dynamic duo, allowing you to work on multiple pins at once, adjusting the tension as you pick.