Take the 2-minute tour ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I played only D&D 3.0 and 3.5 editions, but if similar, low-level spells exist in D&D 4.0 and Pathfidnder, please comment, I will probably make a transition to one of them anyway.

Is it possible to pour water into a lock, cast 0-level spell Ray of Frost, freeze the water and break the lock this way or is it sanctioned anywhere? I mean, that's like 12 secs per lock at max (1 round for pouring, 1 round for casting), so if wizard is in a hurry it's kinda cool way, although looks like a little power-gaming.

(Not to mention an easy way to escape from a locked cell. Even if dungeon is dry and a character is left for death there are always 0-level clerical spells like Create Water and such wizard-cleric duo is good to go.)

It's more powerful than Open/Close spell since it won't fail on locked doors. Sure, it won't open door for us, but will break a lock -- something Open/Close can't do -- and then we will open it manually like normal mortals do anyway.

Also, it deals d3 damage, but I don't think we can use only this roll against lock DR, because frozen water is adding way more to this. There's also a question, how much water can you freeze with d3 cold damage?

Damn, I love such low-level hacking ;)

Solution: Thanks, I will probably go with allowing this as a one-time thing, to satisfy hacking needs of my team sorcerer and giving him full credit for escaping that prison the party is in. Everyone is looking for a different thing in RPG after all.

share|improve this question
    
It seems like a lock could be engineered to be resistant to this kind of attack by making certain parts more flexible or from different materials. –  Mark Rogers Jul 4 '12 at 22:10
3  
@MarkRogers That depends entirely on how commn magic is in the setting, how common the particular spell is, and how much the person who paid for the lock cares. –  GMJoe Jul 6 '12 at 5:51
add comment

8 Answers

up vote 35 down vote accepted

I would say no, for several reasons:

Ray of Frost on the PFSRD.

  1. Ray of Frost does not freeze things, by RAW. There are spells that specifically say that they cause certain elemental effects (for example, Fireball specifically says that it "sets fire to combustibles") but Ray of Frost is not one of them. While it might be able to cool water or make a very small amount of ice, I doubt that Ray of Frost would be able to freeze enough water fast enough to break a lock.

  2. Actually making the water stay in the lock is non-trivial. If you have some way of keeping the water from spilling out of the keyholes, then this isn't as much of a problem, but I don't think much water will actually stay in the lock after you've poured it in.

  3. From a balance perspective, allowing an easy way to break open nonmagical, traditional locks using two 0-level spells is kind of cheesy, and Knock is 2nd level. I might be comfortable with players using a 1st level spell creatively this way, and definitely if they can creatively use a 2nd level spell for this kind of effect, but I think that using 0-level spells for a 2nd level effect is pushing it. I realize that Knock does more than just open nonmagical locks, but there isn't anything below 2nd level that can open locks, so I feel like that's a good baseline for this effect.

  4. I'm not sure this would actually work, at least not in a reasonable amount of time. While you could certainly make a lock stop working by freezing water in it, breaking the lock entirely requires much more pressure than ice can reasonably exert. I find it more likely that the iron or steel that most locks are made of would just force the ice out of the keyholes or into other open areas rather than break. In the related Mythbusters episode, it required liquid nitrogen (which is likely much colder than a 0-level spell), and it still needed an impact to break the lock.

  5. This is much more situational, but some doors (especially doors designer for security) don't open just because the locking mechanism is broken. If a door has a deadbolt attached to the lock, then breaking the lock won't let you open the door anyway. And if this trick works in a particular world, then it's very likely that locksmiths will adapt to this technique, and make locks that stay locked after being broken.

share|improve this answer
    
Re point 1: It would probably literally cause frost, at most. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 4 '12 at 22:39
4  
Liquid nitrogen / impact is a completely different physical effect (making the lock brittle, not forcing it apart). I very much agree with the difficulty of keeping the lock filled with water long enough, though. –  DevSolar Jul 5 '12 at 7:42
    
