One daily reality all thieves must face is the fact that no one is going to be welcoming them with open arms. Why did, since time immemorial, people start locking their houses, their cupboards, their chests and so on and so on ? To prevent others from snooping around in them and stealing their contents. Keys and locks of all kinds have been around for centuries if not millenia. But as with everything, crafty enough people soon came up with the idea of lockpicks ! The more paranoid homeowners or custodians had to flex their gray matter once again, in order to figure out ways how to gain the edge in this “non-thief/thief arms race”. And thus, the first rigged traps were born, and like the keys and locks before them, they got increasingly more refined, complex and clever.
But the thieves, as annoyed as they were by these developments, were every bit as determined to overcome adversity by doing what they always did: Thinking up new ways of quietly defeating locks and traps, and trying to keep pace with the ongoing innovation. Not that the latter is always necessary: Aporue is modernising slowly, and for every state-of-the-art master lock, there is a thousand other, more antiquated ones, that can be unlocked within a moment's notice. Same goes for traps…
So, here we are today. Want to pull off a burglary ? Want to commit a heist ? Want to just steal something useful for blackmail or spying purposes, based on the demands in your latest private contract ? Well, it's hard to imagine pulling off any of these missions without at least a basic knowledge of lockpicking… and some lockpicks or related tools. Don't worry, even cheap ones will suffice. Don't worry, you don't need to be a lock-cracking virtuoso. Even the best masters of the craft have years and decades of hard-earned experience behind their skills. And they still make mistakes !
Remember: Every lock and every trap are a unique context. Outside of some mass-manufactured models (which there are few), almost no two locks or trap mechanisms are alike.
Learning the basics behind lockpicking and trap disarming is, and of itself, rather easy. It's mastering these skills that's the true life-long challenge for any professional thief. But let's begin, shall we ? In the following sections, we'll discuss how to break into various locked spaces, and what threats to look out for while doing so.
What you always need to do at the start of picking a lock is to observe the lock in question. Though virtually every lock in the world has a unique combination of its own (or an approximation of uniqueness, at the very least), many locks share the same basic type of construction.
Once you learn which specific types of lockpicks are required to open (or tend to open) a particular type of lock, your swiftness and experience with choosing the right tools for a lock will see an increase. Practice makes perfect. If you have already run into the same general type of lock numerous times, you usually have a fairly good idea about which lockpick types you should choose.
Of course, like with everything in life, even hard-earned experience doesn't guarantee instant success. You might assess a lock fairly quickly and be trying to pick it no time, but there is always a combination to be overcome. And that, as already mentioned, is usually unique enough that you cannot simply open a lock in the exact same way you already opened another before that. Even if they are of the same type.
Being of the same type offers you greater familiarity with the lock and speeds up the process. But it doesn't make cracking a lock's combination a done deal. You always need to remember that, especially if you're forced to pick a lock in a hurry.
Even locks with very similar mechanisms are usually unique enough to require a different sequence of lockpicks used in order to be opened. You might get lucky by taking a lockpick, trying to shove it in and turning a tumbler. But it's more probable you'll have to go through testing several lockpicks on the lock before you find the lockpick that's most appropriate for opening the first tumbler.
Bare in mind that locks usually have at least two or three such obstacles to overcome, so a single lockpick won't open a more complex lock on its own.
Also, a single lock on a door, window, display case, etc., will always have the same “combination”, unless the owner(s) had changed it for a different one since a thieves' last visit.
The biggest challenge to anyone picking locks is the fact that you have to rely on two senses - touch and hearing - pretty much exclusively. You cannot properly see the mechanisms moving inside locks, no matter their design. You cannot force-turn tumblers or lift up pins without having steady hands, with a trained sense for just the right amount of movement whichever way. Finally, when picking a lock, you have to be located very close to it, in order to limit the distance your senses need to properly “read” your lockpicking effort. This puts you at a potential disadvantage to a swift ambush, but it greatly speeds up said effort and makes it more effective.
The uniqueness of locks means that their mechanisms emit unique sequences of sounds when you try to fiddle with them by using lockpicks. Just like every lock has a physical combination for how one should pick its mechanism, it also a sound combination that can signify how close one is getting to pick open a part of the mechanism. Better yet, certain similar lock designs and builds logically share various similarities in their “sound combinations”. By memorising some of these combinations, one can learn to get an idea of a lock's mechanism (and what lockpicks are needed for it) much quicker.
Lockpicks are made of fairly hardy, sturdy metal. They rarely break completely, but their inadequate use might lead to them getting damaged, usually by getting dented or by becoming bent. An old trick of many lockpickers is to risk applying excess force on a lockpick when hearing sounds hinting at a tumbler getting close to a state of being picked. This is a double-edged sword. Plenty of skilled lockpickers have learned how to apply just the right amount of extra force on a particular lockpick type, in order to unlock a tumbler without damaging the lockpick. Nevertheless, many overly eager lockpickers risk this procedure all the same, and often end up empty-handed for all their effort. Worse yet, if one doesn't have a spare for a severely damaged lockpick type with him or her, then he or she will just have to rely on the other lockpicks type still left. Unfortunately, certain locks aren't openable without specific lockpick types, making the unnecessary loss or damage of a lockpick something that can prove tactically foolhardy.
(Last modified 5th January 2015 12:13 AM and 5th January 2015 3:54 AM.)