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What are the various ways that a portal can be opened when it has been secured by the 2nd level wizard spell Arcane Lock?

The spell itself says only dispel magic and knock can successfully bypass the lock. Are there any other options? For example, does a skilled thief have any chance at unlocking it using open lock? Could a very strong fighter smash the door still?

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Deal damage to the arcane locked item until it's destroyed

The 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell arcane lock [abjur] (Player's Handbook 200-1) is cast on a "door, chest, or portal" and "magically locks it." Despite the name, the spell doesn't create a magical lock that itself can be opened or broken—the spell's effect merely secures the item against opening or breaking. However, that doesn't make an item warded by an arcane lock spell impassable or unable to be opened.

Absent access to the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell knock [trans] (PH 246) and the 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell dispel magic [abjur] (PH 223) et al., or perhaps a chime of opening (Dungeon Master's Guide 252) (3,000 gp; 1 lbs.) or other spells and magic items that can bypass an arcane lock effect, the typical way to bypass the effect is not to try to exceed the item's break DC—that's challenging enough without the arcane lock spell adding +10 to the item's break DC—, but, instead, to deal enough damage to destroy the warded item. Breaking and Entering covers both break DCs and hardness and hp for common items. (The DM makes up stats for uncommon items, but many published adventures include the break DC and hardness and hp for their environmental features.)

This makes the spell arcane lock best used in areas that are already guarded, where nearby patrols can hear folks that are pounding with their heavy maces and great axes against doors that they can't get through because of an arcane lock effect. It also make the spell arcane lock good for a low-level fleeing wizard—it usually takes a few rounds for even tough low-level foes to destroy outright a solid door, and that's often enough time for the wizard to escape her foes' clutches.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that dungeon doors subject to a permanent arcane lock are probably also subject to magical treatment, doubling hardness and hitpoints for the affected structure. That said, hp damage is still the way to go-- you'll just need a longer time than you might expect (and if the door's metal you'll need to be able to deal more than 20 damage per attack). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2017 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer One learns something new about this game every day. I was totally unaware of magically treated walls! However, "[c]reating a magic wall requires… the expenditure of 1,500 gp for each 10 foot-by-10-foot wall section," so I can't imagine them being that common, but—seriously—thank you for pointing out that. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2017 at 9:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Say I have a warblade character who can do over 20 damage with a rapier +1. Are there mechanics to see if the weapon breaks first? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2017 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @FrancisJohn By RAW you can break as many doors as you like with your rapier. Weapons do not damage themselves during attacks. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15, 2017 at 18:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Stronghold builders guidebook, and I think the DMG too. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Oct 16, 2017 at 15:26
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An obscure, but additional option is located in Sharn: City of Towers if you are in Eberron (pg 169). Arcane Key (a 500 gp wondrous item) allows a Rogue (ONLY a Rogue) to use an Open Lock check to dispel Hold Portal, or suppress Arcane Lock or Arcane Seal for 10 minutes. The difficulty is the normal lock DC+10, or DC20 if there is no physical lock.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hold portal can't be dispelled because it's instantaneous, right? I checked, it doesn't have any lasting effect after the entryways are closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Jan 15 at 6:34
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Antimagic Field

The spell Antimagic Field allows you to supress the effect of arcane lock:

An antimagic field suppresses any spell or magical effect used within, brought into, or cast into the area, but does not dispel it

While the field is up, the portal just functions as a mundane door, and can be lock-picked or broken normally. Granted, this is cracking a nut with a sledgehammer, when a simple knock achieves essentially the same outcome, but it is an alternative way to allow opening the portal.

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