+1 for points 2 and 4, which I didn't even think of. –  dlras2 Jul 5 '12 at 13:13
    
Also even if it worked the other problem is breaking the lock and even a causal glance will tell a guard someone has forced the lock. –  OrionDarkwood Jul 5 '12 at 16:21
2  
I take a different view on no 1 and 3 (always happy to allow more power when it comes from creative use of the environment), but 2 and 5 certainly mean that this technique will fail on the vast majority of locks regardless. –  TimothyAWiseman Jul 5 '12 at 16:33
add comment

Generally speaking, instantaneous spells don't have any unintended side-effects. Just because a spell deals a certain type of damage doesn't mean that that spell has any effect related to the damage it's doing, besides the damage.

Pathfinder rules on catching fire state that a character must be "exposed to burning oil, bonfires, and non-instantaneous magic fires" (emphasis mine.)

This is why spells like Scorching Ray can never set something on fire. It simply deals fire damage. This is also why Burning Hands specifically states that "flammable materials burn if the flames touch them," and the reason for the spell Spark.

Freezing effects are slightly more ambiguous, since there's no line stating the effects of instantaneous magical cold. However, we can look at certain other cold spells, such as Freezing Sphere, which specifically states that it freezes water.

Given all this, the fact that the wording of Ray of Frost in no way implies any effect other than cold damage, and the mere fact that it's a zero-level spell, I would rule that as written, it does not freeze any water.

Of course, it's pretty cool, and if your DM is okay with it, go for it!

share|improve this answer
add comment

One question here is whether a ray of frost is sufficient to freeze the water. And that depends entirely on how the GM interprets the spell.

Then there is whether the lock will actually break. I think that would depend on the lock type. Some might be robust (or simple) enough that they can take the pressure.

Then there is whether the lock breaks so that it can be opened, or whether it breaks so that it cannot be unlocked.

DM rulings all around.

share|improve this answer
1  
@naliwajek Assuming a wizard of lowest possible level (11th) casting Freezing Sphere, he can freeze 1645 square inches of liquid per d6 of cold damage. This seems extremely unreasonable as a rule-of-thumb for cold damage, tho, since that's a specifically intended use of the spell. –  dlras2 Jul 4 '12 at 22:07
3  
Your third point was the first thing that came to mind. A padlock might snap open, but a door lock might sieze shut. I'd let them do it for incidental situations but find a reason to never let it bypass a key adventure point. –  Hand-E-Food Jul 5 '12 at 0:05
1  
@naliwajek: I'm not familiar with the D&D system family, but you sound like the type of mage I've been fighting the last twenty-five years. ;-) –  DevSolar Jul 5 '12 at 8:00
1  
@DevSolar: Hmm? I would say that's exactly how mage should behave. It's like computer science - learn something about databases (a 1-round spell Put a New Record Into Database) and something about web (1-round How To Make Cool Fonts spell) but only if you put many 1-round spells together you've some awesome effect like cool website. Maybe we should start new question for that discussion, but I really feel like this is every mage job to study and connect spells together. Especially after playing with GURPS Magic ;) –  naliwajek Jul 5 '12 at 8:07
2  
@DevSolar: and also "how can I open this lock with least effort possible because I'M THAT ONE LAZY MAGE" feels like a true mage behavior. If I had magic powers, I'd be for sure more lazy than I'm now. And flying river is, well, just creativity. That's probably why powerful mages in dark settings are usually beaten to death by peasants (I mean, when they are exhausted after a battle and villagers have a chance to kill them without danger) ;) –  naliwajek Jul 5 '12 at 8:13
show 5 more comments

Putting aside the question of whether the water freezes, I'm skeptical that the addition of ice could open a lock. It would certainly block a key from being inserted. With enough expansion it might even mess up the internals enough to keep the key from working. But I just can't see it expanding in such a way that the lock opens. The lock is not an airtight system. It has a keyhole. Wouldn't freezing water simply be expelled from the keyhole?

