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Having recently had to endure a nosy little halfling, my wizard is considering going ham with Arcane Lock. The spell states that casting it locks

a closed door, window, gate, chest, or other entryway, and it becomes locked for the duration.

Obviously, neither a book nor a backpack are an 'entryway', but neither is a chest. There are plenty of books (many modern day diaries or journals, for example) that come with a locking cover, and it makes sense to me that this spell would affect the lock of such a book. But what about an item without a built-in locking mechanism?

The spell description refers to the target of the spell as an object on several occasions. Since a book is a closeable object, would Arcane Lock work to lock the book shut? How about a belt pouch, or backpack?

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Up to your DM

This is one of those edge cases where the DM needs to adjudicate.

However, whether it should work for a book with a lock (like a modern diary, as you pointed out), or a book without such a locking mechanism, going by the examples the spell does give, I'm not sure what I would rule on this.

The spell says (PHB, p. 215):

a closed door, window, gate, chest, or other entryway ...

At least most of these are things that have locks on them, or at least can have locks on them. A book can have a lock on it (i.e. the locked diary), so then the question becomes "does arcane lock lock things that can have locks on them, but don't?"

The spell also says:

While affected by this spell, the object is more difficult to break or force open; the DC to break it or pick any locks on it increases by 10.

It says "to break it or pick any locks on it". This, to me, suggests that the objects should have a lock, since this seems to have been worded with a locked door in mind. Those are the two main ways to get past a locked door. Under this interpretation, a DM could rule that you can cast arcane lock on a book with a lock already on it, but not a book without a lock.

However, the fact that it says "or", could equally be taken to mean "if it has a lock, you can pick the lock, but if not, you'd have to break it", meaning that the door, window, etc, doesn't need to have a lock on it to be a valid target of arcane lock. But then, what stops this spell from targeting any object? Already we have an inconsistent list with "chest, or other entryway"...

So we're still left with "up to the DM". If the DM did allow it, then if someone wants to open your arcane locked book, they'd need to either pick the lock, or break it open (with great difficulty) to see the pages inside. This would, of course, be the same for any such item the DM ruled would be valid (backpacks, etc).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing to note, it is understood that for any word that doesn't have a specific rule laid out for how it is utilized in the game, you are supposed to use the (idiomatic)[twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/793506314148163584] definition of a word. So if RAW is a concern, it is going to be on how the group regularly refers to certain things as 'entryways'. Is a book an entry way? Maybe not, but the cover of a book my be the entryway to its pages. This would make sense, as books don't have a lock that runs through them, but their covers can have a lock embedded in them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sean
    Jul 22 '20 at 19:50
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As a DM I'd rule yes, RAW is unclear what an entryway is.

You touch a closed door, window, gate, chest, or other entryway, and it becomes locked for the duration.

So we have our examples and a few things to pay attention to RAW

1) You are touching the object, not a lock

The magic is the lock, if it required a lock it would say so in the spell text.

2) In the following description, it specifically states that the object OR the lock on the object become harder to open [emphasis mine].

While affected by this spell, the object is more difficult to break or force open; the DC to break it or pick any locks on it increases by 10.

3) The ambiguity is on an entryway, but if a chest counts, a book would almost certainly also count

Granted if no lock is on the book already you're looking at a book with a DC 10, there are knots in 5e Mike Mearls on Knots which means there are ways to secure even a mundane bag and make it hard to open, thus Arcane lock would be useful there.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that Mearls' tweet was not based on the rules at the time - however, Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 78) did include a similar optional rule on tying knots: "The creature who ties the knot makes an Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) check when doing so. The total of the check becomes the DC for an attempt to untie the knot with an Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) check or to slip out of it with a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. This rule intentionally links Sleight of Hand with Intelligence, rather than Dexterity." \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 11 '20 at 22:09
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If the book has no lock, as a DM I would rule "no".

