In one of my games, a character has inadvertantly locked themself in a booby-trapped iron safe. When the safe sprang-shut it triggered an alarm to summon NPCs that try to attack the player.

The player is claiming that because their character is locked inside the iron safe they are invulnerable to attack so they should have a massive bonus to AC rating.

I think they're not playing in the spirit of the game. What does anyone else think?

Edit for clarification:

It's not a particularly large safe - pretty much standing-room only. However I believe the PC should be constrained be lack of air-supply as well as other physics, e.g. no room to swing weapon/cat etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What part of this is them not playing in the spirit of the game? Is it actually the part where they suggest they're probably pretty well protected inside a safe? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 8:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't really see this as the safe giving the player some ridiculously high AC. The safe is essentially the same as a wall. He has 100% cover. It's a very tiny room, not a very solid suit of armor. Which still boils down to ... NO you can't stick them with a sword! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WolfpawUK Since we are discussing system mechanics, which system is this? I presume some version of D&D. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 23:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't even understand this question, nor why it's been so highly upvoted. Are you claiming, as the DM, that you should be able to attack the player through an iron safe... ? \$\endgroup\$
    – asteri
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to put this on hold until some things can be clarified: (a) Whether the asker is asking for approval of his entire position regarding the safe, or whether someone in a safe should be protected from attack, or whether someone pointing this out is not playing in the spirit of the game, or what. (b) What system this is; presumably it's not one with laser rifles that turn steel to slag. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 8:48

5 Answers 5


He's in a booby trapped iron safe. He's safe. He's also trapped.

His situation has a number of upsides: He's in an iron safe. The same walls of iron that kept him out, keep everyone else out. If people can attack him through the safe, it's not particularly safe, is it?

His situation has a number of downsides: He's in an iron safe, The enemies don't need to attack him, they just need to keep him there. He certainly won't have enough food, water, or sanitary facilities to last out a siege, if they're feeling patient. If they're not feeling patient, they can simply open it, with all due preparation. If they're feeling sadistic, they can pile firewood under it and roast him alive.

Your player is safe from melee attacks in the safe. He is not actually safe.


Neither the player inside nor the NPC outside have any line of sight or line of fire. If they don't have magical or psionic means to target him without seeing him, it seems pretty clear that he can neither be attacked nor attack himself.


As the potential owner of said safe, let me say that if you think someone can poke a sword through the cracks at something inside, I want my money back!

As a potential attacker, I guess that thing is pretty well sealed, but probably not airtight if it's a medieval/fantasy scenario. Various gas attacks, smoke clouds, poison winds or similar may make it real uncomfortable for someone inside, even if protected by almost impenetrable walls. Making a huge fire underneath will also not be pleasant for the inhabitant. He won't be burned, but being fried is not much better.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also if it is airtight, you don't have to wait long before the PC stuck inside isn't a problem anymore, and can open it and remove the corpse at leisure. Assuming no magical means to survive without oxygen, anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 11:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ You left out Electricity attacks! They only have to hit Safe's (touch) AC, not his! Fire's just as good though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ No to electricity attacks - an iron safe would ground them out. Roasting is good, however. The only constraint the NPCs might have is time, if other PCs can come to the rescue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind the difference between line of sight and line of effect. Often they're the same, but not always: fog blocks line of sight but not line of effect, while the surface of a body of water blocks line of effect but not line of sight. The safe blocks both, of course, but this means that just being able to attack without seeing him isn't enough: you also have to be able to attack without needing line of effect. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheSpooniest You are right. That's what I meant with "Line of Fire". \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 17:14

You don't list a system, but since you're talking about AC, I'm going to assume either D&D 3e, 4e, or some system derived from these (like 3.5e or Pathfinder). I apologize if I am mistaken.

The safe doesn't give him an AC bonus: it gives him total cover from anything outside. However, it also gives them total cover from him. Nothing is going to get through it, at least until the safe is opened or destroyed. If he's inside the safe and the NPCs are outside, then neither side can target the other using anything that would require line of effect (which means most things). He can't hurt them, and they can't hurt him.

Let's assume the safe opens. Either the NPCs just open the door, or someone cuts a hole in the thing. Now your PC is in some trouble. You could argue that an open safe may still provide him some cover (from the sides which don't have doors), but it's definitely not total cover anymore. However, there are benefits to that, because now he's free to attack the NPCs.

In any event, AC doesn't come into play. That can be beneficial: cover is better than AC for some purposes. But in other cases, it can be a major disadvantage. It depends on what he wants to do.


Safe boy is not safe. It doesn't happen often, but this is one of those times where a few create water spells can be devastating.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ouch. That's just sadistic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jules
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 8:26

Let's try to be logical here.

Short version:

1) The safe: Is it big? Can this player really move there? I think not, so this is a situation where DEX bonuses will not apply.

2) Attacks: The safe has it's own HP and DR, so if a weapon of an NPC can't do any damage to the safe, the player is safe. However, if a weapon can damage the safe, the safe must be destroyed (or at least badly damaged) before an NPC can hit the player.


The character can't be fully invulnerable just because he locks himself in the safe, but there are still a few perks. If a weapon can't do damage to the safe, it follows that it can't do damage to the player, since it didn't pierce the safe. However, if it can, it needs to pierce the character's armor as well as the safe, which means the first successful attack doesn't actually hit the player.

Let's remember what the HP of an item is. The HP of an item is something that designates that the item can still be used as intended. A broken door that was destroyed by weapons will not become flinders automatically, but that door having 0 HP means that it can't be used properly again. This could be accomplished by breaking a big hole in the middle of it or breaking it's hinges.

Now back to our safe. If a weapon doesn't have some kind of property to pierce shields, it can't pierce the safe without bringing it to 0 HP. However, there is a possible way to get in the safe. If there a spot where someone can use a piercing weapon to get through the safe, it may be able to reach the player inside. We can compare this situation to bloodied state in DND 4e. Bloodied is a HP state where character actually receives an open wound. The same rule can apply for an object. A person inside an object still can't be attacked by slashing damage, but the object can be pierced by spear or rapier and hit the player inside.

Again, in that case his AC without DEX mod (or with penalties if we're talking about 4e DND). If the safe is broken completely I think it's a situation where the player needs to spend his action to stand up properly. After that it's a regular combat situation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Please don't argue in comments, Uther. Use your comments to improve your answer and delete them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 21:11

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