As a GM you could probably convince me that you could temporarily jam a lock this way, but I don't see it opening. You'd have to fill a a Masterlock with water and leave it in the freeze for a combat or three as proof of concept.

(Now if you sealed the lock to make it airtight once water was inside, and heated it until the water became steam, that might open the lock enough to get inside it and open things up.)

share|improve this answer
add comment

I would take the fact into perspective that magic works in a RPG world - both ways - and that people are well aware of that fact.

So, I could not imagine a magic-user being put into a prision cell without serious anti-magic being employed. That would be like taking a POW into a cage but letting him take his rifle and explosives.

Same goes for locks on e.g. strongboxes or manors. In our world, one in X people knows how to break a simple lock, so we use complicated locks to keep the burglars out. If one in X people knows magic to open a lock, people would invent locks that aren't that easy to break.

There's still lots of locks around that make do with comparatively simple locks, in our world too - like the door to the privy, the garden shack or your desk drawer.

Bottom line, in a world with magic, important locks would not be mundane. With all the things the others pointed out taken into account (i.e., Ray of Frost not being able to freeze water in the first place), the idea of water + cold = force would work in general, but not on anything important. After all, locks aren't there to entertain the Thief and the Rogue and the Mage, they are there to keep 'em out.

Edit: If I were the bad guys, and took a magic-user prisoner without a way to put him somewhere where even his magic wouldn't get him out... guess what I'd do? Right, problem solved...

share|improve this answer
add comment

Warlocks could just baleful utterance it at level one, but shatter and knock are both level 2 spells.

If it was like just a hobgoblin or kobold constructed cage, you know the kind of low level, iffy prisons a pc would be locked in, then you probably COULD freeze the water around the lock, then smash it with a morningstar or mace.

There'd be no reason not to just attack the enclosure itself however, unless it was made of steel or some such. Alternatively no reason why you couldn't just blast your way out with brute force, well maybe if the door caging you in was part of the foundation....

So no, no ray of frost + bucket of water would do the trick, even if you froze the water and got the lock inside (somehow) rather than just the keyhole ..... why have you gone through the extra effort when you could just brute force the door itself?

share|improve this answer
1  
Welcome to rpg.se! Please take a look at the tour and the help; they're a useful introduction to the site. Could you spend a bit more text on why you think this strategy wouldn't work, please? Stack Exchange answers try to focus on the question at hand, and right now this answer dedicates more text to alternative ideas than it does to the actual question. And once you have 20+ rep, feel free to join the chat! –  BESW Oct 2 '13 at 6:52
add comment

Assuming you could use some magical effect that quickly froze water, I myself was skeptical that freezing water could exert enough force to break an iron or steel lock, but a bit of googling reveals that freezing ice exerts somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 atmospheres. This seems like an awesome amount of force, surely enough to break open a locking mechanism. However, as others noted, the problem is that this pressure flows to the path of least resistance, so the ice would expand out the keyhole, and whatever other cracks and holes were in the lock, without exerting much force on the lock itself. But even if you could sufficiently seal up the lock enough to totally contain the expanding ice, it might not actually break the lock. Freezing water expands about 9% when frozen, so it might only end up cracking the metal a bit, rather than bursting it open entirely.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm gonna be brief. The lock, water or not, still needs a certain amount of damage to be broken, hardness included. Maybe add some damage (they're using one more spell slot after all. Something like two rays of frost would be nice. They don't get to memorize a ra of frost but a more versatile spell, and that's their reward for being inventive.)

Second. Usually breaking the lock's gears means it's stuck now. FYI, even shooting into the keyhole does exactly this. Locks the door -more-.

In 4e, just deal damage as appropriate for the single spell. I know, that does not encourage creativity but it's a good thing believe me. You don't want smart players be able to convince you they can do everything without even using the rules, while not-so-smart ones never get anything from the game.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.