But, as you said, there are many examples of books with locks - both in modern book shops and fantasy literature or movies. I don't see it inconcievable for a spellcaster to have a book with a mechanical lock on it (or even a simple latch), in which case there would be a "entryway" into the book.

And if all else fails, you could always buy a simple box with a lock and put your book in there.

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RAW, no

In DnD 5e, spells only do what they says they do. You correctly quote what the spell locks:

You touch a closed door, window, gate, chest, or other entryway, and it becomes locked for the duration.

A lockable book and other object is not included in the list of objects affected by this spell, so this spell won't work.

However, your DM can choose to allow this. If I were the DM, I think having a lock is a reasonable argument, thus I will allow the spell to work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As usual, the description also includes the ages old "... or other" -clause which causes all kinds of questions and in the end leaves the decision up to the DM. I mean a "chest" isn't any less of an "entry way" than a locked book cover, covering a stack of paper. \$\endgroup\$
    – DocWeird
    Jan 10 '20 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ a chest is not an entryway, but it is a valid target because it's in the list. Maybe if it's worded "..., window, gate, or other entryway, or chest" there will be less confusion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Jan 10 '20 at 9:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but the "problem" is, that it's worded "... or other entryway" and the list of previous "entryways" already include a chest, which is clearly a container. So a box with a lock isn't obviously too big of a stretch, isn't it? A box with a pile of papers inside it? Well, that's basically a book with a cover that has a lock on it. I guess what the designers were trying to describe here was a "lockable thing you can open". Ie you can't Wizard Lock a pile of papers, but if you had a way to put them inside something with a lock on it... ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – DocWeird
    Jan 10 '20 at 9:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @DocWeird. Technically, Vylix is correct that just because the last element of the list is "or other entryway" doesn't mean we need to interpret every previous list element as an entryway. But that's a legalese reading. In plain English, ending a list with "or other X" presents the previous list entries as a list of examples of X. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10 '20 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson how can you know that a chest is not an entryway? XD Then I remembered Bag of Holding. Can you define Bag of Holding 'mouth' as entryway? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vylix
    Jan 10 '20 at 16:07
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I would say yes. Then apply a little logic.

Let's say that even a strength 1 character can force open a book. As such a book without a lock has a DC of -4 to force open, even a str 1 character almost always opens it.

Now take the part of the spell description that says add 10 to the DC to force open. If you cast the spell on that book, it now has a DC of 6 to open.

I would also give the halfling penalties based on how careful they are trying to be. The halfling wouldn't want to use it's full strength, but maybe they do (and risk damaging the book). So that put's a bit of decision making and roleplaying into the hafling's efforts.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! I appreciate the well thought out DC target ideas, but my intent with this question was less about keeping the pesky halfling out of my stuff, and more about whether or not the spell will work to lock mundane items. \$\endgroup\$
    – aaron9eee
    Jan 11 '20 at 5:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Can you support your answer by citing the rules or other evidence/experience? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 11 '20 at 22:06
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From an in-universe standpoint, I would rule a definite No to the backpack, and most likely a No for the book.

The reason is that I imagine this spell to basically harden the door and connect it to its frame such that it's no longer as easily moved, preventing people from just kicking it in. Similarly, the lock's gears would similarly be so heavy that the locksmith's tools have trouble moving them, so the Lockpicking DC increases.

If you were to try the same for a book or a backpack, the result would be strange because the object itself is small, mobile, and sort of lacks a frame to Lock the moving bits to. There would be the question of whether you could move the book in its entirety at all any more, or if it would resist an attempt to be carried as well. An a leather backpack would stop feeling like leather because the hardening part of the spell would have to affect the entire thing.

Therefore, based on how a GM rules on how to interpret the "chest" bit of the spell description, the book might or might now be applicable: If it's meant for large, assumed to be immobile chests like treasure chests in a dungeon (which people will rarely try to drag anywhere), then it would be a No for the book. But if the GM allows people to carry a Locked chest, then a Locked book would make some sense as well. It would basically be a wood pulp brick because the individual components can't be moved against each other any more.

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